Sunday, December 30, 2007

The hits from coast to coast

Growing up, one of my New Year's Eve traditions was listening to the Big 89 countdown of the top songs of the year on WLS in Chicago. I'd sit by the radio to listen and actually wrote them all down a few years. Some New Year's Eves my parents went out, others they didn't do as much and would take us out to dinner and get us home by midnight. The countdown would start at about 6, our babysitter might make us a pizza, and I distinctly remember reading a Hardy Boys book one year while listening. When I was 10, the countdown was as much a highlight as staying up until midnight.

So what has my over-nostalgic self done to relive those New Year's Eves? Assembled those Big 89s on my iPod. It's not the same as listening to the original broadcasts with DJs and in AM, but it's still fun. My only dilemma -- I have eight playlists for eight years: 1979-1986. Too much music to listen to in the week before the New Year. I'm enjoying 1981 right now. I'm trying to find any Z95 countdowns (Z95 was WLS-FM and started compiling their own charts, by 1986 I mostly listened to it instead of WLS-AM) and might compile Billboard's year-end charts, too.

The No. 1 songs for those years I have. Without even looking:

1979: My Sharona, The Knack
1980: Lost in Love, Air Supply (what kind of year was it for music that this was No. 1 on a more-rock-than-Top-40 station?)
1981: Start Me Up, The Rolling Stones
1982: Hard to Say I'm Sorry, Chicago
1983: Every Breath You Take, The Police
1984: Let's Go Crazy, Prince
1985: Sussudio, Phil Collins
1986: Sweet Freedom, Michael McDonald

Cool, huh? OK, it's official, I'm a geek.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Auld lang syne

Over!

Christmas has come and gone, and though it was great, I'm a little happy it's done. I'm ready to put away the ornaments, take down the lights, throw out the tree and temporarily erase holiday songs from my brain (and if I ever hear "Christmas Shoes" again, there's no telling what I might do). Does that make me a after-the-fact humbug? It never seemed like I was able to immerse myself in the holiday like I used to. I've worked a lot the last week, including getting called in Wednesday and anticipating three more shifts in the next four nights, so that might be souring my mood slightly. Packages we sent early last week to relatives still haven't arrived -- that's not helping either.

Christmas this year was something to get through rather than enjoy. I suppose that's my fault, looking too far ahead again. Christmas morning, when the boys opened their presents, was still wonderful. They had a blast and made out like bandits, and they let me sleep until 6:30 (though it's weird opening presents Christmas morning when it's still dark out, the flip side of late sunsets on the back end of a time zone). Thankfully, I had all of Christmas Eve off this year (after working the last two), but on Christmas day, which I volunteered to work (and always do) thinking it would be an easy shift, overtime and I'd be Christmased out by then, the shift wasn't so easy (for reasons beyond my control) and I didn't really want to leave Wife and the kids. I'm happy the holiday is over, but it did go too quickly.

I'm working New Year's Eve -- no biggie, we wouldn't be going out anyway -- then it settles down again. Bring on 2008.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holiday road

Christmas is almost here! The boys aren't at that age yet where they freak out over Christmas, but give it another year for Eldest and he'll be there. Oddly, it doesn't seem like I've listened to enough Christmas music this year, even though it's been on every other radio station for two months now. Christmas music always gets me in the holiday mood more than anything else, even that tree in our living room. I'll resolve not to listen to any real music tomorrow, then prepare to be sick of Christmas tunes around noon on Christmas.

It's been a tiring week for Wife and me, and I think that's just the way it's going to be every Christmas, even when we aren't stressing about preschools and children unnecessarily waking us up in the middle of the night. I'm looking at it this way: Christmas Eve is the start of 2008. Let the year begin anew.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ho, ho, ho

We took the boys to see Santa today. A local shopping district has a Santa Shack, and we've been going every year since 2004 to the same place and the same Santa. Eldest at first was a little nervous, but came around, gave Santa a hug and told him he wanted a rocket ship for Christmas. The only problem is, he's been saying for the past three weeks that he was going to ask for a tow truck. The lesson to be learned here: Take your kids to see Santa before shopping. We hope he forgets about the rocket ship before Christmas morning.

Eldest also posed an interesting question to me: How does Santa get inside if we don't have a chimney or a fireplace? We assured him he would, then he pointed to the ceiling vent in our kitchen above the stove. Santa better call Jenny Craig if he's going to fit down that vent.

Littlest did great with Santa, no crying, no fear, nothing. We got a nice picture, drove around and saw some Christmas lights, then came home. Dec. 25 will be here soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm already on my way out

The title of today's post is from "Return of the Jedi." The Millennium Falcon and Wedge's X-wing have reached the core of the new Death Star, Lando points out the reactor Wedge should target, and Wedge replies "I'm already on my way out" before he fires, meaning he's completing the task at hand and getting out of Dodge in one action.

It's been a seemingly long, unproductive week. I don't know if it's the lack of sunlight, not getting as much sleep as I should, eating like crap, not exercising much lately or our struggles with Eldest's preschool, but it has just seemed like a blah few days. I generally feel a little of this malaise every winter, but usually not until after Christmas. Maybe it's just being antsy -- antsy to start the new year, to get a new routine in place once Eldest switches preschool (oh, by the way, we're switching Eldest's preschool), to start exercising again and to live healthier, to write more, to get the house in order. All that is still a few weeks off, and combining it with the lack of daylight this December, I am antsy.

But the break I was hoping for might be arriving on schedule.

Six months ago, I blogged about the first technical day of summer. Here we are, six quick months after the longest day of the year, and I am coming up on the shortest day of the year. I'm a definite spring/summer person, and winter hasn't even begun. But something very interesting about the tilt of our Earth -- the earliest sunset isn't on the first day of winter. The latest sunrise is, but not the earliest sunset. For the past two weeks, the sunset has been at 5 p.m. Salt Lake City time. Friday, it will be 5:01 p.m. (Thanks to The Old Farmer's Almanac for the info). And since I'm not a morning person anyway, the later sunset, even by one minute, means one thing -- I'm already on my way out.

Monday, December 10, 2007

O Tannenbaum!

One of our Christmas traditions is not to get a tree until after Eldest's birthday. We want to try to separate the two occasions, and though he's going to make out like a bandit this December, we've been good about not pushing Christmas until Dec. 10.

Today was Dec. 10, and our first order of business was getting a tree.

We have avoided Christmas tree lots for a few years now and instead buy from someplace cheaper, either a cactus/perennial store (seriously) or, the last two years, a Smith's Marketplace (like a Meijer's). We went tonight and picked out a tree, a 6-7 foot Grand Fir that Eldest helped select. Of course, we steered him in the right direction, but pointed one out, we looked at it, and we all approved. It's difficult to know how good a tree will look until all the branches drop lower (sometime tomorrow it should thaw out), you just pick one that looks straight, but it's the perfect height (we don't have a tall ceiling in our living room.

It should be fun to decorate, we just have to keep the hooks away from Littlest. We'll see how overloaded the top of the tree is with ornaments, and how bare the bottom is, by the new year.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Four!

There was something in my life Sunday that wasn't Saturday -- a 4-year-old.

It was Eldest's birthday Sunday, and he is now 4. It's been four years since he was born, a day I remember so vividly, from what I was wearing, what I had for breakfast, and oh yeah, that we had a baby that day. I've been a father now for four years.

Shock and memories aside, Eldest had a good weekend. We invited some of his friends to a tubing hill in Park City on Saturday for his party. I was nervous about the party, because it did snow the night before and the storm hadn't quite cleared out completely, and because it was going to be eight 4-year-olds on a mountain. The weather cooperated, and the party couldn't have worked out better. A few other parents went tubing too and helped, and except for two kids who didn't want to slide down more than a couple times, no problems on the hill. Even those two had fun when we sang Happy Birthday to Eldest, who had so much fun and was so happy his friends came to his birthday party.

Only glitches -- Littlest was too small to go tubing yet wanted to and threw a couple minor fits, and in the warming tent, another gathering was taking place that was attended by Santa! As soon as he walked in, I looked at wife and said "We're never going to top that." Someone from the other party came over and said our kids could visit Santa, too, but Eldest didn't want to. I'm not sure if he was afraid or unwilling because it was his party, he wasn't going to be upstaged by some guy in a ridiculous red suit.

Sunday was much lower key after the busy Saturday, which was fine: Eldest got to play with his new toys, eat mostly whatever he wanted to, and revel in being 4. It was his best birthday weekend ever.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Saw a brachiosaurus

We did keep Eldest out of school today, and instead I took the boys to a dinosaur museum to which we have a membership. it's a fun museum, with plenty of kids' activities, and it was the first time we went since Littlest began walking full-time. We all had a good time. Eldest played dinosaur games on the computer, Littlest got a kick out of this little cave in the Triassic Period, both loved digging for fake fossils.

Besides it being a good day, it reminded me how much I love our little adventures. Go someplace, eat some snacks I have stashed in the car, enjoy the day. We've gotten away from that since Eldest started school, I'm going to find a way once he switches preschools. I know these adventures won't last forever, that the boys will get older and there won't be as much free time, so I better plan them now.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ills of society

All four of us our sick. Not tremendously sick, just little lingering colds/coughs that are hanging around. I'm waiting for mine to turn into JARS -- Joe's Annoying Respiratory Syndrome -- basically the bronchitis that follows just about every cold I get. Eldest was coughing a little bit at school (probably where he picked this up, as he was coughing first), and his intolerable teacher asked if he was tomorrow not to bring him in because "he puts his hand in his mouth so much that we can't have that." Funny, we don't see him putting that hand in his mouth at home or anywhere else, something in his preschool is stressing him out enough to do this or the teacher is overexaggerating. Just part of the preschool problems we've been dealing with, more on this to come.

Oh, I did witness Eldest put his hand in his mouth on the playground when I was picking him up -- to lick the snow off his fingers. Yes, the playground was full of snow today and they took the kids outside in it anyway. And didn't try getting his gloves on.

So we might keep Eldest home tomorrow just to avoid me getting called if he coughs once, and me saying something I'll regret later. One day he's not there is one day he's not there, not one day he's missing. We want a good week before Eldest's birthday, no sense spoiling it on Tuesday.

In the meantime, hurray for Mucinex -- JARS hasn't been so bad this time around.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The 11th month

Is it just me, or does November seem to be dragging, and dragging, and dragging ...

Maybe because Thanksgiving was so early, but this month just doesn't seem to be ending. That said, I've been recollecting on Novembers past, thinking about three, 25, 20 and 10 years ago. Allow me to reminisce:

-- 1982: This might be the one autumn from grade school I remember the most vividly. I started my first paper route, the Harlem-Foster Times weekly, the day after Election Day, and the paper pulled a Dewey-beats-Truman in declaring Adlai Stevenson Jr. defeated James Thompson for Illinois governor. So the first news I ever delivered was inaccurate. Also, I remember watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and seeing Laura Branigan sing "Gloria" and Paul Williams sing "You and Me Against the World" to a giant Olive Oyl float. Only significant because Wife remembers the same parade moments, meaning at that time, 11 years before we met, we were watching the same thing.

-- 1987:
I went on a mildly intense retreat 20 years ago, and it really seems like yesterday. I know I say that about a lot of things, but it so applies here. I also remember Thanksgiving that year watching MTV by my grandparents' house and seeing videos for "True Faith" by New Order, "Is This Love?" by Whitesnake and "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" by Belinda Carlisle.

-- 1997: Ten years ago Wife and I saw "Rent" in downtown Chicago. Theater in Chicago might not be the same as it is on Broadway or in London, but it's still miles above other cities. We went across the street after the play to the bar of a nicer restaurant to watch the end of the Wisconsin-Michigan game, then met friends out for dinner. Being in downtown Chicago is an experience, more so than downtown Milwaukee or Madison (and way more than Salt Lake City), and for one day, it felt great to be a Chicagoan, even if we were living in Madison.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sweet November

Thanksgiving is in a few days, and I know it's an early Thanksgiving this year, but if feels like March here in Utah, as it got to 70 degrees today. With no leaves on the trees, it almost felt like March. Alas, that's still four months away. I took the boys to the park again, where they didn't need jackets. I did put a 12-month-sized jean jacket on Littlest this morning, thinking it was the last time he'd probably ever wear it -- it's supposed to cool off.

It is indeed a weird convergence -- no leaves on trees, it's Thanksgiving week, it's 70 degrees, and there are three radio stations playing just Christmas music. If you just dropped me into this setting after being in suspended animation, I might not have any idea what time of year it would be. I'm sure that will change next week, as the colder weather sets in and the Christmas bombardment gets into high gear. Until then, I'm hoping the warm weather lasts just one more day.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A joyful dinner

It's been a rough week -- we're having problems with Eldest's preschool, something hopefully I'll address in another post -- but we had a nice dinner tonight at Chili's, of all places. I want to relate two things that made it joyful:

-- Eldest didn't eat a lot, but after two really antsy minutes, he settled down and was good the rest of the meal. I brought a train for him to play with, Salty (from Thomas the Tank Engine), who has a Scottish accent. I tried imitating the voice for him, but it sounded like the old sea captain on The Simpsons instead. After my bad impression, Eldest, as he played with the train, mimicked my bad Scottish accent, making his voice so gruff he had to cough a couple times.

-- Littlest ate almost a whole plate of macaroni and cheese. I don't know where the skinny guy puts it. He tried to use his spoon, too, and did a good job with it for an 18-month-old. No complaints, no fussing, he just sat there and ate, and ate.

As I said, it was a rough week, particularly a rough day, but on the way to the restaurant, the song "More Today Than Yesterday" came on the radio. You know, "I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow." I looked at my boys and realized how true that statement is, and that was one more joy for a rough Thursday.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Little things

It was a dad-and-son day with just Eldest and me today. He did really well, with the usual annoyances of a 3-year-old, and we had a lot of fun. But he wasn't perfect ...

Incident No. 1 happened at church. Now, a 3-year-old sitting through a whole Mass is perhaps impossible, preschoolers are simply not biologically wired to be solemn for an hour (especially after an hour of CCD). However, Eldest made a friend, a girl in the pew in front who was maybe 4 or 5. They quiely compared missalettes and quietly kept each other occupied for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Communion came, and he wanted to walk up toward the altar with her, never mind any sort of waiting our turn to get into the aisle. Eldest tried to get by a woman ahead of us and accidentally kicked her, drawing a huffy tsk. I angrily picked him up, apologized to the woman twice, and carried him up to communion. We got back to the pew where he hugged me and felt sad. I hugged him back and told him everything we were going to do during thte day. They called the kids up for a blessing, and Eldest and his new friend walked uo holding hands, it was so cute, I joked to her mom that I hope they were coming back. She said her daughter was good about returning, I almost replied I hoped they weren't running off to Vegas. Eldest was fine the rest of Mass and for donuts after.

Incident No. 2: We went to a sports grill that also had an arcade for lunch at the Gateway shopping center downtown. As it was an NFL Sunday, there was a wait to sit down. We played some videogames and air hockey, then got seated, which he didn't like. But he eventually settled down, ate a little, cheered for the Colts, and then we went back to the arcade. He didn't even put up too much of a fight when we left, but he didn't want to go back to the car. I suggested some ice cream, then we walked to look at the Olympic fountain. He saw some kids running around and joined them, but it was time to go. But Eldest didn't want to and kept running around, and I actually had to chase him down, pick him up and walk him toward the car. I put him back down to walk, and he almost wandered into the street before I grabbed him again. He may have been overtired at that point -- it was a long week and a long day-- but he whined all the way home.

Can two infuriating moments spoil an otherwise great day? No, it shouldn't, but sometimes I find it's tough to remember the 98 percent good in light of the 2 percent that wasn't. Both boys are going to drive us crazy sometimes over the coming decades, and that's what we signed up for. But we also signed up with the hopes of decades of joy, too. Yes, Eldest pissed me off supremely twice today, which I'll probably forget about soon. And he brought joy, which I won't soon forget. I shouldn't forget that the next time the infuriation comes around.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or treat

Today was Halloween, and the boys had fun, most of the time. We had fun, most of the time. It was a good day, except for a couple little bumps, literally.

Wife helped throw the Halloween party for Eldest's preschool class, and it went well. He also participated in the school's parade, which was fun and a little exasperating -- he just didn't want to follow the parade route all the time, then didn't want to leave the playground after the parade was over. I think I'm coming to realize that on days like this, we should expect the kids to get a little overstimulated and not listen to us and melt down a little.

With the daylight savings time not ending for another few days, it was still light out a 6 p.m. Littlest wasn't going to last until it got dark, so we got ready to go trick or treating. Then, Littlest tumbled off the front porch. I'm not sure if he didn't see the step (he's better with steps, at least knowing he needs to scramble down if he's not confident walking down) or tripped over his costume, and I did catch him as he tumbled, but he still scraped his face a little and got a fat lip. The scrapes did kind of fit the Halloween theme, or would have if he wasn't dressed up as a lion. After crying for a little while, he shook it off and we were ready to go, but not until after a picture -- that Eldest didn't want to sit for. The first trick-or-treaters came by, and we declared to them we were dressed as agitated parents.

Eldest was out of sync the first few houses and still wasn't listening to us, but then he attached himself to some random kids and went house to house with them while Wife followed. I took Littlest, and he was adorable, he'd get a piece of candy and not put it in the basket I was holding, sometimes instead putting it in the next house's candy bowl. We only took him on our block, while Eldest caught up with some of our neighbors and the group hit a few other blocks in the neighborhood.

Eldest made out like a bandit. We have a lot of chocolate, too much even for me. He was saying thank you on his own about half the time, the other half I had to remind him, and he'd usually say it on his way back. But other than that, all the other issues of him disappeared, he had fun with his friends, wasn't too scared (except for a barking chihuhua that had to be five pound lighter than one of our cats, he ignored the mechanical ghost and fixated on the yipping), and didn't put up a fight when he wanted to go home. He trick-or-treated, he tired out, came home, had a snack, fell asleep. All according to plan.

Boo. Halloween with overstimulated children wasn't so scary after all.

The lost Halloween

With Halloween upon us, I was having a conversation with a co-worker on trick-or-treating as a kid and started to reminisce the last year I did go around the neighborhood and the first year I didn't.

Here's what the last trick-or-treating venture was like -- I went with a couple friends on a journey for a house where an owner of a taffy apple company supposedly lived. Though it wasn't too far (and we never got taffy apples), it was out of the way enough that walking home, I trick-or-treated more houses than a 10-year-old should. I was dressed as a vampire that Halloween. When I got home, I went with some of my other, older friends to a high school football game (thinking back, was that a playoff game for the high school I'd eventually attend?), got my hand on a field goal kick after it went through the uprights, and had one friend take by force a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (crunchy) after I waffled on giving it to him. That was 1980.

Here's what the first year I didn't trick-or-treat was like -- I guess I outgrew dressing up, though the next year I would be costumed as a wizard though I didn't hit the neighborhood. It was the year of the big Tylenol cyanide scare in Chicago, so there wasn't much trick-or-treating anyway. I stayed home that Sunday and gave out candy to just a few trick-or-treaters, and remembered hearing "Who Can It Be Now?" on the radio that afternoon in my living room while manning the candy (I guess I wasn't watching football, wait it was the strike year!). That was ... 1982?

Yes, there's a whole Halloween in there I don't remember. Did I not dress up in 1981 and just forgot I hadn't? Or did I and just have forgotten any memory of the costume or if I trick-or-treated? And it's not like that I blocked out that fall from my memory, either -- I would get an Atari for my birthday a week later, and that I remember vividly (but that's for another post). So what did I do that year? It's bugging me, because usually my memory for things like this unusually lucid, yet not for Halloween 1981.

I do have one thought on that year -- maybe I dressed up as an amnesia victim and took the part too literally.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Horsies, castles and spaceships

Eldest is really into games right now, and we decided to preliminarily teach him chess. I don't expect him to get it overnight, though, if I may brag, I was playing chess at 4. For now, I'd love him to know what the pieces are, where they initially go, and how they move. He's apt to learning, but he also wants to play his own way. That means his knight (he's calling it a horse, though he's not calling a rook a castle yet) takes every of his opponent's pieces on the board and moves wherever it wants. It makes sense, I suppose, to a 3-year-old, a horse should be able to move everywhere.

The other cute thing -- when he first saw the bishop, he thought it looked like a rocket and flew it around the board. And when he heard us call it a bishop, it just made sense that we weren't calling it a bishop, but a spaceship. Does the multi-level chessboards on "Star Trek" have spaceships? Just wondering.

Anyway, he's having fun, and eventually, he'll learn. In the meantime, my king gladly can be checkmated by a spaceship.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Take a hike

I wrote about our Moab trip on my last post, and it's already been almost a week since we got back. Funny thing about vacations, even short ones, is how the few days after you return go so quickly as you try to get back into your routine.

Anyway, it was a good trip, especially the couple hikes we took at Arches National Park. One was a longer hike (but not too long), with Eldest walking and Littlest in the backpack. Eldest had a blast, especially looking for rock cairns that mark the trail (he'd try to add rocks to the cairns). The second hike was shorter, to Sand Dune Arch, a small shady arch in a sand dune (hence the clever name). Both boys walked this and both had so much fun, especially Littlest.

We've done hikes with both boys before, but this just seemed different, where before it seemed we brought the boys along, this time we hiked as a family. The first family hikes of many.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Value meal

We just got back from a three-day trip to Moab, Utah. Moab is a little desert town near a couple national parks, and it's one of our favorite places in the state. It's the first time we took both boys down there, and aside from a little car trouble, it was a fun trip. But perhaps the best part for me didn't involve any hiking or scenery, or even just getting away. No, the best part happened at Wendy's on the drive back.

It's about a 3 1/2-hour drive from Moab back to SLC, and we were planning to push through without stopping, but the boys were getting crabby after a busy trip, so we stopped at a Wendy's about halfway home. For those of you without kids, going to a restaurant with two kids under 4 is an adventure, putting it mildly. But amazingly, this turned out to be the most non-eventful meal out we've had with the boys yet. Note I didn't say quiet, we don't expect that, but it was just ... fun. Maybe our expectations were lower because it was just fast food or because it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to stay, yet we had fun. While Wife was ordering food, Eldest kept me at bay so he could "pick out the perfect table." Once we found one, we sat down, the boys ate and weren't crabby, and we got the break we needed before finishing our trek home.

At one point of the meal, I needed to get another spoon (these urgencies happen with kids), and as I was walking back to the table, there was my family, eating dinner and enjoying themselves. I had to smile, because for those few seconds as I walked back, I realized, this is my family, and that perhaps I was the luckiest person in the world. That was the best part of the trip. And the best part of the best part is I can experience that every day, I just have to remind myself to recognize it among the mundane moments of life as well as the memorable ones.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sleep deprivation

Eldest has been resisting sleeping in his own bed the last few days. On nights I work, Wife lets him fall asleep in our bed, then I transfer him when I get home, and he knows it's just for that night. But lately, he's been trying to fall asleep, even asking to sleep, in our bed. And he's becoming devious, before bed, he'll say he's cold and insist he get under our covers, knowing he'll fall asleep there and thinking I won't then move him. Tonight he insisted he wasn't sleepy so he wouldn't have to go to his own bed (I moved him and read him half a book before he zonked). We get these spurts once in a while, where he resists his own room, and sometimes we give in and let him stay with us, though that usually relegates me to his room, where I never sleep well.

I know there is a security for a child to crawl into bed with his parents. Stormy nights, really frigid evenings and bad dreams will do it. Eldest sometimes wants the light on while he falls asleep, too. I want him to feel secure, but I also remember how scary that dark room, all by yourself, can be.

Monday, October 8, 2007

This magic moment

Four years ago, when Wife was very pregnant with Eldest, we were sitting in her OB/GYN's office waiting for her appointment, and I was perusing Parents magazine. It was the October issue, featuring kids in Halloween costumes, kids dressed for fall, school advice as well as all the usual stuff you'd find in a parenting magazine. There were several "Wow, I'm having a kid" moments throughout the pregnancy, but this is one of the few that really stands out.

I'm reading the magazine, and I realize, this will be my child dressing up for Halloween someday. It will be my child dressing warm for a crisp fall day, one in which I walk him to school. And through all of the imaginings of what his life would be like, this for some reason resonated.

Well, part of that came true today, as I walked Eldest, decked out in fall clothes to school on a crisp October morning. It wasn't quite as overcast as I'd imagined, and the leaves aren't quite falling here in Utah yet, and it was just taking him to preschool, but the whole experience did pack a minor emotional wallop.

Combine that with something I felt Sunday -- dropping him off at CCD, in the main hall of the school (his preschool is in a newer part of the building, the effect isn't the same) that just smelled like grade school, my old Catholic grade school, that mix of gentle cleaning agents, Elmer's glue and textbooks -- and I'm even more amazed I have kids, and that they are growing up, and all the things I wondered about are happening or will indeed happen. It's incredible, sad, astounding and wonderful at the same time. At least it was the past two days.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The classic fall

The Cubs are back in the playoffs, and once again, they are destined to break my heart, as well as all millions of other suffering fans.

I'm not sure what's worse, to have the Cubs be bad all the time or to occasionally tease us with these trips to the playoffs. This is the fifth season in my lifetime they have been in the postseason, and I'm almost positive there will not be a World Series in their immediate future.

Through the years of heartbreak, there's always been a catalyst, something that turned destiny into resignation. The black cat, Leon Durham's glove, Les Lancaster forgetting the pitch count, Brant Brown almost blowing the Cubs' chance to get into the playoffs in 1998, or Steve Bartman, it's always something. And that something isn't necessarily the reason the Cubs lose, but just the ominous sign of imminent doom -- Bartman didn't lose that game in 2003, but as soon as it happened, I looked at Wife and said "That's it, they are going to lose this game and Game 7."

I'm not sure if there will be a catalyst this year. The Cubs are already down 1-0 after losing to the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night. Well, there's always my kids' lifetimes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ready or not .. oh, there you are

Eldest loves playing hide and seek, but he may be a little cloudy on the concept. Aside from counting only to five, and getting too excited when he's hiding that he just comes out of his spot and laughs at whomever is looking for him, today he picked the worst place to play hide and seek.

After dinner, Eldest and I went across the street to an open field by next to a church to kick the soccer ball around (he's dribbling the ball with his feet really well, by the way). Then, out of the blue, he says he wants to play hide and seek. This field has ONE TREE to hide behind. He went and hid behind the one tree every time I counted. It always amazes me where a 3-year-old can find fun.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Firebirds

Eldest had his very first field trip of his short life today, and it was the coolest field trip he had ever been on. I was chaperoning, and it was the coolest field trip I had ever been on.

One of Eldest's classmates' dads set this up -- he is a helicopter pilot for the Army. The class met at the Guard unit's headquarters at a small airport in the valley. It wasn't a long trip -- these are 3-year-olds, after all -- but we did get to see a Blackhawk and an Apache helicopter. I hope the kids thought it was as cool as Dad did. The Blackhawk is a transport helicopter, this one wasn't armed but was open for all the kids to see, and sit in! Eldest actually sat in the cockpit of a working Blackhawk! The Apache was just as cool, it had its armaments (though not armed) attached and the hatches open so the kids could see (but they weren't allowed in, it's just a two-seat gunship).

Remembering field trips from my youth, this was so much better than boring trips to arboretums or replica pioneer villages or Norridge Park. It was great, too bad only the adults will have decent memories of it. One thing did put the trip into perspective -- on the Apache, there was something that looked like cylindrical disco ball on top of the helicopter near the rotor. I asked the major (the classmate's dad) what it was, I forgot what he called the device but said it was to throw off incoming guided missiles aimed at the Apache. Kind of a somber reminder that amid the wonder of the day, these helicopters and the people who showed us them are involved in something very serious.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Lyrically sound

I have a few new guilty TV pleasures: "The Singing Bee", "Don't Forget the Lyrics" and "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" I now have them set to automatically record on the DVR. It's not really deep television viewing, but it serves its purposes: It's safe to have on around the boys (and if we are trying to wind them down and don't want to watch "Dragon Tales"), it's entertaining in a we-can-do-better-than-that contestant kind of way (or in the case of the singing shows, a that-contestant-sings-as-bad-as-me sort of way), and it's not appointment television, so it's no big deal if we don't watch it or gets expunged by the DVR, but it's there when there is nothing else on. "The Singing Bee" might be my favorite, mostly because it moves at a good pace and is challenging, plus Wife and I find ourselves completing the lyrics with the contestants.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A house with six mammals

Sunday, we took the boys to a Super Pet Adoption at the local PetSmart. Two tents of dogs for adoption, and one of cats. We knew the risks, but luckily, did not add any pets to our house.

We went for a few reasons. We knew it would be fun for the boys, especially Eldest. Lately, he's been somewhat apprehensive toward dogs, and the last time we went to one of these, he was a little freaked out by all the barking. We left this event with him saying "I'm not afraid of dogs anymore!" We'll see if that holds true, but he definitely wasn't as spooked.

Wife and I do want to get a dog someday, not yet. Our cats are 13, and they just got used to the idea of having two littl'uns in the house, a dog might push them over the edge. But events like this give us an idea of what size we're looking for, what temperament, etc. We may get one before while the cats are still with us, and I can't imagine a day where we don't have a cat in our house (that's always a challenge, too at an adoption like this, that we might add a cat or two, but we've never been that tempted as we are sometimes with a dog). Still, I wonder if someday we are going to attend another pet adoption, without looking for a dog to take home that day, and see the dog we know was meant for us and vice versa.

It was a fun time, capped off to our first trip to a Utah location of Chipotle. Very good burrito.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Fresh Maker!

We had a roll of Mentos in our house that Wife brought home from a work function, and Eldest wanted one. When I informed him they were mints, he really wanted one, as he recently discovered the curious strength of Altoids. Needless to say, he loved the Mentos and kept asking for more, I cut him off at five. A funny thing happened then, we were out for a walk, a limo was blocking the crosswalk, and instead of waiting, Eldest ate a Mento and walked through the limo to get to the other side (actually, he led us through, he's not allowed to cross the street without holding my hand), eliciting a smile from the driver. Then our car was boxed by this businessman, and Eldest got four burly guys to pick it up and move it. Of course the businessman chuckled! Alas, I couldn't get Eldest to show off the Mentos roll no matter what I tried. Maybe next time we'll save the Mentos for a bottle of Diet Coke.

Tomorrow, I'm going to give Eldest a chocolate bar, I'm going to walk around with some peanut butter, and we'll see what innovative chaos ensues.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Time in a bottle

My mother-in-law just had hip replacement surgery, and she's going to be laid up for several weeks, so I'm making her some videotapes, mostly of cable shows she doesn't get, but also of every camcorder tape we've recorded over the past four years. I'm watching/taping the first one now, and it is of Eldest's first summer, three years ago.

Aside from how little Eldest is, and how much back then he looks like the present-day Littlest, I'm amazed this is already three years ago. Part of that is how Eldest's personality traits today were already showing up then, and the other part is that this doesn't seem that long ago. Yet it has been three years, and in three years, when Eldest is closing in on 7, it will be six years ago, and so on and so on.

I've always explored, and written about, how to slow down time, or more accurately, the perception of time. There's always the lurking feeling that there is no way to slow down time, that the boys will grow up quickly like it or not. And if it can't be slowed down, then the best I can do is preserve the memories as best as I can, not just in my mind, but via videos, pictures, writing, etc.

I have seven tapes I'm transferring to video for my mother-in-law. My goal for the next year is to double that collection. Let the amount of memories dictate time rather than the amount of years.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The great outdoors

Wife and I are not campers. We love the woods and the mountains, but we also love indoor plumbing and soft beds. The boys may drag us kicking and screaming into an overnight camping trip someday, maybe soon.

We visited some friends who were camping at a state park on a large resevoir about an hour from us. We only went for a few hours, and it was fun. It was mostly low-key, did a little hiking and hung out. Both boys had fun, Littlest just likes being outside, Eldest had a blast on the hike and walking our friends' little dog. We came back down by the lake, and Eldest got to ride on a Wave Runner! Our friend took him, and she wasn't going to go very fast, until Eldest asked her to go faster. She still didn't go that fast, but he had so much fun. He's not fearless, but he'll never turn down a chance to be adventurous.

So we were leaving, and Eldest is sad, saying he wants to stay and go on another boat ride. I get a sense he'd love a campout, probably Littlest too. Our friends invited us next year to stay overnight when they camp, maybe we will. But I'm reserving the right to find a hotel in the middle of the night. One with a hot tub, too.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

First day of school! First day of school!

We've been anticipating this for months now, and the day finally came -- Eldest began school. OK, it was just 3-year-old preschool, but it was at a real school (the Catholic school near us), and it was his first day. I thought I'd be melancholy than I was, more than anything, I was proud that this day had come. We all walked to school together, the teacher invited the kids into the class, we met some of the parents, went to breakfast with Littlest, and eventually walked back over and picked Eldest up.

He had fun, and is looking forward to his second day tomorrow. There are 11 girls and four boys in his class, but he mostly gets along with everybody, though I hope he becomes good friends with the boys, not because I don't want him playing with girls, but he needs the rough-and-tumble play time other boys mostly provide. We picked him up on the playground, where the class ends their day with recess, and he was having a blast and didn't want to go (we offered to buy him a donut and he left). Any of my worries or fears about Eldest starting school melted away, and it was comforting to know other parents worried about how well their kids would hit the toilet on their own (we put a Pull-up on Eldest just in case, we can't get out of him whether he used the potty or not).

His teacher was telling the parents how each kid did, mostly saying they did well, but when she came to us, she got specific: Eldest was great at following directions. He won't do that for us often, but we signed up for that, it's more important to us he listens to other adults.

And he did this first day. And I couldn't be more proud.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Search and replace

Coming soon to a theater near you (pretend this is the movie trailer voice): In a world where everything is in an orderly place, on little boy will upset the status quo. Prepare yourself, for The Relocator.

Littlest is walking really well now. After a few months of mostly crawling with some steps here and there, he is a full-time walker, and he's starting to pick up speed, too. With his new skills, his new penchant of picking up things and putting them someplace else, somplace we either can't find the item or are surprised by its new location, has grown by leaps and bounds. Nothing within his reach is immune -- books, toys, magazines, cell phones, eyeglasses, iPods, sippy cups -- anything we leave too accessible. We started calling him "The Remover" though a friend suggested "The Relocator" which I like better, though both monikers sound like the title of a Jason Statham (he of "Transporter" fame) movie. Wife and I have wised up and started putting keys and such up higher, but I wasn't wise enough to keep Littlest out of my wallet.

So the other day, I walk into the boys' room and find my Visa. Littlest had found my wallet and started took my emergency credit card out. Cute, huh? Later on, I find him with my wallet again, and this time, the Visa and my money market card are gone. And I couldn't find them, anywhere. The Relocator struck again, and this time he did a good job of relocating the cards. We did find my library card under the bed, but not the two other cards. As a precaution, just to make sure I didn't lose them somewhere (which I'm 99 percent convinced I didn't), we canceled the cards. I'm certain I'm going to find the two cards before the new ones arrive. Or, better yet, Littlest will walk right up to me with one of them in his hands.

Monday, August 27, 2007

All the kids dig the Lagoon

Last week, we went to Lagoon, an amusement park here in Utah. It's a very old amusement park, which is part of the charm. Yes, it's been updated and updated over the years, but it feels nothing like Great America, the Six Flags in Illinois that my wife and I grew up going to. The park is a little smaller, the rides are a little smaller, the corporate immensity of Six Flags is absent. I imagine this is what amusement parks 50 years ago were like, before Disney and Six Flags and mega-parks took over.

We had gone to Lagoon last year, through a function of my wife’s workplace. It was fun, Eldest had a blast, though he was mostly relegated to kiddie rides. He was able to go on some bigger rides, like the Scrambler and the Tilt-a-Whirl, but most of them required him to be 46 inches tall. So when we went back this year, we were hoping he’d be tall enough to go on some more rides. He missed by two inches. It was odd, too, he needed to be that tall to go on a Wild Mouse rollercoaster. At Great America, he would only need to be 42 inches to go on the Demon, which goes upside down four times. But Eldest did have a lot of fun nonetheless. His favorite ride was the kiddie bumper cars, which we somehow missed last year, but went of five times this year. His bigger rides included the Scrambler and the Pirate Ship, as well as the river rapids ride in which he and Wife got soaked.

Littlest had fun, too, though in short bursts. He’s too small to go on most of the kiddie rides by himself or his brother, but too big to just leave in his stroller. And unlike Great America (which had Fort Fun), there aren’t many kids attractions that aren’t rides. He did go on a few things – the merry-go-round, which he loved; these little kiddie boats that went in a circle, which he rode with his brother and was ambivalent; and the kiddie coaster, which he rode with his mom and was a little freaked out by. And he liked the train, of course.

Wife and I managed to get on one ride on our own. One of her co-workers offered to watch the boys (who were angels for her after whining for us) while we went on the park’s ancient yet fun wooden coaster. It felt like a date, and we were tempted to go on a second ride (and were told we should have). We stayed at Lagoon about six hours, which seemed to be about the perfect time. We skipped the little waterpark they had, all the slides required Eldest to be taller, the kids area would have been easier if Littlest was walking better. Both boys fell asleep on the way home.

Growing up, the one trip to Great America every summer was always such a big deal. Despite the smaller scale of the park and the smaller ages of the children, that’s what this felt like. It was a great way to end the summer.

(For the record, the title of the post comes from the Beach Boys’ song “Salt Lake City” that actually references Lagoon.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Back from hiatus

Yes, I haven't posted in almost two weeks. Just off kilter with my routine somewhat, while (and this is getting old, I know) working on the NFL blog. Plus, I've been, well, not uninspired, just a little less creative lately. Not writer's block, just off kilter.

Summer is almost over, it went quick. This month is sailing by, Eldest starts preschool in two weeks, college football and the NFL start up soon, and I'm wondering when the last time to mow my dry lawn will be. August always goes fast, it did as a kid, when you knew school was coming, but I can't explain why it does as an adult.

We've had a couple of moderately cloudy days here, but not like a Midwestern cloudy August day. One of Wife's friends in Chicago called her yesterday, said it was 73 and cloudy -- a typical August day in Chicago. And those, unfortunately, were the days I always remembered about August, at least before school kicked in, when it inexplicably got sunny again. Those cloudy days that were an ominous sign that summer was toast, that the Cubs were already out of any sort of playoff contention, that you could barely enjoy under the gray skies what you had left of freedom before school started again. There were exceptions of course, but dreary just seemed to define August in the Midwest.

It's not dreary here, just hot still. There is a little rainy season in SLC in late August/early September, nothing yet though. Oddly, I'm ready for September. I'm ready to get the routine down pat, ready for the NFL to start and my blog to go into overdrive, and a little ready for Eldest to start school (though I'll be a little sad, of course). I could do without winter, but fall should be nice. I barely enjoyed last fall (aside from the two weddings we went to, with their accompanying trips), I want this one to be fun.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

It's been one week

Vacation just ended, or so it seemed. It's already been a week since we returned from the Midwest. I'm always surprised a) how quick the few days after vacation seem to go; and b) how tricky it is to get back into a normal routine. It doesn't help there is no routine now -- not swim lessons, tumbling classes, preschool, etc. It's finally starting to feel like I'm off vacation time and back to normalcy, however that is defined. Did the big grocery day today, bigger considering we only bought the basics last week after we got back to get us through few a few days. Still wish I was posting more, but as usual, I've been focusing my energies elsewhere, at least temporarily. Plus, even though there's stuff I want to write about, I just haven't had the will so much, maybe just post-vacation blahs (though I'm not that blah that we're back -- it was a great trip, it had to end, it's good to be home). I guess that will come around as the routine does, too.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

No signal

The vacation was great. But no vacation would be complete without some misadventures.

There was Wife tripping over a very small tree stump while carrying Littlest at a park in Thorp, Wis. (She skinned her knees pretty good, but didn't drop the baby). There were meltdowns by overtired kids (on any trip like this, avoiding overtired kids is tough). There was our rental car losing power in stop-and-go traffic in Minneapolis (it started right back up thankfully, and no, we weren't near I-35W).

And then there was the saga of my cell phone. We arrived at Wife's sister's family, and while the ladies went to the store, I took the kids swimming in their inflatable 3-foot pool. As I was getting ready, I put my phone in my pocket, thinking I wasn't dumb enough to not take it out of my pocket before I got into the pool. I brought it along in case of an emergency, that was a responsible thing to do, right?

Turns out, I was that dumb. All the kids were in the pool (except Littlest, who went with Wife to the store), I climbed in, my nephew noticed my waterproof watch, causing me to realize the phone was still in my pocket. This was only a 3-foot pool, and I hadn't jumped in, so the water was more lapping the phone for a minute or so, rather than it being completely submerged. Still, the damage was done. The phone was no longer operating and wouldn't turn back on.

I immediately got out of the pool, dismantled my phone and hoped for the best. I was so pissed at myself, I thought for sure my phone was toast.

My hope was that it didn't get that wet, and that if I let it dry out, it would return from the dead. For about 18 tense hours, nothing happened. Then I tried Wife's battery in my phone, and it worked! So I just needed a new battery, which I got cheap ($30, would have been more, I bet, at a Verizon store). The main screen was a little faded, however. I could live with that. Then, it went totally white, even though I could still call out on the phone. I couldn't live with that. I dismantled the phone again, it dried out some more (probably the remaining moisture) and then it worked fine.

We went swimming a couple more times on the trip, and I'm happy to say, the cell phone didn't meet the pool again. It's worked fine since and should, at least until the next time I do something equally dumb.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Vacation's all I ever wanted

The long trip to the Midwest is finally over. And at the same time, it went too quickly. When we first planned this, 12 1/2 days seemed like such a long time. Indeed, it was the longest vacation we'd ever endeavored.

Now that it's over, and we're back in our comfortable home, I'm amazed how quickly it really went. It just seems like we were here very recently, when it was almost two weeks ago. Maybe vacations simply aren't meant to go slow.

Anyway, there's a lot I want to blog about our trip, but not tonight. We had a good flight back, arriving early, got home, and have done very little the last five hours. The boys are sleeping, Wife is finishing the final Harry Potter book, and I'm settling down to go to bed early, too. Though I don't work again for a couple days, starting tomorrow, it's time to get back to work.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Repetitive stress syndrome

Going through another posting lull, mostly because I've really thrown my efforts into the NFL blog and there was much other stuff to do this week. Today, I'm going to write about one of Eldest's favorite songs. No, not from Paul McCartney, but from children's television.

For several weeks now, Eldest out of the blue will start singing "Hold tight, hold tight, hold tight, hold tight." We couldn't figure out what song he was singing. I thought maybe "Hold on Tight" by ELO, but when was he going to hear that and internalize it so much. Maybe it was something he learned a Terrific Tots? We had no clue.

Then, Saturday morning, Wife wakes me up, and on the TV is "The Backyardigans." On this kids show, the Backyardigans are singing "Hold on Tight (hold tight)" The characters are pretending to be Vikings and are stuck in a ocean whirlpool. It now made more sense: Every time Eldest sang this song, he was running in a circle around a dividing wall in our house. He was pretending to make be stuck in the whirlpool while he sang.

I then made an egregious mistake -- I bought the songs on iTunes, put it on my iPod, and hooked up the iPod to our car radio. Naturally, the Eldest wanted to hear it while we were driving. Over, and over, and over. When I synced my iPod today, it uploads all the data into iTunes, where I discovered we had listened to "Hold on Tight" 19 times in one day. The song is only 1:20 long, but that's 23 minutes of auditory use I'm never getting back.

The worst part -- the last few days, I have found myself randomly singing it. Thankfully, I'm not running around at the same time.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I'm having dalmatian aggravation, it's such exasperation

Eldest's new favorite movie is "101 Dalmations." My new least favorite movie is "101 Dalmatians."

We decided to get some of our older Disney videos, the ones on tape, not DVD, into circulation. Though some are scary and not quite allowable for a 3-year-old, we decided "101 Dalmatians" he could handle. He's handling it very well. Since its first airing in our house last week, he's watched it about 15 times, always asking for the "puppy movie." It was cute at first, now it's becoming tedious. I've seen "101 Dalmatians" more in the last week at least three times more than I did in my childhood. I joked today that I'm about to start rooting for Cruella, which didn't sit well with Wife. We've tried to deflect Eldest into "Lady in the Tramp" -- no luck, we think he might think it's too scary -- and "The Aristocats" for which the jury is still out.

Oh, Littlest likes the opening credits of "101 Dalmatians" and laughs at them. He's pretty indifferent on the rest of the movie so far. Critics!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

This is it, we'll hit new heights

I relented and decided to let Eldest get a Happy Meal today. It was my fortnight big shopping day, and my thought was to pick him up from pre-preschool, hit a McDonald's with a Playland, then go to the grocery store. We should have just went to the grocery store.

At McDonald's, neither child wanted to eat, odd because it was around lunchtime when both are normally hungry. Eldest wanted to play right away, which isn't unusual, but didn't a couple minutes in when he was the only kid at the Playland. For a strange few minutes, he didn't want to eat or play, saying he was afraid of the Playland. He got over his fear a few minutes later when about 12 kids showed up. He had fun, and managed to eat a little of his cheeseburger.

Littlest was sitting in the high chair while Eldest played. I tried to give him food, he kept throwing it on the floor. Eventually, I thought I'd let him try the Playland. Now, most Playlands have an area for younger kids. This one didn't. Most playlands have multiple ways to go up to the slides. This one didn't. It was a series of continuous tubes (some with mini-steps to help kids climb) that snaked their way up to a single, big, twisty slide. Near the bottom was one little turnoff that dead-ended, I was going to let Littlest play there while I made sure he didn't try climbing farther up.

Of course, it didn't quite work out that way. He kept crawling back and forth, trying to climb skyward, and I kept pulling him back, until ... another kid got between us, and Littlest was off and climbing. I told Eldest to try to bring him back down, but strangely, every time he tried, he'd somehow emerge at the bottom of the slide. It looked like he was trying to get Littlest to reverse directions, then a bunch of kids would crawl by and he'd follow them.

At first, it was cute to watch Littlest's progress. I was amazed he climbed as much as he did -- he was about a third of the way up and visible to me. I tried to take a picture with my phone. Then it got frustrating. Eldest's efforts were unsuccessful and halfhearted, though there were a couple times I thought he was going to get him down. Then it got scary, as Littlest climbed out of view and I assume up to the top. And I was getting annoyed with Eldest. I know it wasn't his responsibility or his fault Littlest went on this adventure. but he was my best chance to get Eldest down safely. I tried climbing up, and I supposed if I got really desperate I could have, but the Playland was designed for people under 4 feet tall.

I pulled Eldest aside and told him he had to get Littlest down or we weren't going swimming tomorrow (OK, I was desperate). Another mom offered to send one of her kids up to get Littlest. I could see Eldest near the top, and though I didn't see his brother, he seemed to be moving something along to the slide. Visions of Littlest breaking a leg on the slide went through my brain as I got a little more frantic. I could hear the boys on the slide, Eldest was moving him down. I crawled up the slide to meet them, looked around a corner and saw Littlest ... smiling!

Relieved, I noticed Littlest didn't have his shoes (I kept them on when I brought him in). I asked Eldest about that, and he pointed to the shoe cubbyholes -- he took his brother's shoes off and brought them down at some point while leaving him up there. Basically, he was an accomplice. I did tell Eldest I was proud of him for taking care of his brother (eventually). While holding Littlest as we were getting ready to go, he started squirming and complaining -- he wanted to GO BACK IN THE PLAYLAND. We went to the grocery store, and Littlest fell asleep on the way home.

I'm a little nervous. It turned out all right, but if Littlest turns out to be more fearless, more adventurous, more strong-willed than Eldest (who already displays all those qualities), we are in big trouble.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

No Happy Meal, just a Grimace

Haven't posted in a few days, been working and also busy with the other blog. Yes, the other blog, I'm writing an NFL blog for Skinny Moose Media. There's a link to the second blog on the side of this page; it's not too flashy yet but I'm hoping to get some more work done on it this week.

Enough with the advertising. Eldest was a classic 3-year-old today, missing a chance for a Happy Meal for the second straight swim lesson. Both boys take 10-minute private swim lessons at our old pool, which includes a kiddie pool. I've been letting Eldest play in the kiddie pool after his lesson while I get Littlest changed out of his trunks. The last two lessons I've been offering to get a Happy Meal for lunch on the way home, and for two lessons, Eldest misbehaved himself out of the Happy Meal.

Simply, he hasn't removed himself from the kiddie pool when I asked him to. I've given him plenty of reminders ("10 minutes!", counted him out, provided warnings that he was losing his Happy Meal. For two lessons now, he didn't obey and we simply went home for lunch. I know he's 3, which isn't the best age for listening, and yes, he was having fun and I don't want to cut that short (and wouldn't have if Littlest wasn't tired and shivering, the little dude is sooooo skinny), but I'm amazed (or maybe just discovering) that repeated instructions, with consequences, just don't get through sometimes. I almost wavered because he wasn't as belligerent as last week, but decided against McDonald's.

Hopefully he learns (he wasn't happy that I said no to the Happy Meal), maybe for next time, especially because I'm in the mood for a Big Mac.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Mabye we'll see on the Fourth of July

One of the last lines on the last episode of "The Wonder Years" was said by the Dad (and I don't know if I have this exactly right, but this was the gist): "It was a good Fourth."

It was a good Fourth.

We went to the neighborhood bike parade, and it was fun. Eldest got off to a little slow start to the parade, he rode the whole thing (about 5 blocks). There was a potluck picnic after, and we stayed about an 1 1/2 hours -- it was starting to get hot and the boys started getting tired. Oh, the other highlight, during the singing of the national anthem before the parade kicked off, right at the part at huge sporting events fighters might fly overhead, four fighters flew overhead! OK, we are with 30 miles of an air base and we've seen fighters before, so it was just a coincidence, but that was some great coincidence.

The afternoon wasn't too eventful. Wife and I got a few things done around the house, nothing major; Littlest napped; Eldest was crabby but never napped. His mood eventually improved and he played some games on the computer. Our goal was getting Eldest to stay awake long enough for fireworks. A big fireworks celebration is at a big park a few blocks from us, and we were hoping to see most of it from just outside our house.

The plan almost didn't work, as Eldest almost fell asleep -- it was past his bedtime. Before that, Littlest tumbled off a kiddie chair outside and gave himself a fat lip. But we managed to get Eldest outside again, and Wife and a sleepy Littlest came out too. With Littlest dozing off, and Eldest getting antsy seeing people walk toward the park, we agreed I'd take Eldest near the park to watch his first fireworks show.

It was about a 3/4-mile walk. Along the way, we saw some people lighting off small fireworks, getting Eldest excited for the big show. There were a lot of people in the park, many who staked out their space early and waited in the 100-degree heat. But we didn't go all the way to the park, finding a nice spot in a soccer field in the high school next to the park. Still, there were enough people that I insisted Eldest stay close. The fireworks began around 10, and Eldest was captivated. Not giddy insane, but he watched the whole show. I tried to explain to him to say "Oooh, Ahhh, Ohhhh" after impressive fireworks, but he was kind of silent through the whole show. It helped we had a great view from where we were, about parallel from where the fireworks were being launched. I could tell he was getting tired near the end, and he said he was chilly, even with a blanket wrapped around him.

The show ended, and I put Eldest on my shoulders to go home. There were so many people streaming out from the general area (not only residents from the surrounding neighborhoods, but people whose only option to park was the residential streets), that rather than hold his hand, I knew he'd wouldn't get lost up there. Did run into run tree branch (I'm not as used to Eldest, and his clearance, as I am with Littlest up in my shoulders), and my neck is going to be sore tomorrow from carrying 45 pounds for almost a mile, but we made it home and Eldest was asleep after about five minutes.

Like I said, it was a good Fourth.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I think it was the Fourth of July

On the eve of the Fourth of July, perhaps the first our kids will see a fireworks show (we'll see how tired they are tomorrow evening), I was trying to recall my most memorable Independence Day from my youth. A few came to mind (and no, I don't remember anything specific about the Bicentennial, though check out my new Back in time video):

-- My godparents' old house was near the end of a suburban parade route, and we went there about every year in the morning to watch. Sometimes we'd stay and see the big fireworks or whatever my dad and uncle procured (fireworks are very illegal in Illinois).

-- There was one year Dad somehow snagged a couple bricks of firecrackers and a bag of M-80s (they actually might have been M-100s). He gave a lot of the booming things to my older friends, but those M-whatevers were fun.

-- We went to Arlington Park Racetrack one year to watch fireworks, and a tree on the infield caught fire. Kind of prophetic -- a few years later, the whole place burned down.

There were others, visiting my grandparents' camper, spending the day blowing off fireworks with friends, etc. But the one I'm going with as most memorable is 1987, not for any patriotic reason, but because I was such a videogame geek. We were at the godparents again, but this was their new house away from the parade route. We did go see their suburb's big fireworks show, there was grilling before, it was fun. The real show, for me, was the new Nintendo my cousins had. It was just as the NES was getting popular and the next videogame explosion was occurring. I was 16, and I shouldn't have been as giddy as an 11-year-old, but I was.

My cousins had Super Mario Brothers, Baseball and Duck Hunt. I was so impressed with Super Mario, that my aunt offered to let me stay overnight so I could play it more. I know I eventually got to sleep, but not before watching a little MTV (we didn't have it at home) and seeing the video for "Heart and Soul" by T'Pau, which was one of my favorite songs that summer.

After high school, most of the good July 4s were at or around Summerfest in Milwaukee (including the first summer Wife and I were dating). The last few years have been fun with our neighborhood's bike parade, this year Eldest will ride his. Time for new memories, and hopefully there won't be any videogames involved with these.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

O Brother Where Art Thou

Eldest was feeling much better today, just in time for Littlest to get the same bug his brother had. We're not sure if Littlest has the sore throat -- he's been alternately crabby and in a good mood all day -- but he's definitely got the fever, up to 103, which is a lot scarier for a 1-year-old than a 3-year-old.

If Littlest is at 101 tomorrow, he'll match the temperature outside -- it got even hotter today, and it's supposed to be in triple digits all week. I let Eldest get some chocolate pretzels at one of the stores we visited today (we hit about five stores, to get about 1-2 things at each) that started to melt before we got home. Our neighborhood's Fourth of July parade should be fun if it's this hot.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Heat of the Moment

I've said before how I rarely get a whole weekend off. Well, this weekend is one of those rare occasions, so what did we do today? Stayed inside and straightened the house! Eldest is still under the weather, though his fever is down under 100 but his throat still hurts a little (and he didn't like the throat spray, saying it was "spicy" -- I admit it, I got it not at a pharmacy but a Thai restaurant). It was also hot today, really hot, around 100. It's supposed to be like this for a few days, too. Anyway, it was the perfect combination for an inside day. Lori got really focused on some minor projects, I got all the laundry put away and played video games with Eldest. The temperature finally dropped, and I'm typing this post outside. After wrapping this up, I'm going to water the lawn and look forward to another blistering day, more likely out and about, depending how Eldest feels and how much shade we can find.

Fever pitch

We were going to go to the pool Friday morning. We had made plans with the mom of a girl from Eldest's pre-preschool class (a 3-year-old girl, by the way, who has told her mom she was going to marry Eldest! That's my boy!) to meet their family late morning. Eldest was excited to go, as usual, and was in a good mood. I started getting Littlest ready, and by the time I got his trunks on and applied sunblock, Eldest was out of commission, almost asleep, running a fever.

The amazing thing was that not 5 minutes earlier, Eldest looked fine. It hit that quick. The evening before, he complained his mouth hurt, but he was only pointing at his mouth, what I realized this morning was that it was his throat that hurt. I now was suspecting strep after he pointed at his mouth again and realized he hadn't eaten much over the last 18 hours. I checked his temperature -- 103 on the first reading. That's warm. After some Tylenol, it did drop to about 100-101, but he still wasn't in a good mood, particularly after a little while later, when he saw his swim trunks and realized he wasn't going swimming.

But, Eldest got a good nap, as did Littlest, and was in a better mood in the afternoon. Wife took him to the doctor, where he was given a quick strep test that came back NEGATIVE. So, unless the full test comes back positive (the doctor said there is a 10 percent chance the quick test doesn't detect strep right away), we don't know what Eldest has. He was in a mostly good mood the rest of the night, after I went to work -- he and Wife watched movies, even called me because he was wondering where I was at, until he fell asleep. He woke up when I got home and wanted me to read him a couple books.

I hope he's feeling better Saturday. Poor little dude.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My little runaway

Eldest got me really pissed today, at Wild Oats of all places (of course, it was a totally natural anger, with no hydrogenated oils). Every other Wednesday is my big shopping day, and aside from Wal-Mart and Costco, today I hit Wild Oats with both boys. There is a little play area which we went to first, when Eldest says he needs to go pee-pee. I say fine, and try putting Littlest into the cart, then notice the straps to keep him in there are broken. We walk back to get a new cart, I'm trying to get Littlest in, when, for whatever reason I'm not sure, Eldest takes off through produce.

I'm not sure where he was intending to go -- I don't think it was the play area again. I saw him running but couldn't keep up, with the cart and other shoppers in the way, but I tried a different aisle to cut him off ... except he never emerged where I thought he was going to. Now I'm starting to get a little nervous. After about a minute, we found each other, he was wondering where I was (maybe why I didn't keep up) as well.

I picked him up to explain why I was mad. I picked him up with such angry vigor that I think I bumped his head into my noise. After a few seconds of lecturing, I feel a trickle of blood drip down my nostril. Yes, I was so mad at my son that I gave myself a bloody nose. I'm now working my way through produce toward the deli area so I can get some napkins to stop the blood flow, still angrily lecturing Eldest and trying not to bleed on the organic vegetables.

Took Eldest to the bathroom finally, where he decided he didn't have to go. Either I scared him into not peeing or he never had to go in the first place (which I don't mind happening -- it might just be him asserting his independence that's come with semi-toilet training). We resumed shopping, but I was still so worked up that I was forgetting what I was buying. I gave him one final lecture out the door which I think he took to heart, because we went to Barnes & Noble after to play with the Thomas the Tank Engine trains in the kids department, and he was almost perfect, listening to everything I asked him to do, sharing with other kids, and not whining when we left.

I understand it's normal for kids to sometimes do these maddening things for no reason at all. I believe it's normal too for dads to then get occasionally over-pissed when that happens, too. Hopefully, next time won't involve temporarily losing a child or causing myself to bleed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No Sleep 'til Brooklyn

I have a fun sleep pattern.

A couple nights a week, I work until midnight, come home, need at least an hour to unwind, then finally get to sleep. Some mornings I sleep later, some mornings I wake up early and try to sneak a nap during the day.

The other nights of the week, I'm home. Theoretically, it should be easy for me to get to bed early, get eight hours of sleep, be refreshed the next morning and the next day.

Not quite. I still find it difficult to go to sleep before 11 on my nights off. This was the case before I went part-time -- I couldn't get off the late-night routine. I thought it would be easier to flip it the other way, but after almost six months, that hasn't happened.

There are some mitigating factors -- I do sometimes get sucked into whatever I was doing before 10:30 p.m. Like tonight -- I took the first season of "Murder One" out of the library and watched a couple episodes tonight. At least I try multitasking, like updating this blog, for example, but I wonder if I'm not winding down by this. It being summer doesn't help, it's still non-dark after 9 p.m.

It's not so bad -- I am getting to bed before midnight most nights, and that's better than before. Still gunning for 11 p.m.

Oh, "Murder One" was one great show.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

How Swede it is

Sundays are our one whole weekend day off together, so we try to not just lugs. We didn't make it to the pool today, or got out into the summer heat that much, but we did have an adventurous few hours at ... IKEA!

I slept late this morning, then Littlest took an uncharacteristic 2-hour nap. As a result, the four of us didn't get out until about 2. We had been going to the pool every Sunday, but skipped it in favor of the IKEA trip. This store just opened last month, and we hadn't made it there yet despite Wife's love of the store.

It was worth the trip.

We didn't buy much, just some hooks and an inexpensive kids play tent for the boys. But just the spectacle of the store (I hadn't been to one in years) was something to behold, even Eldest liked it. We got something to eat at the cafe (Swedish meatballs for the parents, mac and cheese for the kids that Littlest was devouring), looked at bunk beds (no rush, just for the future), and pondered future design decisions for our house. Before we knew it, we spent over two hours there.

Yes, it wasn't the most eventful day, but it was a good day nonetheless.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Down at the Sunset Grill

(Transcribed from a notebook, I hope I can read my writing :)

A year ago on the first day of summer, I drove to a park near our house that had a clear view of the sunset on the longest day of the year. I sat and wrote, keeping an eye on the setting sun. I wrote about how fickle summer can be for adults. For kids, the first day of summer, the actual summer solstice (not the last day of school) means little, because there still are several weeks before the realization actually hits that summer will end (about Aug. 7 is a good realization point). But for adults, at least for me, the first day of summer means you made it to the top of the mountain -- and it's all downhill from here. The days will get shorter, the weather eventually cooler, that perseverance to make it through all those dreary months paid off, only to face it all again. Seasonally, summer really gets going on the solstice, but also reminds us it will end. I don't know if other people feel this too -- maybe is hits them after the Fourth of July (in Milwaukee, it's the last day of Summerfest that felt like summer ended, and that's usually just after July 4) -- but for me, the first day of summer has become bittersweet.

(At this point when I was writing longhand, the sun had set. Just before it did, there was a little cloud intruding in front of it, so little I could only see it against the bright sun with my sunglasses on. That sun/cloud interaction was very cool and reminded me of the Myagi family crest from "The Karate Kid.")

I am back on that small hillside in Donner Park (yes, those Donners), watching the sun set on the longest day of the year again. So much has changed in that year -- my career and what I perceived as important, Eldest growing up, Littlest getting through his first year of life. So much has stayed the same -- my dreams, my passions, the love I feel for my family.

The sun set into the Great Salt Lake. At this time of year, it sets behind Antelope Island, a mountain range in the lake, meaning the true sunset, when it dips below the horizon, is not visible from my vantage point. I'm listening to "Sister Golden Hair" by America, a song that always reminds me of summer dusks. I must have heard it one night as a kid -- it's from 1975, I was 4; there are actually quite a few songs I can remember specifically (and which take me back) from that summer. The opening guitar riff is just mellow enough that it just sounds like ... a summer sunset. I doubt that's what America had in mind, but that's what I hear.

My kids are going to remember things like that someday. I have so many happy memories from my own childhood, and not just the big events, but little things, moments remembered, songs recalled, that became permanently etched. The boys will discover their own fond recollections. I can't force these memories, but I can make damn well sure there are enough opportunities, enough happy times, that they do find them on their own.

The sun set around halfway up Antelope Island. Tomorrow, it will starting making its way south again, for six months, until it's smack dab in the mountains due west. Then it will inch its way back north (insert Circle of Life reference here). Most people reflect like this on Jan. 1. I do it on the summer solstice -- I wonder what the next year will bring, how the boys will grow, where I, and my family will be in our lives. And I wonder what I will write about on this hillside in 2008, listening to that song, watching the sun set on the longest day of the year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stuffy and gruffy

I hate being inside on summer afternoons, but alas, that's what the boys and I have mostly done for two days now. I caught either a weird cold or a sinus infection, and though it's not so bad, it's knocked me out enough (the cold medication isn't helping my energy level) that it hasn't been the two most productive days. I'm not totally out of it though, we did get out for a drive up a canyon with the intention of going for a little walk (the boys fell asleep before we could get them out of the car, however), then grilled some burgers when we got home. And I am outside tonight typing this -- hurray for extension cords (the battery on this laptop is barely working) -- and I'm going to water the lawn after.

These ho-hum summer days drive me bananas, because there are only so many summer days per year, but these just-annoying-enough-to-alter-your-day-but-otherwise-not-too-bad colds piss me off as well. I'm left with not quite enough energy to chase the boys around, but too much to be a total dud. I'll probably ditch the Chlor-Trimeton tomorrow and try working out. Hopefully, it will be a more awake day.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Admiral Halsey notified me

What's the point of a stay-at-home-dad's blog if not to post the occasional cute story of his kids?

Let me explain my Saturday first. Usually, I don't get Saturdays off; rarely, I get a whole weekend. This weekend is the exception, and over Father's Day, too. We accompanied Eldest to one of his friend's birthday party in the afternoon, and he had a lot of fun (firefighters from the local fire department came to the party, let the kids explore the truck a little, then turned on a hose for them). We came back home and tried to relax, but discovered we had two crabby kids who needed naps. We decided to drive out to this burger/ice cream place about 45 minutes away that had a train theme. Thankfully, both boys fell asleep on the way. After a nice though slightly chaotic dinner (Eldest was fascinated by the trains, of course; Littlest ate almost a whole grilled cheese), we headed out of the mountains back home.

Now, Eldest didn't want to go and threw a little fit, so to try to appease him a little, I put on "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" by Paul McCartney. For those of you who don't know the song, it's a classic early-'70s McCartney song that's two distinct songs melded together (one of his trademarks as a solo artist). And it's also was playing the first time I ever heard Eldest spontaneously laugh with no effort from us. He was about 4 months old, and I was driving him around when it came on the radio, and when it got to the really upbeat part later in the song, he just started laughing.

More recently, he heard it and I repeated the line "Butter Pie" and he repeated it himself, complete with a faux toddler English accent. This has been going on for a few weeks, so I found it on my iPod (which I brought along and hooked into the car radio) thinking it would cheer him up. It did, as we kept saying "Butter Pie". So the song ends, the next one comes on, and we hear Eldest singing something from the back seat. We turn the radio down, and to our surprise, he's singing another part of the song, the chorus. It was so cute to hear "Hands across the water, water, hands across the sky" from a 3-year-old, for five minutes.

It was nice to get out on a warm summer evening as a family, especially this weekend. It will happen many times more, I'm sure, but I'll never forget that ride back.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dive dive dive

Two milestones from the offspring today. First, Littlest took three steps this morning. He has been standing, crouching from a standing position (without sitting down), doing this bear walk that looks more difficult than actual walking, but no steps beyond one falling forward. But today, I stood him up, tried to get him to walk to me, and before he realized what he was doing (he was a little crabby at the time), he took a few steps. Even Eldest noticed it and exclaimed "He's walking!" Littlest took two steps later on. Just a matter of time before he gets it down pat, then he starts running, then my life gets more difficult. Make no mistake, I can't wait for him to walk, it's just the aftermath that is sometimes overrated.

Second milestone: Eldest jumped off the diving board at the pool. Just a low dive, Wife was waiting in the water to guide him to the side (not to catch him, either -- just to make sure he remembered he could swim over to the side), and it was more walking off the board than diving, but still, he went off the diving board. And not just once -- EIGHT TIMES. The little boy does not have a lot of fear, though he did get a little freaked out by a friendly lost dog meandering outside the JCC (Jewish Community Center, like a YMCA, yes, we're Catholic, we're in the most Mormon place in the world and we belong to a Jewish Community Center). So he has a little fear, but so much determination to have fun.

Monday, June 11, 2007

This place is a dump

Note: Contains fecal issues that some non-parents may find unsettling. Read at your own risk.

We are on our last push to get Eldest potty-trained. He's come a long way, going pee in the toilet without us even prompting him and not going in his underpants that we let him wear sometimes, when we know there isn't a big poop coming (and even in his Pull-Up diaper, he'll use the toilet too). We're proud of him and what he's accomplished -- he's even starting to pee when he wakes up in the morning. Today, however, the poop hit the fan.

He's been reluctant to sit on the potty and go poop. We ask him if he has to go, and he says he doesn't. We ask him if he wants to try, and he says very loudly "No, I don't have to go poop!" Even the sticker bribery doesn't work on this end (no pun intended) -- he has a sticker board that we've told him if he fills up, we'll by him a big toy (the thinking being, if he fills it up, he's potty-trained completely and deserves the reward, plus, what we'll save on diapers for a month will pay for the toy). He poops in the potty, 5 stickers. He's still reluctant.

Today I was very proud, he made it through his pre-preschool with big boy underpants, two hours, no accidents. We got home, I asked him if he had to go potty, got the same angry reaction, that he didn't have to go. I told him we'd have to put a diaper on him then. This wasn't just as a reminder to try to be a big boy, but also because I knew it was the time of day when another big poop was coming. So I go into the kitchen, try to finish my lunch and make it to the next commercial during a "Law and Order" rerun. Eldest walks in and says he pooped in his pants.

I know I'm not supposed to get angry during this process, there are going to be accidents. And it was mildly my fault that I didn't change him as soon as I said I would. Yet I was still annoyed that a smart 3-year-old either didn't realize he had to poop five minutes before he did, or that he just didn't want to even if he knew it was coming. The mess was enormous, I actually took the underpants outside and tried washing them off with a hose before I applied stain stick.

It gets better -- we had a repeat performance about 6 hours later. Eldest normally doesn't poop thrice in a day, I guess it was crappy karma (Littlest had an escaping poop this morning that was messy, too). At least Eldest is realizing the moment after it happens and telling us, rather than sitting in his own poop for minutes (which he'll do in his diaper). I want to recite the Alcoholics Anonymous serenity prayer every time this happens, knowing he'll eventually he'll figure it out (he better, they won't let him into real preschool in August with diapers). We read both his potty books tonight and agreed to give it a try tomorrow. I'm hoping he earns the five stickers.

Really, really hoping. For poop's sake.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Brrr, it's cold in here

Wednesday was frosty for June 6 in Utah. How chilly? Low 50s, rained all day, like Good Friday in the Midwest. So we were inside most of the day, and after getting outside every day as part of the warm-weather routine, being cooped up wasn't fun. Tried to getting some cleaning done, and though to a certain extent I was able to, it wasn't easy when the boys wanted to play when I wanted to work. I'm sure I wasn't the only parent going stir crazy today.

Thursday should be interesting, as the weather will be the same and there is nothing planned (the boys' swim lesson was canceled in advance of the sucky weather. We'll definitely get out, maybe the dinosaur museum I didn't want to venture to today. If the weather stays bad into Friday, we already have a children's museum play date set.

When the temp here gets over 100 later in the summer, somebody tell me why I didn't like today.

Carry a tune

I had this idea a couple days ago to write about my favorite summer songs. I don't mean songs about summer, necessarily, but songs that were big hits in summers past. Having been a Top 40 geek through the '80s, and having so many songs able to transport me back to a specific time of my life, coming up with this list should have been easy, but it was a little trickier than I anticipated. Many songs that do take me back aren't necessarily my absolute favorites -- "Every Breath You Take" by The Police was a monster hit in the summer of 1983, does remind me of that time, yet, I've never really liked the song.

So I had been contemplating my favorite summer songs when I turn VH1 Classic and see ... the top summer songs of all-time. Hosted by original MTV veejay Mark Goodman (who by the way is looking way old, though not quite Kurt Loder old yet), it was purely the best summer-themed songs, including "Vacation", "Boys of Summer" and "Summer of '69". Again, this is just my favorite songs that were big hits from Chicago summers of the 1980s.

1980: "Against the Wind" by Bob Seger I already blogged about why I like this song so much, so I won't rehash. RUNNERS-UP: "It's Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me" by Billy Joel; "Train in Vain" by The Clash; "Steal Away" by Robbie Dupree (yes, it's cheesy soft rock, sue me).

1981: "Hold on Loosely" by .38 Special My first conflict on this list, there are many great songs from this summer. RUNNERS-UP: "The Waiting" by Tom Petty; "For You" by Manfred Mann; "You Better You Bet" by The Who.

1982: "Only the Lonely" by The Motels Not the most upbeat hit of this summer, but not so mellow to descend into soft rock. A simple, thoughtful song. RUNNERS-UP: "867-5309" by Tommy Tutone; "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor, "Heat of the Moment" by Asia (insert "40-Year-Old Virgin" reference here).

1983: "Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant Maybe it wasn't as cool as I first thought it was, but still a favorite. RUNNERS-UP: "Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats; "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This" by The Eurythmics.

1984: "Panama" by Van Halen My general favorite song is "My Everchanging Moods" by The Style Council and is from this summer, but I don't quite connect it with this summer, so I'm not listing it. "Panama" just rocks. RUNNERS-UP: "Round and Round" by RATT; "When Doves Cry" by Prince; "Dance Hall Days" by Wang Chung.

1985: "Invincible" by Pat Benatar Good song from a bad, bad movie ("The Legend of Billy Jean"). RUNNERS-UP: "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen; "People Are People" by Depeche Mode.

1986: "Rumbleseat" by John Mellencamp This was the toughest summer to come up with a favorite, not because of too many choices, but a lack thereof. That said, one of my top five Mellencamp songs. RUNNER-UP: "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel.

1987: "Don't Mean Nothing" by Richard Marx Remember the video more than the song. RUNNERS-UP: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2; "Seven Wonders" by Fleetwood Mac.

1988: "The Flame" by Cheap Trick Their comeback ballad might be a little weird for Cheap Trick, but it's a good song nonetheless. RUNNERS-UP: "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns 'n' Roses; "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard.

1989: "Free Falling" by Tom Petty The 1980s were running out of steam as far as good Top 40 went, and I admittedly wasn't listening to Top 40 as much. Probably the best lyrics of the year. RUNNERS-UP: "Every Little Step" by Bobby Brown; "Buffalo Stance" by Neneh Cherry.

There's the list. After typing it out, well, it's not as earth-shattering a list as I'd had hoped. Maybe I'm forgetting some songs, or maybe as the decade went along, I wasn't connecting as much to what was on the radio (which gradually got more specialized). Oh well, it was still fun to write.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Agent 86

I have rejoiced how my life is getting back to normal (at least for for me in SAHD mode) starting this week, with five consecutive days off. I did that math and figured from the time I woke up this morning to when I go back to work will span 126 hours. Take out 40 for the estimated time I will sleep, and it comes out to 86 waking hours this week. I want to make the most of those 86 hours, meaning better eating, little napping (for me, not the boys), getting more things done around the house, less random TV watching, and simply enjoying the new summer. And so far, so good. Today, we went for a nice walk, took the boys to the pool, got a little stuff done around the house and grilled some burgers. Got to sit on the porch in the evening, listen to my iPod and peruse the Baseball Encyclopedia. It was a good Sunday. Seventy-four hours to go.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Seems like yesterday, but it was long ago

One of my favorite songs is Bob Seger's "Against the Wind." Being somewhat overly nostalgic, it's always resonated with me, even when I was a teenager. In 1984, we were on a weekend trip at a resort in Wisconsin (a longer story for another post), and I was incredibly bored and listened to the only tape I brought for my Walkman over and over, just songs taped off the radio. One of the songs was "Against the Wind" and somehow, only at 13, I recognized the reflection the lyrics invoke, of being young and taking life head on, growing up in a blink of an eye and being wiser yet a little sad. Of course, just about every Bog Seger song is about that same theme ("Beautiful Loser," "Like a Rock", "Night Moves", "Roll Me Away," you can even make a case for "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll"), but this one always stuck with me.

Another reason I like "Against the Wind" so much — the line: "Those drifter days are past me now, I got so much more to think about, deadlines and commitments, what to leave in, what to leave out" — which is essentially as a newspaper journalist, a copy editor no less, was what I was living and still do. More in a literal sense than the metaphorical sense Seger was driving at, but still, it does hit home a little. Also, it's a summer song (it was a single in 1980), which always brings back the nostalgia a little stronger.

Anyway, a mildly scary thought occurred to me several weeks back — I am older than Bob Seger when he wrote that song. Granted, 27 years ago, mid-30s was older than it is today, but the sense of just being tired is the same, of looking a little bit of peace, at least for me (partly because those deadlines and commitments), though more so before I made the switch to part-time. Seger found that peace, at least I hope he did — and I just want to preface this that I liked this song before I found this coincidence out — he became a stay-at-home dad in the 1990s after he had more kids, taking a long break from touring and recording.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The fun is over, the fun begins

I am way, way off my stay-at-home dad routine. And a certain NBA team that wasn't supposed to be out of the first round of the playoffs is to blame.

When the playoffs began, I volunteered to work extra on game nights. It'll be fun, right, and it won't last long. Six weeks and 17 games later, my schedule finally gets back to normal, rather than trying to catch up on sleep the next weekday (and subsequently subjecting the boys to more TV than I should) after working until 1 a.m.

So I work Friday and Saturday, then get the next five nights off. Hopefully, I'll get the routine back on track, get out for more walks, start the adventures with the boys again (dinosaur museums are calling us), and get eight hours sleep each night (I'd be happy with even seven).

Numberz

I'd thought I'd offer a quick explanation on why I'm calling this blog "The 43" -- it's simply my favorite number.

I admit it's an odd favorite number, but it's semi-unique as far as favorite numbers go. There aren't many notable athletes with 43, the only ones I found when I Googled it were Dennis Eckerlsey, Richard Petty and Brad Daugherty. I think I picked it up in high school when a girl I liked lived in a suburb that could be reached by taking Illinois 43 (Harlem, then Waukegan Road for you Chicagoans). The number stuck long after I wised up on the girl.

Anyway, I chose "The 43" because it was a little more non-specific. I debated maybe tying in the stay-at-home dad angle into the title, or some '80s reference, but in the end, liked "The 43" best.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day weekend

Summer, finally.

So far so good. We had a good day, going to Day Out With Thomas -- a Thomas the Tank Engine extravaganza at a nearby historic railroad -- and later hitting the pool, where both boys, especially Eldest, had a lot of fun.

I always liked Memorial Day weekend because it did signal the beginning of summer, though I'm amazed how fast May, generally one of my favorite months, went by. Hopefully June, another favorite month, won't be so zippy. As a kid, I used to like listening to the top 500 rock songs as presented by WLS radio in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, and usually a picnic, barbecue, or trip to Russell's (a rib place in the suburbs). There was invariably a couple days after Memorial Day of school, maybe a week and half, and then the school year ended and summer would be in full swing. Once you got to Memorial Day, the end was in sight.

In more recent years, Wife and I used to take start a vacation around this time (not this year). After a long sports season for me at work, this weekend was the first big break, and it was a great way to start the summer. No big trips or major plans -- in fact, I will end up working three of the four days of the weekend -- but today was such a blast that Wife already declared it's going to be a great summer.

I think she's right.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mild outrage, part II

Another item in a magazine annoyed me again today.

A couple weeks ago in Sports Illustrated, there was a story on how girls' flag football is taking off as a spring high school sport in Florida. In the current issue, there is a letter to the editor from a guy in Oklahoma who writes a reminder to the high school girls forsaking track and softball for flag football, that although flag football might be fun, it won't get them a college scholarship.

I can only imagine that the writer of the letter is a high school track or softball coach who feels threatened that his sport might get gutted if flag football is introduced in football-crazy Oklahoma. Wasn't the point of high school sports to build character, work as a team and, ultimately, have fun? Maybe this isn't a coach, but one of those parents so overinvolved in his child's athletic career who will sue the school district if his daughter doesn't get enough playing time, because it's ruining her chance to get a scholarship and his chance to save some money.

We're trying to find a 3- to 4-year-old soccer league for Eldest in the fall. The first step to his college scholarship, forget any fun he might have. Seriously, it's this sort of attitude that creates, I bet, half of the overbearing sports parents out there, the ones that scream at coaches, referees and coaches and Little League games. Urgghhhhhhhh!

OK, outrage complete.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kid gloves

There was an item in this month's Runner's World on children running, stating kids under 5 shouldn't take up regular running. The reason -- kids that young are still developing their gaits and sustained long-distance running might cause injury problems later. That's fine, but this is what peeved me a little -- the suggestion that toddler runs are OK, little fun races of 50 yards or so.

I'm not trying to dismiss the advice that everyday distance running for kids is a bad idea. But isn't suggesting kids that young stick to 50 yards essentially discouraging kids from being active? There are longer kids runs -- I've seen them up to a kilometer or a mile -- why not let a preschooler try those longer noncompetitive races if they want?

Eldest was in the stroller with us when we did a 5K (slowly) recently, at about the 2-mile mark, we let him out of the stroller, and I ran the rest of the race while Wife and Eldest were going to walk the rest of the way, then run across the finish line. Eldest got so excited that he ran most of the rest of the course, getting high-fives from other runners encouraging a little person having fun. Now, imagine if we stopped him after 50 yards, saying it wasn't healthy for him to run?

I'm not begrudging the need to keep our kids safe and healthy, I just think we've come to a time where it goes overboard. Runner's World's advice is similar to advice I've seen in parents magazines that kids under 3 should stay off playground equipment (slides and such). Littlest has already gone down a park slide, under close supervision (me holding him as he slid down), before age 1, Eldest has climbed things at parks I can't fathom a 3-year-old climbing. And though I don't want them to get hurt, and there are obviously limits to what I'll let them do (I have warned Eldest not to try sliding down the pole, it's for older kids, and he hasn't), I am not going to be so overprotective that I'm denying my kids to be, well, kids.

A long time ago, I saw a newspaper editorial lamenting the removal of playground equipment deemed to lawsuit-dangerous. The editorial stated that part of being a kid was the chance you'd break an arm simply playing. Of course, I don't want my kids to get hurt, but I know the odds are good they will suffer a concussion, fracture or cut necessitating stitches at least once before they turn 18, more likely 12.

With adequate supervision, plenty of encouragment and a little faith, parents should be able to come to a reasonable decision to let their kids try something a little out of their age bracket. Yes, they will fail sometimes, and they might get hurt. But that's part of growing up. Some schools have banned tag at recess because someone might get hurt. I wish our society wasn't so litigious that schools have to worry about lawsuits, but what are we teaching our kids when we deny them the chance to actively play? Especially when childhood obesity is such a problem?

Eldest will want to try that pole one day, and I'll help him, probably nervously hold my breath when he tries it on his own for the first time. And when he wants to run a long distance again, I'm going to let him, and not worry about his gait. Denying him that fun is simply unhealthy, and I just don't mean for his body, but also for his mind.