Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ho ho ho

I wanted this year to be an unforgettable Christmas, and well, Christmas Eve started that way with me having to take one of our cats to the animal hospital at 5 a.m. The day improved from there.

The cat is OK -- he's diabetic and hasn't been in the best shape lately, and at some point Tuesday night, he banged his shoulder hard enough that it split the skin, and though it barely bled, you could see his shoulder muscle underneath (sorry if that's a little gross to imagine). We were worried it was something worse and we'd have a really, really bad Christmas, but he just needed stitches and was able to come home. He's actually in a good, obnoxious mood tonight, hopefully his shoulder heals OK.

We're set for Christmas morning and then spending a nice day at home. For the first time in years, I'm not working Christmas Day. As long as there aren't any more feline emergencies, it should be a happy, memorable day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Temporarily out of service

This isn't going to be a post about how I'm rededicating myself to posting every day, or at least a few days a week. That post will come, and I'll be writing much more, but for right now, I might be too busy over the next few weeks the blog much here, just as I was too busy the last few weeks.

It's been like that for months, too busy. When I dropped down to part-time at the newspaper, it was with the hope of becoming less busy, and in turn Wife's life would be less busy. But as I inched back up to near full-time, the busy times returned, even worse.

However, the change is coming. After two final full-time weeks at the newspaper, my last regular day will be Dec. 14. I might stay on one night a week, but that one night will remain one night, with no gradual increase like last time. I've taken on some freelance editing and have some leads on more. Wife and I have positioned ourselves to take this step, and we are more ready.

This was the big news I alluded to a couple times a few months ago. And only 19 really busy days are left before I take the jump. So don't expect much until then.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Legends of the fall

Autumn has been chugging by so fast, which is a good thing, but there has been one oddity as Halloween approaches: Hardly any of the leaves off our two trees have fallen.

The leaves have changed colors, and a few are starting to drop, but it's Oct. 27 and I haven't raked yet. Normally, I would have raked for the first time a few weeks ago.

It's not unusual for some trees here in Salt Lake to lose their leaves all at once around the first week of November. But not ours -- a small maple and our big tree of which I have no idea what brand it is. Maybe because spring sucked so bad and our leaves came a little late resulted in them falling late, too. Maybe it's just been the nice weather this fall.

I'll have to rake soon, I bet this weekend. We'll be ready.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Adventure land

Today the boys and I went on a mild adventure. OK, it was just to the dinosaur park up in Ogden, but between preschool, work and a gazillion other commitments, we haven't been as adventurous as we were even in the spring.

It was a fun adventure on a crisp, sunny fall day we don't normally get in Utah for another few weeks. I packed a lunch -- an accomplishment since we've been hitting McDonald's way too much in the past couple months. Littlest growled at every full-scale dinosaur statue he saw. And at the end of the night, when I asked Eldest what was his favorite part of the day, he said it was the dinosaur park. Very cool.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Wait 'til next century

They broke my heart again. Those damn Cubs made it to the playoffs only to be swept in the first round.

On one hand, they weren't tantalizingly close to making the World Series and somehow didn't. But on the other hand, this might have been the best Cubs team since 1984, it fell apart at the worst time. Watching these last three games has been painful.

There's always next year, right? Maybe they'll win at least one playoff game in 2009.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wake me up when September ends

I fear I have devolved into just an occasional blogger.

It's been a busy three weeks since my last post. I've been working a lot, not only at the newspaper but also with some freelance editing (more on that in another post). School resumed. Eldest's soccer began. The month has just zipped by without a good explanation. That's a good thing (again, for another post), I just wish I was more productive and wasn't so tired.

October is not going to be quite as busy, thankfully; I really only have one bad work week (as opposed to four out of the last five). We're going to Moab in a few weeks, which will break things up nicely. And after we get back ... alas, that's for that other future post. A couple months ago I blogged about something big coming and how I didn't want to jinx it. Well, it's still on track and I still don't want to jinx it. You'll just have to wait.

In the meantime, it will be October very shortly. Though I want the days to peel off here as that big thing approaches, I don't want this month to the blur September was.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

School days

The boys started preschool last week. Eldest is in a 4-year-old class again (he was young for his class last year because there wasn't any room in the 3-year-old class when we switched preschools), while Littlest is began 2-year-old preschool.

So far, so good.

Eldest is a veteran of this class, so I wasn't worried about him, other than wondering if he'd be jealous we'd be dropping Littlest off then leaving (both classes are in the same room). But he's been fine. I wasn't sure about Littlest, however, but he's adapted quickly. He's used to playing in this room, so he feels right at home -- if anything, he always wants to play and doesn't want to sit down for circle time or snack. Other kids are having separation anxiety, but not Littlest, who is so low-maintenance that as long as he's not bored, he's fine.

Eldest goes to school Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, Littlest goes Tuesday and Friday. The routine is back, and it's busy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Remember when ...

We knew August would fly by, and here is proof -- we have been back from vacation for three weeks, and I haven't even blogged about it. So five weeks since vacation started, here was our trip:

Vacation was two weeks long, our longest trip yet. It wasn't long enough, as we didn't quite see everyone we wanted to see, and didn't get more time with just us -- us being Wife, the boys and myself. At the same time, we were ready to get back: Vacations are great, but they are work.

We visited so many people. I saw a friend I hadn't seen since 1990. Our kids played with our friends' kids. My sister and her kids came in from Texas. We went to northern Wisconsin and stayed a great resort near Eagle River.

Eldest got to fish for the first time. Littlest swung on a swing just about every day of the trip. Eldest went out several mornings with his Grandpa to exercise the dog. Littlest would wake up with the earlier sunrises and exclaim to us "Let's go!"

It was humid. It rained a few days. Traffic in Chicago sucked as usual. I watched more baseball than I had all summer. I ate at all my favorite Chicago joints, probably gaining a few pounds. My failing iPod sometimes worked.

I didn't sweat about work like I did two years ago. We didn't seem as rushed as we did last year, despite the number of people we visited. And though we were ready to go home at the end of the trip, it of course went by too fast.

We returned at the end of July, and we're rapidly apporaching the end of August and the end of summer. It of course has gone by too fast.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Take me out to the ballgame

I took Eldest to his first professional baseball game today. We saw the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees play the Fresno Grizzlies at Franklin Covey Field on a sunny, warm afternoon. Yes, it was just a minor-league game, but it was a nice father-son milestone nonetheless.

Admittedly, I wondered how long Eldest would last. Four-year-olds get bored quickly, and he hasn't quite picked up on all the elements of baseball yet. We arrived at the stadium and looked around a little, but got some food, found our seats and settled in for the game.

He made it three innings before he got a little antsy. He did witness a Bees home run, which was cool. After the third, we walked over to the playground (yes, this stadium has its own playground) beyond center field. He played there for a few innings, then said he wanted to go home, but I convinced him to stay through the seventh-inning stretch and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." I bought us some ice cream in a mini-helmet and sat back down, thinking we'd finish our ice cream and go.

But Eldest surprised me -- he started pretending his hand was a microphone and started doing play-by-play! I think he got the microphone idea from watching a 4-year-old sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on the scoreboard, but he was clearly trying to deliver some play-by-play, even enlisting me for help. He's more like I was as a kid than I thought!

We left in the top of the ninth, right as the Grizzlies were rallying. I knew if we stayed until the end the visiting team would tie it and we'd be there for extra innings, and Eldest's attention was fading again. I can't wait to take him, and someday Littlest, to another game.

Oh, the Bees won 5-3.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dude, where's my routine?

We've been back from vacation for more than a week now, but I haven't seemed to get back into our pre-vacation routine. The cold I was fighting last week didn't help, but I think part of the reason is that we didn't have much scheduled this week. No swim lessons. No playdates. No soccer camp. No preschool, obviously. One Little Gym class Monday morning, and not much since. And these last three days have seemed to have dragged on.

Sure, I did get things done, and it's not like we stayed inside every minute of every day (we did go on a fun jaunt to a new park and then IKEA on Tuesday). But by the time I went to work Wednesday night, I was starting to go a little stir-crazy. Maybe I, we (the boys included), thrive on flexible routines. They can be tiring, but at least there's no time to get bored, flustered or unproductive.

Soccer camp returns next week, then a couple busy weeks, then school starts after Labor Day. Though it will be sad to see the summer end, I'm beginning to understand why parents get jazzed about September. I don't want the boys out of my hair per se, but getting that routine down will be, well, a welcome routine.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

System reboot

Wow, it's been a long time since I posted!

The week before vacation got real busy, then we went on vacation -- and though theoretically it would have been nice to blog on our trip, it just didn't happen (plus I needed to write my NFL blog, which came first whenever I had some free computer time). We got back just as I was catching a cold. All of a sudden, we've been back three days (ever notice how the immediate days after you get back from vacation zip by, as if almost to sneer at the fact your vacation is way in the past?) and I still hadn't posted.

So here it is. Vacation was great -- the boys had a blast and it was nice to see as many people as we did. I caught this hit-and-run cold that has spread to the rest of the family, and as a result, the last three days weren't as productive as I would have hoped. They weren't totally devoid of usefulness, and we did celebrate Wife's 40the birthday, but for I would have liked to have accomplished more in the days before returning to work.

August is here, and it is going to be busy. Work will be interesting as I'm helping with a few overnight Olympic shifts. Blogging will be frenetic as I want to catch up on vacation as well as post like mad to my NFL blog with the season approaching. It is a busy time for the family as Wife major work stuff ahead, Eldest has soccer camp, and the preparation for the return (or in Littlest's case, debut) of preschool looms. And there's something else big on the imminent horizon for me that I don't want to jinx by writing about it(or even overthinking), but that is starting up this month.

Summer is winding down when it just seemed like it got going (remember, spring here in Utah unusually sucked). Vacation is always like that -- we get back and plan for the fall. It's good to get a routine in place again and to get on with the things we need to do, but I wish June and July could last about 45 days each. August wouldn't seem so technical then.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The movie experience

After a long week, and with the threat of thunderstorms looming, we took it a little easy Sunday and took the boys to see "Wall-E." It was Littlest's first movie in a while, and we were wondering how he was going to handle it. Like most things in his life, he might have been a little to excited -- he wanted to watch the movie, but he didn't want to sit still. He found things funny and amusing, but at times when the movie wasn't quiet or amusing, then would squeal with delight. Finally, I took him from our seats, and we walked around, seeing some of the last 20 minutes of the movie and some of the rest of the multiplex.

Eldest wasn't the calmest person at a movie at Littlest's age, either -- I pulled him out of "Curious George" after we ran out of Junior Mints early, and he even got a little bored with "Cars" at the show, and that's his favorite movie. And if you are going to have a happily loud child at a movie, better it be a G-rated children's movie than something serious that adults are there to see (which we wouldn't take the kids now anyway, they are beyond not paying attention and falling asleep at a show).

"Wall-E" was really good, by the way. There were many trailers for upcoming kids movies, so I doubt this will be our last theater trip this summer.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Go Fourth!

It's the Fourth of July and I got to see fireworks tonight. In fact, I got to see the whole Salt Lake Valley's fireworks — I worked tonight and watched them from our office's top-floor balcony.

Aside from working, it was a good holiday. The neighborhood parade/party was fun — what the Fourth of July felt like it should be before adulthood and Summerfest morphed the holiday for me (not that Independence Day at Summerfest wasn't fun). Patriotism and flag-waving notwithstanding, it's a kids' holiday, meant to highlight the summer in a blast of heat, music, food and fireworks. And the boys today had a blast, especially Eldest, who rocked on his bike during the parade, running into only one understanding neighbor and riding the whole parade.

Yeah, I had to work, and it turned too hot to do much else outside the rest of the afternoon, but at least we celebrated for those couple hours at the parade. And that was holiday enough.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

All Huffy

Eldest reached another milestone of his young life today: He officially can ride a two-wheeled bicycle.

We took his training wheels off in May, partly because one fell off, partly because he saw some of his classmates riding without them and wanted to give it a shot. He started out really well, and we thought he was getting the hang of it -- he'd pedal a couple times after I let go before stopping or falling -- but he seemed to start regressing. The goal, we told him, was to ride his bike in the neighborhood July 4 parade. Between the heat, my working more nights and his sudden apprehension, I didn't think he was going to make it.

But on Sunday night, we had a breakthrough, and it was a minor a change as just how I was holding him as he rode. Before, I'd hold the bottom of his seat, maybe a handlebar, let him get the balance, then let go. He'd go a few times then inexplicably stop pedaling. I think he knew when I wasn't there and purposely stopped. He was the change: I put my hand on his back instead of the seat when he started riding. He picked up the balance by himself and started riding better and better after I let go. Maybe he didn't realize I had let go, or maybe he realized he could ride without me, but either way, he made progress.

And then came tonight. We were practicing in the church parking lot across the street from us, and I pointed to a curb about 75 yards away. I told him to try riding all the way there without me, and he said he couldn't. I pointed out that the parade route would be much longer than that, and if he couldn't make it there, he'd never be able to finish the parade. That inspired him, because he got on and rode to the curb. Then he rode back. Then he rode some more. Then he started riding and figured out how to steer. Then he wanted to ride more and more and more. Finally, he was able to get on his bike and go, which was the last hill to conquer.

Then he didn't want to come back inside but keep riding. Did I mention yet it was 100degrees this evening in SLC? I know there are going to be some shaky moments (he still has to get better as starting on his own rather than me holding the bike while he gets on), but I'm so impressed and so proud of him. I didn't figure out a two-wheeler until I was maybe 8, he got it down at 4 1/2. And the best part, once he got comfortable, he looked so natural riding, and most importantly, he was clearly having fun.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Walk the walk

I came outside this evening to blog, after Wife and Littlest fell asleep and Eldest finally got tired enough to lie down, too. It was a moderately busy day with the boys, Eldest had Cracker Jacks, Littlest got to play in the nursery at our gym, and both had a ball during a playdate at a park, especially Eldest, who got to play with his best friend from preschool -- a friend who'll be in kindergarten next year while Eldest has another year of preschool. So these summer playdates are important, because come fall, I don't know often the two will play.

Anyway, this busy day followed a super-busy weekend, so it's not surprising Littlest crashed early and Eldest voluntarily climbed into bed. I am sitting on my porch typing, but am realizing that I really want to go for a short walk, especially since it's cooled off from the high-90s it was this afternoon. It's still light out, too, so I'm going to wrap this post up, find my iPod and stroll for 20 minutes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stir crazy

I was lucky to be around two crabby children today. And they got naps, so it wasn't like they were tired.

I think it's the heat. Today, we had nothing planned, no swim lessons, no playdates, no gymnastics classes. It was too hot to be out in the afternoon, a trip to the pool just wasn't going to work today, and though we did go for a walk in the morning, it evidently wasn't enough. When we finally did get them outside, it was a little chaotic. First at the video game store, where neither could stay in one place for more than half a second. That was nothing compared to the soccer store, where we bought shin guards, socks and shorts for Eldest's impending soccer camp. I guess it's a sign of a good soccer store when kids just want to run around.

The boys were crabby through dinner, then carried it outside when we finally took them out to play. Littlest wanted more attention and threw a great 2-year-old tantrum, just classic. Eldest took whatever Littlest was playing with, then threw a fit when we told him to play nice. They did finally settle down and had fun playing with some neighbors. Of course, did they want to come in? Nope.

I wanted the weather to turn warmer, so I shouldn't complain. Hopefully, this was just a one-day festival of agitation. Otherwise, it's going to be a long summer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Run, run, run, run

I have written about how Littlest is unstoppable, a ball of energy, always on the move, always running when he could be walking.

Well, we figured out what he looks like when he runs: One of those lizards that runs across water on two legs. I hope this video works.



Imagine that lizard with brown hair and on solid ground, and it's a match.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Another solstice

Last year, I wrote about the first day of summer from a hillside at a park overlooking the city. I was back there again this year -- third year in a row -- but this time not writing, but playing with the boys.

Wife is on a team running the Wasatch Back -- a 181-mile relay -- this weekend, and I am watching the boys (who thankfully fell asleep for me without her here). Littlest got a really late nap, so we went out for dinner later, drove around, and went to Donner Park to play and watch the sunset. I didn't think Eldest was going to make it, but then he said he wanted to watch the sunset, then got to the park, met a new friend and was totally oblivious. No matter, at least I got to watch the sun descend below Antelope Island on the longest day of the year. No writing at the park, of course, but it was worthwhile nonetheless.

The solstice is a little bittersweet for me this year. We knew this summer was going to be a blur, and so far, it seems to be the case. Maybe it's the rotten spring that didn't prepare me enough for this day. Maybe it's the extra nights of work I've taken on (I just finished a 10-shifts-in-15-days stretch, it's a mild anomaly because I needed this weekend off, but that's still almost full-time nights when I don't want to work full-time nights) that's impeding the summer. Maybe it's the knowledge vacation is less than four weeks away, and when we get back, it always feel like summer is kaput. I know it's only June 20th, but the summer is in full blur.

So what are you gonna do about it? -- I asked myself. Screw the bittersweet. My schedule before vacation eases, and then we're on vacation. The weather is hot again, enjoy it. Put the GameBoy down (I have a post to write about that) and focus on play and writing. There's about 80 days left before the boys start up school again and when I'm calling the summer as over. That's 80 great, fun days ahead; 80 days not to waste. It might be a blur, but it doesn't mean the blur can't be excellent.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

I was awoken by Eldest at 8 a.m. He wanted to make me cereal for Father's Day. I normally am not a Frosted Flakes fan, but they tasted great. It was a good start to Father's Day. The boys gave me their presents: new Keen sandals, a Life Is Good T-shirt, and a Spongebob Squarepants card that included a sticker that I was supposed to wear, but it unfortunately didn't stick well to my clothing.

We went to Cheesecake Factory for lunch. It somewhat felt like we were on vacation, as this Cheesecake Factory just opened in the last year, and we usually eat there only on vacation. Wife and I started rattling off all the other Cheesecake Factories we'd been to — Dallas, San Diego, Schaumburg, Old Orchard (mall in Chicago's North Shore), Minneapolis, Las Vegas and Scottsdale. But not in Utah until today. Wife bought me a piece of cheesecake to take to work after our lunch.

Our next destination was a miniature golf course, at Eldest's request. There is a little course a couple miles away from our house. It's not the most elaborate putt-putt, but it's perfect for Eldest — easy, friendly, not crowded on Sundays. The attendant only charged a second game to one of us and also gave Littlest a small plastic putter to keep. He didn't use it much, instead preferring to pick up the ball and throw it in the whole. We went home, I managed a little nap, then took my leftover Tons o' Fun Burger and my cheesecake slice to work. Or so I thought — Wife texted to inform me I had taken our leftover side of fries instead of the cheesecake. I'm debating whether I'm going to eat it when I get home from work or save the 500 calories for tomorrow.

The weather was perfect, I was with my family, and I felt relaxed. It was a great Father's Day. Even without the cheesecake.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Solace, at a Kmart

(I've wanted to write about a odd revelation I experienced at a Kmart for a few years now. Then, Wil Wheaton beat me to the punch on his blog, writing about a Kmart memory in a post he liked so much he put it in his book. I'm not sure if unconsciously backed off when I read his post (it was before I started this blog and I wanted to write it as a short story) or if I've just put it off too long, but I'm finally writing about it now, before this local Kmart closes.)

There are places in the world that feel like home. Some are home, some are far away and just remind you of home. Some aren't exactly a home, but are so familiar, so comforting that you feel at home. I suppose you could feel this at a church, or in some place of natural beauty like the mountains or the ocean, or at some place that was fun in your childhood like an amusement park or a school, any school.

I've experienced these feelings of home in many different locations. I just never thought I'd feel it at Kmart.

The Kmart by our house I would describe as old school. Yes, it's now technically a Big K and lacks the familiar long Kmart sign you could see from a mile off (there was one off the exit to my Aunt Ceil's house in the far Chicago suburbs that when I was real young was the first recognizable landmark after a long drive from the city), but it is clearly a classic Kmart. I barely visited Kmart since moving from Chicago, maybe to buy underwear, motor oil or cheap sporting goods, but then we moved within about 1 1/2 miles of one when we bought our house. And after Eldest was born, it was a convenient trip if we needed cheap diapers.

One day, he was in the cart and I was wandering around the store, and it hit me -- this feels a little like home. The merchandise. The Kmart logo all over. The snack bar, complete with giant Icee cup. The lack of windows. The low-quality apparel. The store configuration. It all reminded me of going to Kmart as a kid.

And it's not like I lived in Kmart in my youth, but it was there as a viable shopping option. There was one on Harlem Avenue in Harwood Heights, another on Dempster and Greenwood in Niles. I saw a Rubik's Cube for the first time at a Kmart. My dad and I bought my mother bowling shoes for her birthday one year at a Kmart. My first golf balls were purchased at Kmart. I can picture its record department in 1981, when I was taking a giant interest in Top 40. Kmarts back then didn't have magazine racks, much to the lament of a video game magazine-obsessed preteen. The clothing racks at a Kmart are unique in a way I can't explain, just as its toy department and sporting goods department.

Amid this recognition, with my first son just several months old and my life clearly in transition, I found solace at Kmart. I walked around the store that day just admiring it, albeit in a campy, nostalgic sort of way. We got our picture, black and white, taken that day in a photo machine that was straight out of 1979 (even the sample photos on the side feature people with 1979 haircuts, only the dollar-bill slot belies any sort of upgrade). This Kmart is never crowded (I went on the day after Thanksgiving last year and avoided insane crowds and bought plenty of Christmas presents) and is so convenient. Yes, I've occasionally bought clothes there, but mostly household items, Christmas lights, etc. This Kmart just feels different than other discount department stores -- it doesn't have the frenetic consumerism of Wal-Mart, the cheery redness of Target, the Wisconsin vibe of Shopko, the unfamiliarity of what Sears has become. With other department stores long gone (Woolworth's, Zayre, TurnStyle, and of course, Venture, which I could write another whole post on) and since Wal-Mart, Target and Shopko didn't invade Chicago until the 1990s, only Kmart has endured in this very small corner of my brain.

But maybe not for long, at least for this store. There is a reason this Kmart is never crowded -- the Salt Lake City neighborhood surrounding it has upscaled past it (and this is Kmart, after all, still perceived as kind of a joke). The first sign of its demise -- the snack bar closed about three years ago. If you can't get an Icee at a Kmart, does it cease to be a Kmart? Wal-Mart owns the building and the land that this Kmart sits on, and it wants to evict its tenant, tear down the old building and build a new Supercenter. Though it's not much of an upgrade as far as reputation goes, Wal-Marts don't generally fail, and this side of town sort of needs one. That will be the trade-off -- cheaper groceries for that tiny bit of solace.

We still go to Kmart a couple times a month, usually to pick one or two things up (yesterday, for example, the boys and I went to buy Father's Day cards). On one visit a couple years ago, "Being With You" by Smokey Robinson played over Kmart's speakers, and it felt like 1981 again and I didn't want to leave. We wandered the store until the song ended, paid for our items and left. To rewrite Robert Frost a bit: Nothing gold can K.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Smash and grab

All the miserable weather cleared by Sunday morning. I was up relatively early after working Saturday night, the sun was shining, and I turned to Wife and asked her how we should spend the imminently glorious Sunday.

Before she could answer, our neighbor came up to our door and asked if we saw that the front driver-side window on our Corolla had been shattered. And thus disappeared our glorious Sunday.

I had parked the Corolla on the street the night before so we could get our Outback -- our usual family vehicle -- out of the driveway. Someone smashed the window, rifled through our glove compartment, and stole Wife's gym bag and an iPod adapter (allows you to play your iPod through your car stereo). Needless to say, this soured our mood.

The thieves deidn't get away with much -- the adapter (which incidentally aren't cheap), Wife's iPod shuffle, her running shows, an old fleece of mine. The gym bag was blue and black and on the floor of the car -- whoever did this was casing the neighborhhod and needed to look hard to see it and decide to break in.

We had the window replaced today for $170, under our insurance deductible, and the stolen contents were under our homeowners insurance and nowhere near our deductible. A new Shuffle was only $50, we bought a new iPod adapter that's an upgrade on the old one and Wife has backup running shoes. But besides the cost, it was just the violation, the annoyance, the inconvenience that pissed us off. I've had my car broken into in downtown Milwaukee; I wanted to think residential Salt Lake City was different. It is, but maybe not as much as we hoped.

One of my neighbors said it best, when I said these things happen, she replied: "Yeah, but it shouldn't."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rain, rain, go away

After several nice days in a row, it rained in Utah the last two days. Rained a lot. We always need the water, and now that the rain has ceased, Salt Lake City will be sunny and hot for the next 2-3 months, but it drove me into a minor blah mood. Maybe because it was cold rain -- SLC doesn't get that humid, Midwestern rain until August.

There were two scheduled playgroups with kids from Eldest's preschool, and the rain seemed to scare everyone away, despite the fact both dates were at inside locations. Today's playgroup was more informal, just an invite from another mom to swim at an indoor pool, and only two parents showed with their kids (the boys had too much fun nonetheless).

So it wasn't the greatest way to start June, which usually combines the last day of school with sunny, perfect conditions. There was one year, however, I remember the last day of school being total gloom. Well not total gloom, as it was the last day of school, but cloudy and rainy. I'm thinking it was 1982 or 1983, and the altarboy schedule had me serving 6:30 a.m. Mass all week (this was the screw shift for altar boys, no pun intended). Usually my grandma or one of my parents would wait at Mass with me and take me home, but this time, Mom took me from the church to a bakery where we got donuts. I remember thinking how cool that was that I was out and about before school, almost like I was an adult.

Oh, it was raining that morning. It rained as I eventually returned to school. It rained as we trudged to the end-of-the-year school Mass (I wonder if I received Communion a second time?), it rained as we got our report cards, and it rained all the way home. Not the best start to the summer, just like the downpours of the last two days soggied SLC kids' start of summer.

Just checked the extended forecast on Weather.com. That brief flirtation of sun this evening that allowed me to grill won't last -- 64 and scattered thunderstorms for Friday. At least I won't have to wake up for 6:30 Mass.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Wagon's East (side)

With some of Littles's birthday money, we bought a two-seat wagon. For those who remember the shallow, metal, red Radio Flyers that were the norm for wagons, this vehicle has come a long way. Our wagon is plastic, has lift up compartments that revel seats and cupholders, and even has seat belts. It has an extra-long handle designed to be pulled by adults.

The new wagon has been fun, and the boys love it. Eldest likes to both ride in it and pull his little brother, while Littlest can't get enough of being a passenger. I can't take them on long walks with it, but to the Albertson's for a donut or to the snow-cone stand are perfect distances for the wagon, as opposed to the running stroller. And though I love the running stroller, the wagon has been a nice change of pace, let's the boys get a better view of the sidewalk traveled, and just screams summer.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cold train running

For the third consecutive year, we went to Day Out With Thomas, an event at the historic Heber Valley Railroad that is all things Thomas the Tank Engine. We met some friends there this year and were hoping for a fun time.

It was fun but cold. Really cold, at least for Memorial Day weekend. Heber City is about 1,000 feet up from us, it was mostly cloudy, the wind was blowing and it was before midday. The conditions sort of sapped the fun out of the event, and Littlest, who seemed to be coming down with something, wasn't his usual energetic self

Yes, the boys did get to play with some trains. We did buy some Thomas stuff, and I'm happy to report we made it out spending less than $40 (last year it was near $100). We got our picture taken with Thomas -- the even features an actual working Thomas train, though it's not a real engine, it does move along the track with the other cars -- and did take a train ride, on which thankfully we found seats in the enclosed coaches rather than the outdoor ones which are popular this time of year. Littlest did perk up, too.

But it just wasn't the same. We left sooner than we did last year, drove to Park City for lunch (the boys did great in the restaurant) and came home, somewhat exhausted. Our day didn't quite go according to plan, but it was a good start to the Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Leaps and bounds

Littlest turned 2 this week, and I'm amazed how much he's changed in the last couple months.

Don't get me wrong -- he's still the sweet, exuberant 24 pounds of nonstop energy he was before. But it's just interesting to see his vocabulary expand, his understanding of the world around him grow, and his interaction with others develop. Today, I called home from work, and while Wife was talking to me on the cordless, Littlest picked up the other phone, listened to us and then said "bye." I almost didn't catch it, either.

His favorite toy lately has been the giant plastic ball that shapes fit into. When he gets them all placed, he applauds himself, something he's been doing a lot of lately. Eldest went through the same milestones, but his were more obvious because it was only him. With two children, you are trying to recognize more of these moments, and sometimes they sneak up on you, perhaps more with the youngest. And when Littlest applauds, I have to make sure to applaud along with him. A standing ovation.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

School's out for summer

Eldest's last day of the school year was today. Despite him switching schools in the middle of the year, the last 8 1/2 months went quick.

After the last four months at his new school, we know we made the right move. We've seen his progress, and though it's a little sad that many of his friends are moving on to kindergarten, we can look forward to him continuing with the same teacher in the fall (he was in 4K instead of 3K when we switched schools, his late birthday means he won't start kindergarten until 2009).

Today was a graduation of sorts, with all the kids getting diplomas, a few including Eldest receiving diplomas welcoming them back next fall. The kids put on a play (Goldilocks and the Three Bears, all the boys played Papa Bear!), got to bounce in a bounce house and hung out at school together one last time. Littlest even had fun, at one point sitting with all the older kids (kudos to the teacher for letting him). A good time, but bittersweet. One year down, 14 more to go before college. They better not all go this quickly.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Blog idea, come to me now!

I'm trying to get into the habit of coming home from my slightly expanded work schedule, making some tea, and blogging, either to this site and/or my NFL blog. Here I am, tea steeping, at my computer ... and my mind is ablank.

My first thought was to do another list, but nothing good was coming to mind. I pondered typing up my five favorite old Atari games, or better yet, my five favorite old Activision games for the 2600, but I don't think I could come up with just five. So that's for another time.

Then I thought about blogging about my day, but it wasn't that eventful. It was a nice Mother's Day -- we went to Red Butte Garden for a little hike and then out to lunch at Winger's, and eventually I had to work. See, not that eventful -- I just summarized it in one sentence.

I theorized writing about how the Jazz are pissing me off by winning. It's a myth that sports journalists root for a home team; we mostly root for whatever makes our lives earlier. The Jazz winning and continuing their season isn't making my life easier.

I just completed my first four-day stretch on the expanded schedule, but the job itself is boring even me. So none of that.

Finally, I decided on blogging about how I didn't know what to blog about. Hope you liked it.

I fought the lawn ...

I mowed the front lawn for the first time this year, and I must say, I feel encouraged.

Every year, I try to get a nice lush lawn out front, and every year I still get bare spots. Some years some new grass has grown, only to die over the summer in the heat (particularly when we go on vacation, not having a sprinkler system doesn't help). This year, I took extra care to spread more seed, add fertilzer, pack it down with peat moss and water religiously. And ... I'm growing more new grass than any other year.

I finally mowed today, and I'm not out of the woods yet. There are some weeds, and I'm worried there will be another clover assault like in past years. I'm not growing grass everywhere, so I'll need to throw more seed down. And I still don't know what I'll do during vacation to get the new grass through the summer.

But this is a good start. Just don't ask me about the back lawn and it's monster dandelions.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Silver bullets

(In an effort to blog more on days where I don't feel much like recapping my day, I'm going to bring back the random top five list.)

TOP 5 BOB SEGER SONGS

Don't ask why this popped into my head as a blog topic. I got to thinking about it after hearing an old WLS aircheck that included "Horizontal Bop" and one thing led to another to this point.

1. Against the Wind: One of my favorite songs, not just by Seger. I may have written about this song before: The singer reflects on the passage of time and how much he's learned and how much he hasn't. My favorite line: "Deadlines and commitments, what to leave in, what to leave out" -- essentially what I do as a newspaper copy editor.

2. Roll Me Away: Follows the usual Bob Seger theme of finding what's lacking in one's life, and how it's a journey that might never reach a conclusion. Used to perfection at the end of "Mask."

3. Traveling Man/Beautiful Loser: These two songs are paired on a live album, and it's a curious pairing -- one song is about someone afraid to settle down, the other is the opposite, about someone afraid to take a chance. I wonder if he paired them purposely or if they just melded together musically.

4. Night Moves: The song that launched other Seger songs about the same reflection on life, the amazement on how quickly it's gone. For years, I thought the line "How far off I sat and wondered" was "Hopped on a rock I sat and wondered." Wife still makes fun of me for that.

5. Rambling Gambling Man: Just a fun rock song, a good break in concert I would imagine when he gets too serious.

Finally, the three Bob Seger songs I could never hear again and not be sad: "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll" (which probably wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so overplayed, blame Tom Cruise for that), "Understanding" and "Shakedown."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A little busier

For the last 16 months, I've been working part-time, 2-3 nights a week.

I'm about to bump up to 3-4 nights.

My earlier situation was not permanent, and a hole at the newspaper opened up that was, but at an extra day per week. I'd been working three nights seemingly every weeks for the past few months anyway, so we decided to give this a try.

When I racheted my schedule down, it was with the hope I'd pick up alternative sources of income -- freelance editing and writing. Having those two days of work made me somewhat complacent, where I wasn't seeking that out. I'm hoping the extra day is the impetus to look beyond the newspaper for work. It's an odd catalyst, but I don't particularly want to work more out of the house. We should be OK for the summer, as I'm not picking up that many more days and it would be nice to bank a lot of this extra money. We'll reassess come September, but for now, this is the plan -- work more to work the schedule that benefits us the most.

I figured this out: I'm losing about 12 summer nights, and I love summer nights. It's my responsibility to make sure those 12 less nights with my family are worth it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Us at 15

May 4, 1993. We meet at The Chancery in Wauwatosa. Wife is wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt and jeans, and flashes me the cutest smile I'd ever seen while saying hello.

Fifteen years ago today, Wife and I met for the first time. She confirmed what I was wearing -- a green and blue rugby from The Gap that I wore a lot in the early '90s. We met for a few beers, and she was patient as I kept glancing at the TV to see how the Lakers-Suns playoff game was going (it's an I-can't-help-it thing with sports journalists).

It was a fun first date, we talked a lot, made plans to see Jimmy Buffett together (I was buying tickets the next morning). I walked her back to her car and kissed on her cheek before she drove away.

Fifteen years later, look what we've accomplished, the best being our two sons. It's funny how my life changed that day, how I can divide it between before we met and after, starting May 4, 1993.

Thanks for the 15 years, L. I love you.

One last thing, I looked it up: Suns 107, Lakers 102.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

May, I

(Note: Another post about the crappy spring weather in Utah. You've been warned.)

After a long winter and a hit-or-miss spring (at least before we moved to Utah it was hit or miss), I've always considered May as the turning point of the year. School was winding down come May. The sports world, and subsequently work, isn't as crazy come May (Jazz playoffs notwithstanding). The weather improves in May. Though baseball began a month ago, any little league or softball season I played in started in May. Everything turns green by May.

So what happened in Salt Lake City on May 1, 2008? It snowed.

It warmed up the past few days, and it looks like the leaves on our big tree are starting to finally break out past their buds. But I can't stress this enough: IT SNOWED! Hard, too -- I've seen snow in Milwaukee in May, but barely enough to collect. This snow whitened the lawn (thankfully, not the driveway, I would have blown a gasket if I had to shovel in May).

I made it to May, and May thumbed its nose at me. Now, I just need to make it to May 5, when the temperature should reach the 70s, the leaves should finally emerge, and I can be happy I reached the turning point. Bring the green.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Increments of 12

Another realization that I need to get my ass in gear ...

Today, I recalled a walk I took in Madison 12 years ago. It was our first spring in Madison, I was working extreme mornings while Wife (then, Girlfriend, maybe not yet Fiancee) worked a normal shift, so I had afternoons pretty much to myself. Besides a big park nearby, there was plenty of residential neighborhoods to saunter through. Once it got warmer, I started venturing farther out, and one warm day, I was listening to a particular tape in my Walkman that struck a chord (no pun intended).

During the 1980s, I was fanatical about taping songs off the radio, and in no year was I more fanatical than 1984. That summer, I probably went through about 10 tapes of songs off the radio. On this walk, I was listening to one I hadn't heard in maybe a decade, and the memories were flooding back. Not just from the songs, but the commercials and DJs that I might have accidentally taped, too. I couldn't believe it had already been 12 years since that tape, made when I was 13 and about to enter high school, now in my Walkman as a 25-year-old with a full-time newspaper job. I was inspired -- I wanted to write all about that childhood, as I had wanted to since college. This tape seemed to be the firing point to get me to do that.

This is what occurred to me today -- that moment where I listened to that generic Kmart 90-minute tape on my Walkman through the subdivisions of Madison's far southwest side, was 12 years ago. The same span of time has gone by between the making of the tape and the nostalgic enjoyment of the tape and the nostalgia and today.

I was good about writing, for about two years, but not as proficient as someone with afternoons all to himself should have been. I've been better about writing lately, but not as good as someone staring 40 down and wondering why all those words swirling in my head for years haven't hit paper or Microsoft Word should be.

I'm tempted to pull those old tapes out, but they are so old I'm almost afraid to put them into a Walkman (especially since many weren't brand name tapes, but generic Kmart and Walgreens cassettes). I need to figure out how to convert them into MP3 format so I don't lose them. And I need to figure out how to stay inspired.

Working for the weekend

Today was a perfect Sunday. And yes, it was a Sunday I had to work.

I usually get one weekend day off, but lately, due to staffing shortages and it just being the time of year, I've been working the whole weekend. My mood sours when I don't get a weekend day off; I know it's easier for Wife if her two days off could coincide with at least one of mine. Usually I worked late the night before, thus tiring me out the next day, and knowing that work shift is coming, my mood doesn't lighten much.

But I vowed to not get so down and unproductive on weekends where I work through. Today, for once, it worked.

Wife took Eldest to CCD, and instead of me turning a show on for Littlest while I went back to sleep, I put him in the stroller and we walked, about 3 1/2 miles. We got home and all of us went to Costco. After some shopping, we returned home and worked in the yard for an hour. Then we went to the zoo for an hour, and though we didn't see many animals (Littlest doesn't stay still at the zoo to observe, but he needed to run around today), we were out as a family. We came home, I managed a 15-minute nap to overcome the wave of tired that seems to hit every day, and I went to work.

I suppose it would have been a perfect day if I hadn't departed for work, if we could have ate dinner as a family, if I could have relaxed that night. But this is what we had to work with, and instead of giving in to some self-pity, we made the best of a gorgeous Sunday.

That said, I don't have to work tomorrow. Hurray!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

April, 26 years ago

At work tonight, I was listening to Live 365, which broadcasts users' own Internet radio stations. The particular channel I "dialed" to featured the Top 40 from this week in 1982, sans Casey Kasem. It's no secret if you read this blog how nostalgic I can get, particularly from music. In a short span of hits, a wave of memories flooded back:

-- "That Girl" by Stevie Wonder took me back to playing baseball at Oriole Park that year, and the old-fashioned candies we were selling as a fund-raiser instead of raffle tickets. I can still taste those candies.

-- "I've Never Been to Me" by Charlene reminds me of a barbecue in my Grandma Elsie's backyard that Memorial Day. I have no idea why, maybe we had the radio on back there and it came on.

-- " '65 Love Affair" by Paul Davis reminds me of going to one of my Dad's softball games, a tournament at some park I'd never been to. I was listening to the countdown on a transistor radio.

-- "Do You Believe in Love" by Huey Lewis and "Did It in a Minute" by Hall and Oates brings back a softball practice my dad had at Schurz Field, with myself listening to the same radio.

-- "867-5309" by Tommy Tutone reminds me of a trip to the Harlem-Irving Plaza (The HIP) with my friends on a cloudy day.

I have playlists from so many seasons and years from the '80s, I should try recreating the countdowns, again sans Casey Kasem. I've done that with the year-end countdowns, why not with some key weekly lists. The danger there is I start buying tracks off iTunes of songs I don't remember. It might be worth the expense.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Little slugger

Eldest is playing 4-year-old T-ball this fall. No outs, no runs, everybody bats, everybody runs the bases, all the fielders chase the ball no matter where it's hit. I'm coaching this team, which, because parents are encouraged to help in the field, doesn't involve too much more than helping the players at the plate and being careful not to get hit with the bat. Actually, it's been a lot of fun, and Eldest has been having a ball.

And today, I saw his potential. First at-bat, he fouled the ball off twice and hit the tee twice. Second at-bat, he swung down into the tee. After repositioning him and telling him to swing straight instead of down, he lined the ball over the infielders' heads. In three games, it was the highest, hardest hit ball I had seen. A few other parents couldn't believe how good he hit it. Since no one really plays outfield, the whole other team chased the ball while he ran to first.

I hate to be one of those parents that overestimates their child's athletic ability, but damn, for that one moment, I was thinking he could be good at this sport. I shouldn't get my hopes up too much, though, because next week he could forget to swing straight and instead put that bat into my groin.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Snail's pace

Went a week without posting -- egad! At least I'm typing something up tonight, on Eldest's unfortunate encounter with a snail.

The new preschool has been working out great for Eldest, but it seems the times when it seems to not be going so well has been after school is over, when we're still lingering on the playground and parents are filtering out their kids. Either I can't get him to go, or he gets so overstimulated that he takes things to personally or becomes uncharacteristically mean, or something else goes wrong. On Monday, something else went wrong.

There are two 4-year-old classes conducted at the same time at this preschool, and a girl from the other class -- a girl whose mom is going to be Littlest's 2-year-old preschool teacher next fall -- had a snail someone had found for her (that's important because it wasn't like a show snail or anything). She put it on the ground to see if it would move, and Eldest then stomped on it.

We don't think he was being purposely mean, though I did initially. He said he didn't want her to have it, but I think it wasn't because he was jealous, but because it was a slimy snail. Wife hates snails -- we've had some in our garden -- and I'm sure he would have stepped on it at home. You start to fear the worst when your son does something like this, but he is a boy, and boys squash bugs. I did make him apologize, and we did skip rock climbing that day, so hopefully he got the point that it still wasn't a nice thing to do.

The girl was crying, a lot. I didn't see it happen, but I heard her screaming "You killed it!" At first, I was really worried -- the preschool has had chicks in the classroom but had them outside in a cage in a dry kiddie pool that day, and a few minutes before the teacher had them out, and I thought Eldest had stepped on a baby chicken. But it was just the snail.

On Eldest's next day of school, we let him pick one of our flowers to give to the girl and say he was sorry again. She loved it and was still holding the flower after school when all the kids were playing, until, another kid slammed into her on a tricycle. This poor 5-year-old -- the flower came off the stem, but she was crying more from the scrape the accident inflicted. I was just relieved at the missed irony that could have been if Eldest had run into her.

I hope Eldest learned a couple of valuable lessons, especially this one: Giving lowers always will get a girl all mushy inside!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What are you going to do about it?

I experienced a smidgen of an epiphany today that I'm going to share.

I'm sure I have already written about the perception and the passing of time, when it seems to go more quickly, when it seems to slow down, etc. I am almost 20 years removed from graduating high school and starting college. Wife and I are coming up on 15 since we started dating. In some ways, it seems like a long time, and in other ways, it has sped by so fast that I can't believe that here I am, age 37, 20 years out of high school, 15 years as a couple.

Then something else occurred to me, though it's been nagging for a couple days after hearing a Buddy Holly song and thinking about how cool it would have been to be a teenager in the late 1950s as rock 'n' roll was emerging. Those teenagers are coming up on 70 in a couple years. Going back to my 20-year reality, in 20 years I'll be 58. Aside from hoping that in 20 years 58 will be the new 45, it hit me that these next 20 might go slow or fast, or a mix of both. And then rather than dwelling upon that, another thought popped into my head, a challenge to myself:

"What are you going to do about it?"

Looking at the last 20 years, there's much I've accomplished of which I've been proud, and much I wish I would have accomplished. So what's in store for the next 20? Accomplishing more new things of course, being the best husband and father possible, but also achieving the things that I missed/procrastinated/blown off/not even attempted in the last 20. "What are you going to do about it?" implies learning from the past experiences and applying it to the future. It's a call to action. No past regrets, no future excuses. Nothing left on the table.

So what am I going to do about it today? I just did do something, I wrote this out, hopefully making my new mini-mantra all the more potent.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The slapper

Littlest is in the midst of his first official phase: He's slapping everyone. Slapping me and laughing about it. Slapping Wife. Slapping Eldest, and he's got him good a few times. I'm afraid when I take him to his Little Gym class tomorrow, other toddlers are going to be target.

We've been trying to timeout Littlest when the hands are flying, but it gets tricky when you are holding him in line at Petsmart. Eldest went through a little phase similar to this at the same age, and it passed in a few weeks. In the meantime, no more watching Dynasty for Littlest!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Still waiting ...

Astronomically, it may be spring, but we're still waiting for it here in Utah.

It hasn't been that sunny. It snowed a little yesterday morning. The temperature hasn't climbed too far over 50. I haven't been able to do any yardwork -- which I'm gung ho about every April -- because of uncooperative weather.

Maybe we've been spoiled by some simply gorgeous springs the last few years. Maybe it's just a bad year. But I'm ready for spring to spring. If I wanted a cloudy, miserable April, we would have stayed in Wisconsin.

On the bright (or not-so-bright side), I haven't had to worry about using sunblock yet. Hopefully soon.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Breakdown dead ahead

After a long day filled with grocery shopping and children playing, I got a call from Wife I didn't want to hear: "I think our washing machine is broken." I paraphrased that, but the washing machine does appear to be leaking some water. I'm going to run it again tomorrow and see what happens, but I am not overly optimistic we won't have to call a repairman and/or buy a new washing machine.

Then I had to go to work. Wife commented these types of emergencies always happen on nights I work. Bad luck, I guess.

Alas, our washing machine is not a Maytag. Gordon Jump won't be showing up at our house.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Walking the walk

Today I did something I had been talking about for a few weeks now -- walking to get Eldest from his new preschool. It's a little more than 3 miles there, and Littlest and I unfortunately got a late start, so the walk turned into a mild walk/run. But it was a nice day and we were only a few minutes late -- Eldest was busy playing and didn't even notice. The walk back was tougher, as right away I hit a 400-yard uphill. Not a sever uphill, but enough to be tiring, especially since I just added 45 pounds to the stroller. The whole walk-plus turned out to be a good workout which I'll do again. I just need to start sooner next time, I'm not ready for a 3-mile desperate run just yet.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Back in the saddle, maybe

Yikes, I've been absent from this blog. Though some of it was extra work, most of it was simply not being in the mood to blog. Well, I have a lofty goal for April -- 30 posts in 30 days. We'll see how it goes -- unfortunately, I had this idea yesterday and didn't blog about ...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The ides of march

Today we walked in SLC's St. Patrick's Day parade with Eldest's preschool. Yes, it's only March 15, but unlike bigger cities, parades here are rarely not on weekends. This was the first parade I ever marched in, and it was fun. Nothing too special. We decorated Eldest's bike which he rode with other kids from the school. I helped pass out candy to the masses. We walked the parade, then watched the rest of it with some friends, saw the obligatory Shriners riding small vehicles as well as a couple other friends in the parade dressed as beer cans.

This was just the start of a long day. We went to breakfast after the parade, then Wife and Eldest went to Costco, then Eldest attended a birthday party at The Little Gym, then we went to a St. Patrick's Day party thrown by one of the other parents at the preschool. The latter party was fun -- we meeting some other families with kids our age. We left the party to snow -- spring, I'm waiting ... -- picked up dinner and came home, where Eldest got tired and cranky after his long day. Nonetheless, it was a good day to be Irish.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Days and confused

Four days off. Hurray!

We were on vacation in California last week, we returned and I worked three straight nights. I'm now ready for a normal week, defined as one where I work just two nights and have a stretch of days off -- to write, to establish a routine that's been lacking, to work around the house, et cetera. It seems like I haven't had a normal week in a long time, as I've been getting extra hours at work, which is good for extra cash but hellacious on keeping a routine and not being so tired. And though vacation was great, it does take a lot out of us.

Fortunately, the weather cooperated on normal day No. 1 -- it was gorgeous out. Spring might finally be here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Running with it

Wife is turning 40 this year, and she has a lofty goal -- to run a marathon in the fall. She's discovering how much she likes running, and she's determined, so much that her immediate goal is to run a half-marathon in April. I'm impressed, and I hope some of her determination rubs off on me. Not that I'm going to run a marathon soon -- four years of cross country in high school has jaded me running more than a 10K -- but I'd like to start running again, it kick-starts my metabolism more than anything else.

She also has started a blog to chronicle year 40, and you can read it at www.lfg-findingforty.blogspot.com. I hope this helps me too, I've been bad about updating this blog. At least spring is almost here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Four out of five dentists

I didn't actually witness the following incident, but it's so amusing I must share it anyway. We went to the dentist today, with Wife, Eldest and myself getting checkups. I waited in the car with Littlest, who had fallen asleep on the drive, while Wife and Littlest had their teeth checked. They finished as Littlest awoke, just in time for my checkup and Eldest to get a promised Happy Meal.

I got into the dentist's office, and the assistant was laughing at something Eldest had done while the dentist was looking in his mouth. What did Eldest do? When the dentist wasn't looking, Eldest put a piece of candy in his mouth. Yes, while he was getting his teeth checked, he ate something sugary.

I'm not sure if Eldest is just fuzzy on the dental concept or was defiant by eating candy while in the dentist's chair. Either way, the assistant said she'd never forget his need for candy at that one moment.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A nice meal

We took the boys out to Friday's for dinner today. We hadn't been out to a sit-down restaurant in three months, and we wanted to celebrate a little the fact we closed on refinancing our house today. Plus, neither of us felt like cooking.

This might have been the most calm, most enjoyable meal we've had at a restaurant in a long time. Any trip to a restaurant with a 4-year-old and 1-year-old is going to be an adventure, but this was a good adventure. Both boys ate their food and didn't get crabby. Wife and I got to enjoy our meals instead of eating as fast as possible to avert a future meltdown by one or both children. Eldest didn't even freak out when the waiter mistakenly brought him chicken fingers instead of macaroni and cheese. He just ate his mandarin oranges (the side dish) and waited. His only real glitch was dropping his fork on the floor, then wanting to use the same fork. But he didn't even get that upset about that.

We don't eat out often and aren't planning to start dinners out, but once a month is good, not just because it gives the boys experience on how to behave in public, but also because it's family time outside of the house. It's the kind of adventure to look forward to.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A little random nostalgia

In our home office sits a Cowboys garbage can. You would think this was Wife's garbage can, as she is the big Cowboys fan, but it's actually mine, which I won in 1980 at Pals. And 28 years later, I still own it.

First, Pals was like a Baptist, lite version of Cub Scouts, without the actual camping trips (at least in our Pals). Every Friday night for a few years I went to Pals, not realizing I was Catholic and it was a kids group for a different religion. The adults who ran the group must have known there were Catholic kids coming, I doubt they were trying to convert us. We still got the Jesus message proselytized, but it was more of a Jesus message than an evangelical message. It was fun, but once I figured out the Protestant/Catholic difference, I was a little embarrassed and didn't go to Pioneers (the next step up) the next year.

Anyway, I won the Cowboys garbage can at Pals, and used it as a garbage can for my room. Then I took it to college with me. Then I took it into my first apartment, then when I moved in with Wife, then to Utah, and finally into my new house. It's never been a primary garbage can, but it works for the office. And since it's a Cowboys garbage can, I doubt Wife is going to suggest ever getting rid of it. It's a little rusty on the inside and scuffed on the outside, but it's still functional. And nostalgic.

The minor nostalgia took a little turn today when I looked over at it and noticed, right near the bottom of the outside of the can, a small, torn-in-half yellow Pac-Man sticker. I probably haven't noticed that sticker in 25 years. Yet there it is, another little glimpse of my kid-hood, a time when I owned Pac-Man stickers and put them everyplace. And this 26-year-old sticker somehow survived on a 28-year-old garbage can. Not weird, just neat.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The latest tribulations

It's been a rough couple weeks for the boys. They've gone through a little gastro-intestinal bug and a cough/fever that led to a doctor's visit for Eldest. Nothing too major, but enough (along with a snowstorm this week) to keep them out of school and swim lessons and rock climbing (Eldest only, but read on).

Their bad luck got worse this week. We had wondered which child was going to be the first to require an ER visit. Littlest has a lot of energy and loves to climb, while Eldest is just as energetic and older and likely to attempt things his little brother just can't. The winner: Littlest! I don't think he was climbing up on the couch when this happened, but he fell into the corner of the coffee table, resulting in a little, deep bleeder of a cut between his eyelid and eyebrow. He cried for about five minutes, then went back to being in a good mood, even sucking the water out of the washcloth I was using to stop the bleeding. As I was getting everybody ready for the trip to the emergency room, he even brought his boots to me. Open wound be damned, he was ready to go outside. He got cranky at the hospital -- he couldn't eat anything and it was his nap time -- plus he kind of fought the sedation while he was getting stitched up. So he has three stitches that will come out on Sunday. In the meantime, he was climbing back on that coffee table the next day ...

Just when we resolved one medical mishap, Eldest threw up last night. We think he ate some bad cantaloupe, because all he threw up was orange chunks (sorry for the image). His stomach was upset for a while, though he eventually fell asleep, then woke up in a good mood and started telling Wife a story. His stomach was fine today, though he was really tired at preschool and fell asleep on the way home.

I'm wondering what's next. I'm worried the boys' cough is coming my way. A cough I can handle. Blood and guts (specifically, the puking thereof), not so much.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The second year

Today was the first anniversary of my first day as a stay-at-home dad. I didn't do anything special to commemorate the occasion, other than shovel out from the quick winter storm we got. But it's been a good year. I haven't achieved all the things I had hoped for going into this, some out of my control, some I haven't had the discipline to complete or even start. Yet it's still been worthwhile -- I believe the boys are better off, Wife is better off and I am better off.

Now for the second year. If the first year was just a transition, I'm viewing the second year as the time to perfect what I've started. That means more writing, more organization, more ambition, more following through. That means being a better dad and husband, no matter how good I am it already. That means fighting through those times I want to be lazy and remembering the goals I've set. That means Year 2 must be an improvement upon Year 1.

Let Year 2 begin.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cough it up

Our house hasn't been the healthiest place this week. We all got this little gastro-intestinal thing (nothing too bad, only Littlest threw up), and Eldest is running a little fever and has a congested cough. He was in a good mood today but we still kept him out of school. I called his pediatrician for some advice, and the nurse said we should bring him in because of the fever.

Of course, we get to the doctor's office, into the exam room, and all of Eldest's symptoms temporarily disappear. All the while, Littlest is having a blast, running around the room, taking the doctor's ear tool, putting a toy train on the stool right near the doctor's butt (I for sure thought that was going to end badly) -- and I finally put him on the exam table (Eldest was sitting on a chair being examined). Littlest then climbs off the table! The doctor showed mercy and gave them both a lollipop. Eldest is fine, just have to give him Tylenol and Robotussin for a couple days. He doesn't like the Robo, and I don't blame him, but this will be good practice taking yucky medicine.

Now I'm just waiting to unfortunately catch what Eldest has. I don't think my mood will be as good.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cars

I took Eldest to the auto show this evening. We're not ready to buy another car yet, and we wouldn't buy one brand new anyway, but it's always fun to look. Eldest didn't get a chance to move around much today, and I kind of wanted to go, so we left Wife and Littlest at home and headed to the show.

Of course, Eldest fell asleep on the way there, but once I woke him he was eager to get inside. The traditional auto show experience for many people is different when you bring kids along. Normally, you take your time looking at the features on a car in which you are interested. With kids, you try to take in as much as you can, tell them not to put their feet on the seats, steal a quick glance at the mileage ratings, then figure out how to get the kids out of the back-back seat. I'm not complaining, it just takes a lot more patience.

I was mostly patient, but Eldest, up past his bedtime started to meltdown right by the classic Mustang display, probably my favorite part of the auto show. He had fun, especially crawling into the back of minivans and crossover SUVs (potentially are next car). His best line of the night: We came across a Saab convertible (Wife's dream car, by the way), and he asked "Where's the roof?"

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It takes a really annoyed village

More proof that I am indeed an adult, especially one with kids, occurred today.

Our Christmas tree is sitting near our curb waiting to be picked up by the city. I was doing something in the kitchen this afternoon, look out the window and see two boys, probably about 10, and one of them pushed the tree into the street. I walked outside and asked, in my best pissed-off-yet-commanding voice, "Are you going to put that back?" The kid asked what, and I repeated "Are you going to put the tree that you just pushed into the street back on the curb?" The kid said he was sorry, walked back and put the tree where it was. All the while, his friend was trying not to laugh. The kid finished, I thanked him, and they walked away.

I've said things like this to misbehaving kids a couple times before. As I say the words, I sometimes can't believe they are coming out of my mouth. But it's the same things adults other than my parents would have said to me if I was acting like a punk when I was a kid. And when I mean adults other than my parents, I mean my parents of course corrected me, yelled at me, were disappointed with me, when I did something stupid. That's what they were supposed to do.

You've heard the "It takes a village to raise a child" theory. That didn't enter my mind when I went out on that porch today. The kid technically committed vandalism and I called him on it, mostly so I didn't have to move the tree back myself. I'd like to think the kid was raised well enough by his own parents that he did the right thing when I asked him to put the tree back. There are some parents that are offended if that would have happened to their kid, no matter how wrong the kid was. There are some parents who would have said nothing to that kid being a punk. I hope if and probably when my boys are being a little punkish, some adult calls them on it, and as long as the adult does so within normal bounds (as I believe I did -- I know kids this age can be morons, I was angrily direct but not raging, and I did thank him), I won't object and maybe be thankful.

Still, it astounds me when I sound so adult. I'm wondering when I am going to start shaking fists at teenagers.

The two boys walked back by the house on their way home, and I noticed them looking over, maybe making fun of me, maybe wondering if I was ready to come back outside. I could only think they were lucky Wife didn't catch them ...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Welcome to Gilley's

I'm watching the Patriots-Jaguars playoff game and switching over to Urban Cowboy on VH1 Classic during commercials. Actually, I'm flipping between the NFL, Urban Cowboy and The Hunt for Red October, meaning I have my choice of Scott Glenn, scuzzy or military. If Silence of the Lambs comes on later, you can add investigative to that list.

Anyway, I'm watching Urban Cowboy and remembering what a mini-sensation this caused in 1980. Wife has a theory that about every 10 years, country explodes in the mainstream, but eventually fades back into country. It's a good point, think of the Garth Brooks success in the early 1990s and the Shania Twain/Faith Hill/Trisha Yearwood/Dixie Chicks stage of the late '90s and Rascal Flatts mania today. If I listed my 10 favorite country songs (and there might only be 10), many would be from the early '80s, including "I Love a Rainy Night," "Elvira" and "Lookin for Love."

One other thing about Urban Cowboy: This is terrible, but watching it today, if I was John Travolta, I might have stayed with Madolyn Smith rather than going back to Debra Winger. She was contrite and urged Bud to go back to Sissy. Doesn't that show moral fiber? Thankfully, they never tried to sequel this movie. It's kind of a classic, but one was enough, and besides, John Travolta sequels are always terrible -- remember (then try to forget) Grease 2, Stayin' Alive and the Look Who's Talking follow-ups. I can't speak for Stay Cool, but let's be thankful there was just one Battlefield Earth movie

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

In the mix

I'm reading a new book that Wife got me, Life is a Mix Tape, by Rob Sheffield. I'm only a couple chapters in, but it's kind of an autobiography in the context of mix tapes the author made and owns throughout his life. So far, it's been interesting, and one thing that may come from reading it is buying songs off iTunes that are on his mix tapes.

I used to make mix tapes a lot. Some for friends, many for Wife, many for my own nostalgic streaks. The making of the mix tapes ended around 2000, when I got a burner on my computer and I started making mix CDs. Those ended after I got an iPod, when it shifted to mix playlists, but honestly, that's not the same. I'm the only one who hears the playlists, and most of them tie into the nostalgic streaks and not for other people. So, I might start compiling more themed playlists and posting them here, as well as burning some CDs. I still listen to CDs, but their organization is such a mess (blame Littlest, who is fascinated in my collection but never puts them back in the right spot), maybe this will spur some action there, too.

Reading this book made me realize how much effort I put into mix tapes way back when, and that I missed it a little. Even if I don't burn any CDs and just compile more unique playlists, I think it will still be worth it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Back in the swim

The boys started their swim lessons again Tuesday. I was worried they would have forgotten much of what they've learned, as their last lessons were six months ago and they haven't been in a pool in about three. But for the most part they picked up right where they left off. Eldest was as enthusiastic as ever and only kept his face in the water for a second or two at a time. His teacher also noted that as he's gotten taller (he can stand at about 3 1/2 feet now) his center of gravity changed, and he had to get used to finding his balance again while floating on his back. Littlest complained through his lesson just like he always did -- complained he had to work, he was more angry than uncomfortable or afraid -- but remembered he could float.

It was a good restart. We have to take them to the pool more often in between lessons. They don't float for us quite as well as they do with their teacher, but they definitely have more fun.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Stir crazy

January is my least favorite month, partly because there is so little to do outside. There's only so much snow you can play in once it turns to ice. Plus we get these nice little inversions in SLC that blanket the valley with smog. The mix of cold, ice, pollutants and lack of daylight drive me a little batty, as well as the boys, who don't get to run around as much. Two years ago we had a bad inversion, but we drove to Park City one day to get above it, and Eldest (at the time, he was Only) ran down the sidewalk on Main Street, he was so happy to get outside.

Today we went to IKEA and Target, and I could tell both boys just wanted to run. I kept Littlest in the cart at IKEA, which he didn't like, but let him walk around at Target. Kind of a mistake, he wanted to explore when we just needed a loaf of bread. It's supposed to get warmer, so hopefully the snow will melt, and Eldest begins a gym class, his new preschool, rock climbing and swim lessons next week (Littlest also has swim and gym starting up again). Less than two months until March.