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 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.