Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Rockin' Eve

I admit it -- I like Christmas music. I will listen to it on the radio, and I don't mind the fact two Salt Lake City stations start playing holiday tunes the first weekend of November. Usually, the week before Christmas, all I'm listening to is holiday music. But sometime on Christmas day (usually around noon), I turn off the holiday music for good and swtich to countdowns.

My first year-end countdown wasn't on the radio, but on TV in 1979 when "Solid Gold" premiered. Before it was a series, "Solid Gold '79" was a one-time syndicated special that aired on WGN in Chicago and starred Dionne Warwick and Glenn Campbell. A couple weeks later, I listened to the Big 89 of 1979 on WLS. My parents had gone out for New Year's Eve, and I listened to the whole countdown on the radio while a babysitter watched us.

Thus began an annual tradition of listening to the Big 89 every New Year's Eve. The next year, I camped out in my room with a Hardy Boys book and an old electric radio with fake wood paneling and with a penchant to buzz loud static on the AM dial. My parents eventually went out and left us with a sitter, and though I came out of my room, I kept listening the rest of the night until the new year, then listened to the WLS Time Warp -- a 20-minute montage of songs throughout WLS' history as a rock station.

Over the years, what we did on New Year's Eve changed, and I didn't always listen to the whole countdown, but the Big 89 was always part of my Dec. 31. But WLS was chainging, its FM station spun off and became more of a top 40 station I (and began doing it's own countdown during the day), and, well, as I got older, there were other things to do on New Year's Eve.

A couple decades later, the WLS end-of-year surveys made it to the Internet. I still had the Time Warp on tape and have converted it to mp3. I own a lot of '80s music (and a fair amount of '70s top 40 as well) and an iPod. All this translates to re-creating those countdowns as playlists on my iPod. I have assembled the countdowns from 1979 to 1986 (the last year WLS did a Big 89). I think of doing some earlier years, but it doesn't feel right to create a playlist of a countdown that I didn't actually hear the first time.

So the week after Christmas, I listen to these countdowns again. I'm going to culminate countdown week with 1980, 30 years after I tried to dial away the static while reading a Hardy Boys book. I remember the first song of that countdown: "Whip It" by Devo. Whip it good.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas present

Today was Christmas Eve, and it may have been my best Christmas Eve ever. It wasn't spectacular -- we didn't have anything spectacular planned or any trips to take. It was just ... nice.

We got out around 11:30 and went to lunch at Chili's with some gift cards we were given. The boys were starving and ate well. They would need the energy.

We went to the zoo next. This isn't the first time we've gone to the zoo on Christmas Eve. It's never that crowded, the animals are usually pretty active, and it's something to take our minds -- especially the boys' minds -- off the fact that it's Christmas Eve. The zoo didn't disappoint. Though the elephants were inside, we got to see lemurs being fed (they liked blueberries), the giraffes grazing on Christmas trees hanging in their indoor pens, a gorilla charge toward the glass at someone (not us, but it did scare the heck out of the couple) and the most active tigers I've ever seen at a zoo (ours has five, including three male cubs that aren't little anymore -- I swear one of them was eying Littlest and thinking "he's the smallest prey out there"). We stayed at the zoo for about two hours -- a long time, considering the train and carousel weren't open and we didn't let the boys play on the playground. It was just that good a zoo visit.

We came home but didn't have much time to relax, as our church's Christmas children's Mass was at 4 p.m. We got there just in time before it really filled up and we weren't stuck in back. We hadn't been to this mass in a couple years, and with a new pastor, it was better -- he invited the kids to sit up near the altar for the homily, then had them come up after Communion to sing "Silent Night" to the nativity scene and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to their families. The boys did surprisingly well for a 90-minute mass, with the only blip being Littlest having to go potty near the end of the homily (I managed to get him to the bathroom, and rest assured, he wasn't bluffing ...).

We left Mass, came home, had some appetizer foods in advance of dinner and let the boys open their presents to each other. Each got a video game, and we played both (can I recommend "Just Dance Kids" to other parents with kids under 10 who like to move). We then ate dinner, watched "Year Without a Santa Claus," prepared stuff for Santa, got the boys into bed and read them "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "The Polar Express." They eventually fell asleep, and Wife and I watched the second half of "It's a Wonderful Life" and prepared the house for the morning (including getting the presents out -- thankfully, we had everything wrapped already). Wife went to bed, and I'm here blogging and listening to Christmas music, hoping the boys don't wake us up at 6.

Again, it was nothing spectacular today, and nothing close to snow (high 30s and gray today; it's supposed to get into the 40s tomorrow). But it was just a nice Christmas Eve, one I won't ever forget.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas past

As I sorted through the boys' presents today in preparation for wrapping them for Christmas, I started thinking back to the Christmas holiday when I was younger and the presents I once got. Sadly, it's easy to remember specific Christmastimes in terms of what presents I received and less about the experiences leading up to and including the holiday. It's not all presents -- I remember not falling asleep one year, my dad watching "The Main Event" and "Alien" on video while I tried to sleep in my bedroom next to the living room, and the incredibly warm Christmas of 1982. All those memories are for another post; this one is strictly a look back at the presents. So here it goes, by year and what I remembered getting:

1977: Simon, Super Jock Football (I also may have gotten Super Jock Soccer this Christmas)
1978: Mattel electronic football
1979: Electronic Detective, Chutes Away
1980: Risk, electronic Space Invaders (which I own again, found one on eBay)
1981: Missile Command, Maze Craze, Video Pinball, Dungeons and Dragons basic set
1982: Atari 400
1983: Columbia 10-speed bike, Monster Manual II
1984: Dual cassette boombox
1986: A lot of clothes (including my only pair of suspenders), Bruce Springsteen Live 1975-86, Sears stereo w/turntable

1987: Ghosts and Goblins, Ikari Warriors
1988: Super Mario handheld game/clock
1989: Leather bomber jacket, brown fedora
1990: Gameboy


As I type these up (and I'm sure there's more if I really thought about it), there are a lot of electronics and video games. Things haven't changed much over 30 years.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The no-manic Monday

As promised in my last post, I took it easy on Monday, the first weekday of winter break. It was relaxing, to say the least.

The day wasn't completely lazy. We did make it to Smith's Marketplace to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. The trip there did bring the funniest moment of the day when I had Eldest try on a pair of pants (he's getting to tall for his current non-sweatpants). He's in the dressing room and taking a long time, and I asked if everything is OK. He says the pants are caught on something, and I go in to check and discover the pants are caught on something: the original pants he was wearing that he never took off! After he figured out his mistake, he started over, only to put the new pants on backward. Needless to say, we didn't buy the khakis that so confused him.

After finally getting our Christmas lights hung up on the porch, we took the boys to see Santa. This is the same Santa to whom we've taken the boys for six years running, getting a picture every year. Littlest was excited, but Eldest froze when he was asked what he wanted for Christmas. We met some friends at Santa and went to dinner across the street from his shack, then looked at some Christmas lights on the way home.

Things will get back on track a little Tuesday. They have to -- I have to work Tuesday night. But today was the uneventful Monday I'd been craving all football season (I've been working Sunday nights since September). I think the boys needed it, too.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winter break

The boys' winter breaks have begun. It seems early this year for it to start -- I would have expected them to go through next Tuesday or Wednesday or so -- but they are getting two whole weeks before starting school again on Jan. 3.

I am looking forward to Monday. The whole month has been a jumbled mess of school, co-oping, biddy basketball, Little Gym, swim lessons, a birthday party, newsletters, freelance work and various other commitments that Monday, without any of it, should will be a welcome break. Tuesday should be nice too.

By Wednesday, will the boys start driving me a little batty? Will I miss all the driving and working? Will I be craving Jan. 3, agreeing with the reference of "Mom and Dad can't wait for school to start again" in the holiday song "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"?

I don't know. I'm think Wednesday might not be my tipping point, but the Monday after Christmas. In the meantime, I need to plan play dates and activities out of the house for these two weeks. And I need to remember that come Jan. 3, the craziness starts again and I might be coveting these two weeks again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dude, where's my blizzard

A windy blizzard was predicted to hit Salt Lake City today. The region prepared itself. Schools closed early. Events were canceled. People stocked up on provisions for the next few days and into the holiday.

And yes, the storm was bad in some parts of the area. Just not on our side of town.

I'm typing this after looking out the window and seeing about a half-inch of snow. The wind has died down. All is calm. All is bright.

We got more snow with a little event over the weekend. And to think, I went to the store to get food to prepare for the next few days. I filled up the gas tank in the Outback. I went to Blockbuster for entertainment for our shut-in forecast.

It wasn't all for naught. The temperature is supposed to drop to un-November temperatures. I'm signed up for a 5K on Thanksgiving morning; I don't think I'm going to run it if the temperature is in single digits. Even my ex-boxer track coach in high school would keep us inside if it dipped below 15.

Maybe I shouldn't taunt the weather. Lake effect snow is predicted tomorrow, and sometimes here, the lake effect snow shoots far into the valley along a narrow path. But for now, this is the Y2K of storms -- all hype, plenty of preparation, and an unimpressive result.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Four decades

Today (well, Nov. 6, I'm writing this after midnight) was my 40th birthday. A friend suggested I needed to blog this day. I think I need to blog every day, but for now, I will get my 40th.

I coached two soccer games today, which a parent of the one of the players said typifies the fact I'm 40. Both teams played well, and both teams sang "Happy Birthday" to me afterward. We went to a after-season (this was the last game of the fall season for both teams) party for Littlest's team, then dropped Eldest off at a birthday party and went home. I managed a little nap and watched some football. As a family, we went to Chili's for dinner, then took a short drive to the top of the bench (the neighborhood in the foothills above the city) for a quick, pretty dusk view of the valley. We came home, relaxed for a while, the boys went to bed, I got sucked into watching "Death Proof," and I've been on the computer since.

Yes, it's not the most exciting 40th birthday, but it was nice. Combined with Wife and I going out last night and my Mexico trip last month, I think my journey into my fifth decade was eventful. One other thing: This was the nicest weather I've ever had on my birthday. It was high 60s today and sunny enough. Usually, my birthday is cold, gray, rainy or snowy, and dark far too early. When I have a miserable Nov. 6 in the future, I can look to this one and remember how nice it was when I turned 40.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October road

The weather in Utah is finally starting to cool a little.

It's been a warm fall here, and the leaves have barely started to drop from the trees. My seasonal clock hasn't been helped by my recent trip to the Yucatan Peninsula for a short vacation with the guys (not that I'm complaining -- it was a fun trip). My birthday is less than three weeks away, but autumn quite hasn't arrived yet.

I'm in no rush, but I do like this time of year. If it's going to get cold and gray, it might as well happen gradually than all at once. I just wish it was this warm last spring instead.

I've gone through some of my October rituals. The front yard is decorated for Halloween. I made my annual Farmer's Almanac purchase, and the sweatshirts have been broken out. No raking yet, but that will come soon enough. In the meantime, I already looked in the almanac to see when the days start getting longer again. Autumn is fun for a couple weeks, then I'm ready for spring. It's just too bad winter gets in the way.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A football game

In recent Septembers, mostly since my grandfather died in 2005, I've thought about a Bears game he took me to when I was almost 10 in 1980. This might have been one of the few things we did just us. My grandfather was technically my step-grandfather, and in 1980, he and my grandmother had been married about three years. From the start of their marriage, we started calling him Grandpa, and for the next 28 years, my sisters and I were blessed he took on the grandfather role that would have otherwise been absent in our lives.

I'm not sure why he wanted to take me to a Bears game, but I think he got tickets through a local hotel or other business (tickets were easier to come by then). I'd stay overnight at my grandparents' house, and the next morning, we drove to a hotel from where the bus down to Soldier Field would depart.

The night before the game, my grandmother and I saw "Urban Cowboy" at a theater in Lombard. We got there late and ended up staying to see the first half-hour of the movie. Near our seats, someone had spilled a big container of popcorn in the aisle, and Grandma was paranoid that people were walking by and thinking we made the mess. We came home, and my grandfather had a "Saturday Night Live" rerun on with Carrie Fisher (I know it was a rerun because this was the SNL season in which the whole cast changed after Lorne Michaels was fired; this episode featured the original cast).

The next morning, Grandpa and I went to the hotel and had breakfast before the bus left. I remember us not talking too much during breakfast, or the whole day. I was admittedly a little intimidated by him back then -- he was a very stern paternal figure. I also noticed part of one his fingers was missing (to this day, I still don't know how he lost it), and I think that sort of freaked me out, too.

I don't remember the game much, unfortunately. Looking at the Bears' schedule for that season, they either defeated the Saints or lost to the Vikings. I'm assuming I enjoyed the game. My grandfather had told Grandma the reason he took me instead of his other grandson was because he knew I'd appreciate it more.

When I hear some songs from this time period ("Emotional Rescue" by the Rolling Stones and "Looking for Love" by Johnny Lee -- which was from "Urban Cowboy" spring to mindd), I usually go back to this weekend with my grandparentns. "Emotional Rescue" unfortunately brings me back to five years ago, right after he died, when a quick, tiring fever hit me at their house, and how when I was finally able to lay down, I heard that song on my iPod in a feverish daze.

Thirty years later, I just wish I had not been so intimidated of him that day and talked to him. Maybe he didn't know what to say to me, either. We started the whole grandfather/grandson thing late, and I'm thankful he made the effort to try to catch up. We did eventually, but there was a lot about him I didn't know, and I lot I wanted to thank him for but never got a chance to before he died. I wish that morning when I noticed the half-finger, I would have asked him instead of being unnerved. I'm sure I would have heard a good story about it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Yawn

I have somehow fallen into a pattern in which I'm not getting to bed until after midnight, am sleeping a little too late, and am tired all day. I'm even yawning as I type this from Littlest's speech therapy playgroup. I'm not sure how I got into this routine, but with it coinciding with the boys back in school and me not getting too much exercise, I've been sleepy.

At least I'm through fantasy football draft season, which I don't think was helping as I researched and drafted for the current NFL season. I'm hoping I can snap out of this pattern soon. In the meantime, I need some caffeine.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Play ball!

We took the kids to a Salt Lake Bees game today. The Triple-A baseball season is winding down, and this was our last chance to use some free tickets the boys got. We invited one of Eldest's friends, a girl we'll call M who came with her parents. It was their first ballgame ever -- I forget that if you didn't grow up in a big league town, your likelihood of ever seeing a baseball game decreases.

Every time I take Eldest to a sporting event, I try to explain what's going on during the game and get him to pay attention. But he never seems to, and today with M -- they are so goofy together -- he wasn't even close. I almost think Littlest was paying more attention to the game. That's OK -- we all had fun at the game. The Bees feature the Bumble Express -- a train that's really a glorified golf cart -- that the kids rode. They also played at the playground beyond center field for an inning. We got ice cream and hats (50 percent off), sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and clapped along whenever the start of "Center field" played. Eldest and M especially liked all the sound effects, including the loud yawn that was played any time the other team was taking its time (which happened often -- the Reno Aces walked a lot of Bees).

The weather was perfect, too. It's September, and fall is almost here. For one last afternoon, we got to enjoy something summery.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

To Grandmother's house we went

We visited my grandmother a couple days ago, and we'll see her one more time this trip, and perhaps one more time at her house that she's lived at for more than 33 years. Grandma is moving to Texas to be closer to my mom and sisters, leaving Midwest winters behind.

It occurred to me on the recent visit that these would be the last time I'd be seeing her house. My grandfather bought that house I think sometime in the 1960s, before he married Grandma (he's technically my stepgrandfather), and it's been her home too after they got married in 1977. Grandpa died in 2005, and she's been alone there (not completely alone, she's got a small dog) since. It's more house than she needs, and there's not much left for her here in Illinois, so this move will be good for her. But anytime you leave someplace you have lived for so long, it's always bittersweet, and it is for me knowing when we depart from one last visit, that will be it.

My grandfather collected lots and lots of stuff over the years, and Grandma has been trying to finish off cleaning/sorting/junking all of it. I think it's worn her out -- she looked tired when we visited. She said that as she was getting the house ready, she would curse my grandfather's ashes every morning for leaving her all this junk. I don't think she was joking, either. The house holds decades of memories of holiday dinners, pasta and meatballs, the cigarette smell that has never seemed to dissipate (at least Grandma is smoking outside now in an effort to sell the house) and the familiar furnishings we'd see visit after visit.

And then there's Grandma's swinging bench in her yard. It's great for naps, as I found out in 2006 when I was in town with Eldest for a friend's wedding, a couple days before Wife flew out. I was so stressed out that year from work and a new child, but for an hour, while my mom and grandmother watched Eldest, I dozed on that swing and was at peace. I don't know if the swing is making the trip to Texas.

So here are three things that I've come away with from the second-to-last visit to Grandma's house:

1. I am in a much better place than I was four years ago. Every time I sit on that swing (now without a canopy, which was blown away in a bad storm, I remember that day and that I can't let stress take over like it did for a few months in 2006.

2. I think it must be exciting for my grandmother, at age 80, to start a new life. I'm almost reminded of Bilbo Baggins at the end of Lord of the Rings starting a new adventure. I hope she's not as bored or tired in Texas as she has been these past several months. It's tough for her: She spent her whole life caring for other people, and once they all moved or died, and after she retired, I think there's just nothing for her to do -- there were never any side interests. I hope she finds a new passion in Texas, even if it's a small passion. Maybe even a part-time job -- I know she would do it well, as she was getting promotions well into her late 60s before she retired.

3. Finally, I realized that I really miss my grandfather.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The nada summer day

Summer is my favorite time of year, and I loathe to waste a day during the summer. But sometimes, you just need a nada day.

Today was a nada day. We had about our fifth consecutive day of temperatures in at least the high 90s and were coming off several busy days for all of us. It just turned into one of those days we didn't do much. Wife went for a run before it got too hot. She did a little shopping with Eldest. I took the boys to Target. I also blogged and played Wii Fit. We made a simple, easy dinner, then watched "Wipeout." Littlest played a game on the DS. Eldest and I played "Lego Indiana Jones." I watered the lawn and garden. And that was about it for a sunny but brutally hot (and a little humid, which is unusual for Utah) day. That was all we seemed to have the energy for -- we theorized taking the boys swimming, then decided we were all too tired (though I'm sure they would have found the energy). One nada summer day once in a while is OK.

We get back into our usual busy, sometimes fun routine this week, including a trip to Lagoon. Vacation is coming up, and nada days on vacation are bad. But on the hottest day of the year, after a busy week, a nada summer day sometimes just happens and is, ultimately, necessary.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

35 years ago ...

I went for a walk tonight around dusk and watched the sunset from Sugar House Park near our house. It was a pleasant night here in SLC, and I needed a little exercise today and didn't feel like running, so I walked over the the far southwest corner of the park to get a view of the setting sun as it dropped below the horizon.

I've written before on watching summer sunsets. Summer is my favorite time of year, and though I'm not going to pick a specific time of day I prefer every summer, dusk floods back the most memories. Actually, dusk floods back some early memories -- one specifically from 1975, when I was 4 1/2 years old.

On a particular summer night, with the sun setting and the air warm, we as a family went the drive-in to see "Escape From Witch Mountain." I think we might have driven down Milwaukee Avenue and stopped at Superdawg on the way (which makes me think we saw the movie at Pal-Waukee, which would have been a long drive down Milwaukee from the city; I do wonder if I'm confusing another drive-in night with this memory). I remember very little of the movie other than generally parking, the sky getting dark, and the screen lighting up.

What I remember most of that night was the dusk en route to the drive-in, and the songs playing on the radio. My parents must have been listening to WLS or WCFL -- both Top 40 AM stations -- and I'm not even sure what car we were traveling in that night (I think this was before our green Buick Century with the landau top). About six songs from that summer send me back to that night, what little of it I remember, almost every time I hear them. The songs are:

-- "Sister Golden Hair" by America (the opening guitar on this song simply sounds like a sunset, mostly because of connecting it to that night 35 years ago)

-- "Listen to What the Man Said" by Paul McCartney

-- "I'm Not in Love" by 10cc

-- "Only Yesterday" by the Carpenters

-- "One of These Nights" by the Eagles (the memory is so strong here, too, that I bought it for "Guitar Hero")

-- "Killer Queen" by Queen

-- "It's a Miracle" by Barry Manilow

The funny thing is, I didn't realize how powerful these songs sent me back until I was an adult. I had to rediscover them: "Sister Golden Hair" in college; "Listen to What the Man Said" after buying Paul McCartney's greatest hits on CD; "Only Yesterday" after hearing it on Saturday at the '70s on a Madison radio station. It's funny because I was flashing back to the early '80s ... in the mid '80s. The deeper memories, the ones from really younger, didn't start hurtling back until I was further removed from them.

What invariably sends me back, more than anything else, is the music of that time. I don't know if my sons will get to experience that from now until then. When my parents listened to the Top 40 stations, it was almost all they were getting on an AM radio. Today, with so much specialized radio, we're more likely to listen to an oldies station or a classic rock station or an alternative station. In 1975, my parents were still young -- that was their generation of music that continued from the '60s. With specialized radio stations, and with us no longer in my 20s, we don't have quite the patience for whatever is closest to a Top 40 station. And of course, there's always the iPod that we can listen to within the car, too.

Maybe songs will unearth memories from my sons' childhoods someday. Littlest loves music so much right now that I can't imagine he'll suddenly forget "Blitzkrieg Bop." But that won't be a song from 2010, the year he was a 4-year-old. There's nothing wrong with that, but looking back to that night that I amazingly can remember thanks to the pop music of that day, it's a little bittersweet.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The write stuff

While living in Madison, before kids, before we were even married, I went for a walk through the far West side neighborhood we lived in and listened to a old tape of songs off the radio from 1984. It was a tape I hadn't listened to in years. It was at a time when I was getting serious about writing -- in a time before blogs, web publishing, NaNoWriMo, and so on. One of my possible projects was an idea I had in college to do sort of a written "Wonder Years" focusing on childhood summers (my favorite time of year). And I found unlikely inspiration from this cassette -- inspiration I've tried to recapture over the years. In the subsequent months, I wrote four "stories" for this project. I got some input from a friend, tweaked them, and never quite went back.

Well, that mildly inspiring cassette/walk was from a cassette I had recorded about 12 years previous. And that was ... about 14 years ago. I look at the little victories -- semi-consistent blogging, the NaNoWriMo novel I cranked out last November, a few completed short stories and some ideas that I enthusiastically started then let fall away. The "Five Summers" project that I started is one that I let fall away, and one that I have been thinking of lately. Maybe it's just the middle of summer has me thinking about it, and that chain of thought combined with the fact I did finish the NaNoWriMo novel (and thus know that when focused, I can accomplish these things) is drawing me back. And maybe, just maybe, because I'm older and have kids of my own, I have gained a better perspective on what "Five Summers" should truly entail.

And here's why I should be less daunting: The writing world is a much different place. In 1996, I wanted to write that book, be published and be at least a minor success, but there was an "Oh my God, how do I start the process?" element to it that always loomed. In 2010, I don't necessarily need to write something that will have a cover and be sold in independent bookstores. I can write it all and .pdf it or attach it to e-mails and send to the friends and family who want to read it. I can self-publish digitally on a number of websites that allow the posting of your own writings. I can blog one story (the chapters for this project are self-contained stories) at a time, then collect them all for myself or for whatever I want to do with them. I'm not dismissing trying to be published someday or marketing my creativity -- of course, I would love to see my name on a cover in that bookstore, and as a freelancer, that should be a goal. But, all these years later, it's not the most important thing, not as important as the writing itself. I wonder if that subtle, unconscious pressure held me back a little. Yes, time to write has always been and will continue to be an issue, but hopefully, that now should be the only issue.

So that's my goal here as the summer passes, and into the fall -- to write like mad. Continue with "Five Summers." Continue this blog and my NFL blog. I've been itching to start another blog with an idea I had that I would hope I can make a little money off of through ads. Write other stories as they hit my brain (my Kmart post from a couple years ago is an example of what I wish I was doing more of here). And to not pressure myself into thinking it can't be done, because there will always be a path that will work for me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Party men

Today was a two-birthday party day. The boys went to one in the morning, then Eldest had one in the afternoon that Littlest was also invited to.

The morning party was fun and low-key. About seven kids, with a lot of playtime and some cake. One of the dads who lived by the party house (and whose son is on Eldest's soccer team) invited us over to their house, where the boys played for about 45 minutes more. I didn't want to wear them out, knowing another party was ahead. I took the boys this morning while Wife got some things done, while she was going to take them to the afternoon party while I did some yard work and grilled dinner.

The afternoon party was something else, according to the boys and Wife: three hours of kid-sanity. Eldest got to play with his school friends, while Littlest went on a giant inflatable water slide at least 50 times by Wife's estimation. He also jammed on some musical instruments at the party, and both boys got their faces painted. The boys came home wired from the fun afternoon, while Wife looked more exhausted than they did.

So, we're looking forward to a mellower Sunday that will include a trip to the pool. No clowns, no birthday cake, and hopefully, no overexcited kids. Or adults.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Batter up!

We are in the midst of baseball season No. 2 this year. The Salt Lake County rec league in which the boys play cram eight games into four weeks inside the University of Utah Fieldhouse. Eldest played coach pitch in the spring league and is playing again this summer; Littlest is playing t-ball for the first time.

So far, so good! Eldest was fielding better this week, and though his hits weren't as impressive as last week, he's doing OK. Littlest is having fun and hit the ball better than any game this season. His problem is not understanding that he's not going to field every ball. It was funny -- last game, we had almost the whole team and he complained he wasn't fielding as much as he wanted to. This game, we only had four players, so he should have gotten the ball more, but in the first inning, he camped out on second base and didn't move, instead high-fiving the opposing team's runners as they came to his base. He decided to field in the next two innings, and it's funny: He doesn't even need to field the ball, just so long as he touches it at some point, maybe throwing it to first and back to the coach or simply handing it to somebody else.

Only three games left. Summer is speeding by ...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Kaboom

I'm sitting on my front porch blogging on July 4 and hearing fireworks go off all over the neighborhood in what must be the most surreal Independence Day I've ever experienced.

The fireworks in Salt Lake City were last night, July 3, because July 4 fell on a Sunday. We did all the holiday stuff yesterday -- rode in the neighborhood parade, grilled, went for a hike to Ensign Peak, saw the Sughar House Park fireworks -- and had a lot of fun. Today simply did not seem like July 4. We didn't do much all morning (Wife did make it out for a run), saw "How to Train Your Dragon" at the budget theater, ate a late lunch on our patio and let the boys play and watch them gradually get crabbier after their late night/early morning lack of sleep. They finally fell asleep tonight around 9, at which time I came outside with the laptop.

Nobody is out on our block setting off fireworks, but I'm hearing it from neighboring streets. I guess it seems surreal because it didn't feel like a holiday today because we celebrated yesterday. Some people obviously have overcome that tonight, and more power to them. I'm just glad I didn't decide to go running tonight -- I would have been looking over my shoulder every time I heard a firework explode through my headphones.

It should be interesting to see what tomorrow is like, with it being the day off for many people. We might go swimming and the boys have baseball tomorrow night. But if anything, it will feel more like a weekend day, just like today did, even if there are more fireworks.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Busy days of summer

I always strive to enjoy summer as much as possible, for myself, Wife and the boys. Well, mission accomplished maybe too well.

After a fun, busy weekend, the boys followed that up with what was almost a 4-hour playdate today. We spent at 90 minutes at the pool with friends, picked up lunch and took it to the park, where we spent another 100 minutes or so. The boys by this time weren't that active (it was hot at the park) but still played. We got home and enjoyed some much-needed laziness before baseball -- first Littlest's t-ball game, then Eldest's coach-pitch game. Needless to say, Littlest was out within two minutes of saying goodnight.

Tomorrow is another potentially jam-packed day. At least we're not wasting them.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

No sunset, no solstice, but still some thoughts

(Transcribed from a notebook ...)

I'm back on the hillside of Donner Park for my annual first-day-of-summer reflection. This is my fifth year doing this, but it's a little different in 2010. First, it's three days after the summer solstice -- this has been my first chance during a crazy wekk. Second, there's no visible sunset. It's been a gorgeous week, but right now, the first extended line of clouds has pulled up behind the Great Salt Lake in front of the setting sun. Maybe I'll try again over the weekend, but the clouds aren't going to stop me from writing tonight.

Yes, another year has passed. It's been quite a year for our family. I've seen my sons experience such growth in the last 12 months -- Eldest loving kindergarten, and Littlest thriving in preschool (after a shaky start) and with his development in general. I wonder if between the two of them we will ever see such combined leaps as bounds as we did this past year. It's been so much fun, too.

As for me, I'm not quite where I want to be, but I feel like I'm making progress. I wrote my first novel this year -- yes I actually got it done back in November. The freelancing has been mostly steady, but I still want to expand my contract work. I think I'm becoming a better dad and husband, but still think I can improve. There are more writing projects I want to undertake, but having finished the novel, I feel like there's nothing I can't accomplish now. My problem is just the daunting initial first step. Once I can overcome that, I think I could be OK -- the NaNoWriMo (the effort to write the book) proved that.

Life is so busy, and there won't be any slowing down for years. That's just how I want it, no matter how much I complain or how tired or discombobulated I feel. This is the life we've chose and designed, and we understand the commitment that comes with it. There's no other path I'd rather be taking.

The sunset isn't coming back tonight, and a breeze off the mountains is chilling the back of my bare shoulders exposed by the throwback John Stockton jersey I'm wearing today. The view us still something else, even without the sunset. I know I'm paraphrasing a movie ("City Slickers") as I conclude this, but I don't care: Today is my best day.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

So summer begins

Eldest's last day of kindergarten was today. He was so excited this morning, not because summer vacation was beginning, because after today, he was a first grader. I hope he never loses that enthusiasm for school, but I also hope he becomes enthusiastic for his summer breaks, especially while in grade school.

It was a busy day for both kids, with Littlest having a playdate and a playgroup, while Eldest and I went for a hike and also tried watching the sunset. We all went for ice cream tonight, too. Twelve more weeks of summer fun ahead.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

10 hours

Today was quite a busy day for us, and especially for the boys. Eldest had his last soccer game of the season, both boys then had a birthday party, we came home and they ended up playing some more, then it was our street's block party, at which neither child ate much but played the whole time through.

After computing our day, I came up with a number: Both boys played in some way, shape or form for at least 10 hours today. This is what summer is supposed to be about for kids under age 13. This is what we as a society have somewhat gotten away from as we overschedule and overprotect more than our parents did 30 years ago, and their parents did 60 years ago.

Both boys were exhausted when they finally wound down for the night. Both needed bathing -- we decided to save the showers for tomorrow. Let them sleep and see if they can put in another 10-hour day tomorrow.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The space between

It was sort of a disjointed day today, and though it wasn't necessarily bad, it wasn't as productive or fun-packed as I would have hoped for.

We had to drop the car at the mechanic this morning, then I tool Wife to work. Picked up some breakfast and put some gas in the car on the way home for Break 1. If there was going to be a time today when I would have been semi-productive, it would have been right now, but alas, I wasn't. We got Eldest from school, picked up Happy Meals, then came home for Break 2. We then took Littlest to speech therapy, came home for Break 3. We went to pick Wife up, drove to get the car at the shop, then I went to a meeting of the Wasatch Back team with which I'm running. Came home, ate dinner, taught the boys Crazy Eights, and everyone went to bed, leading me to now: Break 4. At least I'm doing something mildly contructive in this break.

Tomorrow should be a little less crazy. And I don't have to work, so it will be more fun.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June bug

Hooray, June is here!

My favorite month of the year is actually May, when everything turns green and the dream of summer is just around the corner. In 2010, it was anything but a dream, as 25 days out of 31 in SLC were below normal temperatures.

June is my next favorite -- that first month of summer, that first month out of school, with nothing looming for weeks. Granted, I'm not in school anymore, but June for me is the arrival after months of anticipation. I know it will go fast and I'll soon be resigned to summer ending (even if there are weeks of it left), but on June 2, the possibilities for something fun, something incredible, just seem endless.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Up and running

I'm running the Wasatch Back again this year, and I'm starting to get really jazzed about it.

Just one little issue -- I'm not in the same shape I was last year, and I'm a little nervous about it.

Last year, I seemed to just have more time to run and the weather wasn't quite as unpredictable. Then I was slowed down by a cold last week. I made it out tonight and ran 60 minutes -- which is my best this year and I was happy about it and felt pretty good -- but now I'm worried I'm accidentally tapering a few weeks too early after not getting out in several days. I was a little lighter last year too, and though I've lost about eight pounds since Easter, I still feel a little slower. (It didn't help that after my hour run, I was so hungry when I got home that I ate a ham and cheese on rye with some chocolate milk. It's a lot of protein, which is good, but more calories than I needed).

The van I'm going to be in is filled with more experienced runners, so I might get off with three of the easier legs. I'm nervous about the longer legs (6-7 miles, a distance I could handle last year but am not so confident about this year), and the legs I ran last year got tougher. On the other hand, I know what to expect this year and how to approach 36 hours of this.

The relay is 22 days away, and I shouldn't sound so negative. It's going to be a lot of fun, and I have to remember that I did better than I thought I would last year, mostly because of some extra adrenaline -- adrenaline not quite there on my training runs. And after my good run tonight, I should do a better job convincing myself that I will be ready enough.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Birthday week

Littlest is turning 4 on Wednesday, and though this is a happy occasion, it is accompanied by our last truly psychotic week of the school year. Besides getting the house ready for 10 4-year-olds on Saturday for his party, there's swim lessons and soccer and car repairs and playgroups and Little Gym and ordering a cake and work and co-oping at school and ... well, you get the point. I'm amazed and a little scared about how fast this school year went, but a small part of me thinks summer can't get here fast enough.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The damn DVR

I love our DVR, even though it's ultimately nagging and nagging me.

The DVR is wonderful to record shows that I wouldn't otherwise get a chance to watch live (and you can forget about setting the VCR anymore; I don't think I even remember how). However, I am so backed up on shows I haven't gotten to, it's frustrating -- I just don't have time to watch all this (especially when the DVR is catching more and more shows I've set to record each week). Right now, I have two episodes of "Friday Night Lights" (from November), six of "Caprica," two of "V" (I'm at least catching up), at least four hours of tornado specials, some MLB Network stuff and Ken Burns' whole national parks miniseries just waiting to be viewed.

The frustrating part is, I don't want to watch this much TV, and I certainly don't have time every night to camp out and watch 2-3 hours of shows. So I procrastinate to avoid procrastinating in other areas of my life. All thanks to my wonderful DVR.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Super 6

I was at the park with Eldest yesterday and felt a twinge of jealousy -- age 6 is definitely a cool age.

We got to the park, and almost immediately, Eldest met a kid his age and became friends. He does this so naturally: Finding a new playmate quickly and easily. I think this other boy might have been about 8 but was Eldest's height (kind of an advantage of him being so tall). The two played the entire time we were at the park.

I was sitting on the bench watching them wander away from the playground to a small grassy embankment above the exercise playground (this park is actually the playgrounds of the grade school near us). The two of them were exploring, making up an elaborate story in their pretend play that also involved clues (Eldest brought two of these "clues" home -- parts of a broken Frisbee).

Besides being impressed again how easy Eldest makes friends, I couldn't help but be a little nostalgic. Eldest's imagination was on overdrive, but it was purely imagination with nothing to get in the way of it. We lose that pure imagination as we get older, replaced with a more practical imagination, if that makes sense. Hopefully, Eldest doesn't lose too much.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hoop it up

I took Eldest to his first college basketball game today. I took him to a prep game earlier this season, and he seemed to enjoy it, so I had high hopes for the college game featuring Utah against Colorado State. He was excited before we got to the game, especially to ride TRAX (light rail) from a remote parking lot to the arena.

I think he had fun, though it was difficult to tell. He had a long day and started to drag in the second half. It wasn't that exciting of a game, either (the Utes didn't play well), which didn't help. I think next time, I'll take him to a Jazz game, where the excitement level will be amped up (though we won't have as good of seats as we had tonight).

Eldest's best line of the night had to be when the two teams' logos (a U. for Utah, a ram for Colorado State) were on the scoreboard, and he asked, "Is it the Utes playing the Goats?"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Melting!

You want something to disappear forever? Talk to my 3-year-old.

Littlest found the case storing the third season of 30 Rock, which I took out of the library; took a disc out, and placed it somewhere we can't find. We know it was him because he took another one out today, even though I put it somewhere else. We have a few days to find it, but I'm thinking we're buying the library a new DVD.

Today, I turned the oven on to warm up some taco shells, eventually opened it up to find something orange and plastic melting in it. Later on, Littlest comes to the oven, looks inside and says "Hey, it's gone!" We think it was a Tinker Toy. Aside from our concern about him opening up the oven ... it just shows that he's relocating things into odd spaces. At least I didn't see a melted DVD as well ...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pancake breakfast

Today at Littlest's co-op preschool, I was the snack parent. Normally, that entails bringing and preparing an easy snack. Today, instead, I was directed to make pancakes.

It was Pajama Day for the kids, and to coincide, Littlest's teacher planned pancakes to be made by the snack parent, which today, was me. I hadn't made pancakes in years, but they didn't turn out too badly. There was no cooking spray for the griddle, but oddly, my pancakes didn't start sticking until the fourth batch. Other than that glitch and the fact I might have used the green scratchy side of the sponge to clean the pan (who knew -- aren't griddles made tougher? -- but I don't think I scratched it that much), everything turned out all right. I should try to make pancakes at home sometime ... and let someone else clean the griddle.

(FYI, Pajama Day was successful except that Littlest didn't want to wear PJs this morning. I couldn't figure out why. Eldest had a PJ Day last month and didn't want to either. Weird).