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Showing posts from 2011

2011

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For my last post of the year, and the 100th of the year, just five pictures that described 2011:











Goodbye 2011, hello 2012. And happy new year!

Spring forward?

The weather this December here in Salt Lake City has been odd. We started out with a crazy wind storm that blew shingles off our roof, followed it up with an early inversion (a pollution event in which a quiet weather system stalls over the valley and traps all the smog between the mountains -- we usually don't get them until January) and have gotten barely any snow all month. In fact, this has been the driest SLC December in recorded history. Today capped off the weird month -- it felt like March.

The sun wasn't out too much today, but it was still warm. We took Popcorn for a long hike on the dog trail, and when we got back to the car, the temperature gauge said it was 62 degrees outside. The thermometer does skew up a few degrees, but my guess was that it was indeed close to 60, which is a good 20 degrees above average. Tonight around 9 p.m., Lori's clock that gets a signal from a thermometer outside said it was 54. The sun went down and it barely cooled off. I threw a he…

Nobody did it better

After Lori recorded it on our DVR, I finally got around to watching A Football Life: Walter Payton (link shows a clip from the show) that aired on NFL Network. It brought back some good memories.

In 1977, as a second-grader, I started watching football for the first time. I collected football cards. I remember not only watching the Bears in the early game, but watching late games, usually on NBC, after the sun had gone down that dark November and December. My first lesson in my NFL education was an amazing one: Witnessing Walter Payton's incredible 1977 season in which he rushed for 1,852 yards (in 14 games) and helped the Bears to the playoffs.

CBS gushed over Payton all season, setting his runs captured by NFL Films to song: Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better." I hear that and still think back to that late fall and winter. I don't know how much local radio played the song (and this was a memorable winter for music), but CBS was all over it.

I remembered many of …

It's the end of the year as we know it

I have always found that the distance between Christmas and New Year's is not long enough. You get so focused toward Christmas, it passes, and you only have a week to reconcile yourself to the fact the year is ending. Many people judge the passing of time by the new year (as well as birthdays and anniversaries, of course, and I also get reflective every summer solstice). This is the week you get end-of-the-year recaps, end-of-the-year countdowns, best-of lists and all other things commemorating the fading year.

So yes, I'm surprised 2012 is almost here. I'm not surprised how 2011 went so quickly, though still a little amazed at how time seems to zip by -- I was reminded of that tonight when I realized we've owned Popcorn for almost five months now and Maggie for nearly a year.

What do I think about 2011? After a rough start (both cats dying), it was good. We have two new family members in Maggie and Popcorn, the boys are thriving in school, and we had a lot of fun. 2012 …

Century mark

This is my 96th post of 2011, making it by far my most prolific year of this blog. My goal is to make it to 100, hence, this post simply announcing that I'm trying to make it to 100. How's this for a goal for 2012: 200 posts. After all, I had some dry spells in 2o11, including the last three months. To reach 200 posts, I have to write about four posts a week. I should be able to swing that. Not only that, I should be able to swing that. Until the next filler entry to get to 100, I've hope you've enjoyed this post.

Yuletided out

We enjoyed a nice Christmas two days ago. The boys woke us up far too early, and I had to work that night (and last night as well), but the holiday was enjoyable nonetheless. My favorite present might have been a banner displaying five classic Chicago Cubs logos (no, Steve Bartman looking sullen isn't one of them). Lori made a good Christmas meal, and I stuffed myself on ham before work.

And just like that, Christmas was over. Is might be terrible to say this, but hurray! Christmas was wonderful. I'm glad it's Dec. 27. In a few days, we'll take the trees and lights down, and we'll go headlong into the new year.

The eve

Our Christmas Eve was somewhat uneventful today. With our niece coming into town, we prepared the house for her arrival. Michael and I took the dog for a long walk, and I watched football in the afternoon. We went to church -- the children's Mass, which is still as long as a normal Christmas Mass but geared more toward families (including it's 4 p.m. start). We came home for dinner, watched a little bit of "It's a Wonderful Life" and put the boys to bed. Lori started wrapping presents while I picked Dakota up from the airport. Here I am, the last hour of Christmas Eve, blogging before I go to bed.

Even after two months of holiday music, it's still difficult to believe it's already Christmas. The lack of snow hasn't helped. Make no mistake, I prefer no snow to lots of it, but I can deal with it around Christmas, particularly after weeks of hearing "Winter Wonderland" and "Sleigh Ride." Instead, we get a brown Christmas here in Utah.…

A long December

I don't remember December being this crazy.

Of course, when I was young, December wasn't crazy. It dragged as Christmas approached. As a high schooler, I was in between cross country and track seasons and never had much to do in December. In college, after finals ended (around mid-December), I had a whole month, either at home or in Milwaukee, and even though I worked, December was time off. After college, December was a mildly busy time at work, and we might travel for Christmas for a couple days, but that was it.

Then I had children. December has never been the same.

Possibly it's just crazier because we have a son whose birthday is in December and we have to plan that as well as Christmas. Perhaps it's just nuttier because we have a puppy and technically still a kitten who need attention. Maybe it's because Lori has blasted through a busy month at work and I've had freelance projects all month.

The boys have been off school all week (their break started rather e…

Reactivated

With November over, with a busy November over, with the first week of December that has been just as busy over, I am resuming my blog. It's been a busy six weeks ...

-- I got about 16,000 words into Nanowrimo before I surrendered. I started off strong, then got sidetracked by a cough that was keeping me up nights (and tiring me out too much to write the subsequent day), a steady stream of freelance work and the usual craziness of being a parent. With about a week to go, I realized I'd never have enough time to make it to 50K. I was somewhat happy with what I wrote, and when I really got going, I felt I produced some good stuff. So though I didn't write a 50,000-word novel in November, I'm happy I made the effort. Any writing I can undertake is worthwhile.

-- These last few days have been especially crazy. Michael's birthday is Friday, and we're trying to get ready for his party Saturday.

-- Oh, it was my own birthday last month. I had to work, but we had a nice l…

Writer's block

November is National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo challenges would-be authors to write a 50,000-word novel entirely in the month of November. The novel doesn't have to be good and is not even published, but the goal is to simply write something, with the idea that many people want to write a novel but never buckle down and actually do it. NaNoWriMo is the effort to knock out 50,000 words and worry about things like editing after November.

Two years ago, I wrote a novel via NaNoWriMo. After years -- really, a couple decades -- of wanting to say I penned a novel, I finally did it. My novel wasn't that great, but when I go back into it now, besides the irresistible urge to start editing, I still feel a great sense of accomplishment, as well as see what I did well. Reading it again reminds me that though I'm an inexperienced novelist, I may not entirely suck at it.

Last year, I jumped into NaNoWriMo again with a great idea that I'd been kicking around for years. Then, Nove…

Real deal

The boys didn't have soccer games this morning -- the league they are in takes this weekend off because of the mini-fall break Utah schools take this week. So what did we do on our Saturday? We went and saw a soccer game.

OK, this morning, we were mostly lazy, but we were just gearing up for the game! Not really, but it was a nice, low-key Saturday for once. Real Salt Lake played at 7 p.m., and Michael was going with his teammates, while Lori, Ben and I had our own seats in another part of the stadium.

Michael had a lot of fun. His coach took them for pizza first, then got to the game early so the boys could enjoy all the events outside the stadium. Michael made out like a bandit, with free giant foam fingers, wristbands, doo-rags, tote bags and, the big score, a bobblehead of the RSL goalkeeper for being one of the first 5,000 through the gates. I hope he watched enough of the game, especially how the goalies played -- he's been playing keeper for about a half for the last four…

Happy trail

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The boys are on a five-day weekend for the annual Utah teachers' convention, and though I love the fact we get a few days off with them, it's been a less-than-perfect couple days. I've been swamped with freelance projects the last week (now finished), and the boys and dog have been a little stir-crazy. Yesterday was an errand day: Kohl's, flu shots, Costa Vida, Costco, soccer practice and puppy kindergarten. They were driving me crazy this morning, but one good fall hike put us all in a better mood. Popcorn has been able to do some longer hikes with us, and though our trek today was no more than three miles, we enjoyed our adventure on a sunny, warm autumn day.

Our evening adventure was Garden After Dark, a Halloween event at Red Butte Garden. Unlike other Halloween doings (like Boo at the Zoo, which I don't recommend), this one gave out no candy, instead giving kids the chance to do some fun, glow-in the dark crafts. The boys colored owl masks, made shooting stars …

Tangled webs

Michael has been bugging us for a couple days now to get our Halloween decorations out. He was disappointed to discover today that, well, we really don't have that many Halloween decorations. A skeleton, these aluminum pumpkin cylinders that hold candles, a trick-or-treat sign ... and that's about it. The best Halloween decorations are the ones you have to buy again every year -- pumpkins and those stretch fake spider webs. We stopped at the store on the way back from Ben's soccer practice, got some pumpkins on sale, some webs and a two-pack of glow-in-the-dark spiders, and finished decorating our front yard.

Besides the pumpkins, my favorite decor is the pumpkin candle holders. Even with small tea candles, the flickering flames provide a nice, mildly spooky, definitely autumn touch. When the city installed a street light in front of our house, it unfortunately took away from the effect of the candles, but it still looks cool.

Fewer than three weeks until Halloween, less tha…

Forgotten fall

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I possess an unusually strong recollection about things one wouldn't think were that memorable. Never mind I forget people's names 10 seconds after I meet them, or that I forget to move clothes from the washing machine to the dryer (which, I better do right now). But I can connect songs, events, emotions, places, and even odors to specific momenst in time. You can see much of that crazy memory here in my blog. My boys are already developing this, too -- I don't know if I'm passing it on or if my genes are passing it on. They remember something I wouldn't think they would remember, I'm surprised by it, and Lori reminds me: "Joe, they are your kids."

I already blogged about the memorable summer of 1981. That post got me thinking about the fall that followed, and this, given my abnormal memory, is what distresses me: I remember almost nothing from September and October 1981.

I know I started sixth grade in Mrs. Lynch's class, but can't picture spec…

The daily show

I have been too tired to write lately. I'm not sure why -- perhaps I'm still settling in to our school year routine, even though it's already a month in. My other theory is that after a bunch of long, sweeping, sometimes nostalgic posts, I'm not always in the mood to do another. I should be doing another and even write some in advance when I get into these funks, but dealing with that is another issue. For now, I need to write about something today. When I originally started blogging, one goal was to record the events of the day -- a sort of journal. I got away from that, recapping busy, important days and glossing past the mundane. Well, maybe on days like today, when I lack the energy to write deeply, I need to just recap the day. Here it goes:

I got to sleep in a little bit today while the boys were at school. I picked up Ben and two of his friends midday and we went to a park for a little while, launching Stomp Rockets. Ber and I went to lunch at Einstein Bros., cam…

Popcorn love

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I've alluded to our new puppy a few times recently, and for those who haven't seen the pictures we have posted on Facebook, here is Popcorn:
We've owned Popcorn for about a six weeks now, and it's been a fun adventure. We decided to start looking for a dog after vacation, but we didn't think we'd get one so soon after we got back. One afternoon, I took the boys to a couple shelters just looking, thinking we wouldn't find a puppy. And we wanted a puppy -- this is the only time the boys will be able to enjoy a young dog while they are still young (we adopted our kitten last February with the same mind-set).

After visiting one shelter, we arrived at the Humane Society, and in a pen it the lobby were two black puppies. They were pointer-lab mixes names Popcorn and Izzy. The pups never spent time in the shelter, instead being fostered after their mother had given birth (they were only being adopted through the Humane Society). Lori came down to take a look at the…

Timelessly perceptive

Back in the 1980s, before MP3s and around the time 45s stopped being practical, I was religious about taping songs off the radio for future listening on my Walkman. I still possess most of those tapes, and have even converted several to MP3 format.

This post isn't dedicated to those tapes. It's only about one song.

On the day before Thanksgiving in 1985, I was off school on a rainy, November day. Sitting in my room, listening to Fred Winston's show on WLS-AM. The Big 89 at this point was starting to play less and less Top 40, so it shouldn't have been a surprise when an "oldie" came on the radio. The song in question: "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman" by Dr. Hook. I must have recognized it right away, perhaps thinking "Wow, I haven't heard this in a while," because I went over to my boombox and hit record.

Over the years that I've listened to that tape, I must have remembered where I was when I recorded that song. That&…

Ten years after

As I type this post on the night of Sept. 10, I know exactly what I was doing 10 years ago. I was at the newspaper working, waiting for the Monday night NFL game to end. Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey broke his leg during the game. That was big news.

Twelve hours later, Ed McCaffrey's broken leg would become an afterthought.

A phone call woke me up on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Lori had already gone to work and knew I had worked late, so I couldn't fathom why she'd be calling so early (here in the Mountain time zone, the early events in New York were really early in Utah). But the caller wasn't Lori, it was my mother-in-law asking if she was home. Barely awake, I mumbled "Mom? Irene?" and told her Lori was at work. She figured that, but was calling to make sure we weren't flying anyplace this week because two planes had just crashed into the World Trade Center.

That woke me up. I turned on the news to begin watching the horrific events of the day unfold. …

What's in a name?

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When I first started thinking about writing a blog in the mid-2000's, my wife was concerned about putting details about our family on the web. This was at a time before Facebook exploded and all your friends knew so much of your life.

I finally entered the blogosphere in 2007, but referred to my family as Wife, Eldest and Littlest so as not to give away any intimate details. With generally only my friends reading this blog, and me plugging the blog on Facebook (where everybody knows the names of my family anyway), I've decided to stop using nondescript monikers. When writing about my family, it feels more natural to use their names, and I have to catch myself to use the nicknames -- sometimes slowing my train of thought. I've also resisted posting pictures of my family, even though I've posted dozens of them on Facebook. Realistically, I think my little blog is more tucked away then Facebook.


So blogosphere, here is my family: Wife, Eldest and Littlest, aka, Lori, Michae…

Ready for some football

As I type this post, I'm watching the NFL season opener: a wild game between the Packers and Saints. The last four weeks or so have been dominated by three things: the kids starting school, the new puppy and fantasy football. After days of research and podcasts, the season has at last arrived. My NFL focus won't only be fantasy football; at work, I'll be putting together the NFL roundup every Sunday night for the Monday newspaper, just as I have been almost every Sunday for several years now.

The one thing I haven't been doing is blogging about the NFL. After four years, I stopped writing my NFL blog. I hadn't been as serious about posting over the last year or so, and even after trying to reignite my enthusiasm for back in the spring, I found myself slacking off on it again. I enjoyed the blog when I was actively posting, but it had become too much of a chore. And these past few weeks, I haven't missed it. In past years, I'd avoid too much outside analysis …

Summer's going fast, nights growing colder

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Yes, my post title quotes Rush ("Time Stand Still" if you weren't exactly sure which song). Astronomically, summer has a couple weeks remaining. But with Labor Day ending in about 45 minutes as I type this, summer is perceptively over.

Back in May, I calculated that summer would last 102 days. Well, 102 days have passed. Did we get the most out of our summer? I think we got as much fun out of it as we possibly could. Yes, there were some lazy days, and I never did make it golfing, but as a whole, Summer 2011 rocked. And of course, it went too fast.

Here's a testament to the quality of this summer: I haven't worn socks in at least a month. Between working a part-time job in which I don't have to dress up, the warm weather, and not being able to go running in the past weeks (thanks to the time taken up by the new puppy and bruising my ribs on a roller coaster at Lagoon), I have not worn socks since Aug. 1 -- the last day I went running. Before that, the only sock…

The plunge

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The line for this water slide isn't too long. I'm guessing we'll be able to go in about five minutes. I look at the sign for the ride: "Cliffhanger." It used to be called "Shotgun Falls" before Raging Waters was taken over by Seven Peaks and renamed all the rides along with renaming the whole water park. Eldest is asking me about that name change as we stand in line. I'm barely listening, instead focusing on the mountains in the distance and the incredible knot that has built in my stomach.

Some of you know this and some don't: I was seriously afraid of water when I was younger. I didn't learn how to swim until my 20s, and I didn't develop the confidence to swim in deep water until the last few years. And it's not that much confidence: Every time I jump into deep water, I need to psych myself up a little and remind myself that I will surface, I will be able to swim back to the side, and even if I can't, the lifeguard will jump in …

Dells trip

On our vacation this year, we stayed in the Wisconsin Dells for two nights. For those unfamiliar with Wisconsin, Wisconsin Dells is a resort town along a stretch of the Wisconsin River know for its unique rock formations. Wisconsin Dells is also a bit of a tourist trap, with its endless waterparks, giant resorts and insane traffic. We enjoyed our trip this year, maybe because we rarely left the waterpark resort. This wasn't my first time in the Dells -- I went for a few days with friends a couple summers after high school, and Wife and I would take day trips there, because one day was about all we could take.

But my first time in the Dells was in August 1979. I've been wanting to write about this trip for a while now, particularly after our few days in the Dells last month. With school about to begin and summer nearing its end, here is one more summer flashback ...

My dad's friend owned an A-frame cabin in Baraboo, which is a few miles outside Wisconsin Dells. In 1979, th…

Summer fun in '81

Of all my summer memories from my childhood, for some reason, the summer of 1981 stands out. I can't explain why this summer was such a turning point or so memorable, but it was, so much so that I was making compilation tapes commemorating the summer of 1981 ... in early 1985.

The summer of 1981 was 30 years ago, and I meant to reflect, recall and relive that summer during this summer, at least on my blog. I never quite got around to it, however, particularly the past few weeks after vacation while we've been busy with enjoying the remainder of summer and taking care of the new puppy. But summer isn't over yet, and there is still time to look back at 1981 in 2011. Here's what I remember from 30 summers ago:

-- The baseball strike interrupted Fernando Valenzuela's rookie season, but didn't temper my enthusiasm for the game. This summer, my pee-wee team controversially won our league championship (a long story for another post), and I played more Strat-o-Matic th…

Still summer

We've been back from vacation for almost a week. Eldest starts school in two weeks, Littlest in three. Summer vacation as we used to define it as kids -- from the last day of school in June to the first day of the next school year in late August or early September -- is coming to a close.

I'm not letting it go quietly. I want to take the boys hiking, I'm taking them to the waterpark later today, I want to enjoy the warm sun, and I want to relish the pleasant summer evenings while we still can.

On my iPod, I have a playlist entitled "August/September" that features songs I immediately connect to the end of summer/very beginning of fall. Some of these songs include "Only Time Will Tell" by Asia, "Take Me to Heart" by Quarterflash, "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits, "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns n' Roses and "One Week" by Barenaked Ladies. Year after year, this is the mix I start listening to once I get back…

Vacation finale

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As expected, the last three days of vacation were much less eventful than the first 12. This happens every year -- we get back from Wisconsin for at least one day before leaving for Utah, and it's just wind-down time. And that's OK -- going nonstop for two weeks isn't easy, especially with kids. And vacation is supposed to be a time to relax, and for the past three days, that's what we did.

The past few days weren't that relaxing, however. Monday, we met my mom, who is in Chicago this week, for lunch and then to Old Orchard Mall. That night, we met some friends at the new Superdawg (my favorite Chicago hot dog restaurant) in Wheeling.

Tuesday, after pondering going downtown, we ended up just seeing the Smurfs movie with my dad. Last night, we went to dinner at a nice little Italian restaurant here in Edgebrook.

Wednesday was mostly devoted to getting ready for our return trip Thursday morning. The heat and thunderstorms finally subsided -- this might have been the mos…

Drive time

Day 12 of our vacation was almost strictly a driving day. We seem to endure one of these every year -- a long car trip connecting northern Wisconsin and Chicago or vice versa (and some years, both). After breakfast, we drove to Stevens Point to see Wife's aunt and let the boys play for awhile. Our next stop was Madison for a late lunch/early dinner at Noodles and Company. We hit traffic on Interstate 90 on the final leg of the journey, but the day wasn't that tiring, maybe because we broke it up enough. I finished my day with a walk around Edgebrook; hurray, I didn't see any skunks.

Wife and I actually enjoy driving trips and someday will take the car back to the Midwest instead of flying. The boys do well on road trips and did today, except for Eldest needing to use a restroom while we were driving through construction on the tollway (we made it to a McDonald's in time). This trip back almost always signifies that we are nearing the end of our vacation, and indeed, we …

Storm front coming

Saturday was Wife's birthday, and we spent it in Eagle River and Wisconsin's north woods. The day started nice, but got very, very windy and rainy ...

Our first planned event of the day was a trip to the Kovac Planetarium, a small but unique facility that features the world's largest rotating globe-style planetarium. Mr. Kovac loved the night sky so much that he essentially built this planetarium in the middle of the north woods himself. I learned about more constellations than I ever had from any other planetarium show, and his dedication and perseverance is, well, a little inspiring.

After the planetarium, we headed to Kentuck Days in Crandon -- an arts and crafts fair that included food booths and a classic car show. Eldest and I enjoyed the car show, seeing several old Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, roadsters, hot rods and even Novas. But our afternoon was cut short by a storm that was rolling into the area. Organizers of the event announced the storm was on its way, pack…

Waterpark madness

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My daily vacation blogging goal hit a snag Wednesday and Thursday nights, when after full days of waterpark fun, I was just about too tired to pull out the computer and try to type. These past days have been that fun and that exahusting.

We left Waukesha on Wednesday morning and arrived at the waterpark resort in Wisconsin Dells around noon. The Wilderness let gave us our waterpark passes even though our condo we were sharing with Wife's family wasn't ready, and we hit one of the eight mini-waterparks right away. We swam for a couple hours until Wife's family arrived from northern Wisconsin, then went to another waterpark inside the resort.

Sense a pattern? Thursday was more of the same: More waterpark fun. The boys had a blast. We figured out that Eldest was in the water for about 16 hours of the 48 we were at the resort. His favorite rides were the crazy thrill rides and a lazy river that included a small slide and a conveyor belt that brought floaters back up to the top h…

Let's groove tonight

Our vacation has veered north into Wisconsin. And oh my, Day 7 was fun.

We didn't leave Illinois until mid-afternoon. The lowlight of the morning was Eldest getting stung by a yellowjacket while playing tennis with my dad. We didn't hit much traffic on the way to a hotel in Waukesha, where we are spending the night before we go to the Wisconsin Dells tomorrow. We went to Kopp's for dinner, then headed downtown.

Wife's company hosts a big convention in Milwaukee every year and hires a big-name musical act to entertain the employees. In past years, we have seen Chicago and Hall and Oates; last year, Wife saw Keith Urban (the boys and I flew in after her meetings in 2010). This year, Earth, Wind and Fire was scheduled to play. Wife secured extra tickets so we could take the boys to what surely would be a fun show. We bypassed the actual seats at the Bradley Center for a spot on the floor, which held tables for people to sit or stand near to watch the show, but also included…

Little break

Wife worked in Milwaukee today again, and the three of us she left behind did enjoy a less involved Day 6 of Vacation 2011. Our morning was uneventful, we picked up Chipotle for lunch, we went to the mall to look for a birthday present for Wife (Wife, if you are reading this, I meant we went to the mall to get a Cinnabon!), and then we visited my former neighbors on the street I lived on growing up. The visit to the old neighborhood was fun. The neighbors' daughter (my sister's best friend growing up) now lives in my old house and has kids around the same ages as the boys. They played, swam and had a lot of fun for a few hours while the adults chatted and reminisced. We picked up Wife from the train station, ate dinner and caught lightning bugs.

Tomorrow, we go to Milwaukee to see Earth, Wind and Fire, and then we go the Dells on Wednesday. This vacation is far from over.

Click here for Day 7.

Millennium falcons

The first four days of our vacation were quite active, with a plenty of walking and plenty of humidity. With Wife working in Milwaukee on Sunday, I was somewhat planning a lower-key afternoon for Day 5 of our vacation. And for the most part, that was achieved.

Rain poured down all morning (Chicago has just been shelled overnight and into the morning with rain the past few days, but the sun eventually has come out every day by mid-afternoon), so that kept us mostly inside and mellow. The boys played games and watched TV, and my dad made chocolate chip pancakes. The sun finally came out, and we headed downtown to explore Millennium Park. The highlight for the boys was the Crown Fountain -- two 50-foot glass-block video screens that feature people's faces, and every few minutes, the face purses its lips and water sprays out from the wall. The boys loved getting soaked, and just standing by the fountain (but not getting wet) provided the adults with some cool relief. Afterward, we walk…

There goes a narwhal

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Day 4 of our vacation was dominated by a trip to the Field Museum in Chicago. This was the boys' and Wife's first visit to the museum, and I hadn't been there since 1982. With rain forecast for much of the afternoon, an inside event seemed the perfect plan, especially after worrying about thunderstorms yesterday at the Cubs game (and then dealing with the heat).

After driving downtown and accepting we'd have to pay $30 for parking (the Field Museum is adjacent to Soldier Field, where the Chicago Fire were hosting Manchester United today, hence the insane parking cost), we entered the museum and encountered Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever discovered. As a dinosaur nut as a child (and still a fan as a grownup), I remember my other two visits to the Field Museum to see the dinosaurs. I felt a little of that giddiness seeing this giant T-Rex for the first time. But our day was just beginning.

After walking through the Polynesian exhibit, we…

Go Cubs Go

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For years now, one of our vacation goals was to get Wife to a Cubs game. As a native Milwaukeean, she has never been to Wrigley Field before. Each year, it seems the Cubs were never in town while we were or we always had a conflict. With the boys now able to sit through an entire sporting event, and both of them coming off their own baseball seasons, I wanted to get the whole family and not just Wife to see their first Cubs game.

Finally, this year, everything fell into place. We'd been eying this Friday to see the Cubs play. I pounced on some seriously discounted tickets on StubHub last night, and the thunderstorms that rolled through Chicago subsided just as we got on the train. Everything fell into place perfectly for Day 3 of our vacation.

My dad dropped us off at the Skokie Swift station, and two trains later (Eldest wanted to take the subway on vacation; we never went underground but I it was close enough to enjoy the Chicago rapid transit experience), we were on Addison outsi…

Beetle juice

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One game Wife and I used to play on vacation is Slug Bug. See a Volkswagen Beetle, yell out "Slug Bug!" We took out the violence component, and we sometimes would declare "Slug Bug!" when we weren't on vacation, but on vacation, the game was on and we kept score. This was another tradition that seemed to fade away once we had kids and once we started flying to our vacation destination instead of taking long driving trips.

With the boys older and now understanding what a Beetle looks like, we began playing Slug Bug again but not keeping score. Wife and I have been trying to funnel Beetles to Littlest, who is generally less vigilant to look for them than Eldest. But Eldest has caught on when we try to signal Littlest. We told them we wouldn't start scoring points until we were on vacation.

We are on vacation. We are keeping score.

Naturally, we're trying to let the boys get the majority of the Slug Bugs. In a couple years, we will make them full opponents, b…