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Showing posts from July, 2011

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…

Vacation journal

When Wife and I went on our honeymoon, she bought a blank writing journal that featured an old-fashioned map on its cover. The intention of the book was to chronicle our trip, and we wrote in that journal (and a subsequent volume two, same style of cover) over several vacations. Gradually, our enthusiasm in filling the vacation journal waned. Our big problem was we were having too much fun on vacation -- at the end of the day, we were too tired to write, especially by hand. We would try to catch up days later, but never quite got the day reviewed as thoroughly as we could on the day of. Eventually, once we had kids, the vacation journal slipped into history. We still have it (and as I type this, I want to find it and reminisce), but we gave up on updating it.

With this post, I'm going to try to kick-start the vacation journal. Doing so might be even more important now because we only have a finite number of vacations with the boys. Besides enjoying every one of these vacations, I w…

Vacate the premises

I spent today getting ready for vacation. And after my crazy day, I determined I need a vacation from getting ready for vacation -- preferably before the original vacation.

Today (and not in this order, I can't even quite remember what came when), I packed, bought cat food from the vet, took the boys to get haircuts, packed, went to the grocery store, mowed the lawn, watered the lawn, packed, got a gift card for Littlest's speech therapy clincian, took Littlest to speech therapy, packed, went through a McDonald's drive-thru for lunch (ugh, the vacation unintentional meal plan started a day early), went to Costa Vida for dinnner (good fresh Mexican food, now finally with refried beans in their burritos in addition to intact beans), charged all our electronic devices and packed. This was after yesterday when we had a baseball game and a swim meet, I did laundry, updated iPods and, you guessed it, packed.

But aside from a couple minor things, everything is ready to go. I may ge…

Humid nature

The weather gets quite hot in Utah during the summer. Salt Lake City is somewhat high desert, and a day above 90 degrees in July is the norm, despite how north this city is. So when I hear about heat waves in the Midwest, I fondly remember what a big deal that was when we lived there, then chuckle because it's just as hot here and nobody thinks twice about it. The cliche about dry heat applies to SLC: It gets hot here because it's bright and not so much humid.

Today, just days before we vacation in the Midwest and encounter the humidity we don't miss, what did we get in Salt Lake City today? Humidity. Unless I've blocked it out from a past summer, I could not recall as humid a July day in SLC as we endured today. If Earth's climate is indeed whacked out beyond the point of no return, I'm convinced it won't be strange winters, killer tornados, early-season hurricanes or melting Greenland that cements that belief, but humid July days in Utah.

At the very least,…

Dinner with friends

We are fortunate to own a house with a nice covered patio. I call it our party pavilion, and over the years, we have eaten on the patio as well as hosted friends there. Unfortunately, we haven't utilized it enough during the warm months (and even into fall). The extra step of bringing our meal outside is sometimes a deterrent, and getting everything ready for a barbecue, though worthwhile, does take a little bit of work.

Today, we threw a barbecue for some friends -- the families of a few of Eldest's classmates. Our kids played in the kiddie pool, while the adults got to socialize outside of the school setting (which we don't get to do to often). I grilled sliders and hot dogs for dinner. We brought a fan out so the patio wasn't too warm.

The effort to get everything ready was an effort. I got the patio cleaned out, pulled some weeds from the yard, filled up the kiddie pool and made sure the coolers were full of drinks. Wife got all the food ready and finished cleaning t…

Meet me halfway

Today is July 15, the midpoint of the middle month of summer. As expected and predicted, summer is going by fast.

People I haven't seen in weeks (mostly parents of my kids' classmates) have been asking me how our summer has been, and I've been honest: good, but really busy. Thinking about it, the first half summer has been really good. Swimming, baseball, soccer, Little Gym camp this week, a couple hikes, fireworks, the waterpark, a great Michael Franti concert last night, parties and plenty of playtime have dominated summer since the weather finally turned for the better. The temperature, though normal Utah warm for summer, hasn't been unbearably, continuously hot like it has been for other parts of the country (I'm so not looking forward to humidity when we go back to the Midwest next week). We've been busy, but good busy. The boys have been tired occasionally, but never so tired that they weren't looking forward to their next event of fun, even if it'…

Field of unmowed dreams

Littlest is playing t-ball this summer in a season that just began last week. The league is for 3- to 5-year-olds, and his best friend and one of his preschool classmates are on the team with him. I'm coaching the team, and it's been fun -- the kids are great. We have 10 players, five girls and five boys. The mix in ages is just right that not too many older kids (Littlest and his friends included) aren't dominating. Getting kids this young to play a position, and stay at that position, is difficult. Usually, the ball gets hit, and just about every player runs goes after it. I've coached teams on which almost always, the older, faster kids get every grounder and the smaller kids get sad. That hasn't been quite the case with the 2011 Orioles, partly because of the mix of kids, and partly because I've gotten better at distracting and moving the older players back once they get a ground ball.

The league is run through Salt Lake County Rec, and the games usually ar…

Chillin' by the pool

The boys started a brief camp at The Little Gym -- Ninja Hideout! It runs three hours every day from 1-4, Monday through Thursday of just this week. The boys learn some martial arts moves, do some gymnastics, make some crafts and get a snack. And most importantly, I get three hours all by myself.

Today, I took advantage of those three hours by lounging by the pool at the Jewish Community Center we belong to (I've mentioned this before, Salt Lake City doesn't have YMCAs, and the JCC here is really nice, and I can appreciate the unlikelihood of Catholics living in the most Mormon place on the planet and belonging to a Jewish Community Center). The boys did a Little Gym camp last year, and I did the same thing one day -- went to the pool and relaxed without children.

Don't get me wrong -- I love taking the boys to the pool and actively swimming with them as much as possible. But once in a while, being there without them is nice. For three hours, I didn't have to listen to a…

Summer stall

After a fun Fourth of July weekend, I was looking forward to an eventful accompanying week. Alas, it was not meant to be. Littlest has been under the weather for a couple days with a mild fever that has wiped him out, and the weather itself hasn't cooperated -- overcast, humid days on which you aren't quite sure what to plan. As a result, the week went by fast and seemed unproductive. I look at the calendar and see we are past a third of the way through summer, with vacation coming up soon, then August, and then fall ... and when I get negative like that, it makes me cringe over weeks like this past week even more. There isn't much you can do about a kid getting sick or the weather sucking, except to look forward to the next day and hope it's better. So here's hoping tomorrow is better.

The little black book

During the mid-1990s, my sister gave me a blank journal with a black cover for writing. I was restless then as I am sometimes now about not writing enough. I didn't own a computer yet in 1996, so the journal, for one summer, became my primary writing outlet. I was working extreme mornings in Madison and would get home usually by 1 p.m. every day, giving me free afternoons. We were living in an aparment complex with a pool, so on summer weekday afternoons, I'd bring my Walkman, a book, the journal and a towel and relax by the pool ... and sometimes write.

At the beginning of that summer, I had gone for a walk in our neighborhood listening to a tape of songs off the radio from 1984. I hadn't listened to this tape in years, and it resulted in such a rush of nostalgia that I wanted to write it all down. That summer, I began to do so, in the blank journal my sister gave me. The summer after, when we bought a PC, I wrote some more -- four stories in fact that were part of a grand…

Baseball 1980

Littlest started a short t-ball season tonight. T-ball for 3-to-5-year-olds is chaotic to say the least (more so this season because the grass on the fields are like golf course rough and grounders are dying as soon as they hit the ground), but the Orioles had fun in their first game. His season opener seemed like a good segue into recalling my third year playing baseball as a kid, way back in 1980 (after having blogged on my first and second years).

After my Instructional League debacle, I surprisingly still wanted to play organized ball in 1980. I was moved up to Pee-Wee and was placed on the Reds, with my best friend Chris and some other friends from my grade school. Mr. Ronan and Mr. Balduf were my coaches -- both nice adults and patient coaches. This was real baseball -- no tees, no coaches pitching, no pitching machines. I had arrived.

I played third base and outfield this season. I liked third more, but after this season, I was an outfielder for the rest of my brief career (and h…

Independence daze

July 4 went late last night, so I'm writing about the Fourth of July on the Fifth of July. The Fourth was quite a fun day.

Our day started with the neighborhood parade. Wife believes we have attended every parade since we moved into the neighborhood. Eldest and his best friend decorated their bikes to ride in the parade; Littlest decorated his scooter and rode with his best neighbor friend. After the temperature reached 101 on Sunday, clouds and an occasional drizzle kept it cooler (if not a bit humid) for Monday.

We returned home and let the boys play with their friends. We had been thinking of going to the pool, but the overcast skies dispelled that. Our later-afternoon activity was a barbecue some friends of ours (parents of one of Eldest's classmates) were hosting. The party was low-key at first but still fun. It got more exciting when Eldest's friend's dad broke out some pop-its (those little papers filled with gunpowder that pop when you throw them against the grou…

Because the night

In the midst of a long summer weekend, we let the boys stay up later than usual the past two nights. Instead of the usual 8-8:30 p.m. they normally would start winding down at, they stayed up past 9.

Occasionally, the boys stay up late when circumstances dictate -- for example from recently, when Eldest had a late baseball game or swim meet. But last night and tonight, they stayed up later just because it's summer, we have nothing imminent in the morning, and they were having fun playing. Tonight, we went for a late hike to watch the sunset. We got home at about 9:25, and the boys weren't asleep until 10.

Summer evenings are rough here in Utah -- the weather finally cools off a little (especially today), and sunset is so late. In Chicago, it was dark by 9 p.m.; here sunset was 9:02 p.m. today. With the boys not quite old enough to stay up past 9 consistently, these long days create a dilemma. I'm more apt to let them stay up. They won't get this late play time during the…

Baseball, Year 2

Eldest's baseball season is over, and he finished strong as one of the team's most consistent hitters (after a lot of strikeouts earlier in the season). The Cardinals experienced and up-and-down, but still fun, season in the machine-pitch league. One of the downs was when a girl on the team accidentally got hit in the face with a bat in the dugout. Another player was goofing around swinging the bat and inadvertently connected with the side of her face. She was OK, and luckily, it wasn't worse.

When it happened to me when I was 8, it was worse.

I blogged in May about my first year of organized baseball. Here's the second year. It wasn't as fun. I played t-ball at Norwood Park in 1978, which wasn't the closest park to our house. Likely, my dad signed me up at Norwood simply because I played basketball there (he did, too). In 1979, I was signed up at Oriole Park, three blocks from our house. I was excited to play again (particularly with many of my friends playing …