Saturday, March 31, 2012

Our house is full of warmth

Today was the first day of the spring soccer season. Ben's team scrimmaged itself -- our opponent never saw the revised schedule and didn't realize our game started an hour earlier. No matter: Our timing is off after a five-month hiatus, so what amounted to an extra practice was beneficial. Michael's team won its game, with Michael playing goalkeeper for the whole game for the first time. He played a great first three-quarters of the game, but he started tiring out near the end in the heat.

Yes, we had heat today in Salt Lake City. It reached 80 degrees -- the earliest 80-degree day ever recorded here. And though I'm happy that spring has seemingly arrived, the warm early weather does present a conundrum: It's too early to turn on the air conditioning in our house, but our upstairs warms up in hurry. Our bedroom, on the southwest corner of the house, gets particularly warm, and the ceiling fan in the room won't spin anymore. We're planning to replace the fan in April (more likely sooner than later), but that's not helping us tonight. We can't get the best breeze through our house, either

Sunday, we get a one-day break: A cold front is moving through (with a possibility of snow tomorrow night). Until then, I'm typing this post in the nice cool basement.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The sporting life

Just when basketball ended for the boys, soccer and baseball are starting up. And swimming is right around the corner

The boys' soccer league is stretched over nine months, with eight games in the fall and eight in the spring. After almost five months off, Ben's team, which I coach, resumed practice this week, with its first game set for Saturday. I tried to run the kids a little more (in a fun way, of course) to get them in shape, but it will take a few weeks for them to rediscover all their skills from the fall. Michael's first practice is Friday, followed by his first game Saturday morning.

For baseball, we moved Ben up into a higher division so he can be on the same team as Michael and keep us from a completely psychotic Saturday schedule. Their league is machine pitch, and last year, Ben as a preschooler tried batting at Michael's practice and actually connected a couple times. He's fearless, so I think he will figure it out quickly (and I doubt he will be the shortest one on the team; in fact, he may be in the middle height-wise). Michael, who was hitting the ball so well by the end of last season, might be knocking the snot out of it this year. Practice starts soon, and I'm helping coach again.

Just around the corner is swim team, with practices starting in May and meets in June. Michael is excited to compete (and dive) again, while Ben has looked good enough in swim lessons that he might be ready to be on the team. They will have so much fun in all three sports, but yes, it's three sports that will overlap for a few weeks. I'm going to love watching them, but being a spectator really will be an active sport.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Driving or sputtering

For a long time now, I've been wanting to start a GenX blog (I posted about this last year, lamenting that I couldn't come up with a name). Unfortunately, I haven't achieved that goal.

I have been writing more, which I'm happy about, but I find myself not reaching the writing and work goals that I've set for myself. Have I lost the drive to use my most prolific and enjoyable talent? Is parenthood simply taking precedent, preventing me from finding the time? Am I simply lazy? Am I too tired? Am I worried about failing? Is the thought of starting this and the slacking off too daunting?

I'm not sure what the answer is. I do know that I seem to be getting closer to launching the blog. I've been thinking about potential posts constantly. I've been investigating how to design the blog I want to design on WordPress (sorry, Blogger, I'm ditching you for my next blog). I'm closer to coming up with a name.

What I haven't done is ... start.

That post from last year lamenting I couldn't come up with a name was last April. I was writing other posts leading up to launching the new blog as well. But along the way, my grand designs came to a gradual halt. That was almost a year ago. I'm getting antsy with myself.

After seeing Michael Franti in January, I printed off a lyric from one of his songs ("Hey Hey Hey"):

Don't let nobody ever tell you that it couldn't be done

The printout, in an early '80s video game font, is on the wall above the Wrigley Field panoramic print above my desk. I need to look at it more often in the coming days while I get this new blog off the ground. It's time to be driving, not sputtering.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In a lull

Lately, I haven't been as inspired to write as I would like to be. I'm not sure if I'm truly uninspired, simply too busy, or just tired. My fallback plan when I have nothing to write about is supposedly to recount the day, but even my days lately have seemed boring. Take today: I co-oped, came home and made lunch for Ben and me, napped, went back to school to get Michael, took him to swimming, made dinner, went to the park to get pine cones for a science project in Ben's class, came home, watched part of "The Muppets" with the boys, took Popcorn for a walk, and now I'm here. Somehow, that took all day.

I'm somewhat resisting writing about the past too much here -- and it seemed I had been doing that too much lately. The present isn't that boring, either. Maybe I am just tired, and maybe the warm weather forecast for this weekend will snap me out of the rut. Give me a couple days. I'll be too wordy again soon.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Shamrockin'

St. Patrick's Day fell on a Saturday this year. That meant the St. Patrick's Day parade, always on a Saturday in Salt Lake City, fell on March 17. That meant St. Patrick's Day parties, sometimes held before or after the actual holiday, were on March 17. That meant today was going to be a long, fun day.

This was the fifth year we participated in the parade. The boys' preschool always marched in it, and their current school does as well. This year, the "float" was a long flatbed trailer that included a few kids from the school's rock band and a few dozen students, as well as some parents. I sat with Ben on the trailer as it made its way through the parade course, while Lori followed on foot and Michael on his scooter. We were near the front of the parade, so for the first time in few years, we actually got to watch the parade after our float finished the course. We didn't stay for the whole parade, however, instead heading to the Original Pancake House for lunch (in what's becoming a yearly post-parade tradition).

After lunch, we returned home, and after recovering from our busy morning, Michael and I took Popcorn to the off-leash dog trail. She had a blast playing with other dogs on our two-mile hike. With the dog tired out, we went home to get ready for a St. Patrick's Day party hosted by some friends. The party, which we've gone to for a few years now, is kid friendly and always a lot of fun. However, something was also going on at the same time: Marquette's NCAA Tournament game. We left in the second half while I followed along on my smartphone. As expected, the party was fun, and I'm happy to say, Marquette won.

Two hours later, we left party one for party two -- a small bash hosted by one of Lori's co-workers at their house very close to the first party. We watched basketball, enjoyed some Irish stew, and let the boys play some more. By 8:30, we exhaustedly made our way home.

St. Patrick's Day won't fall on a Saturday again until 2018. We have six years to prepare for that one.

Friday, March 16, 2012

It;'s Madness I tell you, Madness!

My four favorite days of basketball season (my sons' basketball seasons notwithstanding) are right now: the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. These last two days featured 16 games each -- all televised; the next two days will see eight more each day. Needless to say, I've watched a lot of hoops in the last 36 hours.

Of course, I watched Marquette (my alma mater) win, but March Madness is a celebration of basketball, not just my own favorite team or the schools I have in my bracket. I found myself rooting for underdogs (the two No. 15 seeds that shocked No. 2 seeds today) knowing the upsets would upset my bracket. Alas, the first weekend is only one weekend, and though next weekend's games will be viewable and entertaining, it won't match the sheer volume of these past two days.

Marquette plays Saturday, and I'm hoping my Warriors make the Sweet 16. That would make March all the more sweet.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Green thoughts

With the improving weather the past week, I've been doing my best to clear out our front-yard gardens of leaves and overgrowth. Our tulips, daffodils and crocuses are beginning to pop through, and today, one even bloomed. I hope the lone flower survives the weekend, when a cold storm is supposed to blow through.

My thoughts will turn to the front lawn, which isn't in great shape. Every spring, I have grand plans to revive the lawn, and by June, my grand plans begin to fizzle. At least whatever clover grows in place of grass on the bare spots will be green. We don't get much rain or humidity in June and July in SLC, and without a sprinkler system, manually getting water on the lawn takes on added (and sometimes forgotten) importance. I'm hoping for the best this spring -- again, grand plans.

The biggest threat to our front flora might be the puppy. Today, I had Popcorn on a 20-foot line tied to the front porch while I worked. I gave her a retriever chew, turned around, and discovered her trying to bury it in the garden. Thankfully, she didn't dig up any emerging flowers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It must be March

The NCAA basketball tournament has begun. It must be March.

I bought the MLB app, with which I can listen to the audio for every Major League Baseball game, including the spring training games. It must be March.

The shoots of our tulips and daffodils are starting to poke through the ground. I've been clearing out dead leaves for a few days now to give them some space. It must be March.

All the snow has melted and temperatures have been at least 60 for a week. Snow is forecast this weekend. It must be March.

I drank my obligatory Shamrock Shake. Actually, it was better this year than in years past, without its mediciney taste; McDonald's is marketing it as a McCafe item instead of a shake. It must be March.

The boys' basketball seasons have ended. Michael's team finished with a flourish, winning its last three games, including the final one in OT (with Michael scoring the winning basket off a rebound). Ben's team played its best game of the season today, and he finally scored his first basket of the season. Soccer and baseball loom. It must be March.

The realization that Michael has less than a few months left as a second grader and, more frighteningly, that Ben is almost done as a kindergartener is becoming very real. It must be March.

The days are getting longer, aided by Daylight Savings Time. I took Popcorn out for a walk this evening while it was still light out. It must be March.

I'm running again and might do a 5K in a couple weeks. It must be March.

Spring is coming. Even with the mild winter, spring will be welcome.

It must be March.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Running partner

While watching the Westminster Kennel Club a few weeks ago, someone referred to the German short-haired pointer as an SUD: sports-utility dog. Today, I utilized my dog's sporting skills when I took Popcorn, our 9-month-old lab/pointer mix, for her first long run with me.

Growing up, my dad and I would take our dog, Pepper, running in the forest preserve. He was never on a leash but always followed along pretty well. It helped that the woods by our house included a long trail on which you could run two miles or so without even coming close to a street. Pepper loved going running with us. He would sometimes run ahead, sniff around, then sprint back. We could never get him to drink from the forest preserve pumps, so we would have to take him home right away so he could get some water (especially on hot days; Pepper was a shaggy black dog).

One of the things we have been looking forward to with Popcorn was taking her running. When reading a description of her mix, we saw that lab/pointers enjoy amazing endurance and can run up to 20 miles with their owners. I'm not expecting to run 20 with her soon, but five (when I'm back in shape) would be nice. Today, on a gorgeous almost-spring day, I took her to Liberty Park to run two. This park and its running trail is bordered by a couple busy streets and requires leashes, so I had her on a line the whole time.

I'm happy to report, the first long run with Popcorn was moderately successful. For the first couple hundred yards, she wanted to play, jumping up and trying to grab the leash in her teeth as I ran. She eventually stopped that and mostly kept the pace I was at running. A few times, she got distracted by something and stopped, but started up again when the leash yanked her along (not hard -- I wasn't running fast). She did get in my way twice and I almost tripped over her. But for the most part, she ran, occasionally picking up a wood chip of the trail to chew, then spitting it out and finding another. We only had to stop twice: once for water, and once for poop (hers, not mine).

The water stop was interesting. The corner of Liberty Park is above a spring that bubbles through a water fountain. Next to it is a small spigot that dribbles into a bowl specifically for dogs. We approached the spring and I knew Popcorn was thirsty, so we stopped, but she didn't know what to make of the running water. She put her nose near it but wouldn't drink, reminding me of when Pepper wouldn't drink from the forest preserve wells. On our second time around the 1.5-mile trail, after we were done running, Popcorn drank. She saw another dog drinking from the bowl, and maybe that gave her confidence she could as well, or maybe she was just thirsty.

Afterward, we went to a Jimmy John's drive-thru. I bought lunch and returned to the park, finding a quiet spot where I could eat and Popcorn could relax. I turned on the Cubs preseason game on my phone and enjoyed the sunny day for a few more minutes. The first run with the dog wasn't perfect, but it was better than I expected. More runs with her are sure to follow.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Monopolizing the conversation

My favorite board game growing up was Monopoly. I liked it so much that I own a Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, iPod and Android version of it. I am such a purist that I refuse to buy any of the gazillion of Monopoly variations (does anyone really need a Spongebob Monopoly game?). I played the game so much with my neighbor George that I can tell you instantly how much rent costs on each property or what you've landed as soon as the dice are rolled, before you even start moving. That last Monopoly trait is what drives Lori nuts, and why she has refused to play the game since 1995.

Last week, Ben and I were picking Michael up from a friend's house, and there was Monopoly on the floor, where the kids had been playing it. Ben sat down, moved all the pieces to Go, and started rolling the dice. He had tried the Monopoly on my phone, perhaps without fully understanding it, and he loves board games, so I thought we would try playing Monopoly that weekend. Lori was out of in bed early after returning from a long business trip, so it was just the boys and I. I dug out the old game we bought while still living in Milwaukee and, if memory serves me right, only played once. The pieces were still rather shiny, and the money crisp.

The result? Ben won. In fact, Ben won with minimal help, crushing Michael and me. I did suggest he buy houses and hotels at certain times, but mostly, his victory was him and lucky dice rolls. At one point, he had this giant pile of money in front of him, then dropped a $1 bill and moaned that he was losing a dollar, which made me chuckle and struck Michael as downright hysterical. Michael went bankrupt, and after Ben took over his brother's deeds, he built up the orange properties (St. James, Tennessee and New York). I promptly landed on New York, and Ben read the deed for how much rent for a hotel was worth and declared, "One million dollars!" He was only off by $999,000 (and obviously hasn't quite got the concept of numbers past three digits down). It didn't matter -- I was broke, too.

Tonight, Ben wanted to play "Nomopoly" again. He cutely has had trouble pronouncing the word correctly the last few days. Lori agreed, and Michael, who I'm sensing is disliking the game as much as Lori does, begrudgingly played as well. The result? Ben won again. I was suggesting trades, but not so much for me to get an advantage, but to get us all one complete set of properties (Ben got the light blues). But Lori gave him a little nudge (and to quicken the game a little) when she traded him Park Place. Ben then proceeded to land on Free Parking, pick up a big pot and build up Park Place and Boardwalk. First, Michael went bankrupt, and he wasn't sad about it. Then Lori and I, who had been building up our own properties (I had the purples and yellows, she had the maroons), kept landing on Park Place. Game over.

Occasionally, Ben would say "Ka-ching!" when he collected money. And he started pronouncing "Monopoly" correctly. He had ceased being cute. He is now simply a ruthless 5-year-old.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Talkin' 'bout the car wash

With temperatures blissfully climbing to 60 yesterday, Lori had a task for the boys and me: Get the cars cleaned out and washed. And not at the full-service car wash that costs $18 and you don't lift a finger, but rather at a self-serve car wash where you do all the vacuuming, soaping, rinsing and waxing. I was a little resistant to do this with the boys. Would they argue over who gets the vacuum first? Would they want to help me clean out all the garbage under the seats (and oh, was there ever a lot of garbage under the seats, including Pull-Ups, which Ben hasn't worn in two years)? Would they fight on who got to use the soap brush in the washing bay? At a full-serve car wash, the boys get to watch the whole process. Yesterday, they were going to be part of the whole process.

Lori got this one right: Having the boys help was fun. They did a good job, too, though Michael needs to understand that when he's wiping down a surface, he needs to wipe down the whole surface and not just drag the wipe across once. They did haggle a little over the soap brush, and I wasn't about to let Ben try the power washer (I did let Michael on our second car, for with Ben didn't come which), but I might make the car wash adventure a family thing from now on.