Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Decembrist

I have songs for almost every month. Songs that I hear and take me back to a very specific time of the year. Songs that I play in my iPod when I'm walking outside and feel like going back.

I have January songs (e.g., "Jump" by Van Halen). March -- "Mr. Roboto" -- and April -- "While You See a Chance" by Steve Winwood. Not just '80s songs either: September harkens "Rush" by Big Audio Dynamite II and "One Week" by Barenaked Ladies. I have a hunch the recent "Safe and Sound" will be an October song for years to come.

But here's the odd thing: I don't have December songs. Any hits of Decembers past seem to meld into the memory of the winter afterward or the November before. In today's day and age, I could blame it on the nonstop bombardment of Christmas music on the radio, but in the '80s, when holiday songs weren't as prevalent, I know I was listening to Top 40 in December.

So I'm puzzled that I don't have songs for this month.And as I was trying to get away from Christmas music this month, I was a little befuddled where to turn to for some nostalgia. I'll hit the January and February songs after Jan. 1. But I didn't want to burn myself out on those playlists too soon. Hence, the confusion, and the realization I have no December songs.

This week, I'm back to listening to the Big 89 countdowns I've compiled into playlists. It fits. Later in the week, the Winter 1977-78 playlist on my new iPod (best Christmas present ever!) beckons.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 25, Eve

This has been the craziest December of my life. That's saying something, considering Michael was born in a December and we traveled to Texas last December.

Life has been so busy. So has work. Then the weather turned cold and polluted for two weeks. Then I caught a bad cold, exacerbated by the inversion-fueled smog, that I still haven't shaken. And here we are: Dec. 24. We never got Christmas lights up outside. We got all the shopping done (thankfully, most of it was completed earlier in the month), but that kind of kept us from taking in the holiday vibe in the city (the smog and illness did, too). This morning, Lori woke up to discover a gutter hanging off the front of the house.

Yet, I'm still feeling festive enough. The Christmas Eve family Mass at church this afternoon was nice. All the presents are wrapped and ready to be opened, and I'm typing with a view of our Christmas tree all lit up and "A Christmas Story" on the TV. I had been listening to holiday music all month long and thoroughly enjoyed singing "Angels We Have Heard on High" at church today. The repairmen fixed the hanging gutter, Santa's milk and cookies have been consumed, and except for the fact all four of us are coughing, today turned out to be a good day.

And then the nostalgia creeps in ...

Ben is 7 this Christmas. When I was 7, it was our first Christmas on Rascher Avenue. I think I got the electronic game Simon as a present as well as Super Jock Football and Super Toe Soccer. We had Christmas Eve at our house and spent Christmas Day by my Grandma Elsie's house.

Michael is 10 this Christmas. When I was 10, I got the electronic version of Space Invaders and the board game Risk (I think I might have got my first Dungeons and Dragons set this year as well). On Dec. 26, I went by my friend Chris's house, which seemed to be the gathering place for a bunch of us to show off what we got for Christmas. A few of us got Space Invaders ...

I'm clearing off space on the camcorder to videotape tomorrow morning's proceedings. The presents might be loved and might be eventually forgotten. The holiday memories should last forever.




Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanks-fulness

Ben started Thanksgiving running. He didn't tire out until almost 10 p.m. Some of us didn't last that long.

Our Thanksgiving began with an informal 5K one of Lori's co-workers who is also a personal trainer was hosting. Two laps around Liberty Park, actually 3 miles instead of 5K. She said go, and Ben took off. Having not run since March (before my busted disk got bad), I was expecting to walk most of this. But someone had to keep up with the bouncy 7-year-old and make sure the bouncy dog got her exercise too. Lori and Michael hung back and I tried keeping up as best I could. We went through 1.5 miles in 17 minutes, and that was after we stopped for a minute so the youthful mammals could get a drink of water. The second lap was slower -- Ben was getting tired and walked more, and he had to stop to pee once -- but we came in at 38 minutes.

The rest of the day was a time to relax. OK, Lori cooked, but she never got overwrought about it. We had invites from friends for Thanksgiving, but this year, after several busy weeks, we decided to stay at home, just the four of us. We watched football and played board games. I napped. The dog slept all day after getting more exercise than she had in a while (she loved her 3-mile run, but it exhausted her). We ate Lori's delicious Thanksgiving meal. I found two Christmas presents online at Black Friday prices, eliminating any temptation (trust me, there was none) to go to Walmart tonight to get them.

This Thanksgiving was great. I am thankful. Tomorrow, I'm sure my legs are going to be sore ...

Monday, November 18, 2013

The sound and the fury

I grew up in a generally good neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago. Not much crime, a big park nearby, close to shopping districts and, perhaps most importantly, we weren't in the suburbs. Granted, my neighborhood was almost surrounded by suburbs, but it was still the city and still had a bit of a Chicago vibe to it.

My old neighborhood did have on drawback, however: noise. At night, I could hear airplanes flying over (our house was smack dab between two runway paths, one two blocks south, the other three north), cars from the Kennedy Expressway (if not the busy street a half-block away), the L train in the middle of the expressway, and the Metra and freight trains on the Northwest Line a couple hours away. All this noise didn't really keep me awake or was a distraction -- it was almost ambient. I would sleep with my window open during the summer and hear the night.

Planes don't fly over our Salt Lake City house. Sometimes if it's quiet enough, I can hear freight trains honking from about 4 miles away. But tonight, while throwing a tennis ball to Popcorn on this crisp November evening, I noticed something I guess I'm so used to -- both growing up and living here -- that I don't often catch: I could here cars and trucks whizzing by on Interstate 80, a little less than a mile from our house. The sound wasn't individual vehicles, but rather, a steady drone of engines.

I don't know why I noticed this tonight and not other nights. I didn't put headphones on when I with the dog, and perhaps the 40-degree air helped amplify the sound (airplanes flying over in Chicago are much louder when it's below freezing). Yet there it was -- the sound of transportation, the sound of the night, the sound of the city.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Speedskating Saturday

We are in a about a five-week stretch on which we have no sports on Saturdays. Soccer ended two weeks ago, and Michael's Saturday basketball games don't start for another month. So what did we do today? Attended a sporting event, of course.

A World Cup speedskating event is taking place at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns -- the same oval the speedskating events were held on during the 2002 Games. Admission was dirt cheap, and the boys were interested, especially after trying ice skating for the first time last Saturday. We arrived a little late but still got to see three whole events, including the men's 1,000 meters that American Shani Davis won. The atmosphere was relaxed yet still fun; fans cheered for all the athletes, there was entertainment between events while the Zambonis repaved the ice, and the action on the oval was easy to follow and understand.

Utah is hosting more winter sports events in the next couple months, including the U.S. Olympic speedskating trials, bobsled/luge/skeleton races and the Olympic ski jumping trials. We discussed maybe trying to see the ski jumping trials -- the sport was one Lori and I saw during the 2002 Olympics. My little fear, especially with the Winter Olympics coming up and us being so close to facilities and programs, is that one of the boys sees something and wants to try it, even just casually. I have this image in my mind of Michael wanting to skeleton, which is head-first luge. I know, it probably wouldn't happen, but I'm happy that we live in a place that the boys can watch the Winter Olympics and we can see some of the same sports live.

As we left the Oval, the air was cold and the skies cloudy. I could see snow on the mountains, probably about 7,000 feet up. The original structure designating the Oval as an Olympic venue still stands. I couldn't help but feel like it was 2002 again and Lori and I were at an Olympic event. The Games may never get back to Utah, but at least for one afternoon, the boys got to share a little bit of our memory of that winter.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Building a list

I had a free and clear Thursday today, and I took some of the time to straighten out the garage.

About once a year, maybe 18 months, I need to rearrange the garage. Bikes, scooters, sports equipment, holiday decorations -- all these things take over the floor space of the garage (we don't keep the car in there) over time. This time, it was bad enough that getting to the Christmas lights would be like a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." So after a little more lazing than I would have liked, I started pulling much of the clutter out and reorganizing it. The shovels and rock salt are now outside, ready for winter, and the Christmas decorations are now accessible (I'm not putting anything up until December).

As I was reorganizing, I started seeing and thinking about all the projects, big and small, I want to get done. The electronic dartboard I got for $20 at Sam's Club long ago that I want to hang up in the patio. The bushes that could use some pruning. The zipper on the baseball bag that has been broken for a year. The basement closets that haven't been touched in years. Things that we say we'll get to and never quite do.

So, I'm coming up with a list: "Looking for Something to Do?" On it, I'm placing the tasks I keep putting off. The big ones might take some time. Even the little ones might take some time. But at least when I'm wondering what I should do with a free afternoon, I can look to the list for some ideas.

The first task for the checklist is creating the checklist. Hopefully, I don't put that off until next year ...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The little gridiron

Tonight was Michael's last flag football game of the season. His team, after playing decent defense all season, somehow fell asleep tonight and lost. Still, it was a real low-key league to begin with, and the goal was of course have fun.

I think Michael had fun playing flag football, but I'm not totally sure. The players were almost all from his school but a year older, and they seemed to pass to each other a lot. These boys play at school during recesses, but Michael never tries to join in. I don't think he's intimidated, but he is a little shy, plus most of his good school friends aren't much into sports. Given the choice, he hangs out with his peeps, which is fine -- he gets enough sports outside of school. -- but I think he would have felt more comfortable if he got to know his teammates outside of practice and games. Indeed, his best friend on the team was a third-grader -- the only non-fifth grader on the team -- who was in his 1/2 class a couple years ago.

That said, Michael was enthusiastic to play and said he would play again. We'll never let him play tackle football, so this is a good outlet to get him some gridiron. I hoped it would get him understanding the game a little more as well. He made a few good plays on defense during the season, but there were times he looked, well, bored. Maybe unfocused? For example, the team would be ready to start the play, and instead of getting at least a little bit set, he'd be playing with his flags (I'd yell out for him to be ready). That's why basketball and soccer are better sports for him -- he has no time to let his mind wander.

Basketball did start this week for him, and he's way excited to be playing again. After a fall of three sports, we're back to one. OK, he's in two leagues, but you get the idea ...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Slow motion Thursday

I didn't drink even one beer for my birthday Wednesday. Yet somehow, Thursday felt like I had a birthday hangover.

No, I didn't have a headache (and can I just say, I so do not miss hangovers) today, but rather, just felt slow all day. I went to the dentist in the morning, dropped off a prescription and Costco and grabbed a quick sandwich at Jimmy John's, and then came home, ready to be productive. But aside from some freelance work, I was mostly a blog for a few hours this afternoon.

The boys came home from school, I drove them to the JCC for Ben's swim practice and to let Michael shoot around (he's so excited for basketball season), we picked up pizzas from Papa Murphy's, came home and ate dinner, and played Kaijudo (a collectible card game Ben has discovered) with the boys and watched football. And then ... a few more hours of blob, watching TV and otherwise not being productive again. I decided against taking the dog for a long walk and instead just took her around the block. Finally, after 11, I settled in with my laptop to work some more. This blog post will conclude the night, as is the cup of tea I'm drinking.

These blah days sometimes drive me up the wall. Sometimes I think I need them, and sometimes I wonder why I'm so tired. I'm hoping Friday will be more productive. In the meantime, the load of laundry I did manage to start this afternoon is still sitting in the washing machine. It can wait until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

43*

I settled on 43 as my favorite number way back in high school. I had like a girl who lived in Chicago's north suburbs, and being an obsessed, dorky teenager, I'd look at a map to chart the course to her town. The route involved Harlem Avenue and Waukegan Road -- Illinois Highway 43. Somehow, the number stuck long after I gave up on any chance with the girl. Six years ago when I started this blog, I named it "The 43" to reflect the favorite number.

Today, I turned 43 years old. The age finally caught up with the number after 20-something years. My birthday was good. The boys woke me up early; I ate chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, met Lori at Tonyburger for lunch, co-oped in Michael's class today, made quesadillas for dinner, substitute coached Michael's flag football game in the evening, and took the dog on a walk. The day was kind of gray, which I'm used to for a Nov. 6 birthday.

I've been still on a break with the blog over the last month. The break hasn't been out of not being inspired, but more just being in neutral. The funny thing is: I haven't minded the neutral so much. Maybe I needed it these past two months, which have been good but so, so busy.

On this, my 43rd birthday, I'm going to try switching gears with The 43. If there was a time frame to make this the best year of writing, why not the year I'm the age of my favorite number? Day 1 of 43 is in the books. I'm not in a hurry to get to Day 365.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The golden age of television

There's always this goal: Find more time to write, perhaps by watching less TV. And for the summer, that works well. Then late September comes, the new seasons kick in ... and I find myself in front of the television more than I should.

I really like to think I don't watch that much TV. Right now, the only things I have DVR'd are "The Big Bang Theory," "How I Met Your Mother," "The Mentalist," "Modern Family,"The Amazing Race" and "The League." I'm hanging on to "How I Met Your Mother" just to get through this last season, and "The League" is a short season and will end in November. Unfortunately, all six are going at once, and it's a lot of extra hours during a time when I don't really have it.

Beyond that, I had taken the first season of "The Wire" out of the library a couple weeks ago. It's really good, and I went to reserve the second season, thinking it would take some time before it was available. Surprisingly, it was available right away, and now I'm hooked into that.

In the meantime, I'll try multitasking while watch these shows. I reserved the second season of "Homeland" from the library, and fortunately, I'm 111th on the waiting list. It can wait.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

It's not easy being coach

I'm coaching both Michael and Ben's soccer teams again this year. I was going to back out of Michael's team but was convinced by some of the parents to stay on. And honestly, coaching both teams isn't so bad. Administratively, it has been easier than last year -- we got enough kids on both teams and the parents have been quite supportive, so I'm not scrambling with rosters and emails. And really, it's two consecutive hours one day a week for practice, and two Saturday games I would attend even if I wasn't coaching.

Michael's team is 0-1-3 so far, but we are playing far better than last year, and we have a lot of room for improvement. And, thankfully, we have enough players. We could easily be 3-1-0, but we the first game we started slow, the second we pooped out in the last minute and allowed the tying goal, and the fourth we had two defensive meltdowns, one of which included one of defenders trying to kick the ball and whiffing, allowing the other team to collect the ball and take an easy shot.

Ben's team has been more of a struggle with a 1-3 record. Though we lost one of our best players from last year, we picked up one just as good, but we seem daunted by the bigger field the kids moved up to. And we're small but seem to be playing humongous teams. Plus, I can't seem to coach them out of the idea that they all don't have to go for the ball at once -- they weren't even this crammed up when they were preschoolers.

As someone who has never played soccer competitively, I always feel a little overwhelmed when I coach, especially at U10 and U8 with goalkeepers and offsides in play. I like to think I'm getting better and can explain things more, but then I see the kids all swarming for the ball or playing way out of position and wonder if I'm really improving. But the biggest struggle, especially with Ben's team, is a hell of a lot of goofing off. In the last three practices, I sent four kids to spend a few minutes with their parents because they were being repeatedly disrespectful while I was trying to talk. I almost threw a ball at Michael's head last week after he joined in the goofiness (and the sight of him or Ben being disrespectful toward me sets me off even more -- the other kids are going take their cues how to act toward me from them).

I have never gotten angry with a player for not making a play. Frustrated yet, but not pissed. But I've almost had it with the disrespect. Even telling them that we will keep losing if we don't practice well doesn't seem to have an effect. I'd love to show them where they should be stationed while playing a position, but it seems that I'm losing too much time just telling them to sit down and stop goofing off so I can try to teach.

Parents have commended me for my patience, so I guess I haven't lost my marbles yet. Still, I am feeling more like a cop than a coach. The last time I felt this way a few years ago, I stopped coaching Michael's team. I really enjoy coaching these kids -- and they generally are really good kids. I'm hoping the timeouts will have the desired effect -- goof off and you won't play. I sent one of the second-graders off with his mom and he so didn't like it. That's good, because maybe, he's learning.

A timeout

I have not updated this blog in a month. But I've been writing a lot.

September was my busiest month of freelancing yet. Besides ghostwriting a crazy amount of blog posts for other websites, I was editing as well. Add in the fact that my hours at work were increased, and the last 30 days were crazy busy.

Unfortunately, this is an excuse for me not to write for myself. September is always a tiring month; this was even more so. My priority was the contract work. I'm approaching October as if it's still a priority, but with a twist: I update this blog and undertake any other non-work writing first, then do the freelance stuff. I won't blow off the contract work, so if I write here first, I'll in theory still get the other writing done.

The queue on the website where I get assigned jobs is empty. It's not going to stay that way for long, but for now, I'm happy for the break. Time to get rolling again.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 103

Back to school today, and I co-oped Ben's class in the afternoon. The school was so warm, even with air conditioning; recess was so hot and humid, even with clouds rolling in. I'm not going to mind when temperatures drop back into the 80s.

Co-oping went well, which was in contrast to my freelance work, which frustrated me today. I'm feeling better about it tonight, and I'm out on the porch doing a fantasy football mock auction and enjoying the cooler weather. Summer is almost toast.

Summer 2013, Day 103

Labor Day. And you know what, I labored today, freelance writing to give myself a little cushion this week.

The weather was hot and humid again today, which got a little annoying at the Salt Lake Bees game this afternoon. We had great seats -- 11 rows behind the plate -- but didn't quite get into the shade until about the eighth inning. We enjoyed the game, even though the Bees lost to the Reno Aces 17-7.

We grilled steaks for dinner, and I took Popcorn for a walk. And I earned money by writing. Labor Day.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Summer 2013, days 97-102

Six days without blogging. Six days without any non-work writing at all. An eventful six days.

I did my first two co-ops of the year Tuesday and Wednesday. Ben is having so much fun at school already and has made a good new friend. Michael is stressed about reading but is happy to be back with his friends.

I conducted our first soccer practice Tuesday, combining the two teams into one workout. I tried an unofficial practice like this back in the spring and didn't get many kids. Tuesday, we got 17. That makes me optimistic for the season. I picked up all the uniforms for the season and got practice times on Thursday.

Wednesday, we went to the waterpark one last time. We met one of Ben's soccer friends and his family there. The day was so hot, so the waterpark was welcome relief (although the wave pool felt like bath water, but the one pool that is usually freezing wasn't as cold). Barely a crowd, either -- I love the waterpark after school for just this reason. We left about 7:30 and came home to dinner Lori made us.

My first fantasy football draft of the season was Thursday, and I was happy with my team. Michael's baseball team won Friday 14-5. I worked Saturday night and Sunday night, and got a lot of freelancing done in the meantime.

Just a few summer days left. Almost there ...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer 2013, days 95-96

Today was cloudy. I wanted to take the boys to the waterpark tonight after school, but we had clouds. Yesterday wasn't as bad, but these two days are just a reminder that summer is winding down.

I've turned my attention to fantasy football, with a draft coming up Thursday. I haven't afforded my preparations the usual attention I do every August, so I'm playing catchup.

I've also been focusing on the boys' soccer seasons. I'm coaching both teams again and am looking forward to the year.

Sunday, I took the dog on a hike and worked. Today, I worked a little bit, walked the dogs twice, bought and installed a new toilet seat, and took the boys to the JCC, where Ben resumed swim workouts and Michael and I played basketball for a while.

Yep, the wind-down is in progress. I'm mostly resigned to it. It's OK.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 94

Today we got the kind of the summer thunderstorm I always associate with August in Utah. Michael and I had gone to the park where he plays baseball -- the league was silk-screening the kids names onto their jerseys -- and a big storm, after teasing us all week, finally downpoured. Michael, who had been catching flyballs with the other kids while I took Popcorn to the dog area, and I tried to brave it out but finally left after we got the jersey.

That was pretty much the highlight of a mostly lazy Saturday after the busy first week of school. I bought a case for my new phone; Lori went to Trader Joe's; Ben and Michael hung out with their friends. I have a lot on tap the next few days, so one lazy day was good.

Summer 2013, days 89-93

Another lull in posting, but only after another busy week.

School started for the boys Wednesday, and already, we are believing it will be a good year. Michael's teacher brings so much energy to the class, and Michael is happy to be in the same class with two of his best friends. He said that his days so far this week were just average; I'm guessing he's not exactly thrilled to be back in school. But he's had no real complaints yet. We'll see how he likes it next week when the class gets past its welcome-back-to-school phase and gets down to a routine of learning.

Ben had a fantastic week.He's a second-grader in a combined 1/2 class with a lot of new kids, and he is enthusiastically taking to his role as an older, wiser student. On his first day, he was happy because there were no mean kids in his class. I'm hoping the dynamic of his class, which was so mean last year, is different and he can continue having "awesome" days, as he told me.

Monday and Tuesday were spent preparing for school -- shopping, cleaning, resting. We didn't do anything Tuesday so that the boys could hang out with their friends who aren't classmates one last time. Michael had his first fall baseball game Friday night (he struggled, striking out twice, but his team won 14-7). I ran all over the place Friday, including getting Lori and me new phones (mine was dying a slow, painful death). We've had a lot of clouds all week but oddly not too much rain. It's like the skies know fall is coming and aren't sure how to react.

Three days of school down, 177 to go. I'm hoping they are as good as the first three.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer 2013, days 73-88

This blog came to a screeching halt the past two weeks.

Luckily, nothing catastrophic caused this hiatus. I got my wish: The last few weeks of summer have been jam packed.

Some of the craziness has been work. I'm getting as much freelancing as I unintentionally did during vacation. I'm not complaining -- the work has been challenging and productive, and it will be a means to achieve the other goals I've been trying to reach for a while.

But much of the hiatus is a result of cramming a lot into these last two weeks. We took a little trip to a lake in remote Utah, went to the pool and waterpark often, saw a couple concerts, and prepared for the coming school year. The boys have hung out with their friends. Before I knew it, two weeks have passed and I hadn't blogged.

Admittedly, the freelance writing has sapped some of my energy to otherwise blog. If I'm with my laptop, I feel the need to work and succeed with the contract jobs. I have deadlines I must keep, and I want to get ahead of those deadlines rather than scramble to make them. I need to find a balance with the freelancing because I only want to write more in the coming months. I shouldn't be using my writing jobs interfere with my passion for writing.

School starts for the boys Wednesday, and the routine will change. I hate to say I'm looking forward to summer ending, but I'm ready to get everything on track. And though I think this summer went way too fast, at least I know that the boys had a great time, and that we did indeed cram a lot in not just these past two weeks, but the last 10 weeks. I hope I never forget that fact, or forget this summer.

I'm going to try to catch up with the highlights of the past two weeks in some form, but for now, I'm going to talk about Day 88. We saw Michael Franti today at Red Butte Garden. Lori dropped me off to wait in line at about 1, and surprisingly, the afternoon went rather quickly. I found a decent spot on the lawn once I got inside the venue, and Lori and the boys found me and brought dinner.

The concert, just like last year, was great. Ben had a blast again, the spot we were in was just about perfect in that we didn't have to pick him up as much. Michael ... was Michael: He doesn't get into concerts like his brother does. The band played for a long time, but it still seemed too short. The concert finally ended and we went home, singing through the parking lot back to our car.

We aren't making it to Lagoon this summer, so this concert was kind of our sendoff to the season before school starts.The summer has treated us well.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Summer 2013, days 71-72

Today was our 16th anniversary, and we celebrated by taking the boys to The Olive Garden for dinner. So nothing too big, but a nice family meal at what might be their favorite sit-down restaurant. August 2 is not only a reminder of the day Lori and I got married, but also a reminder that summer is ticking down.

Thursday was good, though busy. We needed to take the car back to the mechanic, and Michael had a playdate in the afternoon. I felt bad for Ben, so we went to lunch at The Habit. Both boys had swim practice later in the afternoon, and one splashed while the other swam and vice versa. The water was a little cold but was a relief from the heat (despite clouds that rolled in).

Today, the boys had practice this morning, then we went to Costco and Target in the afternoon. After our anniversary dinner, we went to Barnes and Noble, then came home, where Ben beat me in Monopoly.

Only 19 days before school begins for the boys. Tick, tick, tick ...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer 2013, days 69-70

Tuesday was Lori's birthday, and I must admit, I kind of half-assed it. As a family, we are usually not all in Salt Lake City on July 30, and I think that threw me off on what to do for her special day. We did buy her a present and made her cards, and we went to Blue Plate Diner for dinner, then came home and ate cake and played a couple board games. The rest of the day included some freelance work for me, taking the car into the mechanic for it's safety/emission inspection, and a lot of Wii playing for Ben.

Today, the boys were clearly restless. Their neighborhood friends weren't home, so I arranged with another mom for two of their friends -- boys the same ages and Michael and Ben -- to come over for a couple hours. This helped them not go so stir crazy, especially on a hot day. We got the windshield in our Outback fixed, I made pasta for dinner, and I took the dog for a hike before sunset. I'm on the porch currently, ready to do some more work after I finish typing this.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 68

The post-vacation recovery continued today. I managed to get the suitcases unpacked and grill burgers for dinner, but I was tired all day. The boys had swim practice and were generally tired all day too, and none of their friends was home. So they kind of vegged out today as well -- the sometimes gray skies didn't help. We played Ticket to Ride and Word on the Street after dinner, which was fun, and I took Popcorn for a walk. I'm setting up playdates for them this week, chalking today up as a tired Monday.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 67

Today was the typical first day back from vacation. The unopened suitcases taunted us to empty them and remind us that vacation ended (I managed to unload one). The house didn't have much food, so Lori went grocery shopping. The post-vacation fatigue set in, even after getting a good nine hours sleep on my own mattress.

I did work some today, getting two freelance writing assignments completed. The boys played with the friends they hadn't seen in almost two weeks. A late storm has delayed my walk with Popcorn; I'm hoping to get her outside after I finish up this post, then get to bed relatively early again.

Twenty-three days before the boys begin school, about five weeks of my summer left. Let the Utah fun resume!

Summer 2013, Day 66; Vacation, Day 12

Vacation ended today. Where it went, I don't know.

The longest trip we've taken back to the Midwest is 14 days, so this wasn't much shorter. This one just flew by more so than any other. Zoom. That said, it's good to be home.

We weren't flying out until the late afternoon, so the hope was we could do something before then. My dad wanted to take the boys and his dog to the lake again, but a steady rain dampened that plan. So after I returned the rental car and walked home, we just hung out at my dad's house for the rest of the day, packing, eating Taco Burrito King for lunch, and watching Ben win another game of Ticket to Ride against his relatives. Lori and I sat on the covered porch and watched the Chicago rain one last time before leaving the Midwest.

Our flight home was smooth, and the cat and dog were happy to see us. I picked up and cooked Papa Murphy's pizzas for dinner. We were all tired -- I was asleep by 10:30 p.m. MDT.

Until the next vacation ...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 65; Vacation, Day 11

If my posts from this vacation seem unusually short and nondescript, it's because I haven't written one on the actual day. I haven't had the will to write much this trip, so tonight, I finally caught up with some basic details of each day. Tonight, I can at last write about the past day.

First, I should write something about this vacation. It's been fun but tiring and stressful. I got hit with so much freelance work that dominated my thinking and what should have been leisure time that I feel like I barely had time to enjoy the trip. As a freelancer, I know I'm bound to do a little work on my trip, but I wasn't really prepared for the volume of work that I got. Two new blogs that I'm ghost-writing started up, and I was given back a white paper to make a few revisions. One of the new blogs and the white paper were challenging and took a lot of time. Add two posts for a previous blog I had been doing, and by the end of the night, I wasn't in the mood to write.

Getting all this work at once was just bad luck and timing, and as I try to cement my standing as a freelancer, I didn't feel like I could turn it down. And hell, all this work pretty much will pay for the vacation. Still, I'm here near the end of the trip just exhausted, mentally and physically. What I have to remember is that the boys have had so much fun on this trip, especially with their extended family who they only get to see once a year. My fatigue might be a bummer, but it was worth it if we created memories for Michael and Ben. Besides, we may take another trip in October that will be just the four of us, and I can emphasize that I don't want anything with a quick turnaround assigned to me that week.

OK, so today, the last full day of our trip. I slept late and ... worked on another blog post. It rained hard off and on all day, limiting the plans my dad had with the boys (he was going to take them back to the dog beach). We played Ticket to Ride in the afternoon and Ben dominated. I mailed a package back to Salt Lake City. I was antsy afterward, so I went for a drive, going to an old haunt -- Oriole Park -- to take some pictures and suck in the nostalgia (more on this in another post). My father had invited some of the extended relatives over, and we ate dinner and caught up with them. I finished my night by going for a long walk and sitting on the porch blogging.

We go home tomorrow, and though I'm sad this trip went so fast and I didn't get to enjoy it as much as I wished I could, I will be happy to get on with life in Utah. I'll miss Chicago as I always do when we visit, but I'm ready to be home.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 64; Vacation, Day 10

We returned to Chicago today. Lori and her sister hung out in the morning, while I worked and got us ready for the trip home. We left mid-afternoon, stopped in Madison for dinner, and made it back to Chicago by 9 p.m. The boys were excited to be back, and we played one game of Ticket to Ride and let them stay up late to finish.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 63; Vacation, Day 9

Today was much lower key than yesterday. We took the boys to a aquatic center/pool in Weston. They had fun, but the water was cold and the temperature wasn't exactly that warm, so I wasn't in the water much and only went on one water slide (plus, I wasn't in the greatest mood). We went to dinner in Merrill, and Ben and I looked for bats outside at dusk. I went for a long walk after everyone went to bed.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 62; Vacation, Day 8

We jaunted into the north woods today, going to Three Lakes to meet up with Lori's parents and go to lunch. The boys, my niece Stevie, my father-in-law and me went to a beach on Maple Lake in town, but the weather had turned overnight and it was too cool to go in the water. Michael and Ben nevertheless played in the sand, and then in the adjoining park.

Lori and her mom were doing some research at the Three Lakes library, and we met them there for an hour. Ben, my father-in-law and I played the library's copy of Wits and Wagers Family, which was fun. From the library, we went to another park in town, then to my in-laws' neighbor, who is in her 90s and was thrilled to be able to see the boys and be able to entertain (making coffee for the other grownups and pouring milk for the kids). Ben and I explored outside for a little while and tried catching grasshoppers.

Eventually, we drove back to Merrill for dinner (spaghetti and garlic bread) and taught Ticket to Ride to my sister-in-law's family. We were exhausted by the end of the day.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 61; Vacation, Day 7

Today, the boys and I joined Lori in Wisconsin. My father took Michael, Ben and Moose to the dog beach on Lake Michigan while I got us ready for our drive north. We got on the road a little later than I had hoped but reached a park in Wauwatosa where I met my friend Lisa and her kids (the same ages as mine) for a couple hours.

Afterward, we picked up Lori from her hotel in downtown Milwaukee and drove to Kopp's for dinner. The double cheeseburger, onion rings and Blue Moon Oreo custard were delicious. It took about three hours afterward to get to Lori's sister in Merrill. We were treated to some gorgeous partly cloudy skies intertwined with the sunset as we headed north and west.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 60; Vacation, Day 6

We took Lori to the Glenview train station early this morning. Her company's annual meeting begins in Milwaukee, and she took the Amtrak north -- we will meet her tomorrow on our way to northern Wisconsin. Michael was sad after she left, so I took both boys to Walmart to get them White Sox t-shirts. I had promised to buy  Ben one after he had to give his jersey back after baseball season. After returning home, I found White Sox tickets on StubHub, and our afternoon was set.

The Cubs are not in town all trip, so I thought it would be fun to see the other Chicago team, my allegiance to the North Siders be damned. I wanted to spend more time at U.S. Cellular Field than we did, but we hit a lot of traffic on the way to the stadium. When we finally made it into the ballpark, I bought Michael and me new hats, and we sat down in some pretty decent seats I got far under face value for the game.

The White Sox defeated the Braves 3-1 in a game that went way too fast. After the third inning, I took the boys around the stadium, including the "Fundamentals" area where kids could try a hitting machine (Michael whiffed five times; the machine was set a little fast ...) and other fun baseball activities. I bought them ice cream in a mini White Sox helmet, and by the time we got back to our seats, it was almost the end of the sixth inning. We watched the rest of the game, including an impressive, leaping, home-run saving catch in the ninth, and got to witness the postgame fireworks characteristic of a White Sox game. We then fought an hour of traffic to get back to my dad's house.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 59; Vacation, Day 5

Lori and Susy went for a massage this morning, so I took the boys to see "Despicable Me 2." It wasn't as good as the first one but still cute, and the boys liked it. After lunch, we went to suburban Kenosha for a party with my high school friends. We haven't all gathered together with the families in a few years, and we caught up and let all the kids hang out for several hours.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 58; Vacation, Day 4

Today was sort of a split -- the boys with my dad and Susy, Lori and I on our own. They went to see "Shrek, the Musical" at Navy Pier, and we went for lunch at Smoque and did a little shopping at the HIP (Harlem-Irving Plaza for you non-Chicagoans). Today was quite hot, so being inside the cool mall wasn't so bad, even on vacation.

In the evening, we went to my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Howard's house for dinner. There, I was reunited with the Matchbox cars I had given to my cousins almost 30 years ago. I found ones I had fondly remembered, including Pink Jeep, Orange Station Wagon, Car Carrier Truck and Safari Pickup. I'm taking them home to Salt Lake and plan on displaying them in the man-cave.

A big thunderstorm passed through as we were driving home, cooling everything off. It's good to get one of these Midwestern storms every vacation just so I remember what they are like. It was a nice finish to a good day.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 57; Vacation, Day 3

Lori arrived in Chicago today, and I picked her up from the airport while the boys spent time with my dad. After our busy day yesterday, we didn't quite pack as much into today. We took the boys to the YMCA to get them some semblance of a swim workout, and they did do some laps, but mostly, they splashed around in the non-lap pool and shot baskets. I did swim with them for a little while on this very hot day, then we left for lunch, going to Superdawg, my absolute favorite hot dog place. We ate in the car with carhops bringing our food out. I got Lori in the afternoon, and we ate Thai food for dinner.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 56; Vacation, Day 2

Today was a pure Chicago day on vacation. It was great.

After sleeping sort of late this morning (we needed it), I got the rental car, then the boys and I took the L downtown. This was the first time for Ben on the subway and Michael doesn't remember his first time, so they were intrigued by the experience -- the train starts off in the middle of the expressway, goes underground, then becomes an elevated, and finally finishes as a subway downtown. On the L, I told the boys to look for water towers atop buildings and explained that the city used to be filled with such structures. We mostly saw the iron supports for the towers (now topped with cell phone antennae) but did find a couple in Bucktown.

We walked a few parks to Millennium Park and first ate the lunch we brought. The boys splashed in the Crown Fountain for at least a half an hour and were sufficiently cooled off in the humid Chicago summer day. We headed over to the Bean and took a lot of pictures there, then began the walk to the Sears Tower, now named the Willis Tower. We were warned it would take about an hour to get to the observation deck -- we weren't the only people thinking 103 floors above the city was a good way to beat the heat -- but the line didn't seem long, thanks to the interactive displays that kept patrons entertained (as well as a15-minute movie in that broke up the wait).

When we finally reached the top, the boys were enthralled by the views. Heck, I was enthralled by the views. I hadn't been up on the Sears Tower observation deck since high school -- in fact, the last time I went I was on my own, having to go downtown for a deposition for an accident I witnessed in 1985. That day, I stayed up there gazing at the city for an hour, not having to deal with much of a crowed. Today, we had to deal with crowds, and the boys weren't quite entranced about picking out parts of the city as I was. We got to go out on the glass ledge, on which Ben was brave and Michael and I were a little nervous. Finally, we took the elevator back down to work our way back home.

We made our way to Union Station to take the Metra train back to Edgebrook. I made a point to take the boys into the giant main chamber of the station before finding our train. We climbed to the stairs to the top of the train car and looked out the windows (green windows, Ben observed) at the city as we headed back to my dad's house. We ate dinner and played Ticket to Ride to conclude the busy day.

I hope the boys enjoyed their day downtown. I told them downtown Chicago is unique, much different than downtown Salt Lake City. They probably have never seen so many people on sidewalks, working in one small part of a city, striving to make it through the day and return home. They are probably not used to seeing so many different types of people, either. This is what vacation in Chicago is all about.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 55; Vacation, Day 1

Vacation is underway. Hurray!

Our day began at 4 a.m., when we woke up to get to the airport and checked in for our 6 a.m. flight. We didn't fly direct to Chicago, instead going through Minneapolis.The boys did well on the flight, and we ate breakfast in the airport between flights (nothing was open so early in SLC) at Friday's. The second flight went just as smoothly, and we flew over the lake and turned around to get into O'Hare (a route I always love so I can look out of my former home city). My father picked the boys and me up from the airport.

The rest of the day was mostly recovery from the early-morning departure. I wanted to nap for a few minutes and ended up conked out for a couple hours. Michael and I went to Target and picked up a pizza at Costco. The boys enjoyed spending time with my family, and we went for yogurt after dinner. The boys finally got to sleep, but I had to do a little work (I have a lot of freelance work to do this vacation). I'm glad we got here early today, though it was a long, tiring, fun first day of vacation.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer 2013, days 53-54

Vacation begins tomorrow, and the last two days have been a nonstop push to get ready for it.

My sister Jenny and her family arrived in Salt Lake City today. My brother-in-law is a musician who plays under the name Possessed by Paul James, and they are in the midst of their summer road trip.They drove in from Colorado and head to Idaho on Wednesday. The boys and I got to spend a few hours with them today, and Ben and his cousin Jonah (Ben is only two years older) loved hanging out together. They brought their dog, and Popcorn loved to meet her, though Lady might have been overwhelmed by Popcorn's enthusiasm.

The boys had a swim meet tonight on top of all this, and they did well. Ben turned in two personal bests (though he might have been DQ'd in the butterfly after doing three different kicks) and Michael got a PR in his backstroke. The end of the meet was canceled after lightning was spotted (it's storming right now outside), denying Michael one last race on the day.

Sunday was dedicated to packing and preparing the house for Jenny's visit. I'm typing this tonight with the knowledge that we are just about completely packed and ready to go early in the morning. Lori is flying out a couple days later and will drive us to the airport. We have an early flight, and though I will be tired in the morning, it's worth it to get vacation rolling.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 52

I'm somewhat tired tonight, so I'm not going to write too long. I tried getting the house ready for my sister's visit and vacation today, and yet didn't seem to get as far along as I would have liked. Ben had a birthday party in the late afternoon, and after we dropped him off, we took Michael to a picnic for his upcoming school class. He got to hang out with a couple friends, and I got the dog some exercise at the off-leash area of Lindsey Gardens. We watched "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" when we got home, and I watched a "Saturday Night Live" episode for the first time in a while. It's rainy and windy outside tonight, so I skipped any writing on the porch tonight. Almost time for bed.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 51

Vacation is coming, and we're already in transition mode.

Today, we cleaned the house a little, did some laundry, bought some snacks for the plane, got haircuts, and made other plans for our trip next week. The boys swam this morning, we went to Taco Bell's, Kohl's and the grocery store in the afternoon, I made easy gyros for dinner, we played Ticket to Ride after dinner, and I took Popcorn for a walk and got some freelance work done late tonight.

The day wasn't overwhelmingly fun, but it was productive. A few more of these before vacation. The trip will do us good.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer 2013, days 47-50

OK, this time, I have a good excuse for not blogging.

I just finished up a huge freelance project that had me a little stressed this week. Any free time I had to write was writing about healthcare background checks, not summer. Summer continued, just not any blogging.

The boys swam a meet Wednesday, with Ben breaking his freestyle best by a whopping five seconds.We went to the waterpark Tuesday morning. Michael had a playdate Monday with one of his best school friends who he hadn't seen in the month, and the friend's grandma, who watches him during the summer, called me the next day thanking me because her grandson had the most fun he'd had all summer.

And yes, I worked. With the project done, I can focus on vacation, just a few days away.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer 2013, days 43-46

Eek, I have not been a consistent blogger. Here's the big catch-up:

Thursday, July 4 -- The house blessedly cooled off the previous night. OK, not the whole house, but at least our bedroom, in which we had a fan in a window blowing cool air in. A surprise thunderstorm with a bizarre amount of lightning (I thought it was fireworks being blown off -- odd for 2:30 a.m.) rolled through and put an end to the heat. We were in a good mood the next morning for the holiday.

We went to the annual neighborhood parade, and the boys had fun hanging out with their friends. The rain held off the whole day, and we went to the pool later in the afternoon. The pool was surprisingly not that crowded, and we were able to find a shady spot. I grilled sliders, bratwurst, skewered veggies and pineapple for dinner. We walked down to Sugar House Park to see the fireworks, which seemed even shorter this year (only about 20 minutes; I swear in past years, it's been 40). We lit a few sparklers when we got home, then called it a day.

Friday, July 5 -- We got more bad news on the broken air conditioning: What the tech's thought was the problem and fixed wasn't the problem. We need a new motor on the AC unit, so we were in for another weekend without cooling. But temperatures had dropped into the high 80s/low 90s, and more overnight storms helped cool at least our bedroom.

In the evening, we took the boys to see Old Crow Medicine Show at Red Butte Garden. The skies threatened, but the storm didn't roll through until the after the show ended. The concert was great. Ben had a lot of fun dancing, and Michael I think liked it, even if he won't let on that he does.

Saturday, July 6 -- Our house cooled down even more, into the 70s after being in the 90s on Wednesday. Most of the day was overcast, perfect for a more relaxed day that we desperately needed. I mowed the lawn, probably for the last time before vacation. I dragged Michael along to look for old board games at thrift stores and managed to find Styx's "Pieces of Eight" on vinyl for 75 cents. Popcorn was happy that I was finally able to take her for a long walk without the threat of oppressive heat, fireworks or lightning. I finished a big freelance project I was working on and delved deep into an even bigger project.

Sunday, July 7 -- Today. I took Popcorn for our usual Sunday morning hike, then watched some of the Cubs game this afternoon. I'm at work right now, and have been organizing play dates for the boys this week in the spare moments. I can't believe we're already a week into July.

Lori commented that this was a really fun week. At first, I didn't agree. It had been a frustrating week, with the AC on the fritz, a lot of contract work I'm trying to barrel through, and a trapped feeling as if summer was wasting away. But in reality, it was an enormously fun week. Two trips to the pool, a swim meet (that I missed, but the boys enjoyed), In 'n Out Burger after Michael's baseball game, the Fourth of July festivities, and a really fun concert that we attended as a family. The boys got to hang out with their friends all week as well. So why am I bitching? I've said this before -- every day isn't going to be perfect. We survived the AC meltdown and managed to stay cool most of the time. Summer goes by too fast to get unnerved by things out of our control (or even the fact that summer goes by too fast). We're not quite halfway through yet, and the boys still have 45 days until school starts again. Let the days be joyous until then! (And after!)


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer 2013, days 39-42

Hot. So hot.

The air condition conked out Saturday night, and since then, it's only been working sporadically. The AC tech came this morning, and it looked like there was a reason the central air unit was spinning: the condensate pump was so mucky that the stop switch was being activated. For a few hours, the house was cooling again, but we had a warning that the pump might be failing altogether. By the afternoon, it seemingly had failed altogether. I tried everything to get it going again, with no luck. We're just  waiting for the AC guys to come back and replace the pump, which might happen in the next two days, but we're in for a couple more warm nights.

Sunday night, I slept on the couch in front of a fan, with the back door open to get some cool air into the house, but there was none. Monday, I slept downstairs, which wasn't so bad. Tuesday night, with the air not working at all the whole day, the house was a sauna -- we all slept downstairs. Tonight, after the few hours the AC did work helped, we got a fan blowing in cold air into our bedroom, which might be nice and cool tonight. Temps have dropped out of the 100s and back into the 90s, and the nights are cooler.

The days have been uneventful because of the heat. Michael's last all-star game was Monday night, and we went to In 'n Out Burger after. We went to the pool late Tuesday afternoon. Today, the boys had a swim meet. Tomorrow is July 4, and we'll probably spend most of it outside the warm house.

Summer is zipping by, even with the oppressing heat. This AC issue has dampened the whole week. We'll be in Chicago in less than two weeks, and I'm ready to go nuts on summer over these next several days. So let it be hot.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 38

At about 6 p.m., Lori showed me the weather app on her phone. The temperature in Riverton, Utah, was 104 degrees.

I'm outside on the porch at 10:45 p.m. Sunset was almost two hours ago. I looked at the temperature clock we have before coming outside: 84 degrees.

It was so hot today that our air conditioning can't keep up with cooling the house. I tried cleaning the filter and am contemplating putting a new one tomorrow, but the AC was sufficiently cooling the house yesterday when it was just high 90s. Triple-digit temperatures are winning.

The boys competed in a kids multi-sport race this morning, with Ben skipping the wheeled part and simply running 1.1 miles. Michael did the whole race, 1.1 miles on his bike and 1.1 miles running, and finished second in his age group and fourth overall. Thankfully, the race ended before it got too hot. We came home and made bacon, pancakes and egg muffins for breakfast/lunch.

I didn't want Michael to overtire himself before his baseball game, so we stayed inside the rest of the afternoon before driving out to Riverton. The dugouts at the baseball complex were shaded, but the bleachers weren't, so we were in the sun. A big cloud obscured the sun for about 20 minutes, and when it moved on, for the first time ever I got mad at a cloud for letting the sun reappear.

Michael didn't get into the game, and his team lost by the slaughter rule 15-0 in only four innings. I'm hoping he gets into Monday's game, but the last few practices, he didn't exactly put forth much of an effort, so this might be a good lesson for him. We went to Barbacoa for dinner afterward, then came home to discover the house lost the battle against the sun.

Not only is it warm tonight, but it's a bit humid as well. I'm going to be outside for a while, and I'm ready to get an ice pack to wedge against my neck. We're supposed have triple digits deep into next week. I better adapt.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 37

On what felt like the hottest day of the year today, we were back at the pool today.

Honestly, the heat wasn't that bad. We found a shady spot (and out of the sun, the conditions were tolerable), the water was refreshing, and the bright sun dried me out quickly. The boys and I chased a dive rocket (Michael is swimming underwater so well), and Ben found another of his friends and performed goofy dives with him. I didn't dare turn on the oven tonight, preferring to use the slow-cooker for some pork ribs. Even with the air conditioning cranked up, the house wasn't as cool as we hoped. And tonight, a little bit of humidity is making typing outside not the pleasant experience it usually is.

Saturday might even be hotter, and Michael has a baseball game late in the afternoon. I keep reminding myself, this is better than winter ...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 36

As predicted, today was a scorcher, but we made the most of it.

While Ben was at soccer camp, I took Michael and his best friend to the waterpark. We have season passes that allow us to get in at 9:30 a.m. (non-passholders have to wait until noon). With the temperature projected to hit 100, I figured the waterpark would get crowded in the afternoon -- I was a little surprised how crowded it was at 10 a.m. But we got there early enough to get inside easily and then quickly get tubes. We staked out a shady spot, and the boys went off to splash on their own. I was thinking I'd relax with a magazine in the shade, but I ended up going in the wave pool and the lazy river with the boys. The lines got so long for the water slides, and the water for one big section of the park was hypothermia-cold, but the boys had fun nonetheless. We left at the right time -- the park was absolutely packed as we departed.

Once home, Michael hung out by his friend's house and Ben returned home from soccer camp. We rested for a little while, then I oversaw Ben and his best friend splash in the kiddie pool I had filled up that morning. After thinking I could just relax in the sun, I was soon drawn into/was the primary target of the water fight. It's funny: the waterpark was fun this morning, but I had more fun with a 20-inch deep kiddie pool, some squirt guns and a bucket that kept getting poured over our heads. Maybe the crowds are too annoying -- Ben and I didn't have to wait in any lines or avoid other people this afternoon.

Michael had baseball practice in the evening, and I'm pleased to report that  he stayed in the batter's box during hitting practice. We rewarded the boys with Otter Pops after the game. I threw a tennis ball to Popcorn for her exercise, as I was too tired for a long walk. The heat had finally worn me down.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 35

Today was my first sunburn of the year.

It's not bad -- just a little red on my back and neck where I missed with sunblock. The goal is not to burn at all, but inevitably, once a summer, you do.

The sunburn occurred at the pool today. We were only there for a couple hours, but it was enough (Michael is a little red, too). We brought one of Ben's friends, who had fun jumping off the diving board. Michael found one of his swim teammates to hang out with. I spent most of my time in an middle spot on the pool watching the various kids, with the water level right at my shoulders -- hence, the sunburn.

Michael's all-star team had an exhibition game tonight and struggled a little. The players got their uniforms right before the game and didn't have a lot of time to get focused, and the exhibition opponent was a comp team that thought nothing of using normally illegal bats. And it was hot tonight, which I think sapped our team's energy a little. Still, I think the kids had fun, even if the grownups were a little frustrated.

I was too tired to take the dog for a walk, so I threw a tennis ball to her through the sprinklers of a nearby field. The heat is just beginning -- we're looking at triple digits the next couple days. I'll be better with the sunscreen tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer 2013, days 32-34

The last three days have busy, and gradually getting hotter. We might hit 100 this week.

Sunday, I hiked with the dog in the morning, threw some batting practice to Michael in the afternoon, and worked in the evening.

Monday, Michael swam and dived in the morning and Ben began soccer camp. They had a swim meet in the evening, with each of them getting a personal record in one race (and Ben just missed a second in the backstroke).

Today,. soccer camp and diving again, with Michael and me trying a little tennis and more batting practice while Ben was playing soccer. I helped with Michael's all-star team baseball practice later in the afternoon, came home and ate dinner, then took the dog for a walk.

Very workmanlike three days. I'm waiting for some freelance projects to be approved, and honestly, I'm craving the work. Fitting these projects into my schedule seems to make everything else seem more productive as well. In the meantime, the heat his coming ...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The view from the balcony

Every summer solstice for several years now, I've sat atop a hillside at a Salt Lake City park and watched the sun set on the longest day of the year while reflecting, and writing, about the year that had passed.

This year, I missed the solstice because I was making s'mores with my family on Friday night. I couldn't go a day later, either, because I was throwing batting practice to Michael as he struggles to regain his confidence at the plate. So here I am tonight, listening to "Sister Golden Hair," writing about life while watching the sunset. However, I'm not on the hillside, but instead, am typing from the balcony at work. The sun just dipped behind some clouds that will block my view of it setting below the mountains of Antelope Island.

I'm writing tonight, here, and not at the usual time and place because of commitments I have made. Commitments to support my family in any way possible. I gladly welcome these commitments with the knowledge that sometimes they won't be convenient and tidy. So perhaps writing this from the balcony on a delayed dinner break is fitting.

I'm reading last year's solstice post and am a little stunned how fast the year went. The year was great but could have been even better. Goals were met, but other goals weren't. And the boys grew up a year.

This past week, I've been thinking a lot about getting things done. I look at the last 12 months and am impressed with what I achieved but am still wanting more. I thought much about focus. I can achieve the focus needed when it really counts, but I find myself becoming unfocused or a little aimless. Sometimes, that's annoying; this past week, it became absolutely infuriating. So that's my plan for the next 12 months -- focus, accompanied by  goals, hard work, success, excellence, fun, achievement, organization, joy.

And I don't mean running myself ragged, but instead, being goal-oriented. These past couple days, when I wasn't sure what to do next, I forced myself to find something to do. For example, today, with five extra minutes, I looked through a basement closet I want to organize. I didn't have time to do the whole project, but was able to assess the job and throw out a couple things that we don't need that had been in that closet for years. There will be times when I need to step away from the goals I'm trying to achieve, and that's fine, as long as I turn my focus elsewhere, no matter how inconsequential or unstructured that focus could be. Am I tired midday after not getting enough sleep? Take a little nap, but then wake up and direct my energies toward where they need to be directed. Too often, I'm taking too long to refocus, and really, my new outlook is to not waste that time.

The sun has set, and the clouds are creating a little darker dusk than normal. Michael will start fourth grade this year -- we are about halfway between his birth and college. We are hitting the years before the boys become teens, years that will go by fast but are so crucial. The nine years for Michael and 11 years for Ben will be fleeting. The time is now to be at my best, to improve even more on previous successes. The cycle of summer solstice to summer solstice begins anew and will continue over and over. Summer, fall, winter, spring, and another longest day of the year, but this time, it's 2014.

There's no time to delay.  The view has been great. I'm ready to make it even greater.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 31

Plenty of baseball on a gorgeous summer day. Michael had all-star practice this morning, I took him to see "42" in the afternoon, and we finished the evening with some extra batting practice at the park/school near our house.

What happened in between? Not a heck of a lot, and really, not much else was needed. I sat on the porch this afternoon, enjoying the nice day and reading a magazine, when the urge struck to take a little siesta. Popcorn and I walked a couple miles tonight. The super moon is bright in the sky. This was a good Saturday.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 30

At last, we did something that wasn't organized today.

The boys had swim practice in the morning, and after coming home, they wanted to hang out with their friends. I let them and watched two episodes of "Falling Skies" on the DVR. By the end, I was ready to do something, but I felt sort of bad to pull them away from their friends who they hadn't seen all week. However, the day was too nice and I was anxious, so I made an executive decision: Hike. Michael's best friend came along as we drove to Millcreek Canyon and hiked Rattlesnake Gulch to the Pipeline Trail, then over to the Salt Lake Valley overlook.

The hike took about 90 minutes, and the boys and the dog did really well. At the end of the trail, I commented to the boys how great it was we could drive 10 minutes and hike 45 to get hike up a mountain and get this view. When I was a kid, the most scenic hike I could hope for was walking to the Kennedy Expressway to watch cars and L trains speed by. We returned to the car without incident and drove home.

I grilled burgers and hot dogs for dinner, then bought some firewood to finally try the small portable fire pit we bought last year. I am so not an outdoorsman and couldn't get the fire quite going; Lori fared better, but we still had some flameouts. The boys managed to make s'mores, and after Lori went inside, I tended the fire and found some kindling -- I was determined to burn at least some of the firewood I bought. I managed to get it sort of going for a while, and Ben joined me outside after 10 to enjoy the warmth. Finally, the flames went out, I washed out the embers, and the day was complete.

Summer 2013, days 28-29

I could go into another rant about how the last two days were as disjointed as the first two days of this week, but typing that is getting old even with me, so I won't. This week was ragged, but as I write this on Friday morning, I'm looking forward to another great weekend. So why dwell on a week that was busy? It's over, so I'm going to write about the highlights with an eye to the remaining 70-something days of summer.

Michael was hitting better at baseball practice last night -- he's finally pulling the ball again. He also finished up basketball camp with a flourish and is so looking forward to next season (I want to find him some more opportunities to play/practice before November). Ben has been a little bored because his best friend has been sick but has enjoyed swim practice the last two days and played some Lego Indiana Jones 2 on the Wii. I got a haircut Thursday, did laundry, did some organizing in the house and garage, and ran the pitching machine at Michael's baseball practice.

Yep, those are the highlights. At least it's been sunny and a little cooler than than the 90s earlier in the week. We are going to do something outside and fun today if it kills us! OK, not really, but this will be our first free and clear afternoon all week. It won't be wasted.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer 2013, days 26-27

The busy summer schedule of last week didn't let up for the first two weekdays of this week. Basketball, swim team, diving, baseball, appointments, heat.

The boys had a swim meet Monday, with Ben swimming a good backstroke and suffering goggles malfunctions on his other three races, and Michael swimming a blazing 25 in the freestyle relay to end his day.

Tuesday included a good dentist appointment for both boys and a long baseball practice for Michael's all-star team. I was so tired at the end of the day after running the pitching machine for two hours that I took Popcorn to the park to throw the tennis ball to her rather than go on a long walk. I was so tired that instead of going out on the porch to write, I got sucked into watching "2012" after the NBA Finals game ended (thankfully, I didn't stay up for the whole movie).

We're enjoying summer, but damn, our enjoyment is so taxing.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The six-word perspective

This link was making the rounds among our Facebook friends last week, and if you have the time, it's well worth the read. The author, Rachel Macy Stafford, of the year-old blog post details how instead of being a critic -- even when the criticism was well-meaning and seemingly not angry -- of her children's sports and other pursuits, she instead replaced her encouragement/criticism with six words: "I love to watch you (insert activity here)."

Being a sports parent, I've always tried to be careful not to criticize for the sake of criticizing, to nor ever make my kids feel like they are disappointing me because they aren't doing well. Because they aren't. I'm so proud watching Ben swim across the pool or watching Michael pull down rebound after rebound. The stuff that usually drives me crazy, that I do get annoyed about, is when they whine, don't pay attention, or don't try. I've told them that I'll never be disappointed with the way they play.

That said, I do occasionally find my self saying something like, "That was great, I'm proud of you, this is how you could have done it better." I think it's my nature as a sports journalist to examine how something is played and think about how it could have been improved. I think I'm helping, and I want to believe it's coming from a wish that they succeed ... and feel good about themselves because they are succeeding. But I'm probably as guilty as the next well-meaning parent in focusing more on the criticism and less on the "I'm proud of you."

I read this post last week during the boys' swim practice. As soon as Ben got out of the pool, I told him, " I love watching you swim." I truly do, especially considering that at his age, I wouldn't come with in half a mile of a pool. After Ben's workout, Michael had diving, and here's where the six words really made an impact -- at least for me.

Michael has struggled with his back dive. The coaches tried teaching it to him last year, but he could never master it. He's so afraid of landing on his back (he did a couple times last year) that he starts leaning back, then just steps off instead of jumping from the board. Without the back dive, he can't compete in meets for his age group. His inability to risk landing on his back has tested my patience perhaps more than anything else he has done in sports. I've told him it's OK if he wants to quit diving, that he doesn't have to learn it, but that he can't go on wasting everybody's time if he doesn't even give it his best. The lectures, advice and pointed encouragement (I even quoted Yoda and Mr. Myagi last week) haven't helped.  I'm watching him now as I type this and see him still stepping back off the board instead of launching himself out. It's frustrating.

Last week, the same day I read the blog post, I watched Michael struggle through another dive practice. However, I looked at it through the perspective that he could have quit, but he hasn't, and that he's still trying to overcome this fear (but it's just taking time). He got out of the pool after practice, half-expecting another lecture from me, but I said "I love how you keep trying." He kind of smiled at that and replied how the coaches and other divers have been really encouraging to him. And that's the last time we talked about diving.

I applied the six words to baseball as well. Michael made his league's U9 all-star team, mostly based upon how well he was hitting the first month of the season and not the last couple weeks when was afraid of getting hit by another pitch and jumping out of the batter's box. "I love watching you play baseball" was all I said on the way to his first all-star practice Saturday, not mentioning the fear he had been feeling or telling him that if he keeps backing out during pitches that he likely won't get an at-bat during the tournament. He loves hitting and know what he has to do; he didn't need to hear that from me one more time. The team didn't do any hitting practice Saturday, but at one point it looked like it would, and there was Michael, getting his bat out, almost chomping at the bit for a chance to get in the batter's box and hit again (which he loves -- again, it's why he was nominated for the all-star team in the first place). On the way home, I said "I loved watching you play first base." Michael (as well as Ben) will find his own way and will ask for help if he needs it. I don't need to pile more pressure on him, even if I'm not intending to. .

Yesterday, taking Michael golfing for the first time, I told him "I loved playing golf with you today." This morning, I reiterated to Ben: "I loved to watch you swim." I'm confident that even if he doesn't hit like he was, Michael will love these few weeks of all-star baseball. I'm watching him not get closer to the back dive, and aside for being thankful his coaches are so patient, am happy he's still getting back on that board to try again and again. Yes, I wish he would commit himself a little more, to take a risk, but he doesn't need me hearing that.

I love that my sons play sports, and try new things, and do their best in school, and generally let me be a cool, fun dad. I'm blessed that I can watch them play and watch their little victories, even if the big ones take too much time or don't happen at all. That's the bottom line, the six words I should never forget: "I love to be your dad."

Summer 2013, Day 25

Best. Father's. Day. Ever.

Some of my past Father's Days were great, and really, none of them was bad. There were a few years in which Father's Day was the day after the Wasatch Back and I was a zombie after getting so little sleep from the 30-hour relay -- I barely remember those. My first Father's Day as a father was great -- we took Michael to Jackson Hole. I think Lori got me an iPod the next year. Last year, we hit the driving range and also watched "Iron Man 2" (which, now that I think about it, doesn't seem that long ago). And golf seems to be a theme, not just today, but also in 2008.

However, this Father's Day is one I won't forget. The family gave me some great presents -- three board games (including a used Stratego from 1962), a new wallet and a used driver and fairway wood. We went to the Original Pancake House, where I was adventurous and tried the ham, egg and cheese waffle sandwich (it was OK, I wasn't quite sure how to eat it). After arriving home, Ben and I played Ticket to Ride and watched a little of the Cubs game. We as a family went to the driving range then, for the first time since last year when my driver fell apart and I could barely hit a good shot on my bum knee.

Michael was really get into the golf practice, Ben was also liking hitting balls, and I was at least doing better than last year. We were at a range next to a par-33 9-hole course, and Michael started begging me to actually play a round. He wasn't hitting the ball that far, so I suggested we find a par-3, and Lori recommended we go to Mick Riley Golf Course in Murray, where she and I used to golf often pre-kids. The course has a par-3 layout and a full-length nine, and we were able to get on the par-3 almost right away. Despite Michael whining that we didn't get a car (he just wanted to drive it), I was excited to take him golfing for the first time.

We had a lot of fun. He did all right, never hitting the ball too far, but never getting discouraged, either. Lori and Ben walked the first two holes with us, and we let Ben play the second hole, and he actually didn't too bad either, though he listened to none of the etiquette rules we told him (that will come -- I'm hoping with practice, I can take both boys by the end of the summer). I did find myself saying the same things my dad would say to me when we golfed in my youth: "Don't leave your bag in front of the green."; "If you hit a bad shot, go up and hit it again.";  "Keep your head down, slow backswing." But he never irritated me on the course, and I know he was having a blast. He finished with a 63; I struggled to a 47 and missed a birdie putt on the last hole. Afterward, we hit the clubhouse for a much deserved snack.

The rest of the night was uneventful. I grilled steaks, and we watched "Field of Dreams." I talked with my dad finally after he called during golf (and I missed him on the phone this morning), and I took Popcorn for a 3-mile walk. The dog relies on me just as the kids do, so it was a fitting end to Father's Day.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 24

Today was somewhat busy but also relaxed, too. It was a Saturday.

I took Popcorn for a hike this morning on the off-leash trail while Lori took the boys shopping and to yard sales. Ben had a birthday party in the afternoon, and Michael had his first all-star team baseball practice. I dropped him off at a swim team clinic (he's trying to improve his butterfly), then came home and mowed the back lawn. Ben and I watched the Yankees-Angels game on TV while playing a Strat-o-Matic game between the Yankees and Angels (his Yankees won 9-4, and he was very excited with the way CC Sabathia pitched). We played Ticket to Ride after dinner, and again, Ben won, edging Lori by one point and me by many. I took Popcorn for one more walk after everyone went to sleep.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 23

The temperature took a turn away from too hot to amazingly pleasant today. The evening did get a little cool, but I can live with that.

The day started off with swim practice for the boys. I was up earlier than I would have liked, so I dozed off pretty efficiently when we got home. But, determined to not let a summer day go to waste, the boys and I took the Outback to the do-it-yourself car wash for a thorough cleaning and vacuuming. Ben picked out a new car scent car freshener from the vending machine. The car needed this badly, and cleaning it out with the boys is always fun -- they did a great job helping.

I went to what I hope is my last physical therapy appointment for by herniated disk that isn't bothering any more and came away with an exercise plan so it doesn't bother me again. I took Ben to a swim stroke clinic, then Michael to the grocery store to get some chips for a party we were going to tonight.

After a fun, successful season, the St. Ambrose Cardinals gathered to have some fun outside of baseball (and to give their parents a chance to mingle away from the diamond as well). Michael's coach really loved this team and had custom t-shirts made for the players (and for the assistant coaches -- I got one too). He encouraged Michael to keep playing (conveniently, Michael's first all-star team practice is tomorrow) and thanked me for helping out this season. Michael has been on so many sports teams over the past years that I can tell when the parents and coaches are just attending and when they feel like a family, and these Cardinals were truly a family.

I finished the day walking Popcorn and sitting on the porch on with a sweatshirt on, typing this post. Hello, weekend.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 22

Summer was supposed  to provide a break in our hectic schedules. Instead, the kids' sports have remained just as insane.

Swim team moved  to their summer schedule -- three mornings and two afternoons. Michael has diving every morning, and he had basketball camp all week and has two more upcoming. Ben has a week of soccer camp on tap later in the month.

Oh, Michael made the U9 all-star team for his baseball league. We have another three weeks of baseball ahead.

I'm not begrudging any of this, but as I've stated before, I've found it difficult to get into the spirit of summer. Fortunately, the boys haven't -- they've been playing with friends, swimming every day, enjoying the late evenings, and so on. Summer is supposed to be about them and not me, so why do I feel a little ... rushed?

OK, today: Michael had diving, basketball and swimming. Ben had a play date and swimming. Both boys splashed in the pool when it was the other brother's turn at swim team, but I didn't jump in the pool today when a very big cloud obscured the sun and cooled off the mountainside. As a family, we played Ticket to Ride and watched the Heat defeat the Spurs. I walked Popcorn, then found the front porch to type this up. There was never more than about 90 minutes between the start of something and the end of something else. Maybe that's why I felt rushed today. While it was hot in the afternoon, I should have taken a half-hour on the lawn chair in the sun.

Tomorrow, we have about four hours between the end of diving and our next commitment. I'm going to find something fun and summery to do if it kills me.



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 21

Here in the high desert, the dry heat cliche really does hold true. Hot days are really just bright, and if you get into the shade, you can get a little measure of relief. But not tonight. It's officially humid outside.

OK, it's not Midwest humid,. but it unusually stuffy for Salt Lake City. Clouds and some storms rolled through (though not through our neighborhood), and as a result, it hasn't cooled down much tonight.

The morning started with swim and dive practice for the boys. In a familiar pattern this week, Michael had basketball camp at noon. Afterward, I took them for haircuts. Lori is still feeling sick, so I made dinner. The boys don't have swim super early tomorrow, so they played outside until 9 while I got some worked on some editing while on the front porch. The night ended with walking the dog three miles, watching the Blackhawks win in triple overtime, and this post.

Summer 2013, Day 20

Tuesday still felt like summer was standing still, just a little at least. Michael had diving practice in the morning, then basketball camp at noon, then swim practice at 5:45. Ben had swim practice at 5, and we went to Target during Michael's morning practice and played Ticket to Ride during hoops camp. This was the first night of the summer evening swim practice schedule, and it went OK -- while Ben worked out, Michael played in the outdoor pool, and vice versa. I jumped in the pool a couple times, but not as many times as the 40 jumps off the diving board Ben took. We came home for dinner, then I took Popcorn for a long walk. My laptop was out of juice, so I went to bed sort of earlier than normal after getting some editing work done.

These past two days have been busy, so it's just a matter of making the most of the time in between. The boys got to play with their friends during those times, so they had good days. That's something I shouldn't forget when I feel flustered.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 19

I'm on my porch typing. The night is warm, dark and quiet except for the whirring of the central air unit to the side of our house. Today was a hot one, so much that the night even seems exhausted.

The boys swam their first morning practice of the summer today, and Michael followed that up with diving practice. Later, he went to his first day of basketball camp. Then, the boys had a swim meet. The temperature didn't get quite to 100, but it was at least mid-90s. Needless to say, we were drained by the end of the day.

To top it off, Lori is coming down with a cold. Tuesday won't be as busy or as hot.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 18

Sundays during our summers are bittersweet because I work at the newspaper in the evening.. I go in about 4, so I never quite feel we can do anything momentous during the day. Today was no exception, though it was mellow and productive at the same time.

I took Popcorn to the off-leash trail early this morning so she could get some exercise before the temperature got too high today. She ran around and got other dogs to chase her, then fielding a tennis ball but knocking it down a steep, wooded hillside just at the end of our walk (that's three lost tennis balls in the last four hikes).   I got home, ate breakfast, then dozed off for a little bit while watching a Biography Channel on "The Silence of the Lambs." In the afternoon, I cleared out the back of the Outback of all sports equipment and extraneous hats, sweatshirts, umbrellas and garbage. I then put the bike rack atop the car in the hopes of getting the bike Lori bought at a garage sale for $20 to a shop to get it tuned up.

And those were the highlights of the day. We watched the last few innings of the Cubs' 4-1 victory over the Pirates, and then I went to work. As per my usual Sunday night routine, I'm on the balcony watching the sunset (alas, obscured by a few clouds tonight, but it has cooled off). Tomorrow will be busy with swim team, basketball camp, and more swim team. But at least I won't have to work.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 17

Baseball season has reached its conclusion. Ben's White Sox played their last game today, a 2-0 loss both coaches agreed to call early because it was so hot out and neither team was hitting anything off the pitching machine. Today was actually gorgeous, just a little warm (this is why rec baseball seasons in Utah don't stretch past mid-June). An hour of baseball was enough. Even though the White Sox struggled all season, the kids never felt down about it (OK, Ben was bugged that he didn't hit the ball better, but that's just Ben) and had a lot of fun, and the kids were in a good mood after the game.

Ben and Michael went to turn/dive clinics for swim team team this afternoon at the JCC, but they were in different sessions, so while one kid was practicing starts  in the indoor pool, the other was jumping off the diving board in the outdoor pool. I read a book for a while and spent a little time in the pool, achieving my yearly "Yes, I remember that I can jump off the deep end and swim to the side successfully" trip off the diving board. We grilled burgers for dinner, Ben and I made a quick trip to Walmart, and I beat him in Ticket to Ride and played Michael in a game of the classic Twixt, which I found at a second-hand store a few weeks ago. The evening concluded with a 3-mile walk for the dog and me.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer 2013, days 14-16

Here's a good indicator that summer is exemplary: I've been too tired to type the past two nights. So, I'm catching up ...

Day 14

The boys swam their first meet of the season tonight and did well. I was a volunteer timer but still got to see their races. The meet ran really long -- until 9:30, and the temperature dropped when the sun went down. I was exhausted when I got home, only taking Popcorn across the street to big lawn in front of the the LDS church to throw a Frisbee to her. Michael mowed the front lawn (under my supervision) during the day and Ben pulled a few weeds.

Day 15

Today was so busy. The morning started with us going to the park where the boys play baseball to get some batting practice. As an assistant coach, I can access the shed with the pitching machine, and no one uses the field at 9 a.m. Michael has been struggling so bad with the confidence at the plate (after a torrid 8-for-13 start in April) since getting hit by pitches that I wanted him to get some practice. He hit the ball well, like he knows he can. Ben took a few swings but complained it was getting too hot. We went to Original Pancake House for a late breakfast/early lunch.

In the afternoon, we took Popcorn for a hike on the off-leash trail, which gave the boys a chance to use their new Camelbacks. The dog loved the exercise, but we hurried back to the house so I could get the boys to swim and dive practice. In the evening, the executive board for the steering committee that runs the boys' school was meeting (Lori co-chaired this board this year) at another family's house, but it was also a potluck for the families and the kids. The boys had fun -- both of them got to try pool for the first time (thankfully, Ben didn't tear the carpet), but we were wiped out by the time we got home. Popcorn already had her exercise for the day, so I didn't even take her out for a walk.

Day 16

Today wasn't as eventful, and these are the kind of summer days I want to generally avoid. We did get outside a little while before Michael's baseball game tonight, but for the most part, our Friday was a little lazy. And what I hate about days like this is that I snack too often. So I write this feeling a little too full tonight.

I pitched Whiffle balls to Michael this afternoon in another attempt for him to regain his confidence. He was hitting them, and I tried to encourage him to turn his back if a ball was sailing at him (rather than him backing away). That took a little while outside, then I thought we'd do some yardwork. We pulled weeds and cut down vegetation from the non-driveway side of our house, but we were too efficient, filling up the entire yard waste bin in 15 minutes. Ben and I played a couple games of Ticket to Ride, and Michael played SimCity on the Super Nintendo. Yes, we could have done more with today. A summer day like this is needed every once in a while, particularly after a long week like this day, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. That said, for lazy days, this was still a good one.

Michael's baseball team won the third-place game 13-10. Both coaches agreed to give some of their players who hadn't pitched much a try, and our head coach played the backup infield for a few innings (until the ump blew a play at the plate that robbed us of a home run, prompting us to get a tad more serious about winning). Michael played two innings at first base and made a nice play -- a 5-3 ground out (third base to first base), the first I've seen all season. He still wasn't confident at the plate, however, striking out on his first time up without swinging, then walking on his second at-bat and actually staying in and swinging at the ball. Lori and I decided to try to get him some batting practice even though the season is over -- we are afraid by ending the season in this slump (remember, he started the year 8-for-13 and swinging at everything with no fear), he won't get over this next spring. Michael would have had a third at-bat against a pitcher who was lobbing the ball in. I was hoping he would get that at-bat, and so was he, I could see the confidence returning. But, the play before he would have come to the plate, we hit the six-run limit on the inning, and we didn't bat again. The Cardinals finished the season 12-2.

Lori picked up dinner, which we ate when we got home. I played another game of Ticket to Ride with Ben, who got a new Cardinals hat from Michael's coach, who couldn't stand that he was wearing a Cubs hat tonight. I got the dog out for a walk that wasn't long enough for me, but I ran out of water on this warm night and was thirsty. The heat has arrived for summer 2013.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 13

The boys' summer vacation officially started today.

The last day of school is never scholastic, nor should it be. Both classes had potluck brunches for the kids and parents, Ben's class gave out awards to each kids, a lot of hugs were given, some tears were shed.

Now summer really begins. We went to Noodles for lunch, got home ... and I didn't feel too good. I played a couple board games with the boys but didn't do too much else as my stomach churned. I got Ben to swim practice and Michael to his baseball game and started feeling better.

Michael's Cardinals lost a tournament semifinal 11-5. The team we played was huge, even bigger than us. We had one bad inning and stranded a few too many runners in what was otherwise a close game and only our second loss of the season. Michael is really struggling at the plate. He got hit by a pitch Friday -- his second HBP of the season -- and he's really freaked out. He walked on his first at-bat but had a ball sail toward his face. His second at-bat, he struck out looking, jumping out of the batter's box on every pitch. This is hitting close for me, because when I was 11, I got beaned in the right elbow the second game of the season and was never the same (if I ever get around to detailing that baseball season like I have the others, I'll explain more). I don't know what to tell him to get him overcome what he's fearing, because I never could myself (I stopped playing after age 11). He's braver than I am, and he knows he's a good hitter.

After the game, we went for frozen yogurt, then came home and watched the end of "Vacation" and an episode of "Phineas and Ferb." I walked the dog, then settled in on my porch with my laptop. The boys have 77 days before school begins again. It doesn't seem like a lot. Let the fun commence.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 12

After working Sunday nights, I generally don't like Mondays. Even summer Mondays.

This one wasn't so lazy. I took the dog for a walk this morning and ate breakfast/lunch. The boys only had a half day of school, so I picked them up. I finished up some freelance work, then took Michael to swim practice. Ben, who is a little under the weather and kind of tired, and I played Ticket to Ride when we got home, then I grilled some burgers and hot dogs for dinner. I took Ben to Barnes and Noble to buy a gift card for one of his friends, and we picked up a new game as well -- Forbidden Island. Lori, Ben and I played it when we got home (it's a cooperative game, and we escaped the island with all the treasure!), then I took the dog for a longer walk.

Tomorrow is the boys' last day of school. Summer is about to erupt.