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Showing posts from 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 d…

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…

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 Thank…

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 frei…

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, …

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 zipp…

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.

T…

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 he…

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…

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…

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…

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.

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.

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…

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.

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 a…

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 wa…

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 ...

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 …

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.

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 ...

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 w…

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.

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.

Summer 2013, Day 62; Vacation, Day 8

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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 sist…

Summer 2013, Day 61; Vacation, Day 7

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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.

Summer 2013, Day 60; Vacation, Day 6

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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,…

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.

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.

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.

Summer 2013, Day 56; Vacation, Day 2

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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 wal…

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…

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.

Sund…

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.

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.

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.

Summer 2013, days 43-46

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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 go…

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 fe…

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 …

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 ...

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 soc…

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…

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 ...

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 someti…

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.

Summer 2013, Day 30

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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…

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 Mic…

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.

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 the…

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)…

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.

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 …

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, bu…

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 flu…

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.

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 t…

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 th…

Summer 2013, days 14-16

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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…

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 h…

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.