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.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 11

I came out onto the balcony at work to blog and watch the sunset and captured this image to the west:

These clouds just  rolled in, interrupting an other perfectly clear day. A breeze has picked up 10 stories above Salt Lake City's downtown as well. But the sun is starting to dip below the clouds toward the mountains of Antelope Island below.

I slept late this morning after the busy day Saturday. Michael was sleeping over in a tent across the street, and at about 5:30, he knocked on our door because he had to pee (evidently, he was too shy to go into his best friend's house to do so). I was planning on sleeping late anyway. I took Popcorn for a hike in the morning on her favorite trail (today is her second birthday). The rest of the afternoon was spent folding clothes, watching the Cubs, figuring out our schedules for the next month, and otherwise relaxing. I'm at work now, and after a mediocre experience at Costa Vida for dinner and a slow news day, am ready to go home and embark upon another summer week.

Here's the sunset, so bright right now that the camera on my phone wasn't sure how to capture it effectively. The boys are out of school in two days. Lori commented today that summer is going to fly by before we know it. I know it. Enjoy every sunset.

Summer 2013, days 8-10

Egad, it's been a busy few days. Last night, I went to take my laptop outside only to discover it had no little juice. So I tried killing time on my desktop while the laptop charged, playing Candy Crush Saga and registering Ben for soccer camp .. only to discover I wasn't in the mood to go back outside. So I'm here on Sunday morning recapping the last three days. Already in June ...

Day 8, Thursday, May 30
Three days later, I can't even remember Thursday. Let's see, Michael had a soccer game, and I ran Ben's team's practice while he was at a swim team beginning-of-the-season party. Wow, I really don't recall the afternoon. Errands? Freelance work? I finished off the first season of "Homeland" -- I wonder if that was everything I did Thursday.

Day 9, Friday, May 31
More sports, more freelance work. Ben had a baseball game and lost 24-7, but he got only his second hit of the year and connected on five foul balls. I missed almost all of Michael's game -- his team won 17-2.

Day 10, Saturday, June 1
Day 10, Saturday, June 1

This was one of those busy Saturdays we get a couple times a year that we wonder how we survive. But we did. Michael had his last soccer game of the season in the morning, but the Scorpions got crushed. Same issues as before -- the other team runs and plays hard, we don't. Even Michael struggled in goal, though he played well when he wasn't keeper. He was tired -- we all slept late (for us) on Saturday morning -- but we should have done better against a team we played tough a few weeks ago.

We came home, then went to Ben's soccer game, also, the last game of the season. I lost track of that score, but it was a close, hard-fought game. After giving up five goals in the first half, we shut the other team down in the second half and caught up. Ben wasn't at his best-- he was tired and a little sick -- but had fun. We got caught up in a Wendy's drive-thru for lunch and had little time to eat before Ben had another baseball game while Michael was in a turn/dive clinic for swim team.

The White Sox only had five kids show up. We only had seven Friday, and we knew we'd be shorthanded because the school a bunch of our kids attend had a violin recital Saturday. The head coach was at the concert too, so I ran the team. We borrowed two players from a team that played before us, but it was still technically a forfeit. That said, we won, 11-8, for the first time this season! I wish we had more kids to celebrate it. Ben was still tired and struck out every time at bat. He came around enough to go to a birthday party later and have fun, but it just wasn't a good sports day for him

On the same field, Michael's team played its second game of the playoffs against the only team that beat the Cardinals this season. In a close game, the Cardinals beat the Green Hornets 10-7! Michael struck out once and walked twice. After the game, the two of us went for sushi (yes, Michael likes sushi) while Lori and Ben were at the birthday party.

The day ended with a long walk for the dog. We were exhausted. Michael slept over at his best friend's backyard in a tent; Ben zonked out watching a movie. The crazy Saturday had come to its conclusion.