Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer 2013, days 69-70

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

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 68

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

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 67

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

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

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

Summer 2013, Day 66; Vacation, Day 12

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

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

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

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

Until the next vacation ...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 65; Vacation, Day 11

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 64; Vacation, Day 10

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 63; Vacation, Day 9

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 62; Vacation, Day 8

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

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

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

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 61; Vacation, Day 7

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

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

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 60; Vacation, Day 6

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

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

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

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 59; Vacation, Day 5

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 58; Vacation, Day 4

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

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

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

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 57; Vacation, Day 3

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 56; Vacation, Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 55; Vacation, Day 1

Vacation is underway. Hurray!

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

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

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer 2013, days 53-54

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 52

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

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer 2013, Day 51

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

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

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

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer 2013, days 47-50

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer 2013, days 43-46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer 2013, days 39-42

Hot. So hot.

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

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

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

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