Showing posts from 2014

That first morning drive

(I wanted to write this back in August, but, well, my time and ability to non-work write has become limited with all the freelancing I've been doing. This is a recollection of 30 years ... and two months ... ago.)

My mom drove me to school that first morning. My sisters were old enough to stay home by themselves for an hour, and I'm guessing my dad was working. The sun was shining, and it was one of those pretty Chicago summer mornings the city really doesn't get enough credit for (spring mornings were nice, too). Seven years earlier, for one month after we moved, my father drove me into my final weeks of first grade at my what became a far-away school. I'm now just realizing the parallel between those mornings in 1977 and that first, and only that first morning.

I was 13 years old (still a few months away from 14) and starting high school. Notre Dame High School for Boys (it sounds even worse typing it out -- thankfully, the school is now Notre Dame College Prep) was …

The no-work weekend

Since about late June -- except for the two weeks we were on vacation -- I've been freelancing like crazy. The one company I work for has sent me a steady yet impressive amount of work over the last three months. This is the most proficient work period I've had since going part-time at the newspaper several years ago. And this was my goal to, especially after quitting the newspaper in March. Oh, I am still writing for my old employer too, just adding to the freelancing madness.

Amid this load of work, I haven't had much time when I wasn't thinking about what I needed to get done next. I get a little free time, I more often than not will pull out the laptop and work. I pulled back somewhat on vacation -- managing about five or six work-free days -- but was slammed when we returned to Utah. In the eight or so weeks since vacation, I've been a machine ...  and have worked in some way, shape or form every day.

After knocking out 17 ghostwritten blog posts and two news …

Summer 2014, days 86-103: The conclusion of summer

At the end of every summer, I'm always a little sad. In my youth, the end signaled the beginning of school again. After college, when I was working as a sports journalist, the end meant the beginning of football season, which was always an exciting transition but also a return to a crazy busy seven months of the newspaper business (summer is always the mellowest time of year for sports desks). After I had kids and they started school, the end of summer meant a slowing down of any adventures and vacations and the return to a routine, with the inevitable cooling and short days just around the corner.

I go through these cycles always looking forward to the next summer, inexorably setting myself up for everything going too quickly. I have a fifth- and a third-grader now, and I'm still trying to understand how that happened.

Something was different this year throughout August. Not resignation that summer was ending and went by in a heartbeat. Not melancholy that my favorite season …

Summer 2014, days 71-85: A time of acceptance

That grand plan I had to squeeze as much out of the last weeks of summer as possible? Yeah, it didn't get too far.

I've been so swamped with freelance work that I was apprehensive to set off on any amazing adventures. Hurray for being swamped, but it comes with a a more restrained schedule. For example, I have probably put in at least 15 hours of work these past three weekend days. That's good in that I got much done, but it's indicative that I have to be a little more cautious of how I'm budgeting my time.

I don't think the boys have minded too much. They have been playing with friends -- those last days of desperate summer fun before school begins. We had some ornery weather over the past two weeks -- Utah's monsoon season in which we get a rain and some thunderstorms. Still, the last two weeks had their moments:

-- Ben finally learned how to ride his bike, on Aug. 4 (Day 72). After he struggled to get any balance every time we tried, on this day -- a cou…

Summer 2014, day 70

The boys slept late today after their impressive yet tiring season-ending swim meet Friday. Around 10:30, Lori suggested we go to the Farmer's Market in downtown SLC. We loaded into the car (even the dog) and headed to the market. The trip was enjoyable. Ben got to try a trapeze swing, we ate lunch, and Popcorn did well amid the crowd. Spending a few hours at the market on our anniversary was the highlight of our day.

The day wasn't too eventful after that. The boys were still tired and were content to stay inside the rest of the afternoon. Lori and I felt the same way. We watched "Wayne's World' during dinner, then the boys and I howled at the silliness of "Sharknado 2."

Summer 2014, day 69

The boys swam their final meet of the season tonight. Neither was going to the conference meet next week, so this was their last chance to turn in some good times this summer. Their team tracks "pops" -- personal bests over the course of the season. Ben had seven coming in and Michael had four. They lost some of their fitness over vacation but had managed to get themselves back into shape over the past few days. This meet was for kids not swimming at conference, and because both Ben and Michael just missed being included for next week, we felt they could do really well tonight.

They did great! Each kid swam five events, and Ben finished with pops in all five and Michael in three. I was quite proud.

Michael's summer has been weird -- he swam great the first meet, then leveled off once basketball really kicked in. This happened last summer when he played All-Stars for baseball, and he recovered once we got back from vacation. That was much the same this year, as he looked …

Summer 2014, days 65-68: The quickening

Vacation goes by so fast, but I've come to realize this truth: The week after vacation goes by even quicker.

Here it is, almost a week after we got back from Chicago, and it still feels like we're in recovery mode. The unpacked suitcases are still lingering in my basement, not yet returned to the closet from where they reside. My backpack sits in the living room unsorted. The days sped by, and we don't feel like we are quite back in a normal routine yet. This isn't really coinciding with my goal to get the most out of the last month of summer as possible.Yet, four days just passed, and I'm struggling to remember what we did.

Lori's birthday was yesterday -- I remembered that. The boys had a swim team party at the JCC, which also had a band on its balcony. We ate dinner, drank a couple beers, and occasionally peered down to see what  our kids were doing on a gorgeous summer night.

I worked a lot this week, with more assignments on the horizon that will fill my s…

Summer 2014, days 63-64: The quiet aftermath

We were really spoiled on vacation because the Midwest was mostly unusually cool for July. We returned to Utah and were blasted with heat. Did we subsequently make it out of the house much? No. Sunday, I asked the boys if they wanted to go to the pool, and neither did. The weekend was truly devoted to winding down from the weekend. The boys had a swim meet Saturday night and practice Sunday morning, and they got to hang out with the friends they hadn't seen for two weeks, but otherwise, they weren't too active. I took Popcorn for a little hike Sunday but went for no hikes at night -- it's barely even cooling off in the evening. We unpacked, I resumed m busy work slate, and didn't get worked up about not cramming too much into every day. This won't last, but for one weekend, it was welcome.

Summer 2014, day 62

We're baaack ...

Our adventure known as Midway Airport was mostly unadventurous. My dad got us to the airport in plenty of time, and getting through check-in and security wasn't an issue. We ate breakfast, boarded the Southwest plane, settled in for a relatively easy flight, found a cab in SLC, and were home by noon MDT.

Popcorn was so happy to see us. The family watching her had house-sat on Thursday night so the cat wouldn't be too spooked by Pioneer Day fireworks, so the dog was there when we returned. She was wagging her tail between her legs, as if she was happy but contrite that she did something that caused us to leave her for two weeks. The cat wasn't mad at us either, just meowing a little more than normal.

The rest of the day was purely recovery. I picked up Costa Vida for lunch, and Lori bought some groceries and I made the ravioli for the boys and me for dinner. I enjoyed a nice, long nap in my own comfortable bed. I also  took Popcorn to the park to throw …

Summer 2014, day 61; Vacation, day 15

Well, this is it. When I hit the publish button on this webpage and shut down my computer, vacation will be all but over. We are leaving for Chicago in about 10 hours, flying out of Midway for the first time. This trip has come to an end.

I'm thinking about sitting at my father's house on my computer, typing away. I'm sure I've said this before -- this is a special place for us to visit. Other families find a lake house or a favorite resort they return year after year, so much that it becomes familiar. I never lived in this house, but have spent probably about 20 weeks here over the past 10 years since he's remodeled. It is a sort of home away from home for us, even if we just visit once or twice a year (usually once). The boys feel comfortable here. The shady porch overlooking the wall of trees across the street that obscures the train tracks is Lori's favorite reading place ever and where I like to write. I get here and it feels like we were just visiting whe…

Summer 2014, day 60; Vacation, day 14

I slept soundly last night -- past 9 a.m.this morning. I woke up and worked up enough initiative to go for a run. My dad lives right by the bike trail that I used to run on in high school, and taking it two miles in and back is actually a nice little jaunt. Along the way, I saw two deer walk across the trail and stop after finding something they wanted to eat. On an urban yet forested bike trail, with no dogs allowed off leash, these deer must be pretty used to humans, because neither one moved as I ran by.

 I was antsy and wanted to get out and do more today, but no one in my family were as inclined. My dad took the boys to play tennis in the afternoon. I wanted to go for a drive but Michael wasn't up for it. The weather cooled off considerably from yesterday, and the breeze felt good, so I sat on my computer for an hour in the 70-degree wonderfulness. Lori, Michael and I did go to Nick's Drive-In for lunch (I was craving a gyro), but until the late afternoon, this was anothe…

Summer 2014, day 59; Vacation, day 13

Driving home Monday night from Great America, I passed an electronic sign that informed drivers of the number of traffic fatalities so far this year in Illinois. The number was 455, and as I was striving to drive safely but get home quickly, it was a sobering reminder that 455 people left their homes one day not expecting that they wouldn't see the next. They probably thought a fatal car accident could never happen to them, even though some of them likely weren't at fault for their own demise. Just that quickly, it was over.

Little did I know that my reminder had already affected us in a tragic way Monday.

Today, we learned that the father of one of Ben's good friends was killed in a car accident in Washington state early Monday morning. I'm good friends with the mom, who was active at school, but I didn't know the dad well, other than he was always friendly and greeted everyone with a smile. The family had just moved to Washington a few weeks ago to start a new ch…

The old park

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: This is a post I started writing last summer, then forgot about for months. I finally got around to finishing it this week ...)

The summer of 2013 was something else.

I always lament that summer zips by too quickly, but this one really was atypical. We'd been so busy that I don't know where the days went. I barely wrote anything that wasn't work-related. June was a haze of  the boys' sports and thinking we'll get to all that fun summer stuff ... only to not get to as much of it when it suddenly became July. I didn't get a lot of freelance work in June, then got blessedly but unbelievably overwhelmed with projects over the last month. Our air conditioning went out during the hottest week of the year. All of a sudden it was vacation.

I parked the car on the corner of Oriole and Gregory and walked across the street to the park near the northwest playground. Growing up, I never seemed to hang out at this playground, instead preferring the one b…

Summer 2014, day 58; Vacation, day 12

In a line at Six Flags today, I estimated that this was my 23rd trip to great America over my lifetime. But it was my first since 1999. And the first with my kids.

The boys, my niece Jenny and I met my sister-in-law and another niece at the Burger King across from the amusement park around 9:30 a.m. The park didn't officially open until 10:30, but I didn't know how crowded it would be on a Monday and wanted to get the most out of our day. We were let in but only to the railroad bridge until 10:30. The ropes were let down, and we headed to Whizzer -- our first rollercoaster of the day.

Ben had been nervous for more than a week since finding out we were going to Great America, so Whizzer -- a classic coaster and one of the easier rides in the park -- was a perfect first choice. He loved it. That would set the tone for the rest of the day. Here's a rundown, in as much of an order as I can remember:

-- Viper, a wooden coaster that is great. Ben and I went on twice while everyb…

Summer 2014, day 57; Vacation, day 11

After yesterday's festivities, today was understandably mellower. We went to a brunch in the morning -- the last wedding event of the weekend -- and Lori drove to Milwaukee for her company's work convention for a few hours. The rest of the day was mostly just hanging out. We helped clean up the rest of the yard from the party the night before. Lori returned from Milwaukee and we had dinner. And ... that was about it, and that's all it needed to be. The rest of the week will be busy enough.

Summer 2014, day 56; Vacation, day 10

July 19 had been circled on many calendars among many people. This was my father's and his fiancee's wedding day, and we had planned our vacation accordingly.

The day didn't disappoint.

After breakfast, many of us worked feverishly to set up the house for the reception, which was going to be a sort of block party more than anything formal. A couple hours later, everything was mostly set so that after the ceremony downtown, we could come back to the house and begin the festivities. Fourteen people were staying in the house, and we all needed showers, so the clear things up a little, I took the boys to SuperDawg for lunch. I was lucky to still get some hot water for my shower later; Lori and Ben, not so much. Finally, we made it out of the house toward downtown.

Ugh, traffic on the Kennedy was a mess. We arrived exactly at 4 p.m., though the ceremony didn't start until 45 minutes later. The day was gorgeous, and the view overlooking Lake Michigan and the Art Institute wa…

Summer 2014, day 55; Vacation, day 9

We left Northern Wisconsin today and scurried back to Chicago for a the imminent busy weekend. After coming through Milwaukee, we decided to drive back through Madison and Rockford, which wasn't the best idea -- the tollway was under construction from Rockford all the way into the city. We still made good time, which gave us a little break before the rehearsal dinner for Dad and Susy's wedding.

The party was enjoyable. Low key, good food, and a chance to relax after our drive. Ben danced, of course. I was able to see my sister Julie, who I missed last weekend even though she was in Chicago, and my sister Megan, who had arrived from Colorado last week.

Vacation has been busy already, but we still have a week left! I can appreciate that.

Summer 2014, day 54; Vacation, day 8

This was our last day in Merrill before driving back to Chicago tomorrow. The day was mostly uneventful for me -- I ran in the morning and worked for a couple hours on the patio -- but the boys had a blast. I took Ben miniature golfing, and then he got to enjoy a motorcycle ride with his Uncle Steve. He was nervous at first, but settled in and asked and received another ride. Michael went on a motorcycle ride, too, then went horseback riding with Lori and her sister. Ben didn't want to go but started sobbing when he saw them depart (at least he was able to go on the motorcycle ride after his meltdown).

About 8 p.m., I was feeling antsy and went for a little drive in the Charger and the sunset. I got a little lost but didn't mind. A half-hour later, I got back home and watched the rest of "The Lego Movie" with the boys. Now I'm on the porch writing in the crisp Wisconsin night. Back on the road in 12 hours ...

Summer 2014, day 53; Vacation, day 7

More North Woods today, and it was nice. I was sitting by Maple Lake, looking at the pines reflected in the water across the lake, watching the billowing, cottony clouds in the sky, watching the boys swim in the cold water, and realized how nice the day was.

Lori's parents reserved a little clubhouse at one of the parks in Three Lakes. From there, I took the boys on a hike up the bike trail that went past her family's farm -- a trail that once carried railroad tracks on which Lori would run after to see trains when she was a kid. Michael didn't entirely enjoy the hike; I don't think he likes the woods. We made it back just in time for lunch. Afterward, the boys and their cousins played at the park while I spread out a blanket and took a nap in the sun. We capped our trip to Three Lakes with an hour at Maple Lake (the weather did warm up, but it was still a bit chilly for me to brave the water; besides, I'm not a lake person ...) and ice cream before driving back to…

Summer 2014, day 52; Vacation, day 6

I had heard the rumors that the Wisconsin summer was a continuation of the horrendous winter that made the Midwest miserable this year. Sure enough, the temperature barely got above 60 degrees all day Tuesday. But we still managed a fun day.

After running in the morning on the Merrill High School track, I was feeling a little antsy in the afternoon. I was determined to get a little bit of a North Woods experience, so I piled the boys and my niece into the car to look for Lookout Mountain, the second-highest point in Wisconsin and near Merrill. The Maps app on my phone wasn't that helpful -- it took us way out of the way at first, then tried turning us onto a private road. We did stop at one set of trails and should have gone for a longer hike there, but the bugs were bad and I was still obsessing about finding Lookout Mountain. We ended up finding Otter Lake, where got out of the car and admired the lake (it was way too cold to go in the water). So we got some North Woods, even ju…

Summer 2014, day 51; Vacation, day 5

After 40 hours in a train last week, what naturally was going to follow? Six hours in a car!

We drove to Merrill to stay with Lori's sister for a few days, and the journey actually went rather well. Except for some confusion on how to get on north I-294 from Rosemont (we stopped at an outlet mall there to buy Ben new Crocs), the trip was smooth. We stopped at Kopp's in Milwaukee for lunch (yum!) and worked our way north and eventually west. I let Lori drive outside of Oshkosh and dozed off in the passenger seat. By the time I woke up, we were only about 45 minutes away from Merrill.

After arriving, we went out for pizza at a New York-style restaurant in Wausau. We got back and played some board games: Ticket to Ride and The Resistance. The day was long but definitely felt vacationy. And the drive really wasn't that bad.

Summer 2014, days 49-50; Vacation, days 3-4: The recovery

Two days in Chicago, and I don't feel like I've quite settled into a sleep pattern after the long train ride. It rained almost all day Saturday, which was good, because that gave us a chance to recover from our two-day railroad adventure. The highlight was driving to Rogers Park to a game store, then going to Kohl's at the HIP (Harlem-Irving Plaza, for those not from Chicago), and finally to SuperDawg for dinner. The rental car agency gave us a Charger, which was unexpected and quite welcome, even if the risk of a speeding ticket just increased.

On Sunday, Lori, Michael and I took a long bike ride on the North Shore Trail, riding maybe 15 miles total on the path I used to take my bike and also run (for cross country in high school). My legs were sore by the time I went to bed. Later, we went to a graduation party thrown by some friends of my dad and soon-to-be stepmom. The party had a band, and Ben enjoyed dancing, of course. Vacation is just gearing up.

Summer 2014, days 47-48; Vacation, days 1-2: We've been working on the railroad

We tried something different this year for vacation: Taking the train to Chicago. The boys are at an age that we felt they would handle it, and it's an adventure, right? We arrived at the SLC station very, very early to catch our 3:30 a.m.train. After enduring some drizzle (now it rains after three straight days of heat), we boarded and found four seats across. We settled in to try to resume our sleep (I had got maybe 90 minutes the night before).

Unfortunately, I probably didn't sleep more than an hour and was exhausted for all of Thursday. We got off the train briefly in Grand Junction, and I did manage a little nap after we got back on. Just a little nap, though, as Ben, who was so loud -- a combination of wired and overtired -- got into an argument with Michael and woke me up. No matter -- the scenery through Colorado was gorgeous. I did manage one more nap. We ate dinner in the dining car, which was an experience. An overpriced experienced, but an experience nonetheless -…

Summer 2014, days 43-46: The heat is on

I'm officially in severe catch-up mode with this blog. Here it goes:

These four days were so focused on getting everything done and everything ready before our vacation. I bulled through all the work projects I aimed to finish before we left -- this might have been the most concentrated burst of work I've achieved since becoming a freelancer. We needed to pack, get the house ready, drive the boys to all the various things they have (actually, not as much as earlier in the summer, just swim and basketball, plus some playdates, but still things we had to fit in) and manage to stay sane.

Fortunately, I got everything done that I needed to do. Everything got packed. We got Popcorn to the family who are watching her while we're gone. The boys had a swim meet Wednesday and did all right, each registering one season best, though I think they were thinking of our trip, too. We had some car trouble Monday that didn't get resolved until Tuesday, which only added to the chaos. An…

Summer 2014, days 33-42: The crush and the boom

A week and a half without blogging. The crush of busy days that I had predicted finally overwhelmed me. OK, it wasn't so overwhelming that I'm frazzled. But it has been busy enough that I didn't blog all these days.

Michael had his basketball tournament last week and played well. His team went 2-2 and finished in fourth place out of 13 teams in his division. He scored two baskets, grabbed about 10 rebounds, and set three picks that sprung teammates for baskets.

Both boys had two swim meets during this time. And both joined the no-breather club by swimming a 25-meter race without breathing. Ben swam his best times in the freestyle and backstroke.

I've been swamped with freelance work as I try to get everything done before vacation next week. I made good progress but still have much to do in the next five days.

Temperatures finally climbed into the 90s for good -- it will stay around this hot the rest of the summer. We went to the waterpark for the first time Tuesday. I&…

Summer 2014, day 32: Hot, hot, hot

The temperature is inching higher. At some point every summer -- usually around now, high temps in Salt Lake City climb above 90 degrees and stay there for the next two months. This isn't terrible because it never feels humid, just very bright. But for a 10-year-old practicing basketball inside a non-cooled gym, it's a challenge. Michael has been good about bringing and drinking plenty of water, and he hasn't looked worn out these past two days, even after he had basketball camp in the morning (that's four hours of hoops the last two days). The heat might be tougher on Ben during soccer camp this week, though the coaches are good about taking breaks and bringing the kids into the shade.

I escaped the sauna of the gym by finding a Starbucks at which to work. Later, I took Ben to swim practice and lounged in the sun while he swam. The water at the pool (Ben practiced inside, then splashed with his friends outside) felt good. I took the dog running in the morning before i…

Summer 2014, days 29-31: The calm, the storm

Oops, another break in the blogging action, but here's my chance to catch up again. The weekend was mellower than normal. We had a Saturday with no sports whatsoever. OK, we did see a Salt Lake Bees game, but the boys didn't have any sports. We hit a few garage sales in the morning (and found Michael a bicycle -- he outgrew his previous one, quickly), and I took the dog on a hike in Millcreek Canyon.

The baseball game was fun, even though the Bees lost. This was a group event for the boys' swim team, and Ben hung out with his friends for much of the game. There was a fireworks show afterward, and people were allowed onto the field to get a better view. Ben was somehow the first one out there, and he made a run to hit all points of the grass spectators were allowed. Lori was worried he was clueless about us (we hadn't made it on the field yet), but I knew that Ben knew exactly what he was doing. He wasn't lost -- this was his plan all along. The fireworks were short…

The hillside, the sunset, the reflection


Summer 2014, Day 28

This was a summer day. Not overwhelmingly summer, but a good summer day nonetheless.

The sun was shining and the temperature climbed into the 80s. The boys had swim practice, and Michael had basketball camp. We all went to breakfast this morning at Original Pancake House. We went back to the pool for a few hours, and though I didn't swim too much, I did do my annual jump off the diving board to remind myself that I can swim in deep water. Ben and I, and Popcorn, walked to get a snow cone later in the evening while it was still light out. I'm sitting on the porch typing, listening to baseball, and enjoying the pleasant night.

Ah, summer.

Summer 2014, days 24-27: The Cooldown

Well, it had to happen: I missed a few days blogging. These four days appropriately coincided with a cold spell that swept through Salt Lake City. On Tuesday night, it was in the low 40s; the upper elevations even got snow. You don't usually see the peaks with a dusting in mid-June, but there they were. The cold and rain blew into town Monday, got really miserable on Tuesday, lost the rain on Wednesday, and finally warmed up near a pleasant 70 degrees on Thursday. SLC seems to get one cold snap between Memorial Day and mid-June before the heat really sets in. Sure enough, temps are supposed to hit the high 90s next week.

The week has been sort of busy and sort of uneventful at the same time. Michael is going to a different basketball camp this week in the morning. Ben and I hit a comic book store Monday, and his head almost exploded (needless to say, he enjoyed the trip). I ran errands with both kids on separate days -- we somehow arrived at Walmart both trips. The boys had a swim…

Summer 2014, Day 23

I wanted to go for a hike with my family on Father's Day. My family obliged.

The morning was a little cloudy, and I was a little concerned that the day would stay that way (the mountains are at a higher risk of lightning strikes even when it's not raining). The alternate plan was to see "How to Train Your Dragon 2." But the skies cleared up enough for the hike, and it wasn't even too hot today -- this was perfect summer hiking weather. We went up Rattlesnake Gulch to the Salt Lake Valley Overlook in Millcreek Canyon -- a hike I've done maybe three times already this year but never disappoints. I actually caught a little glimpse of a rattlesnake on the weeds off the trail; Popcorn briefly investigated some rustling, and I only saw a little of the body (and heard no rattle) to quickly shoo her off back onto the trail. The rest of the hike was great. I'm happy we got to spend the time together on the trail instead just the dog and me.

We picked up Barbacoa o…

Summer 2014, Day 22

A Saturday without sports but a lot of parties. Ben had a birthday party first, then the boys' end-of-season baseball party was on tap for the afternoon, then we went to a friend's 40th kid-friendly birthday party in the evening. The kids were exhausted by the end of the day, especially Ben, who was overtired by the end of the day. I was tired, too -- I had run with the dog in the morning and didn't quite feel like taking her for a walk in the evening after we got home from the last party. "Thirteen Days" was on TV, and I hadn't seen that in a while and was content to watch while playing Ticket to Ride on my iPad.

Summer 2014, Day 21

We can chalk this Friday the 13th up as being the first official lazy day of summer.

Michael played Minecraft with his best friend from across the street for hours starting this morning, and Ben's best friend is out of town. Around noon, I started realizing I had very little incentive to do much today. I had caught up with all my freelance work and was looking forward to a work-free weekend. That went out the window when I was informed that I had been given the wrong documents for a news release I wrote this week So much for my work-free weekend, though I'm not rushing to rewrite the release after their mistake. But the debacle put me in a more restless mood.

Ben and I did get out of the house, going to the game store for a birthday present and to some thrift stores (found a classic version of Risk and kids Penguins jersey for Ben). I got home and the boredom was really setting in. Michael complained his friend and Ben were suggesting things he didn't want to do. I even of…

Summer 2014, Day 20

The boys completed basketball camp today, and both had fun all week. Michael continued to mostly shoot with his better form, and Ben was his usual happy, bouncy self. I didn't get to see the whole session, as I needed to get some work done and found a Starbucks. But from what I did see today and all week, I'm glad we signed them up for the camp -- especially Ben, who wants to come back next year.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful. Lori took Michael to basketball practice (yes, he played a lot of hoops today) while Ben and I played a couple board games and watched Game 4 of the NBA Finals. I got a haircut this morning and took the dog a long walk at night. Got sucked into a "Kitchen Nightmares" episode (why?) and am about ready to call it a night. I'm ready for a weekend.

Summer 2014, Day 19

After Michael complained about his basketball coach's suggestion Tuesday night, I was expecting at least a discussion with him about it today. But he surprised me, and I'm so proud of him.

He had swim practice early, then had some time at the JCC while Ben was in the pool. Michael to the gym, found a basketball, and practiced his shot the way his coaches want him to. He came home and showed me, then did it the same way at camp to the praise of the head coach. No arguments -- he got the idea he needed to do this if he wanted to get better. I watched him during camp, and there were still a few times he dropped his hands on his shot instead of holding the form, but even that will dissipate as he practices. He loves basketball and wants to get better, and knows he will need to work hard to get there.

The day was filled with sports -- the boys had a swim meet in the evening. They raced great. Michael put up some good times despite not being able to practice too much lately (I hope …

Summer 2014, Day 18

Today, Lori stayed at basketball camp with the boys while I spent the afternoon at home. I was mildly productive, getting some freelance work done, but I also enjoyed the new iPad.

I did run with the dog in the morning; later, I took Michael to basketball practice and watched the session. We're at odds right now -- his coach wants him to change his shooting form, but he doesn't quite have the range on it yet and just wants to chuck it like he usually does. I spent my whole walk with the dog stewing over the argument he is throwing at us. Michael befuddles me sometimes: He wants to be good at things but never wants to put in any sort of work toward it. Guitar, reading, baseball, math -- you name it, he's complained about it. Basketball is usually the exception, but he's resisting this shooting suggestion. His coach told me that she doesn't mind if he shoots airballs for now -- just get the form down. He doesn't want to airball it. Hence, the impasse.

Michael and…

Summer 2014, Day 17

The first super busy week (of three) began today. The boys had their first morning swim practice of the season and then basketball camp in the afternoon. Lori took them to swim, and I think it went off without a hitch.

I took them to basketball camp -- three hours of hoops fun -- and stayed the entire time while I also worked. Ben had a lot of fun, saying it was a good day. Michael had fun, too, but anything basketball-related is old hat for him. This was Ben's first exposure to this much basketball -- dribbling, shooting, passing -- all at once. He's never going to be a comp player like Michael, but I would like him to become good enough to hold his own in rec play. He's not bad little shooter (though he's so skinny he can't shoot from too far out -- he's been challenging himself to make a free throw), and hopefully he'll some more confidence dribbling after this week.

I got home to an early Father's Day present. Lori and I have talked about getting an…

Summer 2014, Day 16

I tackled the garage today. It tackled back.

I had been planning on clearing out the garage -- taking everything out, reorganizing, throwing some stuff out -- for a few weeks now, and today seemed like the best opportunity. I took Popcorn on a hike on the dog trail this morning, then ate lunch and started the job. Four hours and a cut finger (achieved while taking the kid pedal trailer off Lori's bike), I was finished. And exhausted.

Ben and I went to Walmart for some things, and I took the dog for another walk after the NBA Finals Game 2 completed (Heat beat Spurs -- boo). And now I'm blogging outside and it's getting a little chilly. Going to wrap this up and get a good night's sleep in preparation for a busy week ahead.

Summer 2014, Day 15

Baseball season ended today, but let's get the rest of the day out of the way first.

I had a hell of a time trying to grill today. The new propane tank I bought didn't work, then the meat thermometer gave me a minor false reading and I had to put the steaks and chicken back on the grill. The T-bones at least turned out well (I can't speak for the chicken). We played the board game Dominion tonight as a family (I won, but just barely!) and then I got a bit lazy, only managing to take the dog around the block (she had been at Ben's baseball game and got enough outside time then).

Now for baseball. Three years ago, in Michael's first season of machine pitch, Ben would be don a helmet and be a runner during fielding practice. One day, he asked if he could get in the batter's box and try hitting a pitch. On the second ball, he amazingly hit it. Not far, but he got his bat on it. At another practice, he did it again at age 5. He played t-ball that summer and would hi…