Thursday, July 31, 2014

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 schedule. Lori's new job kicks into full-time next week. The boys are wrapping up swim season this week and played with their friends the past few days. I've taken the dog for walks each night but no hikes. I managed to actually jump in the pool today when I wasn't working (I brought my laptop to the JCC while the boys alternated between swim practice and swim fun). Oh, it rained plenty a couple days.

So let the recovery end. School starts in a little more than three weeks. Hello, August.

Monday, July 28, 2014

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.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

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 a Frisbee to her for a little while, then took her out for a walk later, but the temperature was still 80 degrees at 10 p.m. We came back to perhaps the hottest week of the year after the coolest July I can remember in Chicago.

The lawn is full of weeds, but at least it's green and some of the grass I managed to grow earlier in the summer has survived. The weeds remind me of the tasks at hand over the next few months. Vacation was good, and now I'm focused on the remainder of summer and fall. Time to get to work.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

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 when it was already a year -- that's an indicator of how comfortable it feels; sometimes, it doesn't seem like we left.

Of course, Chicago brings me that comfortable feeling, too ... sometimes. I asked Michael today if he would want to live here, and though he said he liked Chicago, he didn't hesitate with a no answer -- he prefers Utah. And I do as well -- the traffic, the winters, the slightly reduced friendliness of people, and a host of other things about Chicago makes me content to just visit. Yes, it would be nice to be closer to family and our friends from the Midwest, and I do occasionally miss a bigger city, but we really did hit the jackpot when we moved to Salt Lake City. There's no reason to give that up now.

The last days of vacation were low key, as they always seem to be every year. The terrible news we got Tuesday really took the wind out of our sails, kind of making us content to take it easy these last couple days. Today, Michael and I drove around a little, up to Glencoe, where I found the church "Sixteen Candles" was filmed at. I was going to have him take a picture of me standing in front of the red rental car, from the vantage point of the church, as Samantha saw Jake in the movie ... but there was nowhere to park. The boys played tennis with my dad for the third day in a row. I got to drive the Charger around a little more. We ate at Lou Malnati's for dinner, then returned home to celebrate Pie and Beer Day (the heathen alternative to Utah's Pioneer Day) and play Ticket to Ride: Europe. And here I am, wrapping up vacation with one last blog post.

This was such a busy, wonderful trip and yet didn't seem like enough time. If we stayed another week, I'd be raring to go with the stuff we didn't do, the friends we didn't see. But I'm also ready to be back home. Lori and I discussed future trips today. We need to see the ocean again. We still want the boys to visit every state before they hit college. And we'd love to visit the Midwest in the fall rather than the humid summer. Chalk up another great vacation -- another one I documented so we don't forget. Let the great summer continue -- about 40 days left; with school starting up again in a little more than four weeks. I have computerized stickies on my laptop with work, home and writing goals that are in sight -- I am eager to tackle those. And finally, it's time for me to fly.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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 another mellow vacation day. We are at the point where we'll be sad that vacation is ending soon but are ready to get home. It's been two weeks and a few hours since we got on that train. It's just time.

In the evening, my father, the boys and I went to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play the Padres. This was my first Wrigley night game in the 26 years since lights were installed, and I must say, I still prefer day games. The cooler weather that was so wonderful in the afternoon was downright chilly and windy once the sun dipped below the side of the ballpark. The game seemed to drag as well -- not surprising when the team you are rooting for is losing. The Cubs trailed 3-0, tied it 3-3, then fell behind 5-3. We left after the seventh inning; the Padres went up 8-3 soon thereafter, thus validating our decision to depart. I still love seeing games at Wrigley Field, and the boys do, too. Still, it would have been nice to sing "Go Cubs Go" tonight.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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 chapter in their lives. Just like that, the chapter came to an abrupt halt. We haven't told Ben yet -- he sobbed when he was saying goodbye to his friend last month.

This terrible news left me unfocused for much of the day. We were already tired from the last week, and Chicago was so ungodly humid today to begin with. The boys didn't want to do much, Lori was in Milwaukee for work, and I had to get it together just to get to Starbucks to do some writing. We have two whole days left on our trip, and they will be good. I'm not that worried that today was non-eventful.

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 by the basketball courts and Diamond 1. This playground has already changed since the last time we were here -- the equipment has been upgraded from the upgrade that occurred sometime in the late 1980s. The sky is overcast, but I don't think it's going to rain again anytime soon.

I've already written about how vacation was just nuts. The boys had a blast, and Lori and I had fun, too, but it was all a blur. I barreled through so much freelance work during the trip that it dominated my thoughts even when I wasn't writing. This wasn't work I felt I could turn down, especially as I was establishing myself as a contract writer/editor, and I was paying for vacation as I was working through it. Getting so much all at once was just a fluke of timing. Nevertheless, by the time we got back to Chicago from Northern Wisconsin, the overcast skies matched my mood and my energy level.

I cut across diamonds 6 and 7, taking some pictures along the way. The diamonds face each other, and I remember one pee-wee game on Diamond 7 happening while a makeup game on the clearly inferior (but now upgraded) Diamond 6 was occurring, and coaches pondering if the center fielders should wear a batting helmet. I find the path that follows the south end of the park toward Bryn Mawr Avenue and Diamond 5. The first summer after figuring out my big bicycle, I would ride around the sidewalks of the big park and imagine these paths were expressways and interchanges.

Probably, I was just feeling sorry for myself. Sorry for no reason -- I have it so much better than other people, other dads, other families. I found out during this trip that a good friend was having marital troubles with a relationship that began in the mid-1980s. So I endured one less-than-stellar vacation? It happens, right? Why was I so bummed out?

I head toward the field house, past the outdoor basketball hoops I spent so much time on when I was 10 and 11. This park used to have two outdoor courts -- one here and one near the tennis courts that only had 9-foot-baskets. I played games at that other one but never practiced there on my own; it seemed pointless to shoot around on a basket that I wouldn't normally do during games. I entered the field house and looked around. This was such a multi-purpose facility and not just a gym. We once played Dungeons and Dragons here; I remember at least one neighborhood Christmas party here as well.

Vacation means much to me, but so does coming back to Chicago every year. There's something here I can't quite recapture every time I return -- something I'm trying to absorb that I just feel will propel me to the goals I have. Mind you, I don't want to live here again, but the memories here carry a power to them, a power I wish I could harness. With this trip not living up to expectations, the specter of those memories seemed to exert an ever greater pull.

We had relatives that lived almost next to one of the edges of the park on Oleander. I walk past the tennis courts and sit on a bench near that side of the park and call my mother in Texas. This was her neighborhood, too, for some of her life. The relatives had since died, which I think I knew. Intermittent drizzle has begun. I keep snapping pictures and taking it all in.

On the final late afternoon of our trip, I drove myself, and only myself, to Oriole Park. I have visited here before as an adult -- even once with the boys -- but this time, I needed some time alone. Maybe it was melancholy, maybe nostalgia, maybe just a quick fix to my gray mood, but for whatever the reason, this was the place I was drawn to -- the park I spent so many hours and days playing at in my youth. I only spent about a half-hour there, and 15 minutes were on the phone with my mom. But that was enough time for a bit of catharsis. Did I find that magic spark I've been seeking? No, but I'm glad I went anyhow. I drove back to my father's house for the last hours of vacation.

Here is Diamond 2. The girl I felt my first crush for lived on the alley that bordered this field; they had a swimming pool, and I always tried to catch a glimpse through the fence to hopefully see her, but I never did -- the fence was too tall and gap-less. I tripled with the bases loaded during a game on this diamond, then got beaned bad on the elbow, which was so traumatic it eventually drove me from wanting to play baseball. I played pick-up football with my friends in the outfields here, and played lob league in almost every diamond in this park. I sledded down that hill in winter, practiced golf beyond left field in Diamond 3, and walked from a far parking spot to the field house with my father one March night to see my sisters' gymnastics performance, looking at the stars along the way.

As much as I want to incorporate all these memories and experiences into everything I do today, I don't think I'll ever quite recapture what I felt. I'll keep trying, listening to the music I listened to, watching the things I watched, playing the games I played, visiting the places I visited. And maybe one day it will intersect with my life today and result in a superhuman burst of creativity. Yet, I'm really starting to wonder if that day will ever come.

I walk back to the car, awash in the memories I know will inevitably fade again. It was so long ago.

And there's the one thing I can't change yet can't completely accept: It was so long ago.




.

Monday, July 21, 2014

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 everybody else chose Raging Bull for their third ride of the day.

-- A pirate-ship type ride (River Rocker) that the adults wisely skipped.

-- The Eagle, which is my all-time favorite Great America ride. After a slow line, the red car was finally opened on the dual coaster, and we got on almost instantly. Both boys loved this ride, and I remembered why it's still my favorite roller coaster.

-- The nieces waited in line for Vertical Velocity, so we went on Fiddler's Fling, after which I surprisingly didn't feel to sick, and Logger's Run and got soaked.

-- Lunch! Overpriced pizza ...

-- East River Crawler, formerly the Lobster in my youth.

-- Roaring Rapids ... soaked again (though for me, not as bad)

-- Gotham City Rail, basically a wild mouse in the dark



-- The double-decker carousel.

-- Ben had been stressing out about going upside down on a rollercoaster, but he manned up and went on the Demon, which goes upside down four times. After the first loop, he was cheering. This was Michael's favorite ride, too. However, I came to the conclusion it's not the greatest rollercoaster for adults -- my shoulders hurt as I braced myself through the corkscrews. So much for happy memories ...

-- The kids did a ropes course near Demon. I don't think Michael liked it at all -- he is definitely not a fan of heights. Ben was braver and made it to the top, though he didn't try anything too challenging up there.

-- Michael wasn't in the best mood after the ropes course, and it showed on our second trip on the Eagle. We ended up in a back car, and when I told him the back gets whipped around, he became nervous. When we did get whipped around, he didn't like it and was cranky after we got off the ride.

-- Ben and his aunt went on Revolution, which looked way too dizzying for me to attempt.

-- Ben surprised me again by going on the Batman rollercoaster. I was nervous about him on this -- he was tall enough but is so skinny ... . He loved it but said he almost puked. Michael didn't go on with us, instead going on the Crawler and the swings with Lisa.

-- Dinner. Overpriced burgers and way too many fries. Next time we go, I'm bringing a cooler and we can eat at the car.

--  Bumper cars

-- The Triple Play, one of my favorite non-coaster rides when I was kid. But, it spins. I survived.

-- The Whizzer one more time.

-- The boys went on a teacup ride that Jenn and I wisely avoided.

-- Sky Trek tower for a 330-foot high view of the landscape.

And that was it. The boys bought souvenirs and we drove back to Chicago. We didn't stay until closing like we originally planned, but we made it to about 9:20 p.m.

Except for Michael's brief moodiness and Ben's pre-ride stresses, we had so much fun all day. Even though we didn't wait too long for any one ride, the day went surprisingly fast. I'm not sure if my 22 previous visits were that way; maybe my perception of time is just different (I can say when we went to Disney Land a few years ago, that day flew by, too).

A trip to Great America was always a special day when I was a kid. An event. This day, with my sons, was an event. And no one threw up.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

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.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

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 was amazing. The ceremony itself was wonderful. My father and new stepmother were so happy to be getting married, and the event itself was joyous.

We stayed another half-hour after the ceremony and dined on some appetizers and had another drink. I told the boys they could drink as much soda as they wanted tonight, with the warning of how when I was 10, I drank so much soda at a wedding that I had the most bizarre nightmares after I went to sleep (and 33 years later, I still remember those bad dreams -- too weird to quite describe, but they are etched in my memory). Eventually, we drove back home and didn't hit as much traffic as we did on our way down.

The block party was a lot of fun, too. Ben danced for much of the night, and played cornhole when he wasn't dancing or eating. I got to talk with some of my father's friends whom I hadn't seen in a long time. I also was asked to give a toast -- I had a day to prepare, but I was still nervous nonetheless. The bugs weren't too bad, and the boys actually decided to go to sleep at a reasonable hour (about 10 p.m.). This day will be a happy vacation memory as well as a good family memory.

Friday, July 18, 2014

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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

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 Merrill.

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 just for a few minutes.

The evening was a little warmer, and we played disc golf at a park in Merrill and went for ice cream with the boys' cousins. Michael actually played rather well, and Ben had fun. We got back, and I watched the All-Star Game before coming outside on the patio to work and write.

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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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.

Friday, July 11, 2014

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 -- here we were, eating a real meal, on a train. That capped a great day. Ben and I sat in the observation car and played Ticket to Ride: The Card Game early in the morning. We sat in that car at different times and played games (I bought a new one for my iPad) and watched the scenery. Yes, the first 16 hours of our cross-country trip were great, even if I was tired.

I was ready to sleep as we all settled down about 9 p.m. for the night. Unfortunately, that turned out to be another nap as I couldn't get totally comfortable and was awakened by an announcement from the conductor: A derailment a couple hundred miles ahead in Nebraska would force the train to be rerouted, resulting in about four extra hours on the train. My good mood about our journey was dissipating. The washrooms weren't being upkept as well as we had hoped, I still couldn't get comfortable, and the thought of four extra hours on the train suddenly seemed daunting. I walked down to the snack bar and bought a cheeseburger, simply as comfort food. After I ate, I fell asleep for a couple more hours -- and woke up again, about 1 a.m. It took another hour to doze off again, this time until morning.

We ate breakfast in the dining car, and we continued to play games and pass the time. I got some longer naps in as the train dragged through Nebraska and Iowa. The bathrooms were tidied up. We ate through the rest of our food that we brought on the train (Michael and I bought a cheeseburger -- that was just about all the train had left in the snack bar, after passengers needed to eat after the delay put us through dinner). Ben and I played a game on the iPad that took awhile -- enough time to get us focused on the fact we were in Illinois and approaching our arrival. We ended up being almost six hours late.

My dad picked us up from the train station, and we made it to his house and ate Thai food that he picked up for dinner. We were relieved to have made it. The trip was fun, but just too long because of the delay. I'm glad we'll be flying back.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

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. And the serious heat that Salt Lake City endures every summer finally arrived.

We got through it all. Time for vacation.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

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'm hoping we go again once next week, but with so much work looming, I'm not sure if I can take a few hours to go.

Today was Independence Day. We walked in the annual neighborhood parade and saw the fireworks at Sugar House Park. This was the boom.

I had hoped this past week was going to be a little more settled, and for the most part it was. But all of a sudden, vacation is almost upon us and feeling a little stressed to get everything done that needs to be done. I want to write so badly right now, but I need to devote that energy to writing for work. Summer is filling my brain, and I want to enjoy it. My goal is to get all the freelance work on my docket done before vacation, then experience summer in the Midwest in the present and in my memories. So much to do these next five days. So much to look forward to as well.