Showing posts from 2015

Pins to the left, pins to the right

Michael's birthday was a few weeks ago, but December had been so busy that we weren't able to throw any sort of party for him and his friends until today. With a sleepover not an option with Lori's parents staying with us through the winter, we pondered either bowling or swimming. Over the weekend, we settled on bowling, sent last-minute invitations, and hoped that it wasn't too short notice.

It wasn't, because we ended up with 13 kids bowling (counting Michael and Ben). Everyone had fun, though it became a little chaotic as the kids got a little more wired near the end. Unlike a swim party, in which the kids would have spread out across the pool, everyone was in a concentrated spot (three lanes) and were able to socialize and laugh a lot. I don't know if anyone broke 100, but nobody cared -- they weren't there to win or lose (although Ben got annoyed when he threw gutter balls).


Michael played in a basketball tournament with his club team the past few days. Tonight was the championship game in his bracket, and his team lost a nail-biter, 37-34. His team had a chance to maybe win the game but just couldn't quite get the winning basket. Michael played perhaps the toughest game I've ever seen him play -- he scored only four points but pulled down a lot of rebounds and played good defense against a good, physical team.

This is how much I know that Michael is passionate about basketball: After the tough loss, he sulked. Not pouted, not whined, but sulked just enough because he was upset about the close game. Lori and I telling him how proud we were of him and how we love watching him play didn't help. His coach and other parents telling him what a great game he played didn't help. Opening a box of Candy Cane Joe-Joe cookies didn't help.

He'll recover by morning. I don't want him to dwell on losses, but he's allowed to be bummed out …

Experiences, exponential

Every December, I enjoy driving with the family around Salt Lake City, looking at Christmas lights, listening to holiday music. The only challenge -- getting a free night in which everybody is free and has the energy for an hour or two in the car. Maybe I just enjoy the adventure more than everyone else, but each year, I try.

Last Wednesday, Michael wanted to stay home and Lori was tired, but I recruited Ben to look at the lights. Our first destination was a house up in the Avenues that is ridiculously lit up every year. We spent about 15 minutes just gawking, then went to Barnes and Noble for hot chocolate. We drove up onto the benches, stopped and gazed and the lights of the valley, heard three different versions of "Baby It's Cold Outside" and finished our night cruising through the country club neighborhood (not as impressive as you would think).

It wasn't much, just me and my 9-year-old, but it was an experience I hope never to forget. Remembering these moments…

Quest for 100

This is my 95th blog post of 2015. Let me rephrase that -- it's my 95th blog post on The 43. I've written 292 posts for work clients. That's part of the challenge I've grappled with for a few years now -- I put so much writing energy toward professional content that I don't often have energy to write for me. Finding the time and wherewithal for both (a balance, to be cliche) is a goal for 2016, because I don't want to be south of the the 100 mark (or even the 200 mark) again.

That said, I'm trying to make to 100 for 2015, and I need to write a lot in the next few days to get there. This has been a nice holiday weekend -- relaxing, full of board games, cold walks with the dog, a basketball game, fantasy football, and, thankfully, no work. I cleared my head to think about 2016, accepting the fact the last year went way too fast. Only these last four days remain, four days to write five posts to put me at 100.

Let 2015 conclude with a bang!

The Yule

For the first Christmas in many years, the boys opened presents when there was actual daylight outside our front window. The slightly later start began a mellow Christmas day that was blessedly uneventful.

Michael didn't wake up until after 7 a.m., and the day moved at a slow pace after that. We opened presents, had breakfast, I got a quick nap, watched "A Christmas Story," ate lunch, tried out my new snowshoes with Popcorn up at the H Rock, took another quick nap, watched basketball, played three games of Pandemic with Ben (it's such a fun board game), and am now sitting with just the glow of the Christmas tree and an REM documentary on VH1 Classic.

The mellow day was appreciated. I used to work almost every Christmas day, because I always preferred having Christmas Eve off, and with no family nearby, the holiday was easy overtime. Today, I was happy there was no work on my agenda, nothing planned other than some board game playing. We don't quite have a midday …

Autumns: 4

I was back working full-time nights after moving to Utah, and Lori let me sleep every morning after I'd be up past 1 a.m. every night (our deadlines were later back then, and I could never just come home and go to sleep. However, this late September morning, not two months after we moved, she woke me up early. Our apartment had a balcony with a nice little view of the Salt Lake Valley, and this day, for the first time, there was snow on the mountains across the distance. The sight -- one we never had growing up -- cemented the reality or our move into a new chapter in our lives. And it sure was pretty.

The sunsets in November are even more amazing. The sun drops beyond the Oquirrh Mountains, giving off an orange glow above the silhouetted peaks. The view is unique to my Utah experience, but it feels like the Novembers I have encountered my whole life.

I played so much Atari in 1982. Megamania and Pitfall. Berserk and Defender. Starmaster and Demon Attack. E.T. came out No…

Autumns: 3

November in Chicago isn't my favorite time of year in my hometown. But in a sense, it's the most perfect definition of what being a Chicagoan is. I delineate this stretch as the weeks between my birthday on Nov. 6 and the first snow in which the ground stayed covered. It encompasses Thanksgiving. It is characterized by gray skies, 40-degree highs, and incredibly early sunsets. Darkness settles over the city before 5 p.m., but it's not quite winter yet. The time is just ... bland, lacking any features.

And yet, Chicagoans endure this time. They know winter is ahead, yet they go about their days, working, living, pushing forward. Even today, I can listen to a Chicago radio station (via the Internet, of course) in November and this characteristic is evident. Rejuvenating May afternoons, quiet summer mornings, crisp Octobers, and even stark, snowy winter evenings are more appealing, but November is more defining.

Fall 1987 turned out to be my last autumn as a full-time Ch…

Autumns: 2

Have you ever reflected upon a certain period of your life and thought that it was the time when everything was clicking perfectly? I look at the fall of 2011 and think the stars were aligned. The summer going into that autumn was absolutely great. The streak continued through the fall. Ben was thriving as he started kindergarten, and Michael was enjoying second grade. I only coached Ben's soccer team that fall, but Michael was on an advanced rec team and learned so much -- it was one of the first times his natural athleticism that we take for granted now began to show through. I was getting steady freelance editing work and doing the NFL page for the newspaper on Sundays. Popcorn was in the height of her puppyhood and was so much fun.

Of course, it didn't last.

The first autumn I truly have flashback-type memories of in 1979, when I was in fourth grade. I do remember football on Halloweens from earlier falls, but it wasn't until the end of the decade that the exp…

Fall vacation: Day 7

Last day of vacation. Mellow. Productive. Fun.

We took the car back to the rental car place, then picked up one last SuperDawg at Michael's request. I wrote a lot today; Lori read a lot today. The boys went for a bike ride and saw a movie with the grandfather. I took a long walk on the forest preserve bike trail and back through Wildwood. Dad bought Lou Malnati's pizza for dinner one more time, and I'm again thoroughly full. We played Ticket to Ride, and Ben won again. We're just about packed and ready to go for our morning flight.

This trip was way too short -- we may have spoiled ourselves on our previous trips that lasted 10 or more days. Or maybe we just needed a longer break after a busy two months. But it was a great trip back nonetheless. I'll be sad to leave but will be glad to get home and focus on the rest of the year. Only 9 1/2 weeks until Christmas, 72 days until 2016.

Time to fly in about 10 hours ...

Autumns: 1


The leaves is Chicago seem greener than they should be for Oct. 19. Of course, they were completely green in front of our house when we left Salt Lake; even the maple that goes a pretty shade of maroon hadn't quite changed. Perhaps we will see more color when we return. Here, there is mostly green with some yellow. The lawn in front of my father's house will need to be raked soon -- that hasn't changed over the years at this date -- but it's not covered yet.

Autumn technically stretches all the way into December, but don't kid yourself, Thanksgiving is the mental end of the season. That puts mid-October right in the middle of it.

September and October of eighth grade may have been the most pleasant months of any fall in my youth. Every memory is a sunny day, the scant need for a sweatshirt, and the leaves.

And a song. And a music video.

The music of this fall keeps coming back to me, over and over. I would tape "Friday Night Videos" and watch it …

Fall vacation, day 6

This morning, I got to enjoy the Madison I remembered so well.

We went to the Badger game yesterday, and that's part of the Madison I remember, too. We walk/drove through some of our favorite neighborhoods -- the ones we would have moved to if we stayed in Wisconsin instead of moving to Utah in 2000.

I used to walk a lot in Madison, for exercise and just to get out. I still do, but the Madison walks, for some reason, still resonate. Because I worked so early, I had whole afternoons to get outside. My Friday mornings were like this too on those weeks I worked Friday nights. My two favorite walks were the cross country skiing trails at Elver Park and the long trail at Governor Nelson State Park on the north side of Lake Mendota. Both were wooded and/or rustic trails that provided a nice hike and a chance to think, surrounded by a little bit of nature.

The condo we stayed at this weekend is near the Pheasant Ride Conservancy in Middleton. The land borders a Middleton Park and a state…

Fall vacation: Day 5

Jump around! Jump around" Jump up, jump up, and get down!

We took the boys to their first University of Wisconsin football game today. This was also our first in 16 years -- since the last fall we lived in Madison. We were looking forward to the experience as much as them, maybe more, especially for Lori, who was attending games in the 1980s. We woke up early, bundled up (the temperature really dropped today, even with the sun shining), and headed for Camp Randall Stadium.

Our first stop was Target on University Avenue and Midvale Boulevard to get cash and a couple supplies. We weaved our way through the West Side, past the church Lori and I were married in, and parked near West High School. I didn't think we'd get a spot close, and the mile-or-so walk through one of our favorite Madison neighborhoods was nice. We got to the stadium and witnessed the usual flurry of Game Day activity. We got a free hat and mittens from a Toyota promotion and saw Ron Dayne. We witnessed th…

Fall vacation: Day 4

We drove from Chicago to Madison today in advance of attending the University of Wisconsin football game Saturday. I needed to work in the car, so Lori drove in a trip that seemed amazingly quick. After some perfect fall weather, temperatures had dropped a bit, so the experience was a little chilly but still fun. We ate at Ella's for lunch (meeting Lori's parents there) and drove down to campus, where we wandered up Bascom Hill, walked along Lake Mendota, ate ice cream in the union, and went to the bookstore to purchase Badger gear for the homecoming game.

Afterward, we went to the condo in Middleton we reserved on Airbnb. Driving down University Avenue for the first time in 15 years was an experience -- I had completely forgotten about Lombardino's and Octopus Car Wash. After settling in, we drove to Waunakee for a fish fry dinner at Rex's Innkeeper. Back at the condo, Michael and I watched a "Family Ties" episode that was ironically about the kids using the…

Fall vacation: Day 3

Almost every year when I come back to Chicago, I do something trying to reinvigorate a memory from years past. I've visited my old grade school or the park I used to hang out at. I've taken the drive into my old neighborhood that my dad and I made every day for a month after we moved farther out into the city. Even Wednesday night, I hiked into the woods where we ran cross country meets.

Thursday, I tried something different -- recreating a memory not from my childhood, but from the experience of my son and me.

In 2006, we were in Chicago for a friend's wedding, and Michael and I came back a few days earlier while Lori and 4-month-old Ben stayed in Salt Lake City. My parents and grandma got to spend some extra time with Michael, and I got a few days of break that I desperately needed at a particularly stressful period of work. On two of those nights, my sister Kate had soccer practice on the large field next to Taft High School. With nothing else to do, we tagged along, an…

Fall vacation, day 2

It never fails: After a long stretch of craziness, the first day of vacation, no matter how much you intend it to be chock full of excitement and adventure, is a catch-up day to relax.

Today was that day. And boy, was it needed.

I slept soundly last night and woke up at 8:30. I had a little work I needed to do, but once I finished, I wasn't in a hurry to go full-throttle on vacation. Neither was Lori. We picked up SuperDawg for lunch, which was yummy, and the two of us did a little shopping (I bought a Cubs hat but couldn't find a W flag for under $20). The boys had a super fun day with their Grandpa, walking dogs, playing basketball and going for a bike ride. I manged to get a little walk into Bunker Hill woods (and saw four deer, including a buck) and also managed a little nap. We played two games of Ticket to Ride (I won once and Ben won once) and had cheeseburgers and salad for dinner.

I'm planning on writing more tomorrow, and I do have to get a few hours of work in. …

Fall vacation, day 1

We flew to Chicago today, and there's not too much to report -- we took a 5 p.m. flight, so when we finally got into town, we just went to my dad's house and settled in for the night. The flight seemed super quick. I managed to get a little work done, and also was able to confirm through the Southwest WiFi channel that the Cubs clinched their NLDS series against the Cardinals with a 6-4 victory. The atmosphere was cool when we emerged from the Midway terminal -- an unfamiliar feeling for us given we are used to visiting during the summer and being blasted with heat and humidity as soon as we first step outside.

One day down, seven more to go ...

Up for air

The last two weeks have been phenomenally busy with family and work. Today, I completed a work milestone I had been working on for more than a month, and with it, I finally feel like I can breathe again.

So with this lungful of fresh air, what am I going to write about? Fall has astronomically begun. The boys are deep into their routines, although Ben's will change here with fall baseball ending and winter swim team beginning in about two weeks. We will be on vacation in three. Halloween is five weeks from Saturday. Christmas is three months away.

I hate when I get into these absolutely swamped periods because I don't stop to just enjoy the day. I don't write. I don't spend nearly as much time with the boys as I should. I get nothing done around the house. I'm only looking toward the next milestone, the next chance to get a deep breath.

I don't have quite a solution to this other than taking a deep breath tonight as I write this. Can I include something from my…

Summer 2015: Day 110 -- The Last Day of Summer

The pool just looked too inviting.

Ben only had 15 minutes of swim practice left in the indoor pool. I was sitting in the sun, getting some work done, glancing at the outdoor pool that was only open to lap swimmers. The mushroom shower on the shallow end was off. A couple of the lanes were in use. I wasn't going to swim laps anyway -- I am definitely a runner, not a swimmer. But according to my calendar, the one that begins this season in May and ends it the day before the first NFL game, this was last the day of summer.

I had to jump in the pool one more time.

I grabbed my goggles and walked around the to deep end, which has been incredibly clear lately, so much that I can see how deep it goes down -- a little unnerving for someone who's still somewhat afraid of deep water. I didn't hesitate and hopped in. The plunge felt like summer, one last time. The water was slightly chilly, but the experience was worth it.

I made a good show of it for the lifeguard by swimming one l…

Summer 2015: Day 109

A long but not terrible Tuesday of work today. Temperatures are pleasant, and I worked from the porch most of the day. Ben had his first Cub Scout meeting (technically, he's a Webelo) and had a lot of fun. It was more of an introductory meeting, but they den leaders had some fun activities planned for the boys. He's going to love this all year, I can already tell.

I came home and completed a fantasy football draft with my co-workers -- I had started it on my phone during the Scout meeting. Then, I took Popcorn on a long walk, and managed to keep my calories for the day in the green (I'm back to tracking; it had been so successful in the spring, and I tend to gain five pounds every September ...). I listened to fantasy football podcasts all the way. At one point, passing a particularly bright streetlight, I caught my shadow and thought it looked young. It's probably just my skinny legs, but the view made me feel good after several trying days. I think that's going t…

Summer 2015: days 92-108

Two weeks. No blogging. Ugh.

The boys are back in school, and the routine I sought is just about set. But it's been a tiring two weeks. Work has seemed to drain all my creative energy and has been souring my mood. I feel like I gained back 10 of the 25 pounds I lost in the spring. I see things around the house that need to be done, yet I can't quite find the wherewithal to work on them. That goal to hit the waterpark one more time before summer ended felt like too much of a chore. Fantasy football drafts are in full swing, yet I've had no time to do my usual preparations. I've been taking my laptop to Ben's baseball games to work.

It's an end-of-summer blah, one that I think I need the end of summer, at least by my calendar, to cure. The NFL season starts Thursday, and when it does, I close the curtain on Summer 2015. I'm in no rush for the weather to cool, but I'm ready for a little change of mood.

The last two weeks haven't been terrible, just wea…

Summer 2015: Day 91

I'm calling summer, right here, right now.

I will keep blogging summer for a couple more weeks as planned. But I'm backing off The Summer Project because I'm not feeling too summerly. I got some good posts out of it -- not as many as I hoped, but I can revisit next summer, or if I feel inspired anytime before then.

Three events today are driving my decision.

First, Ben played his first fall baseball game today, a 16-12 victory for the Robins over the Thunder. He walked once and struck out once, and had fun being back on the diamond. Fall ball doesn't have the same vibe, the same optimism as in the spring. That's not a criticism: Fall ball is actually nice and low key, perfect for Ben, and perfect to get some more baseball in that isn't high pressure. But it's definitely a signal that summer is concluding.

Lori and I did Big Costco today in preparation for the first week of school. The boys stayed home. As we were driving back, we got a call from a neighbor …

Summer 2015, Day 90

This was the boys' last hurrah of summer.

We went to Olympic Park outside Park City for the afternoon. Lori had bought two discounted all-day passes for the boys to zipline, Alpine slide, traverse rope courses, and enjoy extreme tubing (that's a new feature, though Ben was too young to slide down the ski jumping landing hill) as much as they wanted to. Lori also bought a pass for herself, and I found a shady picnic table and worked for the entire afternoon.

They had so much fun, and I was content to watch. Ben especially loved the zip line and the rope courses, and he also did the drop tower in which he stepped off a 70-foot ledge and gradually coasted to the ground via a cable. Michael did the extreme tubing twice and overcome some fear of heights by doing the intermediate ropes course. Lori had fun as well.

We went to Five Guys in Kimball Junction for dinner, then headed back to Salt Lake. I almost liked this better than Lagoon -- despite the extreme sports, it was mellower …

Summer 2015, Day 89

With Lagoon out of the way and school starting in four days, summer already seems over. Another end-of-summer milestone passed: Michael's last basketball practice after about 10 weeks of multiple days of hoops. He gets a week off before tryouts for the next season.

The rest of the day was uneventful. I was tired from the day before and kind of muddled through work. Lori and I went to Michael's class parent meeting at school. I took the dog for a long walk.

Summer 2015: Day 88

Today was our annual (though we didn't go last year, and I'm thinking we didn't go in 2013) trip to Lagoon. Lori's office sponsors a day mostly for clients, but also for employees, at the amusement park, and though both of us had to work into the early afternoon, we still got to spend a good eight hours at the park.

We met up with some friends there and spent much of the day with them. A friend of Michael's from school, who he will insist is not his girlfriend, met us there as well (she has a season pass and lives close to the park; her mom just dropped her off). The kids made it on a lot of rides. I escaped with only one spinning ride and twice on a rollercoaster that went upside down (Wicked), plus stayed dry the whole day.

The boys, after insisting they weren't going to go on scary rides, went on almost most of them. Michael's friend convinced him to go on a few rides I was stunned he would even consider (adding fuel to to the girlfriend argument), inclu…

Summer 2015, days 85-87

The last week of summer before school has begun. So far, so fun ...

Sunday, we all went to the driving range. Lori is playing in a golf tournament (I'm not making that up -- it's being sponsored by a women's business group) in a couple weeks and needed some practice, and Michael has occasionally bugged me to get him back on the links. We bought a large bucket to split among the four of us. It felt good, though I was pushing the ball to the right a little. Michael struggled a bit but eventually got the hang of it. Ben wasn't hitting the ball that far but was driving it surprisingly straight (he was enjoying using my big driver). I grilled dinner later on.

Monday, we went to the waterpark later in the afternoon. Michael brought a friend, and Ben found one of his school friends there, so each had fun hanging out and swimming. The waterpark this late looks so end-of-season, as if the management has given up on any sort of maintenance. Nevertheless, I'm glad we went, an…

The Summer Project: Lame-duck childhood (1984)

With August 2015 dragging a little, I started thinking about Augusts past, which I've done before in the blog. But the August that is permeating my brain is 1984. I started high school that month, and the few weeks before now seemed like a transition. Of course, it was a transition, but August bridged the two phases more than I could ever imagined.

Here's the bizarre thing about those three weeks of August before school began: I don't remember much about them. Summer 1984 was so memorable, but not the end of it. The Olympics had ended. The Cubs weren't collapsing, and the conclusion was foregone by that point that they would win the division. Channel 66, which had been playing music videos all summer, transitioned into a normal TV station (airing an array of old reruns). Most of the music popular around this time I associate with earlier in the summer or September (with a couple exceptions: "If Ever You're in My Arms Again" by Peabo Bryson and "Go In…

Summer 2015, days 82-84

Thursday morning started with Michael throwing up, We don't think he caught something, but instead was just tired -- he has a history of vomiting when he's overly fatigued, and maybe the long summer just caught up with him. That threw off or Thursday plans a bit (I had hoped to take them to the waterpark), but he was feeling better by the afternoon, and we went bowling in the evening. I won the first two games, but Lori edged me in the third. None of us are good bowlers, but at least I broke 100 twice. The evening was fun.

Friday we went to the JCC pool in the afternoon, and then I had the evening to myself while Lori and the boys went on a little campout at Red Butted Garden. I wish I could say I made the most of the solo evening, but I took it easy, going to McCool's for dinner and a beer, then vegging out after walking the dog later.

Today, I got Popcorn's nails trimmed in the morning, then we all went to Target and the DI around noon. The rest of the day was modera…

Summer 2015: Day 81

I'm sitting out on my porch late, hope to catch a glimpse of some shooting stars as the Perseid meteor shower passes through the northeast sky. I'm contemplating taking my Mac down to the school a block away and watching from the large field to give myself an unobstructed-by-trees view. Previous to now, the day was solid, though mostly uneventful. I took the boys and two of their friends to the JCC pool for a few hours, and I got some work done and also swam. Lori made street tacos for dinner, and I walked with the boys to get a Sno-Cone afterward.

The crickets are chirping tonight, and the weekend is just two days away. As I write these summer posts, I keep thinking back to being the boys' age during summer evenings, just like tonight when we walked to the Snow Shack. Parts are different. Much of what I remember is how the air in Chicago felt in the evening -- humid, dusty, a little bit orange -- a feeling that I just don't get here in Salt Lake. Part of the experienc…

The Summer Project: The Cherry Coke continuum (1985)

I am not a big soda drinker. I like Dr Pepper, but usually only drink it if I need a caffeine fix (I don't like coffee). I usually order water in restaurants, though sometimes I'll get a pop. And any Pepsi or Coke made with real sugar (and in a real glass bottle) tastes awesome, and I still have a soft spot for Orange Crush and Sunkist (though both today are way too sweet -- blame the high fructose corn syrup). But for the most part, I'm not one of those people who drink a few sodas a day, or even a week.

In 1985, for one summer, I was one of those soda drinkers. The Coca-Cola company debuted Cherry Coke that year, and it instantly became my favorite drink.

By that year, my family wasn't buying much soda, either, so I was on my own to find Cherry Coke. I'd walk to the drugstore on Canfield and Higgins, or even to the Dominick's on Cumberland to get one. Or, whenever I was out with friends, I'd buy one as well. It tasted so good.

The introduction of Cherry C…

Summer 2015: Days 79-80

These last two days have been hot and humid. And filled with work -- just a Monday-Tuesday thing, but both seemed long. Today it rained, as the monsoon season has arrived in Utah. Yesterday, I walked and the boys biked to Shop 'n' Go for desert -- I got an ice cream bar and they got Icees. That was nice. I made it to Costco today to pick up my contact lenses, a rotisserie chicken and sushi. No end-of-summer panic fun these two days, though the rain didn't help today (and yesterday, Michael had a tooth pulled). We still have the rest of the week and next week left.

The Summer Project: The roller skates (1980)

Our grade school, St. Eugene's, built a massive gymnasium/parish center that opened in late 1979, when I was in fourth grade. Previous to the debut, the school had been using the old church as a converted gym (the new church had been built sometime in the early 1970s, before we moved into the parish in 1977). Many of Chicago's Catholic schools don't have full-sized gyms with actual gym floors, so this was a quite a project, spearheaded by Father Shaunessy, who became a good family friend and who the parish center is now named after.

When the gym floor was installed, it was just going to be for basketball and gym classes -- it would double as a roller rink. This would make St. Eugene rather unique and a great place for kids who roller skated. However, by 1980, I had never laced up skates.

My parents had bought roller skates for my sister Julie, and she became a good skater almost right away. I wasn't against the idea of roller skating, but I was such an uncoordinated 9-…

Summer 2015: days 72-78

I did it again -- went a whole week without posting. This week was almost as tiring as the last, and I never felt like writing any night after the long days. Things settle down this week -- swim season ended, and work doesn't look so crazy post-vacation. Here's the recap; let's see what I remember ...
Day 72, Monday -- I actually slept in, as Lori took Ben to swim practice so she could work out, too.Day 73, Tuesday -- Same as yesterday, I got to sleep in, but still seemed tired all day. Got the boys Taco Bell for lunch after Michael's basketball practice.Day 74, Wednesday -- A cloudy, rainy day. Wendy's was for lunch today -- this trend was more for me being to lazy to make something. Ben had yoga and I worked from a nearby coffee shop. Michael had swim practice, and while Ben swam in the outdoor pool with friends, I worked under a canopy once it started raining (which didn't faze Ben).Day 75, Thursday -- I can attest that even though the last three days were un…

The Summer Project: Trains for one (2005)

Michael and Ben are almost 2 1/2 years apart in age. For the last 9 years, I've referred to my children as the boys, as my sons. Plural. All these years later, remembering the time when our family was just three, when there was just one son, seems odd. I wish I was blogging then to capture the time. Sure, there are plenty of memories and pictures of just Michael. It was so wondrous. And I'm not implying that life hasn't been wondrous since Ben was born, but the summer of 2005, when Michael was in full todderhood, and every day while Lori worked was just the two of us ... well, it was a unique kind of special, which I'm glad I experienced, and I'm glad ended when we had another son.

That summer, we drove to Southern California for a friend's wedding and turned it into a weeklong vacation for the three of us. We stayed in Las Vegas the first night (temperature: 117 degrees when we arrived) and had a view from the Flamingo of the Bellagio fountain, moving a chair …

Summer 2015: days 66-71

After hoping the routine would settle down, the remainder of the post-vacation week just got busier and busier. I'm writing this on Sunday night, trying to catch up on the five days previous as well as today. Here it goes:

Day 66, Tuesday -- This seemed to be the most stressful day of work I had experienced in a while. The work after vacation was piling up, not so much because I was on vacation, but I think because we had the company retreat in Vegas the week before, and everything was scheduled to be completed right around the day I got back. Michael was playing in his 3-on-3 tournament, so he missed his swim meet, and I didn't get to see Ben swim either. Mike ended up playing four games on two different teams in the tournament, but they lost all four in games at Providence Hall way, way down in Herriman. He had fun though, did better than the night before, and even drained his first competitive three-pointer (a step-back one at that; he almost looked like he had been making …

The Summer Project: Don't mess with my girlfriend (1995)

As I write this post on Lori's birthday, this is one of my favorite stories about her, from the summer on 1995. We were living on Prospect Avenue down by Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, in an apartment we just absolutely loved. Summer in Milwaukee is an experience in itself, almost enough to make up for the other nine months of the year. I'll admit September and October are actually nice as well, but not even close to the three-month party summer is.

We would go to Summerfest almost every day the two summers we lived near the festival grounds. They had this deal where if you were wearing a $1 Summerfest pin, you got in for free at lunch time. We'd walk in, then get our hand stamped and come back later. (They don't do this anymore.) And the walk to the grounds and back to our apartment wasn't bad that summer -- about 1.5 miles, which beat driving and paying for parking.

In 1995, we saw Pearl Jam and Hootie and the Blowfish on the Summefest main stage, and I think we saw…

The Summer Project: French Lick Springs (1985)

French Lick, Indiana, is the hometown of Larry Bird. In southern Indiana, it's a good 5-hour drive from Chicago. In the summer of 1985, we spent a couple nights at a historic resort in French Lick Springs in what would be the last trip we made as a family.

How did we end up in French Lick? Through a promotion for a discounted room -- you just had to go through the timeshare sales pitch. In retrospect, I'm surprised my dad went for this, but maybe we needed a weekend away and this was getting us there at a nice hotel. After the long drive, we arrived and were given what had to be the smallest room in the hotel. I think my parents complained, because we were moved to a different room that wasn't a glorified storage closet.

I'm trying to remember if we had any fun on this trip. I golfed with Dad, which was nice. I still wasn't quite swimming yet, so that wasn't an fun option for me. And my sister Julie developed a terrible headache caused by a bad sinus infection,…

Summer 2015: days 63-65

Life is slowly returning to normal after a week vacation, which proceeded the trip to Vegas that just Lori and I took. Only four weeks until school starts, and I'm embarking on my annual "Get the most out of the remaining summer days" mode.

Michael actually threw up late Friday night -- I think the combination of working so hard all week and a day of driving and non-normal eating finally caught up with him. I slept on the couch so Lori could keep an eye on him in our room. He felt better the next day. I got Popcorn from the pet sitter, but that was pretty much the extent of my activity until the afternoon. We went to friends' house for their daughter's first birthday party and house-cooling party (they are moving to a house down the street), and the boys got to swim and have fun.

Sunday was a little more productive. I got the cars washed and got some advance work stuff planned out for my return to the grind. I also was sucked into a Harry Potter marathon with the…

Summer 2015: Day 62 -- Vacation Day 7

We wrapped up vacation today, and it is good to be home.

Originally, we planned to come back Saturday, and I was a little disappointed when Lori suggested we come back a day earlier. After all, we weren't getting the long trip we are used to every summer in favor of a week now and a week in October. And this week went by so fast -- we went to the Grand Canyon, came to Vegas, watched Michael play some basketball, and it was over.

But we didn't have anything booked for Friday night. I suggested to Lori this morning we at least go to Hoover Dam for something memorable before we drove home. She agreed it was a good idea, and we made our way across Las Vegas' suburbs to the dam.

I'm glad we went. We paid the fee to take an elevator into the actual dam, which was so cool. I wouldn't have known what everything was without the tour, but afterward, I felt like an expert. Ben and I walked across the dam into Arizona and snapped some pictures along the way. Then we piled into…

Summer 2015: Day 61 -- Vacation Day 6

This was the last day of the tournament, and Michael's team played a 9 a.m. game, then a second game -- the championship of the division -- if it won its first. The schedule changed because of the forfeiting team, which helped us into the title game after winning the early game 30-24 against the same team we beat yesterday. This one wasn't quite as physical, and Michael played great with 7 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks.

Unfortunately, the championship game was rough. We played the same team we lost to two days earlier, and we were without one of our best ball-handlers, who had to catch a plane (with the original schedule, we were only supposed one game at 9 a.m.). After racing to a 5-0 lead, the offense fell apart and committed too many turnovers that were converted into easy points. Michael played great again but got so beat up as the only tall player against a team with at least four bigs who could play guard. So, E3 finished in second place, and the boys got medals.


Summer 2015: Day 60 -- Vacation, Day 5

We knew today was going to be a long one, with Michael having two afternoon basketball games and a 1.5 hour break in between. So, I took the boys down to the pool early to get them some non-hoops fun before the day got so busy. The water was a little chilly, but we had fun before going back to the room for lunch.

We arrived at the convention center to discover that we automatically won the first game because the opponent was fielding an illegal team (it had sixth-grade players for a fifth-grade division). The game was still played with a running clock, and Michael's coach was more laid back knowing it didn't count. The second game was bruising -- the foe played an aggressive, almost too physical defense that the refs let them get away with. Michael was so exhausted afterward but played great against a team with many tall players.

Because he played so hard, we let him pick the restaurant for dinner, and he wanted sushi. On another recommendation from a co-worker, we went to Sus…

Summer 2015: Day 59 -- Vacation Day 4

Michael's basketball tournament started today, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, with his team playing one game today. E3 lost 52-39, unfortunately, as they got off to a slow start and never recovered. Michael struggled a little, too, picking up three quick fouls but being a tall player (probaby four inches above than his next tallest teammate) against a team of tall players -- he provided help on defense and the boards.

The loss was an only blot on a great day, and the game was still fun for Michael and the rest of us. I worked out on an elliptical at the hotel in the morning, and then we went down to the pool for an hour before lunch and Michael's game. After the game, we went to Metro Pizza, recommended by one of my co-workers, for dinner. We had a lot of pizza left over that we put in the fridge when we got back to the room, which will make for good leftovers tomorrow.

Our day wasn't finished, as we went to the resort's lazy river, then to the pool, to cool off i…

Summer 2015: Day 58 -- Vacation, Day 3

We were all awake early this morning, really early as we are still on Utah time, and went out to see the sun rise over the Grand Canyon. Though we were a couple minutes late on the actual sunrise, the spectacle was still amazing. I went down to the lodge's overlook to write with the amazing view as a backdrop, then the boys and Lori found me and we went to breakfast. We got back to the room ... and it started to poor outside; our timing was perfect. We rode the storm out and went for another hike to Bright Angel Point, right as the fog lifted. The view again was great, as was our timing, because it started to rain again as we left.

Lori had this idea of driving to the South Rim before going to Vegas, but we discovered that would add an extra four hours to the trip. If we had thought of it sooner, we could have managed, but it was too late. Instead, we stopped at Pipe Spring National Monument on the Arizona Strip, where Ben got another Junior Ranger badge. After reprovisioning at t…

Summer 2015: Day 57 -- Vacation Day 2

Lori wanted to hit the road to the Grand Canyon by 8 a.m. The goal seemed optimistic, because I knew the boys and I would be tired from the day before. Still, we were up early, had a big breakfast at the hotel (this Hampton now offers whipped cream and chocolate chips to sprinkle on your waffles!), packed, gassed up the RAV4, made a quick trip to Walmart to get some provisions, and were on our way at 9. That turned out to be fortuitous, because we forgot about the time change – when we got to the North Rim, it was only 10:30 a.m. The drive was nice. Going through the polygamous communities on the Utah/Arizona border always offers a degree of let’s-not-get-pulled-over-here adventure, and we made one stop at a gas station in Fredonia that had a mock Western town in back that Lori snapped some pictures of the boys near.
The North Rim, at first, was shrouded in fog – thick fog that prevented you from seeing the canyon walls below. I wasn’t complaining: The scene was so surreal, and I ha…