Sunday, November 6, 2016

The 46 defense

Took a couple months off from blogging ...

Fall has been busy. Busy, but not entirely stressful. Work kicked into high gear right at the beginning of September. This is what I was looking forward to when my role changed, so that's why I haven't been stressed. I'm still sleeping well. Every day is busy, but not soul-crushing. There are good days and bad, but I'm so much happier than I was six months ago. Summer ended, and it was back to a routine that was bound to be busier, not just because of school, but also because summer tends to be slower at work.

Then the Cubs made the playoffs and I watched 17 games over the past month. Lori was out of town for a few days, and everything seemed a bit less productive, a bit less structured. But I finally feel like I'm coming up for air. This next week will be busy, for sure, but I'm optimistic about it.

Today was my 46th birthday. The Cubs won the World Series last week, and Lori and the boys bought me championship gear as my present. I got through the summer. I got through much of the fall. I sense that 46 is going to be good. Today was a good birthday. I got to sleep late, an extra hour, thanks to the time change. Ben and I played boardgames the last two nights. And the Cubs are world champs.

The future is bright.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 119 -- the last day of summer

The sun was too warm today, but I'm going to blame it on my cold. They day was bright and hot -- and the right way to officially call it a summer.

I am still a bit under the weather and tired, and when I went in to co-op, the P.E. teacher told me to take the afternoon off. I found a shady spot at a nearby park to chill, and eventually Lori joined me and we talked for a while. I took Michael home from school, grilled a tri-tip roast we cut up for dinner, partook in a quick fantasy football draft, Ben and I tried Perquackey, and walked the dog. I tried sitting in the sun, but again, it was too warm, and being too warm with a cold can be just as miserable as being too cold. And now I sit on my porch, writing about Day 119, the last day of summer.

Besides saying it went to fast, I never felt really settled in, could never get a routine going. That's part of the transition I talked about before, and now that summer is over, I'm starting to find my groove. That said, there were plenty of memorable moments. Content might not be the right word, but I was not so restless this summer, more grounded, less stressed out. I almost felt as if I didn't enjoy summer 2015, but this year, I definitely did.

The cough I predicted is beginning.  Penny, the P.E. teacher, reminded me of something -- parents at our school get often colds when the session begins. It's not summer biting back at me, but fall reminding me it's near. Well, fall is here, and I'm looking forward to it. More blogging for sure, but more experiences. More appreciation. More intent.

Summer 2017 is 8-9 months away. There's no rush.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 113-118

Well, I couldn't escape summer without one cold.

There were a couple days I felt nasally but nothing came of it. I saw Lori and Ben get minor colds but avoided one myself. I had that stomach bug a couple months ago, but it only lasted a day. I made it through Thursday and Friday last week, enjoyed the pool Saturday, and was fine. Sunday, I was a little tired but still was ready to take on the world.

Then, about 2 p.m., I felt that little congestion in the back of my sinuses, and a little drip into my throat. I started my anti-cold assault (Cold-Eze, Tylenol, Chlor-Trimeton) almost immediately, but to no avail. I woke up in the middle of the night with a bad sore throat from the drip, and the cold was officially in progress.

Monday was a bit rough but I did manage to get out of the house -- we all went to Savers to buy pants for our growing boys. I restocked on tissues and throat drops at Walmart on the way back. Today wasn't so bad -- I was tired but not wrecked, and the sore throat is gone. I watched Michael's basketball tryout and didn't need one Kleenex for my nose. Still a little stuffy, and I'm sure the cough that is a staple of most of my colds is on its way. But I think I made it through the worst of it and can focus on fall.

Some other highlights of the past six days:

  • Two fantasy drafts, and I think I did well.
  • Jumped off the diving board for the last time this summer Saturday. Grilled burgers for dinner.
  • The weather cooled off, and it feels nice, almost a little fall-like.
  • We went to the Farmer's Market downtown on Saturday.
  • The holiday weekend went too fast -- just like the whole summer.

Tomorrow is the last day of my defined summer, which starts sometime in May and runs through the night before the NFL opener. Ben says this was his best summer ever. I'm thinking it was pretty good.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 108-112

We're definitely in the homestretch. Still jumped in the pool today because it was hot -- and that felt summer.

I won't sugarcoat it: The last few days have been busy. I am in a jam-packed stretch of deadlines at work, but I'm not stressed -- I'm enjoying the work and am still in such a better place than six months ago. It feels a little, well, stifling because I'm still figuring out the work/life balance now that school has started again, but I'm confident I'll get there.

School is progressing for the boys. Basketball and swim are going to start up again soon, and we just had our first soccer practice Tuesday. I ran for the first time in months Sunday, and it felt good, but I still feel pudgy. But at least I'm getting some sort of exercise every day. Saturday, the boys' school hosted a sort of scavenger hunt, and Ben and I walked all over the Avenues for two hours -- it was quite a workout.

Today, Ben had a playdate after school, so Michael and I went to the JCC and he practiced some basketball and I worked by the pool. And I got to jump in. We were about to leave, and I realized I needed to jump in one more time. Summer will be over soon and these opportunities will disappear until next year.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 104-107

Well, that was a quick first week ...

I spent the week trying to get my footing between work and the boys back in school again. I sort of did, but am confident next week will be easier. After all, I was also trying to bounce back from vacation as well -- it was a tricky combination to navigate. There were some bright spots:
  • Ben and I played four games of Star Realms on Wednesday. For not playing many boardgames the past several months, this felt wonderful. I need to keep striving to find time for this, and to somehow pull Michael in.
  • The weather is cooler; we've been able to turn the air off at night and open the windows.
  • Initial co-oping shifts went well.
  • Lori, Ben and I went for pizza tonight while Michael was a at birthday pool party. 
  • I'm on the porch tonight with a glass of wine.
  • I finished watching the first season of "Stranger Things."
My only gripe was that it went by too fast. But I'm happy it's the weekend, and I'm planning to make the most of it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 103

Today was the first day of school for the boys. Ben had a great day; Michael's was average (or so he says -- he's definitely still tired about the trip, and bummed that two of his best friends aren't back for this year). I stepped into the school and Ben's classroom and felt a little invigorated -- everything looked vibrant and enthusiastic.Nine months of endless possibilities lie ahead.

I went to Sugar House Coffee to work their day began, then worked from home in the backyard the rest of the day. I felt productive too, something I struggled with a little this summer amid the constant driving around. Lori made pasta for dinner, and Ben and I played a game of Star Realms before I took the dog for an hourlong walk

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 102

I'm not declaring summer over yet, but the school break part of it ends in the morning. The boys are back in school in about nine hours after another long yet fast, busy yet glorious summer.

There weren't too many last-day-of-summer urgencies today. Both boys are still a little worn out from the trip. Michael had a basketball workout this morning; Ben hung out with his best friend. We watched the Olympics and "The Simpsons." I took Ben and Popcorn for a little hike to the H Rock to watch the sunset, and Ben met a new friend -- a 10-year-old girl named Cathy, but whom he called Christina when he said goodbye (that's going to get him in big trouble someday ...). We Skyped with my dad, and the boys went to bed soon afterward. I'm out on the porch after watching some classic music videos I had DVRd.

Though I'm sad to see summer come to an end, I'm craving the return to a routine. I reset my job, pretty much my life, right at the end of the school year, and then never seemed to get as organized as I hoped as the summer set in and the nuttiness abounded. I want to begin seriously cruising with the new role at work. I want to start working out again. I want to track my meals and start losing the weight that I had lost and put back on over the past 20 months. I want to find time for the other things -- board games, writing, organization -- that in the happy chaos of summer (and the malaise before that) I couldn't delineate.

And, in what is a familiar theme for me, I want the next school year to go slower. Last year was such a blur because it felt like I was in survival mode, trying to get from one day to the next, one co-op shift at school to the next, one week to the next, and one month to the next intact. I've been sleeping like such a baby since the reset; it's almost like my body is recovering from the stressful winter. Now to take that one step further.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 101

Today was the recovery day after vacation. We picked up Popcorn from the sitter; she looks a little thinner (it turns out, she didn't want to always eat when we're not around) but was good these last two weeks for her temporary family. And she was quite happy to see us again, and ate every bowl we put in front of her when we got home.

We unpacked the car, did laundry, and tried to sort out our lives again. Lori made a big trip to Costco. Michael and I took the RAV to a car wash and thoroughly cleaned it out. We also went to Walmart for a few more supplies for the first week of school. Lori made pulled pork sandwiches for dinner, and we watched the Olympics. I took the dog for a walk.

Finally, we all took a deep breath. School starts soon, vacation is over. We needed a brief reset and got it.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 100; Vacation, Day 13

Home at last.

Considering 4 (really, 5) of the 13 days of our trip were driving, you would think today would have been more difficult. Lori drove most of the day, and I did the last 3-4 hours or so. We stopped in Kearney, Neb., for groceries; at a Subway for lunch; and at a McDonald's in Rock Springs, Wyo., for dinner. We saw the sun set over the ridges of western Wyoming with windmills as a backdrop. We made it through the last 70 miles in Utah, wishing we'd get home sooner. And then, we made it home, before 10 p.m MDT. The cat was happy to see us. I made a quick jaunt to Fresh Market to get bread and anti-itch lotion (the bugs in New Buffalo were small, and their bites didn't start getting itchy until a few days later ...), but I settled in for the evening.

This was a fun vacation. I'm not sure if we will drive back next year and if we take such a circuitous route to do so (it seemed like it took a long time to arrive in the Midwest -- to the point that we just had to turn around and come back), but it definitely was an awesome experience. We won't forget this vacation any time soon.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 99; Vacation, Day 12

The journey back to Utah began today.

We weren't in a huge rush in the morning, taking our time to pack. It rained, so the boys didn't get a chance to go to the lake one more time. We had lunch with Susy at Redamak's in New Buffalo, then hit the road, stopping briefly in Indiana so the boys could claim boots on the ground in another state.

Illinois and Iowa are so boring. We pushed through to Des Moines to grab dinner at a Chipotle, then drove at night to get to Lincoln, Neb., where we had a reservation at a Hampton Inn. The room was unusually large -- somehow we got a suite for the price of a normal room -- and we settled in comfortably for the night after arriving at about 10:45 p.m. CDT. The drive home from vacation is always a bit of a struggle, but it's something you have to do. We'll be home tomorrow night.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 98; Vacation, Day 11

Another nice day on Lake Michigan. The water was still nice -- for Lake Michigan -- but egad, I don't like rocky bottoms (I'm definitely a pool person ...). The boys had another incredible and exhausting day, though our time on the beach was a little cut short by a thunderstorm that moved in. Our hosts made lasagna for dinner. I spent more time on a lounge chair, reading, napping, and, well, lounging. When the skies cleared, you could see the Chicago skyline from across the lake. My camera phone couldn't quite get that scene, but I did manage this sunset:


This has been so nice to spend a couple days here; the boys have loved it. Vacation is almost over, and this was a good way to top it off.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 97; Vacation, Day 10

We entered the last phase of our vacation before heading back: Michigan. My stepmom invited us to spend a few days with her extended family at a large house they were renting on Lake Michigan in a town called New Buffalo, just over the Indiana border. The boys drove with my father while Lori and I packed up the RAV and took the Skyway east.

The house Susy and her family rented is amazing. It's just a short walk to the beach, and the water this time of year was not numbingly cold (unlike on the other side of the lake -- not disgusting algae blooms, either). The boys had a blast swimming in the lake for the first time. The rest of the day was nice -- it very much felt like vacation. I took a nap on a lawn chair and enjoyed a few beers before and after dinner. A bonfire was built, and Ben and I made Reese's smores. Dad and I watched the Cubs and the Olympics. Good family time all around.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 96; Vacation, Day 9

Today was our Chicago day, and Ben and I drove into the city to walk the 606 Trail in Bucktown. Growing up, the old neighborhood, as  Mom calls it, wasn't the insanely expensive area it is today. I lived here for a couple years, but my mom and grandmother grew up in Bucktown. I always vaguely remember a rail line, built up about 20 feet off the ground, cutting through the neighborhood, with viaducts getting you from one side to the other of the stone structures. The rail line had stopped being used, and most of the factories were long gone, so the path was turned into a multipurpose trail.

Ben and I walked about a mile down the trail from its east trailhead (actually, we started at Wood Street -- the street where I used to live) to Milwaukee Avenue and the L tracks. I pointed out where relatives used to live and where there were once factories (now condos). I took some pictures, and then we headed to St. Mary's, an incredibly ornate church where I was baptized. I think today was the Feast of the Assumption, because we managed to arrive during Mass, so we couldn't take too many pictures or look around much.

One thing that hit me like a ton of bricks was the street and curb right in front of our old apartment. When I was 4, we moved from that house, and I remember sitting in my Uncle Howard's Toyota, fascinated by the steering wheel (it had little horn buttons all over it, but no matter which one you pressed, it sounded just one horn), and trying to stay out of the way as the apartment was packed up and out. Forty-one years ago, right at that curb ...

Ben and I tried going to Smoque to pick up lunch, but it is closed on Mondays, so I took him by Dad's old house in Irivng Park. Then we headed back. Michael and I got some time too, going to Dick's to look for a Bulls Dwyane Wade t-shirt, then trying unsuccessfully to find a self-serve car wash (we passed one by my old high school, but the lot was just repaved, so it was closed). We all went to Lou Malnati's for dinner; I managed a short walk before it rained in the evening..

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 95; Vacation, Day 8

Every vacation, we are challenged to see everyone. Inevitably, we can't, and sometimes a few years pass between visits with even our closest friends. We turned that conundrum upside down this year by inviting friends to see us all at once, at my dad's house. The plan turned out great -- two of my Marquette friends and their families visited, then two friends from Chicago, then my friend Marc from the old neighborhood and two of his sons. We had SuperDawg for dinner and snacked all day. The day was filled with laughter, memories, and catching up. As Lori said, we need to do this every year.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 94; Vacation, Day 7

Seven days of vacation in the book already! Going too fast ...

We woke up to more rain today, so the plan was to do either laser tag or an indoor waterpark before departing Merrill. Unfortunately, the laser tag place was closed, despite its answering machine and storefront sign saying its hours of operations began at noon. So instead, we went to the indoor waterpark -- and we all felt it was a better option: more family time to interact rather than shoot each other. I dared this insanely fast bowl waterslide with Ben (two times!), and the boys got to hang with their soon-to-be new cousin.

Ben was so sad to leave, but we eventually hit the road and made good time to Milwaukee, where we had Kopp's for dinner. The trip to Chicago was easy, and we arrived at my dad's house for the next phase of our trip.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 93; Vacation, Day 6

The weather in the North Woods still didn't wasn't so cooperative today, but we managed to still have fun outdoors. First, I took the boys on a hike at a rather big park in Merrill with a few miles of trails. Ben found a geocache, and we thankfully weren't rained on.

Later in the afternoon, we went go-karting in Minocqua. Michael was a pro, and Ben, his first time driving, didn't crash. I only did one ride -- the go-karts were awfully small and uncomfortable -- but the boys went three times before we headed back to Merrill.

The evening was spent playing board games: Ticket to Ride (I won), The Resistance and Redneck Life. No, we haven't had great weather this trip up north, but today, we made do.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 92; Vacation, Day 5

Today I felt a little antsy. It was rainy or at least cloudy all day, so we didn't get out too much. I had to wrap up work for the week, too. Considering we are going  to Chicago on Saturday, I feel like we're not getting the North Woods experience. I am sitting on the Lisa's back porch, reeking of bug spray, writing this, listening to the crickets, and waiting to see if I will see any meteors from the Perseids (I am not optimistic -- it looks cloudy). I took the boys to see the new Star Trek movie in town, but technical difficulties meant the colors were off, and we kept seeing these magenta streaks on the screen. That is somewhat like today felt like, but hopefully, tomorrow will be sunny, worry-free, and fun.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 91; Vacation, Day 4

Finally, we made it to Wisconsin. We crossed the river on I-90, jaunted across Route 29, visited a working cheese farm (and bought fresh curds) and arrived at Lisa's house about noon. The rest of the day wasn't too exciting, but it didn't need to be. Michael got to drive a Moped; Ben hung out with Lisa's fiance's 10-year-old son. Pork steaks for dinner, yum. Olympics in the evening.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 90; Vacation, Day 3

Another long day of driving, and it's funny, none of us thought it would be this long. We got a later start today after our busy Monday, which contributed to the long day. After breakfast and checkout, we went to the South Dakota state capitol building, which is another capitol checked off Lori's to-see list. We then headed to the Corn Palace in Mitchell for more touristy fun. We picked up lunch and hit the road with the intent on going through Walnut Grove, but sadly, the trip across South Dakota and Minnesota took longer than expected. We decided not to push it through to Merrill and instead found a hotel room (at a GrandStay) in Stillwater, Minn. We went to Applebee's for dinner and watched the Olympics.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 89; Vacation, Day 2

Today was jam packed with vacation fun. We got an early start from the hotel and headed to Devil's Tower. The formation is incredibly impressive, and we hiked around the whole thing. I kept looking for a place aliens might have landed (a la "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"), but the whole thing is actually quite wooded. We got some great pictures, and if it wasn't for the other plans we had, I could have stayed all day gawking at the mountain.

We set out for Mount Rushmore next, but saw a sign for Jewel Cave National Monument and decided to check it out. Ben has his fourth-grade pass that gets all of us into national parks for free, so what would have been a $40 tour of the cave was free. The cave was neat -- the boys loved it. After a couple hours, we departed for Mount Rushmore.

However, we got sidetracked again, this time by the Crazy Horse Memorial outside of Custer, S.D. We didn't get close to the incomplete memorial but still had a great view of it. Finally, we made it to Mount Rushmore ... right as the rain arrived. We didn't get too wet, but I could tell Lori and Michael were a little worn out and not that impressed. Ben and I took a little hike closer to the big heads, and after about an hour, we headed to Pierre, where we had reserved a room for the night.

After picking up McDonald's in Rapid City, we made it to I-90 and saw a stunning sight -- we had a double rainbow in front of us for maybe 30 miles. Unfortunately, we hit a thunderstorm that was intense; I survived a lot of white-knuckle driving and, eventually, wind across the grasslands up to Pierre. We made it to our hotel exhausted, but happy after such a long, fun day.

Some random notes:
  • Besides the memorials and monuments, we stopped briefly for a beautiful landscape of the Black Hills. 
  • So many bikers on the road today for the Sturgis Bike Rally -- this is why we ended up getting a room in Pierre.
  • I thought I saw Wilford Brimley at Mount Rushmore.
  • We DID see the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile at Mount Rushmore. Interpret that any way you like.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 88; Vacation, Day 1

Vacation has started! We need this trip so badly. The first day was uneventful -- a long day of driving, from Salt Lake City to Gillette, Wyo. Along the way, we stopped at Independence Rock, a rest stop next to a large, interesting rock formation, and Ben and I hiked around it. We rolled into Gillette about 6 p.m. and checked into our room, though we were initially dismayed because the hallway outside our door is being re-wallpapered and the smell from the primer was giving Lori a headache. We went to Old Chicago for dinner, then came back and watched the Olympics.

Driving trips have these days that seem boring but get you closer to your destination. I sat in the back most of the time while Lori drove, and Michael enjoyed riding shotgun. Let the memories begin!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 83-87

The summer sports schedule finally concluded this week with the conference swim meet. This is the boys' rec team, and it's the last year Ben will swim this meet because he's on comp. He went out in style, winning the backstroke and finishing third overall for individual points in his age group. Michael had a great meet as well -- I dare say he swam out of his mind -- and was solid in the 11-12 division. The meet ended Friday night, we went for ice cream, and called it a summer for our sports commitments.

The week went by so fast. Ben had a good afternoon Wednesday hanging out with one of his school friends. I felt like I had my most productive work week in a while, even with the swim meet Thursday and Friday. Today I got Popcorn out for a little hike, then we began preparing for our much-needed vacation that starts in the morning. I'm looking forward to what I hope will be an awesome two weeks.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 78-82

Here comes August. We are in the home stretch on summer, and the boys start school in three weeks.

The past few days have been moderately eventful. We bought a new washing machine on Friday, then watched Michael's team win the consolation bracket of the 3-on-3 tournament he played in. Lori's birthday was Saturday, and we did housework and I grilled while she got to relax. I took the boys to the pool all day Sunday and got a little sunburned. We watched "Sharknado 4" last night. Today was busy with work and swim practices, but I did manage an hour-long walk with the dog. And it even rained a little bit Saturday, but it's still pretty hot.

I've liked this summer so far. It hasn't been the overall reset I was hoping for, but that will come once the boys start school. I managed to clean out my top shelves on my side of the closet and clear out the bathroom drawers and cabinet Saturday -- projects that feel like progress, which I hope to continue once the reset hits full swing. For now, I'm content to enjoy these last few weeks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 73-77

We left one oven just to land in another -- though we're not in 110 range, Salt Lake has been firmly in high 90s/low 100s since we got back from Las Vegas. The past five days have been dealing with the heat, trying to get back into a routine, and looking forward to our next trip.

There was plenty of swimming over the weekend and a Bees game. Michael played in a 3-on-3 tournament the past two days (his team is 2-2 so far). Ben rocked some killer swim practices this week. And I've tried to stay cool, though I'm again being defiant by working outside. I am still self-dousing to beat the heat, and Monday I crashed the water fight of Ben and his friend.

I'm writing outside at 10:30 p.m., and it still feels like it's 90 out here. I'm tempted to run through the sprinkler. I keep reminding myself, this is my favorite time of year ...

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 72; Vegas, Day 5

Not much to Vegas today -- we packed up the car and left about 10 to head back to Utah. I worked in the back while Lori drove. We stopped in St. George for lunch and Freddy's, and the boys listened to "Divergent" on the trip. Popcorn was so happy to see us when we got home. This was a nice trip. In two weeks we'll be back on the road for a longer one. This is what I love about summer.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 71; Vegas, Day 4

The temperature got to 112 today in Sin City. Sweltering, but fortuitous -- whenever the temp tops 110, the High Roller Observation wheel is $10 off. Lori was going to take the boys (kids 12 and under are free) while I found a cool place to work, but because we were already planning to pay for one adult, the discount was practically a 2-for-1 and I joined them on the same wheel Ben and I rode back in March. The view was nice, and the we had a whole air-conditioned car to ourselves.

Michael played his last game of the tournament, and the kids actually made a game of it but lost by seven. He wasn't as frustrated today, though they still committed too many turnovers. We hung out by the pool after the game, and went for all-you-can eat sushi after the High Roller. Michael's rough basketball experience aside (today, he was accidentally bitten by another player ...), it's been a good trip.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer 2016, Day 70; Vegas, Day 3

More heat today, and more frustration.

The smaller roster came to a head today with Michael, who was tremendously frustrated after two losses. His teammates were throwing the ball away and not passing, and one of our opponents were, frankly, jerks (one kid called Michael a "little bitch"). I've never seen Michael so flustered with basketball. He said later he didn't have fun.

We weren't in quite the mood for a big dinner, so after basketball and swimming, I picked up Popeye's and Five Guys. The dad of one of Michael's teammates took the trio of friends out for the night, and we bought Ben a smoothie from the poolside bar. I was so tired that I almost dozed off working on the balcony.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 69; Vegas, Day 2

Today was long and wonderful. It started early and ended late. It was jam-packed in between.

Lori bought groceries for the week, and she took the boys to the pool when the waterslides opened and the resort was hosting a rubber duckie contest at 10 a.m. I met them down there later and tried the waterslides -- they were very fast (but at least completely enclosed). We went upstairs for lunch, then went to Michael's first game of the tournament.

Unfortunately, two players who were supposed to be on the roster never showed and never bothered to tell anyone they weren't coming, leaving us with five players. We added a girl from the fifth-grade team, but we still got pummeled and worn out. Michael got a little beat up -- at the end of the game, I noticed a footprint on his back, and neither of us knew how it got there.

Ben met a new friend -- the sister of one Michael's new teammates -- and they hit it off immediately. The two are the same age and have much the same personality. We went out for pizza with the new family and another of Michael's teammates, then they came back to the resort to swim. The boys hung out for a couple hours, as did Ben and his new friend. She gave him a hug at the end of the night, which amazingly left him speechless for a few seconds; it was quite cute.

I sat on our balcony and worked the rest of the night. Vegas never cooled off, but the view south toward the mountains, though not of the strip, was still impressive at night.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 68; Vegas, Day 1

Vegas, baby!

Michael is playing in a basketball tournament in Las Vegas this week, and we drove down today in advance of that. We left about 1 p.m., and Lori drove most of the way while I tried to work in the back seat. This year, we are staying at another resort without a casino, the Cancun, on Las Vegas Boulevard south of the strip. I like our condo better this year than last -- more room, and we have a balcony.

For dinner, we drove to the Cosmopolitan and ate at Holstein's, which my boss treated us to last year when we had a work function in Vegas. Good burgers and good shakes -- and the boys loved it. Ben was insistent with the waiter that his Drunken Monkey shake should have no alcohol! Afterward, we walked down to the Bellagio to watch the fountain show. Then we headed back to the room. It was a long day.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 62-67

There was a swim meet last week, stretching over a few days. Ben did well.

More accurately, Ben did awesome. This was the state long course championship, and in the 10-and-under division he ended up fifth in the 50 back, seventh in the 100 back, and 13th in the 50 fly. He posted best times in both backstrokes as well as in his leg of the 400 freestyle relay. He was on three relays that took fourth, fourth and fifth.

Ben had struggled with long course the past couple months, but he peaked at the right time. He gets a week off before the rec team's conference meet (this is his last season swimming rec) in a few weeks.

Other highlights of the past few days:

  • The heat is back ...
  • Went out to eat too much this week, but between the four-day swim meet and Michael having basketball practice a couple nights, it was inevitable. Five Guys, Cubby's and Costa Vida. Yum.
  • The world is going a little crazy.
  • Work was OK, at a perfect pace.

Yes, it was otherwise an uneventful week. That changes tomorrow.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 58-61

This posts encompasses Friday through Monday. There was vomit.

Michael had gotten sick last week, throwing up overnight, but he recovered right away. On Saturday, I managed to pick up the same bug. I woke up early and felt pukey. We were going to go to a sort of party on Rockport Lake, but Lori took the boys while I stayed home and descended into a gastro-intestinal mess. I didn't throw up much, but I did feel bad almost all day, eating just a few crackers and drinking some ginger ale. To make matters worse, between the tensing up from vomiting and possibly napping in a strangle angle, I threw out my lower back. So I was barely moving and queasy.

By Sunday morning, just as soon as it had hit, the bug was gone and I felt better. My back felt better, too, as the day progressed.

The weather blessedly cooled off today, and we opened windows in the house and turned off the air. My back felt much better, and I did spend about 10 minutes in the hot tub at the JCC, which also helped. In the evening, Ben and I went searching for Pokemon on the new app that's now on my phone.

So what did I do Friday, before the puke?  We were at the pool for a few hours, while Ben had swim practice and Michael shot around in the gym. Funny how I remember being sick vividly but can't recall the normal day before ...

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 55-57

Argh, these are the days that go too fast and that I think I'm not enjoying summer. The last three days have been a blur. I woke up early every morning, took Ben to swim practice, worked all day, and generally felt tired. The boys had a swim meet Tuesday and did well. Michael was up all Tuesday night throwing up; he was out of commission Wednesday and rested again today before basketball practice. I worked in the backyard every day. The Cubs kept losing. I didn't have much energy to write outside of work

And here we are, three summer days passed, and I don't know where they went. This is probably just a little rut, but I need to push through these rut in order to enjoy every day, write, exercise, and revel in summer. I'm hoping that is what Friday brings.

Summer 2016: Day 54

Happy Independence Day!

Our day started with the Sugar House Pet Parade (for which Michael, Lori, and Ben volunteered; I walked Popcorn). We got back in time for the neighborhood parade as well. In the afternoon, we hung out at the house/pool of some good friends of ours, and the boys swam almost the whole time. After we got home, I walked the boys to see the Sugar House fireworks. While there, a humbling thought occurred -- it's been 40 years since the bicentennial. The Fourth of July is always an milestone of summer, today as much as it was four decades ago.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 53

Popcorn and I went for our first hike up Milcreek Canyon this year, to Dog Lake. She's out of shape but still loved the experience and got to swim for the first time since last summer. That took up most of my morning. In the afternoon, we saw "Finding Dory." We missed a thunderstorm during the movie -- we got outside and it was sunny and humid again. I was feeling antsy and annoyed about something (I'll spare you the details) and went for a drive up Emigration Canyon in the evening. The view was nice.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 52

Michael's basketball team lost a heartbreaker but finished in fourth place in his tournament division. He played well, registering a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. He also grabbed a rebound and went coast to coast for a basket, which produced a stunned look from his coach, who couldn't believe he pulled that off.

After the game, we went to Simply Sushi for all-you-can-eat sushi. It was just OK -- the crab didn't seem as fresh as usual. Still, we loaded up and were sufficiently (dare I say painfully) full afterward. When I got home, I took the do to the park, but she didn't want to chase a tennis ball. The heat remains.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 51

We're into July, the heat is back, along with some humidity -- but the thunderstorms never quite happened. Michael played two basketball games today in the Big Mountain Jam, and his team split, getting blown out in the first but coming up with a good victory over what was probably a better team in the second. It was an all-over-the place kind of day, with Ben having an afternoon swim practice and I with a haircut that was canceled (I worked at a Starbucks for an extra hour instead).

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 50

There goes June ...

I was so tired all day today. I couldn't fall asleep last night (not because of stress, just was awake), and I was up early to take Ben to swim practice. I got some work done as normal, but I also dozed off for about 15 minutes, only waking up when I let out a snore that my ears heard.

Michael had a basketball game, and I let Lori drive and Michael sit up front while I closed my eyes again in the back. His team won, 35-24, and he finished with 3 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 blocks.

The rest of the day was trying to get as much work done and staying alert. I took Michael to his swim practice later in the afternoon and got some more work done. Popcorn and I went for a long walk. I've been on my computer the last hour and am ready to turn in. I can sleep late in the morning ... and I definitely will.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 49

Ben didn't go to swim practice this morning, so I got to sleep in a little. That kicked off what was mostly a mellow day. I worked in the morning and into the afternoon, then took the boys and two of their friends to the pool. I actually didn't swim much and worked instead, but I did jump in for a few minutes. The boys didn't mind and were happy swimming with the friends for a few hours. Michael did have swim practice during that time, and the skies got cloudy, windy, and a little drizzly, but Ben didn't mind (and neither did Michael when he got out of practice). We came home and watched more of the swimming trials (I was more tired than I thought and dozed off for a few minutes), then I ran to Walmart quickly. I'm on the porch and it's definitely cooler. Storms are in the forecast tomorrow, and for one day, I won't mind.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 47-48

Hot. So hot. But I am determined to not spend my summer inside. I have a job that allows me flexibility to work anyplace, and therefore, I'm going to work outside, 100-degree temperatures be damned. This has been almost liberating -- working in the backyard, wearing a pair of swim trunks, dumping a bucket of water over my head when I'm sweating too much, going back to work after the cooling off, and repeating as necessary. I'm amazingly getting a lot done this way -- more than if I was inside in the AC. Summer, you are my partner, no matter how much heat you throw my way.

I did take the boys to the pool yesterday evening (and worked there, too, and jumping in a couple times -- tried my first-ever knee dive of the side of the pool) to escape the heat. This morning, Ben had a swim meet in American Fork that I took him to. He was DQ'd in the 100 fly despite swimming a fast time, and he popped in the 200 free. We went to In 'n' Out for lunch. Michael had basketball practice in the evening, and I got a little work done from there. Took Popcorn on a short walk tonight -- it hasn't cooled off much, and I don't want to overheat her (or me). The weather shouldn't be quite as hot tomorrow, and then thunderstorms to end the week. I won't mind either.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 42-46

The heat broke a little bit yesterday and we were able to open the windows overnight, but it was hot again today. Here's a synopsis of the past few days:

Wednesday:Ben was tired and didn't go to swim practice today, but he did go to basketball camp, as did Michael. The pool felt good in the early evening.

Thursday: The Rocky Mountain Showcase started today, and Michael's team won 43-28; he posted 4 points and 9 rebounds. His jumper is a little off -- he might be having a growth spurt (we've seen this before with him: he shoots up a half-inch and every shot sails long). Popcorn threw up today -- we think she's been eating grass and it's upsetting her stomach. Ben and I walked to the H Rock in the evening to watch the sunset.

Friday: Two more games of the tournament, with Michael's team losing both, though he played well in the first game (9 points, 10 rebounds). Ben and I started a game of Risk on the patio table that we couldn't finish.

Saturday: Michael finished the tournament with a victory and some big stats (8 points, 12 rebounds), then got asked to play with another team from his club -- he was tired but did all right, and helped the squad with some much-needed height. Ben and I finished our risk game (I won), then played Othello, Blokus Trigon, and Cribbage outside. We walked for snow-cones in between. Popcorn was feeling better. We got Papa Murphy's pizza for dinner.

Sunday: I did Body Pump, Michael had a basketball workout, Lori swam some laps, and Ben helped the lifeguards in the morning. After a quick jump in the pool, we headed home for a chill afternoon. Lori and Michael went to Costco, and we are stocked for the next few weeks. I went to Smith's and REI, then grilled burgers for dinner. After watching the first day of the Olympic swim trials, Popcorn and I got out for a walk.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A dusky tradition

Ten years ago, on the summer solstice, right before sunset I took a pad of paper and my iPod to a hillside at Donner Park near our house. I wrote about summer and life. Ben had just been born, and I deep in a reassessment of my priorities and goals.

Every summer since I've come back to this hillside to write about summer and life, on the solstice or soon thereafter if the schedule didn't permit (as it didn't this year). I listen to "Sister Golden Hair" and reflect on the year that passed and what the future holds.

Ten years of this tradition are now in the books. Eventually, I brought the laptop out instead of just a notepad (no transcribing to the blog ...). Here I am again, 2016, on this hillside, reflecting on the year.

The fluster that might have evident in last year's solstice post grew and grew as the months simultaneously dragged and sped by. Some of those months were rough -- I don't think I ever had insomnia as bad as I did last winter. Everything seemed so pressing, especially work.

Then, it all got better. The job stabilized to something I'm happy with. I started sleeping better. I started appreciating every day more rather than trying to barrel through it. Summer so far hasn't been a festival of awesomeness -- it's still been busy -- but it's been good. Warm. Mellow. I can handle that for now, and there's plenty of weeks left.

The sun just ducked behind Antelope Island. It hasn't officially set, but it will. I hit play on "Sister Golden Hair" and the guitar riff that screams sunset to me. The thing I'm realizing this year as I sit here is that I'm in a bit of a home stretch with the boys. Yes, they have years before they are out of the house, but with Michael close to being a teenager, the little kid years are past us for good. I think that's why I'm a little bit at peace of where I'm at in my life right now. The job is manageable. The family is wonderful. The days are mostly complete. There is much I want to do still, but there's no immediate rush.

I think of my friend Tom who just died and didn't see this solstice. His passing gives me a sense of priority, but not desperation. The stress and anxiety just isn't worth wasting the limited energy we can devote to everything else every day. Our group of friends had some great summers growing up. Those summers may have went by too fast, but too fast is preferable to not at all. Tom, at least I hoped, lived his life with the "not at all." It's something I need to remember over the next 12 months, until the next time I'm on this hillside.

The familiar breeze that blows down the mountain after the sunset has set in. The chill feels good after the hot day. I'm thankful for today and looking forward to tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 41

The heat continued today, and it's getting to us a little. Ben, after his tiring day Tuesday, skipped swim practice this morning. Popcorn didn't want to sit outside with me while I worked. I was able to cool off -- two self-dousings with buckets of water, plus about 20 minutes in the pool while Michael had swim practice. Michael got a nice compliment from the Judge basketball coach today -- another nice thing to hear as a parent. I managed to get the dog for a 30-minute walk, which was exercise she desperately needed. I'm sitting on the front porch right now, and it's barely cooled off her in the city.

Summer 2016: Day 40

Today was another scorcher -- so hot that my any electronics that I had on the patio table in back while working started to overheat. Besides swim practice in the morning and basketball camps in the afternoon, the boys had a swim meet at Alta Canyon. Michael swam great; Ben was a bit tired and not in his usual form. We rushed Michael over to basketball practice, which was intense, but I saw something I love to see as a sports parent: He asked his coach for some advice, and after it was given, his coach high-fived him and gave him the little hip slap. Michael has been working so hard, and his coach knows it.

I got Popcorn around the block when we got home. The poor dog -- it's been really hot for her all week. Hot for me, too.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 39

Both boys started their week with the first day of the Judge Memorial basketball camp, and both thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Ben had swim this morning as well.

Today was hot, but we got a awesome break in the evening -- three hours at a waterpark. Our orthodontist rented out Cowabunga Bay for the evening, and each boy got to bring a friend. They all had so much fun, and though I didn't go bananas going on the waterslides (when the sun dips down, the breeze that goes through the waterpark is a bit chilly, and the thing about Cowabunga Bay is that you will get soaked just moving from slide to slide), I did have fun as well (I like the big bucket). We picked up In 'n' Out Burger on the way home to complete a great summer day.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 38

Father's Day! I slept later than normal, read The New York Times in the backyard while eating homemade Egg McMuffins that were lovingly prepared by Lori, and then ... did a BodyPump class. I had been debating whether I was actually going to work out this morning, and my right arm was sore yesterday from golfing, but I had to take Michael to the JCC yesterday for a private basketball coaching session, so I bit the bullet. I wasn't as sore afterward this week as last.

After getting home and lounging for a couple hours (I've been trying to finish up the O.J. Simpson documentary), we all went on a hike to reach the nearby Living Room -- rock formations that look like furniture. The trail was too sunny, and Popcorn began to overheat, so Ben and I continued while Lori and Michael took her back down to the car. Afterward, we picked up Jersey Mike's subs and came home to watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals (Cavs won, 93-89).

I finished watching the miniseries and am on the porch writing tonight. Another busy week lies ahead -- par for the course for our summers. A great Father's Day is one of the perks each summer brings.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 34-37

Yes, a few days have passed since I posted. A few busy, tiring days. Wednesday was a standard work/shuttle-kids-around day. Thursday was similar: Ben's last day of the Highland basketball camp and first day of a swim meet, and swim and basketball practice for Michael. On Friday, I took Ben to his swim meet's morning session, then we all went to the meet in the evening. He was only swimming one race (50 back) and did well. We went to Tonyburger for dinner.

Today was different. Michael and I played in a golf outing for his club basketball team's scholarship fund. We had fun, though neither of us hit particularly well at Mountain Dell (we were paired with an eighth-grader who was uncorking 280-yard drives, he saved us for sure). We got home and I napped for two hours. The long week had finally caught up with me. We went to Ben's swim meet in the evening, where he swam two final races. For dinner, as an early Father's Day meal, we went to Lone Star, where I got my favorite Utah burrito (which no one else in my family seems to like as much).

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 33

The 7 a.m. starts because of the boys' swim practices that were such a novelty last week are losing their appeal. I was tired all day and am yawning now as I type this. The routine was similar today -- Ben had swim practice, Michael had basketball, Ben had basketball, and Michael had swim, but today, the swim was a meet. He swam great -- maybe the best meet he's ever had. Last week he said he was tired, and his times showed that. Today, he was a torpedo. He's not swimming faster times than Ben, but he got a lot closer to them at this meet.

Oh, we have a pickup a couple days while our RAV is in the shop. Kind of a new experience for me -- I'm definitely not a pickup person. Still, it had more room than the Corolla we originally had reserved. I bought Cafe Rio for dinner while we were at the meet at Life Center -- our old health club and the place both boys learned to swim. I couldn't help but picture them in the corner of the pool where their lessons took place. Too fast ...

Summer 2016: Day 32

And we're back into another week. This one started with thunderstorms and rain all day, which kind of put a damper on doing anything outside. I managed to work during Michael's swim practice under the shade tarps by the pool while it drizzled around me. We watched the Cavs beat the Warriors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals tonight. This was definitely a Monday in ever sense of the word.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 31

The sun was out for most of the day, but it wasn't so hot. Fortunately, it was warm enough to enjoy a couple hours by the pool this afternoon. Michael had a one-on-one session with a basketball coach, Lori and Ben swam some laps, and I did Body Pump (and I'm already sore from it; tomorrow is going to be brutal). We finished all that and enjoyed the pool afterward. I tried a cannonball from the side and had water shoot into my brain (I also need to get goggles). Lori brought out her inner 10-year-old by jumping off the diving board, and the boys had enough energy to swim for a long time.

The rest of the day was uneventful. I grilled for dinner -- fajita steaks -- but was delayed a bit when it started hailing in what proved to be the only cloudy part of the day. The boys and I took Popcorn for a walk to Shop 'n' Go, where I got an ice cream bar and the boys got Icees. Ben loved the walk, right at sunset, and said we need to do it more often.

I agree.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 30

Ben's meet continued this morning, and finally, the heat wave broke. Rain swept through Utah, and hit was precipitating off and on all day, much to the happiness of our front lawn. Ben swam a couple races well but struggled with his 100 free -- he's doing something funky with his hips, which is slowing him down. But he got a best in his 200 IM and swam the best-looking breaststroke of his life.

The rest of the day was mellow, mellow, mellow. We were all tired, and though I went to Costco, I didn't do too much else. And before I knew it, 7 p.m. arrived. We went to Five Guys for lunch and got Papa Murphy's pizza for dinner (and Michael and I had Egg McMuffins for breakfast -- yes, it was that kind of eating day). I got Popcorn out for a little walk in the evening, then sat outside to write in the cool post-rain night.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 29

Ah, Friday. Michael had swim practice in the morning; Ben had a meet in Kearns in the evening. I finished up the work week. And I looked forward to the weekend.

Ben swam all right at his meet. There was an entry glitch and I didn't get to see him swim a couple events -- I was timing and never saw his name on the big board (because it wasn't on the big board because of the glitch).

Michael had his first morning practice of the season. They practiced dives. He reluctantly came with us to Ben's meet.

We stopped at Shopko on the way home to get some aloe for Michael, who had gotten a little sunburn yesterday. The night was pleasant. It definitely feels like summer.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 28

I ate like crap today. I feel a little chunky and have gained six pounds or so since March. And I've been meaning to eat better and exercise more -- especially since Tom died. And yet, today, I ate like crap.

Do I blame it on the first week of summer and adjusting to the new schedule? Or the fact I'm in the air-conditioned kitchen a little more often than I should? Or that the heat is making me burn more energy and I'm craving more food? Excuses. Maybe next week will be better.

Today was good nonetheless. Lori and I both were running around a lot. Michael met a friend at a neighborhood pool, and Ben had a swim meet, and Michael had swim practice and basketball practice back to back.

I got some work done at the pool and then resisted doing nothing. Instead, I jumped in the pool. It felt great, and was a good reminder that these opportunities don't happen often -- sometimes, the water is calling and you have to answer. Sure, it might have been easier to stay in the sun and be dry and not had to change. But then, thinking of Tom, I hopped in. He wouldn't have bypassed the moment, so neither did I.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 27

"This never gets old!"

Those words were proclaimed by Ben after he dove off the diving board for maybe the 20th time today while we were at the pool. Michael had swim practice in the indoor pool, and Ben and I swam in the outdoor pool in the already too hot Utah late afternoon. I jumped off the diving board twice. Ben went over and over. He wouldn't try a flip, but kept doing the same dive each time.

The water felt great today. Eventually, Michael came out and wanted to swim so more, so he and Ben did while I lounged on the deck.

The rest of the day actually felt long. We watched the Cavaliers crush the Warriors in Game 3. I took Popcorn to the park to throw the ball to her, but she's out of shape and didn't feel like running a lot.

But folks, it's summer. And it never gets old.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 26

Today was much like yesterday, but Michael had a swim meet and basketball practice in the evening. The sun shone all day, but the crazy wind from last night died down and it wasn't as hot. Michael swam OK at the meet (Ben didn't swim because he has a big comp meet that starts Thursday) -- he looked a little tired, but he perked up and had a good hoops practice.

I was a timer at the meet, and I enjoyed the water lapping at my feet during races. I ate too much today and am feeling a bit bloated as I type this. Popcorn is on the porch with me, and I'm sleepy -- will probably turn in soon.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 25

Let the fun begin!

School ended Friday, and today was the official first day of the summer routine. Camps, swim practice, working in odd chunks and outside as much as possible (I need to chart how many hours I work this summer barefoot) -- this is what our summer looks like. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Ben had swim practice at 7 a.m. Though waking up for these practices is tough, I love getting an early jump on my workday. Michael had basketball camp at 10, followed by Ben at noon. Michael had swim practice at 5:45, and again, I was by the pool working (but under the canopy -- the sun had disappeared and I was thinking a little that it might rain. I took the dog for a long walk in the evening.

The rest of the week will be equally busy. Again, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 24

Lori resubscribed us to The New York Times last winter, and at first, it was wonderful. Then our Sundays started getting busier and busier, to the point I barely acknowledged that the paper was coming to our house. Sure, I might read a sports story or do the Kenken puzzle, but I never felt I was getting the most from the subscription.

This morning, that changed -- I took my newspaper to our patio table in the backyard and read for a while. This is what Sunday mornings should be like, and blessedly, I finally got to enjoy one. This was a great start to the day.

The day wasn't too packed or eventful. We went to the pool in the late afternoon. Michael and I watched the Warriors dismantle the Cavaliers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Grass from the EZ Seed is starting to emerge. Nevertheless, it was a perfect summer Sunday.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 23

Three basketball games and a swim meet. Just a typical Saturday for us ...

I missed the swim meet to take Michael to basketball. He won his first game but lost the next two in a frustrating finale to the spring season. We went to South Towne mall so he could buy a Warriors hat.

I got home and, for the first time in a while, didn't know what to do. The temperature spiked into the 90s today, and I just didn't feel like being outside. Eventually, after 8, I took the dog for a long walk. I just felt lazy in the evening, which is OK. Tomorrow will be more productive. I need the few hours of break.

Summer 2016: Day 22

The boys' last day of school was today. At their school, this is so much a celebration; the kids get individualized awards and can go home early (it's a half day anyway) if they want. I drove them home before noon, then worked the next few hours.

Ben had a swim meet in Utah County that started tonight, so Lori reserved a hotel room so they wouldn't have to drive back late and then drive back early in the morning. Michael and I golfed again, at Forest Dale, where I shot a disappointing 54 and Michael hit a 64 for nine holes. We picked up Millie's for dinner and came home to watch "Caddyshack."

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 21

The weather is heating up. Only one day left of school for the boys.

Today marked the first swim meet of the summer rec season (I have to clarify that now with Ben swimming comp). This was just the intrasquad meet, and only Michael swam it because Ben has a big long-course meet tomorrow and Saturday. He did all right considering he just started practicing again. Ben actually rooted for his brother in a couple of the races.

We came home and watched the Warriors beat the Cavs in Game 1 of the Finals. I'm wrapping up some important work stuff so I didn't get the dog for a long walk, but she's out with me on the porch now, and we can hear a cricket chirp nearby. I'll be happy when this week is over and summer is in full swing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summer 2016: Days 6-20

I've been gone for a while from my summer blogging. I had a good reason.

At first, I just had two busy work days in a row, the first (Day 6) was Ben's birthday as well, and I was just too tired to write. Ben's birthday was nice and low key; we took him to The Habit, his favorite burger restaurant, for dinner. He had a baseball game that Friday night; Michael had two games that Saturday, and then I was all set to catch up on blogging that evening. But then, I got a call about 7 p.m. and everything went to hell.

The call was from my friend John from high school. He was informing me that Tom, another good friend and part of the our group that have been close for about three decades now, had suddenly died of a heart attack.

I flew back to Chicago on the subsequent Tuesday for the wake and funeral in what was an absolutely exhausting and sad week. I tried getting as much work done as possible, but I pushed some hours into the Memorial Day weekend. I wanted to enjoy Chicago in May but just couldn't (though the thunderstorm that pushed through during the after-funeral gathering was impressive; Tom's brother declared "This is Tom saying we aren't drinking enough!"). I flew back on Friday, Day 14.

We went to a Bees game that night, and the weekend was fun. Michael and I went golfing; I shot a 52 on 9 and he shot a 67. Got much yardwork done. Popcorn and I hiked on Monday. And gradually, I started to get my will again to write, but I was still tired.

Today, I jumped off the diving board for the first time this year. For those who don't know, getting that first jump out of the way is how I remind myself that I can indeed swim in deep water, even if I'm not a fan of it. I sat in the sun for the couple hours before that and worked while the boys had swim practice in the indoor pool. And, I felt connected to summer again.

I'm still thinking of Tom often since I got back last week. He would be the first one to say to stop wallowing and start writing, spend happy time with the boys, and get on with summer. I think that's why I took Michael golfing. So let's resume here on June 1. There's so much summer left to go.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 5

Wednesday was a less stressful work day. As the pattern has gone for most of the school year, once I get through Monday and Tuesday, the rest of the week is generally easier. I co-oped at school and got to play kickball. I sat in the sun and worked while Ben had swim practice. I took Popcorn for a long walk. I hung out with Ben on his last day as a 9-year-old. And now I'm on the porch writing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 4

Look for the good in each day. I should have been following that all winter, when I was stressed about work and struggling to find three positives things about each day. Work has improved -- my role is changing in a few weeks to something that fits my skills better -- but today was a mildly taxing day. I'm sitting on the porch and finally just wrapping up my Tuesday, and I am realizing that I should identify three good things today.

How about this:

  1. Ben got a hit in his baseball game today and drove in a run. He drilled a sharp grounder that just stayed fair down the first base line. His team lost 15-10, and there are only five games left in the season (and he's going to miss the finale because of a swim meet). I'm stunned how fast baseball always seems to go here in Utah. Back in Chicago growing up, it seemed to last all spring and most of summer. 
  2. We got the air conditioning in the Corolla fixed. The driver's side window won't go down (and it was going to cost a small fortune to get the part to fix it on a 19-year-old car), but at least we will have cool through the summer.
  3. I threw the ball to Popcorn instead of a walk, and she was happy to run.

Come summer, when the job changes and my schedule isn't so nuts, these stressful, were-there-any-positives-today days will all but dissipate. And I have a fourth good thing today -- I blogged.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 3

Summer turned a little bit back to spring today, as it rained and was cool. I had a tremendously long day of work in which I logged 11 hours. This would be one of those days that nothing positive occurred. But at the end of the long day, I did manage to play several games of Blink -- a card game that is like Speed on, well, speed -- with Ben before the night ended.

Speed is sometimes referred to as Spit and is a quick two-player version of Solitaire in which players are trying to get rid of their cards in a hurry. I first learned Speed the summer after fourth grade; my neighbor George learned it that year and taught it to me. Besides Strat-o-Matic Baseball, I probably played more Speed than any other game that summer -- it was fast, intense, easy and fun.

Blink is a custom game like Speed in which players match custom cards by shape, color, or number. Ben struggled with it a little -- his brain is a little more analytical -- so we played Speed so he could get used to the fast-flying cards. That caused the flashback to summer 1980 and playing the card game so much. Anyway, the important part was that after a long, tiring day, I set aside time to hang out with Ben. The dog wasn't happy because I kind of bypassed her walk to do so (it was drizzling anyway), but the time with my son was the wind-down I needed after the long day.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 2


We had a rare day in which we had nothing planned. No religious ed (CCD is done for the school year). No pressing work needs. Nobody to see. No appointments. Granted, Sundays are usually the day this happens, but for the past several weeks, they have felt nearly as busy as the rest of the week.

So today, we relaxed and leisured. I played Atari for 20 minutes and Super Mario Brother Wii with Ben. The boys and are saw "Captain America: Civil War." I grilled burgers for dinner, and we watched the finale of the "The Amazing Race" on the DVR. Lori and Michael went to Costco. I worked on the yard. Ben and I took the dog to the H Rock for a sunset hike, and climbed the mountainside and looked for fossils and unusual rocks.

We agreed we needed to do that hike more often. I told Ben that my favorite summers growing up were the ones after fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. I'm hoping his, and Michael's, are as memorable and fun.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Summer 2016: Day 1

The temperature today reached 90 degrees. Our house is stuffy because we haven't turned on the air conditioning yet. I wore sunblock today. I also had two big buckets of cold water poured over my head today. Therefore, I'm declaring that summer has begun.

Granted the kids aren't out of school yet, but I'm feeling summery. Thus, my annual blogging goal for summer starts now. I'm counting 117 days for this summer, ending Sept. 7, which is the Wednesday before the NFL season begins. I'm hoping all 117 are great. No. 1 sure was.

Ben's last soccer game of the season was this morning, and we tied 3-3. Good friends volunteered their house for a end-of-season party, and I had promised a couple kids they could throw water balloons at me. Every player eventually did, culminating in not one but two bucket dumps. Nothing like taking one for the team, and though the water was cold (especially the first time -- I only did it the second time because one of the kids came late ...), it was fun on a hot day. The barbecue was yummy, and getting to hang out with the other parents outside of game/practice was enjoyable as well.

Michael had two basketball games later, and he won one and lost one. We went to Cafe Zupas for dinner in between. After arriving home, the house was so warm. I'm on the porch, hoping it cools off before heading back inside to eat.

Just 116 more days to go. No rush whatsoever!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

High five

I can breathe again.

I can rest.

Summer is going to rock. It will be busy, of course, but it won't be so crushing.

I can do my thing, what I'm best at.

I can cherish every moment, especially with my family.

I can relax in the sun and be joyful for the life I've been given.

I can jump in the water when the sun gets too hot.

I can write.

I will be creative.

I will play games.

I will run.

No day will be wasted.

No self-pity. No misery.

No stress.

I made it. Well, I made it this far. And there's no end, but a restart, a restoration.

May, then June, then July, then August.

Let the anxiety fade into a distant memory.

Let the stress dissolve into something positive.

Let the sun shine.

Let the crisp night air inspire me.

Today finally was one of optimism.

Shout it, shout it, shout it out loud.

We all live in the ocean. We all start in the stream.

Full steam ahead.

Oh, high five!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Six months

I'm thinking about our trip to Madison tonight. That was already more than six months ago. The time since then has both dragged and sped by like nothing. Struggles become overwhelming that you see no end in sight, but then the end arrives and you wonder where the time went. You somehow made it through.

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A message keeps popping up on my phone telling me to update my cloud storage (it's just Verizon's way of trying to get me to spend more). I hit "remind me later," and a week later, I get the same reminder. And every time I see that reminder, I feel like I just saw it. But it's been a week since the last, and a week previous before that one, and a week earlier before that one, and so on.


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I saw Grandma's star tonight. After she died, I assigned her a bright one in the sky (it turned out to be Sirius) and looked to it every night I could to remember her, to speak to her, to miss her. Tonight, I missed her a lot.  She and Grandpa worked hard for most their lives. She worked for Teletype for a long time, and when it closed and she was laid off, she could have easily retired, but instead, started working in factory near her house. Then she got a job at an insurance agency, and all the younger female employees loved her--she was the mom figure but one who would smoke with them. But she kept working until she was close to 70 -- almost 50 years. Did she, or my grandfather, ever think their work was too hard or not worth the stress to the point they would make a big change? I don't know; I never got to ask.

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Ben got a hit in his baseball game tonight. After not getting one through the first few games, he has two in his last two. We had a nice, sunny evening for baseball -- a marked improvement after a couple games in which the temperature barely cracked 50. I came home and was bouncy, so I mowed the front lawn.

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Ben asked me earlier today if we could do more fun things this summer. I told him yes. It crushed me that he had to ask.

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Grandma's star will soon disappear from the night sky -- the combination of the Earth's orbit and the longer days push it out of view until next November, about six months.

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I'm anxious tonight, so I'm writing on the front porch, wrapped up in a blanket. I've worked for six months toward a moment that's imminent, but now that it is indeed imminent, I'm nervous. I've prepared for it, and the results of that preparation are coming to fruition. Nothing to fear, but I'm anxious nonetheless. I'm yawning now -- a good sign considering I'm worried about not falling asleep after I wrap this up. Ben is in our bed right now: He got a retainer yesterday and it's bugging the heck out of him to sleep with it. Let him rest. In time, he will get used to it, and eventually, he won't need it anymore. That will happen before we even realize it.

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It all turned in Madison six months ago. OK, it had been angling a little before then, but that weekend in Mad Town changed my focus. The six weeks after were better, then winter came and the general feeling of blah returned. Yet, we made it through the winter. It's May!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Resolve

I blogged about Prince dying a couple days ago. Turns out, that wasn't the first death to throw me for a loop in the past few days.

After Prince, news broke Friday that the wife of comedian Patton Oswalt had died. Oswalt is my favorite comedian; his bit on how "Christmas Shoes" is the worst holiday song ever is several minutes of pure brilliance. His wife was 46, in good health, but died in her sleep. Oswalt talks about being a family man often during his standup. He has one daughter who now doesn't have a mom. That news gave me pause, but nothing like what happened today.

Lori's boss/business partner/good friend was killed in a car crash this afternoon. She got the news about 6 p.m. from her office's general agent. I was grilling when she came outside, stunned, and said he had died. He also was 46 and has two sons, one of whom is Michael's age and would hang out with us on occasion during the summer when he was staying with his father (he lived out of state).

The crash was a single-car accident; Lori's boss simply missed a turn and drove off the road. His fiance survived with non-life-threatening injuries, but according to the Facebook posts that we're seeing, was seriously in shock, wondering what happened, where his engagement was, and if anyone had told his future stepsons what happened to their father. The couple planned to marry this summer.

I'm coming at all this bad news, especially the last tragedy from two angles. First, no matter how much I'm feeling sorry for myself or wish the things that are stressing me out could not be so burdensome, I'm lucky be in a place where I and my family is healthy and (at least in my case, relatively) happy.  I can muddle through sucky days and occasionally lose some sleep, but at least I get to see the next day sadness-free.

Second, I have goals, dreams and plans -- to be a better father and husband, to be happier and less stressed, to be more productive, and to think at the end of every day "Damn, this was a great day." Down the line, I don't want to feel any regrets that I never fulfilled those goals, dreams and plans. Thinking I have years to proceed with my blueprint is not wise, because as these three tragedies have demonstrated, something unexpected might intercede. Obviously, some courses of action aren't immediately feasible, but delaying working toward them can mean you never do.

Amid this sadness (and tonight, my stomach is churning from the terrible news we got five hours ago), I'm feeling a little bit of resolve. No excuses, no waiting, no regrets. Be great today. Be great every day.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

One day all 7 will die

Prince died today. Only 57. And it's not like he died after years of chemical abuse or a bizarre lifestyle -- he generally was not that reckless compared to other rock stars (how Keith Richards has outlived so many of his peers is beyond me).
 
I'm not taking this as hard as when David Bowie died back in January, but it is a little humbling that musicians I listened to in my youth -- ones whose songs offered some sort of impact in my life -- are dying off. I loved most of "Purple Rain" in 1984, came to appreciate his older stuff, and promised myself but never followed through that I needed to listen to more of his less commercial stuff that is supposed to be simply amazing. 
 
video
 
Anyway, I've been listening to his songs all day, posted some things on Facebook, and reading what others are saying. Looked up a lot of lyrics and was surprised how many I've been singing wrong over the years. With that in mind, here are my five favorite Prince lyrics (I couldn't even begin to come up with five favorite Prince songs, though "7" -- which I borrowed a line for the title of this post, probably would be one ...):

1. "Hey, I ain't got no money, but honey I'm rich on personality"
2. "Every time I comb my hair, thoughts of you get in my eyes"
3. "Seems that I was busy doing something close to nothing, but different than the day before/That's when I saw her, ooh I saw her, she walked in through the out door, out door"
4. "Here we are folks, the dream we all dream of, boy versus girl in the World Series of love"

And because I had to have one dirty Prince lyric in this list (and there are a lot of good ones):

5. "Hey Ducky, let me stick the 7-inch in the computer."

Finally, favorite Prince lyric from a song he wrote for someone else:

"He tells me in his bedroom voice, 'Come on honey, let's go make some noise' "

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I 8 the sandbox

First, some context on the title (wait for the Bert and Ernie part, about 45 seconds in):


I once showed this to Ben and his kindergarten classmates back in the day, and though they thought it was funny, they were shocked that a kids' show used "stupid" so casually. But remember, Bert was kind of an anti-hero (just like Oscar was). He would mellow, of course ...

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I have high hopes for the front lawn this year, now that it's spring. Minus the bare patches, it's already looking not too bad, and I think if I get the EZ Seed onto the bald spots now -- and keep watering (that's what got me last year) -- I may make progress. The back lawn is growing strong too, but mostly with weedier grass. I will have to run the weed whacker through it soon; the growth is a little too difficult for the manual lawnmower. Still wondering at what point I buy another electric mower ...

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I'm sitting on our porch writing tonight and looking at our RAV-4, which I still don't believe we own despite it being almost a year. And I see the Corolla, almost 19 years in our care. Six more years and our little sedan officially becomes a classic car.

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I've been eating like hell lately. Partly have been too randomly munchy, and partly not working outside of my kitchen enough -- it's just too easy to think I'm hungry when I'm not. I need to start tracking my food intake again ...

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Well, this was a random post. I wanted to write something tonight, which is better than nothing. I will leave you with this (and yes, times have changed -- jesters generally don't get crushed on educational television anymore):


Monday, April 11, 2016

Nine tonight

My nighttime routine has been off kilter for the past few months. To counter some bouts of insomnia, I've been going to bed earlier, figuring if I woke up and couldn't fall back to sleep right away, I'd still have more time for slumber. As a result, the evening hours have been crunched -- it seems like once we get through dinner and whatever activities we have for the night (and the activities are plentiful with the boys, as always, especially through the winter), there's barely time to get the dog out for a walk.

One blessing of this is I haven't watched as much TV lately. I gave up on "Gotham," which had devolved into almost the same story every week. But on the minus side, my evenings feel rushed, as if I'm just waiting for bed to roll around. No writing. Barely any board games with Ben, which had been a regular occurrence through December. And it really hadn't helped the insomnia -- I'm not getting any more sleep than I had before.

So what's my solution? After avoiding screens before bed, setting up a "relaxing" bedtime routine, resisting taking the dog on longer walks when it's later, and limiting the stimuli that I thought were keeping me awake, I'm going back in the opposite direction and simply doing what I did before: playing video games, sitting on the porch writing (spring has obviously helped this), watching TV, and staying up past 11. I need to work the board games back in as well. I think I swung to far toward other things to help me sleep that I was overthinking it. I'm probably calmer when I get the wind-down time that I was used to. And I was never an early-to-bed person anyway; it's sort of one of the reasons why I'm falling asleep and then waking up soon after.

Again, spring and the upcoming summer will help. I love working on my porch, and after the long winter, it's good to have my "office" back. Instead of fearing time after 9, I'm going to enjoy it again, just like I had for decades.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ten things I'll miss about you

I'm not sure if I heard this on a commercial or if Michael mentioned it after hearing it on a commercial, but all nine seasons of the PBS series "Curious George" are now on Hulu. We don't have Hulu, nor do we have children who watch "Curious George" anymore. But what struck me was that the show is already up to its ninth season. Technically, it might actually be in its 10th ...

Amazingly, I remember the day "Curious George" debuted in September 2006. We were in Minnesota for a friend's wedding and had stayed a couple extra days before flying home. Michael was a few months shy of 3; Ben was 3 1/2 months old. After a long, fun day and made our way back to the hotel at around 5 p.m. and looked for something for Michael to watch, discovering the local PBS station and this new animated series based on a beloved children's book. We had seen the movie version of "Curious George," but this was different. Michael generally liked it, but as Ben grew older, he was the bigger fan of the show. We probably own a few of the DVDs, and if I had to guess, Ben probably only stopped watching it a few years ago.

I'll say it here: I miss "Curious George." The character on the TV show was the perfect metaphor for Ben. I'm finding myself missing many of the things from the boys' early youth that they have simply outgrown. Here are 10 more of those things that make me feel wistful for the past that concluded before I even realized what was happening:

1. Sandra Boynton books 

















2. Wooden Thomas the Tank Engine Trains
These aren't our trains. I'm sure we have more.














3. Baby Einstein's Shakespeare the Dragon


















4. Word World



5. Laurie Berkner, The Backyardigans,  They Might Be Giants, and The Wiggles


6. "Cars"

7. The B.O.B double jogging stroller


















8. Baby swings














9. Laird Park (probably the park we spent the most time at when the boys were toddlers/preschoolers)

10. Lego Star Wars


















I'm sure there will be a sequel to this post ...

Friday, April 8, 2016

These go to eleven

The boys are at an age when I'm not quite as worried about what they are seeing in TV and movies. Swearing isn't a big issue because, well, they have heard Lori and I curse enough that it isn't a shock. Just about every superhero movie today is PG-13 and filled with sanitized violence; even the new Star Wars movie got a PG-13 rating. As long as they don't get too dark for Ben, who get scared a little more easily, I don't worry too much about either boy seeing someone get chomped by a dinosaur or thrown around by the Hulk.

And I think we've got it down what they can and cannot handle. The original "Red Dawn?" Mild by today's standards. "Gotham?" Too dark and way too violent; I usually turn it off if Ben is trying to watch. A classic slasher flick like "Nightmare on Elm Street?" Probably not until they are in high school. "The Hunger Games?" That's already technically a kid's book; a little more violent then I would hope but both boys seem to handle it (and they love "The Maze Runner"). "Walking Dead?" No. "Alien?" I think they would get bored -- it's so deliberately paced to ratchet up the tension. "Aliens?" Much more whiz bang -- maybe the precursor to the nonstop action of today's superhero flicks.


But then there's a middle ground of movies, mostly classic comedies, that I am so torn on. "This Is Spinal Tap" has so many hysterical moments (the amp that goes to 11, Stonehenge, getting lost trying to find the stage, and so on) that they would definitely be laughing. However, how do I explain why "Lick My Love Pump"is a funny line in the movie? The multitude of F words that gave it an R rating I can handle. The crudeness might be trickier to ignore.

From there, what about "Sixteen Candles?" I probably saw it not much older than Michael is now. The sexual references aren't too bad, but there's that brief shower scene. Am I a bad parent if my 12-year-old catches a glimpse of boobs in a movie I encourage him to watch? I was caught off guard when we were watching "Starship Troopers" together and there's some brief nudity that I forgot about. The movie is so campy violent that it's fun for a tween to watch, but does it get disqualified for that one scene? Michael loves "Titanic" but hasn't seen the original versions with Kate Winslet's breasts in it. Part of me thinks, better he see a realistically proportioned naked beautiful woman on screen than someone that's fantastically skinny/buxom.

I saw "Grease" when I was 9 years old, and in the decades since, I'm shocked how dirty it actually is. But, most of the sexual references (and holy crap, there are a lot) went far over my head. As a parent today, in what might be a less innocent time, I'm not sure the references won't go over their heads. At the same time, I want to believe my kids, especially Michael, and kids of today in general, are smarter, more savvy. Maybe I should let them stay up to watch "Saturday Night Live," and maybe I shouldn't be worried about the sexual reference that might reach their ears from something as otherwise innocuous as "Modern Family." And honestly, I'd rather them watch something with a brief nudie shot than something extremely violent.

"Best in Show" is on Netflix this month, and I think the boys would find it hysterical. And I'm not going to worry why it got a PG-13 rating and let them just laugh at the funny parts. Maybe on a scale of 1 to 10 they would give it a 10. Or, as Nigel Tufnel would say, an 11.