Sunday, August 20, 2017

Summer 2017: Days 83-90

The week after vacation. The week before school starts. The week I try to re-establish a routine, only to re-establish it again when the boys' summer break ends.

We didn't do a heck of a lot these past eight days. I worked. Lori worked hard to get herself back into a groove. Ben played with his friend Ethan a lot. Michael was a lazy teenager but did get some work done. Soccer started this week, and we had two practices and our first game in the new league (lost 6-3). Michael had a basketball training session today and has two weeks to get back into a rhythm before tryouts.

I walked Popcorn almost every day this week -- long walks. I feel like I gained 10 pounds on vacation. Lori, Ben and I played board games this week, including Settlers of Catan and Patrician.

Today we spent a few hours by our friends with a pool. Then we, as a family walked to the H Rock.

Michael isn't too thrilled to be starting school tomorrow. Ben is happy to get back but sad that summer vacation ended. He said he loved this summer, and remembered how I once told him my summer after fifth grade was my favorite growing up. I hope he's not sad that he thinks they are downhill from here, but he (really, both boys) created many incredible memories on this summer break. I tried to cheer him up that sixth grade is going to be great for him. He nonetheless was having trouble falling asleep.

Oh, Ben and I bought the last of our school supplies today at Walmart. If that isn't a sure sign that summer is winding down, I don't know what is.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 82, Vacation Day 14

Home. Whew.

We finished off Nebraska and Wyoming, finally making it home about 9 p.m. Lori drove most of the way, though I handled Rawlins to SLC. Dinner was at McDonald's in Rawlins. Ran into some thunderstorms. We finished listening to Jurassic Park and moved on to Tex. Such a fun trip, but so happy to finally be back.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 81, Vacation Day 13

The long road home began today. We took a little time in the morning before leaving, and of course, Ben was sad to go. We stopped in Iowa City for lunch at Stake and Shake, then had dinner at CiCis in Lincoln near our hotel. We listened to the audiobook of Jurassic Park along the way today. Even though it wasn't the longest day of driving, the boys didn't feel like swimming when we got back to the room. We watched a James Taylor/Carole King concert on PBS and then an old Bee Gees concert, then turned in.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 80, Vacation Day 12

Our last day in Chicago. We leave for home in the morning.

Today turned out to be another mellower day, which, after such a jam-packed trip, was acceptable. The highlight for me was taking the boys on a bike ride, on the trail up to Golf Road past Chick Evans Golf Course. We rode about 14 miles, and the stunning part for me was that Dad still has my old Schwinn from the 1980s. Michael rode it, and I swear, I thought I was watching myself from 30 years ago. Ben rode well too, and we went to the McDonald's on Oakton for McFlurries.

Lori hadn't had SuperDawg yet this trip, so we ordered from the carhop for dinner. We came home and played Pandemic with Kate and Exploding Kittens with the family. I also watched an SNL Weekend Update special with the fam before turning in for the night.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 79, Vacation Day 11

On almost every one of our vacations, there seems to be a day in which we have hit our activity limit and start winding down. This was that day.

I walked about 4 miles in the morning, and Ben and I went to a game store. Michael, Lori and Susy went for a long bike ride. I napped. My dad picked up Lou Malnati's for dinner. That was about it for the day. And that's OK -- these relaxing days are important. I don't want vacation to end, but I also am looking forward to getting home a little bit.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 78, Vacation Day 10

Today the boys and I ventured downtown. We took the train to Union Station and walked toward Michigan Avenue. The wonder of downtown Chicago is not lost on Ben, who marveled at how "beautiful" it looked (obviously overlooking the smell ...). Downtown Chicago does have a certain appeal to it for someone who spent his whole life in Utah. I still love it and I grew up here. Our destination was the Art Institute.

Our time at the museum was incredible. I hadn't been to the Art Institute since, wow, maybe 1993 when Lori and I went. And for some reason, I don't remember seeing as much art as we did this time. I have no recollection of the Jackson Pollaks, the Georgia O'Keefes, the Picassos and the Matisses -- only Mary Cassat and the impressionists. We started with a Gaugin exhibit, then wound our way through 20th century American artists, the impressionists, medieval armor (that was fun), contemporary artists, and the surrealists and post-impressionists. After three hours, we still hadn't got to everything (missing renaissance and photography) but had to leave to meet up with Lori at Susy's office. After a quick visit to Dunkin' Donuts, the four of us headed back to Edgebrook.

The evening was spent with Mike and John and SuperDawg. I used the last hour of my day to relax on the front porch, listening to music. This is what vacation is all about.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 77, Vacation Day 9

After the busiest vacation week I can remember in recent vacation memory, we needed a day to rest. Blessedly, we got one.

We all slept late and took naps. The only time I got out of the house was with the boys to vacuum out the car and go to Taco Burrito King for lunch. I got sidetracked by some soccer stuff, but that was my only stress for the day. My dad and stepmom invited people over for dinner, and I feasted and drank a few beers. Currently, I'm on the porch writing on a cool night.

We'll be more active tomorrow, but for today, we needed the break. Already on the back half of our trip ...

Summer 2017: Day 76, Vacation Day 8

There was a hangover today. Not a bad one, but I'm definitely too old to be drinking too much at weddings ...

Fortunately, I cut off the hangover at the pass early, and my headache was gone by 10 a.m. We met the boys and Lori's family at a Croatian church's festival on Milwaukee's west side. We hung out there for a little while, and the boys went with Lori's sister and new brother-in-law to Great America while Lori and I got the rest of the day mostly to ourselves. We drove by her old house and hung out at a Collectivo coffee shop in Wauwatosa for a while, then drove back into the city. I managed a two-hour nap at Sara's house (dozing off listening the Cubs' game; they were winning when I fell asleep and losing by five when I woke up ...). The rest of the evening was spent hanging out on Sara's porch, eating dinner (Sara grilled some steak and vegetables), and playing Settlers of Catan.

Through a driving rainstorm to leave Milwaukee, we drove to Kenosha to pick up the boys, who had a blast at Great America. We got a bite to eat with the in-laws and the cousins, then headed back to my dad's house in Chicago. The long weekend finally came to a close.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 75, Vacation Day 7

Two days, two weddings.

The boys stayed with Lori's parents at the hotel in Franklin, and we stayed again with Sara in Milwaukee. Sara, who rarely gets to cook for people, was ecstatic to make us breakfast. I walked to the nearby Pick 'n' Save -- the one that opened in 1994 when Lori and I were living on the east side -- to buy ingredients for homemade egg muffins. They were delicious and a good way to start the day that was bound to get busier.

Mike's wedding was in Lake Villa, Ill., about 45 minutes from Milwaukee. The weather couldn't be better today after the chilly wedding Friday. The location was nice, and the sun was shining for the ceremony. I got to see all my high school friends for the first time since Tom's funeral last year, and we toasted to his memory before the pre-wedding responsibilities began. Mike kept entrusting me to mix him Jim Beam and lemonades, and I was concerned I wasn't making them strong enough. We took pictures and helped with the preparations, then got to hang out in a groomsmen's room before the ceremony.

The wedding was great. Tim almost had me laughing from the start when he whispered to Nosek, on the other side of me on the stage, that John was on the clock for fantasy football. I got it together and didn't burst out laughing. Mike surprised everyone in the middle of the ceremony by beginning to sing a song, but after the first line, two people in the audience took over. Then a violinist stood up and started playing. Then another singer joined in, followed by a tenor. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen at a wedding, and it had the guests in tears.

The reception was wicked fun, of course. I danced a lot, more than perhaps at any other wedding for a long while. Mike had the DJ play Nitzer Ebb's "Join in the Chant," which took our group way back to high school. I was exhausted and a little drunk after that. Lori drove home, with a stop in Kenosha for McDonald's. The Big Mac was a great ending to a great day.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 74, Vacation, Day 6

Today was our first full day in Wisconsin with the kids. Summer vacation, winter temperatures -- just like Wisconsin ...

We took the boys to Ma Fischer's on the East Side for breakfast. The skies were overcast and a little rainy, and the temperature couldn't be above 60 degrees. This far cry from what we experience in Utah summers didn't dampen the boys' spirits; they ate and attacked the day. From the restaurant, we visited Lori's old high school. She just wanted to pass by initially, but then asked if she could take us inside her old stomping grounds. I've never been inside Rufus King -- it's an old high school for sure. Lori enjoyed the memories, and Ben did too; Michael smiled politely and followed the tour, being more surprised by the old water fountains.

After going to Kohl's, we drove along the lake back into the city. We were a smidge frantic getting ready for Lisa's wedding, but it turned out no one from the wedding party was really on time either. The wedding was fun. Lisa's niece Dakota officiated and was nervous/choked up. Ben danced like crazy. The skies never opened up, and eventually it even warmed up (after the wind died down). Lori and I took the boys to stay with the grandparents at the hotel, and we headed back into the city. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 73, Vacation Day 5

A bit of a transition day: We departed Chicago for a few days in Milwaukee. I did go for a long walk into the forest preserve in the morning while the boys, who got to go to the beach yesterday, went kayaking at Skokie Lagoons today with my dad. It rained hard off and on today, and unfortunately, it was way on when we visited Marquette in the afternoon. I wanted to show the boys the campus, but instead we simply hung out in the spirit shop. We headed over to Croatian Soccer Park for my sister-in-law's wedding rehearsal, then went to Kopp's for diner.

Tonight, we are staying with a good friend we knew from Madison who owns a place on the East Side. I'm on the porch, enjoying the cool evening, and finally getting some writing done. Clouds are speeding by, and I think it will rain again.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 72, Vacation Day 4

Lori and I celebrated our 20th anniversary today. We drove to Madison without the kids to reminisce, visit some of our old haunts, and look forward.

I had called the hotel where our reception was to see if we could get in the hall and have one dance, to the song we danced to first 20 years ago. Unfortunately, there was a luncheon in progress, so that didn't work. But Kathy from the hotel let us browse the top floor and the nice staircase, and took some pictures for us. We ate lunch (a great salad bar) in their restaurant, and they brought us free champagne and dessert. This was such a wonderful gesture. That could have been our day, but it was just starting.

We also walked the square, visited the smaller Wednesday farmer's market (and bought fresh cheese curds), visited Lori's old work, strolled down State Street, bought the boys t-shirts at the UW bookstore, drove to the west side, visited the church we got married at explored our old neighborhood, bought Klarbrunn's at Woodman's (which is even crazier than it was 20 years ago), and found a park on Lake Mendota to sit and talk for a little while. Our plan was to find someplace for a nice dinner, but instead, we were content to go to Michael's Custard for their great burgers (my bacon double had the most bacon I've ever had on a burger) and a sundae. Then, we headed back to Chicago, making great time.

Lori and I did get that dance, just on our own, at my dad's house. It was the perfect ending to the day. The only thing I would have done differently was jumped in the lake -- I had went in to my knees and it was warm; we hadn't decided on Michael's at that point, and I could have been a little soggy on my anniversary ...

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Summer 2017: Day 71, Vacation Day 3

I still needed to work today, and got much done at two Starbucks before saying my vacation officially begins. Drove around a bit trying to find travel-size saline but had to settle for travel-size solution at three times the price. The boys had a fun day, playing tennis and basketball with my dad. We made burgers and corn on the cob for dinner, then watched the Cubs on TV win big.