As I enter the last week of summer, I closed the book last night on my search for the Karate Kid Hot Wheels car but have still come up empty all summer when searching for a can of the elusive Sriracha Pringles. After dropping Charlotte off at school this morning, I decided to run a few errands including one last search for the supposedly-exclusive-to-Wal-Mart Pringles.
Wouldn't you know it? Jackpot.
I also stopped at Lowe's with grand ideas of completing some projects around the house and yard today. Everything I had planned was sidetracked when I finally reached my boiling point with our lawnmower. After almost three years of having to clean the spark plug every time I mow the yard in order to keep the thing running, I'd had enough. Actually, I didn't have much choice since the lawnmower had come to the point where it would only run for about 60 seconds at a time. I contemplated the purchase of a new mower but decided to take the thing apart first and see what I could come up with.
Now keep in mind that I know nothing about small engines. I don't really know anything about large engines either.
After two hours, a few YouTube videos, a call to my dad, and a little bit of super glue and duct tape, I'm happy to say that our lawnmower is running better than it has in years.
As I've said before, you can now rest easy FASTE readers. I know you were concerned about our mower.
Let me tell you about the internet. It's amazing. It provides an endless supply of academic research material, useful information available instantly at our fingertips, and stuff like this:
This is it. The homestretch. After today, only one week left and then I'm back to work for another school year.
I sacrificed one of my values as a pop culture junkie today and gave up looking for something in stores only to pay a few extra bucks for it on eBay. At the beginning of the summer, I caught wind that a Karate Kid Hot Wheels car had hit shelves and I've spent the last two months looking for one in every store I enter. I easily could have grabbed one on eBay at any point this summer but the scalpers were asking far too much...until last night. With only a week left in the summer, I needed to close the book on this search and luckily stumbled across one selling on eBay for only a buck more than it would have cost me in stores (shipping included, even).
So rest easy, FASTE readers. I found my Karate Kid car.
Now if I could only find a can of Sriracha Pringles before the summer ends.
A thunderstorm rolled through last night around 2am and woke up all three kids in record time. With five people piled in our bed, it felt like a scene out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
After an hour or so, which included a failed attempt to have the five of us camp out together on the living room floor, the storm had passed and everyone was back in their own beds. Everyone but me. The guy who can never go back to sleep.
Around 5am I took a walk around the neighborhood and I decided to give a listen to Judah Smith since it'd been a while since I'd listened to one of his messages. Now FASTE readers, I don't often get preachy on here, but this dude can bring it.
In his message called "Instagram Isn't Real," he grabs my attention right off the bat with some straight up truth: "Social media is not aiding our efforts towards contentment!"
So much more in this great message including a powerful conclusion:
"Don't ever underestimate the power of God-awareness -- the ability to acknowledge and be conscious of God's immediate presence in whatever circumstance you find."
Today the girls got dressed up and headed out with my wife and some friends for the Virginia Theatre to take part in a Frozen sing-along.
Yes. This is exactly what it sounds like.
As you can see, they got there early enough to claim front-row-center seats.
Luckily....I mean...unfortunately, this came right in the heart of Mason's nap time so I had to take one for the team and stay home while he rested.
The Virginia is home to Ebertfest -- the annual film festival featuring overlooked films loved by the late Roger Ebert. A statue of Mr. Ebert was just unveiled outside the theater this past fall and the girls, of course, stopped by for a visit.
I helped a friend move and Amy and I started looking at our options for the kids during this coming school year now that we'll both be back at work full time. We visited a few daycare centers, but I think we're leaning more towards hiring someone to be in our own house with the kids. That way they can nap in their own beds and get off the bus at their own house. Plus the added benefit on our end of being able to come straight home from work rather than battling evening traffic as we pick up our kids from 1-3 different places.
Today was the 25th anniversary of the release of one of my all-time favorite albums -- the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique.
Man. Hard to believe it's been 25 years since I picked up the Hey Ladies cassette single at a shopping mall record store.
In others news, I'm pretty sure I've not thrown anything away since the mid-80s.
My summer fling with Spike Lee movies continued today as I spent the rainy afternoon watching Red Hook Summer. Not his best work, but I loved the nods to his earlier films -- especially a few cameo appearances by Mookie from Do the Right Thing.
And it sounds like my least favorite baseball team is about to pick up one of my least favorite players in the league as the Cardinals are close to signing A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski may have a World Series ring, but he'll go down in my history books for taking one off the chin compliments of Michael Barrett.
Speaking of the Cardinals, I have to give credit where it's due.
I was reading an article about two MLB players who recently staged a "national anthem standoff" completely ripping off Joe Kelly and Scott Van Slyke's similar standoff from last year's playoffs. For those unfamiliar, the goal of such a standoff is simple -- to be the last man to leave the field following the conclusion of the Star Spangled Banner.
Watch for yourself. So simple, but so entertaining.
It's refreshing to see this kind of stuff when professional sports can be taken far too seriously by players, reporters, and fans. Joe Kelly nailed it with a quote after the game in which he and Van Slyke faced off:
"It’s a kids game, it’s baseball. You’re supposed to have fun. You take it serious, you start to get gray hairs."
The first words I heard when I turned the radio on today: "Nobody can be in a bad mood today. Sunny and 75."
Stuff like this always tends to put things in perspective for me a little bit. Kind of like the line from Say Anythingwhen John Cusack says to his sister, "Why can't you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?"
Truth that's hard to remember on the day-to-day. But truth.
Today was a big day for my wife who has taken the past few years away from her career to stay home with our kids before they head off to school. Feeling the urge to go back to work more every day, she recently applied for a full-time position and was offered (and, of course, accepted) the job this morning. So we're thrilled on a professional level but also feeling some level of panic now trying to sort out childcare for our kids. Either way, I'm super excited for my wife because I know she's excited.
Tons of new music from some of my favorite artists coming out in the next few weeks including a new Rootbeer EP from Pigeon John and Flynn Adam. If you like decent hip-hop, it'll be worth the few bucks it's going for on iTunes. I promise.
Listen for yourself.
Coincidentally, the new EP is titled "18 Minutes" and as many of you know, the Todd Snider site that I started and have maintained for about ten years now is EighteenMinutes.com.
Strange. And awesome.
Let's keep it random with a cartoon strip that I just noticed which has been saved on my desktop for several weeks. Back in college, I spent two semesters living with a good friend of mine from back home. He had a Dilbert book and for some reason, this particular strip struck us as especially hilarious.
Of course, we regularly mocked each other by pretending to hold a pair of glasses in the air and saying "fuh, fuh, fuh."
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not complaining about the mild weather we've had this summer. But with only two days until Charlotte goes back to school, it was nice to have a day warm enough that a dip in the in-law's pool actually felt like a summertime swim.
And then, after a restful afternoon, and with dinner on the grill, it happened.
Charlotte heads off to first grade on Wednesday so we've officially reached the point in the summer where we cram in all of the stuff that we had planned on doing this summer but haven't yet. One of those things is a quick trip up the road to Prairie Farm, a park district "replica of a turn-of-the century farm."
Yeah. Goats and ducks. Whatever.
Let's get to the big hill next to the animals!
In back yard news, as the garden continues to flourish, we've been getting more "visitors."
How do you catch a unique rabbit?
You 'neak up on him, of course.
The day was capped off with an experiment of sorts.
Several years ago, my wife and I were invited to a birthday celebration for her aunt -- a "low country boil" complete with some of the best shrimp, potatoes, and corn on the cob I think I've ever eaten. With no plans for dinner tonight, we realized we actually had the stuff we needed to do a makeshift boil of our own. Unfortunately, after inviting some friends from down the street over for dinner, the corn was tough and the overall flavor was pretty bland.
I guess we're motivated now to do it the right way sometime.
On a side note, my brother-in-law threw me a bone today with his idea for how I should've been ending my posts all summer.
After eleven years of living in this area, it wasn't until today that Amy and I have finally made the 20 minute drive to Allerton Park. We'd always heard great things and seen beautiful photos that others had taken at Allerton, so we loaded the kids in the van and headed out for a morning in the trees.
Mostly, I found myself walking behind everyone and taking pictures of them in front of me.
We got the stink-eye from a couple of teenage boys who seemed very unhappy that we were in the area of the park where they were clearly up to something. One of the boys apparently wanted to have a staring contest with me since his eyes were locked on mine for at least 30 seconds as we approached. Needless to say, I won the staring contest.
Moving on to another part of the park, we found a set of spiral stairs that led to a lookout platform above. The stairs certainly weren't intended for our kids to climb alone and each of them wanted a turn climbing to the top. Since I'm a big baby and was pretty uncomfortable climbing the stairs even by myself (seriously, when people say "don't look down" they mean it) Amy climbed the stairs three times while I took pictures from my own personal comfort zone.
While some parts of the park seemed surprisingly unkempt, it was still remarkably beautiful and such a great feeling to get away from everything for a few hours of fresh air!
Sparing you the details, I'll just come right out and say it.
I hate Comcast.
I'm not a violent guy, but if Comcast was a person, I'm pretty sure I would have gone to his house by now and punched him in the throat.
There's a difference between bad business with poor customer service and service so unbelievably pitiful that it is offensive and insulting to the customer. A big shout out to Comcast for accomplishing the latter.
So instead of spending the beautiful morning outside with my wife and kids, I spent just short of three hours on the phone with Comcast being transferred, put on hold, disconnected, and feeling my blood pressure soar. Finally, what should have been a ten minute phone call came to an end -- and nothing was fixed.
Sadly, this is what I've come to expect of Comcast over the past year so I'm not surprised.
Now that I have that off my chest, it was still another beautiful day here in Middle America as Charlotte has finally decided she's ready to be done with training wheels on her bike.
After having the kids up late for VBS every night for the past week, we decided to keep them up one more time and join my in-laws for some free outdoor music. Gorgeous weather, some live blues and zydeco, a picnic dinner...and a two-year-old wound up and listening to no one.
Okay, really he wasn't all that obnoxious. Just enough, though, to take the evening from relaxing and fun to a little stressful and tense for Amy and me.
We said goodbye to the team from Asbury last night since they were hitting the road at 5:00 this morning. I heard the front door close around 4:45 and figured they were loading up their bags. In the time it took me to brush my teeth and get downstairs, they were gone -- so unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to express my thanks to their team as a whole.
Either way, it was great getting to know these young people this week and to see their passion for helping others. Twenty years ago, as I left high school, I wanted to be like that. Now, as a parent, I want my kids to be like that.
It is said that when Fred Rogers was in college, he found inspiration in a sign he often passed on campus. The sign simply read: