Tee Ball & Pot

DAY 44 -- Mason wrapped up his tee ball season tonight which frees up Tuesday nights for the first time in two months.

Here's to hoping he keeps his interest in baseball.

And learns to love the Cubs.

And to hate the Cardinals.

. . .

I spent much of the day working on my summer project of clearing the berm at the back of our yard. After today, I feel like I'm finally making some serious progress.

The story from today, I may have found some pot in the berm.

I may have found some jar, too.

A Beetle Bailey Kind of Day

DAY 43 -- Some days are productive. Others are not.

Today I watched a bunch of Beetle Bailey cartoon episodes on YouTube.

Today was productive.

Not to be outdone...

DAY 42 -- Anna wanted to take a morning walk with me as everyone in the campground was just starting to stir.

It couldn't have been a more beautiful morning and as we talked, I thought I'd take the opportunity to go a little deeper with her.
"Anna, you know what I like to do on quiet mornings like this before everyone is awake?"  
"Sometimes I talk to God and say thanks for the beautiful world." 
"What are we having for breakfast?"

. . .

Todd Snider tells a story of how he became a musician. As he watched Jerry Jeff Walker sing and play the guitar, he thought to himself, "Well, shit. I can do that."

I can only assume Mason thought the same thing as he watched Anna ride a bike without training wheels on Saturday. Coming home from a night of camping, Anna couldn't get outside on her own bike fast enough. As she took off on two wheels, Mason said to me, "I can do that."

Tired from camping and doubtful of his claim, I went ahead and decided to let him try.

And that's all it took.

One push and he has off.

We are now a family free of training wheels.

Camping, Biking, Leaf Man

DAY 41 -- I remember when I was younger and a sleeping bag and a backpack was all I'd need to go camping. This morning our family of five packed up and headed to Kickapoo State Park to camp with some friends.

On the way there, a few times I heard "Kickapoop" from the back seat and I knew somewhere my mom was enjoying a moment of what-goes-around-comes-around.

We set up camp and headed out for a trail hike in search of a mysterious tree with a small door at the bottom. Apparently the idea is to leave a treasure inside the door for whatever mysterious creature lives there. A fairy, maybe? A troll?

Whatever. We hiked.

And we found the tree which was already filled with random "treasures" left behind by other hikers.

Later ... Dinner on the fire. Marshmallows and lightning bugs. High temperatures in the 70s. This was pretty much perfect.

I haven't camped regularly since I was in college when the experience usually involved a case of Rolling Rock and a pack of Backwoods cigars. After such a long hiatus, I think I've got the camping bug again. Only now, beer and cigars have been replaced with ghost stories and glow sticks.

. . .

Speaking of ghost stories, our friend Matt told a pretty memorable one as the kids started to wind down for the evening. His story was about Leaf Man -- the cousin of Bigfoot who would come to your tent at night and put a leaf under your pillow if you had littered during the day. Leaf Man was smarter and more environmentally conscious than Bigfoot because he had stayed in school.

The moral of the story: don't litter and do your best in school.

Or something like that.

Anna put a leaf under Mason's pillow the next morning.

Mason was not happy.

. . .

The biggest news of the day came from Anna who took a liking to her friend Gwen's bike and sped off on her first no-training-wheel ride as though she'd been riding a bike for years. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of the time we where there she spent on that bike riding circles around the camp sites.

She was pretty proud of herself.

Rightfully so.

Astronaut, Ancient Treasure, Jump & Shout

DAY 40 -- Astronaut.

. . .

Smoothie King. Five Dollar Friday is my weakness.

. . .

Mason and I also visited the library sale today. Dollar CDs are my other weakness.

. . .

Anna wrapped up her Jump and Shout cheer camp today.

. . .

I cleaned out my closet this morning and discarded a pretty decent pile of clothes that I haven't worn in years. So long ringer tees and oversized sweaters.

. . .

Found an ancient treasure in the berm today. The kids have no idea what it is.

. . .

Tonight the kids were introduced to a classic.

Nacho, Zima, Lonzo

DAY 39 -- I had a cat named Nacho when I was a kid. My mom often called her Nacho Duck. Like Macho Duck from the Mickey Mouse Disco record we had. Sometimes she'd just call her Duck.

. . .

I bought some new athletic socks today. Black ones. Twelve pair.

. . .

Amy recently picked up a six-pack of the supposedly-limited-run of Zima. I laughed when I saw her drinking one. Zima was the first alcoholic drink I ever had. I was almost 18 and drank it warm out of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles water bottle I won at Six Flags.

. . .

I had a Kit Kat shake from Steak 'n Shake tonight. Although it was amazing, I regret having a Kit Kat shake from Steak 'n Shake tonight.

. . .

I've continue sorting through a lot of the video footage I've acquired over the years. I'm of the opinion that the theme from Perfect Strangers is one of the five best TV theme songs ever.

. . .

As expected, Lonzo Ball went to the Lakers. Also as expected, the Knicks continue to show no interest in winning.

Big Feet, Ostrich Riding

DAY 38 -- Playing racquetball this morning, I noticed that my shoes were starting to look pretty rough. I'm guessing that I shouldn't be able to see my big toe poking through the top. With Anna at camp for the morning and Charlotte and Amy off to do some study they're part of at the university, my man Mason joined me for a morning of errands.

Dick's Sporting Goods hooked me up with a new pair of shoes and a new racket. Here's what I learned from Dick's -- my feet are bigger than I thought. For years -- probably since early in college -- I've been buying size 10 1/2 shoes. Sometimes 11, depending on the brand and style.

For the first time since I was a kid, I decided to put my foot in one of those metal things to measure my foot. Much to my surprise, I apparently have a size 12 foot. After discussing this revelation with the kid working at Dick's, I walked away with some super-comfy shoes a size-and-a-half larger than what I was expecting.

I suppose that explains my toe coming through the top of my old shoes.

So with new shoes and a new racket, I can only assume I'll be unbeatable when I play again on Friday.

. . .

Dick's is an anchor store at the mall so Mason and I made our way to the carousel before I grabbed a few things at Old Navy. It was early in the day, so he had his pick of any animal on the entire ride.

He chose the ostrich.

. . .

I took two naps today.

I regret nothing.

Vet, John Malkovich, PS2

DAY 37 -- One of our cats has had a watery and slightly swollen eye so off to the vet we went this morning. Charlotte was pretty excited to go along and be the comforter to a pretty nervous kitty.

No damage to her eye. Nothing foreign body in there that the vet could see. So after a good eye flush we were sent on our way with a bottle of eye drops and a follow-up scheduled for later in the week

. . .

Amy had Mason at a check-up appointment of his own and Anna was a morning camp. This left Charlotte and I with a few hours to kill so I asked her what she thought we should do.

"Can we go to the junk store?!"

Be still my beating heart.

There are certain questions to which a parent simply cannot say no.

Can I have more vegetables? Of course you can.

Can I go play outside? Please do.

Can we go to the junk store? I'll start the car.

. . .

Off we went to my favorite store...or should I say our favorite store.

My junking partner came home with a Barbie car (she's been playing with Amy's old Barbie dolls a lot lately) and a Beanie Baby she's "been looking for forever." She even picked out a few things for the rest of the family -- a book for Amy, a bear for Anna, and a Mater toy for Mason.

Unfortunately, I realized once we got home that Mater talks -- something that Mason took no time in discovering. Now we have Larry the Cable Guy cruising around our house.


. . .

As my my haul for the day, it was pretty random.

A bag of Lite Brite pegs for a buck.

These suckers aren't cheap if you buy them new and the kids drug out the Lite Brite a few days ago. It was also purchased at the junk store and came with a very limited amount of pegs. Now they'll have enough pegs to make words like "poop" and "butt" glow in vibrant colors.

How's this for random? A set of nesting dolls used to promote the movie Being John Malkovich...

The movie was okay but this set was too weird to leave behind.

Much like the Seinfeld DVD set for a few bucks that included the promo items -- a ketchup/mustard salt and pepper shaker set, script book, and Seinfeld playing cards.

Again, too random to leave behind -- especially knowing that I already have the Seinfeld episodes so I'll easily make my money back on this by dumping off the DVDs somewhere for cheap.

Although very small and limited to a tiny corner of a table, the newly added video game section of the store caught my attention and I picked up a Wii game for the kiddos and a few PS2 games.

Why would I buy PS2 games? Even though I've often regretted doing so, I sold my PS2 at least ten years ago.

Good thing they had one for sale at the junk store for ten bucks.

Back to the Berm

DAY 36 -- I headed back out into the berm today to continue my efforts to clean up the overgrowth and tame an area of our yard with tons of potential. Three hours later, I've unearthed a few more tree stumps and somewhere around 60 concrete blocks and pavers.

Also, for those keeping score at home, a smashed toy car and a hose nozzle.

. . .

After some hard work, Anna and I were relaxing in the hammock this afternoon when she mentioned something about it being Monday. Without hesitation, thinking it was sometime late in the week, was to laugh and say, "It's not Monday."

It's Monday. And I've officially hit my favorite part of summer break -- the part where I completely lose track of what day it is.

. . .

I took this picture of Mason today.

It made me think of a similar (yet very different) picture from just a few years ago.

Quite a difference between our old back yard and our current one.

Hashtag blessed.

Father's Day, Flea Market, Kid-Hosted Date Night

DAY 35 -- I should have known by the way it started that I was in for a terrific Father's Day. While I enjoyed a breakfast put together by my kids, they shared with me a Google presentation they had created -- "3 Reasons Why I Love My Dad."

That. Was. Awesome.

With breakfast done, I got cards and gifts including a baseball signed by my family.

. . .

After getting the okay from Amy to do so, I headed to a nearby flea market for a morning of solo junking. This is the same flea market that Amy and I went to last year on Father's Day but this year -- since she doesn't like that sort of thing and my kids can't keep up with me -- I wanted a few hours to go at it alone.

As I tend to do when I'm flying solo, I took a quick pass through all of the vendors as soon as I arrived rather than starting at the front and working my way through the whole sale a table at a time. That way I can scope out the scene for anything that jumps out and catches my eye. Soaking in the sunshine and the typical flea market stench of B.O., I was quickly starting to regret this trip as it seemed the possibility of going home empty handed was high.

The ice broke though when I found these guys at the bottom of a box of action figures -- Fisher Price Little People and Adventure People. Maybe this day had promise after all.

Several minutes later, I saw him. The seller wearing a Goonies shirt. I was sure he'd have some stuff I'd be interested in and he certainly didn't disappoint.

One of my favorite toys I had when I was a kid was the Fisher Price Magic Show set. Even though my original set is long gone, I picked one up several years ago on eBay which came with three expansion tricks that I was unaware even existed. Approaching the table of the Goonies guy, some familiar packaging caught my eye.

See that kid on the box? I had that hair cut when I was a senior in high school.


One dollar? Sold. But surely this guy had more for me.

And he did.

I already had two of these movie viewers and all three of these movie cartridges, but I couldn't pass this up for five bucks. I'll likely sell these off for an okay profit.

But I wasn't quite done as I'd apparently left my self control at home.

Yep. I bought a Sony Watchman.

Not just a Watchman but a Mega Watchman -- like new with original packaging and paperwork.

Eight-year-old me wants to watch Tennessee Tuxedo on Channel 13.

Forty-year-old me will use it as a radio in his junk room.

Making my way back to the car, I thought I'd make one last sweep through the outside vendors. My logic here is that the outside booths probably cost less and so those sellers are more likely the one-and-done type who are looking to dump their junk for cheap -- not regular vendors looking to make significant profits. About to call it a day, my eye caught a Charles Barkley cup from McDonalds similar to one I had in high school. I had no sooner pulled it from a stack of cups and the seller hit me with an offer:

"Take 'em all for a buck."

A dollar for all of these? I just wanted the Charles Barkley one and I was about to offer her fifty cents for just the one. But all of them for a dollar? What the heck.

Of course, I'm no Cardinal fan, but I have a friend with one heck of a Cardinals man cave that I'm sure will take these off my hands.

I'll keep the Fred Bird cup.

. . .

Lunch at some new Philly steak place and then an afternoon in the yard.

Or in the hammock. Depends on who you ask.

I'm beginning to regret giving our old phones to the girls to use as iPods.

. . .

Amy and I were supposed to have our biweekly date night, but our babysitter became unavailable at the last minute. Hearing that we'd be staying home, the kids put together a date night of their own for us. We were given specific instructions to "put on fancy clothes" and report to the bottom of the stairs at 6:50 sharp.

Meeting my date at the rendezvous point, we were escorted to the kitchen where we were presented with a menu to select a snack and a drink. Anna, at this point, had put on her softball visor which transitioned her from hostess to waitress.

With several options to choose from, Amy chose the wine and almonds. I opted for the orange juice and banana.

After a dance in the basement, our date came to a close with a goodnight kiss. This was also part of the schedule as it was prompted by all three kids chanting "KISS! KISS! KISS!"

. . .

Then PJs. A book. And bed.

A happy Father's Day, indeed.