Road Trip

Man, what a stretch it's been over these past few weeks. After celebrating my dad's 75th birthday with him and a relaxing Fourth of July, we headed out for a week in the Smoky Mountains.

Noah's ark.

Whitewater rafting.

A pottery class.

The Dukes of Hazzard.

A pink Jeep.

Catching up with my aunt and cousins.

Caves.

Ziplining.

A seven person road-trip like that included far more than I'll ever be able to put into words here (or have the energy to do so), so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...

She's a Dandy

I'd like to say that in the several days that have passed since I last shared anything that we've been so busy with exciting summer adventures that I just haven't had the time to put my thoughts together.

But that's not the case.

Actually, the last several days have been filled with exactly what a good summer break should be filled with: absolutely nothing.

Not "nothing" in the sense that we've all been sitting around the house staring at the wall, but certainly not anything that holds a candle to a trip to San Francisco or telling the story of a marriage 25 years in the making that would warrant a post all its own!

So here you go ... a run down of the random thoughts and activities from a solid stretch of summer break...

. . .

We've had a Sam's Club in Champaign for as long as I can remember but this past year Costco came to town and I've not seen people lose their minds over a store since Portillo's opened up down the street a few years ago.

My thoughts on Portillo's will probably start a riot among my Chicago-area friends, but here they are in a nutshell: Italian beef? Good. The rest of the menu? Nothing special.

Anyway, we finally decided to hit up Costco and see what the hype was all about. Based on the excitement over a warehouse store that everyone we know seems to share, we crossed the parking lot somewhat expecting to see fireworks and rainbows in the sky while a red carpet was rolled out in our honor.

Instead, we entered the sliding doors to be greeted by a frowning woman who grunted the words "membership card" in our direction. Of course, we needed to get one so she nodded in the general direction of the customer service area.

Long story short, we were pretty underwhelmed with Costco. There was nothing wrong with the place but there wasn't anything we'd buy there that we couldn't get at Sam's with the membership we're already paying for. So after checking out -- a process that took four employees to sort out because the "computers were acting up" -- we loaded the car and agreed that Costco wasn't anything special. I remembered seeing on the wall in the customer service area that refunds for items and memberships would be issued for any level of dissatisfaction.

So I went back in and had our membership cancelled and cost refunded.

No sense in paying for a more expensive membership to a second warehouse store that doesn't give us anything we don't have access to already.

Sorry Costco folks. As much as I don't care for Wal-Mart in general, we'll stick with Sam's.

. . .

The girls have been binge watching Cobra Kai on Netflix and I don't know that I've ever been more proud as a parent.

No mercy, girls.

. . .

Speaking of the Karate Kid, this is fantastic...

. . .

The reselling "business" has been booming over the past few weeks. I've continued to pick up various items here and there and I've most definitely turned around enough to be significantly in the black. Several five dollar purchases turned around for $40-50 ... one brought in over $100. Not bad for a side hustle.

I'll let you know when I make my first million.

. . .

Have you seen the pandemic version of the Price is Right? It's nuts.

. . .

I've picked up a handful of Funko Pops over the past few years. I've got the Breakfast Club set in my office at work and here at home, the Secret Room (I'll explain the secret room sometime to those of you who might think that sounds weird) is home to the Karate Kid and Ferris Bueller Pops. Fred and Lamont Sanford, too.

Just when I get to the point where I think there couldn't possibly be any more that I'd consider buying, Funko hits me square in the face with something new much like they did when they released the Run DMC set not too long ago.

Oh, yeah, those are in the Secret Room, too. Along with Mr. T.

But this past winter, a pre-sale went live on Amazon for a new set to be released in June and I'm not sure I've ever pre-ordered anything faster.

Welcome to the Secret Room, Kid N Play.

And thanks to a well-placed Amazon "others-who-bought-this-item-also-bought" ad, Eazy E showed up, too.

. . .

So for those who don't get it, let me tell you about the Secret Room.

About two-thirds of our basement is living space -- an open area with a TV, foosball table, and video games. This is pretty much where Mason and Myles live. The other part of this area is taken up by two bedrooms.

Then in the remaining third of the basement, you'll find an unfinished area with laundry machines, the furnace, the water heater, and stacks of plastic totes for storage. But just at the back of this area is a small room with a pocket door.

The Secret Room.

My understanding is that the previous owner of this house used this room to store his tools but I've converted it into my own little work space. The kids decided early on that this would be called the "Secret Room."

The Secret Room is where I make the stuff I make -- artwork, buttons, stickers, shirts. As a matter of fact, it's where I'm sitting right now as I type these words. It's also where I store all of the junk that I've accumulated over many years of collecting stuff and having saved many of my own toys and such from my childhood. When we added the two bedrooms to the basement last summer, this is also where my Mister Rogers collection was relocated -- no longer on display but stored away for easy access.

I've always joked with the kids that they are absolutely never allowed to talk about "the toys in Dad's secret room in the basement" because it would probably lead to a visit from DCFS or the local police department.

Consider yourselves lucky, dear readers ... here's a rare glimpse of the Secret Room.

. . .

Myles took a break from video games and YouTube videos long enough one day for me to teach him how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. He's a pro now.

For what it's worth, that's an ice cream cone in my mouth. I don't have a beak.

. . .

Trisha took the girls to a macrame class one Sunday afternoon. They are now all experts on making hangy things that look like they belong hovering over the TV in the late-70s living room of my childhood home.

I'm kidding, of course. The girls loved it and as macrame is making some level of a comeback, they're all set up now to make their own.

  

. . .

With Trisha working for State Farm, we have access to State Farm Park which is somewhere between a country club and a vacation resort. It wasn't until about a month ago that I realized that I could go there with the kids any time -- even during summer days when Trisha is working. I guess I always assumed she'd have to be with us to go.

So that's all I needed. I packed up all five kids last week and spent the morning people-watching and reading while the kids swam the pool, dove the boards, slid the slides, and lazied the river.

It was only a few minutes into our first visit when I texted Trisha who was working from home.

. . .

Finally, Fathe's Day was absolutely perfect -- terrific weather, a day relaxing after church, and some amazing gifts from the kiddos. Savannah and Myles hooked me up with a perfect card and some coffee.

Mason made me a custom Lego mini-fig and Charlotte painted me an awesome picture based on an old photo from a day she and I went in search of the latest version of Halloween Cap'n Crunch.

 

But Anna stole the moment in a way that only Anna could. While I absolutely loved everything that all of the kids did for me on Father's Day, Anna's gift made me laugh harder than I've laughed in a long, long time!

 

As Trisha's dad said the first time he met Anna ... she's a dandy. :)