Extra salt, please

We got back from our beach vacation a week ago. I’ve been missing it ever since. Mostly, I miss this:

The gloaming is the best time of day on the beach. It’s quiet, other than the waves (which rank right up there with Buffalo Tom and Superchunk songs on my list of favorite sounds). Peaceful. Relaxing. Gorgeous.

If I’m lucky, I get a couple weeks of beach time every year. That’s not enough. Every day, I hear the ocean calling my name, like the sirens drawing in Jason and the Argonauts. It’s my happy place. What’s not to love about kayaking, bodysurfing, swimming (or just floating), walking along the shore and generally just chilling?

Of course, if I’m at the beach with my wife’s extended family, there’s usually some sort of elaborate planning for our latest opportunity to “go viral.” It never happens, but that doesn’t stop them from scheming. In past years, it was a flash mob and a choregraphed video. This year, it was a drone shot of human letters for the US Women’s National Soccer Team.

We chose the font called “Crooked”

We didn’t make Ellen (yet again), but it’s fun to dream.

One of my co-workers is one of those adult Disney freaks. (I’m sure you know one… stage an intervention if you can.) She bought a condo just outside Disneyworld, and works from there several weeks each winter. I’d be happy to follow her lead and work from a condo near the ocean… any volunteers to buy it for me? You can visit any time….and the first piƱa colada is on the house.

16 going on 26

My precious, darling daughter is 16 today! Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be sappy and saccharine, because that doesn’t mesh with Leah’s personality. It’ll be sassy instead, because that’s how she rolls.

My wife and I actually remembered her birthday, so she’s already one up on Samantha.

Blur = Bleep.

But there have been a few years when we were heading to vacation on her birthday… there’s nothing quite as festive as spending your special day stuck in a car for 12 hours. I’m glad she’s in Cincinnati for this one. She’ll probably be celebrating by sleeping until noon. Or 1 p.m.

Facts!

Leah’s turning 16 today, but she’s an old soul. She’s great at carrying on polite conversations with adults (present company excluded usually).

She’s very empathetic, kind, caring… wait, this is turning sappy, isn’t it?

The scary D is just ahead: Driving. I signed her up for an online driver’s ed course yesterday. How do they go from bumper cars to real cars so quickly? And more importantly, where was an app for driver’s ed when I was a kid? (Answer: 40 years in the future.)

Here’s the most recent photo I have of Leah, at Peter’s high school graduation. (I don’t follow her on Insta… I’m sure there’s something more current there.)

She isn’t always smiling, but when she is, it lights up our universe.

Leah is also the kid that shares my love of indie rock. She’s bummed that she’ll have to miss the Beck/Cage the Elephant/Spoon concert because she’ll be working as a camp counselor. But there will be other times, other shows. I’m sure that at those shows, I’ll be told to stay far away while she hangs out with her friends. But that’s OK. I’ll still be there with her. And I’ll always be there for her.

So now, instead of some sappy song, here’s a tune that Leah loves.

You’re my boy, Blue!

We are gathered here today to say goodbye to an old and dear friend. Someone you could count on through thick and thin. He was reliable, trustworthy, always there when you needed him, and always up for an adventure. But it was time for old Blue to move on, after so many years of faithful service.

Yes, the 2003 Honda Odyssey is gone, after nearly 17 years, and 152, 322 miles. We’ve been through a lot together. Four kids grew up in that van… and the carpeting on the floor has the juicebox stains to prove it. Thousands of school drop-offs. Hundreds of trips to practices and games: baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse. Dozens of summer vacation trips: Florida, Vermont, Alabama, New Hampshire, New York, New Orleans. While we were visiting all those News, Blue got old. But he was still my boy.

Blue was passed along to our oldest kid, who cleaned it up and made it feel new again. It was a rebirth for Blue. But eventually our son moved on too… when you’re paying for gas and your job is delivering pizzas, you need something that gets a bit better mileage.

So Blue sat in our driveway, taking up space, looking forlorn. It was time to move on. It was for the best.

Now Blue is dearly departed. He’s gone, but not forgotten… especially because I gave him to my brother, who lives two blocks away from me. Blue is still going strong. Blue is still my boy!

The crew

Most families from my generation have photo albums where their most precious pictures are stored. I have a photograph of a photograph, sent via text.

That’s me and my squad, my crew… my mom and siblings. Looks like we were checking out a parade, perhaps? I’m the one striking a cool yet casual pose on the railing, resplendent in my turtleneck and double-breasted overcoat. (Eat your heart out, Zoolander!)

There may be other photographs of my mom with all four of her kids, but not many. She died not long after this photo was taken.

Yesterday was the birthday of my dad. He passed away in 2010… would’ve been 88. I cannot fathom what life must’ve been like for the 41 years when he was still around, but my mom was out of the picture.

I feel like we kids cut him some slack when he was raising us, at least subconsciously, because we knew he was working double duty. But still, it was no easy task.

Here’s to you Herb… rest in peace, after a job well done.

The Graduate Part II

Our son Peter graduated from high school Thursday. Not just any high school, either, but one of the best public high schools in the country. Walnut Hills High School recently made the news when 17 of their students got a perfect score on the ACT. Of course, on the heels of the college admissions scandal, folks like Jimmy Fallon made light of it:

Peter wasn’t one of the kids who aced the test (where’s Felicity Huffman when you need her?), but he did just fine. Better than fine, actually. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, perhaps in plastics.

In just a few short months, he’ll be attending Ohio University, the oldest university in Ohio (and 8th oldest public university in the U.S.). It’s about two and a half hours east of Cincinnati. Which means he’ll be our first kid to leave town to go to college. That’s not surprising… Peter is quite independent. Some kids march to the beat of a different drummer… Peter has a complete band playing in his head.

He’s a fitness fanatic with a super-healthy diet, has a sly sense of humor and never got in trouble during his high school years. Well, other than that silly senior prank involving Silly String.

He got busted and had to stay after school on his 18th birthday… adulting is hard!

I know Peter’s ready to leave the nest, but I don’t think we’re ready for it.

By August, we’ll have two kids out of the house and two left. It’s hard to believe… and even harder to let them go.

Life imitates comic strip art

My son Peter has his final day of high school today. I imagine his last couple of weeks have gone something like this:

And then there’s Peter’s old man, the aspiring writer. This strip sums things up nicely:

Have a wonderful weekend, and keep chasing those dreams!

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Here’s my 18-year-old son, fast asleep in “stare at phone” mode.

Not many folks can pull this off, but Peter is a pro. When he’s not at school, at the gym, or at work, this is where you’ll find him – sprawled out on the couch. Many weekdays, he’ll wind up falling asleep there, and when I get up at 6 a.m., I’ll wake him to either get ready for school (weekdays) or head upstairs for another few hours of sleep (weekends).

Oh to be young again…

Sidewalk surfin’… and sidewalk fallin’

Spring has sprung (and I’ve got the allergies to prove it) and thus commences the daily struggle to get the kids off the couch, off the phones and out in the “fresh air” (achoo!).

Leah went out in the fresh air yesterday. She was grabbing a skateboard from the garage as I left to go pick up her younger brother from soccer. When I got home, she mentioned that she had fallen on the driveway and that her elbow hurt. Time for a trip to urgent care…. where time stands still, and the only “urgent” is your urgent desire to get a nurse, then X-ray tech, then doc to show up without an interminable wait in-between.

Four hours later, we finally got a diagnosis: incomplete radial head fracture. Time for a splint, and soon a cast. It’s her left elbow… and yes, she’s a lefty.

Poor thing is gonna have to learn how to text righty. While sitting on the couch.

Image result for the best laid plans of mice and men
Robert Burns knows the score.

If I had a boat…

And if I had a boat
I’d go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I’d ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
I said me upon my pony on my boat

“If I Had A Boat” by Lyle Lovett

I don’t have a boat. Instead, we have four cars. Which means four tickets in the car repair lottery. About five weeks ago, my 17-year-old’s ancient Honda got a crack all the way across the windshield. It just magically appeared. A week after I got the windshield replaced, aforementioned 17-year-old managed to scrape the rear passenger door on one of those two-foot high poles that are put in public parking lots to… create more business for repair shops and replacement parts dealers, apparently.

I still miss The Far Side…

He did that on a Friday night, and never mentioned anything to me, even on the Saturday morning after, when I woke him up for bowling. The trim piece by the door was loose… and when he drove Saturday, it flapped in the wind and wound up breaking a taillight housing. If you’re keeping score at home, a replacement trim piece is $20… and a taillight housing is $100. Actually the taillight housing is $100 on Amazon or eBay, but I found it at a local auto salvage yard for $80… a penny saved is a penny earned!

Two weeks later, on a Monday morning, he was driving to school and skidded on a thin layer of ice that had formed… right into the back of the car in front of him. Everyone’s OK, it was just a fender bender… but in addition to paying the deductible, I’ll be paying for that for the next several years via higher insurance premiums.

Ah, the joys of old cars and teen drivers, and the magical combination of both.

After all those incidents, I was looking forward to a repair-free week. Walking into the house the other day, I saw this on my wife’s car:

Is it any wonder why I take the bus to work most days?

My son’s car should be ready tomorrow. I don’t know if I’m ready. Where’s that boat?

Going to the dogs… and cats

Many moons ago, we fostered a puppy named Bibo for 4 Paws for Ability, local non-profit that provides service dogs for children and disabled veterans.

My wife: “Such a pwetty widdle pupper-dupper…”

Our job was to cover the basics with bouncing baby Bibo: the usual sit/stay/come commands, potty training, and “socializing” him to get him used to public spaces. Meaning my wife took him everywhere – stores, schools, sporting events, restaurants, parades… any place where he’d be exposed to new sights, sounds and smells.

At age one, Bibo needed to go back to the non-profit (much to my wife’s dismay) for hardcore “boot camp.” The training runs the gamut, as the dogs could be put into service in a variety of roles: mobility assistance, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, epilepsy, etc. It’s like Navy Seal training for dogs, and only the very best make it through to graduation.

Bibo was a dropout. There’s no shame in that. But he needed a forever home. I’ll give you three guesses as to where he wound up (and your first two guesses don’t count).

Now that those silly “obedience” lessons are over, can I sleep on your bed?

Bibo is back (we should change his name to “Boomerang”). He joins Hope, our seven-year-old mutt (adopted from a local shelter)…

So good at hogging the couch.

…and Coco and Lily, our two cats (also adopted) in our house turned menagerie.

I should buy stock in pet companies… and lint roller manufacturers.