Month: August 2016

In The Box

I was not looking forward to this week. Not because I had a medical exam on the calendar, or because I had to deal with some other uncomfortable, personal issue.

Nope, I drew the jury duty card for this week.

Luckily, while I had to report yesterday, my service was completed in about three hours and I was a free man before afternoon school pickup time. I was sweating it, though.

I got called for a criminal case at the county court. The case revolved around a seedy tale of crooked cops, the scourge of illegal drugs, justice denied, and the general decline of our modern society. Well, not exactly.

It was actually an obstruction of justice case against a fire fighter from a small community who was charged with removing drug paraphernalia from the scene of a car accident that involved a relative of his.

This was my first time actually having to go to the courthouse for jury duty in Indiana. I’ve been called at least three times before. Once I got excused after I sent a letter to the judge saying I was a stay-at-home dad with a three-month-old at home.[1] The other two times I recall, I called the night before and heard that my entire group had been dismissed. But this time I had to roll in by 8:15 Tuesday morning.[2]

The bailiff ran through the procedure for the morning. From our group of about 30, fourteen of us – selected in order by their random juror number – would get loaded into the jury box for voire dire. I was #18, so thought I was safe.

Not so fast, though!

Not every number was accounted for. Although I was #18, I was in fact the 14th juror on the panel. So I got to stroll into the courtroom and sit in the jury box, the final person in the second row of seven. I will admit, the chairs were amazingly comfortable! We got a lengthy address from the judge, who was a former judge in private practice and filling in due to a family emergency by the normal judge. This guy was hilarious and kept all of us at ease. He rambled on through his instructions and initial questions to us for about 40 minutes. Then both the prosecutor and defense attorneys got 20 minutes to ask us questions.

I had no idea how Indiana courts worked. Could they select any seven of us from the pool, or were we considered in order? I didn’t realize until the end that those of us at the back-end of the first 14 were not getting a lot of attention. I was asked three questions, while a couple folks in the first 10 got peppered with questions. I should have figured out what was up and relaxed a little, but I was sweating whether I would end up on the final jury the whole time.

After the question session, the judge asked for the attorneys’ lists of who they wanted to strike from the panel. Wow, was it tense in the jury box! Jurors 3, 5, 10, and 13 got the boot. The judge asked the front row to slide down two seats, then for the first two people in my row to join the front row. He asked the attorneys if they approved, they both nodded, and he announced that the first seven would serve as the jury.[3]

I was free! There is no relief like the relief of not making the final cut for jury duty!

My biggest relief was that, unlike most cases that this court hears, this was expected to be a three-day trial.[4] I think the pace was going to be slower than normal because of the substitute judge. I’m all for doing my public duty, but three days seemed like a lot. I have a Google news alert set to track the case, but haven’t seen any new stories come across today.

I celebrated my freedom by eating a huge burrito and having way more caffeine than normal to counter the headache that had been building all morning. And I said a quiet prayer of thanks to the jury gods for looking out for me.

  1. Shocked that worked!  ↩
  2. I had jury duty in Kansas City once. We had to sit around for several hours, waiting for the judge to call us for selection. The bailiff kept coming in and telling us it would be soon. After about 4 hours we were dismissed and told we had drawn a murder case, but the sides had been working on, and finally agreed to, a plea deal.  ↩
  3. In Indiana if you’re called to serve, you get a two-year reprieve from future jury duty. One poor guy who made the final jury served as a juror in a very high profile case against a state elected official 26 months ago.  ↩
  4. “A three-hour tour…”  ↩

Mr. Commish

A few of my KC friends asked how the kickball thing was going. Well, it’s going, that’s for sure! Since this isn’t an entirely private site, I’ll share only some of what has filled the last month or so for me.

As coordinator, my job is to make sure we get everyone registered by the deadline,[1] recruit coaches, put the teams together, order and distribute uniforms and equipment, communicate with the CYO office about when our teams can/can not play games, sort and approve practice time requests, making sure all participants have all their healthcare paperwork submitted, and put out any fires that develop along the way. This fall was a little busier than usual as this is the first year that there is a third grade league in the fall. So two new teams added to my administrative tasks. We ended up with right at 100 girls playing on eight total teams.

Beyond having visitors from out-of-town and back to school prep, a big reason I didn’t post much here for awhile was everything listed above. For roughly three weeks I was spending pretty much all day each weekday working through all those tasks.

The only real wrinkle in the process came when almost an entire grade of girls decided to focus on other sports this fall. We went from 19 in that grade playing a year ago, to just three this year. That meant I had to combine them with another grade and then come up with the best way to build a team or teams from that group. Ideally a kickball team has 11–15 players on it. Twelve is the perfect number.[2] I had 18 girls for this team, which was too much for one roster, not enough for two. For about 10 days I went back-and-forth with parents from the two grades trying to figure out the best solution. Not everyone was thrilled with the process. One parent and student quit when I announced we were going with a single team. I was told that at one point in the middle of all this, pretty much the entire team quit, but a few level-headed parents talked the other families back onto the team.

There was a little more drama in that process than I’m sharing here. I think a few parents aren’t pleased with me personally more than the process. Fortunately none of them have let me know about it, so I don’t have to take it personally! The important thing is most of the girls got through it, are playing, and hopefully having fun.

Beyond that there was only one other small issue that involved a parental complaint, and that one was as much a request that I do things differently in the future than a threat to yank a girl off a team.

Lots and lots of emails. Many calls and texts. Running around to buy kickballs[3] at the only place in the area that carries them, which is about 30 minutes away. Buying scorebooks at another location where St. P’s gets a discount. Picking up new uniforms from the supplier. Arranging to meet coaches to hand over their gear. There have been at least 100 small logistical tasks that I’ve checked off over the past month. I have a folder where I stash all my kickball-related emails. A month ago there were a couple dozen emails in there, mostly forwards from my predecessor in the role. Today I have over 700 emails in there.

I got to wield one other power yesterday. Indiana got pummeled by heavy storms that included tornadoes yesterday afternoon. Fortunately the worst of the weather hit about an hour north of here, but most of the Indy metro area was in one tornado warning or another for about 90 minutes. When we got home after school, our sirens were going off. I took a look at the radar, saw the storms were going to stick around awhile, and I made the call to postpone all the games we were hosting. I sent a text to S telling her that M’s game was off, adding that I was “very powerful!” since I called everything off. She wasn’t as impressed as I was. And given that the area around St. P’s suffered serious flooding in the storms, it’s not like it took a genius to cancel outside activities for the evening.

The season started last week, so things are beginning to slow down a little bit. There are still a lot of questions from our first-time coaches, which is good because it means I have to investigate things and learn the rules or develop policies quickly. But I’m already thinking ahead. There are some aspects of how we evaluate players and pick teams that need to be overhauled. I have just a few months to figure that out, since kickball is a twice-a-year sport and we’ll be doing all this again next spring.

  1. Which typically moves a couple times because St. P’s parents are notorious for waiting until the last minute to sign up.  ↩
  2. Ten girls play in the field, and each player must play at least two defensive innings. Everyone kicks, though.  ↩
  3. The Mikasa S3030, if you were wondering.  ↩

KC Trip Wrapup

Once, summer trips to Kansas City were the norm for me. Just about every summer I would sneak away for a weekend that, famously, included the four B’s: baseball, Boulevard beer, barbecue, and buddies.[1] But as the girls got a little older, it became more difficult to get away. Buying a lake house where we spent most of our summer weekends added another layer of difficulty to making that trip during school vacation. It had been four years since I made a summer trip to KC that revolved around baseball!

Luckily I broke that streak this past weekend.

Despite the long slump, this trip had a familiar rhythm to it. Fly in Friday on the early, direct flight. Pick up a car and start driving around. Go to the Plaza. Drive by some of my other favorite spots and see what’s changed, what’s the same. I usually snap some pics while doing my wanderings, but this is the first time I’ve come back since I started taking photography semi-seriously. I added in a trip to the Liberty Memorial this time around where I got a few decent shots. It was a weird day for pics: overcast days are often good for pics because you don’t get blinded by the summer sun, but the clouds Friday morning were really thick and I struggled to get good color in many of my shots. Oh well.

Obligatory downtown KC pic
Obligatory downtown KC pic

I made a stop at the Boulevard Brewery. Stupidly I didn’t think to reserve a time for a tour a few weeks back before they filled up. I’ve heard you can often slip into already booked groups if you just show up, but I went about 40 minutes before my lunch plans kicked in, so didn’t have time for that. I just bought a sweet shirt instead.

Lunch at Charbar, one of the new barbecue places in town. It was really good. While meeting the folks I was eating with, I randomly ran into another good friend I hadn’t seen in years. In the first few years after I moved to Indy, when I would go back to KC I would always be looking around, expecting to run into someone I used to work with, lived near, or hung out with. This is probably the first time that’s ever happened!

Friday night was Royals game #1, a fellas’ night out. We had good seats, the Royals had a lead going into the 4th, and life was good. Then Minnesota tied it and heavy rains moved in. We hustled to our car and departed for the Peanut, as the radar showed storms stacked up halfway across Kansas. That was a wise move, as play didn’t begin again until nearly midnight. And then they had to play into the 11th inning before the Royals got their sixth-straight victory.

Saturday I met my uncle at Oklahoma Joe’s[2]. I was at Joe’s a couple years ago, when we brought the girls back. But this was my first Z-man sandwich in probably 5–6 years. It was delicious.

An obligatory trip to the Kansas Sampler for buying the girls some KU gear and myself another Royals shirt followed.

Saturday night was our big evening at the K. Seven families were represented in some form, along with a whole gaggle of kids. There was tailgating, football throwing, wisecracking, and reminiscing. Our seats were way up in the view level, an area of the K I hadn’t sat in since 2001 or 2002. But they were just fine to catch up with folks and watch a 10–0 Royals win.

Then I was on the noon, direct flight back to Indy on Sunday, where the delightful weather that reached Kansas City on Saturday morning had just rolled into town. There’s a hint of fall in the air, which made this trip the perfect capper to a pretty good summer.

For my obligatory “what did it mean to me” part of this post, Kansas City started to feel foreign to me awhile back. There were just too many changes, whether it was my friends moving and adding to their families or making other major life changes, or things like the Power & Light district or other physical changes to the area, for the city to feel fresh to me. But still there’s a lot of familiarity there for me. I think I find my footing pretty quickly even with all those changes.

I’m definitely not a local anymore when I visit. Yet there’s still a part of me that feels more at home in KC than Indy. I guess I lived there (mostly) for 23 years and this is just year 13 in Indy. Perhaps that feeling will flip someday.

It was great to see all of you who stop by here on occasion and made time to meet for lunch, or at the K.

  1. Buddies being a gender-neutral term in this case.  ↩
  2. I know what it’s called now. I’m still calling it OK Joe’s!  ↩

July Books

A quick run through the books I read last month.

Arcadia – Lauren Groff. I really wanted to like this book. It received great acclaim in 2012 when it was published, so it’s been on my To Read list for ages. Unfortunately, Groff’s writing style just didn’t connect with me.

The book mostly takes place on a hippie commune in upstate New York, from the early 1970s through the 1980s, then jumps ahead to the near future. Through the eyes of Bit, a boy born as his parents were traveling to the commune in the late ’60s, we view the early, difficult days of the commune, the brief moments where it met its ideals, and then its calamitous fall into chaos. In the near-future section, Groff throws in a super illness that threatens the entire world.

I found Groff’s style tedious. There is a sparseness to it that I struggled with. There are so many good elements in the story, but I found it a bit of a slog because of my discomfort with her writing.

Underground Airlines – Ben H. Winters. The first novel I’ve preordered in ages. Winter’s The Last Policeman trilogy was brilliant; so good I may re-read it soon. And I wanted to give some love to Winters, who just recently moved away from Indianapolis to begin writing for TV in LA.

This book is set upon a fascinating premise: the American Civil War never happened. It was averted when, after newly elected President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated before he was inaugurated, a grand compromise was passed by Congress that not only allowed slavery in the southern states, but amended the Constitution to say that no law could ever be passed that would outlaw the slave trade. In modern America, The Hard Four southern states still practice slavery while the remainder of the nation struggles with the economic impact as most of the rest of the world boycotts American goods in protest.

Our protagonist adds another layer. He’s a bounty hunter employed by the Federal government, sent north to capture escaped slaves and return them to their bonds. An act US law requires. He just happens to be a freed former slave. So a black man who was once a slave is searching for another black man in order to return him to slavery. Yikes.

He travels to Indy in search of his escapee and gets pulled into the struggle between Northerners who seek to end slavery and his obligations as an agent of the government.

I loved the concept. Winters comes awfully close to nailing it in execution. The book is engaging, his characters sympathetic. He doesn’t overload the reader with details about how life is different in a modern nation that endorses slavery. Rather, he slowly spools them out and lets the reader build an image of the country.

Honestly, what keeps this from being a home run is The Last Policeman series. That was so well done, and ended absolutely perfectly, that even in this broader story, it’s difficult to measure up to.

The Arm – Jeff Passan. An engaging look at why baseball pitchers’ elbows keep blowing up by Yahoo!’s main baseball writer. Passan examines players at all levels and tries to determine why Tommy John surgery is so prevalent. While there are concerns about workload, especially at a young age, and the love of velocity over all else in the modern game, he concludes that there are no clear indicators of when/why a pitcher’s elbow will fail. In addition to looking at the history of Tommy John surgery, he also looks at developing techniques that could offer players a way to get back quicker, and better, than Tommy John surgery allows.

How Music Got Free – Stephen Witt. Witt dives into the recent history of the music business, from its heyday in the CD era, when sales and profits were massive, to the era of iTunes, when the old order had been completely destroyed.

He focuses on a few key individuals to tell his story. There was the team of German engineers who created the MP3 format in the 1980s. There was Doug Morris, perhaps the most powerful music industry exec who chased profits better than anyone else in the CD era, saw his empire crumble in the MP3 era, and in his waning days before retirement, latched onto YouTube ads as a way to recapture lost revenue. There was Dell Glover, an employee at a CD manufacturing plant in North Carolina who was responsible for leaking thousands of albums to the Internet before their official release dates. And there was iTunes, the only online music store that ever gained any real traction with the buying public, but which couldn’t begin to return the music industry to the profit levels it once enjoyed.

Witt’s exploration is deep and enlightening. As with all books based on technology, it falls a little flat simply because Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music have shifted the way we consume music to the streaming model over the past 2–3 years. The game has already changed on a book about game changes. Despite that, this is still a terrific, and honest, look at how drastically the technology has affected the music industry.

The Golden Hour – Todd Moss. Finally, a little geo-thriller written by a former Under Secretary of State who currently runs an NGO that focuses on global poverty.

In The Golden Hour, State Dept. official Judd Ryker is a former academic who has developed a theory that coups can be reversed if met by swift, decisive pressure by the United States and other western governments. He gets a chance to test his theory when a coup is launched in Mali, where he did research in his younger days and was injured by a roadside bomb blast just a year earlier. As with most coups, the good guys have dark sides, and some of the bad guys seem a little less bad because of the friends they keep. Ryker has to fight through a lack of support in Washington to bring about the proper conclusion in Bamako.

This is a quick, not entirely satisfying novel. It wraps up a little too easily. Moss touches on the complexity of local politics in the third world without overwhelming the reader with a dense history lesson. Yet it feels like he needed to offer just a little more. That relative lightness makes it a good summer read: something you can blow through quickly and likely forget soon after.

Week One Olympics Notebook

What up, fools?!?! It’s that time! Time for an epic Olympic notebook unloading!

Not the most timely first edition this year, as I’m waiting nine full days into the games to get to this. So we’ll race through some of the things I jotted down 6–9 days ago that aren’t exactly fresh.

  • Opening Ceremonies. Watching these things with kids is kind of the best. Because Olympics opening ceremonies are always wacky, and lend themselves to tons of questions. Suffice it to say that our girls were pretty flummoxed by the Rio opening. Wasn’t a damn thing wrong with Gisele’s appearance, though. And whatever song she was bouncing along to when she was in the crowd might be the greatest song ever.

  • How many of you had “The Girl From Ipanema” stuck in your head for the first 3–4 days of the games? I did.

  • I approve of countries hosting the Olympics where the local spelling of United States puts our team in the first fifth of the alphabet for the parade of nations.

  • We missed a good chunk of the first weekend of the games when we were down in Bloomington. On Sunday, we took a walk along Lake Monroe and spent some time skipping rocks with the kids. Well, one thing lead to another, and soon my buddy and I were contemplating the possibility of rock skipping being an Olympic sport. Would you arrive with a sack of rocks and throw in rounds? Or skip as many as you could in a given time? Or would you have to search for good skippers before you could throw them? Could there be a two-man competition where one person searched out the skippers while another did the actual skipping? Would there be different competitions for different sizes of rocks? Are you scored on number of skips, distance, aesthetic quality of the overall skip, or a combination of all? As you can imagine we did a lot of mock announcing as we tried to blow our elbows out by attempting to skip to the opposite shore. Good times.

  • Lilly King! What a badass! If you’re going to talk the talk, you best be able to back it up. And she did so in spades. At only 19! I looked back at my notes and I covered King when she was a high school junior. She finished second in the breaststroke finals. She still managed to break the state record. When she was a senior, she famously was the only swimmer not from Carmel high school to win an individual event. That Carmel team was later named the greatest girls high school swim team of all time by a national swimming magazine. A couple girls from that team were expected to be on this year’s Olympic team. One narrowly missed out – by hundredths of seconds in two races – while another broke her hand a week before the US trials and didn’t even make finals in her events. But it was King from that Indiana high school class of 2015 who made it to Rio, and stamped her name all over the swim meet.

  • Russia is a wounded, unpredictable country right now. The world is a more dangerous place because of the way Vladimir Putin has steered his nation. But I’ll give him this: he’s made rooting against the Russians in sporting events fun again! When the Russians are drug-cheating, warmongers we all win! It’s like the 80s all over! I enjoyed the Russian swimmers getting soundly booed by the Brazilian fans.

  • How did Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten not die, or end up paralyzed, in her horrific accident?

  • Each Olympics I get sucked into watching a sport I’ve not watched often before. This games it’s been rugby. I’ve tried to watch rugby a few times in the past but could never figure the game out. Rugby 7s makes the game a lot easier to comprehend. Seven vs. seven, seven minute halves, one minute for halftime. The game flies. And the announcers did a great job explaining the rules. Loved every match I watched. Shame they crammed the tournament into the first week and it’s already over.

  • I also watched a lot of field hockey, too. It’s a good sport as well. But I must admit I prefer the women’s game. I’ll leave it at that.

  • “Ragazzi! Si, io sono Marco Polo. Sono qui!”

  • Beach volleyball never, ever sucks. Men or women, I will always watch if a match is on. I miss my rec volleyball days. I wish I still had my t-shirt from when my team won a 4-on–4 tournament back in 2001 or so. I think if I tried to play today, my back, glutes, and hamstrings would all explode the first time I tried to block someone. Getting old sucks, kids.

  • Every time Ryan Seacrest appears on my screen I get pissed off. He almost ruined the Rogue One trailer by introducing it. I accidentally came across the replay of his late night show one morning. He was wearing suede boots that I swear my wife has, too. Come on, man.

  • The Michael Phelps experience has been pretty solid. I had to kind of laugh at how much the expectations were being managed for him this year. “Well, he didn’t swim for a couple years. He’s 31. I don’t know if he’s still got it.” And then he ends up being the same dominant force he’s always been. What else can you say at this point? He’s clearly the greatest swimmer ever, by any measure, and a top five Olympian of all time. He’s been a lot of fun to watch over the past 16 years.

  • At least we’ll have Katie Ledecky for a few more games. Phelps did incredible things, and was way more versatile than Ledecky is. But he never destroyed a field the way she did in the 800 free final.

  • The whole swim meet was a lot of fun. Since our girls have done three summers of swim team, they took a much bigger interest in it compared to the London games. M especially wanted to watch every race and asked me about the history of certain swimmers or races. They picked a good year to get interested. There didn’t seem to be as many tight, heart-stopping races as in past Olympics, but the US still dominated. That’s a good lesson for them: the US should always win.

  • The only downside of the swimming coverage the girls did not appreciate Rowdy Gaines nearly as much as I do. C would make fun of him, "He was literally yelling ‘WATCH HOW SHE STRETCHES OUT AT THE FINISH HERE’. Why does he have to yell like that?” Because he’s awesome, that’s why.

  • With the girls starting school on Thursday, we bumped bedtimes back last week. So the girls missed both Simone Manuel winning the first gold medal for an African-American, woman swimmer in the 100 free, and then her emotional reaction. I loved both her surprise in the pool, and then the moment when her teammates greeted her back in the staging room. That was the best, and most emotional, moment of the games for me.

  • I think Nathan Adrian was my favorite US swimmer other than King. That dude just looks like he’s out there having a great time, is thrilled to be a part of every race, appreciates the guys he’s swimming with and against, and enjoys talking to Michelle Tafoya after each race.

  • Speaking of Michelle Tafoya, I’m generally a fan. But she asked a lot of lazy questions. I know it’s hard to grab a bunch of gassed swimmers, who aren’t always excited to talk to you, for a week straight. But the “How does it feel…”, “What does it mean…” and, “I mean…” constructions she used so often to launch her queries drove me nuts.

  • Big fan of gymnastics being in the afternoon in Brazil. Which means NBC chops it up to lead its prime time coverage, and then close it out. Live swimming was generally from 8:30–10:00 last week, with gymnastics bookending it. I assume live track in that same slot this week. One night the second gymnastics slot didn’t start until 10:52 eastern. I’m totally down with that.

  • Not that I’m hating on gymnastics. At least not this year’s US women’s team, who are obviously all badasses. Especially Simone Biles and Aly Raisman. But I just don’t dig on gymnastics, that’s all.

  • I’ve watched parts of three of the US men’s basketball team’s games. These games have sucked to watch. I don’t know if it’s just a bad mix of players, not enough time together before the games, or an indictment of the current NBA game. But it’s just not fun to watch. A lot of standing around while Kyrie Irving pounds the ball. Way too many chucked 3’s. Almost no ball or player movement. Terrible defense. They are so much more talented than every other team, but those other teams are truly teams. They move the ball beautifully. They hustle. They try to play D. If/when the US loses, how quickly will Coach K fake some kind of illness so he doesn’t get blamed for the loss?

  • I love the irony of Walmart using Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” for a back to school commercial. Ironic because, as many of you know, it was only 20-some years ago that Walmart took t-shirts that said someday a woman might be president off their shelves because they didn’t fit the family image Walmart believed in. Which is utterly ridiculous no matter what your political perspective is. But in the ’20-teens, they’re down with using a song that makes everyone over 40 immediately think of Tawny Kitaen frolicking on a Jaguar.

  • I keep saying we need to freaking invade Jamaica since they’re kicking our asses on the track. Despite that, I love pretty much every Jamaican sprinter. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is just a delight to watch. She has the best smile. A little shy, slightly disbelieving of what she’s accomplished, but as warm and friendly as you could ever find.

  • I watched the mixed doubles tennis final Sunday because A) it was a dreary, rainy day here and B) the two men on the American teams were from Kansas City and Carmel, IN. I had some interest. Rajeev Ram, from Carmel, was playing with Venus Williams. During the match they flashed the comparative career highlights from Venus’ career vs. Serena’s. The one that blew me away was Venus was only ranked #1 in the world for 19 weeks in her entire career. Sure, Serena was always a little better than her. And there was Maria Sharapova, among others, who were good when Serena wasn’t on top. But just 19 weeks?!?! I figured she was #1 a lot long than that.

  • Ans Botha doesn’t get the gas face.

    Say what? Ans Botha is the 74-year-old, great-grandma who coaches South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk, who destroyed Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record in the 400 Sunday. That was an absolute stunner of a result. And for you late 80s hip-hop fans, you should remember 3rd Base’s legendary track “The Gas Face,” in which the group threw shade at all the folks they did not like. Including then prime minister and president of Apartheid era South Africa P.W. Botha. Late ‘80s hip-hop videos were the best.

  • Speaking of the best, Usain Bolt is just the best. In every way. Why couldn’t he be American?

That was week one. Hopefully week two is as interesting, fun, and entertaining.

End Of Summer

Summer is done. At least the school vacation part, that is. The girls went back to school this morning. They were excited to see their friends, find their school supplies on their desks, and get back into their routines, I think. There certainly wasn’t any grumpiness this morning. I bet that changes early next week. Sixth, fourth, and second grades this year. Good times.

School Shoes
School Shoes

So how was the summer of 2016? I think it was decent. We kicked it off with a bang, heading to Boston and Cape Cod as soon as the break began. There was swim team for six weeks, which the girls always enjoy. Two new cousins to play with. Lots of weekends at the lake. A few trips to local water parks and the zoo. Family visits from folks in Boston and Denver.

We closed out the summer with one more first. We spent last Saturday with friends who have a lake house down near Bloomington. We swam, ate dinner in town, and made a walk around the IU campus. After that, we headed to the local drive-in theater for our first family outdoor movie.

This place was awesome! Everything about it felt like we were back in 1975 again. The aging screen had visible seams where it had been repaired over the years, and one side of it was curling away from the parking area. I guarantee the building that held the concession stand and bathrooms has not been updated in any meaningful way since the Carter administration. There were hand-painted signs on the meandering drive to the viewing area reminding folks to keep their headlights off, no fireworks were allowed, etc. In fact, other than using iPad’s to take payment at the front gate and the lack of the old-school audio boxes you hung on your car window, it felt exactly like going to the drive in in Hays, KS when I was 4 or 5.

The other cool thing was this was a country drive in. Unlike those big urban ones that were generally built into hills that created a natural amphitheater, this one was carved out of a small, wooded area 15 minutes outside town. There were little rises built into the lot for cars to park on. The screen itself was tucked into the trees, aiming away from the road. Remember when we were kids and you could pass a drive in and see a few moments of the film? That wasn’t possible at this place.

The only downsides were the late start time and the movie itself. It was a double feature of Suicide Squad and Jason Bourne. With a 9:35 start time, we knew the kids wouldn’t last until the second show, so weren’t worried about them seeing that. I had read that Suicide Squad, despite being a DC Comics story, wasn’t the most appropriate movie for kids. There was lots of violence, but no blood at all. Plenty of adult language and sexual innuendo. Our girls all checked out within the first 30 minutes and were back in the car doing other things. Our friends have two boys – 12 and 10 – and the 10-year-old was the only kid of the five kids who paid attention the entire time.

We would have picked something else for our girls’ first drive in movie experience, but there aren’t a lot of options these days. They enjoyed playing in the lot for an hour before the film began, and the overall experience. After they had stopped watching, I pointed to the sky behind us and how the Milky Way was visible, something we definitely can’t see at home. They all thought that was pretty cool.

The only disappointment of the summer is we were a little lazier than normal. Last year we got out of the house and did something new almost every week, even if it was just finding a park we had never been to before. The girls learned to enjoy taking nature hikes at parks that had trails. We only did that a couple times, and there were a few ones I had hoped to hit that we missed.

As active as the school year is, though, I don’t really mind giving the girls 10 weeks where not every day has something on the calendar. Once you subtract trips, visitors, camps, etc., there really weren’t that many days when we had nothing to do or anyplace to be. Another week would have been nice, but I’m not super sad that the summer has ended.

Of Camps and Birthdays

This will be a week of catch up. Before I begin diving into all the things that I’m behind on, first a confirmation that yes, I am keeping some casual notes as I watch the Olympics. There will be Olympics posts over the next couple weeks!1

But now let’s knock out the first, and biggest, piece of catch up: the camps and birthday of two weeks ago.

As you may recall, we dropped M off at summer camp three Sundays ago. I don’t know if it says more about her or about us that we dropped her off with zero concerns. She had never been away from home for that long before. She was 90 minutes away, which isn’t far, but if you’re a nervous parent could seem like across the ocean. But she’s a pretty steady kid who loves new experiences, she was in a safe place, and she had three friends with her. And we’re not nervous parents.

We were able to send her emails during the week, but she could not respond. We could check the camp’s picture site each day and hope to catch a glimpse of M. But other than that, we had no idea how her week was going.

When I crossed the bridge to the main part of camp two Fridays, she was standing there waiting with a big grin on her face. She even gave me a hug, which she doesn’t do often.2 But she seemed excited to see me. We grabbed her bags, got in the car, and she started talking. And talking. And talking. She shared every detail of her week at camp in GREAT detail.

We made a quick stop at the lake house to drop off some supplies for the weekend and then headed home. She continued talking. Here’s what they did on Tuesday, here’s what the did on Wednesday. Here is how riding horses was. Here was what climbing the high ropes was like. Here was how dinners in the cafeteria went.

And she kept talking.

Finally, after roughly an hour and ten minutes of continuous talking, she stopped. I glanced over my shoulder and she was slumped over in the middle row. I figured she had talked herself to exhaustion and passed out.

Nope. After about 30 seconds of rest, she popped back up and started talking again. I had to laugh. Classic M, cataloging every detail of an experience and then being able to relay them all to anyone willing to listen. I heard several of these stories many times over the next few days as the family gathered and a new relative asked, “So, how was camp?”

She had a great time. They had tough weather – it was dreadfully hot a couple days, and it rained nearly three inches in three hours another day – but that didn’t interfere in too many of their scheduled activities. She made some new friends. Got along well with her cabin mates and counsellors. She tried some new things. It was a very good week.

While she was gone, she turned 12. Which means we are on the verge of big things. She starts middle school this week. Teenagedom officially starts in a year.

Over the past year we’ve begun to see some physical changes in her. She seems taller to us, although she’s still right in the middle of her class in terms of height. She’s all legs, though, so it seems like there’s a growth spurt in her future. She’s getting awfully close to passing S in height, something that should happen before the end of the year. Those clear physical markers of young kiddom are rapidly disappearing.

Emotionally and maturity-wise, she’s the classic preteen, mixing moments of absolutely maddening immaturity with others that make us proud of how independent and composed she can be. Rumor has it these swings get worse and worse over the next few years. Can anyone confirm?

As I say in each of these, M and I butt heads more than I do with either of her sisters. Some of that is birth order and our expectations for her. Some of that is because her personality is closest to mine. I’ve been trying hard to hang on to, and acknowledge to her, the moments where she makes me proud, though. And, as always, she’s the kid I have the least concerns about when I think of her long-term future. She’s independent, smart, thoughtful, and unafraid to voice her opinion. There are going to be a lot of rough patches on the road, but she’s going to land on her feet at the end.

C and L got to go to art camp while M was away. This was a three-hour, daily event taught by the mother of one of L’s best friends. C was the oldest kid there, but as our most artistic kid, she absolutely loved it. L had three of her best buddies from school in the class with her, so she had a great time, too.

On the first morning when I dropped them off, L’s three friends surrounded her and engaged in a group hug.3 C stood kind of awkwardly behind them and one of L’s buddies came over and said, “Let me give you a hug, I don’t want you to feel left out.” Loved that!

The girls had fun, brought home some fantastic artwork, and I had a few hours to myself for a week in which I could theoretically accomplish things, although I got very little done.

  1. I’m beginning this on Sunday night as I watch the coverage of swimming and gymnastics. 
  2. She’s the momma’s girl of the bunch. 
  3. This group of four is something else. They are all super athletic, super outgoing, and I have a feeling they run their grade. And all four are likely to go to the same high school. They might be running that building, too, in eight years. 

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