Tag Archives: Family

Chillin’ at the Beach.

We got here Sunday night after 13 hours of driving, split over Saturday and Sunday. The kids were great, even though we skipped renting a minivan and did the trip in Mrs. Unfocused’s Sable. We went to the beach with our friends the S family yesterday, and went hiking with them in the state park this afternoon. We got a little turned around, so our hike was about an hour longer than we planned, but everyone handled it well.

I got in a six mile run this morning, mostly on the boardwalk, before the heat went from hot to brutal. I’m registered for a 5K here this weekend, so I’d better get used to the heat.

So far I’ve spent less than an hour each day on my Blackberry or on the phone, which has been very, very pleasant. I wrote 723 words of Meet the Larssons yesterday, and 361 words tonight, so I feel like I’m getting the novel back on track.

But the coolest thing is that this afternoon, the martial arts mats we ordered arrived. Unfocused Girl and I are testing for our yellow belts the Saturday after we get home, so I promised her we would practice while we’re here. We brought pads and plastic rebreakable boards with us from home, and ordered two 4-by-8 mats from a nearly manufacturer, and set them up on the screened-in porch in back. The Unfocused Do Jhang is open for business. Unfocused Girl has a wicked roundhouse kick, but for the test, she needs to break her board with a side kick, which she finds much harder to execute. We’ll practice kicks and forms and the other components of the test every day while we’re here.

It’s a little different vacation than we usually have, but all in a good way.


Going on Vacation!

I’ve been pretty silent this past week, and with good reason: we’re going on vacation, and we’ve been knocking ourselves out getting other things done so we can go on the trip. At the office, I moved a lot of backed-up projects off the dime, and at home, the Mrs. and I were up until 3am taming the paper monster. We won, but not without cost.

Junior got his new, smaller, lighter, waterproof cast today – he picked orange, a color he has never expressed any interest in before, which is odd. The docs were concerned about our impending departure for the beach, since the cast isn’t sandproof, but it’s too late now — they should’ve said something four weeks ago, when the Mrs. first told them about the trip. We’ll have to make do with the cast cover and cross our fingers the kid doesn’t get sand in his cast — I can’t imagine anything too much worse.

Finally, “Test Tube Beneficairies” has earned its second rejection slip. It came in yesterday; I was glad to have the response before our trip. I don’t think I’m going to bother sending it to the third of the major SF magazines, since it really doesn’t seem like the editor’s kind of thing. Instead, it’s time to start looking at on-line markets. There are a few paying markets that will take a 13,000 word submission; if none of those pan out, well, I’ll just have to see.

Vacation! Whoo-hoo!

Summer Sunday Stats #2: Just Walk Away.

Another long silence here at The Unfocused Life. Because, y’know, I lost my focus. My father-in-law had open heart surgery on Wednesday, and it’s been a little chaotic since with that added onto everything else that’s going on. The important thing is that he’s doing fine, out of intensive care, and charming the nurses. The latest word is that he’ll be out of the hospital in a few days, which is when the real recovery begins.

Summer Sunday Stats:

Miles run: 9.97, in 1:24:33. How does the same run vary so widely in distance every week? Bizarre. I was wrong in my post for last Sunday: my time was 1:28:04, so this was a huge improvement. The big difference is the speedwork I did on a treadmill on Thursday at the gym.

Weather: hot and muggy (welcome to Chicago in July), but it was overcast, so I didn’t have the sun beating down on me the whole way (another improvement over last week).

What was playing on my iPod: Phedippidations # 145 (Topic: Running Legend Frank Shorter), and Greatest Hits: Huey Lewis and the News. There are some great running tunes included in the Huey Lewis collection, although for me, the sentimental favorite is still Heart and Soul.

Words written in Meet the Larssons: yeah, well, it’s been a tough week.

Did you at least finish revising the short story you wrote on your Blackberry: shut up.

Time-sucking obsessive Internet search instead of writing: I’m so glad you asked. I’ve had this song going through my head nearly constantly since shortly after it hit the airwaves on WPLJ in 1984 (right before WPLJ betrayed every single one of its listeners and went Top 40, the lousy bastards). It started going through my head last night while I was trying to edit a brief, so I tried hunting it down. The song is Walk Away Renee, the 1984 cover by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. I was surprised to see the song has its own Wikipedia entry – fascinating story, none of which I knew before last night. I bought the CD from the Jukes’ website, and downloaded the original by the Left Banke from Amazon. Here’s a link to a video performance of the 1966 hit by the Left Banke:

Don’t ask me why this song has been stuck in my head for 24 years. I have no idea.

Always Crazy, Sometimes Wrong.

That’s how Junior described his old man tonight. I’m gonna get it printed on a t-shirt.

And happy happy happy happy birthday to Mrs. Unfocused, to whom I have given… nothing.

Not my fault, though. Blame Steve Jobs. Three more days.

Lessons Learned from Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Spring Sunday Stats, and More.

The slumber party itself was a learning experience, but it went so smoothly that I think what we learned is that we’d rather have a handful of kids over for 16 hours than a houseful of kids for 2 hours.

Liveblogging it was a learning experience of a different kind. For example, I already knew that the unreliable internet service we get from Comcast makes me crazy, but I hadn’t really considered how much time it causes me to waste until the fourth time I rebooted the cable modem while writing Part 3.

Another lesson learned is that it is better to decide to liveblog something in advance, so you can be sure you know what you’re doing, instead of making a snap decision based on an offhand suggestion. The whole thing started when, as we were cleaning up from dinner, Mrs. Unfocused said, “Hey, you should liveblog this.” It wasn’t really a problem until — again — Part 3, when I realized that I had no idea how to insert pictures into my post using the new WordPress.com interface. The old system was very easy & intuitive; the new one is, to put it mildly, a ginormous pain in the ass. It would have helped to try it out beforehand.

Another lesson: As far as I’m concerned, Unfocused Girl should have all of her birthday parties in June. The problem with February parties is that the kids for some reason refuse to play outside when it’s below zero.

We all spent today exhausted and occasionally cranky, but it was worth it. I had a very nice, if low-key, Father’s Day and received the perfect gift: The Simpsons Movie. I welcome any excuse to let my inner Homer come out to play, so I’m looking forward to watching it soon.

Spring Sunday Stats:

Weather: Thunderstorm in the morning, hot and sunny by 11:45 when I went out for the run. I tried a new sunscreen today, Bullfrog Quik Gel, but still got burned on my face and neck, so that’s out. I used Bullfrog’s spray on my arms instead of the Quik Gel, and that worked better, so I may hang onto that until it runs out.

Miles run: 9.67, in 1:32:33. Let’s face it: I was tired, and it was hot, with the sun right overhead. My butt was kicked before I got to the end of the block. I ran the first half in 43:37, and the second half in 48:56. I didn’t have high expectations, having skipped my long run last week and generally neglected my training all spring. I got out Thursday morning for an early run, though, then I did treadmill intervals at the gym on Friday, so I’m hoping not to completely embarrass myself this coming Saturday at the Classic Catering 4 Miler, one of the Seven Sisters and Four Brothers races in Dewey Beach, Delaware. In addition to the 4 Miler, I registered for the JD Shuckers 5K and the Highway One Group 10K, August 10 and 16, respectively.

I’m also registered for the Third Annual Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon, which will be held around the world on October 11-12, 2008. I ran the first one in 2006, but had to miss the 2007 race. I may not get to run any “official” half marathon this year, so the Phedip WWHM is even more important. Steve Runner of Phedippidations and the race directors do a great job organizing the race, down to the race bibs and virtual goody bags. They added a 5K last year, and this year they’ve added a 10K, so if you’re looking for a flexible, DIY race that lets you compete with fellow runners all over the world, you should take a look.

Words written of Meet the Larssons: That, unsurprisingly, would be none. Yesterday was a complete washout, of course, and today I spent a fair amount of time on client work. I didn’t expect to accomplish anything on the novel this weekend, and at least I didn’t disappoint myself. I’ll get something done on it tomorrow, though, and then maybe more on the plane on Tuesday.

The Morning After: Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Part 5.

Long night. I checked on the girls at 12:45am — Unfocused Girl was still awake and smiling, though all of the others were asleep (one was snoring at a considerable volume). We talked for a minute; I think she was still wound up from the excitement of the evening.

I’d forgotten how disruptive it is to have Junior sleeping in our room. He laughed in his sleep a few times, and Mrs. Unfocused saw him punching the air. I wonder which superhero he was dreaming about. He fell out of bed twice. The first time, Mrs. Unfocused got him back in and checked on the girls; the second time, at 5:15, I got him settled and checked on the girls myself: Unfocused Girl and one other were awake.

The girls woke up before 7. In the spirit of Father’s Day, Mrs. Unfocused tried to let me sleep in, but accidentally set off the alarm. I got dressed for a run, but got held up trying to help Unfocused Girl register the Webkinz pet one of her friends gave her; it took me 20 minutes to figure out that the Webkinz registration site was blocked by the parental controls on the iMac. By the time I fixed that, it was pouring rain. I may not be all that bright, but I know enough not to run in a thunderstorm, and the lightning strikes were not far away at all.

Webkinz is having trouble with its own servers this morning, so UG couldn’t register Simi (Siamie? it’s pronounced Sy-mee) the cat anyway.

Big breakfast of scrambled eggs (not for Junior, but he slept until 9:30 anyway) and pancakes. The Mrs. made two kinds of pancakes: one small batch with gluten-free flour (with eggs) for the girl with the gluten allergy, and one large batch with regular flour but no eggs for everyone else. I tried one of the gluten-free pancakes; it turns out that the missing gluten makes more of a difference than the missing eggs do, but it was still pretty good.

The girls have packed up, and are in the basement watching Scooby Doo (the original series) waiting to get picked up. We gave out copies of the first Warriors book as party favors so that UG will have some friends to talk to about the series.

I think she had a really good time. Tonight, I’ll blog the aftermath.

Midnight… and the Kitties Are Sleeping… Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Part 4.

Does anyone else remember Letterman’s parody of that song from Cats? No? It was about 20 years ago? No?

It doesn’t matter, because the Kitties are not, in fact, sleeping. I just left the room where they’re all camped, having read them the Exciting Prologue (“No!” said one. “Don’t read the prologue! I hate prologues!”) to Warriors Book 1, Into the Wild. I walked out of the room and closed the door, and immediately heard cats screetching and jumping all over. Not my problem, as long as the door stays closed and no one starts crying to go home.

I can’t believe all the stuff Mrs. Unfocused pulled together for this thing. She’s always in charge of birthday parties, but usually I’m a little more aware of her preparations. Maybe it’s that it gets easier as the kids get older.

This will probably be my last update tonight, unless something really unexpected happens tonight. Tomorrow: the morning after.

Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Part 2.

Oh no! Our backyard has been invaded by nocturnal, pajama-wearing warrior cats!

Hooray! Superman is here to save us!

And now we will have cake! Cake to honor Firestar, the new leader of Thunderclan! (and Unfocused Girl, too!)

Yes, Mrs. Unfocused made that cake herself. No, she doesn’t have a cat mold — it’s essentially hand-carved. Yes, she’s incredibly talented. Yes, all of the kids’ birthday cakes look like this (well, not like this — I should post a picture of the Batman birthday cake she made for Junior in January). The only part not made from scratch is the cake itself, which came from a box mix from Cherrybrook Kitchen, purveyors of fine egg-free, nut-free cake mixes so good, Mrs. Unfocused, Unfocused Girl, and I feel cheated when we have an ordinary cake (not as cheated as Junior feels, since he doesn’t get to have the ordinary cake, but still).

There was also a pinata. The girl who couldn’t stay left at about 9:45, and since 10 the remaining members of the pack — and Junior — have been watching The Cat From Outer Space, a Disney classic from way back in 1977. Ah, blessed movie.

So, any bets on who will be the first to drop?

Post No. 100! Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Part 1.

Tonight is Unfocused Girl’s very-belated-7th-birthday party/first-ever slumber party. The guests (four girls, ages 7, 7, 9, and 10) arrived at 6:30, three of them toting massive suitcases; the fourth, one of the 7 year olds, doesn’t do sleepovers and will be heading home later on.

On arrival, each girl received a small stuffed kitten (thank you, Oriental Trading!) and her own Warrior name. Much squealing ensued. They then ran outside and attacked the playset with gusto. The five girls (four guests plus UG) were Warrior cats in space (with one dissenting vote for being lost at sea); Unfocused Junior started out as Speed Racer but, as predicated, quickly changed into his Superman costume (a blue sweatshirt with a red dishtowel safety-pinned to the back). They’re nice girls — they let Superman save them.

Dinner was burgers and hot dogs outside. The pack moved into the basement (combination rumpus room and home theater — all the toys, the kids’ iMac, and the big TV) for a tea party and general mayhem. The Mrs. just brought down the keepsake box decorating craft (thank you again, Oriental Trading!), so they’re all sitting at the basement bumper pool table spooning colored sand into tiny funnels.

I expect this is going to get more interesting as it gets later. There hasn’t been much sugar yet, and it’s only 8:30 — not terribly late. Even Junior isn’t acting tired yet; it doesn’t hurt that we blew off Tae Kwon Do this morning and let him sleep until 9:45.

Further updates as events warrant. Tune in around 9:30 for cake.

Breaking news: “Mrs. Unfocused, do you have any toothpicks?”

“Sure, here you go.”

“Oh ho ho! Now we can get really funky!”

I know I should go down there. But I’m afraid.

Dear God, Has It Been 10 Days Since I Posted?

Apparently, it has. I’d like to tell you it’s because I’ve been working on something really special for my 100th post, which is what my next post will be. I’d like to tell you that, but it would be a big, fat lie. In truth, I’ve just been working. Not on my novel, not on a short story, just on the stuff that pays the bills: representing clients (99% of my work time) and trying to bring in new ones (1% — anybody see a flaw in the way that breaks down?). I’ve been very, very busy, with a fair amount of traveling, and more to come next week.

Tomorrow is Unfocused Girl’s very, very belated birthday party. How belated, you ask? Here’s a hint: she’s seven, and this will be her first birthday party without snow on the ground.

This year, her party’s theme will be Warriors, and it will be her first slumber party, so I expect that by this time tomorrow night, our backyard will be taken over by a pack of girls ages 7 to 10 in their pajamas, running around in the dark and pretending to be a tribe of feral cats. And one four year old boy pretending to be Superman. This is going to be interesting.

Meet the Larssons has ground to a halt these last couple of weeks. The few people I’ve told I’m working on a novel have all asked me “Where do you find the time?” For the last couple of months, it’s gotten much harder, and the last couple of weeks, it’s been impossible.


Sorry about that – the kids were in the tub, and it was time to get them out. For the last half hour, Unfocused Girl has been singing “Snape, Snape, Severus Snape” from Potter Puppet Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Sound, and now my head needs to explode. The Potter Puppet Pals are funny, funny stuff, but I’m tired enough that my tolerance for infinite replay is something less than what it should be.

Anyway, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to get back to the novel. What I need are a few days when I can spend an hour or more a day working on it in isolation. I had six days off planned starting next Tuesday, but an unavoidable business trip has popped up at the beginning of it, so instead I’ll get Mrs. Unfocused and the kids most of the way to my mother’s, then go on to my meetings; when they’re over, I’ll catch up with the wife and kids and we’ll head to the beach for a couple of days. Maybe I can get some writing in then.

It’s a Biglaw career I’ve got here, and sometimes (much of the time) it can be really hard to hang onto any semblance of a personal life. I know that’s true of other jobs, but this is the one I’ve got and the one I know best. I know I just need to get my butt in my seat in front of the MacBook on a regular basis, but sometimes the writing has to get back burnered. I’ve been beating myself up for not writing when what I really need to do is stop kvetching and find 15 minutes even on a bad day and just write.

Finally, I want to mention the passing today of a great American journalist, Tim Russert. Since we’ve had kids, Meet the Press has been a rare treat, but we used to watch it every Sunday morning, and we still enjoyed his commentary during MSNBC’s election coverage. Probably my most vivid memory of the 2000 election is of finally dropping off at 1 or 2 in the morning with the TV on, and waking up at 6 to find Russert still on air, in need of a shave and a clean shirt, with his white board and his red and blue markers trying to make sense of what the hell had just happened. He knew what he was talking about, he wasn’t one of the shouters, and I’ll miss his even-tempered commentary on this election.

Up next: Post #100! I can just smell the excitement. Or my shoes.