Tag Archives: unfocused junior

Summer’s End.

Labor Day always feels so bittersweet, because it means the end of summer  but also the start of a new year. The official calendar, not to mention The Firm’s fiscal calendar, may start on January 1, but everybody knows the real start of the year is the first Monday in September.

Junior started kindergarten a week and a half ago. It’s hard to believe how much he stretched out so much over the summer; rides he was too short to go on in June were no problem when we went back to the boardwalk at the beach in August.  He’s hugely excited to be one of the big kids in his three-year mixed classroom, and he seems to be taking learning much more seriously than he has in the past.

Unfocused Girl starts third grade in the morning and is raring to go. There are only 11 kids in her homeroom this year, and only four of them (including UG) are girls, but she’s already friends with one of them so I expect it will be all right. I hope.

I spent a lot of my summer thinking about, worrying about, and finally working on The Chapter. I didn’t make any progress on my current novel-at-a-standstill, Project Hometown, or any other fiction project. I did, however, have several good ideas for other novels or short stories, which I managed to capture either in Evernote (my new outboard brain) or my Moleskine notebook.  When I found myself at loose ends this weekend, between the completion of The Chapter and canceling most of our plans for the weekend because Unfocused Girl had a fever, I was able to pick up one of the short story ideas and start right in on it. Writing fiction again felt a little like pulling on your favorite sweater on the first cool day of fall and finding that it doesn’t fit quite the same way it did the previous winter; it takes a couple of hours to get used to it and for it to stretch a little, but pretty soon it’s just as comfortable as it ever was.  I’m 1,537 words into “It Takes a Village,” the story I started Saturday afternoon, and I’m looking forward to getting back to Project Hometown once I finish the first draft.

I knocked out a pleasant 10 mile run yesterday in 1:31:49, too. The Chicago Half Marathon is next Sunday, and while I’m hoping for a finish around 1:45, I’m not expecting much. I plan to run just to enjoy it, and treat it like a training run for the races I’m running in October.

I’m feeling optimistic, just like at the start of a new school year. I wish I had a new Trapper Keeper as cool as Unfocused Girl’s, though:

IMG_1246

A Little Sibling Rivalry Can Be Healthy.

Our son doesn’t eat much in the way of what the rest of us call “food.”  He drinks milk, and eats pizza, pasta, string cheese, apples, grapes, occasional bananas, strawberries, and chicken nuggets.  I think that may be it.  His only source of non-dairy protein comes from Tyson chicken nuggets.

Considering he’s five and a half, this is getting old.  We cut him a little more slack than we gave Unfocused Girl, because of his food allergies — he needs to be comfortable saying “no” to food that might put him in the hospital — but enough is enough.  We’ve been pushing him harder lately, and tonight at dinner, we told him he had to buckle down and eat some chicken that didn’t come in a breaded nugget the size of a fifty-cent piece and the shape of a Shmoo.

He fussed, he complained, he even started to fake cry a little, until Unfocused Girl said, “I bet you can’t finish your chicken before I finish mine.”  BAM!  The race was on, he ate every bite, smiling and trash talking her, and she even let him win.

Time to raise the Girl’s allowance.

Friday. Finally.

This has been an exhausting week, and I will be delighted to put a bullet in it, roll the body into a shallow grave, kick some dirt and leaves onto it and leave it behind in the woods. But first I’ll spit on it.

Perhaps I exaggerate, just a bit.  After all, nothing bad happened. I got a boatload of work done, I continue to be not laid off, my paychecks continue to clear, everyone close to me is healthy.

And yet, so much of the last five days I’ve felt like I’ve had a finger stuck in an electrical outlet, with the current constantly running through my system, jangling my nerves and toasting my noggin. I think by the end of today, though, I’m going to be able to pull my finger out of that socket, at least for a little while, and breathe.

I think it turned around a little last night. I had to leave work early for the conference with Junior’s teacher (which went extremely well; my goofball boy has really started to bloom, academically speaking, in the last three months, like a switch flipped on), and then we all went out for dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant we’d never tried before. Everyone got something special:  Unfocused Girl and I had the osso bucco, the Siren had some kind of fancy pasta dish (I was too intent on the lamb to notice what, but it was tossed at the table in a big bowl of parmesan), and Junior had (as usual) pizza, but it was a special handmade pizza. Then we went home, put the kids to bed, and I spent an hour finishing a project I’ve spent the last two weeks on and finally getting it to the client.  I’ve got a lot to do today, but I think I’m going to get most of it done, with a minimum of pain (HAH!), and get out of the office at a reasonable time (double HAH!), maybe. I see a glass of wine in my future. Maybe a bottle.

No actual writing so far. A little outlining, and re-reading parts of Meet the Larssons to determine which scenes are salvageable, and which just need to go. No writing this week (or last, or the one before that), but I’m starting to see how to get back into the rewrite.

If I can pull together 15 minutes over the weekend, though, I may try banging out the start to a short story on Write or Die, just to keep those muscles from atrophying completely.  Hat tip to Amy for the link, and to Dr. Wicked for the creation.

Fall Sunday Stats (on Monday!) #4: John McCain, You’re No TR

Before I get into the usual Sunday Stats, I’d like to say, Happy 150th Birthday, Theodore Roosevelt! I’ve been a fan of TR’s for years, and I’d like to say to John McCain that I’ve read a lot about Theodore Roosevelt,

and I feel qualified to say, Senator McCain, you’re no Theodore Roosevelt.  And if you don’t believe me, ask him yourself.

In other news, Mrs. Unfocused has made an herculean effort and gotten all of the kids’ baby and toddler clothes out of the study (and out of the house), and rearranged the furniture remaining so that the study is a place I can work at home, and write, without piles of stuff teetering over my head.  That would have been enough for me to feel like it’s Christmas in October, but on top of all that, she found me the perfect desk chair on Craigslist at a ridiculously cheap price:

Sure, it’s used and a little scratched, but some failed start-up’s loss is my tuchus’s gain, which is about the only good thing anyone can say about the economy these days.  I’m still listening to Planet Money every day; I keep waiting for Adam Davidson or Laura Conoway to annouce the very special “Everything’s Okay!” episode, but instead, we have today’s topic, on how things are even worse in poorer countries.  This does not help my mental state.

Miles run today: 10.16 miles in 1:21:54, an average pace of 8:04 minutes/mile, which is great.  It was a beautiful fall day, and my various joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, which have been very aware of the implacable approach of my fortieth birthday, were relatively uncomplaining.  I beat the Mrs. and kids home, which is always a bonus because I don’t have to feel guilty about holding up the day while I stretch.  And I need a lot more stretching than I used to have to do.

What was I listening to on my iPod during my run: Pheddipidations # 158 (“Running the Bay State Marathon”) and Escapepod # 178 (“Unlikely”).  Escapepod, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a free science fiction podcast, which audio-publishes new and previously published short stories.  In episode 178, the host, Steve Eley, introduced me to the music of Jonathan Coulton.  After listening to a few songs on Coulton’s website, I bought one of his albums (Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow), which I would classify as geek rock (Cory Doctorow used a line from one of the songs as the title of a recent short story, and if that isn’t geek cred, I don’t know what is).  Coulton’s a heck of a songwriter, and he makes plenty of his music available for free on his website so you know what you’re buying.

Words written last week: 2,493 words of a new short story.  I’m maybe 2/3 done with the first draft, and when that one’s done, I’ve got one more teed up in the Idea folder before I go back to Meet the Larssons, refreshed and ready to rewrite.

In another news, TTB was rejected for the fifth time this week.  The rejection was short but personal and somewhat encouraging, which was a nice change, but still a rejection.  At this point, I think I’m going to leave it alone for a few months, then take another look at it with an eye to revise it to make it, y’know, better; if I could cut it down to under ten thousand words, that would open up additional markets as well.  In any event, I’m going to let it age for a while, and hope that it’s more like wine than an overripe cheese.

Final political note: I took Unfocused Girl and Junior out for a walk the other night to look at the Halloween decorations on the next block.  As we got to the corner of our block, Junior looked at the house there and asked his older sister, “Is that where John McCain lives?”

Because, you see, I had told him that John McCain reminded me of the cranky old man who lived on the corner of my block when I was a boy.  Last week, Junior had gotten confused and thought that McCain himself had lived on my block.  Now he’s taken that one step further, and decided McCain lives on the corner of his block.

There goes the neighborhood.

Summer Vacation Stats, Part 2.

Freshhell reminded me about They Might Be Giants’ “813 Mile Car Trip.” Here it is, in all its puppetoliciousness:

We sang that song a lot during our drive.

Our Tae Kwon Do yellow belt test is over. I passed outright — it’s the third time I’ve earned my yellow belt in TKD in the last 15 years, so I would have had no excuse for failing. Our instructor wants Unfocused Girl to redo self defense technique number 3 in the first class of the next session; a lot of the white belt kids have to redo even more of the test, so that isn’t bad. She knows the technique; to the extent she flubbed it during the test, I think it was just a combination of nerves and a partner (a kid from a different class) who didn’t know what he was doing. She’ll nail it at the next class and get her yellow belt, too. I think this is the first time she’s really had to work hard over time to achieve something, and she did a great job.

Back to the stats:

Number of years in a row the Atlantic Ocean has tried to take my son on our last day at the beach: 2. This year, I carried junior out into the water about up to my waist, past what had been, for most of the previous 11 days, past the break point. I misjudged it, and we were right where the waves curl over and start to crash down. I saw a big one coming, started back to the sand, and held Junior up to keep his head above water. Big mistake. When the wave came, I was already off balance, and got knocked over, and I lost my grip on Junior. It only took me a few seconds to find him in floating in the water and grab him, but it really shook me up. He handled it well, though, and wanted to go back in soon after.

And yes, Unfocused Junior was able to play in the sand and go into the water, even with his cast. We used a terrific cast cover, and while it meant he couldn’t use his right hand for much, he still had a lot of beachy fun. It also forced us to try a few things in the area other than the beach, so that he wasn’t wearing the cover every day, which was neat.

And finally, the running.

Miles run during vacation: 38, including five training runs of 6.1, 6.64, 5.23, 7.71, and 6.11 miles, respectively, and two 5K races (3.1 miles each). My goal here was to do well enough in one of the 5Ks to win an age group medal; these are small races, and it isn’t as though any of us are truly elite runners, so I thought I had a shot. In the first race (the first Sunday of our vacation, after we’d been there a week), last summer I was seventh in my age group; this year I came in fourth. There was a rainstorm during the race which slowed everybody down, so while my time was a little slower than last year’s, I don’t think it helped or hurt my relative showing.

In the second race, the morning of the day we left the beach, I used some strategery. It was a combined 5K and 10K; last year, I ran the 10K. These races are part of a series; for the people who are at the beach all summer, there is one race each weekend for eleven weeks, and the people who run them all are ranked for the whole series. If you’re competing in the series, you have to run the 10K, and of the three guys in my age group who finished ahead of me in the first race, two of them were definitely competing in the series.

I, of course, ran the 5K. My plan worked, and even though I came in one second slower than my 5K PR, I won my age group, the first time I’ve ever won any kind of athletic competition. Apparently, the secret is finding a race that the really fast people aren’t running. I didn’t get any better; I just arranged it so my competition was worse. I’m not complaining, and a win is a win and I feel pretty damn good about it, but I can’t pretend it’s because all of the sudden I got so much better.

Yes, I’m bragging. Sorry; I’m still a little giddy. I wore the medal (over the race t-shirt) for the first 200 or so miles on the drive home before I put it away. Next year, Unfocused Girl wants to run one of the 5Ks with me; we’ll have to work on her endurance, but it’ll be a lot of fun. Meantime, the local running store at the beach is sponsoring a marathon on the Saturday before Thanksgiving…

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.

Liveblogging the Slumber Party, Part 3.

We just got Junior to bed (11:30pm) on the inflatable in our room, since the girls are taking over the room he shares with Unfocused Girl, which reminded me that I left something out of the last post. Just before we started the movie, Junior ran upstairs to get into pajamas (the girls had changed earlier). Apparently, he decided it would be more efficient to change in the basement; the next thing we knew, he was stark naked on the landing of the basement staircase, putting on a little show for all of the girls. I only understand one of the shouted comments — “Look out! Boy cooties!” — but the hubub died down pretty quickly. One of the girls has a little brother of her own and the other two, who are sisters, have known Junior for years.

Oops. Movie’s over. Gotta run.