Thursday, August 21, 2014

happy birthday, shannon

happy birthday to my beloved...the girl of my companion and sojourner.  the best in me is always you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

back to school, 2014 (part 1)

as cliche as it may be, i have to begin this post by saying

where in the heck did summer go?

just a couple of days ago, they stepped off the bus for the last day of school.  i blinked a few times, slept in once, and now i am taking pictures of them getting on the bus again.  congress needs to pass some legislation to slow july and august down.  this has to stop.

however i feel about the fluidity of time (i am thinking of you, Dad and Uncle Jim), the cold, hard truth is that i drove away from that bus stop with an empty minivan, now the parent of a 2nd grader, a 4th grader, and (next week) a preschooler.

this really has to stop.

still, as much as the passage of time confounds and dizzies me, i love the beginning of a new school year: the smell of unsharpened pencils and the curves of a clean desk.  there is the promise of wonder and exploration and learning.  this is the first step of a new adventure; an educational road trip with sojourners and trail guides and breathtaking views, punctuating the step-by-step rhythm that isn't so much about getting somewhere in particular as it is about discovering the joy in the journey.  so, in the midst of projects and vinyl bus seats and math sheets and memorization, my prayer for my children is for adventure and wonder; for discovery and a daring to ask the questions that will open up new vistas.  it's going to be a great year!

and maybe, by next year, we will have figured out how to extend summer just a bit.

Monday, August 18, 2014

go jump in the lake

here are just a few pics (of about 740 that we took) from our recent vacation up at eagle rock resort near hazleton, pa.  there was a beautiful lake there where we spent most of our time, and i just thought i'd share with you a couple pics of our fun at the lake, memories which we'll be cherishing even more dearly as school begins this week!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

the case of the missing key

 i love my wife.  no, scratch that...i adore her.  i really do.  she is amazing in so many ways and is so good at so many things that she almost always makes me look way better than i really am.  in fact, i often have to work hard to remember what her flaws are, which is really annoying, by the way.  when i do remember them, they are so ridiculous that i seem petty by even mentioning them (she is a heavy-walker, she loads the dishwasher like an intoxicated blind person with a blindfold and a straightjacket on, etc.).

and then something like this happens, and i just have to tell the world.  and by "the world," i mean all 8 of you who will read this.

a couple of weeks ago i took the kids for a walk to the park.  shannon went for a run.  when she was finished, she met us at the playground, and we all walked home together, only to discover that she had locked the door, and neither of us had brought our keys.  this would normally not be a problem, since we keep an extra key hidden under the sole of a golf shoe kept in our garage (okay, not really, but i can't feasibly tell you where we actually keep an extra key...the golf shoe thing sounds like a pretty good idea, come to think of it).  so i went to the proverbial golf shoe to retrieve said extra key, only to find it wasn't there.  i figured it might have fallen out somewhere, since the kids are sometimes using it to get into the house, so i started searching.  by this time it is getting dark and a summer storm seems to be whipping up.  in the midst of the darkness closing in on us, we turned our garage upside down, searching for this key, but we couldn't find it anywhere.  i found the remains of a dead bird, and what appeared to be a pile of creamed spinach, but, alas, no key.

anyone who really knows me knows that by this time, i am more than a little irritable.  my milinovich intensity (read: temper) has ratcheted up to threat level: something's-gonna-blow.  i directed most of this ire towards my sweet children, knowing that they almost certainly were the guilty parties, even though they claimed complete innocence in this matter.  i doubted it, and continued to rant about the importance of not touching our gosh-darned key, and lecture about the need to put things back where they got them.  shannon, meanwhile, observed quietly while i unloaded chastisement on our children.

as the storm neared, we finally realized we weren't going to find the key.  i remembered that there are a million keys inside a locked closet at the church, and i figured that one of them must be the parsonage key.  so i called someone (thank you, Meg!) to let me into the church (since my own keys were also locked in my house), and into the locked closet.  i couldn't find any key to my house there, but i did find approximately 156 unmarked keys, which i proceeded to carry back to my home, where it had by now started raining ominously from a sky that was steel-colored, like an old padlock whose combination has been forgotten or lost, and just sits there to mock you about what you can't get into.  i digress.

none of the keys worked.  but the futile exercise of trying each of them not only gave us 156 moments of false hope, but also allowed the impending storm to creep that much closer.  i finally realized that i was going to have to break into our home, which meant ripping open a screen and trying to lift a window.  the first course of action would be trying to find a window that we might have left open.  as i was about to embark on this mission, shannon mentioned emphatically that the last time we left on a vacation, she had made double sure that all of the windows were locked.  therefore, i wasn't going to find any unlocked windows.


i knew that one of the windows (which has two locks on it) had one broken lock, so i figured of all the locked the windows, this one had the best chance of yielding to my desperate attempts to break and enter my own home.  i got the ladder, and, standing in the pouring rain, proceeded to ruin a perfectly good screen, and try to wedge open the window.  after several minutes of failure, and with neighbors watching disdainfully, shannon approached me to tell me that she had been looking at some of the other windows around the house, and it looked to her like one of the windows wasn't locked after all.  i reminded her that she had just told me that she knew all the windows were locked.  she wasn't impressed with my memory.  i wasn't impressed with hers.

so i moved my ladder to the aforementioned window, climbed the wet metal steps, and ruined another perfectly good screen, only to find this window completely unlocked and ready to be raised.  i called for my son Jackson, who deftly climbed the steps and climbed into the house.  while i was leaning into the open window to make sure he didn't get cut on whatever glass thing fell onto the floor and broke when i opened the window, i faintly heard shannon whisper-yelling from afar (have you ever heard whisper-yelling? can you think of any situation in which whisper-yelling doesn't spell absolute doom?  in what possible harmless situation would you need to simultaneously yell and whisper?  it says, "i need to yell to alert you of something that will probably kill you, but i need to whisper so as not to alarm the thing that is causing all this trouble in the first place."  whisper-yelling is usually just a way to prolong the inevitable:  death by horrific mauling.).  i could hear the anxious edge in her breathy call to me:  SKUNK!  yes, while i'm on a ladder, breaking into our home, presumably because our children can't put a key in a golf shoe, a skunk sauntered by, seeking refuge from the splashing storm, and looking for inventive ways to add insult to injury.  

i wasn't sprayed.  but the situation still stunk.

jackson opened the door, let us in, and, relieved by finally getting into our home and out of the rain, i released the dam of frustration, and really amped up my lecturing about putting things back where you got them, words spoken with such intensity and conviction that i am sure they made a lasting impact on my children (please read that last phrase with the appropriate level of sarcasm).  suddenly, my nearly-perfect wife said something, almost in passing, about remembering that she might have used that key the week before, and couldn't quite remember if she put the key back in the golf shoe or not.

wait, what?

after all of that.  after my lecture-for-the-ages? after raised-voice and finger-wagging condemnation?  sure enough, she went to look for the shorts she had worn on that fateful friday past, and discovered in the right front pocket a key that opens our door.  skunks and shredded screens and storms and several lectures later, we finally found the reason for our summer evening escapade:  mom.

she apologized profusely, and it only took about 10 minutes for me to transition to a frame of mind in which i could laugh heartily about the whole thing.  i promised her i wouldn't be mad about it, and that i would teach her how to fix a screen, if she'd like to learn.  i also promised her that i would share the story with the world, or the half-dozen or so of you who read this.  so there you have it.  the case of the missing key.  it was in mommy's pocket all along.  i guess we all make mistakes. but if we can learn to laugh about them, we will be much happier.

the moral of the story: please don't whisper-yell to me about the proximity of a wet skunk when i'm standing on a ladder in the middle of a storm.  ignorance is bliss.

the other moral of the story:  please don't come to my house looking for a key in a golf shoe.  we have a guard-skunk who will spray you in a second if you even think about it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

another thing off the bucket list: lego courthouse

we just got another thing checked off the summer bucket list, and this time it was making the northumberland county courthouse, in sunbury pa. this time shannon put in the lion's share of the work, with the boys and i offering a fair amount of help along the way. here is the real building in sunbury:

and here is what we were able to make:

Saturday, August 02, 2014

my trip to training camp

i had the wonderful joy of being able to head out to latrobe, pa (known at my house this time of year as "mecca") for last night's annual "friday night lights" practice for the pittsburgh steelers at the latrobe high school football stadium.  i don't know how many other fans were there, but there were a ton of us (they had a 50/50 and the fan won about $3000!), and i waited in line for over an hour just to get in the gate, so i could get a nice spot along the fence outside the track, where i then waited another 90+ minutes until the players arrived, and stepped off the yellow school buses, making their way to various spots along the fence to sign autographs for about 15-20 minutes.

here you can see three wide receivers signing autographs, from left to right you have new free agent lance moore, c.j. goodwin (from california university of pa), and derek moye (from penn state).  i didn't get any "pro-bowl" autographs, but i did get 11 guys to sign my terrible towel, which you can see here:

 here are the autographs i got:

#14 derek moye, wide receiver from penn state
#16 lance moore, wide receiver we just signed from the new orleans saints
#18 c.j. goodwin, wide receiver from cal
#21 robert golden, safety in his third season from arizona
#29 shamarko thomas, safety (5'9" - same as me!) in his second season out of syracuse
#40 josh harris, running back, undrafted rookie out of wake forest
#45 bryce davis, tight end and long snapper out of central oklahoma
#68 kelvin beachum, offensive lineman, out of smu
#72 cody wallace, offensive lineman, in his 5th year out of texas a&m
#73 ramon foster, offensive lineman, in his 6th year out of tennessee
#77 marcus gilbert, offensive lineman, in his 4th year out of university of florida
(these are in addition to the two signatures i already had on there (charlie batch and shawn suisham).

here i am with the obligatory training camp selfie.  wearing my #75 joe green hat in honor of the steelers retiring his number this year.

and this is our brand new first round draft pick, ryan shazier, working on some drills in the sunset.  the dude looked fast, strong, eager to learn, passionate, emotional, and very exciting.

the sky over latrobe was simply gorgeous.  i got to see all kinds of good stuff at practice, including some great wide receiver/defensive back matchups.  there was apparently a bit of a scuffle during the backs on backers drill, but that was at the opposite end of the field from me, so i missed it.  

i enjoyed watching joey porter coach up the linebackers a bit, and you can see him up there to the right in the white shirt and long shorts.  two years ago, on that very field, i watched him officially retire.  now he was back with the steelers.  it was cool to see.  

near the end of practice, they were running 11 on 11 plays, way down at the opposite end of the field, near the 10 or 20 yard line.  at one point, ben dropped back to pass, but had no one to throw the ball to.  he had some pressure, and he ducked around a bit, and then started to scramble up the middle.  in real football action, he would have been tackled for a gain of a couple of yards, but no one is allowed to tackle the franchise quarterback in practice, so he went untouched through the linebackers and into the secondary.  then, ben being ben, he just didn't stop.  he kept running.  all the way down the field.  the crowd was yelling and laughing and enjoying it, and he was hamming it up as he hustled all the way down to the end zone, where he didn't even cross over the goal line, he simply held the ball out.  we would have had to go to instant replay to see if he really scored.  bill hillgrove, who calls the plays at the evening practice (as well as all the steelers games on the radio), got into it as well, and hammed up his call of the roethlisberger scramble.  it was a fun moment of levity and connection between the players and the fans.  

so, i didn't get home until almost 1am this morning.  so, it was over 6 hours driving for the day.  so, i stood in line and waited for some 3 hours.  who cares?  it was SO worth it.  a perfect day of fully contracting my annual illness: steelers fever.  i've got it bad.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

the faces of a boy turning three

holy happy birthday, batman!

last week we celebrated the third birthday of our own little caped crusader, and it was a festive occasion! even though no one seems to believe it, i did indeed make and decorate the batman cake he wanted, and it turned out okay, if imperfect.  but he didn't notice....he loved it!

but probably not as much as he enjoyed the gift portion of the festivities, which included several lego items, much to his delight.

he is a blessed boy, of course, but he is also a tremendous blessing, not only to his mommy and daddy, but to his brothers, as well.  we are so fortunate.  he keeps us laughing, guessing, dancing, and tickling him as much as we can.  like any three year old, he can be a stubborn child, trying on his own new ideas and testing out the boundaries and the consequences for crossing them, but even those tries and tests have a certain amount of joy connected to them.  he is just fully alive, freshly so, and contagiously offering all that life to all of us.  we are blessed for it.  we are blessed by him.  we are just blessed.  period.