In a few days, the new academic year begins. Since I’ve not quite recovered from the stresses of the summer session, and since my fall teaching schedule recently underwent an adjustment (one section cancelled, another added), I’m a bit breathless.
No matter. Whether or not I’m ready, it’ll happen anyways. I’ll hit an alarm and put on underwear and walk into rooms burbling with lots of words, and then the hours will pass, and it’ll be over until it happens again. It’s all good. I’m lucky to inhabit a life with a loud alarm and stretchy underwear and safe rooms and interesting people.
Equally, I’m fortunate to have had a first-rate summer, one that galloped along at a perfect pace. The kids are old enough that I didn’t feel the constant pressure to fill their hours, we had a good variety of outings and activities, and we had a diverting cast of visitors trip through our doors. I am well satisfied, chums.
Already, though, I have to stop and scratch my head when I try to inventory the summer’s charms. What all did we do again?
Since this space serves as a chronicle of something, why not “What I Did This Summer”?
Here, then, is a pictorial review of the highlights, something I can refer back to in future years when I wonder what the hell happened in 2016 outside of the general universal weirdness triggered by the deaths of Bowie and Prince.
Speaking of His Royal Badness, we stopped by First Avenue in June and had a quick moment of Dammit, but He Was Grand.
Across the street from First Ave is the Target Center, so after we bid adieu to the stars of the great, we attended our first-ever Lynx game with pal Kirsten and a crew of her high school charges. YOU GUYS, WE WENT TO A SPORTS!
As we do every year, Paco and I volunteered for a shift at the library book sale. Here, he is in the process of stealing all the money from the cash box.
With dedication and discipline, Allegra ran and attended fitness classes at the gym, along with doing a 4x/week training group with some of her friends. At her age, I was lying on the floor, my feet on the couch, moaning that the tv was too far away for me to change the channel. Then I’d start yodeling the words “black gold, Texas tea.”
Tall like the trees, our boy walked and grew.
We got a pickleball set. These are pickleball paddles. These are boys holding them. Yea, I know you don’t know what pickleball is. Don’t you wish there was some massive source of easy information right at your fingertips that could help you with this problem?
It’s not all fun and games around here. We moved the fridge this summer and sought out a good therapist the day after.
I mean, what the holy. What kind of dipshit family of four can create this many dirty dishes in under 24 hours?
The thing about owning a house is that it’s always something. Not only are our windows currently a Something, so was our rotten deck (nearly killing people for 15 years!!). Thus, Byron and his crackerjack minion spent some quality hours tearing it down. Since our back staircase also needed replacing, we had to do some prioritizing and riddle out a home equity loan. Verdict: we’ll do the upstairs windows and back staircase this year, the downstairs windows and new deck next year. Adulting sucks big donkey dicks.
After more than a year of washing dishes at a local pub to earn money, this girl went on a high school trip to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. The trip across the Atlantic was chaos, the crowning moment coming when the airline packed all the teenagers onto the airplane to Frankfurt and then told the overseeing teacher that there was no seat for her . . . so she jetted over on a later flight. We all want to watch that movie, right?
Important development, particularly for the rat bastard chipmunks in the yard: Paco started aiming at his archery target with eyes closed. MAY YOU BE IMPALED BY WILDLY OFF-COURSE ARROWS, PLAGUE O’ MUNKS.
This pup here was in a fair bit of a panic about getting his tonsils out — even though, given the 47 cases of strep he’s had in his lifetime, we all agreed it was time. Major bonus were the purple socks he received as part of his clinic-issued Surgery Garb. Those socks now live in his bed with him, ready for jamming on at the first sign of a single cold toe.
The recovery from a tonsillectomy is lengthy, taking 10-14 days. Paco milked every last hour of unrestricted screen time and life based out of bed. When his cousins stopped by and dropped off get-well cards, we were surprised at how very much they meant to him. Seeing how dramatically get-well wishes perked him up, I put out a call to Internet, and scads of gorgeous friends came through — sending cards and gifts and generally making his every day. The Eyebrow Baby card featured here (thank you, Elly!) has become legend in his lifetime.
The get-well wishes for Paco kept streaming in! When a huge box from Georgia arrived, we all lost our minds with the amazing cornucopia of presents our pal Tara had packed inside. It is my fervent hope that the kids wear these teeth in their school pictures this year.
Tara’s box also included this t-shirt. The kid has lived in it for the past two months. I’m somewhat worried the hairs on his arms are going to grow through the fabric, and we’ll have to cut him out come November.
Byron made deviled eggs using some of the special Southern-like mayo sent in Tara’s Georgia box. Tara hates eggs; upon seeing this photo, she leaned over and yacked into the upturned top hat of a nearby magician.
Another get-well present that arrived was from the kickass Yolanda. HOW ARE SPLAT BALLS NOT FUN ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY STICK TO THE CEILING AND YOU HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO STAND ON THE COFFEE TABLE?
The Grandma’s Marathon course runs a block from our house. Every June, I love watching thousands of participants sweat their way past; in particular, I gawk at the elite runners — whispers of shadows as they slide by. There’s something magic about seeing a human body do something it is uniquely excellent at. All right: at which it is uniquely excellent, you pompous nitpicker.
After I watch a marathon, I like to do a thing where I go run a few miles myself in a beautiful place, all the while reminding myself I’m part of something bigger.
All summer, here and there, in two-minute snatches, I’ve been noodling away at this puzzle. I so love jigsaws depicting Turkish and Middle Eastern scenes — to the point that I’ve done most of them I can find. I’m being very quiet about the drying up of my Future Puzzle Supply because I am both stoic and brave, but truth is I’m in a fair bit of a panic about this, my poodles. You will hold me when I weep?
Our friends Michael and Forest came from Seattle and celebrated the 4th with us, and oh, Sweet Snoopy on a Cracker, yes, you’ve looked at seventy-eleven photos, yet we’re only at July 4th here. Anyhow, Mikey used an app on his phone to tune the guitar, and it was as though, suddenly, a mere sixteen years into it, I understood the potential of this new century.
You know what we have in Duluth? The world’s longest freshwater sandbar. WINNING.
Byron’s got a better sense of drama than hand-eye coordination.
The Pied Piper of Lake Pequaywan.
Allegra’s so good at so much. But not this.
YOU HAVE TO BE VERY FAIR WHEN PLAYING HIDE ‘N SEEK, AND HEARING THE DIRECTION OF “IT”S SCAMPERING IS NOT FAIR.
We had a weekend in the Cities with Byron’s folks; our birthday/Mother’s/Father’s Day gifts to them were tickets to see SOUTH PACIFIC at The Guthrie and have a night in a hotel. Not part of the gift: Allegra looking at her feet.
Cousin Elijah moved to Salt Lake City a year ago, so his month-long return to Minnesota was An Occasion. Good news: he was worth the wait.
Yard. Adolescents. Summer. Hey, this reminds me of the Gear Daddies song that goes “Summer vacation/Nothing on tv/No one home/Except for me/For me/Just sitting in my room/Got no money/Nothing to do/Stare at the ceiling/Sonic boom” — YOU GUYS, WHERE HAVE THE SONIC BOOMS GONE?
Lake. Beach on the big sandbar. Cousin Elijah. Happy Paco. Simple math.
Not only does she have a job and a driver’s license, she now has a look that yells, “I’ll be taking the ACT this year!”
Like the people in this photo, we decided not to be crabby 70-year-old men when it comes to the phenomenon of PokemonGO but, rather, to dive in and enjoy it. You know what’s super-big fun? Not being cranky about an innocent trend. If you’ve been rolling your eyes about PokemonGO, may I suggest this instead: target your crankies at the crushing frequency with which young black men are killed by law enforcement in this country?
I have long loved Clefairy. I have a song I sing about Clefairy. Cleeeeeee-fairy/Cleeeeee-fairy.
Moreover, I have long loved these two fellows, both of whom, in this image, are demonstrating the evils of PokemonGO in action.
One shoulder, the one with the scar, took me to physical therapy a couple of times a week. Then there was the shoulder with the kinesio tape — the “good” shoulder being the one that now hurts. In related news: this blog may soon become nothing more than a litany of my various decrepitudes. Yet, at the same time: I kind of want to start taking drum lessons.
My brother and his younger daughter, Sofia, came again this summer — both to visit us and to attend Camp Grandma at our aunt and uncle’s place. Sure, it’s great to see them, but moreso: it’s great to finally have some Peace Tea in the house.
I happen to have a pair of awesome suede wedge boots and a niece capable of rocking them. We enjoyed an extended photo shoot on the grounds.
We were five minutes into the photo shoot on the grounds when the real Sofia emerged.
The Camp Grandma crew at a local school for the annual Taste of Greece food festival. Spanakopita for everyone!
When Camp Grandma was over, and we had brother and niece back in our possession, we talked Dear Sofia into trying her first 5K race. She and I walked and trotted it while she filled me in on her criteria for giving out her phone number to people who ask for it.
Social media worked its magic once again when my college pal — actually more of a friend the year after graduation — Al stopped by to drop off some cement stepping stones he’d made. Al is a complete peach, and I quiver in happy anticipation at the thought of Byron teaching him to cross-stitch.
Here’s the view out our front door, a few days after a crazy-ass storm (103 mph straight-line winds) blew through and destroyed our end of the city. Even now, more than a month later, that trunk is lying there, as are trees all over town. Thousands, including us, were without power for days. Indoor camping sucks only a little less than tent camping.
After going for a run, Allegra and two of her friends dropped to the grass for a quick ab session. Again, when I check back with 16-year-old Jocelyn, I am reminded the narrative was more “I crawled on the grass because vodka.”
AND THEN, the day my brother and Sofia left, our beloved friends from Turkey arrived! The sheets on their beds were still warm from the dryer, I tell you. So here’s Ileyn with diaper-wearing doggie Angel. In real life, they both fulfill the tantalizing promise of this picture.
Ileyn and kids Selin and John (in Turkish: Can) accompanied Allegra and me to a class at the YMCA. It was an ovary-buster of a class, and Selin rocked the damn thing.
So did Allegra and I. This was one of my first times back since shoulder surgery in March. I’m easing into doing plank — still a ways off from push-ups — and will never lose the talent for shaking like a diapered poodle when I’m balancing on an upside-down Bosu ball.
Meanwhile, just over my right shoulder, John was making a friend.
John makes all the friends. Several years ago, actually, he declared Allegra was his girlfriend. It’s going well. They never fight.
Like you’re supposed to change out of your workout clothes before you make brownies?
John doesn’t mind Uncle Byron, either. It was great fun to introduce the Turks to paddle boarding — the same way they introduced us to the concept of sitting on a picnic blanket in front of the television and eating “durum.” Mmmmm. Durum.
That’s the whole crew out there, with Ileyn’s stance owning the harbor like a boss.
Yes, Uncle Byron will take you out into the water, John. You don’t have to ask, with impeccable manners, twice.
I MEAN, COME ON.
If the Turkish pals know they love squeaky fresh cheese curds, the least an Uncle Byron can do is fry some up and blow all the minds with this new variation.
An hour and a half after the Turks left, so did we — for eight days in Europe, on a cruise of the Danube with my brother and mom (she treated us, as an 81st birthday present to herself). During our four-hour layover in the Paris airport, we still had cheese curds digesting in our bellies.
Once we all converged in Nuremberg, we were transported to the ship, whereupon we clambered to the top floor and admired the hulking beast that is my brother.
The ship went through, hmmm, 27 locks on its way down the Danube. This is what it looks like when my boys are working on their cross-stitching and going through a lock.
Cruise director Julie McCoy hooked us up on the Lido Deck.
If you are a business owner, I recommend you hire my daughter. This is the Note to Self she tucked behind the key in her and Paco’s state room — because she didn’t want to forget anything when she got up, jet lagged, in the morning.
My mom loves a tour guide. Does she necessarily recall the information from the tour later? No, she does not. Does that matter? No, it does not.
Listen, if some German cities have a rivalry about who makes the best sausage, it’s only fair to jump in to the controversy and do a fair sampling. Verdict: ALL SAUSAGES ARE GOOD, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU TUCK THREE LITTLE ONES INTO A SINGLE BUN.
Onboard musician Peter surely knows how to slow any tune by Martha & the Vandellas to a dirge-like pace. Because he’s AN ARTIST.
These door guards went hogwild on Jagermeister last night.
One of many things European countries do right: rely on bicycles more than cars. Also: make their buildings look shabby chic — don’t you just want to pop over to Pier One and buy this facade?
Bubble Man was excited to share his soap with the masses.
…until my mom and brother literally burst his bubble.
You can’t take Paco and me anywhere.
During the afternoon in Passau, Germany, our family of four went on a walk down the river and up an impressive hill. This view was the payoff.
This is from the artists’ alley in Passau, where colorful cobbles lead people to the doors of artists.
This is Gottweig Abbey outside of Krems, Austria. There’s my mom, brother (so itchy!), Byron, and Paco.
And there’s Allegra.
What do we learn from this photo of Mom with two of her grandkids? My mom likes a statement necklace; Allegra’s hair looks great under lights; and Paco will use every button on a shirt.
He’s always feisty, this accordion player, but never moreso than when his kneesocks start to sag.
The cruise ship did a good job with food quality overall, and you did not hear me complaining the night we sat down to pretzels and a charcuterie board.
Our family of four used our free afternoon in Vienna to visit a bustling market and have lunch. We could have visited this market as one of the “extra tours” from the ship (usually about $80/person), but we went ahead and did a thing called looking at a map, hopping on the subway, and getting there ourselves for, hmmm, $1.50/person.
Public transportation does the trick.
We LOVED touring the opera house in Vienna. My guess is that at least 345 illicit liaisons have taken place in the boxes over the years. If you ever meet an Austrian girl named “Opera,” now you have a mental picture of where she was conceived.
Much was made of Vienna’s coffee and cafe culture. Here’s Paco’s coffee and Sachertorte. Onboard, all regional cakes on the trip were accompanied by the warning, “It’s a little dry, but a scoop of ice cream on the side will help.” OKAY.
When you stop and consider How They Did That Way Back When, and it blows your mind.
Shuffleboard at dusk! I know these photos make it seem like we played a lot of shuffleboard, but the truth is that the top deck was closed for much of the journey so that passengers weren’t decapitated by low-hanging bridges.
A week of this never sucked.
Vasile, our room cleaner, wore testicle-revealing tight white pants and proved himself a whiz at making towel animals. I wasn’t sure what this thing was supposed to be, actually, until Vasile whizzed by our open door and quipped, “What’s up, Doc?”
Look, it’s three generations. Can you believe it’s three generations? That’s what the drunk lady from Virginia who often sat the table next to us during dinner would say every g.d. time she saw us.
Unquestionably, my favorite thing from the whole trip was Paco’s delight at having coins in his pocket. One day, not having a place to put some change, I asked Paco if we could dump it into his shorts pocket. And thus a passion was born. He took more joy in the tactile sensation of those coins — coupled with the feeling that he could buy something, if he wanted to — than in anything else on the entire tour. Six times a day, he’d exhale while jingling, “I just love these coins so much.”
Budapest’s bridges got it goin’ on.
The final night of the cruise, the staff handed everyone a shot of “Palinka” (it’ll kill what ails you) and took us on an after-dark chug up and down the river, to see all the buildings lit up.
On the last day of the trip, we went to the thermal baths in Budapest. There were something like 12 pools of different shapes, sizes, and temperatures. This, too, was a potential “extra” tour from the ship — but we, again, just got on the subway and saved a bunch of $$. The ticket machine in the underground was broken, so Byron was a hero and ran around a huge city square to find a store selling subway tickets. When he finally returned, he was sweaty, and you know it’s good travel when Byron gets sweaty.
As John from Turkey would say, these guys are “livin’ the life!”
We had a dumb-long return journey home and were outrageously grateful to the Paris airport for providing these chairs. I tucked my earbuds in and fell asleep right quick.
Upon returning home, Paco started to consider what he might make for this year’s art sale, which he uses as a personal fundraiser. Since he would eventually like to get a better graphics card in his computer, he is making these little monsters out of clay, readying them for sale at the end of August. When I try to make little guys out of the same clay, it becomes apparent how very gifted Paco is.
While we were in Europe, some nice construction guys made our home equity loan worthwhile when they tore down our jinky staircase and built a new one, also adding in a wee deck. So now, as summer reaches its end, we take coffee and books out to these chairs. Setting a spell, we lean our heads back, watch the squirrels scrabbling high in a tree, and marvel at our great good fortune.