Tuesday, November 25, 2008

For those about to ROCK....

Nathan is the resident rocker in our house. He makes it very clear that his all-time favorite guitarist is Angus Young of AC/DC. This is just fine with me, since many of the favored memories of my youth flashback in my brain accompanied by a soundtrack of AC/DC songs. Recently, in what I am now calling the "Year of Nathan," we made memories bigger and better than most all of those previously recorded in my brain. Although not everything in the "Year of Nathan" has gone according to plan, good things seem to be following him this year...and I am really happy for him. Here is an example:

On Wednesday, Nathan was injured during (indoor) football practice. He went up to catch a pass, and his ankle was rolled upon by an opposing player, as they both tumbled back on the turf. Initially, we were told that it was likely that he had fractured a bone and had a growth plate injury. However, after seeing an orthopedist, it was determined to be a very severe sprain. He'll be out of commission for 4-8 weeks. [Wait, I'm getting to the GOOD part.] So, on Friday, he was on crutches. This really discouraged him, until he was surprised by some great friends of ours with two tickets to see AC/DC at the Schottenstein Center. Guess who was the lucky recipient of the other ticket..?! So, Nathan and I headed to the arena after I returned home from work.

Once we arrived at the Schott, a bus picked us up in the parking lot and dropped us off at the door. Seeing Nathan on crutches, the ushers waved us to the front of the long lines and through a side security check point. We were directed to the elevators where we showed our tickets to the attendant. We descended a few floors, and when the doors opened, we found ourselves BACKSTAGE! Everyone had big passes hanging from their necks. The attendant saw my surprise and told us to just show our tickets to anyone who questioned us. We walked past the roadies, through some curtains, and found our way to the floor of the arena, just in front of the stage. I found an usher, showed him our tickets, and asked him where our seats were located. He said "right here." Our seats were in front of the stage, and just 3 seats from the long runway which jutted out from the middle and into the first section of seats. My face probably looked just like Nathan's in this photo. We settled in and talked with a few of the nice people around us. Many were just like me, children of the 70's & 80's, attending the concert with their kids. There was a couple in front of us with very strong Australian accents, who flew from New York just for this show. The air was electric when the opening band, The Answer, finally took the stage. I hadn't really heard them before, but they played what they called "Irish swamp music." It sounded a lot like Led Zeppelin to us, and we became instant fans. Their show ended after an hour, and it was time for the headliners to play. There was not a single empty seat in the place when the house lights went down, and a 40-foot locomotive, spewing smoke and fire, crashed through a screen and onto the stage. This was the start of the most entertaining show I have ever seen. Period. Words cannot describe it. Neither can pictures. I tried to take some, but the light show and smoke effects wreaked havoc with the camera settings. I tried to adjust, but just decided to snap photos so as not to miss the show while messing with the camera.
Sorry for the blurred images...

Nathan called Michele in the middle of the concert and screamed at the top of his lungs, "THIS IS FLIPPIN' AWESOME!" He couldn't hear if she replied. To be truthful, I couldn't hear for two days after the concert. I must be getting too old for this. But it was SO worth it... The boys from Melbourne are all in their mid to late fifties now. Having seats this close to the stage allowed us to see every wrinkle, scar, and roll. A lifetime of hard rocking shows on their faces, making them look older. Angus is a tiny guy, almost troll-like. But man, can he play. When Angus or Brian Johnson walked up the runway, the people in our section placed Nathan next to the railing. During these portions of the show, he had the best seat in the house...just 5 feet from his (our) rock 'n' roll idols! This is a night we'll never forget.

Seasons End II

Ian just completed his 2008 soccer season. He doesn't get much of a break, though. NEXT season starts in January. He keeps getting better & better as a player. This probably has something to do with the fact that he has a soccer ball at his feet 24/7. Last week, he played in a tournament in Raleigh, NC. His team won 2 games and lost 1, but did not advance to the championship round. He had one of his best showings of the season, assisting on 4 of the 8 goals scored by his team during the tournament. After the last game on Sunday, we attended the ACC Men's Soccer Championship game. In this game, the Maryland Terrapins defeated the Virginia Cavaliers. Ian sported his Duke Blue Devils attire (when in Rome...). It was another great Father/Son weekend full of fart jokes and sports. What else do you need?
Some of Ian's teammates attended the game, too. To Ian's right (in the OSU sweatshirt) is Jordan. They have been friends since the 1st grade. Unfortunately, Jordan & his family will be moving to Augusta, GA in January. We will miss them.

Ian has been invited to play in Europe in the Spring! He'll travel with his U14 Olympic Development Program team and will represent the USA & Ohio against club teams from Holland and Germany. The travel itinerary sounds great, with stops in Amsterdam, Venlo, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Koblenz, Rudesheim, and Frankfurt. I hope he realizes how lucky he is to have this opportunity....and how proud we are.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Yo si le voy, le voy al Columbus

Since soccer is BIG in our house, we have been loving the recent success of the Columbus Crew. For his birthday, we were able to take Grandpa Keller to his first Crew game. This night, the black & gold were playing in the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Kansas City Wizards. Columbus won in dominant fashion, before a rowdy crowd. I think Dad really enjoyed it.... I know we did.

On November 13th, we attended the Eastern Conference Championship, featuring the Crew versus the Chicago Fire. This will go down as the most fun I've ever had at a sporting event. The atmosphere was electric. The crowd of 16,000 was much louder than the 100,000+ who attend Buckeye football games. Ian brought his friend, and soccer teammate, Brad Hakim.

Nathan watched with interest, since he had trained with the Fire goal keeper, Jon Busch, for a few summers. Busch won the Major League Soccer goal keeper of the year award this season, and is still the goalie coach for Team Ohio FC (Ian's club team). Regardless, Nathan rooted against Jon and for a Crew win. His wish came true, as the Crew won 2-1 with a come from behind victory.

After the game, there was a HUGE party in the tent next to the stadium. Inside the tent, we saw Ian & Nathan's old soccer coach, Mark McMahon, with some of his fellow Irish buddies. We stuck around and talked soccer for awhile. Until.... the Crew supporter groups [Hudson Street Hooligans, Crew Union, Local 614, and La Turbina Amarilla] came marching into the tent. After this, we were stuck in the middle of a drum beating, singing, chanting, jumping, and dancing mob. As Nathan said, "dude, it was AWESOME!"

As for the title of this post... this is a chant [among many others] sung by the supporters groups at every game. "Yes I go, I go for Columbus." GO CREW!! Beat New York for the MLS Cup on Sunday, November 23rd.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Seasons End I

Nathan has had a fantastic fall.... and I'm envious. Through his connections with the Dublin Coffman High School 'Rocks football team, he has met a few famous people. Some of the folks with whom Nathan has had conversations this year:

Kent Mercker (Cincinnati Reds Pitcher)
Jon Busch (Chicago Fire Goalkeeper)
Chinedum Ndukwe (Cincinnati Bengals Safety)
Brady Quinn (Cleveland Browns Quarterback)
David Archuletta (American Idol Runner-up)

Nathan [#88] finished his first season of "American" football a few weeks ago. He developed into a very good player. His coaches loved him, and made him a captain. He played center, and was a true leader on the field. By the end of the season, he was dominating play at the line of scrimmage.

While Nathan played well individually, his team [Cowboys] did not fare so well. His team did not taste victory on the scoreboard this season, although there were many other victories to celebrate. Nathan learned to find the "game within the game" for these victories. This included preventing his assigned defender from participating in a single tackle for an entire game. That's him, fourth row, second from the right, with a scowl. He was very upset that some of his teammates smiled... there's no smiling in football!

For his final game, he was able to play on the turf at Dublin Scioto High School. Here he is [black sleeves & socks] starting the play against the Titans.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Short post....really

OK....so my last few posts were kinda long. This one will be short, I promise. Hope you enjoy these comics, from one of my favorite blogs - toothpaste for dinner. WARNING: it can get a little crude at times, but I find it to be funny...and the comics are written by someone [not me] in Columbus, Ohio.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Proud to live in Dublin, Ohio

Something amazing happened in Dublin this past week. Something that made me very proud to live in this community....the most popular kid in school was voted Homecoming King at Dublin Coffman High School. This story was cheered in our family, as we have each been affected by this young man.

A few years ago, Ian played baseball in the Dublin Youth Athletics league. His team wore the uniforms of the Detroit Tigers. Even though he initially had no real connection to any of the players on our team, Matt Storey became an unofficial assistant coach. You see, Matt loves the Detroit Tigers, and would show up to games to sit on the bench to cheer on the "farm team," which just happened to be made up of 12 year old boys. The boys quickly accepted Matt, and began calling him "Coach Storey." After wins (and losses), Matt would lead the team in a trip around the bases, running with a huge Detroit Tigers flag and an even bigger smile. Matt had gall bladder surgery during the season, and to see the genuine concern of a bunch of 12 year old boys was touching.

As waterboy for the Dublin Coffman football team, Nathan gets to roam the sidelines with "Coach Storey" each Friday night. Matt is the team manager. Last Friday, Nathan came bursting through the front door after the game with the big news. It was not that Coffman had beaten Thomas Worthington by a score of 49-6. Instead, his first words were "Matt Storey was voted Homecoming King!" I'm sure this was a scene repeated in many homes around town.

In many high schools, the most popular boy is voted Homecoming King. This scenario was no exception in Dublin this year. However, the fact that Matt Storey truly is the most well liked and popular kid in school is the real story here. CONGRATULATIONS, MATT...and well done, Dublin.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 2:52 PM
ThisWeek Staff Writer
Dublin Coffman student Matt Storey is all smiles as he gets help with his sash after being named homecoming king before the start of last Friday's football game against Thomas Worthington.
Matt Storey is known as the "No. 1 fan" of Dublin Coffman High School.
He received a new title from his peers last Friday, when he was named king of Coffman's homecoming court.

Tears streamed down Kim Storey's face when her son's name was announced. They fell from several other eyes as last year's king, Andrew Talle, placed the crown on Matt Storey's head and handed over the scepter. Though smiling, Storey kept glancing at the Shamrocks football team that was waiting to run onto the field. A kiss for mom and a hug with dad Ken were all he had time for as he handed over his royal garb and ran after his teammates.

Matt Storey is a football team manager, Coffman principal Tracey Miller said. In fact he's a manager of several teams and for those he isn't, he's there cheering them on. Storey is developmentally handicapped but doesn't let that stop him, his mom said. "He loves sports, loves being part of the team, any team, but he especially loves football and the kids all embrace him," she said. "He is so pure in his feelings and his emotions," Miller said. "He loves this school so much. He is our No. 1 student in terms of spirit and connection to the school. I can't think of too many home events that he is not there when I arrive, leading cheers, encouraging the teams. "He's incredible. He typifies student spirit and the kids all recognize that," Miller said.

Zach Bott, who has known Storey since seventh grade, bet "he had 98 percent of the vote" for homecoming king. "Everybody voted for him," Bott said. "He's a lot of fun." Only seniors vote for the members of the homecoming court, but the entire student body votes for the king and queen, Miller said. "It has nothing to do with his disability," said senior Haileigh McClure. "When I think of Matt, I think of him for his school spirit. He's just really well liked." "I definitely voted for him," said senior Jess Phelan. "He's the No. 1 fan at Coffman. We're fans of him."
What did Storey have to say about all the attention he received at the game and at the homecoming dance the next night? "It was very cool," he said. "It was fun and I enjoyed hearing everyone yell my name when I was on stage (at the dance). It was a lot of fun."
Ken Storey credits the school district for his son's progress. "The support system is tremendous," he said. "This speaks volumes for the school system and the student body." "It's such a wonderful thing. It says so much for the students here at Coffman and for Matthew, too," Kim Storey said. "Matt came home this summer and told me the boys (on the football team) told him they were voting him for homecoming king," she said. Not wanting to get his hopes up too high, she told her son, "I don't know buddy. You never know, but it could happen."

Was he surprised? "I knew it all along," he said, smiling. "I think this means the world to him," his mom said. "For Matthew, this will stay with him forever."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Culture...Detroit Style

This past weekend, Ian's soccer team played Midwest Regional League games in Michigan. Michele remained back home in Dublin, so as not to miss Nathan's football game. Traveling with Ian and I were two of his teammates, Alec and Rajat. Therefore, this was very much a guys weekend...full of farting and lots of general bathroom humor. Unfortunately, the Sparta team didn't fare too well, but I thought that Ian, Alec, and Rajat played exceptionally well against some of the best competition in the nation.

After the final soccer game of the weekend, the boys were hungry and dejected. Since we were near Detroit (one of the more colorful cities in the U.S.A.), I decided it was a good time to treat the boys to a little cultural diversity lesson. So, we headed for Detroit's Greektown...which happens to be the location of one of my favorite restaurants anywhere -
Fishbones Rhythm Kitchen Cafe.
To add to the experience, we parked at the Renaissance Center, the headquarters of General Motors. From there, we took the Detroit People Mover, or DPM....an often broken monorail system which was working on this particular day. Since Ian was representing his 'hood (Ohio), and being very much the "gangsta," he seemed to relish breaking many of the laws in Detroit. See if you can find a few broken rules/laws in the photos.... what a rebel.
As soon as we got off of the People Mover at the Greektown station, we were greeted by some of the locals. This group of quirky individuals included a rapper named "Shadow Klan," who claimed to be the next big rap artist to hail from Detroit. He seemed to be a very nice guy, who just happened to reek of a certain herbal substance. He told us that his raps were clean, and that the boys would like his CD because he rhymed about "the cosmic universe, evolution, UFO's, and science." Politely, I told him that we were on our way to lunch, but if we saw him on the street afterward, we would surely stop and talk with him again.
Our lunch at Fishbones was awesome. The place was just as I had remembered it. Although, it's location in Greektown seemed a little grittier than the mental image I had stored in my memory. The boys surprised me with their orders of crab cakes, calamari, gumbo, etc. Since we were in GREEKtown, I ordered the Saganaki...you know, the flaming greek cheese stuff. OPA!! The kids thought this was pretty cool.
After lunch, as we walked out the door and back onto the street, we were greeted by none other than our new friend, Shadow Klan. Since it seemed like fate (or maybe he was stalking us), I asked him how much his CD cost. He told us, "whatever you want to give me, man." I gave him $5. By the look in his eye, this might have been generous. Anyway, I thought we could listen to his CD on the long drive home. Back on the street, we stopped to watch a blind blues guitarist, who sang a song in which the only lyrics were, "the power of God," sung over, and over, and over, and over...then we listened to a street performer who played an ancient saxophone. He was actually quite good. We also watched an artist doing portraits in chalk. We all agreed that he was extremely talented. We entered a couple of the local shops, which were all selling little Greek trinkets. The Greek national soccer team jerseys were the only items which really interested the kids. Finally, as we were walking back to the DPM station, I was stopped by an incredibly skinny, toothless, female crackhead / meth addict who excitedly asked me something like, "BARGLE NAWDEL ZOUUS?" I decided that the cultural diversity lesson was over, and it was probably a good time to leave Detroit.
So, we hopped back on the DPM, got back to the car, and popped in the new Shadow Klan CD. After about 20 seconds of confused silence, the car was filled with the heartiest laughter I have ever heard. Let's just say that while I have no doubt that Shadow Klan works hard at his craft, he is not a favorite among 14 year old boys from the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He wasn't kidding though, he does rap about "the cosmic universe, evolution, UFO's, and science." Still, you can get an eye-watering laugh from the boys, just by mentioning Track 4 - Monkeys. Nathan was smart enough to do a google search of our new friend, and learned that this rap style is called trip hop...remember the reference to that herbal substance smell?
It was a day we'll not soon forget. However, I will think twice the next time I plan a "cultural experience."
strange, synthesized, organ music plays, while a man gutturally raps the line, "we come from monkeys"...followed by uncontrollable laughter [repeat for 3½ hours or 210 miles, whichever comes first]

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Throwin' my hat into the ring

Today, I did something I rarely do....I got into a political discussion with a co-worker. Many people know that I am somewhat of a cynic when it comes to our elected officials and their motivation for being elected to office. This is especially true for the office of President.

The presidential oath is as follows:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Pretty simple.
Yet, Article II http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Article2 of the constitution shows that the Executive Office is really policed by the people, and offers the ability to impeach for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." It also states that the President's compensation cannot be increased during the term. WHY?

It is my belief that our founding fathers were absolute geniuses, who were certainly guided by divine powers. Because of this, they created a government in which the leader can horribly fail, or at best be completely ineffective, yet the country moves forward with little impact. This is due to the fact that the drafters of the constitution knew that ALL of us are flawed as individuals. Case in point, our country has been led by a few known alcoholics, prescription pain-killer addicts, liars, crooks [or not], and many more than just one philanderer. However, since July 4th, 1776 this has continued to be the greatest country to exist on the earth. WHY? It's because of our people, not due to any one of our leaders. Heck, maybe we thrive in SPITE of our country's leaders! In my opinion, only one man has ever been truly qualified to lead in the manner we'd expect. However, he lived under Roman rule, in Judaea, over 2000 years ago.

Our country has been at it's best when a common cause has been found....like defeating fascism in World War II, or overcoming the Great Depression. Even the immediate moments and days after 9/11 showed our strength as a country...the acts of ordinary citizens, doing extraordinary things, without the direction of our leaders. In contrast, the local, state, and federal agencies reaction to Hurricane Katrina showed what happens when we rely too heavily on our governmental leaders.

Therefore, I am throwing my hat into the ring, and I'm running on the platform that I plan to do nothing but ask for the involvement of the ordinary citizens of this country. Remember, the whole "ask not what your country can do for you" speech? Inspired...so, I'll just embellish it a little bit. Also, I'll promise that I will have little or no effect on whether our economy improves. I will not single-handedly bring peace to the middle east. However, I will ask that we be good to each other.... :)

click the link below:


Sunday, August 17, 2008

A new season begins...

Last May, after a successful seven year "career," Nathan announced his "retirement" from club soccer. Soon after, he began training for a new sport with the same name. Only now, his football has pointy ends and laces in the middle.

In late July, Nathan was drafted by the Dublin Cowboys. Since he has never actually played the game before, [other than flag football or recess ball], we weren't sure what to expect in his first year of this new sport. However, with his duties as waterboy for the nationally ranked Dublin Coffman H.S. Shamrocks, he has really become excited about football.

Nathan is lucky to be playing for some fantastic new coaches who have really instilled a love of the game in him. His coaches are former collegiate linebackers from Miami (Ohio) University. Using this connection, Nathan and his teammates were invited to attend an alumni Back to Camp day, which included a picnic and scrimmage with the current Miami Redhawks team. I went along for the ride...and had a great time!

The team departed Dublin at 7:30am on Saturday morning. Taking the team bus, the kids arrived in Oxford, Ohio around 9:45am.
Immediately upon arrival, the team geared up and headed for the practice field, which was located next to Yager Stadium, home of the Miami University Redhawks. The Cowboys went through their typical drills, designed to develop quick feet and proper technique. Nathan [wearing the blue practice jersey] worked very hard, but hit a cone. In the photo, check out the intensity of Coach Prochko... this guy is awesome.
This is a textbook three-point stance. Nathan's good form was recognized by Coach Hyzdu. Needless to say, Dad was very proud.

Some of the Miami football players came over to watch the kids practice. By this time, the fundamental drills were over, and the Cowboys offense was scrimmaging the defense, where Nathan played linebacker.

After the scrimmage, some of the Redhawk players spoke to the team. I can't begin to express how impressed I was with some of the young people we met at Miami. They each told the team how they continue to play just for the love of the game, and how they have learned that great effort results in great accomplishments. The Miami players were asked which skills are most important in football. In unison, they replied, "quick feet." The coaches beamed at hearing this. Nathan and his teammates were in awe...and the day kept getting better.
Next on the agenda was an opportunity to meet the entire Redhawks team for autographs and photos. Nathan posed for a photo with Clayton Mullins [#9], who is the reigning Mid-American Conference player of the year. He is also a solid candidate for the Butkus Award, which is given to the nation's best linebacker. Miami University head coach, Shane Montgomery, spoke with the team....surprisingly, not about football. Instead, he talked about the importance of "doing well in school." He also touched on the topic of giving great effort, just as his players had earlier in the day.
After a picnic with the Redhawk seniors, the kids went into the stadium to watch the Miami Redhawks fall intra-squad scrimmage. Nathan was sporting the Dublin "gangsta" look.
The team was given a tour of the locker rooms, players lounge, and meeting rooms under the stadium. They also were able to go out onto the field, and up into the press box. Nathan took the camera from me and took some photos for himself. These last two are his...maybe he has yet another talent?
Not much can bond a father and son like football. Therefore, you can be sure that Nathan and I will be glued to the TV (ESPN) on Aug. 28th (Vanderbilt) and Sept. 6th (Michigan), as the Miami Redhawks will become the team that every true Buckeye fan LOVES to root for...that is, the team which is playing against either an SEC team or the Michigan Wolverines.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The bachelor life....?

Well, I've almost made it.

Michele and the boys have been in Myrtle Beach this past week with our friends, the Demains. Marlene invited Michele, Ian, & Nathan to the beach, after her husband (Andy) and daughter (Naomi) had to back out of the trip. That left me living the bachelor life for the past week.

Michele asked if I would be upset if she went without me...I told her that I would be envious, but not upset. I believe that there was some hesitation on her part to leave the house and pets in my hands. After a week, I can proudly say that the animals were almost fed on time, the plants and flowers were watered, and I was able to make a few meals for myself. Yet, as proud as I am of those facts, I would have much rather been on the beach....for the second time in a month. I hope they all had a great time. Seriously!

They'll be back later this evening. Therefore, I'm spending some time doing a little more cleaning and yard work, so it doesn't look like I've just spent all my time eating junk food and watching tv in my underwear.... although I don't deny having done a little of that this week.

Tomorrow morning, Ian and I will travel to Cleveland for a 5v5 soccer tournament at Brad Friedel's Premier Soccer Academy.
Here we go again...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Baseball, Hot Dogs, (Cherry) Pie, & Soccer

It's a little late, but HAPPY 4th of JULY !!

On July 3rd, Michele, Ian, and I watched the Columbus Clippers play the Toledo Mud Hens. Michele's Mom & Stepdad have great seats...third row, directly behind home plate. The game was a good one. Tied 4 to 4 in the eighth inning, the Clippers scored 6 runs to end the game 10 to 4. After the game, there were fireworks. We could also see a little bit of Red, White, & Boom. This is the BIG fireworks show in Columbus, with over 300,00 people attending. As the fireworks launched, many of the players either carried their kids out onto the field, or jumped into the stands to sit with their wives and children to watch. The whole night was such a very "American" experience. Happy 232nd Birthday USA!

Next year, the Clippers will be playing in a new downtown stadium - called Huntington Park.

Columbus' Arena District is really becoming a great spot.

Nathan was one of the 300,000 people at Red, White, & Boom. He went with his friend Logan, and watched the fireworks near the launch site at Veteran's Memorial. He said the show was great...but his stories indicate that the people watching was even better. At age 12, he has already learned that there are a lot of "weirdos" out there...and most of them are just plain comical.

On July 4th, Nathan and I went to see the Dublin fireworks. It was a good show, but was just a warm-up for the annual fireworks extravaganza that our neighbors (Spence & Lori) put on each year. This is what I was really looking forward to this Independence Day weekend.

We invited a small group of friends over to the house to watch the big show next door. Ian & Nathan invited a larger group of their friends. The kids played soccer in the front yard, and volleyball & corn-hole in the back yard. They roasted hot dogs & s'mores over the fire, and drank more sugary, carbonated drinks than they needed. Michele made a tremendous amount of snacks and drinks for the adults, which we shared on the patio. She even made a couple of cherry pies with the cherries we picked from our little dwarf cherry trees.
The weather cooperated to make it a great night. Of course, the fireworks were awesome. The neighbors take 2-3 days preparing the launch pads for the fireworks...and the results were unbelievable. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.

After the weekend, we discovered that Ian's soccer team was accepted into the Midwest Regional League (MRL). This is one of the top leagues in the nation. The other teams in the league are from Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Kentucky. Needless to say, we'll be doing some weekend traveling this year. He will also be playing in tournaments in St. Louis, MO and Raleigh, NC this fall. Maybe with all of this travel we'll be able to drop in to say "hi" to out-of-state friends and family!

Friday, July 4, 2008


After day one of the great chipmunk hunt, it's Michele 1, Chipmunks 0.

She caught this little bugger with a live trap and some "Purina Squirrel Chow." As cute as they may be, the chipmunks have done some damage to the walks and patio. Last year, we relocated 7 or 8 of them.

After they have been caught, we take them down the road to a little thicket we call Chipmunk Woods. We allow ourselves to believe that they are having quite the party in there. However, life is probably not as easy as it was in our backyard, where food (bird seed) and shelter were readily available. Good luck, little buddy.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

I'm married to Snow White...

Michele has done a lot of work in the back yard this summer. The result of the new plants, flowers, and bushes is wildlife. The back patio is now a fun place to hang out - especially for the birds, deer, chipmunks, frogs, squirrels, raccoons and snakes.

Michele is such a regimented person. Each morning she wakes up, makes a pot of coffee, and sits outside while the dog [who is also regimented] does her business. Since animals [including me] have always been attracted to Michele, she has some very up-close and personal relationships with many of our back yard guests.

I get excited every time I see a hummingbird at the feeder. When I tell Michele that I saw one, she'll ask: "was it the green male with the red throat, or the white one? Was it the female with the grey wings, or the brown wings?" She has caught a bunch of frogs this week, including a really cool gold, metallic-looking tree frog. She carries them around to show to me, the boys, the neighbors, and anyone else whom she feels needs to see a frog. Anyway, I think she may soon resort to giving them all names. Kinda reminded me of this image of Snow White...

However, there is trouble in the magical forest. The chipmunks have caused some damage to the patio, and are therefore on the naughty list. So too are the racoons, who have nearly destroyed the bird feeder. The snakes, while a necessary evil, are just not welcome anywhere near the house. So this morning, Michele set a live trap for some of the "problem" animals. I can't wait to see what she'll catch....

Monday, June 30, 2008

Midnight Gardening & Cherry Farming

This is my favorite time of the year. It usually means more work for me, but I really enjoy the warm weather. I can even put up with the negative aspects of the season (i.e., bugs, sweat, storms) because the positive aspects (i.e., flora, fauna) far outweigh them. Also, I think that the longer hours of sunlight have a direct impact on my soul. I am far happier this time of the year.

With our busy soccer, basketball, & baseball schedules, our yard was completely neglected this Spring. This was compounded by the fact that our lawn tractor was in the shop for 6 weeks! Luckily, we have the greatest neighbors in the world, who allowed us to borrow their mower. [thanks, Sunderlands!] However, there were times when our yard looked pretty shabby. Anyway, each June-July I have about a 4 week respite from soccer. So, I try to do a little yard work each night after work.

The other night, the weather was nearly perfect. Temps were in the low 70's, with low humidity, and with a mild breeze blowing from the west. It was so nice, I just kept working into the night. Michele and I had agreed that we should move some of the existing bushes and hydrangeas, so without much thought to the plan, I just started digging. The reasons for working so late were many. But mainly, it was just too nice to come inside, and the results of the transplanting were looking really good. Around midnight, as I was putting the finishing touches on the last bush, I heard a loud flapping sound by my left ear. Thinking it was a bat, I turned quickly, only to find a peach colored moth fluttering near the lights I had placed under the trees on the patio. It eventually landed on my shoe...and wouldn't leave! I tried shaking my foot, but the moth stuck like glue. I tried to pull him off, but he had a death grip on my shoe. Finally, I just took my shoe off and finished working in my bare feet.

The next night, I decided to do a little cherry-picking. In 1997, Mom & Dad Keller gave us two dwarf cherry trees as presents for our 10th wedding anniversary. We planted the small trees alongside the path to our back patio. For the past 11 years, the trees have provided us with enough cherries for a few pies from each growing season. Ian and Nathan adopted the trees when they were very little. Therefore, they each have their own tree. Ian's tree is a little taller, but Nathan's tree is just as prolific.... fittingly. As the cherries ripen, we place nets around the trees to protect them from the birds. However, this does NOT protect them from the chipmunks. Needless to say, we have some mighty fat chipmunks scampering around the back yard.

2008 has proven to be the best season ever for our little cherry farm. As I write this, we still have over one-third of the fruit left to pick on the trees. Yet, we have packed over 32 cups of pitted cherries. This is already enough for eight pies!

Ian "volunteered" to help pick & pit the cherries this year.

Doesn't he look happy to help?

When I asked him to look a little more enthusiastic, this is the reaction I got - smart a** teenagers.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

She Sells Sea Shells

It's been two weeks since our return from the beach... and I miss it. We had such a great time. These vacations really do bring our family closer together.

Michele spent a lot of time in the water this trip. She and Ian are the sea shell hunters in the family. For years they have hunted the elusive Junonia shell, but haven't been lucky enough to find one. However, they do always seem to be able to bring home pounds of other really cool shells (tulips, conchs, whelks, kitten's paws, nutmegs, etc.). Nathan usually snorkels to find his treasures. The big finds were sea urchins and starfish, but we couldn't keep them... they were alive.

Since we typically spend the entire day at the beach, we bring a lot of STUFF. The boys were [finally] a big help this year, as we had to carry chairs, umbrellas, beach bags, coolers, fishing gear, bait boxes, skim boards, and rafts to our spot on the beach. However, lugging our stuff didn't seem so bad, because the path to the beach was so beautiful.

A full day at the beach can sometimes cause some uncomfort-able conditions. We know this from experience. Some of these issues include: sand and/or small shells in your butt crack, bug bites, sunscreen slime, and that "fishy" smell. This year, we were lucky to have use of the 'Tween Waters Inn pool and showers. Around midday we would hike across the street, shower, take a cooling dip in the the pool, and have some refreshing "boat drinks"....ahh.

On our last night at the beach, Michele and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. The boys stayed at the condo, and Michele and I were able to go on a "date" - just the two of us. We had dinner at Biddle's, a restaurant near the Sanibel Causeway. We ordered entirely from the appetizer menu. Sashimi tuna, scallops, stuffed shrimp....yummo [yeah, I watch Rachael Ray]. The restaurant was decorated in what Michele described as "Tommy Bahamas". However, I thought it more resembled Rick's Cafe Americain from the movie Casablanca. They had live music...a husband and wife team who played everything from Motown to 1930's swing. They were actually quite good and got most everyone out on the dance floor. Sitting near us was a couple who had to be in their 90's. They got up and boogied often. I hope that Michele and I are still around and able to enjoy nights like that when we are their age. The whole night was romantic...and perfect. Just for the record, this ranks as my favorite anniversary date with my beautiful wife.

This trip started with a very conscious effort on my part to de-stress. As Jimmy Buffet sang, "changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes." For eight wonderful days there was no stress: mission accomplished. Now, I can only rely on memories until the next time we head to a beach. Until then, this is the mental image [from the Sanibel Causeway] I am choosing to use as the desktop background in my brain: