Best Summer Ever? I’d Say “Top Five”

23 08 2010

These are the final hours before the school year starts for Sam and Katie.

The last gasp of summer vacation.

Brief aside: Whatever really happened to summer vacation? “Back in my day” we were out by June 5 or so (not June 10) and didn’t return until September. Of course, in 1983, my elementary school wasn’t plagued with 19 in-service days. Yes, you read that right. 19. But anywho…

To think, I had such grandiose plans for the kids on this last Monday. We were going to stop by Thomas Park in Marion, possibly hit some baseballs back at Kennedy High School and spend four hours at Noelridge Pool for the last day that pool was open.

The kids accomplished so much in the Summer of 2010.

Just not today.

I am spending this afternoon filling Sam and Katie with multiple teaspoons of Pepto — it’s a mystery what led to this. As a “responsible parent”, I just can’t let them near the pool right now. That could change, however — the pool is open for six more hours as I write this.

On Mondays and Tuesdays this summer, this was my oasis from the world.


The pools of Cedar Rapids are where we spent far too many hours this summer. Back in May, Erica and I decided it best to shell out the $192 for the family pass…as long as we got the value from it.

Yeah. We did.

I want to say we had about 40 visits between Noelridge, Cherry Hill and Ellis pools this summer. In my undeniable, stingy form, I took full advantage of this, dragging the kids to swim, jump and entertain all throughout the summer.

Best part of all of the aquatic action: Sam and Katie really learned how to swim. I mean, really learned. They turned into super swimmers before my astonished eyes. Sam, who turned 8 in July, broke through that mental wall to careen himself off any 1-meter spring board that he could find. Swimmin’ Sam passed through the rigors of Level 3 Swimming Certification.

Katie was even more impressive at the pool. She still can’t touch the bottom past most of the children’s areas at Cherry Hill and Noelridge. On top of this, Katie faces the gentle frustration of being two inches shy of “getting legal” to go on all of the water slides. She’s 3’10” — gotta be four feet.

Yet now Little Katie jumps into the deeper end (five feet) and swims all out to wherever I am standing. She flips underwater and is trying to even get creative and “artsy” with her swimming. I’m so proud of her.

Both Sam and Katie had banner moments all throughout the summer. Sam had two that still stick out.

Seconds after hauling in the Wrigley Foul Ball on June 16, Sam smiled for days.


First, on the June trip to Chicago via the $1 Megabus ride (yup, a whole dollah), Sam and I went to Wrigley Field for his first Cubs game. Sam scored an Oakland A’s hat two hours before the game on Addison, across from the stadium. We went inside Wrigley, along the first base line and even further to the unmistakable ‘353’ brick wall in right field. All of these people are standing along the edge, clamoring for batting practice baseballs.

Just as Oakland’s turn with batting practice is closing out, our hopes for Sam scoring a BP ball were also starting to fade. Then one unidentified A’s player nods, from 70-80 feet, in our direction, points to the bill of his hat and fires a line drive straight to Sam.

The crowd gathers around, adults and kids jostling for position to get the ball.

Sam reaches up with his lefty glove…and hauls it in.

He still sleeps with that baseball every night.

That trip to Chicago also came at a rare “down” time for Sam in his actual baseball playing endeavors with the Green Machine of the 3rd/4th Grade Division in the Hiawatha Kids League. Sam enjoyed being on a winning team that made the semifinals in the playoffs and even tied for first place in the regular-season with a record of 9-2-1. He was an outstanding teammate and very encouraging to all of his friends. I’m proudest of that.

Sam has a summer birthday (July 14) and that means getting together a posse of partiers isn’t as easy as, say, during Katie’s annual November soiree. For 2010, when Sam hit 8, he had a birthday moment none of us will forget anytime soon.

In a heat index pushing 108 — and insisting to wear his full baseball uniform — Sam fired the first pitch for the Cedar Rapids Kernels game that night from the mound. The full 60’6″. He couldn’t throw it that far the night before when we practiced a bit. Now he knows what ‘adrenaline’ means:

Katie had more life altering accomplishments this summer as well. She is on the verge of 6 (“I’m 5 and a half, Dad”). I’m unsure how I’m going to handle tomorrow morning as she trudges off to kindergarten.

Could you EVER say 'no' to this face? I do because sometimes this face frowns.

It wasn’t really that long ago when Little Katie couldn’t walk, talk nor eat much. She’s still picky about her food but talks, sings, screams and runs everywhere. She can even hit live pitching in the baseball cages…as a 5-year-old. Well, as long as it’s high and inside. I’m thankful to have an active little girl who likes to break a sweat.

Now she can almost do it all. She’s a “big girl” who makes friends so very easily. When we go to the parks, she always goes up to the other kids, usually girls, and says, “hi, my name is Katie. Want to play with me?” If life could only be that simple. If only.

In these final days of Summer 2010, Katie saved her most jaw-dropping accomplishment for last Saturday night. I’m at the station, wrapping up the early newscast at 6 pm and Erica sends me these waves of phone calls and texts. COME HOME NOW.

As I pulled up, I saw Katie’s new (okay, it came from a garage sale for ten bucks) Barbie bike in the driveway. That gave me a clue to this…

Well done, Katie. Not bad for a 5-year-old. I learned at 7. Sam learned at 6.

We are still in a transitional state for scheduling here. In June, I moved to a different world at work, moving over to weekend evenings. The bright spot was that I was almost always home during the mornings, plus Mondays and Tuesdays all day. We got to enjoy so much in the mornings, whether organized events or just the off-the-cuff learning throughout each day.

I guess I just feel so blessed and fortunate to have a solid family. Amid the “chaos” (most of which doesn’t really matter anyway!), Erica, Sam and Katie are the best! I won’t end this saying I hope to have an even better Summer of 2011. If it’s close to this one, that’ll work.

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