Today is Zaque’s seventeenth birthday. Wow– the years fly past. He had kind of a low-key day, but enjoyed several of his gifts.

Mom (I mean grandma) noticed during our trip to the City Museum that Zaque loved the little miniature hands and feet. I think she snuck back into the gift shop after we finished our visit and bought them. He was laughing so hard when he opened up the gift and put them on his hand:

Then he opened the custom mug I made for him.

After what he did to me on Father’s Day, revenge was sweet. Here’s what the mug looked like:

For dinner we’re going to have some steak– his favorite meal– followed by chocolate eclairs, which are (news to me) his favorite dessert. Luckily they’re my favorite dessert too!

Happy birthday to my “little” boy! (Who, incidentally, is now as tall as I am.)

With Thom and Katie visiting for the weekend, we had planned to summit a Fourteener (Torreys Peak) on Saturday, but the weather conspired against us so we had to scale back our hike a bit. We ended up driving up to Rocky Mountain National Park, where we hiked a few miles past Alberta Falls (near the perennial favorite Emerald Lake trail) to a beautiful alpine lake called The Loch. Saturdays in mid-summer are quite busy at the park, but we found the trail to be much less trafficked than I’d expected.

Sefton, a little over a year old now, thoroughly enjoyed the hike.

Of course, I’d probably enjoy it more too if I was in a comfy carrier, complete with a sun shade.

We passed quite a few little waterfalls as the trail paralleled the mountain stream.

After about three miles we crested a hill to see the Loch. It’s quite large, and (like many lakes in the park) it’s framed beautifully by mountains.

We rested for a while, enjoying the warm summer sun and a gentle breeze across the water. I told Laralee to look “reflective” as she sat on a rock at the lake’s edge.

Then I joined her and snuck a quick peck.

Sefton, freed from his carrier, loved climbing around on the rocks and gesturing at everything.

It’s always fun to watch the master photographer at work.

I’m sure Thom’s pictures will turn out far more spectacular than mine, even though we were in the same place and my camera is better than his. Still, I enjoyed experimenting with some artistic shots.

Oh, and not surprisingly, there was a chipmunk.

After relaxing at the lake for a while, we headed back down the trail. It rained most of the way back, although it was more of a light sprinkle and felt refreshing on the dusty trail. All in all, a great day. Laralee and I will tackle Torreys Peak sometime soon.

This weekend we headed up to Steamboat Springs with the same crazy friends from two years ago. The only difference was a profound lack of Kyra.

We stayed in a magnificent ski cabin right next to the main gondola, although ski resorts look radically different in the summer compared with the winter. It was a great location, and we were able to bum around town, enjoy the activities, and see the sights.

We played an 18-hold miniature golf course. Zaque picked out the shortest club available, and kept referring to it as his “thunder stick”.

Laralee crushed us in the front nine.

Here’s my sweet purple golf ball, all lined up to hit par 2.

Before we started, Zaque and I agreed that the loser between the two of us would owe the winner “a favor”. I’m not quite sure what that meant, but I figured I could have him do chores or something when it wasn’t technically his turn. We seesawed back and forth through the entire game, but when all was said and done, the scorecard said:

Jeff – 56
Zaque – 57
Laralee – 57

Par was something like 44, but we didn’t pay attention to that. It was a nice tight game, and now I get a favor!

On Saturday morning, we got up before dawn to hit the annual Balloon Rodeo. It didn’t disappoint. I snuck in a few artistic shots before the balloons launched. We were standing beside a lake, and the chill air of the early morning formed a beautiful mist on the water.

As the sun peeked over the mountains, the balloons inflated and slowly took to the air. Not surprisingly, I ended up with roughly a hundred photos of them, most of which look pretty much the same. I like all the bright colors of hot-air balloons.

Viva la Colorado!

The crowd was pretty big– not surprising, since it was a beautiful summer morning.

Here’s a lot of color.

That night, the balloonists set up at the base of the ski area for a “balloon glow” event. Unfortunately it was a little breezy, which prevented them from inflating the balloons (they didn’t intend to fly– they were just going to illuminate them on the ground). Instead, they set up the baskets and flared the jets for about half an hour, even allowing spectators to control the flames.

Laralee and I both liked this shot, where the flame looks a bit like a seahorse:

Yep, it was a great time with great friends, as always.

Laralee and I continue chipping away at the vast piles of stuff we’ve accumulated over the course of our marriage. We plan to move in a year or so, and don’t want to drag all of this to the new place (wherever that may be) so we agreed to spend the next year getting rid of things.

Today I went through six boxes from the depths of the crawlspace. Two of them had my college textbooks. Yep, it’s interesting to see a stack of them that probably cost me a thousand dollars back in the day:

This was only a third of the textbooks I’d kept. Of course when I flipped through them, I was reminded about how much I knew once upon a time.

So those will be heading to Goodwill, who apparently will take old textbooks. I have no idea who buys them, but I suppose if someone decides they want to learn quantum mechanics, they’ll be thrilled to find my old book.

Then there was a box of day planners. Back in 1992, my first year as a resident assistant, the Department of Residential Life (“reslife”) provided all of the RA’s with little planners and encouraged us to use them. We had a number of responsibilities, and I found that it came in handy. From that day until sometime around 2012, I used a day planner. Every year I’d buy another one, and bring it everywhere with me to jot down notes and appointments and make sure I was crossing things off my to-do list.

As it happens, I flipped open to this page in my 1993 planner:

Cool! On May 10 I picked up my car (yep, my very first car). The next day I installed a new stereo in it, after finishing my astrophysics final of course.

Oh, and the box with instructions for my original Lego sets. Here’s my very first space Lego set!

Two more boxes had my electric train stuff. It contained dozens of train cars, boxes of track, and things like gas stations and a theater and all those other things I built from kits for my big train setup in the basement as a kid. Years ago, I figured my boys would like to play with it, but it sat forgotten in the crawlspace, and now it’s too late.

I was going to just toss all of it, but decided to call a local hobby store to see if they even sold HO-scale electric trains these days. It turns out they don’t, but they knew a guy named Warren who collected them. They gave me his number, I called, and he was happy to accept them. He told me I could leave them at the store for him to pick up, and mentioned that if he sold any of it on eBay he’d be willing to split the profits. I replied that I didn’t care, but after hanging up, I was curious and hopped on eBay to see what sorts of prices a thirty-year-old train set might bring. As it turns out, individual Tyco cars in their original boxes (which I have) sell for anywhere from five to twenty dollars apiece. Who knew?

Finally I stumbled upon a small box that contained my original Star Wars action figures. I only have about twenty, but they’re original, circa 1980.

Again out of curiosity, I checked eBay because I know people trade these things. I found a Boba Fett just like the one sitting on top of my box above, and it was listed at $40. The little gun my stormtrooper is holding? Ten dollars. For just the gun. It’s crazy. That little box is easily worth hundreds of dollars.

So, once again it was fun to dig through some nostalgic stuff, and as I take it to Goodwill and the hobby store (and the trash can, in some cases), it’s funny to think of the thousands upon thousands of dollars I spent on it over time… and even what some of it is worth now, if I only had the desire to spend effort selling it on eBay. Oh well. Hopefully Warren can make something.

I was at the gas station last night and saw this sign.

Am I the only one who notices the problem? Ugh, it’s the little things…

Over the weekend we trucked (well, mini-vanned) out to Missouri to visit the larger Schroeder Clan. It was a great trip, with a lot of fun times around the pool (of course!) as well as a trip to the St. Louis City Museum, which I’d heard of but never seen. If I had to describe it in a word, that word would be “eclectic”.

Here are some photos of our adventures…

Zaque “hangs loose” as he cruises through somewhere in Kansas:

My beautiful wife:

There was a little jar of M&M’s in the kitchen, and Laralee kept sneaking handfuls (handsful?) of them, while commenting that no one would suspect her, and would blame the younger kids. Sure enough, they got the blame.

Some mammatus clouds near sunset:

A caged Zaque at the City Museum:

Zaque’s strange attraction to tiny hands was given new life when he found tiny feet.

Some evening Sudoku on the patio:

Two handsome guys with their Hawai’ian shirts (you can hardly even tell we’re related):

And a few pieces of kameraspielen as I experimented:

Yep, good times all around. We’ll be back again sometime next year…