Monday, May 12, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (May 12)

It’s been another gloomy day, cool and overcast and, now, increasingly breezy. I wore a sweater vest over a long-sleeve shirt today and felt that I didn’t dress warm enough. Rain is in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow. I just checked the garden to do a little weeding – just had to get outside for a little bit -- and all the plants look healthy. The ferns literally burst upon the backyard scene during the past week. We’ve had enough warm weather and precipitation for everything to be ahead of schedule actually. I remember some previous Mays around Mother’s Day when the leaves on the trees were still in the bud stage. When I survey the scene outside the sliding glass doors of the family room, it almost looks like summer, there’s so much “full” green.

I still have half a flat each of marigolds and begonias to plant. I debated with myself whether or not to dig some earth once I finished my weed patrol, but I couldn’t get into the mood. I won’t have a lot of time this weekend as Andy is playing in another baseball tournament – two games on Saturday and one on Sunday. We’re invited to a party – the entire family – Saturday evening. Fortunately, the majority of the planting is done.

 All four of us had commitments yesterday evening. JoAnna attended the annual Wisconsin Women in Government banquet at the Frank Lloyd Wright Convention Center in Madison. She went to that event directly from work. Both boys had soccer games, Eddie’s at 5:30 in Middleton, and Andy’s in Fitchburg, a 20-minute drive from here, at 6:45. Fortunately, I was able to make arrangements to have Andy ride to and from his game with one of his teammates. Eddie’s game concluded at 6:30, which gave me enough time to buy him a Happy Meal on the drive home and then get to a library board meeting at 7:00. That meant that Eddie was home alone for an hour or so, not a new experience for him. He knows not to answer the door or the phone in that situation. I told him the approximate time that Andy would be home.

I smelled gas in the house last night and again this morning. It seemed to be coming from the furnace, which I had turned off about a week ago. This morning I called Madison Gas & Electric, and a service rep arrived within the hour. He found a hairline crack along the inlet side of the gas valve. I have no idea as to how this happened as the valve is inside the furnace. We had already decided to replace it during the summer. It has needed a major cleaning during each of the last three heating seasons. Another major expense, but we have our home equity credit line to pay for it, so we don’t have to make any special financial arrangements to have this project done.

JoAnna just returned from the health club, her first visit there in a week. Monday evening the two of us took a 40-minute walk. It seemed a little weird coming home from work after the boys had already been home for two hours, having supper together (tacos), and then JoAnna and I leaving the house after the kitchen was cleaned up. 

The boys haven’t seen too much of us today,” I commented during our walk. But then it’s a refreshing change of pace for JoAnna and I to have some time together. It’s nice to be able to trust the boys on their own. 

JoAnna and I can tell that the school year is coming to an end. The boys haven’t had any homework this week. Andy has two or three field trips per week between now and the last day of school, probably something to do with the 5th graders being “seniors” at Elm Lawn. Eddie’s class also has a number of outings scheduled, including a trip to the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo next Thursday. I think I might volunteer as a chaperone for that one.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (May 10)

The Mother’s Day brunch at Mayflower Drive included a mixed fruit salad, Pillsbury orange rolls, scrambled eggs, hash browns (the frozen Ore-Ida variety), and sausage links. Everyone ate heartily. In fact, the rolls disappeared before I could get my hands on one of them.

During the afternoon, JoAnna went par-3 golfing with the boys while I cleaned up the house (kitchen and living room) and worked outside. I mowed the grass and then thinned out the ground cover on the north side of the yard and transplanted the excess (16 plants altogether) to a bed along the south side. I divided them into two clusters of eight and planted some marigolds in the middle. Until yesterday, I could never figure out what to do with this area of the yard.

After spending five hours outdoors getting my hands dirty, I was ready for a hot shower. Any thoughts of a restful, relaxing evening were dashed when Andy asked, “Could you pitch to me, Dad?”

JoAnna did speak up for me. “You should let your dad take it easy. He’s been working all afternoon.”

I actually enjoy pitching batting practice to Andy, so it wasn’t a chore or an inconvenience at all. And since he has about 10 baseballs, I don’t have to immediately run down every ball he hits.

When we returned from the park, Larry and Alice were at the house. It was just a brief overnight stay for them. We sat around the living room and talked for awhile. We all went to bed at 9:30, Larry and Alice sleeping in the boys’ beds while the boys slept in their sleeping bags in Mom’s and Dad’s room. After turning over soil for four hours, I was certainly ready for the early bedtime.

Larry and Alice were on the road by 7:15 this morning and JoAnna left for work shortly thereafter. Both boys were in a very lethargic mood. It was difficult to get them moving. Andy was still sitting at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal at five after eight.

“C’mon, you’re going to be late, Herman!” I told him, the urgency in my voice giving these words a sharp edge. I think Andy and Eddie were probably marked down as tardy today. I hope that’s not an indication of how the rest of the week will go.

So much for now. We send our love.

Friday, May 9, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (May 9)

So far this weekend has been dedicated to sports. After spending the day in Wisconsin Dells, attending a futures planning workshop sponsored by the South Central Library System, I returned home in time to make sure that Eddie was ready for his Friday evening soccer game. The day had been cool and overcast, but unlike Thursday, no rain had fallen, so the likelihood of the game being postponed diminished as the day progressed. (The field that Eddie’s team was playing on doesn’t drain too well.) 

At game time, a light rain started to fall. I was wearing a long-sleeve shirt over a t-shirt but had left my jacket and an umbrella in the van. Fortunately, trees hug the field, and even though the leaves were just baby sprouts, so to speak, I managed to find protection from the precipitation.

It rained on and off throughout the game. The field should have been mowed as the grass was very long. Any ball kicked on the ground screeched to an immediate halt. By the end of the game, all the kids had wet socks and shoes and their hair matted into weird shapes from all their running around and the styling quirks of the rain. Eddie’s team lost 3-0.

We checked the driveway for a dark blue Buick before going out to eat. Larry and Alice had planned to visit us one day this weekend on their way home but we had no idea when that would be. Only the Saturn was in the driveway. We ate at Pasqual’s, one of our neighborhood restaurants, and then stopped at Blockbuster to rent a video for Mom and Dad and two Playstation games for the boys.

Saturday was devoted to baseball. Andy played in a tournament in Cross Plains, just seven miles west of Middleton. His team played three games, at 10:30, 1:30, 4:30, so we were at the park where the tournament was held for eight hours. Eddie, of course, didn’t want to go. When I got out of the shower, I heard Andy calling his brother’s name.

“Do you know where Eddie is?” he asked me through the door. “We can’t find him anywhere.”

Oh great, I thought, he’s run off somewhere and we’re going to have to search the neighborhood for him.

I don’t know why I initially thought he left the house, as that has never been Eddie’s style of avoidance. When I gave his disappearance some further thought, I knew exactly where to look. It was where Andy ultimately found him. In the “crawl space” of one of the captain’s beds.

Once Eddie was in the van, outside of a 20-foot range of a television set, he was in a very pleasant mood. At the tournament, he either entertained himself or found some kids to play with throughout the day, without a single complaint. In fact, JoAnna and I had to scan the park occasionally to make sure we knew where he was. He never once searched us out, seemingly thriving on his independence.

Game one was a seesaw affair, which made for a very exciting contest. Middleton took what seemed to be a commanding 6-2 lead in the middle of the game but quickly surrendered four runs. Their defense really let them down, especially their inability to hold runners on base. In one instance, Middleton’s pitcher walked a batter and then let him take an extra base when his head momentarily left the game. The player trotted to first and immediately stole second. Throws from the outfield were sometimes made to the wrong base. With an 11-8 lead going into the bottom of the last inning, Middleton was able to keep their opponent scoreless.

Andy had a pretty good game. Although he struck out his first time up, he singled and walked in his next two at-bats.

The second game turned out to be a pitcher’s duel. Waunakee scored two runs in the top of the 1st and looked as though they were going to make things tough for our guys. But that was all they scored. Middleton came back with two runs in the bottom of the third, and then scored the winning run on a bang-bang play at home plate in the bottom of the sixth (of a six-inning game). Final score: 3-2. Andy batted twice, called out on strikes the first time and booming a fly ball to right field (for an out, unfortunately) the second time.

Andy pitched two scoreless innings in game three to help his team nail down a 8-6 victory. The score was 8-0 in the final inning, but Middleton’s third pitcher of the game lost his control after getting the first two outs and walked five batters in a row. Andy struck out and walked in this game. He definitely needs to work on his hitting. JoAnna suggested I take him to a batting cage. We did that once last year, and Andy really enjoyed that kind of batting practice session. It can get a little pricey, though. If I recall, I think it costs something like $5 for 12 balls.

As it turned out, both Middleton teams, the 11 year olds and the 12 year olds, won all three of their games. In fact, the 12 year olds didn’t allow their opponents to score any runs. All three games were shut-outs.

Yesterday was not a good day for baseball. The weather was cool, overcast, and breezy. Many of the fans were wrapped in blankets, wearing winter jackets and gloves. I suppose the good point is that it didn’t rain.

We didn’t get home until 6:30. All of us were feeling drained from being outdoors all day. Neither JoAnna nor I were in the mood to make supper, so I went out to get Chinese for us and pizza for the boys. JoAnna and I watched the video we rented the previous day, but she fell asleep with Boxer on her chest less than halfway through it. I must have dozed off during the final minutes because I can’t for the life of me remember the ending.

The ballfields in Cross Plains are located next to the middle school, and I happened to notice that there were all these old cars parked in the lot in front of the entrance to the school. Before the second game, I wandered over there and checked out the exhibits. A 1947 Chrysler Royal reminded of a car that Min and Lila used to own. I can clearly remember sitting in the spacious back seat– to a little boys it seemed like riding in a living room – on the cloth upholstery with the rope handle attached to the back of the front seat out of my short reach, my view out the windshield partially obscured by a visor. I think the Starks actually owned a Plymouth, but except for a few extra Chrysler flourishes, they were pretty much the same car. I saw a number of seventies-era cars that looked as though they had been lovingly attended to by Dale. A collector of unique and odd models (“I’ve got 21 cars,” I overheard him say) had a 1952 Allstate on display. This car was marketed by Sears for just two years (1952-53) but was manufactured by the Kaiser-Frazer company. Another car I spent some time admiring was a 1958 yellow-and-white Ford Fairline hardtop convertible. There was a 1940 Chevrolet coupe that I would have enjoyed driving on the back roads of Dane County, feeling as though I had been transported back in time. 

We woke up to blue skies and sunshine today, which means I’ll be able to return to the yard work that been on hold for the past week. I feel bad that the boys and I don’t have any special plans for JoAnna this morning to celebrate Mother’s Day. The week was so hectic I didn’t get around to buy any cards, which I should have done when I bought your card and Larry’s birthday card. I’ll have time later in the week, I told myself. Wrong! The boys and I made cards last night right before we went to bed, composing a message on the computer, printing it onto a sheet of paper, folding it in half, and then gluing a picture of them from their first communion last Sunday onto the front. I did buy JoAnna a book on Wisconsin’s participation in the Civil War, her special area of reading interest. We’re going to 11 o’clock mass this morning since JoAnna is serving as lector. The church is hosting a Mother’s Day brunch, but when I mentioned this option to the boys they didn’t seem interested. 

Right now I need to exercise, take a shower, and then review breakfast options.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (May 6)

I’m taking a late morning break at work, chicken noodle Cup-a-Soup steeping within my reach. Who knows, I may be eating my lunch without knowing it.

When I got out of bed this morning, the sky looked harmlessly overcast. I was surprised to hear water still running when I turned off the shower an hour later. Rain started to fall shortly after 7:00 and hasn’t stopped since. I had hoped to work in the yard this evening, but that activity doesn’t seem too likely right now. I imagine that Andy’s baseball practice will be canceled, even if the rain stops within the next couple hours. I don’t see any improvement in the weather forecast for the weekend. At this rate, I’m not going to complete all the planting and transplanting I want to get dome before the Memorial Day weekend.

Yesterday Eddie and I had a difference of opinion over how to proceed with his book report, which was due today. The assignment was to read a book on animals and then to answer the questions on a sheet of paper the teacher handed out. Earlier in the week, when Eddie showed me what he intended to report on, I realized he didn’t understand what his teacher had in mind. He planned to read the information on a single page of one of his dinosaur books and use that as the basis for his report.

I planned my approach to this problem carefully, since I knew Eddie would put up an immediate fuss once I offered an alternative, one that he wouldn’t be able refuse since Dad was not going to take “no” for an answer. I checked out three books from the library – one each on the bald eagle, wolf, and stegosaurus. When I returned home from work yesterday, I laid all three on the kitchen table and told him to choose which one he wanted to read.

“Eddie, your teacher wants you to do a book report. That means you have to read the book first, not just a page out of a book,” I explained to him, watching his face harden and his eyes go squinty as the full meaning of my words registered.

Initially, he resisted my suggestion, making a reference I didn’t understand to a certain type of dinosaur in the book he was planning to use.

“Here’s what you need to do, Eddie,” I said, putting up my hand as if to stop the words coming out of his mouth. “Pick one of the books on the table here. You can either read the book to me or try to read it on your own. You can’t use that book,” I said, pointing to the one on the table in front of him, “ for your report. That’s not how your teacher would want you to do this assignment.”

My tone of voice became insistent, which Eddie interpreted as something else. “Why are you always so mean to me?” he wailed, his eyes filling up with tears. He got up from his chair and started to leave the room.

“Eddie, you want mean. I’ll show you mean,” I said in exasperation. My threat was meaningless, though. I had no intention of screaming or striking him into submission. I just needed to vent some hot air, release some of the pressure that this stand-off was causing.

“Eddie, please, sit back down here,” I said in a calm and measured voice. “We need to get this assignment done tonight. Now pick out a book and let’s get going.”

He stopped at the threshold of the living room, and then returned to the table.

He selected the book on wolves and opted to read it on his own. I told him he should remain at the table, but five minutes later I found him lying on his bed – still reading, fortunately. Then he changed his mind and switched to the stegosaurus title. Soon I heard a complaint about “too many hard words”. Reading alone wasn’t going to work, so we sat together on the living room couch and Eddie read all 32 pages (an average of 60 words per page) without a break.

Once he finished the book, we returned to the kitchen and he wrote out the answers to the questions on the report sheet. All told, this was an assignment that took nearly 90 minutes, and I had to be there throughout providing encouragement and assistance. I made a mental note to myself: “JoAnna and I really need to work with Eddie on this reading this summer.” Otherwise, he is going to be at a great disadvantage when 3rd grade starts. For a second-grader, Eddie has below-average reading skills. He doesn’t seem to have developed a sight vocabulary. Even two and three-letter words have to be worked out phonetically, which is why I question the effectiveness of exclusively using phonics in the teaching of reading.

Later in the evening, Eddie told me in his sweetest tone of voice, “Thanks, Dad, for making me do my work. I’m sorry I got angry.” It was an exhausting process for him. At the completion of his assignment, when I told him that I was going to go outside to weed the dandelions in the back yard, he said, “I think I’m going to rest in the hammock for awhile.” Even though he had earned the privilege of watching TV, he didn’t even have the energy for that activity. He did rouse himself before too long, though. The boys and I played catch for awhile, after which the two of them went across the street to play with Matthew. 

JoAnna missed the homework confrontation as she was at an Airport Commission meeting, a Dane County board on which she serves. She did hear Eddie statement of gratitude, though, so I gave her a rundown of what had transpired.

Boxer continues his skittish ways this week. I really think he considers Rusty an intruder; the two don’t seem to get along. During the day, Rusty is nowhere to be found. When I come home for lunch, only Boxer greets me, filling the house with his pitiful whining. During the evening, though, Rusty wants to be part of the family – or maybe the family cat. Both litter boxes and food dishes are in the utility room and sometimes Rusty will post himself right in the doorway, which intimidates Boxer to the point where he won’t even make an attempt to go into this room. We learned of the consequences of this standoff last night. At bedtime, Eddie informed us that Andy had discovered a pooper in his room. Why Andy had to sent his brother as messenger, I don’t know.

 “That’s your job!” I said to JoAnna.

She waited until a commercial break during Law & Order so she wouldn’t miss any of our favorite program.

Naturally, we assumed that Boxer was the culprit, as he occasionally used Andy’s room as a litter box when he was a kitten.

Rusty is old enough to be Boxer’s great-grandfather. He’s 14 and has a weird, almost laughable shape: a fat body on skinny legs. His coat is a very pretty reddish-brown coloring – hence, his name. Even when we are in Two Rivers, he tends to keep himself scarce. I’m sure there have been some weekend visits where we haven’t seen him at all. Rusty’s not a people cat. 

Anyway, our catsitting service ends this weekend, as Alice and Larry will be picking up the rotund one on their return trip from Kansas.

Monday, April 28, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (April 25)

As it turned out, we didn’t have pizza Friday evening, but neither did we go out to eat. We couldn’t agree on a place that pleased everyone. JoAnna and I considered going out ourselves, but we felt that the boys were in too much of crabby mood to be left home alone. I went out and got some Chinese take-out. The boys had to fend for themselves. JoAnna and I took advantage of yesterday’s beautiful weather and accomplished quite a bit outside. I cleaned the windows in the family room, inside and out, and then put up the screens. JoAnna mowed the front yard and then moved the patio furniture out of the shed, including the umbrella for our picnic table. I washed the plastic chairs and then set them up in their usual arrangement. I also tied some string around our five clusters of peonies, so that when these flowers bloom in another month or so, the stems won’t sag to the ground. We took a break during the middle of the afternoon to pick up Andy at his baseball practice, getting to the field early so we could watch the last 20 minutes of batting practice.

Because of Andy’s improved attitude at school, we allowed him to have a sleepover last night. He invited Matt Ziegler, one of his classmates and a soccer teammate. For supper, I cooked hamburgers on the grill, and JoAnna purchased the ingredients for s’mores. The boys spent most of the evening with the Playstation controls in their hands. They went to bed around midnight, and Andy and Matt were up this morning at 6:30, Eddie sleeping in another hour.

Sunday evening

I don’t know where Andy gets the energy. In spite of his lack of sleep, a baseball practice from 1:00 until 3:00, and a soccer practice from 4:00 to 5:30, he still wanted to accompany Mom to the club so he could play some basketball. He did look very tired when he was stretched out on the couch in the family room after supper.

Eddie also had a soccer practice today. Right now he’s watching The Lost World, the sequel to Jurassic Park, a special privilege since we usually don’t allow any forms of TV on a school night.

I spent about three hours today cleaning the windows, inside and out, in the living room, dining area, and kitchen. I also did the grocery shopping after dropping off Andy at his soccer practice. Except for all the boys’ activities, it’s been an uneventful day for JoAnna and me. After supper, a delicious pork roast, we reviewed our summer calendar. May is a very busy month with soccer and baseball and end-of-the year school activities. June will be busy with baseball games during the week, but so far our weekends look open. Not so July and August. Once we hit Independence Day, we have only one unscheduled weekend between then and the start of school.

Time to wrap this one up. The movie’s just about over, which means I have to start think about herding the boys toward the bathroom. Shower time. Then it’s homework time for Eddie, a very short math assignment he’ll be able to finish in a couple minutes followed by 15 minutes of reading. I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to just sit back and relax with a book myself.

We send you our love.