Saturday, August 17, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Artwork by Eddie

The first week of the boys being home alone proved to be a successful experiment. We didn’t regret our decision and now feel confident that Andy is mature enough to care for his younger brother. No more babysitters! The boys still have lots of room for improvement, though. JoAnna and I had to tell them – repeatedly – that our bedroom was off limited. Why they need to watch TV there when we have two other TVs in the house I can’t understand. We also had to remind them – again repeatedly – that the kitchen is the only room in the house where they can eat. It’s very easy to learn whether or not they’ve broken this rule. They’re not very good at cleaning up after themselves, scattered pieces of popcorn and cracker crumbs giving away their habit of grazing throughout the house. This rule, I’m afraid, is one that will need much reinforcement.

Andy survived his first week of football practice with ease. In fact, he very much enjoyed it. His team is already learning plays. On Thursday, he brought home a sheet with the diagrams of more than a dozen different offensive plays. I think he was supposed to study the over the weekend, but the piece of paper remained in the car until Sunday afternoon when I hand-delivered it to him and suggested he might want to prepare for Monday’s practice.

“I will, Dad,” he said, somewhat impatiently.

The sheet remained on the kitchen counter for the rest of the day.

I traveled to La Crosse on Friday for a Wisconsin Library Association board meeting at the Radisson Hotel. The August board meting is always held at the site of the next year’s conference. As a safety precaution, Andy checks in with me by phone twice a day at the library, so JoAnna reminded him, as I did numerous times Thursday evening, that I would be out of town all day when she left for work. La Crosse being a 2½-hour drive from Middleton, I left the house at 6:45, before the boys were out of bed. I figured that if anything was going to go wrong with this independent arrangement, this would be the day. Around two o’clock, the boys left the house and walked the two blocks to Walgreen’s to buy some candy. How do I know this? I found their empty bag with the sales receipt inside. Two Three Musketeers bars. Two packages of Starburst. (There’s something to be said for computer systems that can itemize individual purchases.) They had finished a bag of Chips Ahoy Thursday evening and needed something to satisfy their craving for sweets.

When they returned home, they found the front screen door locked. (My fault, I think. The only key Andy has is to the front inside door. (They would have exited the house by the side door. (Using good sense, the boys walked across the street to a neighbor’s house and called JoAnna at work. She drove home to let them in. I was pleased that the boys handled this situation so calmly.

Friday evening, JoAnna and I attended a catered picnic at Lakeview Park. This informal gathering provided an opportunity for council members and department heads to meet with the two candidates for the position of Middleton City Administrator. (The previous administrator retired last month.) Earlier in the summer, I had pushed for an opportunity for department heads to have some input in the hiring process. I succeeded, but unfortunately, a series of rotating interviews involving department heads was scheduled for this past Friday, when I was in La Crosse. Just so they would get some exposure to the library, I had a staff member give each candidate a tour. I learned from one of the council members on Saturday afternoon that the candidate I preferred was offered the position.

Saturday morning, the family did a “lit drop” for Rick Phelps, “our” candidate for the 2nd congressional district, delivering a campaign brochure to every residence in the 1st aldermanic district in Middleton. The boys, wearing their rollerblades, joined us during the first hour of this volunteer task. Eddie took a hard tumble on a cracked sidewalk, and though he was able to shake it off, he wanted to go home once we finished the area north of University Avenue. JoAnna and I took another hour to complete the area south of University, including a 10-minute rest stop at the Bavaria Restaurant, so she could have a cup of coffee. I quenched my thirst with a large glass of grapefruit juice.

As a reward for our efforts, JoAnna took us out to lunch at Pasqual’s, a restaurant that specializes in southwestern cuisine. Tired or ordering my usual chicken fajita burrito, I tried the beef quesadilla and think I may have found a new favorite. JoAnna usually orders a chicken taco salad when we eat here and didn’t change her ways on Saturday. Andy is partial to the double beef and bean taco. Eddie is happy with a hot dog off the kid’s menu.

During the afternoon, I sat on the bench along the south side of the house and read 50 pages of Cloudsplitter, the latest book by Russell Banks, who will be giving the keynote address at this year’s WLA conference, and enjoyed the scenery, something I rarely get to do. Due to our busy schedules, the bench is usually nothing more than a decorative touch. The boys alternated between watching TV and rollerblading. JoAnna napped and then finished up a couple of small, isolated neighborhoods that we had missed during the morning.

The boys were rollerblading fiends this past weekend. Not only were they outside a lot, but they also lobbied for a trip Saturday evening to Fast Forward, a indoor skating rink, but JoAnna said she was too tired for rollerblading and I’m too wobbly to venture out onto hard, slippery floor where kids are speeding around in circles. We ended up going bowling at the Sport Bowl, located two blocks from where we live. We rolled two games, no bumper pads this time. Nobody set the lanes on fire.

Although I had been keeping a tight grip on my wallet, I agreed with the rest of the family that we would go out to eat afterwards. After some debate, we agreed on Old Chicago, a pizza and pasta place, one of our regular haunts. Barb would have liked our waiter; he looked like Andre Agassi before he lost his hair and got pudgy. Once we returned home, we played 5/6s of a round of Trivial Pursuit, the blue-izers against the brown-izers. By 10:30 we were all ready for bed, and it would have taken us another half hour to finish the game. The brown-izers won.

The nighttime calm didn’t last too long. Eddie woke up in the middle of the night, crying hysterically. JoAnna got out of bed first.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him pleadingly.

“I don’t know,” he said repeatedly, whenever we tried to get at what was bothering him. Did he have a nightmare? Was he sick? He wouldn’t tell us anything.

In exasperation, unable to calm him down, we just left him alone. I returned to the bedroom and JoAnna sacked out on the couch in the family room. Andy, if I recall, slept through all this hubbub. When I got out of bed at 7:30, after a very restless sleep, I found Eddie in his own bed, a rare occurrence lately. Everyone else was still sleeping. I retrieved the Sunday papers from the front stoop and stretched out on the living room couch and read. Eddie was the first to stir; he had to go to the bathroom. I intercepted him as she started to walk across the living room and guided him back to his bedroom. I talked to him about what happened during the night and emphasized the fact Mom and Dad become worried if he can’t tell us what is wrong when he is upset. I thought he should get some more sleep, which he did. He didn’t get up for good until after 9:00.

Sunday was a day to catch up on chores around (inside and outside) the house. Laundry, cleaning, shopping, yard work. As they did on Saturday, the boys either watched TV or rollerbladed, their destination being Elm Lawn School, where they usually ran into friends of Andy’s. I think they went through this cycle at least four times. They were always home within an hour of one of their departures, though. They spent most of the early evening at a neighbor’s house playing with a boy Eddie’s age. Surprisingly, because of their proximity, Eddie and Adam don’t get together that often but always seem to get along well when they do.

We’re all in good health. The boys seem increasingly eager for school to start. I think they are getting a little bored living an unstructured life.

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