Thursday, February 27, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (February 27)

On the weekends, the boys usually get out of bed without any prompting. They typically park their butts on the family room couch around 7 a.m. to watch TV. This morning, though, we all slept in until 8 o’clock. Andy had the best reason for staying in bed. The Tri-County basketball league tournament started yesterday, and Middleton played two games. Eight teams, the best four teams in the two 5th grade leagues, participated. Our guys won their first game, which started at 5:30 against Stoughton, 51-37, whom they had already beaten twice in the regular season, both of them hard-fought victories. If you recall from my previous report, Middleton won the first match-up 31-30 in overtime. In game two last night, Middleton played a Waunakee team from the other league, a small (in height) team with a reputation for scrappiness . It was a very close game until the 4th quarter. Middleton looked very sloppy in the third quarter, turning the ball over 9 (!) times. They weren’t running their plays, just dribbling down the court and taking questionable shots. The final score, 38-27, gives little indication of what an exciting game it was. 

As a result of their two victories yesterday, Middleton will play in the tournament championship today at 1:30. Andy told us on the drive home that one of the players on the Stoughton team told him that, “You guys are gonna go all the way.” If Middleton wins today, their record will be 17-1. They’ll probably be considered one of the favorites going into next weekend’s tournament in Oregon. (The suburb of Madison, not the state. Andy and his teammates haven’t reached that exalted state yet!) 

Our snow cover has disappeared as a result of the rain we received yesterday. Looking out the window to my right, I can see a few very small patches here and there. The sky is gray, making it the kind of day when I consider what household chores I want to tackle. Last weekend JoAnna went through her closet, discarding what many people in this world of ours would consider a lifetime wardrobe. I dropped off two fully packed black garbage bags at the Goodwill donation box before going to work on Monday. Now, I suppose, it’s my turn. There are quite a few clothes in my closet that I haven’t worn in years. 

I’m surprised I didn’t start out today’s portion of the letter with this BIG news. Albert called us last night at 10:45 to announce the birth of Julianna Marie Richard. 7 pounds 9 ounces. 21 inches long. Obviously, she’s already taking after her mother. Cyndi’s doing great. I guess it wasn’t the easiest of deliveries, but they also experienced no complications. JoAnna is especially pleased with the name. I know you’d at least like to send them a card of congratulations, Mom, so here’s their address: 
1936 Dakota Street 
Leavenworth, KS 66048 

JoAnna plans to fly out to Pennsylvania on Easter weekend for the christening. The boys and I have other plans. \

Our vacation to Washington, D.C., has been canceled due to JoAnna’s new job. Since I’ve already taken the week of spring break off, the boys want to do an instant replay of last year. We’ll leave Middleton on Friday afternoon, March 26th, and stay in a motel with all the amenities that the boys enjoy in the South Bend or Fort Wayne area, then arrive in Warren on Saturday afternoon, where we’ll stay through Wednesday. Before returning home, we’ll spend a couple days in Chicago. I wanted us to make the trip to Warren at this time because, our summer schedule, due to the boys’ baseball activities, the Richard family reunion in Louisiana, and Andy’s football practices, already seems to be filled up. 

A headline in today’s New York Times caught my eye as I was paging through it. “6 Doctors Charged in Abuse Of the Mentally Retarded.” The dateline: Franklin, Pa. Must be the Polk State Hospital, I figured, although the news article referred to it as the Polk Center. I immediately recalled a field trip to this institution that took place during my senior year in high school. For some reason, which I could never quite figure out, it was part of our year-end Advanced Biology curriculum. Maybe our teacher, Mr. Walker, wanted to sensitize us to people with disabilities, to those less fortunate than us. Why we had to travel the 60 miles to Franklin instead of a few miles to North Warren is a question, I suppose, that will never satisfactorily be answered. I often wish I had kept a journal during my high school years. I started one in April of 1965 while I was a 9th grader at Beaty and continued it through mid-December of that year. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that journal writing became a regular part of my life. I truly regret the fact that I discontinued this practice after eight months. My senior year, especially, would have provided me with a motherlode of material. The only thing I did then was to note briefly on the back of a small Audubon desk calendar what I did socially.

Mike, me, at Mod’s. 
Mike, Mod, Barb, me, Valley of the Dolls. 

For some reason, I didn’t note the trip to Polk. And, for example, even though I noted that I watched the UCLA-Houston NCAA championship basketball game, I didn’t acknowledge the fact that I had invited most of the 4th period, senior-guys lunch table to our house. That was in the days when TV didn’t schedule these sports events to accommodate Eastern Time Zone lifestyles. “Our” tip-off time was 11:00 p.m., which, on this particular night, fit our schedule like a glove. A group of us (BT, Pig, Ears, Squirrel, Mac, Punk, Pat, me) went to see Bonnie and Clyde at the Library Theater and met up with the rest of the gang at a high school dance. Is this late night house party something you remember, Mom? My most prominent memory is that we were making too much noise, even after closing the sliding door we used to have at the landing of the stairs to the second floor.

Is there something about approaching 50 that puts a person in a reminiscent mood? Or does it have to do more with what I read? I have to admit that I enjoy reading the Warren paper on a regular basis, and that many of the articles unlodge long-dormant memories, an example of which I have just shared with you. As much as I enjoy my career as a librarian, I frequently wish I had the time to take a more disciplined approach to writing. 

Later that same day 

What a game!! What an intense game we saw this afternoon!! The fans were as exhausted, as wrung out as the players. 

The championship match-up featured Middleton and Sauk Prairie, the team that tagged us with our only loss of the season. The gym was filled with a crackling electricity even before the opening tip-off. Neither team was in control during the first quarter. After an exchange of three baskets each, the momentum went in Sauk’s favor, our team turning over the ball or making questionable shots. Middleton was down 10-6 at the end of the first quarter. We came alive during the second quarter, Andy helping the cause with an aggressive grab of an offensive rebound and a quick shot off the backboard – just like Mom always tells him to do. At the end of the first half, Middleton led 19-15, the fans in our section of the bleachers on their feet, screaming their approval. The third quarter, though, tested our patience. Each quarter is seven minutes long, and when five minutes had elapsed, the score was still 19-15. Neither team could get the ball anywhere near the basket. Sauk managed to score 2 points in the last minute, so we went into the final quarter with just a two-point lead. Two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter, the score was 21-19, in Sauk’s favor. I could feel drips of sweat running from my armpits down the side of my body. Almost ten minutes and our team hasn’t scored a basket. Are we jinxed on this side of the court? I wondered along with everyone else rooting for Middleton. Suddenly the team caught fire, and Sauk seemed to lose their intensity. Sauk’s big guy (picture someone Andy’s size but 30-40 pounds heavier) got into foul trouble and couldn’t play his usual aggressive style. With Middleton leading 29-25 with less than a minute left, the fans were still nervous. Then out of the blue, there’s Andy on a fast break, five feet from the basket all by himself. Johnny Strnad throws him a half-court pass, which Andy fields smoothly, and lays up an easy two points. In our section of the bleachers, we’re on our feet again. That seals it, we’re all thinking. Sauk turns it over with a travel violation, but then they make it difficult for our guys to inbound the ball. Instead of trying to throw the ball in away from the basket, Johnny breaks toward the basket and Ross throw him a perfect pass. Two more points. Final score 33-25. Middleton scored 6 points in the final minute of the game to seal a hard-earned victory. Looking around the stands, I had to chuckle to myself. Is my face as flushed as the other parents’? We seemed to have more color in our faces than the guys who were running up and down the court for 28 minutes. Everyone talked breathlessly about what an exciting game we had just seen. We were very proud of our boys, especially since two members of the team weren’t able to play, one due to an ankle injury and another to a karate tournament. The coaches had limited substitution opportunities. 

I wish I had a video of this game to send you. I think you’d be amazed at how well a group of 5th graders can play basketball. I’m sure for Andy this has been the most rewarding of his many sports experiences. It certainly has been so for his parents.

Folding laundry has always been an indicator of where I am as a parent. Earlier in the this decade, I would hold up a piece of Andy’s clothing and think, “Look how small this shirt is.” Now I have trouble separating his socks from mine, his sweatshirts from JoAnna’s. Watching your children grow up is certainly a source of mixed emotions. I’m just happy to say, as ridiculously corny as it may sound, a sentiment that Hallmark would probably reject, that I love my boys more with each passing day. And on that note, I’ll conclude this letter.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mary D. Bradford Senior High School, Kenosha, Wisconsin (Postcard Series)

Constructed started in 1924
Ready for occupancy in 1927
Razed in 1980

On This Date in 1999 (February 25)

This will be one of those letters that is pieced together over a period of three or four days. The news will be fresh as I report it, though.

We were able to sit down to a family supper tonight. JoAnna mixed together some stew meat and cream of mushroom soup in the crockpot this morning and let it cook on medium all day. I got home from work in time to put the noodles in a boiling pan of water and heat up some frozen corn in the microwave.

“Where are the rolls?” I asked, kiddingly, as JoAnna put the food into serving bowls.

“Yeah, we want rolls!” Eddie chimed in, not realizing that I was just giving Mom a hard time.

After our meal, JoAnna worked at the computer and listened to a Billy Joel greatest hits CD; the boys played in Andy’s bedroom – sometimes too exuberantly; once I had to break up a loud wrestling match – while listening to ‘N Sync; and I cleaned up the kitchen while the very listenable and catchy country-rock tunes of Cheri Knight kept me company. The placement of the three CD players prevented a battle-of-the-bands atmosphere.

Right now I have the house to myself. JoAnna and the boys are at the health club. I read the first chapter of Fortunate Lives by Robb Foreman Dew, a novel that focuses on a married couple and their 2 children, 18-year-old David, who is getting ready to leave home for college, and 12-year-old Sarah, during a summer of transition in their lives. That summary certainly won’t get anyone sprinting to the nearest library or bookstore. What did I find appealing about the book? Something about the cover grabbed my attention, but I also remember that the book created a very positive buzz when it was first published.

I was surprised to read in the Warren paper about the all the commercial projects now being considered. If CVS builds a drug store at the intersection Market Street and Pennsylvania Avenue West, does that mean they’ll close one or both of their other stores? Having three locations within such a tight radius would be overkill. A Country Fair will certainly change the streetscape of that stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue on the east side. And a Wal-Mart will irrevocably alter the Warren area’s competitive retail mix. I can see their appearance being the end of the end (the beginning of the end occurred with the opening of the mall, I suppose) of retail in downtown Warren, which is generally the negative effect a Wal-Mart store has in small markets. I’m not convinced that the former Farm Colony is a desirable location for a motel, considering that for all the years it was allegedly in operation, the Conewango Motel never seemed to draw any customers. I could never figure out how that place stayed in business for as long as it did. Warren could probably support an Applebee’s, a restaurant chain noted for its convivial atmosphere, moderately priced dinners, and attentiveness to children. That would be quite a business complex if it ever moves past the development stage. (Now I see the decision is up to the voters of Conewango township – whether or not they wish to revoke their “dry” status.) 

Did you notice the obituary for Allan Poust? He was a classmate of mine, sort of an odd kid, as I recall. He was very sports oriented but never tried out for any of the teams in junior high or high school. I never saw him at any social functions. In fact, he didn’t seem to have any close friends. Allan’s social development was severely stunted. Even in high school, he had this very strange attitude towards the opposite sex. It wasn’t so much childish as it was misogynist. I sometimes got the feeling that he really hated girls. Fortunately, he adopted a more mature view of the relationships between men and women after he left Warren.

Monday, February 24, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (February 24)

The ground is covered with snow again, but I don’t think it will last too long. About three inches fell during the afternoon, making rush hour traffic treacherous, which, of course, was of no concern to me or JoAnna, The weather is supposed to warm up, with temperatures in the 40s by the weekend. I haven’t bothered to shovel the sidewalk, and I think I just might let Mother Nature take care of the job. (As it turned out, I shoveled the sidewalk but not the driveway, which I did leave to Mother Nature. She did a good job, too.) 

Andy brought home a terrible midterm report in math, an overall grade of 60, which is barely passing. When I returned home from work last night around 9:15, JoAnna was attempting to help Andy with his homework. He had written down incorrect answers for all of the math problems using the symbols > (greater than) and < (less than) but couldn’t be convinced that they needed to be changed. He got upset when we told him that he must have misunderstood something in class. As a result of this downfall, Andy is grounded for a week and his Playstation game will only be available at selected times during the weekend. I suggested that sleepovers be disallowed until the end of the school year.

Although Andy went to bed mad last night, he woke up this morning in a pleasant, even affectionate, mood. He corrected the mistakes on his homework assignment. The disagreement with Mom and Dad seemed to have been forgotten. 

I signed up the boys for baseball on Monday evening. Andy will again try out for a traveling team. This year, the 11 year olds will play in 5 (!) tournaments, the first one scheduled for the middle of May. I don’t think Andy is going to be playing much soccer this spring.

JoAnna made a casserole for supper tonight, using boneless chicken breasts, Stove-top stuffing, and cream of mushroom soup. It was very tasty. In fact, I should be able to have an encore for lunch tomorrow unless JoAnna has seconds once she returns from an evening spent at Shirley Abrahamson’s campaign headquarters. Both Shirley and another Supreme Court justice, Ann Walsh Bradley, have asked JoAnna to stay on until the election in April. I know she’ll stay involved, but I don’t see how she can continue to do everything she’s doing now once she starts working in the Department of Justice.

Friday, February 21, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (February 21)

What a beating my checkbook took this weekend. Ouch! Since Friday was payday, fortunately, it didn’t make much of a difference to our bottom line.

Andy’s Friday night basketball practice was cancelled. The head coach wasn’t feeling well, and the assistant coach wasn’t available until 6:30, and since the team was playing an 8 a.m. game on Saturday, they decided the practice wasn’t really all that necessary anyway. That gave us a rare Friday evening, at least so far this year, for a family activity. JoAnna suggested going to a movie – October Sky and My Favorite Martian seeming to be the only appropriate family fare – but Eddie vehemently vetoed this idea. In fact, he didn’t want to go anywhere. He can be such a homebody sometimes, content to watch TV or play with his toys or draw. Andy suggested we go out to eat at Damon’s, the “trivia” restaurant, and that was acceptable to everyone, although we did have to do some armtwisting with Eddie. I wasn’t all that hungry, having picked up (pigged out on) a chicken fajita burrito, one of my all-time favorite Mexican entrees from Pasqual’s, during my lunch break. That meal was still resting heavily on my stomach. As a result, I just ordered a sandwich, but Mom and Andy opted for a full meal, grilled salmon and a rack of ribs, respectively. Eddie got the chicken strips kid’s meal. Our efforts at trivia were respectable. We ended up in second place, quite a few points behind the first place team. We faltered on a series of questions that had to do with music of the 90s. At this point of the game, we looked to Andy for guidance, and he was able to answer 2 or 3 questions correctly. (Final monetary damages: $62 with tip.)

Saturday morning started out just like any other weekday. The alarm sounded at 6 a.m. I lay in bed for a few minutes before getting up to exercise. We left the house at 7:15 for Glacier Creek Middle School in Cross Plains, a ten-minute drive. Once again, Eddie whined about not being able to stay home, as he does before every single one of Andy’s basketball games. We let him vent for a minute or two before putting our collective feet down. He’s not ready to stay home alone, even if he is cuter and (usually) more personable than McCauley Culkin.

Middleton played a nonconference team from Sauk Prairie. It was no contest. At the end of the first half, the score was 30-2 in Middleton’s favor. For most of the second half, the scoreboard showed 0-0 – I guess there is a 30-point humiliation rule – and the clock ran continuously, except for time-outs called by the coaches. The final score was somewhere in the neighborhood of 55-12. Actually, this was not the kind of game the kids needed going into a tournament weekend. Next weekend, the four best teams from two leagues will participate in a 3-day Tri-County League tournament.

After the game, we went to the Kiwanis pancake breakfast, which is held each time this year at the spacious parish center at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church. The event seems to be a good fundraiser for this service group. We had to wait in line for 15 minutes before we were served, and the line snaked for 50 feet from the kitchen to the ticket-taker’s table for the entire time we were there. I had bought the tickets in advance, so the meal wasn’t part of the expenditure column for this weekend’s expenses.

As soon as we returned home, I stretched out on the couch in the living room and finished reading The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, a highly regarded 1993 novel that follows, in ten beautifully written chapters, the life of Daisy Goodwill Flett through birth (in 1905), childhood, marriage, love, motherhood, work, sorrow, east, illness and decline, and death (in 1985). It’s been a very popular choice of book reading groups in the Madison area since it was first published. After JoAnna and Andy returned from their visit to the health club, the family went shopping. Here is where the major dents in my checkbook occurred. First stop: Target. Our purchases included underwear and t-shirts for the boys, sportswear for JoAnna, plus two $1.99 boxes of favorite brands of cereal on sale, a “Battle Squad” toy for Eddie (Dad is such a soft touch), and CDs for Mom – Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits – and Andy – a collection of recent pre-teen favs. (This dad is made of clay! Just mold me.) Total damages: $279.53. 

Actually, we rarely go shopping as a family anymore. Everybody but me needed additions to his or her wardrobes. After Target, we went to Penney’s to get pants and shirts for the boys. Andy’s growing out of his current pairs of JNCO jeans, and Eddie has rips and tears and shredded threads in the right knee – not the left knee, only the right knee; why is that? – of most of his jeans. Andy picked out three pair of baggy jeans, while Eddie selected two pairs of form-fitting jeans. While the boys were trying on these clothes, a mother of a seven-year-old trying on pants complained to me about her son’s choice of style. He emerged from one of the fitting rooms wearing a baggy pair of black jeans with white stitching all over the place. From the look on his face, you could tell that he thought that he was Mr. Cool, but Mom had a different opinion, which she was obviously hesitant to share with him, and I didn’t feel it was my place to confirm. I shared with her the difference between a baggy 11-year-old Andy and a form-fitting 8-year-old Eddie. My philosophy is Let Kids Be Kids, a point of view that requires parents to give their children the space to explore their own individuality.

By the time we got home, we had 15 minutes to get ready for church. After mass, I drove Andy to Verona. During a family conference Friday evening, we agreed that Andy could have a sleepover at Tim’s house. Originally, JoAnna and I had made plans to go out to dinner Saturday evening, which meant that we expected Andy needed to stay home with Eddie. Mom approved the Andy’s sleepover request, forgetting about our previous plans. Although JoAnna was ready to rescind her request, I thought we should give Andy the benefit of the doubt. Why should he be punished for his parents’ mistake? I said. As a result, Eddie accompanied us to Imperial Garden last night. We had dinner with Ted and Dorothy Shannon, 80-year-old friends of ours from Middleton. At first, he wasn’t too happy with this turn of events, especially our choice of restaurant – Chinese -- but he made his parents very proud with his mature behavior during the three hours we spent at the restaurant. Having him bring along his sketchbook and some colored pencils helped to keep him occupied during what he considered the slower stretches of the evening.

The other morning while I was exercising on the Walkfit, SportsCenter spent almost 10 minutes on the Clemens-Wells trade. Everyone thinks the Yankees are going to be even better than last year. But let’s take a closer look at this situation. David Cone: old, in baseball terms, and with a suspect arm. Andy Pettitte: subpar 1998 season; unfulfilled promise; Hideo (?) Irabu: he’s never lived up to the hype that accompanied his rookie season. And Clemens is no spring chicken. Unlike Wells, he’s such a selfish player, someone who won’t add anything to team camaraderie. Personally, I think the Yankees are fooling themselves if they think they’re going to walk through the season to another World Series championship. Steinbrenner and Torre and the rest of the team just don’t realize what a fluke it is to win 125 games in a full season of baseball. This is not the 1950s. What goes up must come down. 

Sunday evening

Andy is at the health club. JoAnna is attending a Renew 2000 meeting, a discussion group associated with St. Bernard’s. Eddie is playing in his newly rearranged bedroom, unknowingly waiting for me to tell him it’s time to take a shower. And then we’ll read for 15 minutes.

But first I want to finish this letter.

Andy played his final regular-season game of the year. Middleton played against a Mount Horeb team from the other Tri-County League of 5th grade teams. From the look of the opponents – some big guys on the team as far as height and/or weight was concerned – I thought our guys would get a run for their money. Once the game was underway, though, it was obviously that Middleton was the more talented and better coached team. Andy played a great game, pulling down his usual share of rebounds and scoring six points on aggressive drives to the basket. He looked to be in playoff form. Middleton won, by the way, 41-27.

After the game, the families gathered at Kit’s Korner, a sports bar located halfway between Mount Horeb and Middleton. The fact that every player and his family showed up was an indication of what a positive experience this basketball season has been for everyone. With video games lining the walls, all the parents were fishing in their pockets or purses for loose quarters. If none of those were available, then dollar bills were extracted from their wallets. One of the moms ordered a sheet cake with all the players and coaches names on it. The two coaches were also presented with gift certificates in appreciation of their many volunteer hours – two practices a week in December and two practices and two games a week throughout January and February.

Once we returned home, we rearranged the furniture in Andy’s bedroom. Now it looks as though he has 50% more space – and 100% neater. The latter condition may not last that long, knowing Andy’s habits. 

I baked a banana bread this morning and just took out the last pan of cookies out of the oven. I made the usual chocolate chip dough, but due to the boys’ fussiness and JoAnna’s Lenten denial, I divided it into three bowls: one with chocolate chips (for the boys), one with peanuts (for JoAnna, since she’s given up chocolate for Lent), and one with both extra ingredients. (I’m not about to deny myself my favorite cookie.) 

Time for me to get Eddie into the shower. I’m also waiting for Andy’s phone call for taxi service from the health club to home. He must be having a good time there. In the meantime, I’ll watch a black-and-white rerun of (“Let’s all play”) What’s My Line?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fairchild Hall, Grand Army Home for Veterans, King, Wis. (Postcard Series)

Year built:  1891.  (1906 addition)
Cost:  $12,000.
First floor:  dining room for 80, kitchen, pantry, storeroom, quarters for members
Second floor:  quarters for 15 members.
Third floor:  dormitory style room.

Wisconsin Veterans Home at King.

On This Date in 1999 (February 19)

JoAnna starts her new job in the Department of Justice on Monday, March 1st. I think she’s looking forward to getting back into a go-to-work routine, as opposed to her current work-at-home routine. She has experienced firsthand one of the major drawbacks of working at home. You’re always available. Your office hours are all the time you spend at home. Morning, noon, and night. Evenings and weekends. As JoAnna complained the other evening, “It seems like I don’t have free time anymore.” Since she’s been working on Shirley Abrahamson’s election campaign, JoAnna gets phone calls from 7:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. Boy, has our phone been ringing a lot lately!

As a result of JoAnna’s new employment, our spring break getaway has been cancelled. Maybe next year. Even though Shirley now has a bona fide campaign manager on board, JoAnna is still coordinating her fundraising efforts. Between that responsibility and her new job, I think she would find it difficult to leave the state for a week, especially when the spring election falls on the day after we had planned to return from baby Richard’s christening in Tamaqua. Now I’m debating whether or not the boys and I should make a trip to Warren. With the Richard family reunion in Louisiana this August, I don’t see many opportunities to travel to Pennsylvania during the summer. Mom would be very disappointed if there was a gap of a year between our visits. It would be very painful for her to go that long without seeing her precious grandsons. Last March, JoAnna was busy with Brian Manthey’s special election, which kept her at home while the boys and I spent some time in Warren and Chicago. I bet the boys wouldn’t mind an instant replay of last year’s road trip. Dad wouldn’t either, for that matter. I’ve already requested the time off, so I don’t have to worry about missing anything at the library.

It looks as though Andy’s basketball season is going to be extended an additional week. Going into the final weekend of the regular season, Middleton’s record is 12 wins and 1 loss. Tomorrow and Sunday they play nonconference teams, i.e., teams they didn’t play this season. Next weekend they play in the Tri-County League tournament. The add-on is a tournament the following weekend (March 5-7) in Oregon (not the state!!, the suburb of Madison, although if it were an all-expenses paid trip to Portland or Eugene, I’d volunteer to be the team mascot.) By the middle of March, Andy and his teammates will have played in close to 25 games, quite a full schedule for fifth graders.

Andy continues to bring home good grades. His class has been studying the southeastern states in Social Studies, and he did a report on Georgia. His teacher attached a very flattering note to his assignment, for which he earned an “A”. She was very pleased that he provided more information than was required.

Eddie and the other scouts in his troop received their Wolf badges last night at the annual Blue & Gold Cub Scout banquet. He was so proud of himself. His den also put on a skit, about the benefits of eating a healthy lunch. Eddie delivered his lines with gusto. JoAnna helped to coordinate all the set-up activities: coordinating volunteer assignments and getting the tables set up, covered and decorated. I think she originally agreed to do this when she thought she was going to have more time on her hands, but she managed to fit this commitment seamlessly into her schedule which, of course, should be no surprise to anyone.

Larry called the other day with the news that Sheri (or however she spells her name) is engaged. JoAnna thought she might have been using Larry to get this other guy jealous so that he’d pop the question. From JoAnna’s half of the conversation, it sounds like Larry is planning to come back to Wisconsin. She suggested he look into the Department of Corrections, since they were blessed with such a big (obscenely so) increase in the Governor’s budget. She thinks they’ll be needing additional computer operations employees.

We’re experiencing another cold spell, nothing subzero, but during the day the temperature barely gets out of the 20s, a breeze always making it feel colder, and at night it falls into the teens. JoAnna and Andy sleep with an extra blanket or comforter over them. Eddie and I must be the hot-blooded ones in the family.

JoAnna is talking about flying to Louisiana for the reunion this summer, especially since it takes place over a weekend. If we drive, we’d have to leave in the middle of the weekend. The boys and I were a little disappointed to hear this as we were looking forward to a road trip in a recreational vehicle. I checked the mileage between Madison and Lafayette on the Internet, using Mapquest, an interactive atlas. Lafayette is actually 75 miles farther away from us than Colorado Springs. Considering the short duration of the reunion – three days – I guess flying might be the better option, unless some other destinations are incorporated into this trip. Once again, though, JoAnna’s new job might impact on any expanded plans. It’s likely that in August she’ll still be in her probationary period, which means she’ll have to get a dispensation to use any vacation time.

We haven’t decided what we’re doing with the boys this summer, at least I don’t remember JoAnna and I making a formal decision. At this point, we’re leaning to letting the boys stay home on their own. I’m sure we wouldn’t consider this option if I didn’t work so close to home. Andy and Eddie have shown themselves to be very responsible the times we have left them home alone during the past six months. We haven’t had to use a sitter since last spring, our summer get-togethers always being family-oriented. Nevertheless, I still have some reservations about leaving them on their own, day in, day out, all summer long. JoAnna and I would have to set up some very firm ground rules. And, if it turned out that the boys needed more supervision, it would be hard to get them into a program halfway, or whatever, through the summer. Last spring, we registered the boys late, a couple months after the program brochure for the Camp of the Trails program at Sauk Trail school here in Middleton was first distributed, and, as a result, some of the programs Andy wanted to participate in were already full. But let me put this all in perspective. In less than five years, we’ll be worried about whether Andy returns home with the car in one piece. 

Hope this letter finds the both of you doing well and enjoying the desert warmth. We send you our love.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bluffs Along the Mississippi, La Crosse, Wis. (Postcard Series)

Wisconsin Great River Road

Wisconsin's Great River Road, a byway to beauty. Wisconsin's Highway 35, the Great River Road, named the "prettiest drive" in online poll.  (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/10/2013)

Friday, February 14, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (February 14)

It’s a very springlike afternoon – warm and breezy with lots of sunshine. After I finish this letter, I think I’ll ask Andy if he wants to play catch, get an early warm-up for the baseball season. Actually, it’s not too early to think about it. We received a postcard in the mail last week announcing that the baseball registration starts on February 22nd.

After today, JoAnna should be able to reduce her work load on Shirley’s campaign. Right now she’s talking with the person who agreed to take on the duties of campaign manager until the election. JoAnna will now, hopefully, be able to limit her activities to fundraising.

Three weeks from today, the library will open on Sunday for the first time ever. Our schedule of 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. will run through the Sunday before the Memorial Day weekend and then resume on the Sunday after Labor Day. I plan to work the first three Sundays just to get a sense of how things are working. We expect that it will probably be the busiest four hours of the week as far as circulation and people in the library are concerned. Last week I offered the position of Young Adult Services Librarian to our second choice of the five candidates we interviewed. Our first choice, a very dynamic and personable woman whose has been working in or for school libraries for the past 15 years, turned us down because we couldn’t offer her enough money, although it’s not like we made a secret of the salary when we advertised the job. Her dilemma was compounded by the fact that she would be moving from a full-time to 3/4s time job. She thought she might be able to work out some free-lancing training opportunities on the side, but that opportunity never materialized during the five-day extension I gave her to give us a final decision. Our second choice might actually be a better fit for the job. She’s a recently library school graduate (1997) who served in the Peace Corps, in Palau, a Micronesian island, for three years and also has a storytelling background. Rebecca was too modest during her interview, the three of us on the selection committee felt. Eve, our children’s librarian, attempted to draw her out a couple times when she seemed to be holding back. Although she looked very calm on the outside, she could have been suffering from a severe case of nerves on the inside. At least one candidate we talked with had a rash covering most of her neck by the end of her interview. It’s been 13 years since my last job interview, the one that landed me in Middleton. Because of my extensive public-speaking experience over the past decade, though, I think I’d handle this situation well. Not that I’m planning to test the waters. After all, the library board worked very hard to get me that big raise. What a slap in the face it would be to turn around and say, “Thanks, but I’m moving on to bigger and better challenges.”

Two more basketball victories this weekend. Middleton trounced DeForest yesterday, an away game, 65-33. In today’s game, at home against Stoughton, whom Middleton beat in a 31-30 thriller a few weeks ago, our guys got off to a very slow start, scoring only 3 (that’s not a typo) points in the first quarter. Stoughton didn’t do much better, managing only 8 points, their guys probably as nervous as our guys, knowing that this was going to be a hard-fought game. Middleton ended with a one-point lead at halftime and went on to win by 10 points, 33-23. The regular season concludes next week, followed by a tournament in two weeks. The month of March should provide us with a sports breather until the first soccer practices are scheduled after spring break. Because he chose to play football last fall, Andy will play in a recreational league, which doesn’t involve as many games or much travel as the soccer leagues where the kids try out.

I’ve become the chocolate chip cookie king as far as baking is concerned. I usually make a batch every Sunday evening. This past week they lasted until Saturday because I put nuts in them, much to the boys’ chagrin, and JoAnna has been counting her calories, a little disappointed that she hasn’t last more weight since starting her regular visits to the health club. The batch I made this past week was almost as good as yours, Mom! I prepared the dough and then refrigerated it for a couple hours. It made a big difference in the texture of the cookies. Today I’ll think I’ll add peanuts to the dough, or at least to half the dough, although when I just asked Eddie, whose a knight in shining armor for today’s imaginary play, he thought the peanuts would be OK.

In case you’re wondering, I’m feeling much better today. In fact, I was up and about early Friday afternoon. I went grocer y shopping before picking up the boys at school, did a couple loads of laundry, and tidied up a very messy house. Between Eddie and JoAnna, this place, until Saturday morning, looked like it should qualify for disaster aid.

It’s almost 3:30 and I feel like I should be doing something outside. There’s a scattering of branches in the back yard that could be picked up. Or I could walk to the grocery store to get shake-and-bake, at JoAnna’s request, for the pork chops I took out of the freezer earlier today. By saying I’d get that ingredient, I probably volunteered to make supper. We went out to eat last night, after attending 5 o’clock mass as a family, a weekly family activity that JoAnna has made mandatory. (Going to church, that is. Eating out is an occasional treat.) We went to the Bavaria, a locally-owned, “family-style” restaurant just a block from the library, one of a handful of “downtown” – what little of it there is -- Middleton success stories. With a new restaurant opening up in April, giving us 6 in a square-block area, the library’s neighborhood is turning into quite a dining district.

I wonder how long the impeachment post-mortems will last. I’m sure CNBC and Fox News will try to milk these proceedings and the aftermath for every last drop, but I won’t be there to see it, except for those few occasions when I’m surfing, not in the mood to read anymore, not quite ready to go to bed. Monicagate, as it’s been dubbed, has become an industry. For some people, it will be analogous to closing a military base. Some people may say we don’t need this, but my job is at stake.

We had a letter from Alice and Larry this past week. They are still living in the trailer that Alice’s brother owns. It sounds like they haven’t made an effort to find any other accommodations, which I told JoAnna would be the case. She cashed in the bonds she received from her grandmother and gave her folks the money as a Christmas gift. Doesn’t sound like they’ve been doing much of anything other than hanging around that godforsaken piece of desert in Buckeye, 2½ miles from the nearest paved highway. Did I ever show you pictures of this place? JoAnna and I and the boys spent our first and last night in Arizona there two years ago. That’s all we could have taken. Fortunately, we had a detailed itinerary for the other nine days we were there. 

That’s all for now. We send you our love. The boys thank you for the Valentine’s Day cards.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (February 12)

I had been feeling rather smug, being the only healthy person in the household for most of the week. Yesterday I mentioned running out of gas. After the boys were in bed and I returned to the couch to read my book, I felt as though I had participated in a demolition derby. Even lying completely still, my body throbbed with pain. What’s going on here? I wondered. I took a couple Nyquil capsules and joined JoAnna in the bedroom, where she was watching ER. I thought I’d watch the news and then zone out to Seinfeld, but I was asleep five minutes after I crawled into bed. I experienced a restless night, not an uncommon occurrence. What happened to those days when I could enjoy an uninterrupted 8-hours of sleep? When the alarm sounded this morning, I lifted my head from the pillow and realized it was going to take a superhuman effort to get myself in gear. The first time I tried to get out of bed, my body experienced an immediate chill and my head felt like a spinning top. I managed to find my way to the bathroom. Once I relieved myself, though, I went right back to bed, where I remained for most of the morning. JoAnna had the same symptoms yesterday, the previously mentioned chills and vertigo plus an aching body. She rallied enough during the morning, by force of will, so she’d be ready for her interview for the Department of Justice job. Considering how I felt this morning, I’m not sure how she did it. The good news is she got the job. In fact, right now she’s meeting with Attorney General Jim Doyle, working out the details of her employment as Legislative Liaison. 

I spent my morning dozing off while watching television. I actually caught a full episode of Quincy, the 1970s Jack Klugman police/medical drama that had never been on my TV viewing schedule. Even though the storyline was very predictable -- good/evil twin sisters separated at birth, evil twin murder good twin and takes her place as a Jessica Savitch type TV news personality – I had to watch it until the end. I dozed off during Murder She Wrote and woke up in the middle of Northern Exposure, a show which JoAnna used to love but I always thought was one of the most pretentiously overwritten shows on television. I still do. Even half-conscious, I had to change the channel. I dozed off again while Card Sharks was being broadcast on the Game Show Network.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mackinac Straits Bridge (Postcard Series)

Mackinac Bridge Authority

On This Date in 1999 (February 11)

Around 6:25, JoAnna called from the kitchen, her voice tinged with urgency. 

“Cub Scouts!”

Immediately, I jumped up from the couch in the family room, originally planning to finish the book I was reading before moving again. In spite of the fact that a reminder of Eddie’s den meeting was magnetized to the refrigerator, Mom and Dad had both spaced out.

Eddie was on the toilet in the small bathroom.

“C’mon, Stedmans, we’ve got to get going,” I called out to him.

“I have to wipe my butt,” he informed me.

He also needed a fresh roll of toilet paper, so I sprinted to the other bathroom and quickly retrieved one for him. Before we left the house, he had to put on his shirt, neckerchief, clasp, and shoes, so by the time I dropped him off, he was nearly 10 minutes late.

We have not been the healthiest of families lately. Eddie missed the final hour of school last Friday and was sick all weekend. Then Andy came down with a fever Sunday evening and missed three days of school. Unheard of! He went to band practice, which starts at 7:20, on Tuesday morning, but was in the nurse’s office before 9:00. Eddie even came home from school early that day, right around lunchtime, but he was definitely fakin’ it. He was too full of energy, zipping around the house while Andy lay immobile on our bed watching TV. JoAnna came down with her third cold of the season yesterday, her energy drained and her nose all red by the time she went to bed last night. I’ve been feeling fine, although late this afternoon, while I was tidying up and organizing my desk in preparation for tomorrow’s tasks at the library, I started to feel like a vehicle running out of gas. There has been a lot of sickness going around, a combination of low-grade fever and hacking cough. Andy was in good spirits today, leaving for school at 7:30 so he could play football with his friends before the bell rang. Right now playing basketball on his Playstation game, a reward for getting his homework done this afternoon.

Before I exercised this morning, I didn’t feel the usual chill in the family room. No wonder! It was almost 60 degrees outside, a record high for the day. As the day progressed, the temperature decreased. In fact, when Eddie and I left the house for his scout meeting, we were met with a light swirl of snowflakes. Even over the noise of the TV, I can hear the wind howling. We are supposed to get a couple inches of snow by morning. As a result of the warm weather we’ve had since last weekend, most of our snow is gone. Only a few patches here and there remain. During the middle of the afternoon today, a powerful thunderstorm blew through the area. The skies unleashed a torrent of rain. The lights flickered at the library at least a half dozen times, but fortunately we didn’t experience a power outage. Being so computer-dependent, we can’t operate without power. 

When I returned home from work, I noticed a piece of insulation on the floor of the garage. The floor itself looked unusually wet. We had problems with drainage here. For most of January, a small pond of water obscured the drain. I think it might be a good idea to call Roto-Rooter. 

I haven’t eaten anything yet – supper is serve yourself tonight – and I’d like to get something in my stomach before it’s time to pick up Eddie. I’ll continue this letter later this evening or during Andy’s basketball practice tomorrow.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (February 6)

The boys brought home great report cards this week. JoAnna and I had some doubts about how Andy was going to do – he never seems to have any homework – but his second quarter grades demonstrate that he’s been keeping up with his assignments, for the most part.

Here’s a comparison of Andy’s first and second quarter grades:

Subject             1st 2nd
Reading              B- B+
Math                  B- B
Spelling              B  A 
Language Arts    B  B
Social Studies     A  A
Science              A- B+

He improved his grades in three subjects, but went down ever so slightly in science. Too bad he couldn’t have maintained that A-. Within each subject, students are rated on areas where strength is shown (+), areas where progress is satisfactory (o), and areas where improvement is needed (a check mark – I can’t find the symbol in any of the font styles). Under Reading, four of the five boxes have a plus sign. In Math, he has a check mark with a plus sign for “understands graphs and tables”, “can solve story problems”, and “completes work on time”. Mrs. Ball, Andy’s classroom teacher was not sure what that combination of symbols meant. The three 5th grade classes at Elm Lawn are grouped according to ability for math instruction. Andy has Mrs. Wellman for this subject. Actually, his only solo check mark is found under Language Arts, “completes assigned work on time”, which was a big problem with Andy in 4th grade, an area where he has shown great improvement. Under “Individual Development”, which addresses classroom behavior and social skills, he received an “S” (for satisfactory) in all categories except one, where his effort grade = P (for Progress Shown). No surprise here. “Shows self control.” After all, he has some Richard blood in him, although this attribute could easily be traced to his dad. I certainly lacked self control in Mrs. Duff’s second-grade class and, occasionally, during those marathon wiffle ball games at the Jefferson Street schoolyard.

At a conference with Andy’s teacher on Wednesday, Mrs. Ball had only good things to report about his academic achievement and classroom deportment. Last year Andy had what I can only describe as an attitude problem, and I wonder if it had to do with the fact that things didn’t really seem to click with his teacher. JoAnna and I thought he might have leap-frogged into his sullen teen-age years. He didn’t turn into a model student at the beginning of fifth grade, but so far this year, he is swiftly moving in that direction. This past week, he actually read two books on his own, i.e., not because he had to write a book report for school, going to his bedroom on his own around 8:15 and reading for an hour.

When I first looked at Eddie’s report card, I let out an audible gasp.

Oh my god, I thought, we have big problem here. Eddie has three “D’s”.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered that second graders receive different achievement grades than 5th graders.

Here’s Eddie’s scale:

B = Beginning. The child is working toward completing tasks independently and showing understanding of the skill or concept.

D = Developing. The child shows some understanding and independence. S = Secure. The child can apply the skills or concept correctly and independently.

M = Modified program (such as the special education reading and language arts classes that Eddie takes.)

Once I processed this information, I quickly realized that Eddie is having a great year academically. Here’s how his grades stack up:

Subject           1st      2nd
Reading           M/B   M/D
Language Arts  M/B   M/D
Spelling            M/B   M/D
Science/Health   S+      S+
Social Studies    S+      S+

Under Reading, he received a check mark (needs improvement) for “reads fluently”, although here, we have noticed at home, he is making great improvement. I checked out from the library some easy reader books for him last month, titles by highly regarded children’s authors (Arnold Lobel, Lillian Hoban), and he has been enjoying them immensely, eagerly reading and re-reading them, which has really improved his confidence and fluency.

At our conference with Mrs. Magnuson, Eddie’s classroom teacher, and Mrs. Hoskins, his reading teacher, we heard nothing but high praise. Mrs. Magnuson said that Eddie has made great strides both scholastically and socially. She mentioned that he has such wonderful comments to add to the classroom discussion, especially in science. His reading teacher says he’s made such great progress this year that she wants to move him up with the small group of 3rd graders she works with. When we talked to him about this, Eddie had some initial reservations, most notably, leaving a group of kids he knows (and has been able to routinely outshine, which may or may not have anything to do with his decision-making process. Just something that popped into my mind.)

In other areas of the school curriculum, Eddie also received excellent reports. Elm Lawn’s art teacher noted that “Eddie is doing very well in art class, very outstanding drawing skills.” The school’s music teacher noted , “singing tonal patterns so well in tune”.

Middleton gained a measure of revenge against Sauk Prairie by winning their 10th game of the season yesterday, 31-21. The game was actually much closer than the final score indicates. Andy didn’t score any points, but he played great defense against an opponent who was at least three inches taller than him.

Eddie’s been sick all weekend. His fever has been as high as 101 degrees. He seems to be doing a little bit better today, so we hope he’ll be able to attend school tomorrow. He’s spent the weekend in our bedroom, watching TV, drinking orange juice and water, eating toast and cereal. He slept with Mom last night, since we wanted to keep a close watch on him. I slept in Eddie’s bed, which made me feel as though I was a single man again.

JoAnna’s parents called last night, but we didn’t have much of an opportunity to talk to them. We kept losing our connection. It was our first contact with them since they first arrived in Arizona. I told JoAnna this was going to happen. She gave her parents about $800 at Christmas to go towards the rent for an apartment in a more accessible area of the Phoenix metropolitan area, as opposed to the remote scrabble of sand where Alice’s twin brother lives, where their trailer accommodations are located. JoAnna was livid after the second disconnect. Because of her dad’s previous stroke, she worries about another medical emergency and how quickly he could be attended to. Where Larry and Alice are staying now, 2½ miles of washboard dirt road from a main highway, he’d be at the mercy of the angels. Ever since Alice first announced last October that she and Larry would be spending the winter in Arizona, this has been a sore point between JoAnna and her Mom. It almost seems as though the bond between twins – Alice and her brother Albert – is stronger than the bond among family. I stay in the background on this one, even though I think Alice is taking advantage of the situation. Isolation is not a word in Larry’s vocabulary. He thrives on interacting with people and where they live in Arizona is a mecca for hermits. 

Stay tuned for further reports.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Washington Park, Manitowoc, Wis. (Postcard Series)

Washington Park

Ono This Date in 1999 (February 5)

Andy played a Friday evening basketball game for a change of pace. JoAnna wasn’t able to attend the game since Eddie is sick. She got a call from Elm Lawn school around 2 o’clock this afternoon. Eddie complained about not feeling well this morning and did have sort of a phlegmy cough, I noticed, as he was getting dressed. After some breakfast, though, cereal and toast, which is more than he usually eats at this time of day, he seemed to be OK. When the school nurse took his temperature, the thermometer registered 99.7, so he was running just a slight fever. This evening Middleton traveled to Waunakee, located about 7 miles north of us.

This game was a rematch, Middleton trouncing the opposition 40-18 in their first match-up. Tonight was even more of a mismatch, despite the fact that our guys got off to their usual sluggish start. Final score: 57-23. Andy scored 6 points on three nearly identical plays where he authoritatively dribbled to the basket and shot an easy lay-up, using the backboard, as Mom is always telling him to do. Middleton’s record is now 9-1. Tomorrow they have a rematch with the only team to beat them, Sauk Prairie, who held them to a season-low 23 points. It should be an exciting game. 

Andy and I stopped at Subway on the way home. At first, I wasn’t going to order anything for myself, since there was some leftover beef stew, an outstanding concoction made with our Midwest secret ingredient, Pelligrino’s peppers, that JoAnna had prepared in the crockpot on Wednesday. Andy pointed to a larger-than-life picture of a chicken fajita sub and said, “Dad, you’d probably like that.” I caved. As soon as we returned home, JoAnna, who had spent most of the day on her fanny, went to the health club. She missed last night due to a mailing she had to get ready for today so I imagined she’ll give herself an extra push tonight. Andy is playing video hockey. With the announcers’ voices and the crowd noise, it almost sounds like the real McCoy. Eddie, who seems to be perking up a little bit, is watching the simulated hockey action while playing with some of his military toys. 

Because of this weekend’s altered basketball schedule, Sunday will be a game-free day. What will we do? It’s supposed to get warmer through next Tuesday – up into the mid-50s, so maybe we’ll tackle that garage reorganization project that we postponed last weekend. At this rate, all of our snow is going to be gone by Tuesday. We’re supposed to have an early spring since Wisconsin’s version of Punxsatawny Pete, nothing but a pretender, of course, didn’t see his shadow on Groundhog’s Day.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (February 4)

I’m slowly cobbling this letter together.

The area around the computer is becoming increasing cluttered, almost to the point where it’s becoming a barrier to accessing this side of the family room. I suppose this is one of the hazards of working at home. JoAnna spends most of the day positioned between the computer desk and our old dining room table. The latter piece of furniture is covered, in no particular order, with papers, a hanging file, a fax machine, a calculator, legal pad with a to-do list filling an entire page, cordless phone, stapler, coffee cup and coaster, reading lamp, scotch tape, paper clips, a UW mug filled with pens, pencils, and a pair of scissors, a pencil sharpener, post-its, a yellow highlighter with a blue cap, and scrap paper for jotting down notes during the dozen or so phone calls that JoAnna receives during the day. JoAnna may be well-organized when it comes to the big pictures, like organizing Shirley Abrahamson’s campaign, but work space tidiness does not appear to be one of her strong points. 

Eddie brought his report card home yesterday. When I first looked at it, I saw a couple “D”s and almost let out an audible gasp. This is terrible, I thought. After a closer inspection, I discovered that a different system of evaluation is used by teachers in the lower elementary grades. A “D” on Eddie’s report card is short for “Developing”, which means that “the child show some understanding and independence”. This is the grade that Eddie received in Reading, Language Arts, and Spelling and is an improvement over the “B” (“Beginning”) he received in these subject for the first quarter. (“The child is working towards completing tasks independently and showing understanding of the skill or concept.”) In his two other subjects, Science/Health and Social Studies, Eddie received S+’s, the highest possible grade. At our conference today, his teacher said that he had made wonderful improvements both scholastically and socially during the first hal of the school year. We’re very proud of both our boys. They are doing very well in school this year. 

Hope to hear from you soon. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 3, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (February 3)

Andy’s basketball team is doing quite well. I haven’t seen any team standings, but Middleton’s record is 8 wins and 1 loss, which would insure them at least a tie for first place since none of the teams is undefeated. For the past couple weekends, Middleton has fallen behind early, having a tough time getting revved up in the first quarter. They always manage to overcome this deficit and hang onto a thrilling come-from behind victory. Last Saturday, they won 40-34 in overtime, after being down by 9 points at the end of the first quarter. On Sunday, they won 45-41, after being down 12-5 after the first quarter. Andy doesn’t score a lot of points, but he’s an excellent rebounder and manages a steal every now and then. The ten kids on the Middleton team all bring something to the game. It’s a solid, well-balanced group of players. 

JoAnna been making great use of her birthday present. With a few exceptions so far this year, she spends at least an hour each evening working out at the Harbor Athletic Club. The results are already noticeable: baggier jeans, a trimmer shape. One or both of the boys sometime accompany her. Andy likes to shoot hoops in the gym. Eddie actually works out on some of the equipment or goes to the pool. Since I’m still doing my 20 minutes of Walkfit every morning, I haven’t paid a visit to the club yet. 

My mom has been in a letter-writing mood lately. We’ve received two letters from her during the past week. I don’t know if it’s the effect of my letters but she’s been in more of a reminiscent mood lately, remembering her reactions to various family incidents that occurred when I was a kid. My dad’s not doing too well. He fell recently and since that time has complained of a pain in his tailbone. Larry and Kim were visiting one evening, and Dad didn’t recognize who they were. As Mom wrote, “he’s out of it more lately.”

Sunday, February 2, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (February 2)

We have sunshine, the snow is melting, but I’m sure it’s not nearly as warm here as it is in Arizona. The sky didn’t clear until after the groundhog had made his appearance, which means he didn’t see his shadow when he poked his head out of the ground and an early spring is in store for us. I’ll believe when I feel the 60-degree temperatures in mid-March.

Teacher conferences are scheduled for this week, to follow up on the end of the second quarter of the school year. Andy brought home a very good report card last Friday. Two A’s (Spelling and Social Studies) and two B+’s (Reading, and Science), and two B’s (Language Arts and Math). We are very proud of him and happy to know that any doubts we had about his schoolwork were unfounded. Since he never seems to have any homework, JoAnna and I became quite concerned about his progress this quarter. Andy hasn’t always been forthright with us about what’s in his backpack or take-home folder. We’ll wave a sheet of paper in front of his face, and he’ll tell us, “That’s not something we have to hand in.” The fifth grade teacher that Meaghan has is a big believer in homework, at least a couple hours a night, which I think is going overboard. Mrs. Wellman tells the parents that she is preparing their children for middle school. If she is giving them make-work assignments, she’s not preparing for much of anything besides drudgery. Obviously, Mrs. Ball, Andy’s teachers, has a different teaching philosophy.

We haven’t seen Eddie’s report card yet. I suspect that his teacher will share it with us at our conference with her on Thursday afternoon. I expect that we’ll hear good reports, though, from both his regular classroom teacher and his special education teachers. Eddie has made great strides in his reading during second grade. His behavior has improved also. We haven’t received as many reports about classroom disruptions and recess incidents as we did last year. I’m not sure how much of it can be attributed to the Ritalin he takes twice a day every schoolday – unless we forget to give him his morning pill, like a couple of times last week, to no ill effect, fortunately. From what I’ve read about it, the drug probably does help him stay focused. 

I think JoAnna is already into week four on the Abrahamsom campaign. This past weekend, Shirley asked her to be fulltime campaign manager, but JoAnna declined the offer. It’s very likely she’ll start working for the Department of Justice next month, and she absolutely positively doesn’t want to do anything that will force us to scrub our trip to Washington, D.C. If she accepted Shirley’s offer, she’d have to clear her schedule through the first Tuesday in April, which means, like last year, with the special election for Lynn Adelman’s senate seat, the boys and I could take a spring break vacation, but Mom would have to stay home and work. 

So what have you two been up to? Any traveling around? Have you seem Margaret and Earl or other Wisconsin friends who are wintering in the area? Albert called us this past weekend. “What’s the news?” I asked expectantly, even though I realized it was a few weeks before Cyndi’s due date. Al quickly assured me that the birth had not yet taken place. After a few minutes, I gave the phone to JoAnna. She and Al talked for nearly an hour. It sounds like we’ll be able to attend the christening in Pennsylvania, as it will be held on Easter Sunday, the next to the last day of our spring vacation. The boys don’t go back to school until Tuesday.