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?

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