Friday, August 1, 2014

TeamSlap Picnics at the Park

With Lisa working State Fair, I had our annual picnic at Whitnall Park, with its traditional search for golf balls in the tall grass of a blocks-long field. 

This years tally was low - a mere 8, not including one badly damaged by a mower - 

but I did catch and release some grasshoppers, saw and failed to capture a snake, and had a beautiful red dragonfly land on my belly!

Note: LuLu wasn't feeling well and so did not attend :( 

In addition, Smiley saw that Junie was upset that she hadn't found any balls, so he told me he would hide one in the grass and let her find it. I vetoed that (she found one on her own anyway) but told Junie about his plan, and the love in her eyes for her brother was something to see.

Good kids, these, if you conveniently overlook the tantrums and the drain on my wallet 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The End of the 2013/2014 School Year

At the end of the 2012-2013 we jumped ship, abandoning the Catholic school the kids had attended since YaYa was in K-4 and signing up for the local public school. The reasons were many, and I can't say I was completely on board with the decision, which was largely Lisa's - but in retrospect, I was I had been. It's been a blessing for #TeamSlap.

Here's a pic of the kids on the first day of classes. You'll recognize this as a traditional shot for the family. Man, they were happy not to have to wear uniforms! LOL

We dropped them off because we needed to help them carry in the many supplies that were required. And because, me being me, I wanted some pics of the first day!

In this next shot you can (barely) see Lu , near the back in the white shirt and black vest. 

Lisa left the school that morning very upset. YaYa had sat in the corner and seemed very anti-social, and it seemed like she had squandered a perfect opportunity to start over. 

Boy were we wrong! She made friends instantly and has blossomed over the last nine months into a social - if occasionally grumpy - preteen. I don't think that would have happened at her old school. She even had her first boyfriend!

Smiley was blessed with a great teacher, Mr. Byrnes, who believed in and inspired my boy. 

LuLu, like all the kids, struggled slightly at first academically (so much for that high falutin' private school) but by the end of the year notched grades that were above her grade level in English! Socially, she never had a problem. Oh, and she loved having dyed hair at school.

Junie started off the year rough academically, and couldn't read a lick. By the end of the year, under the tutelage of a great teacher (Mrs. Eisemann) she was occasionally reading a 3rd grade level and had changed her allegiance to her new school, proudly announcing she liked it better because "I like learning and I learn there". 

Here we are picking them up after school. Looking back I can see they all lost a few pounds during their daily walks to and from school, yet another benefit of the change. 

Good decision Lisa!

Monday, June 16, 2014

RIP Tony Gwynn

I was just startled - and I mean that literally - by the news that eight time NL batting champion and Padres legend Tony Gwynn died today of salivary gland cancer. He was only 54.

What a loss, to MLB, to the fans, and most of all to his family (I used to enjoy watching his son play in the Brewers organization in the mid-aughts)

An Old Injury

One day last August I went out to start our lawn mower, only to be met with a nasty surprise. The engine seized and the starter cord flew out of my hands. It broke my left thumb in three places and earned me a run of stitches down its left side. It was nasty to look at and was an awful 1st impression for the first week of law school. 

The picture below was taken weeks later, so it had healed up quite a bit. Shortly afterwards the nail fell out, as seen below. It's been nearly a year and the nail is 90% back to normal, although I still have a numbness at the very tip of the thumb. I'm hoping that's not a lifelong problem, but I'm not holding my breath. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Sweet Science

For those of you who don't know, I am officially on strike from Major League Baseball this season. I can't tolerate the hypocritical witch hunt that resulted in Alex Rodriguez's suspension, and yes, I feel strongly enough about it to abandon my favorite sport for a year. I don't know who's doing well or who's doing poorly, and I have no idea about the standings. I DO know my hometown Brewers are whupping butt so far, and ain't that just my luck - watch them go all the way in a year I don't pay attention!

Anyway, thank the Lord I have boxing to fill the gap in my heart. I've always liked boxing and periodically binge on it, but my knowledge and fandom has solidified in the last twelve months. 

Today I watched the Sonny Liston - Eddie Machen bout from September of 1960, a great exhibition of Liston's prowess that descended into a glorified wrestling match in the final round. I think Liston was a great fighter - albeit one that did throw the famous "phantom punch" fight with Ali, IMO (his first loss to Clay being a frustrating but true defeat) - and radically under-appreciated nowadays. What a jab!

I also watched a nasty 1965 dustup between former champ Floyd Patterson and George Chuvalo. What a great fight to watch, if spoiled a bit by Floyd's awkward attempt at commentary on this '60's rebroadcast.

And for those of you who dismiss the great Larry Holmes as a pretender, or someone who reigned large only because the competition was weak, think again: on the 36th anniversary of the fight I watched his 15 round brawl with the great Ken Norton. Not only was Holmes skilled, he could take a punch and not bat an eye. I like him. 

If you haven't watched boxing recently, or gave it up for MMA, revisit the sport. It's still the Sweet Science.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Our 2013 Christmas Card Photo Shoot

On Black Friday 2013 (November 29th, if I remember correctly) #TeamSlap headed to a nearby park to take the photo that would grace our annual Christmas card. The idea was simple but neat: form a pyramid with the lil' ones at the top. A friend and her daughter took the photo for us.

Now, while we were happy with the shot and used it over the holiday, I regretted that it wasn't of sufficient quality to become *the* #TeamSlap photo, which can be blamed on unfamiliarity with the camera. If we ever get the opportunity again - before the kiddos are too big for my old bones to support the pyramid - I'd like to take it again. :)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Junie picks out a First Communion Dress - May 2nd, 2014

Next year our little Junie is receiving her First Communion, and in longstanding #TeamSlap tradition we hit the after-season clearance sales to pick our her dress a year early. Big sister YaYa went along and snapped these pictures as we hit several stores at the mall.

All the dresses were beautiful, and this next pic aside so was both Junie's mood and the experience!

Here's the winning dress. It was never Lisa's choice, but in her words "after two other daughters, I know enough to know it's not about me. She feels beautiful in it, and that's what matters the most." Personally, although I liked all - or almost all - of the dresses, and certainly all the ones pictured here, I did think this one had a certain panache that fit Junie's personality. 

Afterwards, the four of us dined at Buca Di Beppo. 

Congrats on the dress Junie! I can't wait to see you wear it next spring! XOXO

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What's in a name?

I remember my Mom using this dietary aid in the early '80's. Later in the decade, as we stood on the front porch, I clearly recall her wondering why they stopped selling it. "Mom. . . ," I said. "It's a food called 'AIDS'". A light went on in her eyes and she laughed. Weird what the human mind chooses to remember after a quarter century, eh?

The product's history on Wikipedia

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Doctor Who - The 50th Anniversary

Following exactly one day after JFK’s assassination, another event that loomed large in my childhood took place: Doctor Who, a low budget children’s sci-fi show, premiered on the BBC.

As with Kennedy, I didn’t become aware of the phenomenon until the 1980’s. By that time, if I can get my own memories in sync with the chronology, they were already on the Fifth incarnation of the Doctor (Peter Davison) and it had become a worldwide cult favorite.

I don’t remember where I saw my first Who, or when, but I remember gobbling up the slim Target novelizations of each episode and imagining what the companions looked like, so it was at best a fleeting glimpse of the show itself.

Later, a PBS station here in Milwaukee began playing Doctor Who in chronological order every night at 10pm, one half hour episode at a time. I’d often pull up a chair in my Grandma’s kitchen and watch it with her – oh! The sacrifices she made for me! I enjoyed Hartnell, was not as in love with Troughton as most people seem to be, adored Pertwee (still my favorite Doctor) and was fond but not overjoyed with Tom Baker, etc.

Did I mention I fell immediately in love with Sarah Jane Smith, and still feel a pitter-patter at the mere mention of her name?

Around the time the PBS station caught up with the Davison era I stumbled upon a Madison affiliate that was broadcasting the very first episode of the 7th Doctor! It was probably a year old by then, but no matter; to me I was blown away at the “awesome” special effects, which seemed sooooo much more advanced than the rubber suit monsters I’d been watching every night!

I joined a national Who fan club and subscribed to their newspaper, once writing in and objecting to their casting the BBC of the “enemy”, and getting a personal response in turn. I had a Doctor Who mug, and a Tardis key on my key ring. My Mom crocheted me a reasonable facsimile of Tom Baker’s scarf that I still use. For my 15th birthday my Grandma bought me a retrospective of the show’s first quarter century. I frequented the Turning Page, a niche bookstore on the East Side that specialized in Who, and my Dad let me drive all the way there when he was teaching me to drive.

I LOVED that show.

And then it was cancelled, packed off forever into the land of reruns. Our PBS station refused to pay for the rights to the show and it was dropped from their schedule. The Turning Page closed. A Fox TV movie introduced us to the 8th Doctor but did nothing to revive the series.

Life went on.

I was happy to hear the show was returning in 2005 but was no fan of the overwrought, cynical acting of Christopher Eccleston, and let’s not get into how awful John Barrowman is as an actor. I barely paid attention to the series.

And then came Tenant . . .

He brought the show back to life for me. The charm, the wit, the excitement and the humor, it was all there again, in spades. He never quite trumped Pertwee for me but man, it’s close.

(Mat Smith ain’t too bad either)

Now the show is more popular than ever, a true global phenomenon. I wish more people realized that the pre-revival Who was darn good stuff worth watching, but I’m not going to argue with success. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the show, and what a milestone that is! 50 years is a heck of a stretch for a business, a marriage, or even a building to acknowledge; but a TV show???


Congratulations to everyone connected with Doctor Who over the last fifty years. I tip my hat to all of you, and wish you fifty more to come!

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK - 50 years later

50 years ago today John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, an event no Baby Boomer will ever forget.

My own connection to the event began twenty years later, in 1983. I was nine years old that year and had just started the fourth grade when my Grandfather, a man I loved and idolized, passed away. To say that his death put me in a tailspin is almost an understatement, but sometime in the weeks that followed my Mom gave me a book on JFK. It was just a thin children’s book, full of more myth than fact – I particularly remember one scene where Jack fell in love with Jackie when he first saw her over a dinner table – but it hooked me.

I began to read everything I could about JFK. In retrospect it’s easy to see I was simply substituting one fallen hero (my Grandpa) for another (JFK), but in those dark months it was just about the only joy I remember. Somewhere around that time, and I don’t remember if it was with my knowledge or not – my Mom mailed out two letters about my newfound passion. Just before Christmas, two packages arrived in response.

The first, from Senator Edward Kennedy, included a short mimeographed note of thanks and contained information about both JFK and RFK, as well as two 8x10 black and white photographs, one of Jack, the other of Jackie and his children.

The second package was incredible. It came from the Kennedy Library, and included the following handwritten note from William Johnson, the Chief Archivist.

Inside was more information on JFK and his library, and some items I’ve now forgotten. Here’s one I never have: an original copy of Life Magazine dated November 29, 1963 that chronicled the horrific events of Dallas and its aftermath.

 Remember, this was on the cusp of the 20th anniversary of his death. There were books and magazines and television specials galore, and I collected whatever I could. I accumulated a scrapbook of articles from the Milwaukee Journal’s Green Sheet, a few record albums of his speeches, a plaster bust of JFK, book upon book – you name it.

So on the actual anniversary of his assassination (in 1983 it was a Tuesday, if I’m not mistaken) I took this little collection into my school for show and tell, passing it among my classmates. I’d like to say someone was inspired, or even that it was met with boos – either one makes a great story – but I don’t remember, so odds are it was met with quiet tolerance.

Over the years my adoration of JFK waned. The reality didn't quite match up with the legend, and that’s a hard pill to swallow when it was the legend you fell in love with. My politics changed too, and suddenly a New Frontier that mocked Eisenhower’s admirable time in office held much less appeal.
The pendulum has begun to swing full circle, tho’ it will never reach the zeal I had as a child. JFK and I would disagree politically, but not as much as I once thought; his reputation was pushed to the Left by nostalgia and the far more liberal records of his brothers. He was a fiscal conservative and a cautious Hawk, two qualities I find appealing in a candidate. And even if he was as liberal as some people work hard to believe, it would carry a lesson all its own: that you can disagree with someone’s politics while still admiring them as a human being.

Even 50 years on, JFK’s memory continues to inspire this nation.  Rest in Peace sir; you earned it.