Sunday, December 31, 2006

Some Great News!

Just in case I don't get the chance to post again this year, I figure I'll close on a high note.
 
On December 6th, we found out that Lisa is pregnant with our fourth child!
 
She took a test that morning and came up with the faintest of faint lines on the stick; she knew right away, and so did I, but to comply with a long standing tradition of my refusing to acknowledge pregnancy easily, I bought another test.
 
Same result of course.
 
From the math, my mention on this blog of a time on the ship when we dumped the kids in daycare and returned to the room for [cough] was The One that Did the Trick.
 
Which means it's the first conception we can pinpoint, which itself is very neat.
 
Almost as cool: the due date is August 16th, otherwise known as Grandpa's Day, a day I've celebrated each of the last 23 years.
 
Not that kids are ever born on their due date, but still . .
 
Long story short: by this time next year we'll be a family of six!

Some quick book reviews to end 2006

Personally, I find it distressing to read a book - hate it - and still acknowledge that it's bound to be a best seller.
 
Creepers by David Morrell fits that bill.
 
Written by the author of First Blood, Creepers is nominally about urban explorers, glorified pranksters that break in to abandoned property as sightseers. In reality the book is about as much about creepers as Cheers is about the wine served at the bar. The fact that the characters are 'creepers' is just a convenient ploy to find them alone in an abandoned building,
 
The novel quickly turns into a standard thriller, with a plot as predictable and laughable as any second rate movie.
 
And that's the rub. The novel reads like less of a book than a movie treatment, with a story driven by theatrical turn of events and inane dialogue. There's no doubt that a version of the book will eventually hit the big screen.
 
Hopefully its box office failure is just as inevitable.
 
The Ruins by Scott Smith creates just the opposite impression.
 
The new novel concerns two American couples on vacation in Mexico who are drawn to a remote archeological site. Once there they are trapped by a malevolent and deadly creature.
 
The Ruins is a beautifully written book reminiscent in tone to Peter Straub's Ghost Story. It's the rare book that lives up to the cliche that it just can't be put down.
 
The Godfather's Revenge by Mark Winegardner is a follow-up to The Godfather's Return, and both are sequels to Mario Puzo's Godfather saga.
 
This time around the Corleone family is under siege by renegade capo Nick Geraci in the years immediately following the events of Godfather II.
 
I'm a big Godfather fan, but by no means a 'cultist' of the movies or book. That group has reacted harshly against the sequels, but I disagree with their extreme views of Winegardner and his work.
 
The book has drawbacks, mainly because it is obliged to conform with the canon established by the films, but is well written and a decent (if forgettable) read.
 
I detest the fate that befalls Tom Hagen however; he remains my favorite character of the books/movies and deserves better.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Thoughts and Resolutions

I'm falling behind on this blog again.

First off there's the day trip I took with Lu that should be posted, then some momumental news dating back to the 6th followed b y more great news from the 22nd that should take up quite a few posts.

I also need to update everyone on Xmas - like anyone care's - because it turned out to be a great holiday, even if I did put on some pounds.

There's also current events like Saddam's hanging (good riddance, tho' I can't get very excited over seeing a human being die by another's hand) and some book reviews to round out the year.

But instead I choose to post on New Years resolutions.

Here's my list from both 2005 and 2006. How did I do?

Repair the videocamera/christmas tree stand

I did fix the tree stand.

Finish my dang book

Nope.

Boost revenue at my business 10% (minimum), with an overall goal of a 33% increase

We did better than '05 - and '04 and '03, 'matter of fact, but we failed to meet this goal.

Move into a better neighborhood, with more room for the kids.

Yup! More on this later.

Take my first real vacation in years; hopefully, a 10th anniversary cruise

Done

Pick up XM radio so I can binge on MLB games this summer

Yessiree.

So out of six resolutions I succeeded in 3, got partial credit on 2, and failed in 1. Not a bad outcome, really.

As for the '05 list, which I also vowed to complete in '06:

I did quit smoking (yea!) and lost some weight.

I did learn new things

I kept all my teeth

And I had some good moments with my son.

Having failed at it year after year, it looks like I might never actually write a book, not between work and family and whatnot. And time spent writing this doesn't count as time I should spend working on it - this is a breeze and a relaxation thing. 

That's ok. Life is pretty good as it is.

 Sigh. Actually, you know I still want to be a paid writer . . .

Anywho, here's my 2007 Resolutions:

1. Continue losing weight, and stick with it.

2. Finishthe $3%#$ book

3. Transcribe all the interviews I've done over the years

4. Keep all my teeth

5. Find happiness in my employment

6. Learn something new

7. Try to live by my adage "Try not to be an a**hole", as I notice I've been a jerk a lot of 2006 - I blame the job.

8. Spend time with my family whenever possible, and actually 'be' present, not just physically there. I've zoned out a lot as of late.

9. Here's an iffy - see Gettysburg

10. Resolve or minimize my anxiety, etc. issues

11. Host a belated 10th anniversary/wife's 30th birthday bash

12. Take up a physical activity

Ok, a dozen is more than enough.

 If I don't post again in '06 - Have a happy and Safe New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gerald Ford 1913-2006

I myself am too young to have any memories of the Ford administration, although he was President for my crib and toddler years.

He served his country faithfully for decades, and seemed to be what my Grandma used to call a 'good joe'. It's a shame that history will probably only remember him for his pardon of Nixon and nothing else from his many years as a public servant.

May he rest in peace, and my sympathy to his family.

 

Saturday, December 23, 2006

An Odd Xmas Feeling

I'm feeling very . . well, not anti-Christmas. It remains my favorite holiday and I'm glad it's coming. I'm just very tired, emotionally/financially/physically and it seems like the holiday just keeps pounding away at me this year.

Case in point: today, at my lowest ebb, I still had to spend a decent chunk of my day prepping for two - yes two - Christmas parties we're hosting in the next few days. Okay, so I did 5% of the work and Lis did the rest.  It was still exhausting.

And when exactly did we become the social center of Milwaukee?

90% of the fatigue can be explained by the activity of the last six weeks, which resulted in some great news. but I'll get into that at a later time.

8% is because of a disconnect I feel this year, ironically because in those six weeks Lisa stepped up and did all the decorating, cards, shopping, wrapping , and planning for Christmas. I didn't do a dang thing.

I'm glad and grateful, but it puts a distance between me and the holiday.

2 % is probably, sub-consciously, is the fact that it's the first Christmas without my Grandma.

Ah, Blah Blah.

To change the subject, here's a copy of my Xmas list.

I put it here not in the expectation of having a reader buy me something, but because I think, when looking at it years down the road,  it gives you a pretty good idea where a person's life stood at that time. The exception might be '04, when my list included 8 or 9 mafia related items.

That was just a freak Sopranos/Godfather kick I was on. :)

 I have my library card clear so no books are necessary. Someone could pay off my bogus Blockbuster bill if they like lol

* * * * * ** * * *
 
A book light for reading in bed
 
Gardening tools - tho' we *may* inherit some with the house
 
The Godfather PC game - $15. Any more than a few bucks more and you're getting ripped off. Not sure about this; either I would love it and play it constantly or let it sit and gather dust. 
 
GC for ebay or WalMart, so I could expand my wardrobe next year
 
Cedar Chest - big enough forblankets and mementos
 
Last Supper - tho' I'll prob buy the one at the 2nd hand store
 
Boze Blogostaw Nasz Dom - a plaque of this, esp. one from my ancestors, would be a swell housewarming or xmas gift
 
boxing heavy bag
 
a cat tree
 
if anyone sees an old manual style lawnmower for sale, holler at me
 
I am in constant need of size 14 black dress shoes, if ya stumble across some. Ditto over the calf tube socks in my size, Hane's I think, the ones with the red lettering on the toe. And I like the ablack big men's socks from Wal-Mart.
 
An XM Radio MP3 Player - lol. yeah right. lol  This is right up there with my telescope and guitar. Somewhere down the road . . .
 
I don't think I have a copy of the Godfather on DVD, even after all these years. And It's a Wonderful life had it's cover tore off, so to be picky that could be redone.. . . other DVD's . . well, I'm not into DVD's. I have Netflix for that.
 
 

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's a Wonderful Life on Candy Cane Lane

This past Saturday Lisa and I went to the home of a dance classmate of hers for a It's a Wonderful Life party.

The party itself was a very nice, casual affair. At 3:30 the whole group walked down to the Times, an old 'Magic of Hollywood' era theater where the movie was showing on the big screen.

I'm sure a few folks were influenced by one too many glasses of wine, but the audience, by and large, reacted to the scenes as if seeing it for the first time. There was genuine laughter, shock, you name it. That was unexpected.

The print itself was crisp, clear, and beautiful enough to make you wonder why they ever switched to that new-fangled 'color' film.

[out of place memory: as a youngster, for awhile I thought color was invented in the 60's. Not color film - color, period. I thought they filmed it 'normal' but the world was gray. How's that for crazy?]

And of course, I teared up a good three or four times. Nothing to be ashamed about - Sonny Corleone cried at movies too - and the movie remains, by far, my favorite of all time.

Definite Desert Island viewing.

Afterwards we headed back to the party for a minute, then dined at Real Chili, a site not condusive to a diet.

From there we picked up our kids and headed to Candy Cane Lane.

Candy Cane Lane is an area of homes in Milwaukee, three blocks long by maybe four or five wide, that decorates their homes Griswald style for the holiday. They attract quite a crowd, and it's all to raise money for the MACC fund - Midwest Athletes against Childhood Cancer.

[you'll have to forgive the photos of the night. The best houses (the brightest) don't photograph well]

Most folks choose to drive the route, turning off their headlights as a courtesy and joining a crawling motorcade of what can amount to a hundred cars or more.

Why?

Every year we choose to park and walk the kids through the streets. You feel much more involved, more Christmas-like, and get a better view. You certainly have more to remember than you would after an exhausting ride through the event.

You also run the risk of frostbite some years, but this time we got lucky with temperatures in the high thirties.

No whining and no complaining. The kids even took turns in the stroller of their own free will.

It was like taking strangers I tell ya.

Lu constantly pointed out any reference to Jesus, hollering out "I see Baby Jeezus!". She also said, when spotting the Grinch, "There the meanie!"

The only naughty act was Parker's tendency to yank the hair of whoever sat in front of him.

A dancing/talking snowman grabbed their attention for a good while

Two odd incidents:

There was a child, maybe 6 or 7 years old, who had obviously gotten her parent's idiotic permission to ride standing in the moonroof of a car.

"You're naughty," Lu yelled to her, full of exaggerated menace.

"Go home," the girl yelled back.

"You, you're naughty," Lu responded.

We squashed that fast.

Second not so Christmas moment: a woman was annoyed we didn't move the stroller out of her way fast enough and swore. Lisa let her know that wasn't cool, though the incident overall was nothing major.

But not the norm for the event.

Lis and I have a long standing tradition of taking our own photos, dating back to our beginning. With rare exceptions, they ain't pretty.  Here's that night's effort:

Quote of the Day

My wife and I were watching It's a Wonderful Life Saturday. When it came to the part where George see's his wife Mary as she would be if he had never been born - a lonely, buttoned-up wallflower with glasses and a frumpy coat, I turned to her.

"That's what you would have looked like if you'd never met me," I said.

She snorted.

"You mean that's what I look like because I met you," she said.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Trio of pics of my Trio . .

Sorry about all the mess in the background :)

42 Days

As of 6 p.m. tonight, it's been 6 weeks/42 days/1008 hours since I last had a cigarette. Actually, 1008 hours since I last so much as held a cigarette in my hands.

Which is something, considering that even in the 'breakthrough' quit of earlier this year I didn't go more than a week without stealing some 2nd hand smoke or bumming a drag from someone.

It's still hard, especially after a meal. As my wife says "it's the period at the end of my sentence" and its absence is felt.

On the other hand, I'm mildly confident. It is getting easier, and I've begun to think of cigarettes as a crazy lover you no longer see but occasionally miss. It's tempting to link up for a quick one, and lord know's you'd enjoy it - but in the end you say no, because it isn't worth dealing with all her psycho c*** later.

In other words, it isn't worth going through the agony of quitting again just for the sake of a cigarette.

I'm still eating too much to compensate, but that too is slowing down. Heck, I even ignored the desire to watch TV and instead hit the gym for a good 1/2 hour tonight.

Maybe there's hope for me yet.

 

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Two Unrelated Pics

Here's a bland pic of Parker in the tub. Because of the kooks in the world I won't put the rest of the pictures online, but check out the eyelashes on this kid. Believe it or not, he gets that from me. 

Secondly, here's a pic of my girls entranced by the computer. In additon to Barbie.com, Disney.com, etc. we've now discovered how to play videos on AOL.. They've watched two Mary Kate and Ashley Christmas videos, and one of the Smurfs.

Update on the Crickets

The dang things are still alive.

After that first night I made a quick attempt to drown them by dumping over the plant they hid atop. It didn't work, as they just jumped on the turtles shell.

Smart buggers.

Plus I felt kind of creepy trying to kill them. Nevermind that I've killed a million bugs in my day or that I had bought them as feed for the turtle, it felt wrong.

So I was hoping nature would take its course, but at least one of the monsters is still alive.

Lisa is NOT happy.

If they're still at it tomorrow night, I might just have to go euthanize them after all.

My Mother In Law's Annual Xmas Party

Another tradition is my mother-in-law's Christmas party. It was originally held at her house and often featured my co-workers. We'd have dinner, open presents, then journey down the road to tour a decorated house.

In recent years it's moved to Chuck E. Cheese, in honor of all the youngin's now in the family.

Here's some pics from Tuesday's (12-12) party.

I think most of the pics are self-explanatory.

 That was the first visit to Chuck E Cheese, btw, where we were given not tokens but DEBIT CARDS to use on the games. I'm not sure if I should say that technology is grand, or that the world is changing too much for my taste. It certainly was different, I can tell ya that.

Me, I miss the feel of the tokens in your pocket, but that's just me.

Here's Parker and his Mom playing basketball. He loved it and wanted to keep playing.

Now while the entire event was fun, I have to say it's hard on my nerves. Watching 3 little kids running in different directions . . sigh. lol

Each year my mother-in-law makes a Gingerbread house and raffles it off to a guest. We've yet to win it.

Finally, here's a shot of my nephew.

A good time, and thanks go out to my mother-in-law - the kids had a blast!

Breakfast with Santa December 10th

My Great-Grandfather was one of a group of people that formed a fraternal Polish life insurance company a century ago; my Grandmother was Women's President of the company until her death in 1981.

Every year that company hosts a breakfast with Santa, with each child getting a very nice, brand name gift at the end of the meal. I've been going since I was a wee lad - probably since I was born - and my kids go every year.

[For a few years they dumped the breakfast format and went with pizza, then burgers. Thankfully, they went back to pancakes this year]

Best. Breakfast Sausage. Ever.

We brought YaYa's friend (and daughter of Lisa's friend) along too.

Everything went suprisingly smooth, with no hiccups at all to report.

YaYa is in that 'either act really goofy or smile stiffly and artificially' stage, but she's still cute:

When YaYa was three we had her wrap up her di-di's and give them to Santa at Mayfair Mall, with a request to give them to babies who needed them. Well, we didn't do that, not with Park still a youngin', but we did have her promise Santa to give up the pacifier as she is a 'big girl'.

As of this writing, only a few hours shy of a week later, she is still di-di free.

Parker wasn't scared at all - he just wasn't keen on sitting still. He would rather just steal a candy cane and move on :)

As for the gifts, Parker first got a noisemaking hammer, but we asked for something else, as he already owned one. The lady acted like the request was a tad rude, but the boy doesn't have all that many toys - if he did we'd have just said thanks and moved on. The second time around he got a toy cell phone.

Lu got the best gift, a Little Mermaid toyCD walkman that plays miniature 'CD's' with Disny music.

YaYa's gift was a bit of a miss. It was a craft kit that converts a picture to a jigsaw puzzle. Aside from the fact that the craft was messy, largely ineffective, and quickly used up the supplies that came with it, I was impressed that she handled seeing Lu's gift like a champ, without even a whimper.

Oh, and their friend? Her Dad bought her a Barbie, which we smuggled in to Santa's helpers :)