Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Four Generations of Husbands and Wives

My Great-Grandparents . . I believe my maternal grandma's parents.

My maternal grandparents.

My folks

And us . . note the clean-shaven look mandated by my bride, and the carnival glasses.

YaYa In Utero

Here's YaYa in-utero on Oct 16th of 2001


Some fave pics of YaYa from 2001

Here's the shot we used for the birth announcements/christening invites. I think I took this around Halloween. I remember watching the '01 Series, a horrible movie about the moon landing (The Dish?) and hearing Britney Spear's "Slave" that week.

Here's a bath from Nov 1st of 2001.

Here's some birth photos

And my absolute favorite pic of her. My only regret is that it was taken a little off-kilter, because I truly adore it. Taken on or around Nov 5th of 2001

Here's a pic from her Christening Day. Fr. Yaniak, who I euologized on this blog a few years ago came out of retirement to do the ceremony. He was so happy to do it.We were his last marriage ceremony and his last baptism. He commented to the family that it was his custom to say to the parent's 'same time next year' but that he doubted he'd have the chance. He was right. I still miss the guy.

YaYa in her Nana's arms, with Aunt Mabel in the background

and in her Godfather Tre's care


For those still protesting Lauren's earrings . .

Here's a pic of YaYa with her set a mere two months after birth, near Xmas of 2001.

Doesn't seem too upset, does she?

YaYa - Easter of 2002

I've now decided to add yet another burden to my world and dedicate part of this blog to occasionally recreating the 9 years with my wife/3 years with the kids prior to Slapinions founding.

I doubt it will come to much, but I'll make the occasional effort.

Here are some pics of YaYa circa Easter of 2002, when she was roughly six months old.

If I remember correctly (and Lisa, feel free to update in the comments if I'm wrong) these were taken at the Picture People at Mayfair. We strongly expressed our confidence in YaYa NOT peeing for the middle shot (which was sans diaper) but of course she went ahead and leaked up a storm!

You know, she looks a lot like Lauren . . .

What's this Blog's Reading Level?

Oh, excuse me - must use the AOL vocab of 'Journal' instead of blog, my mistake.

I found a link to this while surfing on Blog Explosion. I'm not very happy with the results, tho' to quote Hawthorne "Easy reading is hard writing"

                                        This Blog is at an Elementary School Reading Level.

Update: hmm, for whatever reason the link on the picture isn't working. Here's a URL to the site

Family Guy - How's that Novel you're working on?

I love this scene and laughed my a** off . . so true of so many 'writer's', myself included.


Stewie Griffin: How you uh, how you comin' on that novel you're working on? Huh? Got a a big, uh, big stack of papers there? Got a, got a nice litte story you're working on there? Your big novel you've been working on for three years? Huh? Got a, got a compelling protagonist? Yeah? Got a obstacle for him to overcome? Huh? Got a story brewing there? Working on, working on that for quite some time? Huh? Yeah, talking about that three years ago. Been working on that the whole time? Nice little narrative? Beginning, middle, and end? Some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends? At the end your main character is richer from the experience? Yeah? Yeah? No, no, you deserve some time off.

Quote of the Day

I was at a school development committee meeting, and near the end of it we all began to chat for awhile. The subject of kid's names came up (one woman having named her son  Tamburlaine after a Christopher Marlowe play).

I mentioned that we had once considered the name "Lydia" for a daughter, and that it was a name we both liked to this day.

"Why didn't you go with it then?" one woman asked.

"Because of what they'd call her on the playground," I said. "It'd be Clymidia this, Clymidia that".

In retrospect, as Conan O'Brien would say in a mock Spinal tap accent "Innappropriate!", esp. at a Catholic school meeting.

'Least I wasn't the one to later repeat the Seinfeld "Dolores rhymes with . . " gag at the same meeting.


On Transformers and Fashion Designers

I was embarrased when I opened my Netflix envelope to find a copy of the Transformers movie. Not only was it a movie my wife would never sit and watch with me (and I was in a togethery mood) but it was bound to just plain SUCK. When the opening credits include the word "Hasbro" you know you're not going to be watching the next Schindler's List.

But boy was I wrong. It was a good movie, and for an action movie a VERY good one. This is especially true if you fast forward the ridiculous 'let's hide the 30 foot robots from Mom and Dad" scene that was included for comedy (despite the fact that at that very moment the fate of a planet was at stake).

I still say the Go-Bots were better toys, but once again the Transformers wins with a better plot.

Overall an A- . Well done.

* * * *

Project Runway Season 4 is now two weeks old - three if you count tonight's episode - and I already can't stand that obnoxious Christian

As far as episode two goes, you can't tell me that they cut Marion over Christian for pure design reasons. Christian is admittingly just 'better TV.

Elisa is pegged as a kooky-earth-chick, and rightfully so, but I like her personality and I really liked her week 2 design.

Carmen is soooo '80's . . and that tear-fest in week 2 . . Puh-leaze!

and speaking of crybabies Ricky needs to stop the tears, seriously.

Victorya is boring, win or not.

Chris is a household fave here. He seems like a nice guy, plus he's fat, which makes him a kindred spirit.

Jack . . not that there's anything wrong with it, but could he be more flaming?

Jillian: I can't remember a single thing she's created, honestly. Personally I find her physically unattractive and that awful dress she wore at the start of week 1 . .yuck!

Rami. Nice, sophisticated style BUT . he's already a decently successful designer. Shouldn't all these folks be amateurs of a sort? I mean, this ain't the Olympics, but still. .

Kevin So far his big contribution to the show is his claim to heterosexuality. Whoo-hoo. Congrats. Now design something we'll remember.

No real opinion of Kit

Steven is a fave of my wife's but I find his personality dreadfully boring.

Sweet P . .dumb name, too many tats, a bit long in the tooth to start out in the biz . . but all that aside she seems like a good designer and for 46, decently hot.

Simone was cut in week 1 (sucka!) and Marion in week two. I liked the guy, and so did Lisa.

And as always . . Tim Gunn rocks. Make it work people!

The Sad Truth about Bloggers

From todays Pearls Before Swine by Stephen Pastis.

Pearls Before Swine Nov 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lauren News

Just a quick note on a monumental accomplisment:

Last night, Monday November 26th, Lauren slept through the night for the first time. Straight through from 10 pm until 7 am. Yay!!!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Battle of Algiers

It might sound odd, but I'm not a big believer in the whole "those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it" cliche.

Learn from your experiences, yes. Learn, adapt, succeed. I believe in all of that.

But one of the best things I learned in college - maybe the most important thing, other than the location of the campus pool hall - was that people are far too quick to wrongly equate situation 'A' with something that happened in the past.

In truth there are no two sets of circumstances that are exactly the same, and if you don't account for those differences you're going to wind up screwing up more than ever.

Most of the time its harmless: Grandpa Joe comparing an upcoming blizzard with 'The Big One of '53' and preparing throughout the night - right before the half-inch of snow arrives.

Sometimes it's far more dangerous. Politicians are obsessed with recalling the appeasement of Hitler at Munich and reacting with arms - sincerely, mind you - against any and all aggression. Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf - whether you view the wars as righteous or not the failures of Chamberlain echoed in the decision to go to war.

And sometimes it works the opposite way, with bad experiences forcing people to freeze to the spot. As Mark Twain once said:

“The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won't sit upon a cold stove lid, either.”
Where am I going with this? Nowhere really.
But the other night I saw a copy of The Battle of Algiers, the 1966 Italian film based on events of the 1954-1962 Algerian War of Independence against French rule. It's a classic - I remember reading about it in grade school - and I was pleased to finally see it.
As a film goes it's very good. Shot in black and white in a documentary style, it never fails to keep the viewers interest, even while lacking a central protagonist or anyone with whom to emotionally relate.
Back to my rant. In the Netflix commentary several members have chosen to compare the events of the film to our war in Iraq. Like 1984, which is consistently used as an allegory for everything and anything, the film, made in 1966 and showing events of a decade earlier, now stands as a shining example of our 'failure' in Iraq.
This isn't about politics or how you view Iraq, this is about a ludicrous psuedo-intellectual stance by folks looking to sound smart and score a point or two.
On a MOVIE site of all places.
I don't know anything about the Algerian War of Independence, other than it was bloody and long and another failure for the French.
But let's ignore 'actual' history and examine the film for what it is, effective propaganda that promotes the Algerian point of view, no doubt surfing the revolutionary tide of the 1960's. The French are oppressive and use torture to secure information. The civilians appear only at play, as if they haven't a care in the world, and their deaths are seldom addressed on screen. Meanwhile any Arab fatality is met with long, lingering shots of civilian dead.
You walk away thinking the rebels are the good guys, until you stop and think about it.
* The 'rebels' are often criminals, mere murderers recruited from prisons and indoctrinated to the cause
* The rebel movement is small in number but violent, intimidating the majority into submission.
* The rebels decide Muslim law is the only law and wage war against their own people first, banning alcohol and drugs, killing pimps and prostitutes, and encouraging gangs of children to beat homeless men nearly to death.
* The Battle for Algiers begins with the cold-blooded murder of countless policemen.
* The battle continues with the suicide bombings of cafes, clubs, and airports, all full of civilians.
* The rebels use the French respect for Muslim law - i.e. not touching a 'covered' woman - against them as a means of smuggling weapons.
* If memory serves, a mosque serves as a command center for some attacks.
* The rebels violate a surrender agreement and open fire
* The 'main' rebel is seen intentionally allowing a young boy to be killed when given the option of letting him escape
* Ironically the only three-dimensional character of moral substance is the French commander
So fine and dandy. If you want to serve that up and say "This is Iraq' be my guest, because I don't find any of the above something that condemns our men and women in uniform - to my eyes it condemns the insurgents.
 Now whether the historical French were in the wrong is another matter, one not addressed in the movie. In fact, I'm still not sure what the problem was that NECCESSITATED the Algerian war (in the movie).
But what I do know is that, as usual, situation A is not the same as situation B. We arent' a colonial power, there isn't 130 years of resentment against us there, we don't have hundreds of thousands of civillians living in Iraq full time, etc. etc.
Protest the war to your heart's content. It's your right.
But compare apples to apples, and don't argue it on Netflix.

Roller Skating with the Family

Three weeks ago on a Friday aftenoon Lisa called me and asked if I wanted to go roller skating with the family. Seems like ever since her Godfather bought her Bratz Wheelies YaYa has been dying to skate.

My response: He** no. Not after a long day of work, and preferably not at all on a weekend in which I wanted to just vedge.

Naturally we wound up going the next morning.

Growing up our skate rink was Wisconsin Skate University, but they've since shut their doors. Now the same building is occupied by Incredi-Roll and by my memory it still looks 75% the same.

Yes, I did skate. Not quite as well as I did five years ago, on my only previous outing since childhood, but well enough. No pics of me on the floor turned out tho'. Too dark.

There were a spate of miscues to be sure, but let me tell you this: a few minutes into the session I got concerned because I couldn't see LuLu along the wall anywhere. Turns out she was SKATING by herself around the rink - a shuffle step kind of skating - but better than I'd imagined she'd do!

She and I spent a lot of time going around the rink holding hands.

YaYa did well for herself, having had more experience, but by the end she was 'skating' - actually smoothly gliding around the rink like a pro. At the session she was reunited with another girl who failed to land a part in Oliver and attended the conciliatory acting lesson.

Here's a pic of Lisa on the floor - a dark pic, I know, sorry about that. Admittedly she did better than I did (THAT day) but hey, I was so heavy my 350# scale couldn't weigh me.

There's two reasons I put such a large post up about a relatively small (but fun) experience. Well, three - One, AOL was sweet, uploading pics at record speed. Two, I was once again proven wrong and had a great time, and three . .

In large part because of the physical effort I put forth that day (did you know your shins can hurt?), both in skating and in later dismantling a shed for my backyard, I decided on the spur of the moment to begin my diet and exercise program.

Three weeks later I'm still doing pretty well, tho' Thanksgiving was a bit of a free day for me. I try to eat right, and ironically that's not too hard for me. I like things like fish (tuna steak for dinner tonight) and vegetables and my time at weight watchers taught me some strategies for attacking the take-out I'm forced to eat at work.

It's the occasional binge and the activity part that defeats me. But remember, in '06 I lost more than 47 pounds before quitting smoking and gaining all of that and more back. I can't afford the actual Weight Watchers meetings anymore, but I'mgoing to do my best.

I deserve to be thin before the last of my hairfalls out.

Wish me luck.

Friday, November 23, 2007

I need to find this Stocking Holder . .

Ok I have now officially given up trying to find the following item. It EXISTS, as it was at Target last year, but the official record of it has been wiped off the internet like a conspiracy in a third rate Wil Smith movie.

It's a mantle stocking holder with six hooks. The bulk of the piece, which was in a pewter-ish color, spelled 'FAMILY'. With a family of six that's perfect, one letter/hook per family member. When Lis saw it last year we didn't yet have a fireplace so she figured there was no point in buying it.

Now it's vanished and we have pulled together every last ounce of our web-surfing skills and come up empty, and of course Target no longer carries it.

So . . if you know of the item, and where I can find one, please let me know. Thanks!

* * * *

For Christmas my wish-list is mysteriously short this year and composed entirely of items easy on the buget. We are poor and so I feel no need to give or receive extravagent gifts.

I need slippers and socks, both dress and over-the-calf white ones.

I'd like a copy of  I am Legend by Richard Matheson and the Blake's 7 novel Afterlife.

I think I'd really enjoy Brain Games by the makers of 20Q.

I hear that Nirvana's Unplugged performance is finally on DVD for around $10.

* * * *

Took the girls to see an advanced screening of Enchanted on Tuesday, taking two of YaYa's school friends along too. We got there 90 minutes early and found ourselves about 100th in line. I left the kids and Lisa in line and inquired up front. Turns out 200 people had already been let in to the free screening and the huge line was just a queue in case someone left.

Fat chance of that. The kids reversed their standard behavior in such situations and actually took the dissapointment with grace and maturity. So we went to Livvie Lu, inspiration for LuLu's nickname here, for free glitter; we saw Santa and got certificates for free candy which we redeemed, and we bought the girls fans from the Disney store that were on clearance for $1.49.

Then we went home and watched Barbie Island Princess.


Thanksgiving '07

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.

We had the family get-together at our house. My immediate family of 6, my folks, my sisters, my sister's kids, and my mother-in-law. That's 14 people, and that's with three no-shows (my wife's aunt and boyfriend, and my step-father-in-law were ill).

That's a lot of people for one house but we found room for 'em all. Adults in one room, kids in another.

Lisa's not too happy about the following pics of her 22 pound turkey. "It looks burnt from that angle. Why didn't you take the shot from the side instead of right down it's neck?"

Well, okay.. ..

Anywho, it isn't burnt, it's the rub Lisa applied below the skin. She also cooked it breast-down to let the bird cook more evenly and prevent the white meat from drying out. Personally, I grew up on dry white meat and found myself a bit knocked out of whack eating juicy meat, but that's just me. Otherwise, wonderful.

The rest of the menu? Mashed potatoes, an EXCELLENT stuffing, fresh steamed broccoli, cream style corn, biscuits, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, shrimp, and an assortment of desserts. Oh, and formula and rice cereal for the youngest in attendance.

YaYa said the prayer:

 "For food and for the roof above us

and light and warmth and

those who love us,

We give thanks"

-Aileen Fisher

Since it was at our house the event was a bit stressful, and most of the guests showed up between 20-30 minutes late!, but all-in-all a great holiday.

And my Mom, for the first time ever, managed to make it up the stairs to view my remodeled second floor, last seen by her as an unfinished attic 40 years ago.

What can I say? Parker got the holiday confused with Halloween.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cassablanca/Hell House

I watched Cassablanca for the first time Sunday night.

I'm not sure why I never sat through it before, as I was very much aware of its reputation.Certainly 11 pm on a school/work night was not the best time to sit down and make up for lost time but I'm glad I did.

It more or less lived up to its hype, which pleased me greatly. I loved Claude Raine's character, and Ferrari. It's amazing to see just how many everyday quotes come from that movie. "Here's looking at you kid" ,"this is the start of a beautiful friendship", etc.

Heck, the only bad part was the begining naration and cheap map of Africa.

My favorite scene is not one that I've heard discussed before. A young woman from Bulgaria approaches Rick. She wants to know if Claude Raines would keep his word and get her and her newlywed husband out of Cassablanca if she would sleep with him, tho' of course given the censorship of the day it's never spelled out in black and white. Rick blows her off, but a moment later walks over to the roulette wheel and rigs it for the young husband to win, giving him the money to bypass the twisted arrangement.

I loved that scene.

4 stars for the movie classic

* * * * *


I recently finished Hell House by Richard Matheson. Stephen King calls it 'the' masterpiece of haunted house fiction, but I don't agree. I'm not sure what book is (The Shining?) but it isn't this one.

Still a fun read, and genuinely scary at parts, but c'mon! You are about to spend 7 days in a famously haunted house that has killed groups of paranormal investigators in the past. So . . you all decide to take seperate overnight rooms, take time to brush your teeth, wander around alone and after your husband is bashed to bits and dragged to his doom in a swimming pool and you escape YOU GO BACK FOR HIS 'THINGS'.

Mister, I don't care if I left the Hope Diamond behind, I'm not going back in.

* * * * * * * * *

Some news about Smiley and the gang

Parker's 2nd visit to the Ear-Nose-Throat doctor was today and the results weren't good.

Despite beating the ear infection BOTH eardrums failed to vibrate when tested. He also did much worse on the hearing test, scoring a 40 (normal is 20; the lower the better) on both ears. The doc also said he has thick  'brown elmer's glue' fluid in both ears.

The result? He's getting tubes put in both ears December 5th. That should immediately increase his hearing and hopefully spur his speech, as he may not be hearing what we do. He might understand the command 'close the door' but hear it as 'ose oor' and thus be unable to replicate normal speech.

We'll see. And no, I'm neither upset nor worried. It isn't the end of the world, plenty of kids get tubes in their ears, and in many ways this is a plus, a legitimate means of helping both his health and his development.

Win-Win in many ways.

And the first thing one of the techs said about the boy? "Boy you sure are smiley!", which is what my Mom started calling him long ago, and which is more and more his most widely used nickname.

I prefer "Quake" myself, as in the adult Parker will make "men quake and women swoon". You need not inform me of the dorkiness of this sentiment; I know already.


Kids Quote of the Day:

"Wanna hear me count to a hundred?" said YaYa at the dinner table.

Our minds screamed 'Heck NO!" but our mouths said 'sure'.

She replied in a cheerleader's mocking chant: "One, two, skip a few, 99, 100!"


BTW, YaYa has finally been chosen to read an offertory prayer at next weeks class mass.

Meanwhile LuLu was an Indian at her class Thanksgiving feast and brought nuts for the party, a vast improvement over Friday when her no-account Dad forgot it was her Leader Day and didn't bring a snack for the class.

And Lauren's ear-piercing post has continued to garner me hate-filled responses at work and from both Godparents . . jeesh, once again people: she cried BEFORE anyone touched her ears.She just didn't like being woken up and manhandled. Once it happened she was happy and content with a bottle within a minute.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Milwaukee Holiday Parade 2007

Today Lisa dragged me along on a family trip to watch the annual Holiday parade downtown. It was just about the last thing I wanted to do after a long week of work, but as usual I wound up having fun.

We managed to find a (free) parking spot within three blocks of the parade route and were lucky enough to occupy a large empty space front-and-center after the police asked a protester! (Keep Jesus Alive!) to leave the scene.

Seriously folks, c'mon - protesting a Christmas parade as un-godlike? The Virgiin Mary rode through the parade on a mule for pete's sake.

[note: this reminds me of a born-again comic book left behind by someone at work: "Jesus hates Halloween and all who practice it". Nice. Real Jesus-like.]

Not many pics. It was a tad on the cold side with a stiff breeze. Plus the camera was low on batteries.

The boy in back of the stroller is Adam, the son of a friend of ours. Lauren was at grandma's.

Park loves marching bands and often bops to the music.

It was the first time in my life I'd ever seen the parade balloons ala Macy's - unless I've forgotten something from when I was Parker's age. They had the gingerbread man, JayJay the Jet Airplane (once upon a time a YaYa favorite) and a dog.

I put the camera in Lisa's hands for a minute and look what happens: she failed to get a snapshot of LuLu posing with Dorothy (of Oz) by misjudging the time it takes to open the camera. Instead she got this shot:

Not quite the same 'wow factor'.

I really liked the next guy, the 'mad wheeler' who did Cirque De Solei (sp?) trips in his own hamster wheel.

Last and almost least in the parade was the big guy, Santa himself. He seems to have developed a longshoreman's accent and looked like he just came off a bender, but I guess delivering presents around the world in a single night is a stressful gig, so he's excused.

Still, kind of a anti-climactic finish to an otherwise enjoyable parade. The kids, while they had their moments, were pretty darn good. Lu had some issues but she was bone tired. Lauren has now officially moved into her room and the baby cried most of last night.

So in short, Lisa was right, I was wrong, and we had fun. The Christmas season has begun.