SAL-VA-TION: by grace

E-LEV-EN: children from 1984 to 2006

HOME-SCHOOL-ING: since 1990

DOWN-SYN-DROME: susie and gabe

GRAND-CHILD-REN: since 2010

FAITH-FUL-NESS: my steadfast rock, my biggest supporter, my leader, my friend, my love, my husband

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Catch of the Day

Yesterday was ordinary enough. A foursome headed out on the river for an all-day fishing excursion--Keith Sr., Keith Jr., Dana, and David. They split up into two first initial, just to be fair and impartial of course. There was the K canoe and the D canoe. They started off all together floating and casting their way through the winding wilderness of the Wisconsin River wetlands.

The D canoe was in the lead, but was eventually overtaken by the K canoe. Although all four are fiercely competetive (and somewhat in denial of that observation) there was no attempt by the Ds to regain the lead. A private float was more tempting than an empty victory with no finish line or trophy at the end.

But, at the end of this trip there WAS a trophy. And, even though the D canoe brought up the rear they had the trophy. It was situated on the fourth finger of the left hand of a very happy Dana.

At home we were greeted with news of the engagement as Dana flashed her ring, eclipsed only by her smile in brightness.

Shane walked in hoping to hear a fishing story and listened as Dana described a scene on the river with her hand placed very purposely on his knee. He didn't notice.

She picked her hand up and gave him the full-blown, obvious ring finger view.

He looked at her hand and asked, "You caught five?"

Our laughter tipped him off, he took notice of the jewelry, and joined the smilers.

I thought it was a little crazy 19 years ago when I had 5 children in 6 years. I didn't dream that we'd have 5 weddings in less than 4 years. Delightful busyness!

The motto that they both lived by during David's tour of duty in Afghanistan

Charity Events of Minnesota

My sister, Kari, runs this non-profit organization which recently produced the Hartford Breast Cancer Ride presented by ReMax Results. I had the privilege of attending this event two weeks ago and seeing my amazing sister in action. In only its third year (and not all of the money is in yet) they raised close to $250,000.

Our mom, Jean Johnson, was treated for breast cancer in 1983 and her mother (our grandmother) died of brain cancer (metastasized from unknown source but was very likely breast cancer) in 1942 when our mom was only 3. My dear friend Paula succumbed to ravages of breast cancer in 2002 at the age of 40, leaving a husband and four dependent children.

We are accutely aware of the affect this disease has on a woman and her family.

I can't tell you how very proud I am of my sister, not only for all that she is doing, but for who she is! I love you Kare Bear! (We had no idea how appropriate this nickname was 30+ years ago.)

A few scenes from the ride:

Riders cheering in teammates, husband and wife duo JR and Jen.

Jen, a good friend of Kari's, helped inspire Kari to produce this ride after her diagnosis 4 years ago.

Despite being treated for stage 4 cancer, Jen rode 35 miles and gave all she had in an effort to raise money to beat this disease.

Gabe getting in on the action.

Gabe and Kari getting a photo op with Mr. John Knievel, a cousin of motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel.

Keep up the good work, Kari!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's That Time

Time to welcome the new exchange students to town. I will serve as the liaison for a lovely girl from Bolivia and her very enthusiastic host family. Welcome Ariadna!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

State Champions!

The Rhinelander Rebels were undefeated in three rounds of the 8-team Class AA state tournament.

A strange choice of bracket had them play one of the teams, Kimberly, from the losers bracket on Monday, rather than getting a bye and playing in the championship game on Tuesday. We've never seen a bracket like this and we had the disadvantage of playing the same number of games as the teams in the losers bracket. Talking about it in the stands before the game we figured it might actually be an advantage to lose Monday night's game, let the two "losers" play the early game Tuesday and play an automatic championship game against a tired team.

The boys must have liked that idea too because they went into the fourth inning down 14-0. (OK, they didn't really like the idea. It's just that Kimberly was hitting the cover off the ball when Troy and Chris Herman were pitching.) Up in the stands we were ready to take the loss, get out of there in a quick 5 innings and head home to rest for the final game.

The boys decided a little comeback was in order, Nate went in to pitch, and they rallied to bring the score up to 14-9 in the bottom of the 5th. Dan Kellen helped the groaning fans get back into the game when he hit a grand slam homerun and we started to think about winning. Unfortunately, the trend didn't continue and we lost in a full seven innings 19-10. At least we were guaranteed the championship game and spirits were high after staging such an impressive comeback.

Tuesday night went well right from the start. We scored 3 runs on 5 hits in the first inning and only gave up 1 run in the third.

There was a 30 minute lightning delay in the middle of the fifth inning causing us to wonder if we'd end up with a called complete game and leaving us with a deflated-feeling win.

The weather held and the team did, too. In the bottom of the 6th inning, with 2 outs, tournament MVP Sam Huebner got things started with a hit and the rest of the team followed suit. Dan Kellen nearly cleared the fence again but ran for a double as he added to his RBI total on this, his 18th birthday. Troy also hit the fence for a double (he was 2-4 on the night), driving in the teams 9th and final run.

The team headed back on the field to hold Kimberly one more inning. Even with our sizeable lead this was not a team to underestimate.

However, they couldn't overcome the pitching of Sam Huebner or the excellent fielding of the entire Rhinelander team and the Rebels were able to end it 1-2-3.

They watched the Runners Up receive their medals

They were awarded their individual Championship medals

The two seniors received the team trophy

And finally, they all posed for a State Champion Team photo

Very seldom does a team end their season with a win. Only one team can do it and the odds are that most folks will go home on a loss. In all my years of playing and watching my family play sports I think I've only seen this happen twice--on June 10, 1992 my sister Kari's high school fast pitch team won the state tournament (with her catching on her 18th birthday); and last night, August 3, 2010, (with Dan Kellen catching on his 18 birthday).

I'm not superstitious, but you can be sure I'm going to take notice of any team playing in the championship game on the catcher's 18th birthday!

Baseball Summer

It starts in the spring, or more like winter up here in the Northwoods. The high school boys are in the gym throwing rubber balls as soon as the basketball team clears the court for the season. The team is travelling by mid-April to play games that are scheduled with teams further south, on fields that aren't covered with snow. This year, we could have been hosting the games, spring came early.

April, 2 boys, 2 teams. I missed a lot of games. I knew what was coming and I was pacing myself.

May came with the high school season in full swing and Owen starting his summer Little League play Owen took his role as the experienced 10-year-old on the 9-10 team very seriously. Owen likes to play baseball; check that, Owen loves to play baseball. But it's more than just fun for him. He is serious about it, and it shows. He doesn't get 'mad' serious, just 'professional-I'm-here-to-bring-my-best-game' serious.

Even when the team got goofy here, Owen had trouble breaking ranks with his serious face. (They're celebrating their 2nd place finish in the league.)

I didn't catch it on film, but his face was certainly all smiles after he hit his first ever over-the-fence home run this season. You'd think his big brothers would all be congratulatory to the little guy--the one who's been in the shadows, tagging along to games, always the smallest in the home pick-up games, always scrapping to overcome the overwhelming odds dealt him by age and size--you'd think. The typical response? 'If we'd had the bats you have when we were your age we'd have hit homeruns all day long.' (Ever want to strangle your own kids?)

Bryce was the last to add his schedule to the calendar and had (what I think is) the unenviable season of "13 year old Babe Ruth". This league is filled with Little Leaguers turning into Legion players. Many of them still look like they belong on the LL field. Many of them run, hit, and pitch like they still belong on the LL field. But, they have to make the switch sometime and this is the painful year for it.

Bryce spent most of his time in his favorite position--catching--and his enjoyment only increased when big-brother-Keith was umping. One thing that set Bryce apart from most of the 13-year-old catchers: he could throw the ball all the way down to second base--no bounce.

Bryce was selected to play on the end-of-the-season area 13-year-old All-Star team and his summer ball finally came to an end during a very uneventful regional tournament. It may have been uneventful, but that's no reason to not look cool doing it! (Truth--he said he needed them for the sun while playing first--but it looks to me like the sun is behind him.)

Four teams for four boys with a total of about 70 games wasn't enough. Troy and Shane finished their high school season and promptly moved on to their summer leagues--American Legion and 15-16 Babe Ruth. Why not add another 30 games or so to the summer and then tag on a couple of regional and state tournaments while we're at it?

Shane, like Bryce, loves to be behind the plate. (I'm sure their Aunt Kari would take credit for that.) He had a chance to play with his cousin, Mark, as the ump. I'm sure glad these guys all get along and actually LIKE playing together.

Shane had a good season batting, too, going over .600. He had a good eye for the ball and connected well when he hit it.

Shane was a leading member of the 15-year-old All Star Team that qualified for state and went 1-2 in Eau Claire, just finishing their season at the end of July.

Shane has always loved playing with his cousin Brett (they're only 12 days apart) and we all loved it when Brett pitched and Shane caught. Kelly noticed that when those two were the battery there was very little "shaking off" off the called pitch (when the catcher signals the pitches to the pitcher). She figured it was because they both knew and trusted each other so well they were always pretty much in sync.

Troy's Legion team was really just a continuation of his high school team, which had their best season in years. There were only two seniors on the team, one of them a pitcher, so Troy was given a lot of opportunity to pitch this summer in preparation for stepping in next year. He had served well as a closer and is going to have to work a little to move into a starting position.

He did well, but going a full game gives batters a better chance to figure you out and get some hits.

Troy was very happy with his batting and improved from the high school season to bat over .400 during the summer. The American Legion season ended on the highest of high notes and will get a post of its own.

This may seem, to many, like a burden with all of the schedules and games and practices; and it can get pretty crazy some days. But, at the end of a game, and a beautiful summer evening, sitting up on the hill overlooking the field and the lake, this is what we get to see:

and this:

and this:

and this:

And when we head out for the afternoon games we see this:

and this:

We also have time before the games to let Lisa and Gabe do this:

and this:

Then, during the games they keep themselves busy doing this:

And this:

Some people shake their heads and think we're crazy to make these commitments summer after summer. But, for us, they're not burdensome. Baseball is something everyone enjoys--as participants, as spectators, as coaches, as umps. It gets us out and enjoying the weather and the parks and is something we just enjoy doing.
Certainly, some of our days ended with more than just Gabe feeling like this:

But, Bryce summed it up well when he was telling me how glad he was about the team he was on this summer. Our town had two teams in his division and his regular season team finished the season 14th out of 16 while the other finished in 3rd. Bryce sat near the dug-out of the other team one night while waiting for them to finish a game so his team could get on with theirs. He heard the kids talking, and swearing, and belittling one another, and saying things to and about their coaches that weren't very appropriate. Later he told me how happy he was with his team. "They're fun to play with, and they're nice, and I've had a great time with them. I don't care what our record is."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Expressing opinions

The following photo is the result of two colliding forces:

1) I do not allow complaints about the food, if you didn't cook it you can't comment on it (unless the cook asks for your opinion).
2) I did not put the salad on the table in a serving bowl, I dished it up on each plate before dinner, filled with the vegetables of MY choice.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Special Please

*Note: The following story is true. The names have been changed to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.

My teenage son, Wes, was playing in an out-of-town baseball tournament. Coach Jim took the kids out to eat after one of the games and I gave Wes an ample $20 bill and sent him on his way.

The restaurant was a little nicer than what Wes is used to going to with our mega-family and he made a mental note of the "cheaper" meals (in the $10-$15 range) on the menu. When the waitress came to take the order she announced the special of the day. Wes and another teammate had the same thought--
SPECIAL=best bang for your buck, good deal, think "blue light special".

Wes was a bit disappointed with the special and decided he probably would have preferred the quesadilla plate to the LOBSTER TAIL AND COCONUT SHRIMP SPECIAL!!

Coach Jim, who was seated at another table, didn't realize what had happened until he saw the bill. When the boys asked how much they owed he graciously and vaguely answered them, "Just give me $20."

Wes figured the $1.50 glass of chocolate milk he ordered must not have come with free refills and the "big" $20 bill was due to the beverage times three.

Only later did someone from the head table let him know that his actual bill included $46 for the special, plus $1.50 times three for the beverage, plus the tip.

We had one very shocked and slightly mortified son! We worked it all out, but in our house the word "special" has certainly taken on a whole new meaning!