At the Seasons End

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Congratulations are in order. Pop the Cokes, shake the Gatorade, toss sunflower seeds in the air.

Our Cardinals’s secured first place in the National league last night, and the overall top seed in the playoffs with an 8-4 with a win over the Twins. As a result we nabbed a league best 8-3 record. It’s a moment like this that you hope for as a kid. It’s a moment like this you yearn for as a coach. The opportunity to be the best overall team and win a championship as a team. That’s what we are. A team. And every last player on the Cardinals is an integral part in the success of our 2015 season. As parents and coaches we are proud of what they have accomplished. But it’s the first of three steps, and now we move on to the playoffs.

Our 8-3 record has not been easy. All but one of our games has been close and our Cardinals have persevered due to great defense, smart in-game decisions and timely hitting. It’s this tough road that has shaped this team into a playoff ready—nerves of steel—never quit—bring it on attitude that is perfect for a long run in the playoffs. Each team that makes the playoffs has the opportunity to win it all so we’ll have to stay focused in order to come out again on top. We have to stay true to what has gotten us here, and I know that if we are at our best with our full team. There is nobody that we cannot beat. Our first playoff game is this Saturday versus the Mets. It’s fitting that we are playing the Mets. They beat us twice this year. The certainly have our number.

Another tough game? I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Jenny Craig? Hack.

10277416_10153921510593275_1790853468354266167_nWeight Watchers? Ponzi scheme.

Crossfit? Waste of time.

21-Day Fix? Forget it.

Want to lose weight? Coach little league baseball. More specifically coach WAA Cardinals little league baseball. After Saturday’s game I think I lost 10 pounds. The stress of these close games is having me consider placing a puke bucket outside the dugout for me to use between innings. The kids, of which my son Aaron is included, sure know how to make a ball game interesting. With something to prove and first place on the line, the Cardinals fought back and held on to win another close game 7-6 verses the D’Backs. After almost giving the game away again to the D’Backs, the bats finally came alive in the fifth and it was perfect timing. The kids are learning from their mistakes, smiling, having fun and as coaches we could not be more proud. With only two games left, and a record of 7-3, we control our own destiny. If we win out, first place is ours, and I’m confident of our chances.

18 Years, and Counting

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Today I celebrate 18 years of marriage with my wife Julie. 18 years of memories:

In 1996, we made a promise

In 1997, we were blessed with the best gift we never knew we wanted. Joseph Paul

In 1998, I graduated from CCS, Julie was changing lives

In 1999, we took a chance and moved to Atlanta, GA

In 2000, our reward for that chance was a beautiful little girl we named Rebekah Louise

In 2001, we took a chance and moved to the state of New York

In 2002, our reward for that chance was a beautiful little boy we named Aaron John

In 2003, we were regulars at the Strong National Museum of Play

In 2004, we cultivated our garden

In 2005, we spent many days in Maryland with Joanne

In 2006, we saw RENT in NYC

In 2007, we welcomed my brother and his family to spend Christmas in NY

In 2008, we traveled to OZ

In 2009, we saw my mother get remarried

In 2010, we spent lots of time in Disney thanks to our generous parents

In 2011, we bought a home

In 2012, we took a chance to forge our own path with Brandtatorship

In 2013, we left the country to celebrate a retirement (read: freedom)

In 2014, we started the college tours for the best gift we never knew we wanted

In 2015…

 

6th Grade Life Lesson

photo(3)It’s the early 80’s and I am a student in Mrs. Reddinger’s 6th grade class at Wiley Elementary school in Utica, Michigan. It was actually my second time having her as a teacher. As a lone 5th grader I pushed into her 6th grade class to have all my reading lessons with the big kids. I always felt in way over my head when I went to her class as a 5th grader. Not in academics but in maturity, though I couldn’t articulate it at the time. The kids were bigger, they had clicks, girls had crushes, and I was lost. I did my reading lessons and then quickly returned to the safety of Mrs. Ensley’s class. By the time I got to 6th grade Mrs. Reddinger knew me and I was not surprised that I was placed in her class. (Though I would have rather of had Mr. Hardy.)

During my 6th grade year at parent teacher conferences, Mrs. Reddinger had collected a sampling of my spelling papers and homework assignments to show my Mother. I had a knack for drawing on everything. Homework and tests were not exempt. It seems that Mrs. Reddinger did not appreciate seeing Pacman gobbling up pellets around the perimeter of the page, or Jokey Smurf handing a soon-to-be exploding present to an unsuspecting Brainy Smurf. You see, during the parent teacher conferences she showed these papers to my mother and said… “Joey is always drawing. Joey will never go anywhere in life if he doesn’t focus on his schoolwork. He spends to much time drawing on his papers. He could stand to draw less.”

Almost 30 years later and I can still remember that feeling of utter shock.

Here’s this teacher that I had in the 5th grade, and now have full-time in the 6th grade telling my Mom I need to draw less? Really? I don’t remember my mom’s response, but I have to assume she didn’t agree because I don’t remember getting in trouble that day. I got my work done, and got decent grades. I was a good student that yes could of had benefited with a bit more focus, but can’t that be said for most 6th graders? I never understood why as a teacher she would risk smashing a students passion. I often think back to how different my life would be had I listened to her.

I have lots of friends, family and acquaintances that are exceptional teachers and are champions to kids whether they are on the clock or not. Unfortunately not all teachers are. My son Aaron knows this first hand. He’s in the 6th grade and is a bundle of energy, he’s a quick study, sings constantly, loves music, and plays the Viola and practices religiously. He recently had a choice to make. A choice that was made easier by the unfortunate comments of a teacher, and I’m glad he’s not letting these comments keep him down. It’s uncanny how history repeats.

“Joey is always drawing. Joey will never go anywhere in life if he doesn’t focus on his schoolwork. He spends to much time drawing on his papers. He could stand to draw less.” I could have easily have listened to Mrs. Reddinger and stopped drawing, but spending to much time drawing on my papers gave me confidence to draw more, which eventually led me to graduate from one of the finest art colleges in the country. I draw daily. Paint. Create. And now own my own marketing and advertising company with one of my very best friends. I’d say Mrs. Reddinger was wrong.

The Tale of Lime Sherbet

The Lime SherbetThe year is 1997, and Julie and I are on our honeymoon. A cruise in the gulf of Mexico that took us to Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen, The Ruins of Tulum, and finished in New Orleans. It was Julie’s second cruise, and my first and I really didn’t know what to expect. One thing I marveled was the food selection. Great fish, steak, and chicken from servers that were always eager to get you to try more. Desserts were the one area that I really didn’t care for. I’m on record as not being a dessert guy. Never have been, I like simplicity. I call myself a “Two name or less dessert guy” (patent pending).

As in words like oatmeal cookie, chocolate cake, or fruit. Anything with more than 2 words used to describe the dessert is too excessive and screams “I’m to rich”. As in chocolate melting cake topped with French vanilla ice cream, or double raspberry fudge cake with a creamy blah blah blah…

So on my honeymoon I went simple. I went with Lime Sherbet.

Every night.

And each night I got weird looks from everybody. The waitstaff, the others at the table and even Julie herself. To this day our children know of the legend of the Lime Sherbet and it’s taken on a lore of its own reminisced at holidays, family dinners and fireside camp sites. But what remains true to the story is that in the vast array of extravagance, I went simple. And enjoyed it.

Fast-forward to 2013 and our family cruise to the Caribbean with the Quayhackx’s which ended today. All eyes (read my children) were anxiously awaiting what I was going to do when it came to order the dessert the first night at dinner. And yes I ordered Lime Sherbet. Everybody laughed. The waiter looked at me with “A you’re f-ing crazy look”. But I held strong and ate my Lime Sherbet like I was eating a dessert flavored from the ground up wings of Pegasus herself.

Now there were many desserts with multiple names ordered that night which included titles like molten chocolate cakes, fresh fruit platters, ice creams paired with apple cinnamon crumbles. At the end of dessert, my son Aaron decided to try the lime sherbet. “Just to taste what all the fuss was about”. This is the kicker… when asked what his favorite dessert was of the things he tried that first night he said… “I hate to admit it but it was the lime sherbet. That was really good.” “I might actually get that tomorrow.”

#hellyeah #attaboy

Smiling Faces, Going Places.

photoSummer vacation has officially started.

School is out. Bedtimes dissolve and homework’s no more.

What’s also gone is the concept of Elementary School. Aaron our youngest is moving into the middle school next year as a 6th grader. At the end of the year move up ceremony I fought back tears more times than I care to admit. I still don’t feel old enough to have three kids much less having all three out of Kindergarten. Joey my oldest will be a Junior in the fall. A JUNIOR. The slideshow presentation of the 5th grade year-in-review is what got me. One by one pictures cycled through. Groups of kids in the moment, during recess, class field trips and activities. Best friends locked arm and arm or posed in silly formations that garnered many giggles from the 4 classrooms of onlooking soon to be sixth-graders.

The one consistent theme in each and every photo was a smile. No matter the circumstance or time of year. Some kids were drowning in oversized painting shirts for art class, or cold weather coats and hats, but yet smiles remained. Their future has yet to be written. They have every reason to smile. I like to call them smiling faces, going places, and for these 5th graders it only goes up from here. They will ride the high until life gets in the way. And when it does, I hope they never lose thier ability to smile. Especially Aaron. For me, over the last year I have been smiling a lot less than I should. I realize it. Those around me recognize it, and I miss it. Seeing the steady stream feed of smiling faces was a nice reality check straight from the innocence of youth. A constant reminder that I need to smile more. I remember those days where I used to smile every day, and I long for them to return. It won’t be an immediate transition, but it’ll happen.

It has too.

A Song of Greatness

AJ PoemAaron had to write-up a theme for a poem at school titled, A Song of Greatness it’s a Chippewa Traditional Poem by Mary Austin.

This is his write-up:

The theme of the poem, “A Song of Greatness” is that everyone can be a hero. In the first stanza, it says, “When I hear old men telling of heroes, telling great deeds of ancient days, when I hear them telling, then I think within me I too am one of these” That means the kid thinks it of himself of a hero. I know that because It’s talking about a boy looking up to grownups, and thinking he can make a difference as well. Also it says, “I too when my time comes shall mightily.” That means when he gets older he will make a difference. Now you know the main theme of the Poem, “A Song of Greatness.”