March 31, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #138 - One Hole Is Enough

Golf was just too boring.  Playing eighteen holes and carrying a bag around never intrigued me. I have only played one hole of golf to my recollection. It was a humid and blindingly bright sunny day and I agreed to accompany two friends on the course, though I was there for the fresh air and had no intentions of playing. Golf was just too slow. However, by the seventh hole, their verbal jabs about my inability to play left me no choice but to swing the clubs and see what happened. The hole in question was a par three at a distance of approximately 140 yards. I stepped to the tee and  let it fly with a club suggested to me by my friend. Six feet away! Golf was just too easy. I strutted up the fairway, let my buddies take a few extra shots to join me on the green, and waited to tap in my birdie. My tap was extra hard and ended up missing the hole completely, stopping further away than where it started.  Golf was just too frustrating. I did save face by putting in for par, but I knew then, golf was just too much.

March 26, 2015

Dadventures #16 - Frankfurter Finale

Being a teacher, I am fortunate to enjoy some time away from the rigors of the classroom in summer. Of course, that didn't keep me away from seasonal employment. Whether it be at the zoo or with the Brewers, my days of summer gigs have always been a huge part of my life. When I became a parent, I knew these days were numbered. After moving on from the zoo before the baby was born, I did manage to spend one summer juggling the responsibilities of parenthood with the wackiness of work with the Brewers. But when it was time to sign up again for another summer, I had a decision. To be a sausage or not to be a sausage? I was in a pickle (not literally). After contemplation, I found a happy medium. While I decided to give up my regular wiener work, I did make one final appearance as an eight foot sausage at the 2014 Brewers on Deck event. I suited up one last time as the Polish Sausage, the same suit I wore my first day of work. When I saw my daughter and wife in full costume, I knew I made the right decision.

March 25, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #137 My (Almost) Major League Moment

I was an average ballplayer, though my ego would say otherwise. My versatility allowed me to play multiple positions, though I actually think my coaches had trouble finding the best spot for my unique and inconsistent athleticism. My senior year was a frustrating one. We were rich in underclassmen and while it was enjoyable molding the minds of younger ballplayers, the learning curve was full of bumps and bruises. However, just two years later, those same underclassmen led the team to back-to-back state titles, so it was well worth it, at least for them. That year did include a date with the ace stud of a conference foe who was being recruited by universities and pro teams alike. I played out of my mind that game. In fact, based on that performance, people thought I was playing with someone else's body as well. My highlight was actually an out. In front of the scouts, with a future minor-leaguer on the mound, I hit the farthest ball of my life, only to have it snared at the fence in dead centerfield. I still remember the face of my coach. He was almost as shocked as I was. Just one more foot!

March 24, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #136 - Baseball on the Road

Going into enemy territory is always daunting in the world of professional sports. I have had the pleasure of encountering and surviving a number of these experiences. Biased I am, but I feel the baseball experience in my hometown of Milwaukee is one of the best experiences around.  That being said, some of my road trips have provided memories. The trip to Kansas City led to two heartbreaking defeats, but an above-average stadium and generally pleasant patrons, plus a postgame trip around the bases. Cincinnati always brought in a raucous environment, but the games were always competitive, the scene on the river was gorgeous, and the "Pooches in the Park" game was adorable. Forget historical perspective, Wrigley a dump, so there needs nothing else to be said. In a battle of beer-based stadiums, Coors Field and Busch Stadium pale in comparison to Miller Park, but both had their charms and very kind and friendly staff. Cleveland indeed does rock! The stadium is beautifully set right downtown, but the reason for my affinity of this stadium goes well beyond the Milwaukee connection to the epic film Major League, it was the site of the best Brewers comeback I have seen to date.

March 23, 2015

Dadventures #15 - A Walk to Forget

When my infant daughter was ready for a walk, I preferred the ease of strapping on the baby carrier over the stroller, especially if I wanted to bring the canines along. One particular summer day, I decided to elongate our journey and with her strapped to my chest and a dog leash in each hand, I went on an extra long walk on the route usually taken when with the stroller. We went down to the river, through a few parks, and right through the heart of our village's quaint downtown rather than just the perimeter of our neighborhood. Because the village streets were more traveled than our neighborhood, we saw many more people and encountered more traffic. I though the sight of a man with a baby strapped to him and two dogs must have been thrilling as I noticed a few stares and a few honks from passing cars. In fact, I felt a bit cocky at that moment. Cocky might have been an appropriate term as I figured out the attention wasn't because of my awesome animal/baby combination. It was because my fly was down the whole time. I wish I could say this was the first time.

March 21, 2015

Mental Health Day

Being an elementary school teacher right now is stressful. Wait. Allow me to rephrase. . . 

Being an elementary school teacher is ALWAYS stressful.

Not just because the kids are just rebounding from cabin fever. 

Not just because it is almost the dreaded standardized test season (AGAIN).

Not because summer is coming and the kids know it.

And believe it or not, not just because of the current political climate in the Badger State.

The maniacal mixture of all these elements can be overwhelming to say the least.

Add school stress to that of the lovely responsibilities and emotional roller coaster I experience as my sister's guardian, especially this time of year.

Not just because doing her taxes can get wacky.

Not just because she is also recovering from cabin fever.

And believe it or not, not just because she pulls out a new bag of terrible behavioral tricks just when she's seemingly making significant progress.

This crazy concoction is not only overwhelming, but frustrating and defeating.

And then there's fatherhood. . . .which by the way is the BEST STRESS I could ever ask for.

Put everything together and I needed a mental health day. . .badly.

Luckily, I got one, even though my day was pretty booked.

The Tyke Hike I led this morning was amazing and inspiring, even if Embry's terrible two tantrums came a few weeks early.

An impromptu meeting regarding my sister's behavioral progress (or recent lack thereof) went well. I am actually cautiously optimistic that it might even make a change. Remember, it often gets worse before it gets better.

Though the meeting did lead to me missing out on meeting up with some college chums I would have loved to see, it did provide an opportunity to make a memory that will stick with me for a long time.

I re-lived my childhood today. You see, living a block away from Underwood Creek, I spent countless hours there, doing all sorts of things. I enjoyed stick races by chucking a chosen stick into the water and cheering it over the waterfall. With my father by my side, I sprinted down the street to get to the creek to count the cars on the train zooming along the tracks that run parallel to the water. I caught dozens of frogs with my cousins, My cousins and I would also trek along the water's edge to view graffiti that decorated the freeway underpasses. I remember collecting railroad spikes and other assorted and random items that washed up on the cement shores of the concrete creek every time a huge rainstorm allowed the water to overtake it's artificial borders.

To me, "the creek" is my childhood. Today, I was able to re-live it through the eyes of my daughter. We had a few stick races and she always gleefully won. We saw a train. 63 cars. No frogs or graffiti today though. But memories for sure.
Bye Bye creek!  Until our next adventure. . .

March 18, 2015

A Reader's Review

The sixth book of the year took longer to complete than it should have, but not because it wasn't great. I really wish I would have been able to read this before I started my classroom economy in my 4th grade years. This book provided wonderful examples of how to talk to kids about money. I love the book's examples, the fact that it focuses on honesty, and how it gives students some power and choice. Kids need to learn through doing and that might include making tough choices, dealing with poor decisions from some of those choices, and using their personal experiences to make improved choices as they get older.

This book was even more personal to me as I am a parent. or as the book states, "in the adult-making business." I loved many of the ideas and look forward to using them as I work through this while parenting thing :)

Discovering Dargatz #135 - Candy, Cards, Comic Books,& Collectibles

To many children, Sundays in summer meant trips to the pool, zoo, or park. Not for me.  I went to the flea market. Rows and rows of vendors selling anything you could imagine. If it was for sale, it could be found here. Though many different types existed, the one most memorable to me was Maxwell Street Days. It was an all day affair.  Early rising to a late departure. My parents tended to scrounge around for collectibles. Though I am sure I spent much of my younger years at their side, I recall my "tween" years allowing for a little more independence. I usually took a huge lap around the whole place looking for the sweetest deals.  The usual items were on my wish list: baseball cards and paperback comics, though I always made a pit stop at the candy store, picking up Swedish Fish or raspberry gummies. After bargain hunting and walking through the maze of materials, a trip to the grandstand was in order.  When I arrived, I would eat my candy and look through my treasures of the day, knowing full well I would be re-living the same adventure again and again throughout the summer months.

March 17, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #134 - Parade and Afraid

Anyone aware of the mechanical nature of the zoomobiles I was once privileged to drive  knows that their reliability was questionable at best. They were in fact nothing more than forklift engines asked to cart around hordes of people at a minimal speed around the zoo grounds. I was understandably nervous when asked to participate in a holiday parade. When these operational nightmares super susceptible to breaking down in the fairest of weather conditions, what was to be expected in the dead of winter? After weighing my options, I agreed. Slowly guiding the zoomobile  through the streets of West Allis, Wisconsin on a crisp, clear November evening remarkably went smoothly.  That is, until I was told that the streets were re-opening and I would have no escort back to the winter home of the zoomobiles, the horse barn at State Fair Park. In other words, I was being asked to maneuver an oversized compartment filled with overserved bank associates through busy streets at a max speed of approximately 12 miles per hour.  I stuck to the right, honked my measly little horn at will, and survived the treacherous 12 block scramble back to the grounds. Must've been quite a sight!
A scene from another parade I had the honor of participating in.

March 16, 2015

Classroom Zoo #25 - Excuses Are Like Armpits. . .

As someone once told me, "honesty is the best policy because excuses are like armpits: we all have them and they all stink." I try to instill the idea of telling the truth in my classroom on a daily basis. Yet, my little friends continually surprise me with the things they do to get themselves in trouble while often simultaneously entertaining me with their attempts to avoid the consequences from those decisions. When a student colors over the yellow and/or red stoplights on their daily behavioral record, I love it when they say "I just had to color." When a student got reprimanded on the bus for attempting to use his crotch to "teabag" another student, who was to blame: television of course. Why would a student drink paint water? Because he wanted to have Kool-Aid for a snack, What do you do when you want to invite a friend over to play but are too afraid to ask? Steal their snack of course. And my most favorite, when a student was caught licking the lunch trays of his peers, he finally confessed he did it because "friends use their tongues." Maybe really, really close friends, but not kindergarten ones.

March 11, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #133 - The Cold Chill of Victory

Two times in my illustrious sports-witnessing career have I been fortunate enough to participate in a promotional contest. Both times were at hockey events. Both times I was victorious. The initial experience was at a Badger game attended with my buddy Josh.  We secured a spot in the shoot and pass competition during the first intermission.  Basically, Josh stood in one faceoff circle and passed to me on the opposite side so I could shoot. Apparently, our listening ears were not on during instructions because it look the announcer saying "10 seconds left" before we realized the competition had a time limit.  Luckily, our lack of rushing led to precision passing and sharpshooting, ultimately sending us to victory and 10 feet of party subs.  It took another dozen years (and countless Admiral games) before I was pulled back into on ice competition. In this game, I was given a sequence of grocery items on the jumbotron and had 20 seconds to recall at least five items. Luckily, the store in question was one I frequented and the items displayed were ones I regularly purchased, leading me to $20 in gift cards for that store. I love the cold chill of victory!

March 10, 2015

Classroom Zoo #24 - Tears

Whether it was above average height, overall wackiness, or general clumsiness, I knew a transition to kindergarten would be an adjustment. I knew I had to be careful where I stepped as falling on a 5 year old could be quite problematic. I knew my corny and often confusing attempts at humor would probably not go over well with little friends who don't quite understand sarcasm and irony. I knew I would make changes to how I teach, how I help, and how I listen. I wasn't quite prepared for the overall emotional fragility that I was walking myself into. I assumed there would be more tears at the kindergarten level, or at least the tears would be different. I had plenty of criers in upper elementary but for reasons that I would not expect at kindergarten, such as bullying, stress over homework and testing, hormones, etc. Kindergarten crying is much more, how I say, unexpectedly uncontrollable. Boogery noses, stuck zippers, and loud noises often lead to outbursts. So too does a child's misinterpretation of a direction as a punishment. I once told a child to "be a listener" and you would have thought I had run over her puppy.

March 4, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #132 - Permanent Hickey

Only a guy with my luck could be embarrassed by a hickey. This common teenage expression of affection would've been appreciated in my adolescence. However, my hickey was received in a much different manner, and just my luck, it won't ever go away. It was my senior year of high school and I was playing third base for the Red Knights. An opposing player cracked a liner my direction that nailed the lip between the infield grass and the dirt and caromed right up into my collarbone, causing a hairline fracture. Just like that, my baseball career came to an end.  However, the remnants of that injury linger to this day. Just above my left collarbone, in the prime spot for a love bite, remains a permanent bruise. Skin bleaching is an option for the removal of this "hickey," though that would draw even more attention to the location of my supposed affection. Though it has been there since I was eighteen, I am regularly asked about it.  Even my first principal told me on her last day that "professionals cover things up."  I can only imagine what the parents of my students think.  Either I am unprofessional or really cool.

March 3, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #131 - Love Hurts

All's well that ends well.  This is the absolute perfect phrase to sum up my love life. . . .or at least my attempted love life.  Being shy for essentially my entire life, meeting women and attempting to woo them usually led to embarrassment and defeat.  However, practice makes permanent and I eventually won the game of love.  But there were many, many defeats along the way. Unexpectedly going to see the movie Mad Love on my very first date. Getting a phone number form a girl the last day of freshman year, ignoring it, and seeing that girl "blossom" as a sophomore. Going to senior prom as a favor for a friend and ending up giving hope to a girl I barely knew who apparently took my kind gesture as intentions for romance. Crushing on one sister in college and asking her sister about what I should do, completely missing out on the fact that that sister I went to seek advice from was crushing on me. Pouring myself into attracting a girl only to find out her total intentions in hanging out with me were to learn about one of my buddies. I learned, and now, I love.

March 2, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #130- Little League

Baseball has always been an important passion in my life. Little league may have been the unofficial start of this passion.  My Tosa League career spanned nearly a decade.  Through out the years, I advanced through the levels and played for a variety of teams.  In Rookie league, I began as a Piston (gray & red) before advancing to the World league and wearing the Seahawks colors (dark blue).  In the American league, I was a Twin (yellow) while I finished up my little league career as a member of the Rockies (light blue) in the National league. I remember my coaches Wong, Boomer, Ward, and Samson.  I played at Wisconsin Avenue Park, the field by the mental health complex, behind Longfellow Middle School, and by Underwood Elementary.  I played on first place teams, last place teams, and all star teams. In anticipation, I dressed up hours ahead of each game and scoured the local Wauwatosa News Times to see if my statistics made it into the weekly report. Having my grandpa give me a dollar for each base I reached: motivating.  Holding a record with five 
strikeouts in an inning: moot. Reminiscing about my time as a little leaguer: memorable

March 1, 2015

A Reader's Review

Book 5 of 2015 definitely got me ready for some warmer weather. I have always loved history, nature, and Wisconsin. It is hard to think of a better place that encapsulates these things than one of my favorite places to visit: Old World Wisconsin.

This book describes the process, ansd what an arduous and contrioversial process it was, to get a living ethnic history museum up and running in Eagle, Wisconsin. From financial issues, inexperienced leadership, lack of funding, unexpected heat from the Eagle community. no money, bureaucratic inconsistencies, miscommunications, and did I mention the need for cash, Old World Wisconsin's tale is one that continues to unfold today.

I definitely have a new perspective on the inner workings of state and local government because of this book. I also better udnerstand how much hardship and dedication it takes to spring an idea into reality. In a  parallel kind of way. I came across this book as I was taking my own idea for a book and researching it so that it too may someday become a reality.