Category Archives: Family

Ready, set…wait!

Molly clearly wanted to move things along quickly yesterday as we set up for our annual jump off the front porch, first day of school picture.

“Let me know when you’re ready,” she said, just after hustling me outside.

With the sun just stretching out over the football field next to our house, I squinted down at my camera settings.

I looked up just in time to see her flying at me.

I clicked a few times.

“Did you get it?” she asked.

“Well, it’s kind of blurry,” I said. “I thought I was supposed to tell you when I was ready.”

“I saw you nod,” she said as she headed back into the house.

I wasn’t ready.

But, blurry pictures seemed just about right for the last, first day of school picture of my parental career. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this particular last. I’ve had little people flying at me off various front porches since 1992. I expected to be sad.

But I wasn’t and I thought about that as I headed off for my morning jog, which, all summer, had been utterly devoid of human company. I failed to factor in the whole first day of school thing.

To my horror, I found pods of high school students lined up along my route, waiting for the first day of school bus. I thought about changing my route. Instead I decided to embrace the opportunity.

“Have a great first day!” I yelled in a chipper voice as I huffed past the first group.

Mostly, they just stared at me.

“Thanks!” said a sweet freshman boy.

For the next group, I upped the ante.

“Have a great year!” I yelled.

They looked up from their personal devices and stared.

“No,” said one particularly morose boy.

I stopped and turned around for a moment or two.

“Wait, did you just say, ‘no’?” I asked. “You can’t say no. You have to at least try! You’re going to have a really great year!”

I had to cut myself off at that point. Even I was becoming embarrassed by the level of my enthusiasm. I lumbered on and spied a mother hiding behind a tree as I approached the next group. I saw this. I honestly did.

Before I reached that bunch of kids, they loaded themselves onto the bus, so I satisfied myself with a hearty wave.

I continued my run with an odd pep in my step. I wanted to share my optimism with the tree-hiding mom, but I left her in peace.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been doing this mom thing for a very long time. I know exactly who those kids are. I know their parents, their friends and their teachers. I think I even know the cool young adults they’re about to become.

Here’s something I also know, 2015 first day of school people, it’s going to be a great year.

Go get ‘em!

Molly was barefoot and anxious to get back to the scones she was toasting, so the pictures are less than clear, as is my own reaction to Molly’s last first day of school. Still, I think they sum up our attitude. It’s going to be an exciting and incredibly quick year.

Here we go…

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Their love is here to stay

7 Reasons the Internet is a Nerd — A Post by Molly

#WisconsinCasual, my dad and the magic Polish tartan

Friday night lights, camera, comedy!

We enjoyed a rare opportunity to see the oldest and the youngest Kostelnik granddaughters perform Friday in Chicago in separate shows that shared twin themes of sweet laughter and sassy fun.

My eight-year old niece Erin capped off her summer theatre camp experience by playing the Abominable Snowman in the cutest production of Frozen we’ve seen. (And Disney set that bar pretty high, no?)

With a hand-painted backdrop, homemade costumes and a cast of seven girls of varying tooth gap degrees, the show featured choreographed dances and dramatic prose. Mostly, said the Emerald City Theatre Director, they worked on teamwork.

Teamwork also featured prominently in Pure and Weary’s sketch comedy show “Nerd Alert” at the Annoyance Theatre.

The 45-minute set featured a lively contemporary musical debate – Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, a jolly romp through Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, a Shakespearean dissection of text messaging, among many other nerdy riffs.

The whip smart comedy is the perfect kickoff to a summer weekend. Nerd Alert runs on Friday evenings through July. With $6 tickets and available “Atomic Wedgie” drinks, we think it’s the bargain of the summer.

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I think the abominable snowman spotted me.

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They were missing a few teeth, but they never missed a beat.

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So cute!

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Ladies and Gentleman,meet the latest cast of Frozen.

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The abominable snowman and her mother.

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The oldest and youngest Kostelnik granddaughters

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Nerd Alert! Charlie and his Grandma Peggy

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Nerds in the audience

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Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter?

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Tickets are available now through the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago.

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Pure and

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Fish and a chip off the old block

Until my brother in-law Dennis came to visit, we thought of the Oconto River as a recreational vehicle, transporting us via kayak, canoe, or inner tube from drop in point to cabin on frothy summer waves.

It formed a scenic, babbling backdrop to the view from our front porch swing.

Then Dennis arrived with his green lures and earthworms, license and reels, and we learned our charming river could be an excellent food source as well.

Dennis is a fisherman, the kind of guy who can land a small mouth bass, clean, filet, pan fry and serve it faster than you can say, “Hey, Mr. Grumpy Gills.”

He once fished an entire weekend with a wire hook embedded in his lower lip.

“It was a brand new hook so I knew it was clean,” he said. “It hurt a lot, but I got six beautiful trout that weekend, including the biggest Steelhead I’ve ever caught.”

This weekend, he and his son, our nephew Ryan, taught us a little something about how to eat food so fresh it melts in your mouth, and so delicious you want to chew anyway.

I took notes, but there’s no way we’ll be able to recreate that meal.

Norman McLean wrote in A River Runs Through It, “If our father had had his way, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.”

Ryan and Dennis, two very skilled fishermen, honored their catch.

We’re grateful for every bite our family fishermen provided us, and for every moment they spent with us.


Dennis is the best kind of fisherman. He can spin a good yarn at the same time he untangles a 40-year old snarl of fishing lines in my dad’s old tackle box.

Dennis fishing

Here he is showing us all how it’s done on the river.

Ryan and his fish

Though, I have to be honest, Ryan caught the biggest fish.

Ryan fly fishing

Here is Ryan casting on the river. He picked up a wood tick or two, but he found an excellent spot.

Dennis with his catch

Dennis with a couple of his catch.

Dennis in action

Here is Dennis in action in the kitchen. Pan fried bass.

Donna, Vinnie, Sharon Ryan

My sister in-law Donna, Vinnie, my sister in-law Sharon, the family historian, and Ryan.

My plate

My plate. Be jealous. Be very jealous. That’s fresh, smoked (by Dennis) salmon, which he caught the day before in Lake Michigan, fruit salad, and the flakiest pan friend fish I’ve ever tasted.

Never waste a wish

We’re big on wishes in this house — falling stars, birthday candles, eye lashes, four-leaf clovers, dandelion seeds.

We wish on just about anything.

Our post-Thanksgiving turkey tussles have become legendary.

Last night I found a wishbone tucked away in the cabinet above our stove. At first it grossed me out and I quickly calculated the last time I’d cooked a bird.

I’ll be honest, it had been a few weeks.

I turned to toss it, and then I paused.

Life’s too short, man. You have to wish upon every opportunity you have.

Hoard your wishes if you’d like.

Share them with a friend.

But, for the love of all things magical and free, never waste an opportunity to wish.

Step outside on a sticky sweet s’more summer night and wish upon the evening star.

Wish you may. Wish you might. Have the wish you wish tonight.

Wishes equal hope and God knows we need that in this world.

Wishes transcend the ages and best of all they’re free.

Throw a penny in a wishing well.

Close your eyes, think about what you want most in this world, and wish.

The rules are simple, the stakes high.

You can’t tell what you’ve wished for until it comes true. That’s the one real challenge of the gifted wisher.

Wishes can transform an ordinary Wednesday.

So, here’s your task: find a stray eyelash, or a dandelion gone to seed, or the first star you see.

Make a wish.

Don’t tell.

And then, the important part, believe.

We hope all your wishes come true.

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We celebrated optimism last night with this wishbone, which I grossly found in a kitchen cabinet.

Vinnie and Molly wishbone

I wasn’t going to waste a good wishbone, so I gave it to these two.

Molly and Vinnie broken wishbone

Weirdly, it split in three when they finally pulled..

Molly and Vinnie what

So, who gets the wish? Hmmmmm.

Here's Molly at her First Communion wishing on a dandelion.

Here’s Molly at her First Communion wishing on a dandelion.

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Molly has plenty of experience with wishbones. Here are she and Charlie in an epic standoff, Thanksgiving 2011. What follows is a series of photos from the famous Thanksgiving Take-Down of 2013…

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Relay for Life Round 2 — the Laughter Lap

Happy Memorial Day from Jack, Molly B and Me

A reluctant hero and his legendary coach

My brother in-law Keith never intended to play basketball when he and his cousin Priscilla attended Pompano Beach High School.

“It was my mother’s wish that I attend Pompano Beach High School,” Keith said. “It was not mine.”

Obediently, the 14-year old agreed to help Priscilla in her efforts to integrate the high school, but only to spend the required hours there.

So, he refused to take the bus to and from school, and, though he had planned to play basketball with his friends at Blanche Ely High School, he did not go out for the team at Pompano Beach.

Then, Pompano Coach Tucker Morris saw him playing in gym class and drove to Keith’s house to talk him into joining the team.

The rest, in matters of civil rights and points on the scoreboard, is history.

Keith, the first black student to play sports at Pompano Beach High School, joined the team as a 15-year old sophomore, and became a team leader. The 5-9 guard earned the Most Valuable Player award, the team rebounding award and remains the fourth highest scorer in the school’s history.

Following high school, he attended Biscayne College on a basketball scholarship. He was the first black athlete to attend that school as well.

“Keith withstood a lot of pressure being the first Negro player here,” said Coach Morris in a 1971 newspaper article. “He never once lost his composure and came through with flying colors, both as a player and a person. He’s an outstanding young man.”

The coach and the reluctant sports hero formed a bond during those years. Asked if anyone ever called him the N-word during high school, Keith said, “Once.”

“The coach found out about it and put a stop to it,” he said.

The coach also found out that Keith had been hitchhiking to school and put a stop to that as well. During his senior year, Keith rode to and from school with the team manager.

In 2013, school boosters planned a lunch in Coach Morris’ honor. Asked who he’d like most to attend, the 87-year old coach said, “Keith Finley.”

Touched and somewhat surprised by the coach’s request, Keith agreed to fly from Wisconsin to Florida for the occasion, though he had not seen the coach in more than 40 years.

A weather delay grounded Keith in Atlanta and he missed the lunch, but he did take the opportunity to visit Coach Morris in his home.

The two posed for a picture and talked well into the night. Coach Morris apologized for never coming to see Keith play in college, and showed him a scrapbook he’d kept of his years there.

“I told him about the scrapbook I had that my mother kept. So, on my second visit to see him I took him that scrapbook and a framed picture we had taken,” Keith said.

Two months after Keith’s visit, Coach Morris died.

Their story lives on in the carefully cropped pages of a scrapbook maintained by a proud mother and inspired by her history-making insistence.

Keith basketball

Convinced to play high school basketball, Keith Finley became a star. The 5-9 guard considered an invitation to tryout for the American Basketball Association, but decided to seek more reliable employment following his graduation from college. He earned a Master’s Degree in Education, and became a teacher, then administrator in the Milwaukee Public School System.


Though he didn’t set out to break any boundaries, Keith also blazed a trail for black athletes at Biscayne College in Miami. Here he is with his college roommate.


An excellent student, Keith taught mathematics to migrant worker children the summer before his freshman year in college.

Keith and Coach

This is Keith, Coach Morris and Delores “Dee” Morris, the coach’s wife. Following the coach’s death, Keith visited Dee to pay his respects and was very impressed to learn that, at 87-years old, she still plays tennis.


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