Turkey Day Recollections

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’m not really sure why or when it was that I decided this fact. I love Christmas too. And Halloween. And the Fourth of July. Memorial Day is always close to my birthday and when I was a kid back on Cork Drive we’d have neighborhood Memorial Day cook-outs. Plus folks always displayed the flag too and I like holidays where people remember to display the flag.

Back to Turkey Day though. There are lots of things I remember liking about it while I was just a wee bugger. Most of my memories revolve around football. And gravy. Football may be the single most important factor in my holiday rankings. Don’t get me wrong, gravy is important too but I’m 38 and you can’t suck down that much fat and cholesterol anymore without Father Time erasing years off the end of your life each time you do it. I mean seriously, anything that has a line in the recipe detailing how much fat is needed for the end product and involves actually skimming visible floating fat off the top is probably going to be on your heart’s enemies list.

So you have to fight the gravy fix. Sometimes you replace it with 7 or 8 crescent rolls. There is so much oil in these bad boys they will soak right through your napkin without any assistance from butter or gravy or that stuff that sits in the bottom of the turkey pan after you cook it. That’s some good stuff right there. We’d always have scalloped potatoes too. Oh….potatoes…cheese…butter… Can you feel that? I can. It’s an arterial blockage. Damn you cursed genetics!

I know cranberry sauce is a traditional Turkey Day deal. And I love tradition. But seriously, c’mon man. That stuff is awful. And it’s not a sauce. It’s more like fancy jello.

Football is like a time marker for me. Music is the same way. At least until about 1993 when grunge killed the hair bands. Poison Forever! How do you remember your Thanksgivings? Here’s a quick example of how I remember mine.

T-Day 1977. Bears beat the Lions 31-14 with Bo Rather hauling in a long TD pass. Why do I remember? Well, we were moving from Pittsburgh to Chicago and suddenly I had to be a Bears fan. It felt weird, unnatural. Plus I was 7 years-old and moving is a big deal when you’re in 2nd grade. Plus I got to play Myles Standish in our class play.

T-Day 1978. Lions beat the Broncos 17-14. Why do I remember? We drove back to Pittsburgh to visit Grandad and Grandma and Rick Upchurch almost took a punt back for a TD. That’s a pretty damn exciting thing to see when you’re 8. Of course your frame of reference for really damn exciting things is pretty limited too.

T-Day 1980. Bears beat the Lions 23-17 when Dave Williams returned the overtime kickoff 95 yards for a TD. Why do I remember? We were over at our next door neighbor’s house eating bird and I tried to snag some dip on some triscuits. But my Dad put the kibosh on it because I was sick or something and he thought the dip would only make it worse. I was pretty ticked at the time because I was 10 and dip is like a major food group to a 10 year old boy.

T-Day 1982. Giants beat the Lions 13-6 when Lawrence Taylor took an interception 97 yards the other way for a TD. Why do I remember? It was the freaking strike year! Football was finally back. We almost had a Thanksgiving without football. That’s like the Fourth of July without fireworks. Or an Oliver Stone film without half-truths, misrepresentations and outright deceptions.

T-Day 1983. Lions beat the Steelers 45-3. Why do I remember? My buddy and his family were over at our house celebrating the day and I had to listen to how bad the Steelers played. And this was coming from Bengals fans. That’s like the French telling the Germans how to run a war.

T-Day 1993. Dolphins beat the Cowboys 16-14. Why do I remember? This was the Leon Lett game in the snow in Dallas. Plus it was my first Thanksgiving as an adult. I was out of college and had a job. Coming home felt a little different that year. At least until I watched Home Alone after the game. I still love that movie.

T-Day 1998. Lions beat the Steelers 19-16. Why do I remember? We were at Mom’s folk’s house and referee Phil Luckett blew the coin toss in overtime and the Steelers lost. I don’t really like watching the Steelers with other people. If you are not taking it as seriously as me, I have a tendency to be unhappy with you.

More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving, to me, is associated with coming home. In the late 70’s we’d drive back to Pittsburgh to see my grandparents. In college, I’d come home for a full week which consisted of playing EA Sports NHL Hockey all day with my friends on the Sega, going to Sneakers for beers which always led to an impromptu high school reunion, then coming home and eating all the leftovers. Bird. Stuffing. Even the potato peels. One year we warmed them up in the microwave and just added some salt and ketchup. Mmmm. Most of the vitamins are in the peels. Seriously. You can look it up.

Furthermore, you only have to go to work for three days. You get two Fridays. Back when Friday night was actually different than every other night (meaning pre-Riley, Kinsey and Bailey) having two Fridays was pretty cool. Plus it is the unofficial start of Christmas shopping season. The only time of the year that you’ll consider heading to Best Buy to get your little sister Steve Perry’s Greatest Hits. Yeah, I was surprised to learn that he had actually had hits and that they were great. I’m not kidding. Besides “Sherry” and that song with Kenny Loggins what did he do? He’s a legend with Journey, but on his own?

Anyway, Christmas shopping means the mall. And if you grew up in the 80’s like me, going to the mall is a pilgrimage. You’re drawn to it. Calling you home to a place in your past when things were simpler. When all you worried about was making sure you had enough money to get some Sbarro’s pizza and new threads at Chess King.

Yes – Thanksgiving! It’s more than just bird and mashed potatoes. It’s the only time of year that everyone cares what the Detroit Lions are doing.

Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 7:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Note Cards

We’re cleaning up the house on Saturday because we’re having some friends over. The place is beginning to look pretty damn good when I get distracted. I find some note cards that we’ve been using to help Kinsey with her “sight” words. Do you know what “sight” words are? I didn’t until the girls started grade school. They are words like: am, for, too, what. Words kids should know on sight. Hence the name. Well I’m picking them up when I notice three cards in particular.

Here’s the first one: sidneys-fingernail-styles-note-card

Evidently Rye has been observing the various finger nail styles present in our town. That first one looks pretty normal. The next one has some kind of weird lightning bolt design. It must be for people who are really fast. That third one sorta looks like a German army helmet from World War II. The fourth one on the top looks like a cigarette butt. Don’t know what that means. The first one in the bottom row looks like a bigger, fatter version of the one above it. Maybe it’s Oprah’s. The next one is sort of misshapen. That’s either some new cool thing the kids are doing or it could be Rye’s rendering of what a 70’s era jiffy pop popcorn container looks like at fully popped corn capacity. That last one is either a dude nail or an Indian burial mound.

Next one is this: sidneys-think-before-you-speak-note-card

So I guess I should be happy that at least one of them is listening when I talk to them. And not only that, but she took the time to illustrate my lesson. Although, once again, one of my children has drawn a picture of me without any hair. And an egg shaped head. With crazy black eyes.

Last card is this: sidneys-fish-note-card

Yeah, it’s a fish.

Finger nails, lessons from Dad and a fish. So I guess that’s what 3rd graders think about.

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 8:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Attitude, Baseball and Wooderson

Sometimes this parenting thing makes you realize that what you say really does matter. It also makes you realize how brutally up front little kids can be at times. And then it gives a tremendous sense of foreboding about the future.

For example, Kinsey comes home from school on Monday and she’s really upset. Turns how the development of social strata amongst girls starts in 1st grade if not earlier. And I really don’t understand how it works. For boys, back in the mid-70’s, it was easier. If you were good at football, or really fast, or had most of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ baseball cards, you were cool. Like the kid who immediately ascended to stardom the day he brought the card trio of Dave Parker, Omar Moreno and Manny Sanguillen to the playground at St. Louise De Marillac.

Anyway, Kinsey is upset because two of her friends are, in her words, “getting into an attitude” and not playing nicely with her and another girl. Cassidy and Abby evidently got a bit lippy with Kinsey and Jessica. Even Riley chimed in with some support Kinsey’s argument that Cassidy was being the opposite of nice.

“Dad, she’s right. I saw it. Cassidy was being mean. But I think Abby was just following along.”

“Yeah Dad, I wanted to play with Abby but Cassidy wouldn’t let her. She said that she was playing with Abby and Jessica and I couldn’t.”

“Well did you ask Cassidy if you could all play together?”

“Yes, but she doesn’t want to include me. She’s into an attitude and is just being mean to me and Jessica. And Abby sometimes acts just like Cassidy when they are playing together but she’s nicer when Abby isn’t there.”

It all seems pretty weird to me because Kinsey just went to Cassidy’s birthday on Saturday. And Abby’s birthday party about three weeks ago. But now Kinz is all upset. I have a few options on the table here. I could continue to pursue the “maybe you should just ask Cassidy and Abby if you could play together” line. I could go with the “well Kinsey, if they don’t want to play with you and Jessica then maybe you guys should just play by yourselves” direction. Or I could drop the, “Well that stinks Kinz. Your only in 1st grade and you are already dealing with jerks. Get used to it. I’m 38 and they never seem to go away.”

And since they never seem to go away or change their tactics, Kinz is going to have to learn how to deal with this stuff.

She was so upset about it that she came home today with a picture she drew that detailed why she’s upset. She drew figures of the four girls and they each had dialog. She differentiated the negative dialog from the positive by putting bubbles around the bad stuff.

But it all just got me thinking. She’s only in first grade. What the hell is going to happen once she gets into junior high? Or high school. Girls are mean. And they only perfect this quality as they become teens. Which means I’m not only going to have to pay attention to make sure Kinsey isn’t dating this guy.

But I’m also going to have to pay attention to make sure isn’t hanging with this girl. Or God forbid, turning into her. darla-marks

Maybe this is all just practice. It’s like the Minors. 1st grade is like Rookie League for parents so they can learn to deal with this stuff. By 5th grade you’re up into AA ball and there is starting to be some separation amongst the kids who were all together back in Rookie League. Some are turning into the mean girls, trained by older sisters of course. You know these are the ones who will slide into AAA ball based on reputation and nothing else. By 9th grade you’re knee deep in the politics and cut throat nature of AAA. It’s clear which kids are destined to achieve something in the Show, which ones have achieved the pinnacle of their coolness right there during freshman year. At some point in the future, you’ll see them on Jeff Foxworthy’s Great Moments In Redneck History. Then you hit senior year and you’ve made it to the Majors. The cliques are formed with boundaries built with concrete reinforced by steel rebar. Everybody has been stereotyped. To paraphrase Brian Johnson, you see them as you want to see them – a brain, an athlete, a basketcase, a princess and a criminal…Don’t you forget about me..as you walk on by will you call my name… breakfastclub

That movie is still cool.

Anyway, by the time you’ve navigated your way through the Minors and found yourself in the Majors, your kids and their friends probably think they know everything and don’t have to take advice or listen anymore and more or less think the planet revolves around them.

Which makes them Manny Ramirez minus the dreads. Weird.

Anyway, I’m thinking I’ll have to continually consult my collection of John Hughes 80’s teen flicks to help me navigate the high school years.

Published in: on November 19, 2008 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Portraits and Poop

There are lots of small minor things that happen throughout the course of your day that you don’t pay much attention too but if you don’t forget about them, they are all pretty funny.

For example there is this portrait Kinsey drew of me. dads-portrait2

Not sure why my eyebrows are doing that. I’m must be surprised that my nose is blue. Or I only have four teeth. And they’re black. She didn’t even bother to put any hair on me.

We just had parent-teacher conferences this week. Kinsey’s teacher said she had a tendency to drift. We of course didn’t agree. Drifting is what an iceberg does in the north Atlantic. It’s floats along aimlessly. Moving slowly. Kinz doesn’t really drift as much as she changes gears faster than James Bond in the opening scene to Quantum of Solace. You’ll understand the reference as soon as see it. Excellent flick by the way. Judi Dench is great as “M”. But a little too much Matt Damon in the Bourne trilogy, especially the last one, and not enough Sean Connery in Thunderball. The action sequences get a little carried away. Anyway, Kinsey goes from writing a story to talking to her friends about Scooby Doo instantaneously. It happens quickly. Like she jumps over a minute in time. Weird thing is that Kinsey is gettng pretty darn good at math. Doesn’t get that from me. Maybe Mom. Definitely Grandad and Grandpa.

Riley’s conferences all go the same. They have since kindergarten. We often joke that if we had stopped having kids after Riley, we’d look upon all other parents as dolts.

Anyway, here’s the book Bailey brought home from daycare. everybody-poops2

Tough to argue with the title. She ran back to her cubby when I picked her up because, in her words, she needed her “poop book.” Knowing Bails, I was sure I heard her right. Now she’s memorized the whole thing and recites it with the all knowing tone of Ron Burgundy. It’s science.

Gotta remember to bring that damn book back to daycare on Monday.

Published in: on November 14, 2008 at 10:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Street Cred at Church

Rose, Num Num, Flushercake, Ducky and CM.

These are the names the girls decided to assign everyone tonight while they were in the shower. These are our new shower names. No word yet on if there are kitchen table names, backyard names or TV-watchin’ names forthcoming.

Anyway, I have all kinds of new street cred at church. Mom got sick over the weekend and couldn’t make it to church on Sunday. Just so happens, and I don’t believe this was an accident, that we were teaching Riley’s 3rd grade Sunday School class. Why wasn’t it an accident? Well, twice in the last month hair appointments for Mom have magically showed up on her calendar on Thursday evenings. The same day Rye and Kinz have dance lessons. Which means I had to bring Bails along. And as I have explained before, keeping Bails entertained and out of the practice of mischief is about as easy as keeping Nancy Pelosi from ticking off the Catholic Church. Or getting the NCAA to actually issue sanctions against USC for violations in regards to Reggie Bush.

And dance class is now two full freaking hours. First time it happened the other Moms and one Dad all thought it was pretty fun that Mom absent mindedly scheduled her hair cut on Thursday. But when it happened last week I got the “Holy Crap are you serious?” laughs instead of the “Man that’s some funny stuff right there” laughs.

Then Sunday comes along and I’m starting to feel like Kevin Costner in JFK as he’s piecing together each part of the conspiracy. Back and to the left. Back…and to the left…

Yeah so anyway, it’s scary enough to believe that I have been entrusted with the development of three girls. Even more disconcerting is the fact that the parents of a horde of 8 and 9 year olds have handed over the spiritual development of their children to me, and me alone, for an hour.

What did we learn? Well, first thing we learned was that WWJD stands for “God Cheers for the Cyclones.” Then we discussed the reasons why fall is best season. After some persuading they are all clear that it is because it is football season and not Halloween season. Lastly we talked about how the Civil War could have taken an entirely divergent path had Robert E. Lee listened to James Longstreet and flanked the Union forces on Little Round Top instead of ordering Pickett’s Charge.

No seriously, I didn’t do that. Except for the part about the Cyclones and football. Anyway, how many third graders do you think you could handle?

I had 13. Luckily, the Sunday School coordinator bounced in a few times to suppress any sedition, riots or outright mutinies.

Class wraps up and a couple sets of parents wander in to pick up their kids.

I explain to a couple that Mom wasn’t feeling good so I did it by myself for the most part. And little did I know that if you want some street cred with the Moms and sheer wonder and awe from the Dads, you just teach 13 third graders about JC and boys for an hour.

So I’ve got that going for me…which is nice.

Published in: on November 13, 2008 at 10:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lost Girls

Beggar’s Night ’08 was a success.  Girls collected an amount of candy so great that they have no hope of ever consuming it.  It now goes up on the top shelf of one of the kitchen cabinets next to ’07’s Halloween haul.

Riley was Hannah Montana.  Kinsey was Sharpay from High School Musical.  And Bailey was a pumpkin princess.  And she wore a witch’s hat and carried a wand.  And it was 70 degrees out so Kinsey actually could wear her sleeveless costume without a jacket.  They were very excited because 2 years ago they all went as winter coats.

Anyway, remember the movie Lost Boys from the summer of ’87?  Had that really cool song “Good Times” from INXS on the soundtrack.  Keifer Sutherland looked freakin’ weird.  But back in the mid to late 80’s he always looked weird.  Which made him perfect for this role.  He just had to show up on set.  Like Arnold in the original Terminator.  He couldn’t act at all and reminded everybody of a robot when he tried.  So they just cast him as one.  Magic.

Anyway, remember that scene where the Corey’s find their way into the vampire’s cave looking for the head dude?  Then they notice the teen vampire gang is all hanging from the ceiling?  Well this is what we found in Riley’s room the other day when Kinsey and Bailey were playing Barbies.  lost-girls1

Published in: on November 4, 2008 at 1:17 pm  Leave a Comment