Milestones

At certain points in your life you reach milestones. Some are of huge strategic important to the rest of your life. Like having a child. Or getting the NFL Network. Others are minor in comparison, but at the time they occur they seem like a really big deal. Like changing your first diaper and, more joyously, changing your last diaper.

Diapers are something I don’t miss. At all. Diapers are one of the humbling things God bestows upon new parents. Diapers and having to carry around a diaper bag and pushing a stroller. Nothing grounds you more than cleaning up poop. I do miss the girls being babies sometimes because, well, they couldn’t talk, they slept. A lot. And they were immobile. I long for the days when breakfast was just Riley and me and all it took was some cheerios in front of her and she was quiet. Now she engages in CIA level psychological experimentation on her sisters.

Anyway, we reached a major milestone today. July 31, 2009 is the last day at daycare for us. Mom’s work has an onsite child development center. They’ve taken care of our kids since the first day we dropped Riley off back in late February of 2000. I dropped Bailey off for the last time this morning. I was not sad. I’ve gone to this place nearly every single week day for the last 9 and a-half years. And while they did an absolutely awesome job of taking care of the girls, I’m not going to miss it. But I’m certain they will miss the monthly subsidy we were paying them. It’s like having another mortgage and a-half. If we hadn’t had these damn kids we could have a vacation home and a really cool car that didn’t require us to know the reach of each girl in order to keep them out each other’s punching radius.

Thankfully, starting next month, all three girls will be in the same school building for the first time since August of ’05 when Riley started kindergarten. They will all be dropped off and picked up at the same place for the next three years. You have no idea the happiness and elation this has caused me. Any simplification of logistics is a big deal. Like Forrest Gump said, “one less thing, that’s good.” The first day of school in August will easily be the second or third best day of 2009.

#1 – February 1, 2009. Santonio Holmes. Two Feet. Touchdown. Super Bowl Champs.
#2 – Possibly replaced by the first day of school this year but for right now, it is June 19. The girls first airplane ride goes without incident. The sense of relief I had upon landing in Florida was indescribable.

The minor milestone we also reached today was that it is the last work day prior to our annual family excursion to the Ozarks. The reputation of this trip has grown into epic mythological proportions which of course includes the “Dr. D and Grandma D” stories. Eight adults and now eight children – seven of them little girls are included on this vacation. Seems like we add a kid every other year. My nephew is just one and right now being fawned on by your sister and your six girl cousins is pretty cool. But at some point, probably when he’s 4 or 5, he’s going to sit back and think to himself, “man, I got a crappy deal, this blows.”

Then when he’s about 13 he’s going to think it’s cool again as long as his sister and cousins are bringing their friends over.

Anyhow, we still have some packing and other stuff to get down tonight before we head out in the morning. For a review of last year’s trip, click on the August 2008 tab to the right.

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Historical Events at our House

Significant events in history often happen without full knowledge of their impact. Like the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912 beginning the slide toward socialism in America. Or the discovery of beer. Other events, like the Moon Landing, Pearl Harbor, or Sammy Hagar replacing David Lee Roth happen with the full knowledge of their larger and lasting impact on our lives and futures.

The latter happened yesterday evening. Kinsey learned how to ride a bike. She’s 7 and going into second grade. Most kids her age have already been riding bikes without training wheels for a little while. Sometimes a good while. But Kinz, like the rest of our kids, doesn’t like to be pushed. I’ve been told that they get that from me…

Anyway, this leads to an approach from Mom and I that tends towards suggestions at opportune times. Doesn’t matter if it is practicing her math skills, tying her shoes or riding her bike, with Kinz you have to approach her at a time she’s willing to learn. If you don’t, it’s like trying to explain to Katie Couric that not everybody thinks she’s adorable. Or to a Raider fan that the Immaculate Reception was a legal play.

Last evening, as I’m putting out the sprinkler to the water the front yard, Kinsey comes around the corner of the garage and asks if I’d help her ride a two-wheeler.

A calculation took place in my brain with such blinding speed that it was shorter in duration than any lead John McCain held last fall. I quickly took off her training wheels and set her up.

Our driveway has very slight decline. So I told Kinz to just get her balance and coast down to me and I’d catch her. If she wants to slow down, hit the brakes and put her feet down. That sounds simple but when I was teaching Riley, you’d have thought I was explaining it to her Mandarin Chinese with an Italian accent while asking her to perform complex maneuvers in zero gravity. Kinz took to it a bit quicker.

We moved from the driveway to the street and a slightly steeper decline.

Here is where all the poopy diapers, crying in the middle of night, barf on your shirts, incessant fighting with her siblings all becomes worth it. Okay, maybe not worth it, but it doesn’t bother you as much as it used to.

She glides down the hill, pedaling, braking…she even successfully navigates the cul-de-sac and then, without any fear she pedals back up the incline. Or if you hear Kinsey tell it, “that huge hill!”

And you smile. Because she’s smiling. She was really, really proud of herself. And then she just kept on working at it. She couldn’t get started on her own on flat ground. Then she figured it out. She couldn’t get started going up hill. Then she figured it out. She couldn’t navigate a tight turn in the driveway. Then she did it.

She was working harder than a Minnesota Democrat stealing elections. When she finally got off her bike her hands were shaking from fatigue and she had calluses like she’d been swinging a hammer all day working for the man.

The other event, and one that will undoubtedly be the kind is not noticed by masses until later, happened on our way to pick up Riley from Grandma Camp on Saturday. We’re on our way there when I hear Bailey in the backseat. At first you really couldn’t hear her too well because we were singing along to Tainted Love. But then I heard her.

Remember that rhyme your Grandma would admonish you with when you put your elbows on the table during a meal?

“Mabel, Mabel, strong and able, get your elbows off the table.”

Well, for some reason Bailey got it in her head. And decided she needed to turn it into a rap. She’s rapping it. Yup. Rapping.

Muh-muh-muh-m-mable mable…stirrrrrrrr-ONG and ABEL! T-t-t-t-t-t-t-take you elbows, elbows off the ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-table table…

She went through four of five different versions including one that was sung to the Tainted Love music and one that sounded weirdly like O.P.P. from Naughty by Nature.

Mom’s sister observed earlier this summer that Bailey has a soundtrack going in her head at all times. You never know which one it is and it will change randomly and without warning for no discernable purpose.

Anyway, we have five days till we’re back in the Ozarks for a week’s vacation with Mom’s family. And that is always good for some stories…

Published in: on July 27, 2009 at 9:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Old Lessons

Back in the day Arsenio Hall once said that you have to relearn things sometimes. Like going down into the kitchen and pouring yourself a big glass of orange juice right after you brushed your teeth.

Real GeniusOr what happens when you put a disciple of the New Deal in charge. Or that girls get all goofy when one of them is removed from the equation. Kinda like when Val Kilmer was trying to increase the kilojoules in the laser in Real Genius. If one key part of the equation is missing, then it doesn’t work. Or at the very least it works differently.

That’s what happening to us. Rye is down at Grandma Camp this week with her cousin. So we’re sans one kid. We’re a family of four this week. Funny how everything fits now wherever we go. That’s fiveism you know – the subtle yet very serious bias against families of five.

Anyway, Kinz and Bails are all messed up. Without Rye around all their normal routines are haywire. Bails can’t team up with Rye and make fun of Kinz. Kinz has to talk to Bails at the breakfast table because nobody is there. I’m technically there but when I have the cereal and the paper in front of me I’m like Nancy Pelosi at a Mensa meeting.

So it’s been kinda nice. Things are more quiet. There is far less fighting. Dinner norms and outcomes haven’t really changed despite the change in noise levels. For example, yesterday we have hamburgers and peas along with some grapes and a glass of milk for the girls. Before they can’t go outside and play with the neighbors they have to eat all their dinners. Well not all the grapes because there was kind of a lot but the rest has to be gone.

Kinz complies. Plate clean. Glass empty. Plate and glass are cleared from the table and placed in or around the sink.

Bails sort of approaches the “eat everything before you can play outside” rule as more of a suggestion for people who don’t know how to get around it. She thinks it’s a rule for people who lack creativity. Or it’s like gambling. A tax on stupid people.

Anyway, I check her plate when she finally says she done. The hamburger is mostly gone. There are no intact pieces. All that’s left are those hamburger crumbs that get caught in the ketchup. If you put them back together, it adds up to a full piece. And I have no doubt that it actually was a piece but Bails carefully took it apart and deliberately placed the deconstructed hamburger piece in a seemingly random pattern in and around the ketchup. And she left three peas. Three. She couldn’t finish three peas. Now I hate peas. I completely understand not wanting to eat the peas. But she already ate a whole mountain of them. If you’re going to draw a line in the ketchup against peas, then don’t eat the peas. Who eats all the peas except three and then takes a stand? George Custer? The French? Nope. Bails does.

Anyway all it took to get her to clean the plate was hearing Kinsey playing outside with the neighbors. I turned to look out the window and then back to Bails and intended to say, “see that kiddo, all you have to do is finish one bite of hamburger and three peas and you’re out there too.”

Except all that came out was “see…” Bails inhaled the remaining food on her plate so fast she sucked all the air, sound, time and space out of the room. It was like Neo in The Matrix.

Another thing I had to relearn was that when they are tired, it doesn’t matter if there is only two of them. They are going to fight. It is an absolute certainty. Like seeing a P90X commercial on Direct TV anytime you turn on the television. Or seeing the Lick it Up video on Metal Mania every time you watch it. Thankfully they were so tired today that even though they were fighting, they fell asleep in the middle of it. Seriously. It was like the end of Rocky III.

Journey_bandThe cool thing is that when I got downstairs VH1 Classic had Download Festival ’09 on. I don’t care what anybody says, Journey’s new singer really does sound like Steve Perry.

Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit…

Published in: on July 22, 2009 at 10:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What Rhymes with Jesus?

I like being a Dad. In fact, I like being a Dad more than I liked not being a Dad. In December I’ll have been a Dad for ten years. I know in the grand scheme of Dadhood that really is not long time. So my perspective is limited to those ten years. So I’m sure there will lots more frustrating times ahead.

But holy crap, the girls were closer to being disowned on Friday than Ernest Byner was to scoring in the ’87 AFC Championship.

Last week was already a little screwed up because it was VBS week. Incidentally we were rocking the VBS concert Thursday night. Kinsey even volunteered for a short part reading which included pronouncing the word “Pharisees.” That’s not an easy word for a 7 year-old. Once in 5th grade I was a reader at mass and I had to say “Pharisees” and “Caiphus,” I practiced all week to make sure I didn’t screw it up. Kinz pulled it off with far less stress. Which was weird considering there is more drama following her around than there is in a reality show.

Anyway, we’re doing a lot more pick ups and drop offs than normal. Which means I’m in the car with Bails. A lot. She laid this knowledge on me last week. She’s eating a small bowl of cheetos in the car because we stopped at home so she could go the bathroom and I decided that powdered cheese on the seats was a small price to pay for quiet in the car. Anyway, I finish with the pump and get back in the car and say, “geez it smells a lot like cheetos in here.”

She smiles and says, “well, Dad, you know cheetos are really good. Not healthy but really good. Well, okay, a little bit healthy because they have cheese and cheese is a little bit healthy.”

“Really.”

“Yeah, hey Dad?”

“What?”

“Cheezus…Jesus…Cheezus…Jesus…so that means cheetos are good for you too.”

“Because cheezus and Jesus rhyme that means cheetos are good for you?

“Yep.”

First chance I get, I’m buying some Reesus Peesus.

Friday I promised the girls that we’d go out to lunch after I picked them up from VBS. So we stopped at Subway. It’s cheap, pretty healthy and I love Subway. They each got the kids’ mini ham and cheese. Rye wanted bacon on hers too. So I asked for it despite my personal bias against bacon. It’s not that I don’t like pork. But bacon isn’t a food. It’s strips of pure fat. With some salt added. Anyway, the kid behind the counter said he didn’t think I could add anything to the mini’s. To which Rye reacted by saying, “Hey doesn’t their commercial say, ‘at Subway restaurants, you get everything you ask for?”

Looks like Subway is getting some customer feedback from Rye.

And since it was Friday and Mom and I look forward to going out to dinner on Friday night, we decided to go. The girls were getting a bit whiny but nothing that could cause us to go to Threat Condition Orange or Def Con 3 or anything. It was nothing to be alarmed about. It was like watching the Broncos lose Super Bowls in the 80’s. You don’t really pay attention until something weird happens. Like Timmy Smith going for over 200 yards. We get to the restaurant and immediately both Rye and Kinz are leaning against me complaining about how tired they feel. How cold it is. Why is the food taking so long.

We muscle our way through dinner, no big deal, we’ve eaten through worse.

We get home and Kinz is literally stomping and whining around the house. She can’t find her movie – Beverly Hills Chihuahuas – despite the fact it’s located in the middle of family room. Middle of floor. Nothing around it. You couldn’t miss it. Like the cheese in Richard Marx videos.

But she couldn’t find it so she was pouting. Then Riley decided she needed to be bossy. And Bailey decided she needed to comment on all the poutiness and bossiness.

Now I’m already a little annoyed because of dinner and the fact that Mom decided that this weekend would be a great weekend to stain the deck. Stain is messy. And not like paint messy. Like if there is substance more watery than water, it’s stain. Have you ever tried to climb a ladder with a small container filled with stain while keeping the stain somewhat stable. It’s impossible. Can’t be done. It’s like going to see Rick Springfield and not singing along to Jesse’s Girl. Or watching a Tom Cruise movie and not thinking, “man that dude’s really crazy in real life.”

Anyway, the girls learned what it was like to spend an hour in your room in complete silence on a Friday night.

Tomorrow we’re going to an amusement park with Mom’s whole family. Parents, sisters and their husbands and kids. Eight adults, eight kids. I’ll report back later.

Rush Hour

Vacation Bible School, swimming lessons and the VBS concert this week. If you recall we had a similar week last summer. Thankfully the Gods of Logistics and Sanity didn’t schedule Mom out of town and they limited swimming lessons to one day a week instead of four.

So that’s good.

But we still have to remember which day is water day, which day is sports day and which day is craft day at daycare for Riley and Kinsey.

For summertime, that’s a lot. If this were during school, my brain would have already adapted to all the crap we have remember, check and send back to school. But it’s July. The only thing I can remember is the day training camp starts for the Steelers is also the day before we leave for the Ozarks. Not surprisingly Bails decides to pepper me with a set of relatively simple but entirely unrelated questions on our way to pick up Kinz and Rye for swimming lessons yesterday afternoon.

“Dad, why are tadpoles so small?”

“I’m not really sure Bails. But the tadpoles come out of frog eggs and those are pretty small.”

“What? I mean at swimming lessons.”

Evidently, Bailey meant the really little kids who have swimming lessons before her. Not frog spawn.

“Dad, why do I have so many moles on my skin?”

“Genetics.”

“Dad, why are my feet so dirty?”

“Lack of socks.”

“Dad, why do kids close their eyes when they stick their heads out the windows in a car?”

“Doesn’t matter. Don’t do that.”

“Dad, how come you can feel the wind but you can’t see it?”

“What are you a philosophy professor?

Anyway, Kinsey and Bailey were playing up in their room on Sunday. Mom calls me up stairs. This usually is bad. Turns out it was rush hour. And I don’t mean Go-Go’s alum Jane Wiedlin minor hit in the summer of ‘88.

Rush Hour

This is what highways would look like if they didn’t have any lanes. And shoes were cars and people were Beanie Babies.

Published in: on July 14, 2009 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Strawberry 9

A week ago yesterday I called the cable company because our modem and the internet were working together about as well as Leon Panetta and Nancy Pelosi. It only took a full week for them to get to us. Which means, to loosely quote Kid Rock, we didn’t have no internet.

Which was weird. It’s one thing to be off the grid while you’re on vacation, it’s a different thing to be unplugged while you’re at home. Aside from not being able to update this blog, I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would. Which was also weird because I love the internet. Not as much as I love Fritos. Or my field boots from LL Bean. Probably as much as I love microbrews.

Regardless, it was a little like going back in time. Without the DeLorean. All I had to do was get rid of the TV remote, disable all but 5 channels, turn on My Sharona and a couple Supertramp songs and it would be 1979.

But that would mean no NFL Network or History Channel and that’s a change I can’t believe in. I also don’t want to deal with a world where the girls can’t find Scooby or iCarly whenever they want.

So the internet guy shows up. And this is the happiest repair guy I have ever met. Nobody enjoyed fixing internet connections more than this guy. Probably because he had more tools on his belt than Batman. And I’m not just talking about pliers and a flashlight. He had crimpers, strippers (not the naked kind), cutters and this compression tool. Plus this handheld deal that was part blackberry, part signal sensor and part card reader. So he’s tossing all these cable, web, electronic terms around and I’m lost but I’m nodding along like I used to do in statistics class. Then, after he decides the modem is fine, he stops and says:

“I bet it goobered itself boss.”

“What?”

“Yeah, the line is filed with this weird gel so if there is cut or nick in the line, the gel will fill the hole and keep moisture out. It’s pretty cool. But the problem is that when it gets really hot, like it was last week, sometimes it’ll slime up.”

“So you’re saying I’ve been slimed.”

“Yeah, that’s right chief.”

“Really.”

“It boils itself, oozes out the ends and goobers itself. Oh man, feel the splitter, it’s all slimed up. That’s nasty coach.”

“So you can fix it though right?”

“No problem amigo. Couple of new ends and you’re good to go.”

It was pretty cool how he figured the whole thing out. He was like Strawberry 9 looking for the Japanese fleet west of Midway. Except faster. And there wasn’t any water or dive bombers. But my victory in the Battle to Repair My Internet Connection happened just as quickly and unexpectedly. Midway was on AMC this morning by the way. I think I have finally figured out why the Japanese lost the battle. Arnold from Happy Days and Mr. Takagi from Die Hard were in charge of the invasion fleet. That’s not real good leadership.

Anyway, he comes back up to the computer after he de-slimes the connections. Clicks on one of the local TV news station websites to see if it comes up without any issues. No problems but here’s where the internet repair guy’s job is cooler than yours. He stops and starts clicking through some of the stories under the guise of checking to make sure it’s all working. Riiiiiight.

But I did get some instant feedback on the news.

Micheal Jackson: “Geez, let the man die.”
Grave robbers in Chicago: “Dude, that’s some weird stuff right there.”
Steve McNair: “Gotta watch your back bro, gotta watch your back.”

So I have the internet back. Until it gets really hot again I guess. But at least I know some cool stuff about coax cable.

Published in: on July 10, 2009 at 9:49 pm  Comments (1)  
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That’s One Big Chicken

We’re down at Mom’s folks house. Her sister is here too with her three girls. So that’s a lot of girls in the house. Pretty cool in college, not so much now.

On the way down the girls were getting a little anxious. If anxious means utterly annoying. Anyway, we stopped for a bathroom break and Mom bought the girls a bag of Cheetos to share. Did you know that Cheetos are to little kids what a nicotine patch is to smokers? Neither did I.

The cheesy, crunchy goodness soothed them for the last 20 mintues of the trip. Well not really, but it kept them from bothering us. Okay, that’s not true either. Cheetos are supposed to be a satisfying salty snack but in practice they taste so good they kick in the Leo Getz from Lethal Weapon 2 mechanism.

But we did get to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house in one piece. Mainly because the girls are developing a good appreciation of 80’s music.

Before we left yesterday, and it took us nearly all day to get out the door, we had the girls clean up their rooms. This task includes making their beds. Kinsey was going a bit too slow so I helped out. Here’s what I found buried, tucked and otherwise concealed within the sheets, blankets and stuffed animals on her bed.

Bed things

If you look closely, you’ll find six books, two wallets, one flip-flop, a baton, a red wig for monkey from Build-a-Bear, various items of clothing for their dolls, a purse, scissors and a scarf. It looks like a thrift store for kids.

Anyway, small towns are cool. Especially for the Fourth of July, fireworks, pork sandwiches, potato salad and baked beans. And big wood chickens.

wood chicken (2)

Yup. That’s a chicken carved out of stump.

Gadsden Flag and the Second of July

(Note: I meant to post this yesterday but my internet connection at home went Mark Sanford, I mean AWOL on me)

This morning I unfurled my Gadsden flag outside the house. It felt good. I picked July 2nd to display the flag on purpose. Why?

Gadsden Flag.jpg

Well, July 2nd almost was July 4th. Back in 1776, twelve of the thirteen colonies voted for the resolution which was to become the Declaration of Independence on July 2. Only New York refused to vote “aye.” Yeah, I’m not surprised either. I mean not only did they send Hillary Clinton to the Senate but their freaking nickname is the Empire State.

July 2, 1863 was also the key day in the Battle of Gettysburg. After the Army of Northern Virginia pushed Union troops through the town onto Cemetery Ridge on July 1, both sides gathered strength through the night. General Lee attacked both Union flanks the next day leading to the fight at Little Round Top and Col. Joshua Chamberlain’s famous swinging door charge down the hill. It also set the stage for the disastrous Confederate attack on the Union center on July 3.

Plus Mom doesn’t really like the flag since it has a snake on it and she had already left for work when Bailey and I decided to display it.

Anyway, July 2 has a lot of history associated with it. You can argue the union was created and saved on the same day. It’s also Jose Canseco’s, Lindsay Lohan’s and Imelda Marcos’ birthday. So I guess there is a downside too.

Regardless, we’re headed to Mom’s folks house to watch fireworks for the 4th tomorrow morning. Here’s last year\'s post about our trip down there on the 4th. It’s Midwest small town Americana at it’s best. The Fourth of July always gives me a chance to talk history with the girls too. At breakfast this morning, I asked them if they knew why we celebrated on the Fourth of July.

Riley: Because we get to watch fireworks?

Dad: Why do we watch fireworks?

Kinsey: Because it’s fun?

Dad: Well, yeah, but why do we shoot them off and have a big celebration? What are we celebrating?

Riley: I don’t know.

Dad: The Fourth of July is the day America decided it wanted to be a free country and didn’t want the British to tell us how to do things over here.

Kinsey: What did they do that was bad.

Dad: Well remember when we talked about taxes?

Riley: Yeah, that’s when the government takes your money.

Dad: Right. Well, in America, we get to vote for the people who decide how much money they will take. Except when the British were in charge, we didn’t have any say in that. And that’s taxation without representation. And that’s not fair.

Now that’s not entirely the case as the level of taxation prior to the Revolution was actually lower than it is now. You can thank Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Lyndon Johnson for that. But that’s a tangent for a different blog.

After a little more discussion about the Fourth of July, I decided I’m going to do the smart thing and break out the Schoolhouse Rock DVD for girls after work. Plus the discussion, as most discussion with the girls, took off in a direction I hadn’t intended but ended in a pretty good spot.

Riley: So the British were bad?

Dad: I don’t know if they were bad but what they were doing was wrong so the Americans, back 234 years ago, decided if the British wouldn’t change then they’d have to fight. And they did. For nine years.

Riley: Did soldiers die?

Dad: Yeah, lots of people died. But you know Britain is American’s best friend now. At least until Obama gives the Queen another iPod.

Riley: I want an iPod too. But that’s weird that we’re friends now.

Kinsey: So I guess they just talked and worked it out just like we’re supposed to do at school.

Dad: Yup. Just like that.

See, history has everyday applications and helps you be a better parent.