And I’m 40

I’m 40 today. Mom turned 40 last month so I’ve been thinking about it for about a month. Turns out it wasn’t a big deal. But I did get a sweet gift from Mom.

That’s right. Two of my favorite things combined into one awesome birthday present – a Lynn Swann autographed mini-helmet.

Best birthday card. This one from my sister-in-law.

Laughing aren’t you?

I think 40 is a little disconcerting because its the first milestone birthday that many of us remember our parents having. My Dad turned 40 in 1980. My Mom decorates this old fitted bedsheet with “40 is fantastic!” on it. Then she puts it on the outside of the front door. To make sure my Dad has to enter the house that way, she unplugged the garage door opener and then locked the garage doors. My Dad gets all annoyed and then walks up to the front door and starts laughing. We had a birthday cake and watched the Steelers lose to the Oilers 6-0. 1980 was tough year. The freaking Raiders won the Super Bowl, Mean Joe played his last game and Lady by Kenny Rogers was the top song of the year.

Anyway, I was thinking about all my birthdays that ended in zero. 1980 turned ten. Played Space Invaders went to the see The Nude Bomb. 1990 turned 20. Camped with some friends. Turning 20 by the way is such a let down. I’m mean you’re 20. It should be a big damn deal. But nothing really changes besides not saying “teen” when talking about your age. Plus, you’re still dumb enough to think Milwaukee’s Best Light tastes just fine. Although I do miss this:

2000 turned 30. I put a 6 month old Riley in front of Baby Einstein while I installed a storm door. Guess priorities change…

Today I went to work, came home, did nothing. Today is the first weekday not called Friday that we don’t have any kid activities since April 6th. I’m amazed we’ve made it this far. Gymnastics ended last week. Dance ends this week with recitals tomorrow and Saturday. Only two more weeks of softball. But after years of dance recitals in May, I’m not going to complain about having three softball games in one evening. If my choice managing costume changes backstage at dance recital rehearsal or coaching unattentive and easily distracted kindergarteners, I’m picking the the 5 year-olds every time.

And, by the way, I am now completely certain that I look forward to summer more as Dad than I did when I was kid. Don’t get me wrong. Summer was freaking excellent in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Capture the Flag and Ghost in the Graveyard remain awesome to this day. But getting a 2 and a-half month break from after school activities is indescribably awesome. It’s like Reggie Miller in Game 1 of the ’95 Eastern Conference semi’s against the Knicks. It’s like the Season 2 premiere of LOST. It’s like seeing Guns ‘N Roses live in the summer of ’88.

And in 13 days, school is out…

Hangman

We’re at dinner Friday evening discussing what we normally discuss – microbrews, the Steelers chances at the playoffs with a serial idiot at quarterback and the metamorphosis that takes place as soon as the girls sit down in a booth.

They could be getting along, joking with each other in complete sisterly harmony and then, out of the clear blue sky, Bails will suddenly get sleepy while Kinsey and Riley begin whining about who is staring at whom.

Well Friday they decided to use the game “hangman” to torture each other. First Riley put together a game for me. The phrase was “Riley and Dad are super awesome but Kinsey is not.”

Kinz, not to be out done, counters with “Kinsey and Mom are totally cool but Riley and Dad are not.”

So now I’m dragged into the crossfire.

Suddenly Bailey perks up. “Dad, I have a hangman for you.”

Here’s the phrase: “_ _ _/_ _ _ _”. I go through the vowels and few more guesses and this is where I end up: “and/da_ _”.

Yeah, I’m stuck. I’m thinking, “How the hell did a kindergartener come up with something so hard.”

Finally, I lose and Bailey reveals the answer “and/dall.”

This explains the difficulty.

“And dall?”

“Yeah Dad, like Billy Ray, Billy Joe and dolly.”

I look at Mom and say, “Here’s Bailey’s hangman. It was hard.”

Luckily for me she gives me another chance.

“Okay Dad, here it is.”

_ _/_ _ _/_ _ _

Again, I go through the vowels and few more letters and I end up here:

to/ the/ _ ig

Already guessed b, d, and w. Totally baffled again.

“Okay Bails, I give up. What is it?”

“To the pig.”

“To the pig?”

“Yeah, like ‘I was running to the pig.’”

If that wasn’t enough, Riley elbows me with one more before our food arrives. I go away from my failed vowel strategy and end up here.

p_ _p/i_/br_wn

According to my buddy at work, she’s right. At least most of the time.

We picked the 80’s

“Dad! Dad! Guess what! We’re doing a project on decades. Everybody picked a decade. Guess which one I picked?

“Umm…the 1830’s?”

“No, me and Jennifer picked the 80’s!”

“Nice! All right you’re going to need to know about MTV, Michael Jordan’s shot over Craig Ehlo in the ’89 NBA playoffs and the flux capacitor.”

She goes onto describe the project to me. First off, let me admit that there are many things I do not understand; Keynesian economics, why Dick Wolf put Sharon Stone on SVU this season, art. But if you are going to have a class of 4th graders study decades, why do you divide it up into these four categories: famous people, key events, TV shows and fashions?

C’mon man, fashions? Sure I understand the kids might be able to compare the fashion styles from each decade and maybe they even have an inkling of how fashion reflects the values and priorities of the times in which they appear. But flipping up your collar on the Izod polo isn’t really something Riley needs to know about to understand the 80’s. Unless she’s writing a thesis on Billy Zabka’s closet.

So famous people really has to include Ronald Reagan doesn’t it?

“No.”

“What?!

“We picked Michael Jackson, Bruce something, and…”

“Springsteen.”

“Was he cool?”

“Yeah, Bruce was cool. Still is cool. Saw him in concert in 1992.”

“And Madonna.”

Granted she was a force of nature in the 80’s. But she’s freaking nuts. How about putting Harrison Ford in there instead? I mean he was Han freaking Solo and Indiana Jones. The guy could speak Wookie and single handedly stopped the Nazi’s from winning WW2.

Next category: Key Events. Challenger explosion? Hostages coming home? The end of the ’82 NFL strike?

“No. We have the stock market crash.”

“What kind of list of key events in the 80’s doesn’t have the Challenger explosion? That’s like leaving Micheal Jackson’s moon walk during the ’83 AMA’s off a list of cool things that happened while I was in 7th grade. Plus, just to be clear, the stock market crashed in 1929. The ensuing depression was lengthened, deepened and exacerbated by FDR. October 19, 1987 was different. The aforementioned Ronald Reagan didn’t get involved and the market rebounded to record levels just two years later.”

“And Star Wars.”

“Star Wars came out in 1977. But, yes, I agree the release of Star Wars is a key event in American history.”

I’m astounded to learn that Riley was referring to the Strategic Defense Initiative, not the movie. I just assumed that most history books written by Howard Zinn disciples would dismiss the importance of Reagan’s SDI speech on March 23, 1983 and its importance to ending the Cold War.

Onto TV shows. Mangum, P.I. Dynasty. Miami Vice. The A-Team. Totally going to see this movie next month by the way.

She picked The Cosby Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

I get The Cosby Show. It spawned its own line of sweaters. And listen, I understand a lot of people like Oprah. She gave away cars. But I’m not what you would describe as a “fan.”

“I don’t really like Oprah.”

“Dad she’s really famous.”

“Yeah, I know. She’s also on a communist. Okay, maybe not a commie but she’s definitely a socialist.”

“What’s that?”

“Well you know how when you clean the bathrooms, the kitchen and other stuff we pay for your work. The more you do, the better job you do, the more money you get.

“Yes. It’s awesome.”

“Right, well what if I said go mow the lawn, clean the bathrooms and pick up all the kid stuff and put it away. When you’re done I’ll give you $15.”

“You’d really give me $15 if I did all that.”

“Yup.”

“Cool.”

“Not only is it cool, its capitalism. Now, how about you do all the work but instead of getting all the money you earned, Kinsey gets $5, Bailey gets $5 and you get $5?”

“That stinks.”

“That’s socialism.”

“So Oprah likes socialism?”

“Well, she sure hangs out with a lot of people who do.”

And that right there folks, is a good day being a Dad.

Yarn and Beads

Of all the things in which our kids show interest, I’m happy that entrepreneurialism is often a theme in our house.

Rye and her friends are planning to open a store called “Ivory’s.” They are going to sell scarves, bracelets, necklaces, rings, headbands, key chains and bookmarks. Their inventory right now consists of five scarves. They plan to hand make everything in the store.

Hmmm…Riley and I launch into this conversation.

“So, girls, where is this store located?”

“In Madison’s driveway.”

“What are the scarves and everything made of?”

“We’re finger knitting them and the headbands. We’re using yarn and beads to make the key chains and bookmarks. And necklaces.”

Noticing that she left out something I ask, “What about the rings?”

“Pipecleaners.”

“Really.”

“Yup. They are really quite nice.”

I start processing all this info finally coming to this conclusion, “So this is an outdoor store selling handmade products out of yarn and beads?”

“Right.”

“You know this isn’t Berkeley in ’69?”

“What?”

“Forget it, so who is involved here?”

“Kinsey is a security guard. Bailey is a model. I’m the assistant manager and I work the cash register. Natalie is the manager.”

I’m not sure about the need for security or a live model but at least she’s involving her sisters.

“When do you open?” I ask.

“As soon as summer starts.”

“How is anybody going to know about the store?”

“Well, you are going to take me to Target so I can get two poster boards to make a sign that we can put at the end of Madison’s Street that says ‘Ivory’s” with a big arrow pointing down the street.”

“Kinda like a Garage Sale sign?”

“Most Likely. Yes.”

“The city probably isn’t going to allow that.”

“Why?”

“Because the man is always trying to keep you down.”

“What man?”

“Nevermind, didn’t you show me something yesterday? You had a bag of stuff you made at daycare?”

“Oh yeah, that was our business cards, name tags, display signs and receipts.”

“Good call on the receipts. The IRS is going to want to look at those. Obama and Pelosi need all the cash they can find to pay for this health care takeover.”

“Oh and we already have our lunch break schedule.”

“So it’s a union shop.”

“No, it’s a homemade scarf shop.”

Had to get them ready for school after that. Rye has an orchestra performance tonight. Think of hundreds of 4th graders playing every sort of stringed instrument. Now think of the same thing except half of them don’t practice all that much. Yeah, that’s what it’ll be like.

The Cheese of ’87

I saw this for the first time yesterday.

I’ve been to Sioux City. It’s not nearly as fun as this video would lead you to believe.

Then, after we got home from out three softball games last night, I saw this for the first time.

Two questions occurred to me.

1) How did I get through the entire decade of the 80’s and never once did I see this video?

2) If you are as cool as Robert Plant, what in the name of candied yams is that guy in the Speedo doing in your video?

As I’m contemplating these questions, VH1 Classic throws Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” video at me. Now, I’m just spitballin’ here but is Peter Cetera the absolute unquestioned Lord of the Cheese? Seriously, who else is his peer in the realm of cheese?

Paul Stanley? Maybe, but he’s really more creepy than cheesy. Steve Perry? I admit, his name popped into my head solely due to the “Oh Sherry” and “Separate Ways” videos but the cold hard fact is that Journey is an awesome band with awesome songs. Except for “Open Arms.” The entire year of 1987? Expose, Pretty Poison, Stacey Q, The Whispers, Levert and Richard Marx. That’s an impressive array of cheeses. Now that I mentioned him, Richard Marx just might be in the conversation here. He can’t boast duets with Amy Grant and Cher. But, without laughing, he sang, “Hold onto the Nights.” Hmmm…

Anyway, all of that is very interesting and takes up more than its fair share of space in my brain but none of it is helping us negotiate May. Three softball games last night. The Koala Bears only had five players show up to play Bailey’s team. But at our level 5 vs. 11 is a fair fight. It’s like Cheney vs. Edwards in the ’04 VP debate.

Tomorrow Riley has dance from 5:15 to 6:45. An orchestra concert from 6:30-7:30. And a rained out softball game that has been rescheduled for tomorrow at a yet to be named time. Plus Kinsey and Bailey have dance from 4:45-5:30 and Bails has a softball game from 6-7.

The most interesting things about that lineup is that it has caused me nearly zero stress. None. I’m like Sgt. Malarkey in Episode 8 of Band of Brothers. And that I feel like we’re wasting valuable time only having Riley’s gymnastics class tonight. We have two girls at home tonight without any activities! I have this nagging feeling that we need to be somewhere practicing something.

Which may be just the impending doom I’m feeling for our schedule two weeks from now. That week is the dreaded, and now almost famous, dance recital week. Six softball games, 2 gymnastics classes, 2 dance recital rehearsals, 2 dance recitals and 1 school music concert. By itself, May 25th boasts 3 games, 2 rehearsals, 1 gymnastics class and the music performance. The scary part? If everything remains relatively close to its scheduled times, we can make every single event except gymnastics. I haven’t decided if that’s awesome or some type of parental patience test. I’ll let you know…

Mother’s Day 2010

Had a Mother’s Day first yesterday. I bought cauliflower. Mom likes it. I don’t. In fact, if you were to list the worst smells ever, cooked cauliflower would rank just ahead of burnt hair and just behind Bourbon Street at sunrise.

I’ve never actually purchased it before. I’m at the grocery store looking over the list and there it was.

Simply thinking “gross” wasn’t enough to register my displeasure. I had to actually say it out loud.

“Gross.”

I get home, put everything away and then sit down on the couch next to Mom. She’s watching the end of “27 Dresses.” This is the kind of movie that you have to endure on Mother’s Day. You know what else you have to do on Mother’s Day? Keep to yourself sarcastic comments about empty ketchup bottles laying in the middle of the family room while Mom watches “27 Dresses.”

Seriously, is Katherine Heigl so awesome in this flick that nobody notices an empty 64 oz. Heinz Ketchup bottle on the carpet directly in front of the television?

It’s not like we were watching Cubs-Pirates circa 1980 and the uniform color explosion temporarily blinded us.

My Mother’s Day gift to Mom was a bath for her car. It is really rather amazing how you become tolerant of the junk that accumulates in your car. It slowly builds up and you don’t really notice it. Like government control of banks…

Among the stuff in Mom’s car was an impressive collection of CDs. Neither of us own iPods, so CDs still litter out cars. I did find my Kid Rock CD in there along with my Poison greatest hits CD. Also found in her car were two plastic plates, a glass dinner plate, a sandwich bag containing moldy bread, 17 crayons, two pieces of old chewed gum, three Scooby-Doo DVDs, and a staggering amount of the bones of tootsie pops from days gone by.

Whenever I vacuum Mom’s car I’m always a little bit taken aback by the amount of earth that is in the car. Granted, winter brings a lot of road sand into the vehicle but that doesn’t really explain the rest. It’s like we’re trying to grow sod in the back seat. We’re sure to see an increase in gas mileage with the amount of weight I removed from the vehicle.

Last thing, Kinsey made a Mother’s Day gift for Mom last week at school. It is a framed letter. Here’s the text:

“Dear Mom,

I love you because you are very kind, unique and a forgiving person to me, you are good at your job and you make me feel happy. You are very respectful. I love you because you say you love me a lot, you take me places I like and you are all the pillars of character. I love you because you are so sweet. You are really good at math and you help me with my homework. I love you because you have the best hair color. You take care of me when I’m sick and you keep me company. I love you because you let me have sleepovers with my friends and you dress very pretty.

Love Kinsey

You know, she is pretty good at math.

Colorful Distractions

Top three things that can disrupt a softball game played by 4, 5 and 6 year-old girls?

Dandelions? Good guess but not in the top three. Why? Because little girls can play with dandelions while sitting down in right field and still have time to put the dandelion into their pocket and put their glove back on their hand before the ball eventually arrives.

Sprinkles. Nope. Reason? Well, if you’re in kindergarten and your coach says its okay to play in a little bit of rain (as long as there isn’t any lightning), you are going to play in the rain.

Bathroom breaks. Yup. If you gotta go, you gotta go. Tests your managerial skills too. Because as every parent knows, nobody is more susceptible to the power of suggestion than little kids. If one has to go, then a few more have to go. When you lose one side of the infield, you have improvise, adapt, overcome. You get to make up positions. Like the lonefielder. This is the person who plays the entire outfield. And the pitcherbaseman. A fielder who sort of plays that areas between the rubber, second base and shortstop.

Falling flower petals. As I’ve mentioned before, flowering dogwoods should be banned from softball complexes. Grown-ups have enough challenges keeping 20 kindergarteners armed with aluminum clubs and round yellow projectiles focused for an hour without landscaping professionals playing tree jokes on us.

Rainbows. Until last night, I really thought rainbows were nice. They have pretty colors and only show up after the rain storm is over. Turns out they are really a practical joke played by God on parents who volunteer to coach softball. The wind and sprinkles blow through just as we get through our first at bat. All the girls except two got hits without using the tee! It was amazing. We suddenly turned into the Lumber Company. We have one little girl who just turned 5. She’s teeny. Man, she put the fat part of the bat smack dab on the ball and lifted it past third base. There was an audible “Geeeeeeeezzz…” from the parents.

Anyhow, the front moves through with bright blue sky behind it. And we get a rainbow. I’m out trying to our 1st baseman, 2nd baseman and right fielder, who was Bails by the way, focused on the batter.

“Okay girls, get ready. If the ball comes to you, throw it to first.”

“Hey look a rainbow!”

“Oh yeah, that’s great. It’ll be there after we’re done. Get in your ready position.”

“Did the wind bring that rainbow?”

“Um, yeah, I guess. Sort of. I should know this. I got a “B” in meteorology.”

“The rainbow is here because it wants us to be happy!”

“It also wants you to field any grounders and throw them to first!”

That’s when our second baseman looked at me the way Green Day looks at Republicans.

“No it doesn’t.”

“Okay, you’re right. But if the rainbow is here, that means the rain is over and we get to play more softball.”

“Look there’s two rainbows!”

Seriously. A double rainbow. In Iowa. Aren’t these things only supposed to happen in Hawaii or something? Thankfully we were able to finish out the game despite the obstacles. And the girls had a great time. Bailey was inches from catching the first fly ball of the year. One of the girls fielded a grounder at third and actually had the presence of mind to touch third before throwing to first. Ball didn’t come close to making it and was really headed to center field but we almost, and I’m using the most liberal definition of “almost,” had our first double play. I yelled “good job!” to her and she gave a me a hearty “Woo!” and flashed the #1 at me. Plus all of them except one got a hit without using the tee. That’s not a bad day. Especially when your first baseman correctly places her foot on the bag and holds up her glove ready to receive every throw to first base tells you the reason she isn’t catching is because “the ball is scary!”