Art, Ivory’s and the pool

The Des Moines Art Festival was this weekend. We went once before a few years ago. Here’s a pic of from that trip.

Several things about the festival. First, all they had was Coke and Budweiser products. If you know anything about me, well, that’s like choosing between Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist.

Second, the organizers of this festival also located the food in the absolute farthest point possible from where the bus drops us off. If we were dropped off in Key West, the food isn’t even in Seattle. It’s in Fairbanks. Oh, and it’s 94 degrees and the girls are hungry.

Excellent. The only thing that could be more awesome is if Kinsey has to go the bathroom but finds the Port-a-Potty so gross that she just decides to hold it and whine about it. Oh, wait, that’s right…this actually did happen…

Anyway, you know what interests me less than an art festival where I can’t get a Diet Pepsi or Miller Lite? An art festival with crappy drinks and 6 year-old who starts whining about being hot and thirsty exactly 1.5 steps off the bus. I mean the bus is air conditioned. She couldn’t have been in the heat for than two seconds. Three tops and she acting like she’s been chasing Rommel across the Libyan desert fighting big black flies and fuel problems for the last year and a-half.

Third, it’s art. Mom loves going so I do my best to blend in but seamlessly is not how I fit into this crowd. I mean just walking around and listening to people is weird. It’s like being at the Democratic National Convention. How many times do you hear the word “magical” used on a daily basis? Maybe once if you talking about Disney princess movies. If you are at an arts festival, you hear it used as in “oh we are just in awe of the love in your family, it is just magical.”

What? That’s not magical, that’s just how some kooky hippie wanna-be says, “We like hanging out with your family, we’d love to be invited back.” Magical is the feeling you get on NFL opening Sunday.

Plus Mom and I don’t really have the same tastes when it comes to art. I’d rather frame my classic Sports Illustrated covers of the Steelers first four Super Bowl wins. If I have to hang something that would qualify as art, then I tend to gravitate towards photography. Maybe etchings if I really try hard. Actual pictures of actual things. A lime green square with some scribbles and big dot is not something I can appreciate.

“What do you think about this one?”

“It looks like a kindergarten craft day project.”

But we did agree on a painting of some white spire birches lining a path during the fall. Its a painting of trees in the fall. And the fall has football. Good enough for me.

Saturday was also about 95 degrees. So I decided to mow the yard. And Mom decided to trim all the bushes. We’re smart that way. Plus we wanted to go look at new SUV’s. Mine is 11 years old and has 131,000 miles on it. So after taking a good look at it and realizing that trying to trade it in would net me about $3.50, I gave it a bath. I washed it, cleaned it out then took it to the car wash and gave it another wash and vacuumed it out. As I pull up to the house I see Kinsey sitting there. Arrayed around her are two tables and several chairs. One table is labeled lemonade. The other table is labeled Ivory’s. Ivory’s is the “store” the girls and their friends at school have been planning for months. They’ve built up a nice inventory of scarfs, bracelets and bookmarks. Almost all of it made of yarn and beads. But, unfortunately for them, they left nearly all of it at daycare. So the ever entrepreneurial Riley says to me, “Dad I’m going to write some poems real quick to sell at our store.”

Don’t know what kind of market there is for poems, but whatever.

I park in front of the house on the street and start wiping down the surfaces in the car. I also can’t help but listen to the girls. Immediately they are beset with labor problems. All six of them want to walk down to the end of the street to put up a sign. Nobody wants to stay back and monitor the store. Chain of command issues, lack of clearly defined responsibilities.

“Hey Dad can you watch our stuff and help any customers?”


I think this makes me a temp. They also quickly noticed that nobody is really stopping to shop. Watching your kids figure things out on their own is cool.

Riley comes up with this, “Well, let’s go to everybody’s house on the street with the lemonade and offer them a glass. When they answer the door we’ll let them know that we’re also selling stuff at our house.”

I smile. They’re going mobile. It’s like a primitive form of the internet.

50 cents a glass. They made $6.50. Rye divided it up six ways but kept the remaining 50 cents.

“We can buy more yarn with it.”

Unfortunately Ivory’s is open most of the day on Saturday and I lost my shot a new vehicle.

Sunday we decide to go to the pool. This was fun. Girls played in the water. I laid on a lounge chair and did absolutely nothing. As we arrived and started claiming our chairs, I take off my shirt, grab the sunscreen and Kinsey says, “Dad, you’re hairy.”

“Thanks kiddo.”

“You have gray hairs on your chest too.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed that.”

“Well you are 40 now.”

Awesome. So evidently I’m a 40 year-old graying werewolf.


Colorado Trip 2010

I like Colorado. Both my sisters live there, they have rattlesnake shootin’ grandmas and places called Horsetooth. Plus it has a giant water park which kept the girls and their cousin thoroughly occupied for most of Saturday. And there simply is not another place that can make you feel better about your appearance than a water park. America may have a weight problem, but it certainly has no issues about displaying said problem.

Anyway, water parks attract three things.

1-Kids. This makes sense. Kids love swimming. And what’s better than swimming? Slides, tubes and wave pools. Here’s a tip however – you can’t steer a tube. Therefore before embarking down a slide atop a tube, gather some intel. For example, you might want to do some rough sketches of the slide path. If you’re good at math, some calculations regarding mass, turn radius and speed are in order. Pay close to the architecture of the turns. Most slides are constructed using the familiar “U” or half-circle shape. If they want to add speed or scariness, they completely enclose the slide into a tunnel. Now, if there is a turn that required the designers to add that extra lip on one side of the half-circle, this should raise a red flag.



Unless you’ve achieved Nascar-like speeds, you are unlikely to emerge from the turn unscathed or in the same position upon which you’ve entered it. Translation? You’re going to fall off your tube only to be embarrassingly dragged down the rest of the slide by your tube. This can in no logical or reasonable way be described as fun. You’re not going fast enough for it to give you that speed rush and you’re not going slow enough to climb back into the tube’s saddle.

I rounded the last turn on my back holding the tube above me. I’m thinking to myself, “man, this is what Joe Biden must feel like all the time.”

Since there’s no chance I’m leaving the water park with Riley’s lasting memory being that. I had to ride this slide.

Its called the Flatliner and its much higher up than it looks. And I’m not real fond of heights. Especially when the entire platform sways just enough so you can feel it. I seriously tried to melt into the slide as I pushed myself over the edge. I also learned what it must be like to wear a thong.

2-Tattoos. Now I realize tattoos have become much more mainstream since I was in college. But when did getting an eight inch wide tramp stamp on your lower back become mainstream? Or a random pattern of stars across your stomach? Or two wolves growling at each other from each shoulder blade? I’m kidding about that last one…but not really.

3-Body piercings. Not ears. Nipples. Dude nipples. There are lots of things I don’t really get – poetry, the Food Network, cheering for the Patriots. But piercing your nipples? Why would you put a freaking handle on your nipple? What if the ring gets caught on your shirt?

Anyhow, we also took a trip out to the house of a friend of my sister. Pretty cool if you get to drive by this everyday on your street. Well, not really a street but more like a fairly well traveled dirt road.

Here’s the view from your front door.

Here’s the view going down your driveway.

We don’t really get this kinda stuff in Iowa.

The Dangers of Curbs

One of the best decisions I’ve made recently is to coach Bailey’s softball team. Not only was it fun, it got me interested in baseball again. And that’s saying something for a Pirates fan. After rainouts and rescheduling we finally played our last game last night. A few of the Moms personally thanked me for coaching. Best part was them telling me how much their daughters loved playing. If I get to do it again, I’m coaching little kids. The older the kids get, the more their parents act like the University of Texas and think the planet was invented in Austin.

Anyway, one the worst decisions I’ve made recently was to agree to run some errands after church on Sunday. Target, Old Navy, the mall, the grocery store and then home. We made it through the mall before we had to amend the plan. Which really isn’t too bad. It’s farther than Nancy Pelosi got in draining all those swamps in D.C.

Kinsey decided Target was a proper location for an epic and long overdue meltdown. Full-fledged, nearly uncontrollable meltdown. She looked like Shatner in Wrath of Kahn. Mom grabs her with that instinctive parent armpit/shoulder hold, looks at me and says, “Kinsey. Car. Now.”

“Okay Kinz, let’s go. You blew it.” This is when she pulled out all the classics.

“I hope I never see Mommy ever again.”

“If Mommy would just let me buy something, I’ll stop crying.”

“How come Mommy makes all the decisions.”

Yeah, that last one would have stung a weaker man. But not only do I have three daughters, but I grew up with two sisters. Women have been taking shots at me for long time…

Since public displays of crying are something we enjoy, we thought heading to Old Navy after Target was still doable. Kinz misbehaves in the car on the way there and listen, it only takes about 90 seconds to get there. Then she misbehaves in parking lot on the way into Old Navy. We take turns dragging her around the store. At one point I had enough and sat her down next to the cargo pants and boxers because she was literally shaking she had herself so worked up.

This had no effect. As I’ve mentioned before, I am immune to drama. Kind of like Will Smith was to the Krippen Virus in I Am Legend except nobody turns into a man eating zombie vampire.

Eventually she calmed down or at least gave up. Didn’t really matter to us because Mom still wanted to head to the mall. They headed to Gymboree and I parked the car. Interestingly Gymboree is located right outside of Scheel’s Sporting Goods. I managed to get a new Pitt football shirt on my way through. I walk up to Gymboree and notice that the two mannequins in the front window looked a helluva lot like Bailey and Kinsey. And they’re moving. And laughing.

This was much preferable to the earlier meltdown.

They even drew in some business and recruited a little boy to help out.

Not only is Kinsey now behaving but she seems to have completely turned the corner. She’s having fun, conversing with others and smiling. Then she fell off the curb and skinned up her knee on the way out of Scheel’s.

I thought she was going to explode. I mean with how wide her eyes grew and how much shaking was going on it was a logical conclusion. I ran and got the car and swung back to pick them. They all climb in except for Kinsey who does a one legged hop into the car. Upon arrival at the door Bailey climbs over Kinsey’s seat into the way back and in doing so leaves a nice big wet croc-print on the seat. This is where the screaming began. Not really the high pitched sonic weapon screaming but more like the rapid fire blaming screams from Kinsey toward the other girls.

Thankfully we’re not to0 far from the mall. We also learned that Riley’s recommendations for treatment of skinned knee probably aren’t marketable.

“You should blow on it. That makes it feel better.”

But that was better than Bailey’s contribution.

“Oh man, you’re really bleeding good now.”

Which as it turns out was a rather ironic comment. Because a few hours later Bails decided it was time to learn how to ride a two wheeler. She didn’t do too bad except for the whole turning part of riding a bike. Curbs, as we learned earlier, have it in for the girls. Bails cut the turn into the driveway a little to close and hit the curb. But somehow avoided a Kinsey-like curb related calamity. The girl is wearing flip flops, shorts and a tank top. Upon contact with the concrete she scrapes her forehead, both hands, right knee and ankle. Blood? Almost none. Discouragement? Zero.

“You okay kiddo?”

“Yeah, let’s try it again.”

If I could bottle Bailey’s sheer determination to succeed, I’d be scary rich…

It’s summertime

“School’s out and the night’s roll in
Man, just like a long lost friend
You ain’t seen in a while
You can’t help but smile”

Last day of school was yesterday. That means it is officially summertime. Although, to me, summer starts every year on June 1. Just like fall starts September 1, winter starts December 1 and spring starts March 1. Just like Bruce Hornsby said, that’s just the way it is. You know it, I know it and the American people know it.

For some reason whenever I think of the last days of school, a memory of riding the bus to school in June of 1980 with “You May be Right” on the radio comes to mind. Come to think of it, that song, Empire Strikes Back and the Cubs road blue uni’s all just scream summer 1980. Or maybe that’s just me. I was ten. Anyway, in honor of the beginning of summer, here are some of Chronicles of Dad’s favorite summer songs.

Magic – The Cars.
Cliché? Yes. But c’mon man, who doesn’t remember the summer of ’84 whenever they hear this song? Plus summer is, when you’re a kid, magic. Suddenly the normal rules don’t apply. Bedtimes? Backpacks? Nope. Kids look at summer the way liberals look at bailout cash…

Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
“School is out and it’s a sort of a buzz
An’ back then I didn’t really know what it was
but now I see what have of this
the way that people respond to summer madness”

Will Smith nailed it way back in the summer of ’91. You can’t really appreciate summer until you’re a grown up. With kids. Kinda the way you really can’t appreciate being a parent until you’ve parented a teenager. Until you’ve made it through those years, teen veteran parents treat you the way Easy Company treated Webster when he got back from England. Sure he parachuted into Normandy and took part in Market Garden, but he wasn’t at Bastogne…

Summertime – Kenny Chesney
A lot of people like summer. But nobody likes summer like Kenny Chesney. He likes summer the way Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof like leaving questions unanswered.

And then there’s this.

Yeah, well nothing says summer like a ’69 Charger and a couple of Yee Ha’s

You know what’s awesome?

Hanging your arm out the car window on warm summer evening. How do I know? It says so on page 231 of Neil Pasricha’s “The Book of Awesome” – also linked in my blogroll by the way.

So I’m being awesome doing this coming home from Kinsey’s softball game. Two hits and she threw a runner out at first while she was playing third base. She looked like Wade Boggs circa 1986. Anyway, as I’m hanging my arm out the window taking in the awesomeness, Manfred Mann’s 1977 classic Blinded by the Light Comes on the radio.

This is one of the best summer songs of all time. Note to self: upcoming blog entry – Chronicles of Dad’s Top Summer Songs of All Time. Quick sidenote. Mann’s For You is nearly as awesome.

That all being said, you know what isn’t awesome?

Windows down, volume cranked up and Mom at the wheel with the girls in the back…listening to this…

Tough to be cool after that…

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend has always been near the top of my holiday weekends rankings. You’ve got Thanksgiving weekend, NFL opening day weekend, Memorial Day weekend and Halloween when it falls on a Friday. Why? My birthday always falls near Memorial Day and often has been celebrated during it. So I always was able to combine my love of cheeseburgers and presents. When I was a kid back in Bethel Park, PA we had neighborhood Memorial Day cookouts. We’d flip baseball cards and drink more pop than we were allowed. Do neighborhoods still have Memorial Day cookouts? If not, they should. It makes us better Americans. Nothing screams suburban 1970’s America than grilled burgers and Falstaff. To me anyway…

So this Memorial Day weekend Mom decides to do some cosmetic renovations to our downstairs bathroom. This was not on my list of activities to make Memorial Day weekend perfect. Watch World War II in HD on The History Channel, watch the Pirates/Cubs game, eat burgers. As you can see, removing and installing things isn’t on that list. Neither is taking Bailey’s week old new bike she got for her birthday to the bike shop because I ran over it with my car. But that’s what happens when you park right behind the vehicle and fail to tell me about it. To make it worse, it’s sitting there and all three girls run out into the driveway before we leave for school. There’s simply no possible way they couldn’t have noticed it there. The bike doesn’t have Predator camouflage. It can’t bend light. Its sitting right there being big, pink and blue. With plaid designs all over it. The only person less likely to notice the obvious is Nancy Pelosi when she reads poll numbers.

Regardless, I’ve been drafted into helping Mom. Turns out hanging a light fixture sometimes isn’t a simple task. Especially when you remove the light fixture and learn that it wasn’t actually mounted to anything other than drywall. Its foundation was about as solid as the script to Howard the Duck.

Since I’ve been watching Holmes on Homes for a few weeks, I figured I fix this situation. I cut a 2×4 to fit between the studs, cut out the drywall, screwed the 2×4 in between the studs to serve as a mounting spot for the new light fixture, cut a new piece of drywall and then Mom patched it up. She painted. It dried. And I hung the light fixture. It’s been up for almost two days now. It hasn’t fallen off the wall and there have been no electrical fires. But I could have done a better job of centering it…

So I’m watching the kids play Saturday and Sunday mornings and it got me thinking about summer holiday weekends like Memorial Day. Kids get up early. They’re outside by 9 a.m., making up games, playing with the neighbors and running in and out of the house. Barbies, wiffle ball, computer games… We of course ruined it all by saying they couldn’t go swimming because they had their second dance recital Saturday afternoon. Done with dance until August by the way! Gymnastics are done too! Only 6 softball games left after tonight’s were rained out. To celebrate the simplification of our schedule, we signed them up for more gymnastics and swimming lessons! Boooooooo! We’re dumb. But listen, gymnastics teaches coordination and confidence and swimming lets Mom and I hang at pool without watching them 24/7. So it’s a win win.

Anyhow, watching the girls fill their weekend got me thinking about how my list of things to make Memorial Day weekend perfect has changed. Back in 1979 a rockstar Memorial Day weekend went something like getting up early watching Battle of Planets on WFLD in Chicago, matching my company of American paratroopers against a company of German mountain troops. Maybe a clash of my fleet of WW II era model battleships and aircraft carriers. Then onto a cannibalized version of baseball, some sporadic bike riding, a game or two of Capture the Flag, maybe some Run Down thrown in there only interrupted only by a family cookout. Finally capped off by some Ghost in the Graveyard until it was so dark outside our parents needed flashlights to get us inside.

Now it consists of watching Where Eagles Dare and Patton on AMC and enjoying a Miller Chill or two after a dinner at our favorite restaurant following the girls’ dance recital. The girls’ dance recital has become the unofficial kickoff to summer for me. The minute we leave the auditorium, I feel like Jimmy Chitwood right after he hits that jumper to beat South Bend Central. Saturday marked my 7th consecutive year attending a dance recital. If they all keep dancing through high school, I only have 12 more years left.