Summer’s Over

My favorite Bob Seger song is Night Moves. My favorite line is “Strange how the night moves…with autumn closing in.” While I’m absolutely dreading that period of parenthood when I’m faced with the demonic specter of the girls dealing with “the awkward teenage blues,” that’s not what I’m talking about now.

It was almost cool today. Almost crisp this evening. And school starts tomorrow. So summer’s over. You can feel autumn closing in.

I’ve always liked this time of year. I think my trepidation of a new school year was tempered and possibly eclipsed by the fact that college and pro football were back. Regardless of the glorious arrival of Saturdays and Sundays filled with football, I always kinda hated that first part of the new school year. You haven’t figured out your routine. You haven’t figured out your teacher’s tendencies. Plus you could never get an accurate scouting report from the kids who had your teacher the previous year. Inevitably, you were told that your new teacher is a genetic mutation combining General Patton, a Tyrannosaurus Rex and Kathy Griffin. There were rumors about how your homework had to be shipped to your house because its sheer size and weight were so big that one time the school was cited by the feds for child servitude.

The worst part about the start of school, however, was transporting your school supplies from home to your desk on the first day.

First, they never fit into your bag. Which meant you either had to bring one of your Mom’s bags on the first day, have your sister, or worse – your Mom – help you bring them into school. Or somehow MacGyver them into your completely impractical 1970’s backpack.

In third grade I got my wish and had a back pack that looked like a real army pack. Olive drab and everything. It was awesome.

Until I loaded it up with my supplies. Back in August of ’78 they didn’t have the fancy-schmancy Jansport backpacks all the cool kids are using these days. My straps were made out of rusted barbed wire. There wasn’t any comfortable padding or cushioning anywhere in the whole pack. The only thing between your back and the sharp edge of your sweet KISS lunchbox was a thin layer of Korean War era canvas. Finally, and I remember this vividly, you’d have to trudge…slog…plod… with the straps cutting into your shoulders, tearing muscle from bone, all the way from the bus stop to home.

The girls, on the other hand, get to deliver their school supplies a day or two early. No first day cargo transport for them. We have an open house every year to meet their teachers, drop off supplies and find their rooms and lockers. We did this yesterday. The school jams it all into one hour so the place looked like Boston after the Red Sox won the ’04 Series. We had to park a short distance away and walk to the school. This meant the girls actually had to cart their school supplies on their backs. I chuckled to myself as they lugged their loads up the sidewalk. This of course lasted about as long Nancy Pelosi’s effort to drain those swamps she talked about right after the ‘06 election. Anyway, Mom turns around and smiles at the sight of me carrying not only Bailey’s backpack but Kinsey’s too. God bless Riley for taking care of her own business.

Anyway, we’ve decided we’re going to be prepared for this school year and the girls’ activities. We were so prepared we showed up a full week early for the start of gymnastics tonight. No big deal. We treated it as recon. We’ve also decided that Bailey isn’t wearing last year’s first day of school shirt to this year’s first day of school despite her fondness for it. It says “Super Sassy” on the front and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. So this year she’s wearing a shirt that says “Tea Party.” Just kidding. She’s wearing a Steelers shirt that says “Super Bowl Champs.” If we’re going to fulfill any prophecy, its going to be that one.

No, seriously, she’s not wearing that. I’m kidding. But not really…

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Dodgeball, Star Wars and Father’s Day

Eight daycares got together earlier this week for the annual dodgeball tournament. The girls’ daycare won for the second time in three years. They were very proud of themselves. Their team won both the championship trophy and the sportsmanship trophy. This marks the 4th consecutive year they’ve won the sportsmanship trophy. Unfortunately, rampant weenie-osity prevented them from receiving both awards. I can now confirm that political correctness and progressivism have crept into the daycare dodgeball culture.

Translation? A team which did not exhibit the best sportsmanship was given the sportsmanship award.

Reason? Its not fair for one team to win both awards.

This, of course, is not only dumb, it is un-American. If you are going to present awards for winning and for best sportsmanship, the winners should…well…win. I mean what are we teaching the kids who didn’t earn the award but are given it and what are teaching the kids who earned the award but aren’t given it?

We’re teaching them to be progressive weenies.

One the great things about kids playing sports is that there are consequences. There are consequences for success and failure. Nearly all of the time those consequences are immediate and easily understood. The games provide their own incentives to work hard and succeed.

Funny thing this is that the girls were told it wasn’t fair for them to win both of the awards. And truth be told they weren’t really upset that they had to give up the sportsmanship award – even though they earned it fair and square as Riley told me. They thought, despite being told the opposite from their teachers, that it was flat out unfair. The positive out of all of this is the girls are independent thinkers and don’t take what they’re told without some healthy skepticism.

Anyway, did anybody else watch the Star Wars marathon on Spike last weekend? Anybody else think its crap that we don’t get to watch the original theatrical version instead of the digitally enhanced version? I don’t really need to see more stormtroopers in Mos Eisley for it to be a better scene. I also want to know what the hell happened to the Ewok celebration song at the end of Return of the Jedi? It was replaced by some freaky pan flute crap that belongs back in Berkeley in ’68 not the forest moon of Endor.

Seriously, what the hell is the deal with digital enhancements? You don’t see CBS going back and releasing Magnum, P.I. with Thomas sporting a digitally enhanced moustache. ABC isn’t going back and giving Captain Stubing hair. They’re not going back and adding infantry to the battle scenes in North and South. Although that would be cool…

You know what else is cool? 22 days till NFL Kickoff Sunday. Which, if you’re really honest with yourself, should be redesignated Father’s Day. The third Sunday in June is a fine day. In fact, it would probably be just fine if it wasn’t Father’s Day. If there is a day in which I want to be left alone, it’s NFL Kickoff Sunday. Especially since I got the Sunday Ticket a couple seasons ago. I mean if you leave me alone and let me do whatever I want in June, I’m probably going to fall asleep on the couch watching highlights on the NFL Network. That or something about the allied bombing raid against the Ploesti oilfields in 1943 on The History Channel. Regardless, if you did it on a certain Sunday in September, I’ll be far more likely to appreciate the gesture. Aside from maybe the release of the Red Dawn remake, I can’t think of a better day to become Father’s Day.

In honor of the NFL season being right around the corner here’s a pic of some of my mini-helmets. I’ve altered them so they actually reflect the helmets worn in 1976. Yeah, it’s cool.

Bad Words

Sometimes on Fridays the girls and I will meet Mom at our favorite restaurant. It’s a microbrewery and we like microbrews. They’re almost good for you. Really.

Anyway, on our trips to meet Mom we’ve had many conversations. Some of which I don’t understand. However today we talked about bad words. How did we get there? Well thankfully not because I dropped a cuss bomb or anything like that. We’re listening to the radio and a couple of the local talk show guys came up with a song to make fun of the Iowa State Fair. At one point in the song it sounds like they say “yellow crap.”

“Dad did they just say ‘yellow crap?’” Riley politely asks.

“What? Um…I don’t know, I couldn’t really tell what they were saying.”

Kinsey, sensing an opportunity to have a longstanding question answered, interjects, “Are we allowed to say ‘crap?’”

“You know that’s a good question.”

“Is it a bad word?” asks Kinz.

“Cause you say it all the time Dad,” Rye observantly replies. “You also say the ‘h’ word like ‘where the ____ is Mom and where the ____ are the kids?’’

“Yeah, great. Thanks Rye. And no, ‘crap’ is not really a bad. And yes, I say it a lot. It’s one of those words that isn’t a bad word but we really don’t want you to say.”

“You mean like ‘butt’ or ‘shut up?’” Riley asks through the gasps of the other two girls.

“Yes, I mean like ‘butt’ and ‘shut up.’”

Then, in as matter of fact a tone as she can muster, Kinsey asks, “What about ‘sucks?’ The kids at daycare say it all the time.”

“No. Don’t say ‘sucks.’”

“Why?” they ask almost in unison.

“Because ‘sucks’ is one of those words – like ‘butt’ and ‘shut up’ – that aren’t bad words but its not okay for kids to say them. When I was a kid it was a bad word.”

“Really?” Riley asks in stunned bewilderment.

“You mean like a swear word?” Kinsey asks.

“Almost like a swear word. The only place you heard it was Saturday Night Live. And when Rodney Dangerfield is arguing with Ted Knight about who made him Pope of this dump in Caddyshack. But that was it.”

“So we’re not allowed to say it?”

“No, you’re not. It means ‘stinks,’ so just say that.”

There’s a period of about 5 to 8 seconds of silence and then I hear Bailey…

“What does ‘crap’ even mean?”

“Poop. Bailey. It means ‘poop.’”

This struck Kinsey as funny. She starts laughing which gets the other two going.

“Dad, you said ‘poop.’”

“So?”

“It funny when grown-ups say ‘poop.’” Then she does her impression of me, “Oh, it means ‘poop’ Bailey.”

Then even though I can’t see her, I can sense the sly mischievous smile on her face when Bailey asks, “Wait, so I’m allowed to say ‘crap?’”

“No. You’re not.”

“Can the other girls?”

“Uh…well…”

“Awesome, we can say it. Oh Crap! But Bailey still has to say poop.”

This cracks them up for the remainder of the trip and then on the way into the restaurant Riley hits me with this:

“Dad I’m only going to say crap when I’m really mad. Or when I’m on the toilet and then I’ll be like ‘craaaaaaaaaap.”

Seriously, this is what I talk about.

And we’re done

Coming home from vacation is always a little disappointing. Not as disappointing as the 1980 Pitt Panthers failure to win the national title with 11 players taken in the first 5 rounds and 6 college/pro football Hall of Famers, but disappointing nonetheless.

But we did only have three people in the car which was nice. The two little girls went to Grandma Camp until today. And I swear to the Almighty that Bailey and Kinsey talked more in the first 6 minutes they were in the car when I picked them up than Riley did the entire 6 hour drive home on Sunday.

They had lots to say. And they said most of it loudly and at the same time the other one was talking. So for most of the ride I wasn’t really sure what was happening except that Bails was connected somehow to a high voltage cable. There’s no other explanation for the amount of pure energy she displayed.

Anyway Kinsey said Grandma let them eat dinner in her living room and watch a movie at the same time. They were both very excited about this. The movie was “The Man from Snowy River.” My older sister loves this movie. Never seen it myself and I’m pretty sure I don’t have to now that Kinz painstakingly explained the entire movie to me. While she was only occasionally interrupted by Bailey, I still couldn’t help but zone in and out of the description. As far as I could tell, here’s what the movie is about:

There’s this cowboy named Jim Craig. Don’t know if Jim Craig is one word or two or a first and last name. But Kinz was saying it so many times so quickly, I’m pretty sure it’s like Jim Bob or Billy Ray. Anyhow, Jim Craig is a cowboy. Or a horseman. He has a Dad and they live out in the mountains. Or the wild. The mountains are tall. And steep. Sometimes called bluffs. So in the beginning of the movie Jim Craig’s Dad dies. So does a horse. I think. Because it was chained to a tree that fell. And there is a stampede of horses too. This stampede evidently occurs over and over. Then this fancy lady, who is a horsewoman, somehow gets lost in the mountains and Jim Craig rescues her. The fancy lady’s Dad doesn’t like Jim Craig. But then Jim Craig manages to tame the entire stampede of horses by saddling them. In the mountains. By himself.

And that’s it.

They also told me they came up with a game while they were at Grandma’s house. It’s called “Scare the dickens out of each other.” Here’s how you play: You run around, backwards or forwards, and as soon as you bump into somebody else – you scream as loud as you can. And then giggle a whole lot.

I asked if Grandma and Grandpa liked this game. The girls said they didn’t. I wasn’t surprised. Also failing to surprise me was when they decided they should teach the game to Riley when they got home. We wiped out that plan faster than the Redskins’ implosion in Super Bowl 18.

Anyway here’s some highlights from our vacation. Our 2010 vacation cliché was “Yeah baby puma!” My two year old nephew gets the credit. He decided this was what he’d say when he was excited. And that was good enough for the rest of us to start saying it too. For example, we’d ask him if he wanted to go to the water park and he’d reply – “Yeah baby puma!”

Speaking of the water park, here’s a pic of bro-in-law:

He’s doing what Dads do at water parks when their kids are all old enough to swim.

Here’s one of my sisters-in-law going down the half-pipe:

I decided against that ride this year. Last year’s brush with death has convinced me that gravity, while reliable, isn’t foolproof.

It got pretty rough on the lake on Saturday as the boats normally reserved for ocean travel starting coming out. I mean seriously, who needs a 60 or 70 foot boat in the Ozarks? Naturally, we waited until then to let the girls go tubing. But they didn’t mind. My evidence? Bailey gets back and I ask, “Hey was tubing fun?”

“Oh yeah, my two favorite words are “tu” and “bing.”

You could hear Bails and her 5 year-old cousin screaming as they bounced up and down the cove. You know Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock were right, it does take two to make a thing go right. If only one of them was in the tube, that thing would have airborne. Here’s a pic:

Best burgers on the lake? Close race between Captain Ron’s and Backwater Jack’s. Worst burger? Paradise. It tasted like a really big McDonald’s cheeseburger. It also didn’t help that the heat index was 105 the day we ate lunch there.

My niece also turned 5 while we were down there. Best gift she received?

Anyhow, the end of the Ozarks vacation always signals the end of summer in our house. Just 14 days until school starts. I think I’m more disappointed than the girls. Backpacks, dance, gymnastics, and orchestra are all back. Rye is adding band this year because she wants to learn how to play saxophone in addition to the violin. Of course the Steelers and Cyclones are in camp now too…

Vacation Tuesday

As expected the forecast called for Brazilian humidity and 100 degree heat for our family picture. Thankfully we were in the shade with a nice breeze. Even better, it was 9 a.m. so the weather really hadn’t closed in on us yet. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how it could have gone more smoothly. It was almost enjoyable. Even got the Steeler pic done with virtually no mishaps. Mom had to bribe Bails with the promise of a Starburst to get her to smile but other than that it was smoother than election day ’84 for Ronald Reagan.

Then we went shopping.

Two hours of rounding up deals and bargains on new school clothes for the kids, then about 75 minutes of shopping for Mom and Dad. Grampy and Uncle JW took the kids, all eight of them, including a two year old boy who isn’t happy unless he’s swinging his plastic golf club, to see Cat and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. According to Riley, the 3-D stunk worse than smelly armpits. And we’d know all about the stench of smelly armpits after two days in the Missouri humidity.

Here’s my question however; why do you need 3-D for Cats and Dogs? Are the special effects so intense that you need 3-D to really get the full effect of Diggs the Dog?

Anyway, we grab the girls and head back to the car. A car that has been sitting on the blacktop parking lot for a few hours. So it’s 120 degrees inside the car, 110 on the pavement. We had to roll the windows to cool off in the 99 degree heat outside. Bailey hops into the backseat and yelps, “Its burning my booty! Its burning my booty!”

“Bailey you’re only six and you’re in the 25th percentile for weight. You don’t have a booty.”

Mom chuckles and turns to me and says, “You know what Riley said the best part of getting new clothes is?

“No, what?”

“The fashion show afterwards.”

Woo. Hoo. Awesome.

Although I gotta admit that after spending some time in Aeropostale, derisively referred to by me as Airstale, I kinda liked being that Dad in the store who all the teenagers look at and wonder why you’re in there.

If you’re looking for someone to play the role of guy with utter disdain for self-important 15 year-olds, I’m your man. But we did find an appropriate t-shirt for Riley for just $8. Plus, I actually found a shirt that was pretty cool. How you ask? Well I’m so old now that the crap I was wearing in college during Bush 41’s first and only term in the White House is cool again. Might head back tomorrow and buy it.

Found the same thing while I was in Banana Republic. The 40 year-olds and the 20 year-olds were all looking at the same stuff. I find that amusing. Why? Because when I mosey over to a shelf and grab the same thing the college kid is looking at, he’s the one who feels weird. I was like a walking commission killer in that store.

Other thing I figured out – Mom pays absolutely no attention to anything I say. While we’re in Bass, I meet a nice lady from Philadelphia. She noticed my Steelers shirt and and says, “Excuse me, Mr. Steelers can I ask you a question?” Her daughter apologizes and says she’s from Philly noticed my t-shirt. Turns out she wants some help buying her son-in-law a shirt. She asks me if I’m happy Ben is back with the Steelers, I gumble a bit and ask her if she’s happy McNabb and Westbrook aren’t in green this summer. She grumbles and I go on to help her out. We finish up and I go over tell Mom about the story. By the way, I like when that kinda stuff happens because talking football with a 60 year-old grandma who is lamenting the loss of Donovan McNabb to the Redskins is cool.

So we meet up with everybody else and Mom relates the story to her sisters. “So he’s in Bass and he met this lady from Pittsburgh and he helped her buy a shirt for her husband.”

Riiiiiight…

Last thing. While I’m waiting for Mom to come out of a store, I noticed a few cicadas flying around. It comes to mind that I’ve also seen a good number of those cicada killer wasps around here over the last decade or so we’ve been coming down.

Ever seen one of those killer wasps go after a cicada in mid-flight? It looked like a Spitfire going after an He-111 in the Battle of Britain. The Heinkel is big, loud and packs a punch but the Spitfire is way more maneuverable and can climb at faster speeds. Plus the wasp is used to hunting alone. I see the wasp zero in and take a cicada all the way down to the sidewalk and start stinging it while it drags the cicada across the concrete.

Turns out these wasps sting the cicadas and paralyze them. Then they’ll either drag the paralyzed victim to their nest or they’ll drag the cicada up a tree, take off and glide their way back to the nest. The paralyzed cicada is used as food.

If it reminded you of what the liberals in Congress have been doing to middle class America over the last 12 months, you’re not alone…

A Better Monday

The girls have been road warriors this summer. Ten hours to Colorado, six hours to Illinois – where, by the way, we were able to stop for gas in Lyndon, Illinois. Population 737. It had a nice gas station and the folks really take some pride in their town. It was really well kept and having been through my share of small towns that isn’t always the case. It’s the kinda place where people cling to their religion and guns. I liked it.

Anyhow, we also threw in a two hour drive down to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house but that so short I’m not sure it even counts. But the six hours down to the Ozarks definitely counts.

Kids didn’t do too badly until the very end. And to tell the truth Mom and I weren’t doing the best either. We brought our trusty DVD player and let the girls watch a few movies. Next time you do this make sure you do a cursory review of your kids’ movie choice. If they pick something called “Barbie and Island Princess” get a mallet and smash it into small tiny pieces. The plot of the movie, as far as I could tell from listening to the so-called dialog and songs, is a bit flimsy. Barbie is some kind of princess on an island in the south Pacific. She’s a also some sort of superhero. Her superpowers are that she can talk to animals and sing at any time for absolutely no logical reason. Oh, and she’s about to be subject to an arranged marriage to bring together two island kingdoms. No political or even cultural reasons are ever given. Plus she has some evil adversary who really, really dislikes Barbie. I assume this is because of Barbie’s incessant singing. Barbie does this a lot. And she can’t really sing all that well.

Anyway, as you get to the end of a six hour drive you’ve settled into your drive patterns. Mom does her best to actually pay attention to what I’m talking about but she can only talk about the weaknesses in the Democrat’s narrative for the 2010 elections for so long. So that leaves me to have conversations with myself. The trick to this while you’re driving to think about something that is 1) awesome and 2) about football.

Here was my the question I asked myself: If you had to buy a player’s jersey, home or away doesn’t matter, from each team and you couldn’t duplicate jersey numbers and it had to be a player from the ‘70’s, whose jerseys would you pick?

This took me longer than I expected. I got stuck on #17 – Brian Sipe of the Browns or Billy Kilmer of the Redskins. I went with Kilmer because Dave Logan’s #85 for the Browns was still available. Also ended with one nearly unfixable issue. Jersey #34 – Earl Campbell or Walter Payton? Yeah, that’s a tough decision right there. I moved to Chicago in ’77 and there really isn’t another Bear from the 70’s you can pick without being laughed at or assaulted in northern Illinois. How about a 70’s Oiler? Dan Pastorini? Good choice. But I’d already used my #7 on Bert Jones of the Colts. So I figured that when you end up with Sweetness and Earl, you can use #34 twice.

Anyway, today I was on the lake or eating and drinking near the lake for 7 hours. That’s a better Monday than I normally have. Tuesday we’re getting a family picture taken. And we’re all here. All 16 of us. I decided to take advantage of this situation. I bought Mom a sweet gold retro Steelers shirt, brought the girls’ Steelers gear and my Lynn Swann throwback jersey. Christmas card right there baby. You know it. Training camp just started in Latrobe and like Bob Seger says, you can feel autumn closin’ in.