The Royals

I was asked by a buddy the other night if our girls were all excited about the royal wedding. To be honest, this is not something about which I have been thinking. Tonight is the first round of the NFL Draft. Plus, to paraphrase Lt. Frank Drebin: “No matter how silly the idea of having a queen might be to us, as Americans, we must be gracious and considerate hosts.”

I remember the Charles and Diana wedding. Got up early and everything. Mostly because my Dad went out the night before and bought us all doughnuts. And guess what? Doughnuts were good, wedding was dumb. Didn’t get it then, don’t get it now. From where I’m standing, it seems a bit like…treason.

I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but…the fascination with the wedding is like giving the Jefferson Memorial the finger. These are royals. I realize nobody else really gives a crap about history and what it means anymore – especially the teacher’s unions – but dammit, my girls will.

We fought a war against royalty. And despite the media’s efforts to coronate the Kennedy’s, we don’t have royalty. So a whole bunch of Americans skipping work and getting up early to watch a royal wedding seems a lot like taking a crap on George Washington’s grave. To me anyway.

Seriously, do you boo when you hear Yankee Rose, David Lee Roth’s 1986 anthem to Lady Liberty on the radio? I bet these royal watchers do.

Am I the only one who took Schoolhouse Rock to heart?

I understand the Brits are our best friend in the world right now. I understand we’ve been allies for almost 100 years, but c’mon they like their beer warm, go to soccer games and they still have royals!

I’m not sure the girls really understood or really cared about my quick lesson on Valley Forge and it’s applications to the current debate over the federal budget, but I did it anyway. Hopefully it sticks…

And finally my top three songs from the spring of ’86:
1-Go For Soda
2-Be Good to Yourself
3-Your Love

And yes I realize Go For Soda came out in ’85 but I didn’t discover it until the spring of ’86. So it counts. Plus it freaking rocks.

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Rock of Ages Easter

I’ve made this argument before but Easter kinda gets left behind in the Holiday playoffs. Corporate America still hasn’t figured out the correct formula to commercialize it. My theory? Its day keeps changing. With Christmas and Halloween, it’s the same day every year. Regardless, Easter is about celebration and happiness. And candy if you ask the girls. But then again, they say the same thing about Christmas and Halloween.

Mom and I inadvertently added a good dose of hair metal to really make Easter rock this year. Why? Partly because of my floating day theory mentioned above and also because upon seeing Jersey Boys last summer, I remarked that it would be pretty freaking cool and far easier to get me to attend a musical if all the songs were hair metal. And it was okay to wear shredded jeans. So Saturday was a good lesson in being careful about what you say out loud.

Turns out Rock of Ages is a musical with nearly all hair metal. And, truth be told, live hair metal is pretty damn cool. A recorded David Coverdale introduced the show, in which he explained the glaring omission of Def Leppard songs. Def Lep wouldn’t give them the rights to their songs. Booooooo Joe Elliot. No explanation on the equally glaring omissions of Motley Crue and Tesla. Anyway, most of the time you just get the standard turn off your cellphones message. I’m going off memory here but we got this:

“Furthermore, please silence all cellphones. Text messaging during the show makes you look like a douchebag. And, if you have one of those “bluetooth” thingies in your ear… please, c’mon. You look like a dick.”

Its awesome because its true.

The story was pretty thin but who freaking cares! How many times do you get to hear Just like Paradise live? If you’re me, the answer is twice. July of ’88 Alpine Valley, Wisconsin and Saturday.

How many shows feature the narrator wearing a “Hooray for boobies” shirt? Or a set with a Meister Brau beer sign?

But I gotta say that Dee Snider would not be happy about the liberal use of the horns. I mean everybody in the show was flashing the horns at the end. And remember, it was a musical. Which means just about everyone in the show wasn’t metal. Just because you belted out a pretty good version of Here I Go Again doesn’t mean you get to flash the horns. Especially if you list “The Sound of Music” on your resume.

Inappropriate horn flashing aside, I call home to check on the girls at intermission. We left them at home, by themselves, the latest episode in our attempt to introduce independence and responsibility. Riley answers the phone.

“Hey Rye, it’s Dad. How’s everything going?”

“Really good, we’re just getting ready for our pedicures.”

“Um…………Ah………..try to stay in the bathroom and off the carpet when you do that.”

“Okay, talk to later.”

Show wraps up and we head home and discover that something is amiss back at the ranch. The girls rooms are not only clean but they actually used the putting away cleaning strategy instead of the pushing everything to sides of the room cleaning strategy.

No toe nail polish on the carpret. No one is crying. In fact, everyone is smiling. Kinsey and Bailey wiggle their fingers and toes in front of me….”look Dad, mani’s and pedi’s!”

C’mon man, I just heard I Wanna Rock live.

But before I could contemplate my future and the amount of nail polish it will contain, I was overwhelmed that the girls behaved while we were gone.

Reason?

Only thing I can come up with is that the combination of the joy of Christ rising from the dead and power of hair metal joined to create harmony in the universe.

Last thing – we’re at church Easter morning with our family and Mom’s sister and her family. Ten of us. At one point the minister calls up the kids for “Children’s Time.” Riley and her fellow 5th grade cousin obviously did not go up because they’re too old and cool for that anymore. Anyhow, the minister is asking the kids about Easter and jokingly asks if the reason they are all at church is because its “April Fool’s Day.” Kids all say “noooooooo, its Easter” and the minister says, “Hey, you guys know any good April Fool’s jokes?” My 2nd grade niece raises her hand and proceeds to tell the whole congregation:

“When your friend is sleeping, you can take their hand and put it in some warm water and then they will, um, wet their bed.”

If that wasn’t enough to make Easter memorable, she decided to use a brick and to help her retrieve a plastic candy filled egg placed on a window ledge at an altitude too high for her to reach. Result? Broken window.

My reaction? “Oh, please tell me that wasn’t Bails…”

Oh and just 37 people at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house this year for Easter…

Piano Tears

You what’s awesome? The Bulls back atop the Eastern Conference? Yes. Awesome. But not as awesome as the day the NFL releases the new schedule. And that day is today. I think we’re looking at three losses for the Steelers. Opening the season at Baltimore is a loss. Going to Indy is likely a loss unless the Steelers can get a couple faster DB’s in the draft. Tom Brady owns Dick LeBeau so that’s a home loss. Throw in road games at Houston, KC and a random loss to Arizona or somebody and 11-5 looks about right.

You know what isn’t awesome? Warrant’s 1990 follow up CD Cherry Pie. Despite the video, Cherry Pie isn’t really Warrant’s best effort. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which has nothing to do with Harriet Beecher Stowe or the events leading up to the Civil War, sounds like a made for TV Sunday night movie from the 80’s. Regardless, despite its cool guitar intro is…um…weird. And I Saw Red is, at best, a crappy version of Heaven. Which, as anyone who was 19 in 1989 knows, is pretty crappy song in its own right.

You know what else isn’t awesome? Riley’s impending hormones. She plays violin. And saxophone. And she’s essentially teaching herself how to play piano with a little help from Mom. She’s playing a little bit a couple nights ago and just breaks down into tears. Why? Because “its just too hard.” Remember, she’s teaching herself. So the arbitrary level of success she’s evidently set isn’t being reached according to her random, and likely illogical, schedule of piano achievement.

Tears. Over piano. On which she’s never even had a lesson. And she’s only 11. So I’ve decided that once the girls hit 11, I’m support staff. Mom’s the lead. I’ll take point right up to 11 but then it’s all Mom. Her show. I’m out. She’s Maverick and I’m Goose.

How is piano a trigger for for crying? Don’t get me wrong, irrational and emotional responses are appropriate at certain times. But those instances are limited. The crushing death of Hair Metal in the early 90’s at the hands of grunge probably qualifies. The fact that the words “Senate Majority Leader” still precede the name Harry Reid likely makes the grade. Bill Cowher’s inability to win AFC Championship games at home certainly meets the criteria.

But piano?

Anyway, Mom has yet to embrace the idea. My backup plan is to build myself a small house in the backyard equipped with Direct TV, a mini fridge a really comfortable couch.

Last thing, since I’m talking about Warrant and the spring of 1991…my top three songs from that year:

1-Ride the Wind
2-Signs
3-Fly to the Angels

As you can see from the list above, the spring of ’91 was a helluva good time for music.

StrengthsFinder and the Mall

Have you read StrengthsFinder? Mom did. Which means I have. It’s pretty cool and incredibly interesting. It has determined 34 talent themes and helps you understand your top 5. It’s a management tool. I think its also a marriage and parenting tool. Among my top are the context, deliberative, analytical and strategic themes.

Let me summarize: I understand the present by researching its history. I take serious care in making decisions so as to anticipate and avoid obstacles. I naturally spot relevant patterns and issues, have the ability to understand multiple factors that can affect a situation and develop possible scenarios and solutions.

Now think about how those strengths play out while the girls enter their teen years.

I agree. Not well. The possible outcomes of many teen behaviors are not positive. And, if you ask my folks, I experienced a few of them. Letting the girls learn by doing isn’t always my first choice. So we’re slowly introducing independence.

Riley and her friend Hannah went to a movie Friday night. By themselves. They’re both 11. I was going to movies with friends sans parents in 1981 when I was eleven. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Still awesome.

Hannah is the youngest of three so her Mom has already been through this. She was already off to a different deal when Mom and Rye picked up Hannah for the movie – Soul Surfer. We had a good weekend by the way. Thanks for asking. Bailey had softball practice Friday so we took the opportunity to practice fielding and throwing with Rye and Kinz. Then Saturday and Sunday I was able to get both cars washed and vacuumed (there is a burgeoning colony of hair bands and crayons thriving in the third row of Mom’s car) and then I spent most of both days outside reseeding a portion of our yard and chopping wood. I have a freaking sweet firewood pile for this fall and winter. Some white pine in there, a little maple, ash and big chunks of river birch. My neighbor, when he’s not running his fleet of 3 limos, has a tree removal and stump grinding business. The man knows how to wield a chainsaw. Plus he has a trailer the size of a small barge so all the left over brush/crap left the yard too. Once that seed comes in, it’s going to look pretty awesome.

Anyway, I picked up my daughter from the movies on Friday night for the first time. I debated just pulling up alongside the exit like most of the other parents and waiting. That however requires deft timing and an absolute disregard for other movie goers and mall patrons. The theater is in the mall. Next to restaurants. So it’s a pretty active area on Fridays. Plus there is a hat store pretty close to the theaters. And they just received a shipment of throwback baseball hats – Brooklyn Dodgers, tri-color 70’s and 80’s Orioles, 70’s Braves (although I’m still not over the ’92 NLCS so nothing Braves for me), 80’s Brewers, Mike Schmidt-era Phillies, early 70’s Pirates. Still waiting on the mid-80’s Mariners and the orange Astros hats. So that means I decided to park, check out the hats, and wait.

Just an observation but the mall on Friday, especially any area which combines a food court and a movie theater, can be accurately and without exaggeration be described as hellish. It’s awful. Pre-driver’s license teen hell.

Seriously what’s with all the hugging? It’s been what? Three, maybe four hours tops, since these girls have seen each other? “Omigosh, I haven’t seen you since 3:00! Ahhhhhhh!”

You look around and the sheer number of them is disconcerting. Not really frightening because there is no way they can organize themselves into units capable of doing any major or sustained damage. But its just a bit unsettling. And I tried, I really did, not to have that look of complete disdain as I maneuvered my way through that range of mall territory that is sort of between the food court and the theater. But then you enter the food court. I know these teens have brains larger than ants but if you watch their traffic patterns you very quickly recognize something similar to watching ants travel and how these kids walk. Indistinguishable.

Which means if you need to work on your peripheral vision or planting and cutting in rush hour traffic skills, this isn’t a bad place to work on it.

Made it to the hat store but decided against getting that vintage Orioles hat. Deal breaker was it had “1988” stitched onto the back. Nothing against 1988, it was a good year. David Lee Roth came out with “Just like Paradise”, the Lakers beat the hated Pistons and we were introduced to Sexual Chocolate in Coming to America. But 1988 was also the year the Orioles started 0-21. I buy that hat and who knows what kind of loser karma starts rubbing off on the Steelers and/or Cyclones. I’m already a Pirates fan. I don’t need any help when it comes to bad karma.

So after a return dash through the nightmarish abyss of the teen-infested food court, all that was left to do was wait for the girls outside the theater. Without looking creepy. I was a little self-conscious that I might be the only Dad actually waiting inside the theater. Thankfully, I wasn’t. Evidently, it is not uncommon for Moms to use the theater as a Friday night babysitter while they shop. There is a waiting area with 6 or 7 tables and they almost all filled with Moms and Talbot’s bags. There was one other Dad who was there on pick up duty but I didn’t notice him until the movie let out because he was in the game room off to the side playing video games. Not a bad time killer. I followed the Pirates-Rockies game on my phone.

Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks teenagers are weird. Rye and Hannah came out, told me how good the movie was and then casually mentioned that teenagers are “just weird.”

“And, Dad, the girls behind us kept kicking our seats.”

“And texting. Geez, they had a message up before movie about not texting too.”

So at least Rye and Hannah are rule-followers and not rule-breakers…for now…

And before I forget – my top 3 songs from the spring of ’88:

1-Just Like Paradise
2-Nothing But a Good Time
3-Man in the Mirror

Billy Squier and Attitude

Its happening. And no I don’t mean when you get locked into that weird time/space radio wrinkle when you keep hearing songs from the same group. I mean today I heard two ELO songs. In a row. On two different stations. I mean when is the last time you heard Sweet Talkin’ Woman and Don’t Bring Me Down back to back? 1980? Then last week I couldn’t escape Billy Squier. Is it even possible to hear My Kinda Lover, In the Dark and Lonely is the Night in a matter of two days on something other than your iPod or Billy Squier Greatest Hits CD? Even weirder is that fleeting instance when it actually feels like someone has exploited a wormhole and taken you back to MTV’s nightly rotation in the spring of ’82.

Weirder? How about following up Squierfest with hearing Faithfully and Beat It back to back? Yeah, I know not only is it weird to hear two songs from 1983 back to back but its two songs from April of ’83 back to back. Which leads me to only one thing…my top three songs from the spring of ’83:

1- Photograph
2- Affair of the Heart
3- She\'s a Beauty

Anyway, what I’m talking about is Riley acting suspiciously like that pre-teen junior high snotty girl that you didn’t like back in 1983 and you swore never to allow to live in your house once you became a parent. Now, we’ve long assumed that we’d eventually be forced to combat this kind of behavior with the girls. I still think we have a little bit more time before we’re knee deep in hoopla but every now and then we get a preview. That’s what happened Wednesday night.

It was odd too because the activity that triggered it was…church. Yeah, she asked if she could go to some church stuff with her friend. Mom said no problem because everybody can always use a little chruchin’ up. Even if it’s the Wednesday night social stuff and not confession with a 70 year-old priest who scares the bejesus out of you.

She comes downstairs after taking a shower, grabs the remote and begins to the change the channel despite the fact that Mom was watching TV.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“Changing the channel.”

And she said it with that pre-teen sarcasm like you are the dumbest person on the planet outside of anyone involved in the NFL labor negotiations.

“I’m watching this show.”

“Well, I don’t want to.”

Mom’s had a tough week at work in addition to all the activity transport she’s endured since I’ve been late a few days this week at my job. And she really didn’t have time for backtalk. Which means she snatched the remote like Jet-Li smacking around Mel Gibson in Lethan Weapon 4.

So Rye comes into the kitchen and starts asking about a snack. I mention apples, bananas, grapes even some triscuits. None of these rose to her level of satisfaction. So she opened the fridge, stood there, heaved out a couple “omigosh, I’m so bored and put upon” sighs and then asked exactly the same question to me about snacks. Except she added the letter “a” to the end of a couple of the words within her question. As in:

“Dad-da, what do we have for snacks-sa?”

I reacted with something less than sympathy.

Which meant she ended up with something less than a snack.

“Listen Rye, who are trying to impress? You’ve been walking around with attitude since you got out of the shower. If this is the way you act when you hang out with your friends, then guess what? You’re going to be doing a lot less of that. Here’s your choice. Get a banana or don’t. Either way, you’ve earned your way to bed.”

Didn’t have any issues Thursday. Rye is pretty good about learning lessons and not making the same mistake twice. She’s a conscientious kid and generally doesn’t want to cause problems. Hopefully her sisters pay attention.