Back and Forth to Colorado

My sister got married. She had the girls in the wedding as flower girls. As I suspect is the case with most girls, they thought this was freaking awesome. And I suppose if you are a girl getting your hair done in a special wedding style, wearing a brand new dress, getting shiny new shoes and getting to drop rose petals along the path the bride will walk is pretty cool.

Cardinal and Gold rose petals. Yeah, it’s cool. Go Cyclones!

My nephew decided to stage a mutiny the morning of the wedding. My folks were driving him down to our hotel so he could swim with the girls when he let them know that he decided not to be in the wedding. None of that ring bearer crap for him. Except nobody acknowledged his mutiny. Like movie fans and Speed Racer. So if you stage a mutiny and said mutiny is ignored by those being mutinied against, does the mutiny actually occur?

No. It doesn’t. He was in the wedding. And he appeared to enjoy it.

Anyway it was fun. The reception was a mix of country, hair metal, margaritas and beer. Plus two people were injured. One required stitches. But that’s what you get when you do the reverse centipede on concrete. No, it wasn’t me. But I did get a nice ankle fold trying to match Riley’s sweet air fiddle with some awesome dance moves to John Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy. Luckily I get to go on vacation next week with a blackish purply bruise from the sole of my foot to about 2 inches above my ankle. It looks like Idaho. Ever ride home in a car for 10 hours trying to keep your ankle elevated while holding ice on it? Ever try it when you’re 41? The range of motion in my left hip was at its genetic limit.

The ride out to Colorado didn’t seem easier at the time but it was. We weren’t even out of our city limits and Kinsey says, “My head hurts. My tummy hurts. How much longer?”

We make it to the interstate and Bails lets us know that she can’t sleep with all the “noise.” It’s 6:30 in the morning and she’s the only kid in the world who isn’t put to sleep by the hum of tires on the highway.

About five minutes after that, Riley asks, “Hey, Mom and Dad, can we start watching movies now?”

Seriously, we’ve been in the car for about 15 minutes. Maybe 20. Kinsey is car sick. Bailey is whining. And Riley is bored.


We responded with strict orders for extreme radio silence. No sound. At least 12 inch boundary zones between each kid.

Strangely, it worked. They all fell asleep. Blessed, blessed sleep. And stayed asleep as we went through a line of thunderstorms. Which allowed Mom to admire the magic of Rain-X. “Oooooooo…this rain-x is amazing.”

Otherwise the trip went pretty much to form. The girls argued over the barbies…err…I mean the Live Dolls they brought along. If their arguments over the dolls’ clothes are an accurate depiction of future arguments over clothes, well, I’m going to need to an escape hatch. Or a rip cord. Or simply some strategy on how to flee the scene.
Last thing, we’re having some conversations about next summer when Riley will be home everyday and Kinz and Bails will be joining her for either 2 or 3 days a week. We haven’t decided. But Rye will be 12 and a-half next summer and she’s already inherently responsible. But the discussion about the girls being home alone sort meandered along until Rye was asking questions about being home alone and having friends over. Which led us to a discussion about what happens when teenagers are home alone and they invite a few friends over….and those friends tell a few people…and those friends tell some more people and then you end up with this:

So we’re explaining some of the dangers of unsupervised teenagers in your house.

Dad: What happens is they bring over things they shouldn’t.

Bailey: What? You mean like guns?

Mom: No. Well, I hope not. But that’s not what we meant.

Dad: Guns?

Mom: And then they start doing things they shouldn’t be doing.

Riley: You mean like drinking colorful pop on the carpet?

You sometimes its nice to know you’re soon to be 6th grader hasn’t been completely corrupted by TV and the behavior of older kids…

Published in: on July 29, 2011 at 8:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Headed West

We’ve done it twice the last 13 months. But that doesn’t mean Nebraska gets more interesting. The drive to Colorado really is pretty easy. Although its probably more picturesque in December than in July. Nebraska steadily goes from green to brown as you go west. Wyoming is mostly brown. That could be why it’s the dominant color for their football team. Then you go south into Colorado and I suppose it gets greener. None of it is Midwest green so I guess its all kinda brown.

Regardless, the real issue is when the five of us reach the tipping point when everything is annoying and the only thing we want is to be out of the car. Experience tells us that is usually about the Nebraska/Wyoming stateline. It’s a ten hour trip. But, smartly or not, the girls are well seasoned road trippers.

They’ve made the 6 hour trip to the Ozarks every year they’ve been alive. They’ve all made the drive to Colorado multiple times and we’ve thrown in the 6.5 hour drive to Chicagoland a few times too.

Plus we’ve made the drive to Floirda. Three times. When we had babies. And poopy diapers. Back in ’02 we drove all the way to Florida from Iowa. Took three days. Did it in two the last time we drove in ’06. We also had my Dad as a third driver plus we rented a mini-van. Both of those things were helpful. As was a small TV on which a 2 and a-half year old Riley could watch movies. Kinsey was just a month old and was strapped into her car seat the whole time. This trip in ’02 was highlighted by our lunch stop just before we crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky from Illinois. We park and my Dad, Riley and I stroll into McDonald’s for some lunch. You’ll notice that Mom and the one month old Kinsey did not accompany us. If you recall having newborns, you’ll remember that they don’t eat at McDonald’s. When they eat it involves Mom and you can’t really do it in McDonald’s. Well, I guess you can but it would be frowned upon by folks not described as hippies or whiskey tango. So Mom is trapped in the car. We finish eating and start getting ready to leave and Mom sternly lets me know in terms that can only be whispered around children that she’s hasn’t even been out of the car yet.

Last time we needed to have that conversation.

We made the trip again in ’04 and ’06 before we got smart and flew down in ’09. Bails was almost a year old when we made the trip in ’04. So that was nice…

You know sometimes I wish it was still the late 70’s and early 80’s so the kids could climb all over the backseat without being strapped in. Do you remember that? I do. Mostly because anytime I hear Neil Diamond or Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers it reminds of our family trips to Pittsburgh and Florida. I hear “Forever in Blue Jeans” and I almost instinctively ask “Are we there yet?” If we stumble onto “All the Gold in California” I immediately do three things: 1) Sing along, 2) Make a remark about 8-tracks, 3) Wonder aloud about how network execs let the country craze put Barbara Mandrell and Mandrell Sisters on primetime TV. I mean country music really took over the world there for a year or two back in the day. Dallas, Urban Cowboy, freaking Eddie Rabbitt…seriously, that was weird.

Still love Neil Diamond though.

It was Supposed to be Fun

There are many things I don’t understand – the apparent popularity of Florence and the Machine, the lack of recognition for the ’76 Steelers defense, why some people don’t find Anchorman hilarious.

For example, today was supposed to be a good day. And I guess it kinda was but while I was going through it I really didn’t understand how it was spinning out of control so quickly. It really had nothing to do with it being Thursday or even July 7th. Lots of good things have happened on a Thursday. Magnum, P.I. and Thanksgiving come to mind. I assume some pretty cool things have happened on July 7th too. The last time the Pirates won a division title, they won on July 7th and to a Pirates fan that’s a damn big deal to paraphrase Joe Biden.

It really started out fine. Slept in a little bit, which in retrospect, was quite remarkable. Kinz and Bails had our neighbor sleep over plus Rye had one of her friends sleep over too. So that’s a lot of girls in the house. And yes, I’ve made this point before but it can’t be restated enough, that many girls in the house was pretty cool in college, now…not so much. But Rye and her friend Sarah spent nearly the entire night, while I was awake, either in the her room or down in the basement. They’re 11 and far too cool to socialize with three other girls between the ages of 7 and 9. Every day that Rye edges closer to teenagerdom, I shudder.

Literally not figuratively. I shake, twitch, convulse. However you want to describe it. And I’m not talking about the shuddering that happens when you’re anticipating something difficult like watching So You Think You Can Dance with your wife and oldest daughter without a stream of incessant, although witty, put downs coming out of my piehole. I’m talking about the shuddering that occurs when you realize something is going to happen and you have absolutely no earthly notion on how to plan or prepare. Kinda like the French and Panzers. Or Joe Flacco and Heinz Field.

Regardless, the day’s plan was simple. Wake up, get donuts for the girls and a big ol’ Diet Pepsi for myself and then take them up to Ames to gear up for football season. I know, sounds awesome. We ate lunch, picked up some football schedule posters and magnets and then hit a couple stores. Bails got a new hoodie, Kinsey got a couple t-shirts and Riley even managed to find one which fit within the narrow boundaries her 11 year-old mind has defined as cool. I even got a new gold gameday shirt. Compromised my principles and bought a new Nike gold Cyclones shirt. Decided the $8 I paid for it weren’t enough to further Nike’s plans to destroy all tradition in college football by making everybody look like Oregon. But here’s a pic of the gigundonormous scoreboard we just put up. 13th biggest in the country. Just saying.

The problem, or problems as happened to be the case, was that Bails and Kinz evidently lost all ability to listen. She struggles in this area anyway but compounding her auditory problems was the fact that the part of the brain that controls her ability to get along with Kinsey wasn’t working properly. It’s usually hit and miss anyway, like Tony Romo in December. We go into the first store and immediately I’m facing threats on multiple fronts. Big metal basket of mini-basketballs, an entire rack of stuffed bears, beads and earrings and finally a giant container of pom-poms. I felt like Gen. McAuliffe at Bastogne. Except it was July instead of December and Iowa instead of Belgium. I’m trying to look for stuff for each of them along with myself. Thankfully one of the women working there noticed I was debating which size to buy on a new shirt and said go ahead and use the bathroom to try it on.

Ah, a private location to beat the crap….I’m mean sternly talk to the girls about their behavior. We get in the bathroom which evidently also doubles as a storeroom and Bails immediately knocks over a stack of empty boxes. I quickly try on the shirts as I tell girls how poorly they are behaving. One of the things I say is how embarrassed I am about their behavior. How I know they are aware of the right way to behave in stores. Suddenly it smells like country flowers.

“Hey, enough with the air freshener. Nobody is even going to the bathroom.”

“Geez, sorry…I just wanted it to smell better in here.”

At this point I turn to hear Kinsey balling her eyes out. “Kinz why are you crying?”

“You said that you are embarrassed that we’re your kids and that’s one of the meanest things you can say.”

“Holy Crap. Kinz, I…”

Before I can finish my thought Bailey starts screaming.

“My Eyes! My Eyes! Riley sprayed the air freshener in my eyes!”

“You’ve got to be freaking kidding me. You sprayed in her eyes?”

“No, I sprayed it above her eyes and it must of just fallen into them.”

We take a minute to compose ourselves and then we check out. Stupidly, I stop at not one, but two more stores. Hey, getting the girls new Cyclone gear is important whether they like it or not. First store seems to go well aside from Bailey having to go to the bathroom.

We take care of that and cross the street to the university bookstore. Nice selection but simply too much room. You know what I’m talking about. Kids, when presented with large amounts of space, forget how to control their motor skills. Recently it doesn’t matter if you catch Bailey’s misbehaving early or not. You can address it, and enforce consequences. She doesn’t care. She keeps going. She’s relentless. She hiding under and in clothing racks, she’s doing laps between the “Enter Here” and “Pay Here” signs by the register, she’s pulling out gum, magnets, pens, etc. as she walks by them.

I turn to the college students manning the register, “Hey, you guys want to buy a 7 year-old? Motivated seller. Whaddaya say?”

Things I learned in Florida

The Gulf of Mexico is like bath water. I had no idea. Until Monday and Tuesday I had never been in the Gulf. My folks have done their fair share of recon since they moved down to Orlando 13 years ago. Two of the cool places they discovered are Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Get a map, find St. Petersburg and go south. That long skinny sandbar you see, that’s where we were. And it was pretty freaking cool. Except for the temperature. Florida in June after all. We ate here.

Name of the place is The Sandbar. Grouper tacos. Mmmm…

Can’t get that in Des Moines.

Then we drove a little south and stayed at a hotel right on the beach. Of course in Longboat Key just about everything is on the beach. Seriously. Its weird to look out your hotel room window and see the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Sarasota Bay on the other. Here’s a shot from the beach.

Weirder than being on a glorified sandbar that has nearly every square inch developed?

We go to lunch before we leave on Tuesday and the local paper is sitting there. Turns out the top local issue of the day for Anna Maria Island is shark fishing and whether or not it should be banned off the island. Lots of “Jaws” references, people saying “chumming” and warning each other to stay out of the water at night.

Again, we don’t get that in Des Moines.

So we’re deciding if we want to go to SeaWorld or Islands of Adventure. We decided just to go eat lunch at Margaritaville at CityWalk after mulling over the $420 is would take to get all five of us into Islands of Adventure. Kids weren’t happy…but then we got them a milkshake and that took care of things for awhile. It was such a simple solution. Like choosing between boredom and watching Die Hard for 54th time.

I’m telling you ice cream and swimming may be the most powerful parental tools on the planet. Need something to ease the sting of not going to SeaWorld? Milkshake. Something to provide motivation to behave during dinner and a few stops at local shops? Ben & Jerry’s. Something to tire them out so they actually sleep at night during vacation? The Gulf of Mexico. Something to fill hours of time at Grandad and Grandma’s house? Pool. Oh, and an assortment of water guns helps too. The larger the magazine the better too. Remember to purchase some type of protective googles for your eyes. 7 year-olds don’t really focus on accuracy while shooting.

Didn’t expect to discover this but Uno’s is awesome. I know it’s a chain and I know that most folks probably think they’ve to a million places just like it. But we don’t have one in Des Moines. Which is really odd when you think about it because Des Moines is like a chain restaurant mecca. But it has these little computers at the table on which the kids, and by kids I mean me, can play games. It has a super easy version of tetris which mesmerized the girls. Plus, it has an abolutely crazy about of healthy options and Bailey says they have the best mac n’ cheese in the world. Not kidding. I was willing to believe her because she doesn’t eat that much and she finished nearly all of it. If Bails eats something its means one of three things; 1) its ice cream, 2) she’s using the force to trick us into thinking she’s eating, 3) its so good it’ll make you break into song.

And my nephew, by the end of the week, had pretty much had it with the girls.

All four of them are out in the pool playing. My nephew inquires with Kinsey, “Let’s play war. Get the guns.”

Kinsey replies, “Okay but first we have to perform our musical performance numbers.”

Country, rock, rap…everything. But they got my nephew to play along with some beat box…