First Day of School 2011

For the first time, all three of the girls are riding the bus. The yellow one, not the daycare bus. Today was also the first time in our lives that we were not responsible for taking the kids to their daily destinations nor were we responsible for picking them up.

Yes, it was extremely weird.

Plus, Riley is in 6th grade and we’re pretty confident that if the girls have to get themselves on the bus in the morning and then home after school, she can handle it. She could also probably schedule a month’s worth of after school activities and maintain said schedule without major complications. She also has a friend who is just as responsible as she is riding the same bus. So between them, I don’t think anybody will get lost or left behind.

This morning, I walked over to the bus stop with our neighbor. We were two of the three Dads at the bus stop. Only one Mom. Hmmm…

Anyway, the bus is supposed to come at 8:33 a.m. But they warned us that the buses might be a little behind for the first few days as kids and drivers get used to schedule and stops, etc. Cool, no problem. Well, except for Kinsey who was ready to go to the bus stop at 7:30. Never has a 4th grader been this excited for school. Ever. Excited about her clothes, her backpack, her bus pass, waiting at the bus stop, riding the bus, etc.

So we’re waiting at the bus stop and at exactly 8:33 a.m. a bus comes rumbling down the street and stops at the bus stop. But it was the wrong bus. Confidence is now dropping regarding this bus operation in our local school district. A few minutes later another bus, traveling in the opposite direction goes zooming right past us.

Um, who is in charge of this operation? This is like the Fredo running a casino.

Finally, another bus comes down the street in the same direction as the first bus…and it continues going down the street, past the kids and around the corner. Might have even been a slight tire squeal. Our bus stop is evidently located at a key junction point when all bus routes come together making it a key crossroads…kinda like Gettysburg, I guess.

About 8:45 a fourth bus, traveling in the same direction as the second bus comes barreling around the corner toward the stop…all the parents zeroed in on the bus number and lo and behold…its our bus!

And it goes right past us.

Not to worry says Riley’s friend, the bus just drives down there and loops around comes back. In our district, if you are a kindergartener, you get picked up at your house. Bus driver had to loop around to pick up a kindergartener before coming back to get us.

So, anyway, the transportation and logistics guy down at the school district has 4 different buses traveling by our stop in a 12 minute period. Two stopped. One left with the kids.

Didn’t matter to the girls, they were still excited.


Best Thing About August?

Generally speaking, the best thing about August is the return of football. I know a lot of folks don’t like NFL Preseason Football but I’m not one of them. I’d rather watch an NFL preseason game, than a MLB game. And that’s with the Pirates threatening to be .500 this season. Glad the Steelers lost out on the Plaxico derby and ended up with Jerricho Cotchery. How awesome did he look Thursday night? Like a younger Hines Ward, that’s how awesome.

And we got our first peek at the Bills new uniforms.

Yes, they are awesome. You come up with a design that harkens back to the 70’s and it is tough to screw it up. But I’m sure Nike will when they unveil their NFL Pro Combat Uni’s…

Other things awesome about August? School starts. Kinda bittersweet in our house. Sure the cost of daycare plummets but it is also the Return of the Onslaught of After School Activities.

I never really liked that first week or so of school. There’s all kinds of new stuff you have to learn and get used to. Written rules, unwritten rules, changing social norms and mores, the level of hearing loss of your teacher.

The best thing, however, about August was the arrival of the Christmas Catalog. JCPenny, Sears, even Montgomery Ward. Sometimes the Service Merchandise Catalog too. Didn’t matter. All awesome. You know what I’m talking about.

The girls have no idea what they’re missing. All they get is a five page insert from Toys R’ Us in the Sunday paper at some point in early December. Upon glorious arrival of the first Christmas Catalog, we’d disappear for hours. Scanning, choosing, ranking…carefully building our lists. First section to be examined? Kids NFL gear.

Much to my dismay the Steelers jersey was always either #12 or #32. Sometimes it was #58. Don’t get me wrong Bradshaw, Harris and Lambert were and are great Steelers. But I always wanted a #88 Lynn Swann jersey. Which explains why I now own one. Along with a Franco Harris jersey. And a Jack Lambert jersey. Sometimes, I guess you just don’t outgrow things…

Look, I wasn’t making this up. Steelers jerseys? Bradshaw and Harris. I had that Bears jersey. Want to know who wore each of those numbers in 1980? I can tell you. Man we had it tough back in the day. These things don’t even look like actual NFL jerseys. Now kids get exact replicas of gameday jerseys. Damn kids now-a-days…

Had these sheets. If we hadn’t gotten rid of them, I’d have taken them to college.

Hey somebody explain this:

And what about this? Maybe he’s surprised because nobody on the set is laughing and pointing at him.

This is why children grow up to hate their parents:

Seriously, a monkey? If somebody found out you even had these, you’d be branded the King of Dorks until college. Maybe longer. You’d be forced to go overseas in a country without an extradition agreement with the U.S. At some point in your 30’s, you’ll be at a restaurant and some old classmate will recognize you and be all, “Oh dude, do you remember those monkey jammies you wore back in 5th grade? Can’t believe your Mom made you wear ’em. Hey do all your friends here know about ’em?”

Um, what the hell is the chick from The A-Team doing showing up in a Christmas Catalog? Hannibal isn’t going to like this. God help her if B.A. has to fly out and pick her up.

In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to military prison for a crime they didn’t commit… Yep, that’s her.

X-Wing Fighter and the The Bandit’s Trans-Am? Awesome.

Hell yes its Head to Head electronic football. Beat my Dad at this Christmas night 1980. Yeah, I remember. It was that awesome.

Anyway, check it out here: 1980 Sears Wishbook

Tough Day

We’ve all had tough days. Sometimes you see them coming and sometimes you don’t. I had Monday pegged for a tough day. We scheduled the girls for their annual school physicals. We spent most of the morning prior to the physicals speculating about who would get shots and who would get finger pokes.

The girls, pretty much unanimously, had decided that entire trip to the doctor’s office would be much more enjoyable for not only themselves but also for me if shots and finger pokes were avoided altogether. We had an absolute epic set of physicals back in ’07. They will forever be the benchmark for unsuccessful school physicals.

I don’t miss getting shots. When needles appear in doctor’s offices cheering is not among the options I consider. Cutting the power and escaping in the darkness is one…throat punching the medical professional administering the shot sometimes crosses my mind…the Vulcan neck pinch is sometimes helpful.

The girls are older now and shots, while still scary, aren’t paralyzing like they used to be. Finger pokes, for some reason, have also slid down the scariness rankings. Not sure where they rank anymore but its below shots…and probably broccoli. And bees.

Anyway, in addition to being school physical day, it was also Day We Find Out Who Is In The Girls Class This Year Along With Finding Out Who Their Teacher Is This Year. We have some extra time so I suggested we run by school and see if the lists are posted yet.

Two things here: 1) I have extra time in the morning. I know, Its weird. Does any parent react seamlessly to extra time in the morning? Maybe. But if they do they are some kind of hybrid robot/super parent. I really didn’t know how to handle it. We had a good 20-25 minutes. I think this is what happens when the girls are old enough to complete normal human functions on their in a relatively timely manner without being asked. Like getting dressed. And eating. Well, not always eating, but most of the time; 2) The class lists are actually posted at the school. Not on the school’s website. But on paper taped to the front door. Despite the inconvience, I kinda like it. Its old school. And old school is in direct contrast to the girls’ apparent inclination to provide their feedback or opinions on everything. I blame Twitter.

However, the lists weren’t up yet when we got to school so talked over the rules and expectations regarding the doctor’s office on our way there. They pretty much can be summed up as don’t fight and don’t run around. The last one was really just directed at Bailey.

We arrive, approach the door and then we see it – the waiting room is full. Two vacant seats and there are five of us. I’m not that good at math but I immediately sense a meltdown.

In an interesting quirk of fate, as I filled out and updated 6 forms, Bails was distracted by the fishtank long enough for another seat to open up. Amazing. But not as amazing as this:

“How do long do we have to wait?” an impatient Bailey asks.

“We have about 15 minutes or so.”

Then for the first time in recorded history, it happened. Eight minutes before our scheduled appointment I hear…

“Riley, Kinsey and Bailey?”

Woo Hoo! Holy Freaking Crap we’re getting in early!

First thing is height and weight followed by a vision test. Should be simple. Except getting Bails to stand in one place long enough to measure and weigh her isn’t easy. Plus the girls had to negotiate who would go first for each thing. Rye for weight and height. Bails for vision. I told Kinsey that meant she went first for shots.

She didn’t find it funny.

We’re led back to our room and the nurse goes through a list of questions for me regarding each girl. Then she directly asks Rye some questions. Rye turns 12 in December. She’s going into 6th grade. I wasn’t ready for her questions.

“Are you having any intimate relationships with other people?”

Rye looks quizzically at me until the nurse adds, “…with boys?”

I was unable to disguise my raised eye brow/eye roll/silent groan. Holy Crap. Intimate relationships? Most interesting thing regarding the question was the matter of fact, without any hint of embarrassment way Rye answered the question. In front of me. I guess that’s good. Or at least I’m going to tell myself that its good.

Then she asks Rye if she smokes, does drugs, gets in fights.

Except the nurse worded it as physical confrontations. Rye had no idea what she meant until she added, “…like with other girls?”

“What? No. Why? Like punching? No.”

Finally, the doc comes in. Normally the doctor’s arrival increases my stress level because it meant the shots were right around the corner. Not this time. I was relieved not to be answering questions about intimate relationships and girl fights regarding my 6th grade daughter.

“Okay, Riley it looks like you need a finger poke and…let me see…do you need shots…uh, yes…two.”

Instant shoulder droop from Rye.

“Kinsey, let’s see, it looks like just a finger poke for you.”

“WOO HOO! No shots! I was hoping I wouldn’t have to get shots. I don’t like shots. A finger poke still isn’t great, but its better than shots. Dad, I’m so happy I don’t have to get shots. Too bad Riley does, but I don’t! WOO HOO!”

The doc, taken aback by the spike in volume and excitement levels, begins looking through Bailey’s file.

“…and it looks like just a finger poke for you too Bailey.”

“Oh yeah! That’s right, no shots, uh huh, no way, not me, no shots!”

Three finger pokes and two shots later, we’re outta there. I’d describe them in greater detail except there isn’t anything to describe. They didn’t cry. Didn’t even whimper. There was some gritting of the teeth but that was it. I’m thinking, wow, can’t believe this day is going so well.

Mom comes by and picks them up from the doc’s office so I can get to work and she heads over to the school to check out the class lists.

About 30 minutes later I get a couple text messages.

“Bailey likes her teacher. Kinsey has Lola and Mallory in her class she’s happy. Riley is in tears.“

Rye’s three good friends all ended up the other 6th grade class. So she naturally responded by sobbing. Uncontrollably.

Have I mentioned how much I’m going to enjoy the girl’s teenage years?

Ozarks ’11

Florida? Check. Grampy’s and Grammy’s house for the 4th of July? Check. Colorado? Check. Ozarks? Check. I think we done traveling this summer.

But that does make 13 consecutive years in the Ozarks. And 3 consecutive years where we haven’t added any babies to our entourage. That’s a good streak we have going there.

There are many things I enjoy about going down there for vacation but the one thing that always amazes me is that it is one of the few places where Whiskey Tango and Delta Bravos can both eat in the same place and you really have to look to determine which is which. If you watch them get off their boats, its easy. Whiskey Tango get off just about every type that isn’t a small ocean liner. Delta Bravos get off a boat that usually look like something like this:

As is usually the case, we had a good time. In fact, Grammy let me know her favorite part of vacation is when we arrive and she can start unpacking and organizing everything she’s brought with her. I’m totally serious. Unpacking is her favorite part. Regardless, to most people the only things they have to unpack are their clothes and a cooler. To Grammy that list grows to include pots, pans, utensils, various breakfast cereals, a barbie castle, parachutes, masonry tools, sewing machines and canned goods. I’m kidding about those last things. Mostly…

However there are always 4 or 5 boxes that if I didn’t know better, would lead nearly anyone to believe that she’s not only going camping but she also has to manufacture a tent on site and then construct a base camp. When in reality, she’s staying in a 3 bedroom condo. With a grocery store right down the road.

Most of the girls, and by this I mean all of them except Riley and her fellow 11 year old cousin, played with the platoon of Barbies and Live Dolls everybody brought. Not sure how much action the Barbie castle saw but the girls did make up a game involving the dolls which required each doll to have a talent. As I’m listening, I’m thinking that they’ll start calling out things like, “my talent is dancing and my talent is playing the piano.”


“My talent is to be cute,” says my little niece who is about to start kindergarten. Self-esteem she does not lack.

Oh, I have also come to an indisputable conclusion that Grammy would rather get food poisoning than throw food away. Doesn’t matter if we have to bring home grilled meat in 100 degree heat on the boat or eat a tray of chicken that’s been in and out of the fridge for the whole week, we’re not throwing it away. It was so hot the melted cheese on our nachos turned became translucent until it eventually was just an oily stain. But I’m sure it’ll fine to eat later if we put it in a Styrofoam box and wait a hour to put it into the fridge. I mean it was so humid we could chew the air.

We did a family portrait again as we did in ’08 and ’10. All 16 of us. This year Grammy decided she wanted a picture but didn’t want to pay for it. I was cool with that. We took it at the same spot in a nearby state park we used the first two times – despite the fact that most of the area is infested with poison ivy. Yeah, evidently getting 8 children ages 3-11 to smile and look in the direction of the camera wasn’t challenging enough so we need to keep introducing the poison ivy. This year, however, we upped the ante. Dog poop. Everywhere. Evidently our family portrait locale doubles as a dog bomb minefield. So that was nice.

And Tuesday it was 108 degrees. Naturally we went shopping at the Outlet Mall. The Outlet Mall where you walk outside between stores. It was so awesome we decided to go back on Friday…when the humidity was like Cape Gloucester for the 1st Marines back in ’43. Best part was as we’re walking with the girls and one of their cousins, we pass a nice Whiskey Tango family allowing their small son to pee on the wheel of a mini-van. In the parking lot. In front of the Under Armour outlet. No confirmation on whether or not it was their van.

Solution to misbehaving children at a restaurant? Separate them from the adults. Yup. I said it. Less supervision led to better behavior. Maybe someone has already discovered this. Maybe there are theories currently being debating regarding this development. We, however, do not care. We were able to eat in peace. Or as peacefully as you can eat while you are sweating on your food.

Okay, quick, answer this – would you eat a burrito named The Dirty Sanchez? Of course you wouldn’t. It’s funny in a gross way, but no way are eating it. Cost $30 too. But you get a t-shirt with it telling everyone that you actually ate The Dirty Sanchez. You know what that makes you? Delta Sierra.

Last thing – if you are looking for a place to have breakfast, I’d suggest Shorty Pants. Veggie omelet had more veggies than eggs. It was ridiculous. Plus when we walked in, this song was on:

Which of course got me thinking about the summer of ‘87’s top songs.

Here I Go Again – Whitesnake
Midnight Blue – Lou Gramm
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2