Emails from School

Anybody else been watching week 13 and 14 NFL highlights from 1977 on Youtube? No? How about weeks 1 through 8 from the ’78 season? Hmm, just me then. Gotta admit though, it would be cool to have Harry Kalas narrating your weekends.

Okay, anybody get any email updates from their kids’ teachers? Yeah, us too.

Back in the day teachers either had to pick up the phone and call your parents or they had to wait for parent-teacher conferences to directly communicate your missteps. As a kid, this was good. But I went to Catholic schools so we’d usually run into my teachers at church. Which, as it turns out, was also good. Because what better place than church to ask for and receive forgiveness.

Now teachers can email parents after school or during the actual school day if the situation warrants such immediate contact. As a parent, I like this contact. It makes it easy to communicate with the girls’ teachers. Some folks have suggested installing webcams in classrooms so parents can monitor not only the child’s behavior but also how the teacher is doing.

Politely, I think you can refer to these parents as “involved” or “curious.” With friends, and depending on your stance on classroom webcams, you can probably be safe describing them as “meddlesome” or “intrusive” or even, if you’re brave, as “nosy.” If you ask me, I think these parents are insane. Absolutely clinically insane. Totally whack. Crazier than Tom Cruise after a weekend seminar with L. Ron Hubbard. Unless you are blind, literally and/or figuratively, deluded or simply stupid, your kids are misbehaving, to some degree, whether they are within your line of sight or not. And I really don’t need a video feed to show, live and in color, how badly I suck as a parent. Bails, depending on her sugar levels, can get rowdier than a sack of rabid weasels on crack. I mean we already have to watch our kids when they are at home. Why would I spend the only part of my day when I’m actually paid to interact with grownups watching my kids when the taxpayers are paying somebody to be responsible for them?

Finally, we already have too many helicopter parents. Webcams are the gateway drug to helicopter parenting. I’d rather the taxpayers buy new American history books that can accurately describe the failure of The New Deal and the awesomeness of the 80’s instead of webcams. Do we really want the crazy parents dictating school board policy decision any more than they already do? As a nation we’ve already ceded control of tax policy to the groups who benefit from and eat the most tax dollars instead of the folks who are actually paying the taxes…

For example, if there was a webcam in Bailey’s classroom last Friday I would have been able to witness the events which were detailed to us in an email from her teacher.

The kids break up into groups and are given a set of letters while tasked with coming up with as many words as they can using the aforementioned letter set. Unfortunately for Bailey’s teacher, she included an a and an s and another s. And unfortunately for Bailey, one of the boys in her group is one of the class troublemakers. At least according to Bailey he is. But she’s 8. Her credibility as a witness can be questioned. Anyway, this boy says “ass” is one of the words they can spell. I’m not even sure this is a cuss word anymore but I am pretty sure that 2nd graders shouldn’t be saying it. Anyhow, nobody repeats it but they giggle. Another girl walks over and wants to know why everyone is laughing. Not one to shy away, Bails goes ahead and writes “ass” on the board. Naturally, her teacher sees this happen.

And she’s in trouble.

Later the class is sitting on the floor getting ready for reading time. Their teacher has a bunch of stuffed animals in her room. Some are for the boys and some are for the girls. If they do something great or do something the teacher appreciates, they get to have a stuffed animal at their desk. It’s a reward.

There is also a garbage can located near the two groups of stuffed animals.

The same kid who came up with “ass” gets up and knocks one of the girls’ stuffed animals into the garbage can. Bailey, not one to back down to a challenge or a bully or just about anything else, walks over and knocks one of the boys’ stuffed animals into the garbage…just in time for it to be witnessed by her teacher.

I think her heart was in the right place but her timing could use some work.

So we got an email. Thankfully, however, there were no video files attached…

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Losing Things

I don’t like to lose things. Mom will tell you that if something can’t be found, well just ask Dad because he probably knows where it is…or he’ll look obsessively until he finds it. It’s true. One of the reasons I rarely lose things is because I spend so much time looking for them. The president might want to use a similar strategy regarding constitutional rights.

Why am I thinking about this? Well, I lost my cell phone last Thursday for about 45 minutes. On Friday, Riley left for a weekend trip with one of her friends. I’m a Dad and I am not really ready for her to be gone for extended periods of time with people other than family. Not totally 100% on board with the trip. Mom was however. Its one thing to lose your cell phone. It’s an entirely different set of circumstances when “lost” and “daughter” are part of the same conversation.

Anyway, I get to dance with Bails and I sit down to watch about 15 minutes of her practice. I only have to stay for 15 minutes this year because the girls are in three different classes now. Bails goes 4:45-5:45 on Thursdays. Riley goes 5:45-7:30 on Thursdays. Kinsey goes 9:00-10:30 on Saturdays. Then Riley goes 10:30-11:15 again on Saturdays. So instead of sitting through hours of dance classes, I am now the latest recruit to the parental taxi corps. Drive Bails to dance, watch her for 15 minutes, then back home to get Rye, back in the truck, drive back to dance to drop off Rye and pick up Bails. I get about an hour break then its back in the truck to pick up Rye.

As I left on Thursday, I reached into my jacket pocket for my phone. It wasn’t there. Did the quick pat down of remaining pockets, the driver’s seat and areas immediately surrounding the driver’s seat. Nothing. Well, I think to myself, its gotta be back at dance. I continue home, pick up Rye and rush back to the dance studio. I do a quick search of the girls dance bag. Nothing in there except ballet and tap shoes along with a few random hair bands, a pair of stinky socks and a pencil. Seriously, I’d leave my socks from basketball practice in my gym bag sometimes, but dude, there’s not way they smelled worse than these…

But no phone.

Hmmm…

Right before I left I was holding the phone, then Bails came out to switch from tap shoes to ballet shoes, I helped her do that. Bingo! If I put it somewhere other than my pocket, then the dance bag is the most logical conclusion. But so is going for it on 4th and short inside your opponent’s 40 but most coaches still punt.

Gotta be over by the seat I used when I originally dropped off Bails. But its been taken over by a legion of dance bags, jackets, shoes, backpacks, etc. I delicately go through it being careful not to disturb the scene. I’ve watched Law and Order enough to know that the first moments on the scene are the most critical. They are the only time you can get anything close to an accurate picture of what may have happened. This scene, however, has obviously been compromised with all the activity that occurred in the 45 minutes since I left. I press on…

Strange. Its’a cellphone. It’s like finding a solid block of pure gold to 11 and 12 year-old girls. There’s no way one of them would have been able to leave it as she found it. That’s it! I check the shelves next to where I was sitting…I check the surface of the desk…nothing…

Finally one of the Mom’s offers her phone to me so I can call mine. I’m thinking, “thanks but there’s no way I’m going to be able to hear it since its on vibrate, not to mention that the vibrate is so soft that I won’t even feel it when its in my pocket.”

Plus that incessent “Moves Like Jagger” song is blasting from the studio punctuated by squeals and other annoying noises.

But I’m getting close to a Hail Mary situation here. So I call it…

…and I think I hear something. There it is again…

Dance Mom #1 says she hears it too! Dance Mom #2 gets a quizzical look on her face, looks down at the garbage can and peers into it.

“Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and let you get it out.”

I take my first look into the garbage can. All that is visible are an excess of used tissues. It’s allergy season in the Midwest. Excellent. My phone is buried underneath a foot and a-half of gooey, snot stained tissues.

Bailey takes a look and says, “I’ll get it!”

Days of sick leave flash through my mind and faster than Notre Dame turns the ball over in the redzone. I grab her arm and gently tell her that I’ll get it out. So I tip the can until its visible. Just a corner but its there. Man, where is a pair of tongs when you need them. Like the bomb squad cutting the blue wire, I carefully pinch the phone between my finger and thumb and remove it from the garbage can.

And it starts buzzing. Oh man, you have to be kidding me. I can’t answer this thing. I’ve got all kinds of snot samples covering it. I answer it anyway. It’s my neighbor. He can’t get the Kinsey and his daughter, who are at our house, to answer the door. And he also wants to know why I’m yelling. Well, I tell him, I want to make sure he can hear me because the phone is about a foot from my face.

We get that figured out. Bails and I bathe in some hand sanitizer when we’re back in my truck and finally, we’re on our way. With my phone.

And, as it turns out, Riley had a great time. She didn’t get lost, she didn’t lose her phone or iTouch and, most important, Rye’s friend’s Mom didn’t lose her patience with either of them for the entire weekend.

So…we’re going to see these guys tonight. Gonna be awesome.

About Halloween…

You know what you don’t ever see? Really good Halloween or Thanksgiving commercials. Christmas has great commericals. Classics that you remember and expect to see year after year. Maybe even get a little upset because Miller Brewing doesn’t run their classic commercial anymore…

Regardless, Halloween seems like the kind of holiday that would lend itself to TV advertising. It’s colorful. It’s the second most commercialized holiday in America. But when it comes to TV ads – nada. Weird.

You know what else is weird? The staggeringly high levels of humor Mom finds in cartoon cats. Seriously. She sees a commercial for Puss in Boots and she’s in tears. He’s evidently the king of cartoon cat comedy. I don’t really get it.

You what I do get? Scooby. He’s the most awesomely perfect cartoon for Halloween. A couple Mondays ago Scooby Doo: Camp Scare was on one of the many cartoon channels on Direct TV. So, Camp Scare, this is the scariest Scooby Doo of all time. Real scary, not Scooby scary. Like the first Halloween when Michael Myers is driving around in the paneled LTD station wagon stalking Jamie Lee Curtis. That kind of scary. But animated and less graphic. The Woodsman, in Camp Scare, could be the scariest Scooby villain ever. EVER. I’m not kidding. He’s a freakishly tall, green, axe wielding guy who lives alone in the woods. Yeah, that’s not the backstory for a reclusive environmentalist. That’s a guy who likely has beers with Jason Vorhees. Plus, if you are a Dad with three daughters, and I am, he helps with a few nuggets of Dad wisdom. Like stay out of the woods at night. Especially if there are boys involved. I added that last part.

Other scary Scooby monsters and villians? Hmmm…

You have the Spectre of Ebenezer Crabbe. He scared the crap out of me when I was 6. Look at those eyes…I mean those are crazy eyes. And who runs around on exposed steel girders on a half-finished high rise? A spectre with crazy eyes, that’s who. Plus all I have to do is let the girls watch Ebenezer Crabbe and that’ll kill all talk of moving to the big city after college. You can’t move there. There’s ghosts and unsafe construction all over the place.

The Werewolf Ghost who haunted the local mill? Also scary. I mean he’s a werewolf and a ghost and he’s lurking around an abandoned mill. An abandoned mill with big saws. This also helps keeps the girls from moving to the Pacific northwest. Can’t move there. Werewolves. Ghosts. Werewolf ghosts.

Then you have the Headless Horseman. He scares everybody. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Scooby cartoon or Christopher Walken. The Headless Horseman is scary. I saw Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow when I was about 7. Haven’t gone near a covered bridge since. This is also why you don’t fool around with all those Halloween legends. One of them is bound to be true. Its math. Or science. Or both. But eventually somebody is going to find out there is reason for all these scary legends. And since the Headless Horseman is probably the scariest Halloween legend ever, its bound to be the one that’s true. I mean Nancy Pelosi ran Congress without access to a brain so I’m guessing this guy can ride a horse with the same limitations.

It’s Happening

It’s happening. Everybody said it would. There isn’t a grizzled veteran parent around who hasn’t said it to fellow parents with young children. You can’t stop it. You can’t even slow it down. And most of the time you don’t realize it is happening. That is until something happens that punches you in the face to remind you of it.

The girls are getting bigger and growing up.

Yesterday was Columbus Day. Back in the day, we’d get this day off. I’d look forward to it with nearly Christmas Eve like anticipation. Why? Well, I like history. No seriously, that’s not why. But it was always observed on a Monday. In the fall. Which meant that I could watch the NFL all day without that impending sense of dread that I had to go to school the next day. NFL highlights from the day before Columbus Day 1983 just to give you a glimpse of it.

Didn’t feel it did you. Maybe it was just me then. Regardless, yesterday was Columbus Day and the girls had the day off. Not in tribute to Christopher Columbus but because the union contract for the teachers says they get a “professional development” day each month. It was yesterday. I took the day off. Mom took a half day and we went looking for Halloween costumes. This is an activity in which parents should engage with great gusto. In case you forgot what gusto was, do not fear, Schlitz is being reintroduced.

Anyway, shopping for Halloween costumes lets you be a kid again for a very brief period of time. Plus it gives a very real example of why its awesome to watch your kids be kids. And as time moves along it also gives a glimpse of your children changing. Riley is in 6th grade. She went out Friday evening after school with her friends (chaperoned by one set of parents) to the mall and they shopped together for their costumes. They are going as nerds. But she did it without us. She’s beginning to do things without us. And without her sisters.

She came along yesterday and we caught a glimpse of the Riley from 2 or 3 years ago when she’d morph into a mini-parent and help Kinsey and Bailey behave and stay on task. She did it yesterday and she did it while being nice to them. This is an occurence nearly as rare as Americans looking into the their past and discovering that vast government intervention into the economy worsens it instead of fixing it.

Holidays are nostalgic. Halloween is no exception. Holidays aren’t simply the actual day. They are everything you do to prepare for that day, all the anticipation of that day along with everything that happens on the actual day. Shopping with your kids for Halloween costumes qualifies. But it was weird. Maybe it was just the first time that I really took notice and thought about how Rye is just, well, older. She’s almost 12. When Kinz gets to 6th grade it’ll likely be different again. Hmmm…maybe I’ll be used it to then. Maybe I won’t. But it’ll never go back to way it was. Like college football rivalries. Top three rivilaries that no longer are played because of greed. And ESPN.

3-Notre Dame vs. Pitt
2-Oklahoma vs. Nebraska
1-Pitt vs. Penn State

So while Rye is being a nerd, Kinz and Mom found this nice little 50’s car hop girl outfit. It’s kinda cool. Plus she loved it. Bails, as is tradition, is being a witch. I think she’s been a witch every year since ’06 when she was 3. I distinctly remember her not being a witch in ’05. She was a bumblebee. A very short bumblebee that was often knocked out of the way by older kids in far more of a rush than she was to get to the next house. But it was also the time I decided that I probably wouldn’t have to worry about Bails sticking up for herself. She’s at the door, carefully choosing what piece of candy she’d like when all these other kids just pile up behind her. Naturally, they’re impatient. Can’t really blame them, it’s freaking Halloween and people are just giving out free candy. Again, if you are one the anti-American fun haters who refuses to hand out Halloween candy, I can only assume you are out somewhere burning the Constitution and throwing eggs at Mt. Rushmore.

Back to Bails though – she gets pushed a little by the other kids. She regains her balance, plants her right foot firmly on the ground, looks up at the kid who pushed her and…puts everything in her tiny bumblebee body into a sharp forearm shiver right to the kid’s stomach.

Nice. Small smile crept across my face. Of course, 6 years later I’ve seen that confidence manifest itself in ways that don’t make me smile. Most of those ways are relayed to us by her teacher…

Anyway, Mom and I are deciding what we’re going to do for Halloween. If you have ideas let me know.

It’s getting scary out here…

You know why having daughters is scary? This is why:

That, my friends, is the future. Or the past if you take a second to realize that it’s freaking Footloose. I know. I can’t believe it either. They remade Footloose. If you are in your early 40’s, Footloose played a fairly major part in your early teen years. I mean nobody is remaking Patton. Nobody is remaking Hoosiers. But for some reason, and I’m pretty sure that reason is cash, they’ve decided to remake a classic in Footloose. I mean if you’re going to remake cool things from the 80’s then how about a new Red Dawn, or a Thundarr the Barbarian movie with cool Transformeresque effects? How about a Magnum, P.I. trilogy? At the very least make Oregon go back to wearing these:

But don’t remake a movie that makes Dads with daughters even more paranoid.

What brings this up? Well Kinsey has been writing song lyrics. Yeah, she has this little journal she carries around sometimes and right now its lyricspalooza. Here’s latest creation which she sang to me Wednesday morning while Bailey and the 3rd grader next door sang back up.

“We were perfect for each other, I’m the perfect girl, you’re the perfect guy, we should go to the beach together but we never did but after you broke up with me over text message or email…”

Now Kinz is in 4th grade. Boys should still be gross. But Riley is in 6th. Pretty sure boys aren’t gross to all the girls in 6th grade. In fact, I found out recently the boys might not as gross to Rye as she’s portrayed them to be to us. A couple weeks ago Rye is over at her friend Madison’s house a few streets over. While over there, they evidently were playing with and texting a couple of boys. A boy from Madison’s school and a boy from Rye’s school happen to know each other. They also happened to be together the same time Madison and Rye were together. And they happened to text each other and meet in Madison’s yard. Now in the 6th grade I’m willing to believe that his is all a coincidence. Not the texting and meeting part but the fact that the two duos were in proximity to each other at the same time. When this starts happening next year and every year after until Rye goes to college, I’m going to be…um, skeptical.

What did I do first upon learning of the rendezvous? I grabbed Rye’s phone to read her text messages. Strangely, all messages from boys no longer existed.

“Rye, why can’t I find the messages?”

“Oh, I must have erased them.”

“Okay this is your official notice. While this is your phone, I’m paying for it. That means Mom and I get to read everything on it. If you don’t want us to read something, then don’t send a message you aren’t prepared to share. Got it textanista?”

“Fine.”

I’m fully aware that this edict will be almost completely ignored. Like Poison’s 1993 hit “Stand” or the pass interference on the last play of the Giants-49ers ’02 Divisional Playoff or George Custer’s heroic actions at the Battle of Gettysburg. But random message checking will provide us some peace of mind and at the very least keep Rye at least thinking about what she sends.

When I got her the phone, I had no idea it would become another appendage. She sleeps with it. She takes it to the shower with her. Her friends get agitated if they text her and she doesn’t immediately respond. This happens when we physically take her phone away while we’re eating or having a conversation. I don’t get the need to be connected at all times. Absolutely foreign to me. Like making an Air Wolf reference to a 24 year old. I mean I want to build a small house in my backyard equipped with internet, Direct TV and my NFL mini-helmet collection which I have altered so it accurately depicts the 1976 season. I’m looking for ways to become unconnected along with having a place to put my cool stuff. Vintage 70’s pennant for the St. Louis Football Cardinals, game program from Pitt/Tulane Oct. 29, 1977, a picture of Mom and I at the only Steelers game I ever attended in Three Rivers Stadium.

So anyway, this is all been on my mind as we deal with all of new 6th grade drama which just seems like preseason for junior high and high school. Not looking forward to it. But I am looking forward to finding out how Monday Night Football replaces Hank Williams, Jr. Hoping they go back to this:

Thunder

I pretty much lost it. Not proud of it, but that’s what happened. Not sure why. Well, that’s not true, I am pretty sure why. I think it was a combination of several things.

Might be that the girls fighting in the bathroom during weekday mornings is approaching galactic dimensions. I’m open for suggestions on how to achieve détente amongst the three competing interests. Among the problems, are that Riley and Kinsey tend to treat Bailey the way Germany and Russia treated Poland in 1939. And, as expected, that truce doesn’t last long and pretty soon Rye is sending divisions of Panzers supporting by Stuka divebombers deep into Kinsey’s territory only to met with the fierce fanatical resistance from Red Army reserves brought up from Siberia. Seriously. I’m not kidding. In a fight, Kinz has all the tenacity of a T-34.

Here’s the situation: one sink, huge mirror, limited counter space, one electrical outlet. Oh and they aren’t teenagers yet. 6th grade, 4th grade and 2nd grade. They physically can fit side by side by side in front of the mirror. And, if they were capable of even rudimentary cooperation, they could develop some type of rotating schedule for sink time. I’m mean volleyball teams do it, you’d think three girls could achieve a basic arrangement to avoid confrontations. Somebody brushes against somebody else’s shoulder and BOOM! Everybody is reacting the 80’s version of the Miami Hurricanes.

But they can’t. I blame Mom. I mean she grew up with three girls in a house rampant with extreme bathroom competition.

Then there is the fact that the girls and I have a disagreement on the correct placement of hangers. To me a hanger, regardless of it’s disposition – clothed or unclothed, goes on the rack. The rack is a wood, sometimes metal, beam or pole that runs across the closet. Kinz and Bails each have a set of two racks in their closet. It’s a bit cramped. Better than it was a month ago however. Yeah, you ever remove 13 garbage of clothes, shoes, scarfs, socks, etc. from a closet? We did. Anyway, despite limited maneuverability inside the closet there is room and enough spare hangers on which to hang all their clothes. For some incomprehensible reason, hangers are an all too frequent presence on their floor. Kinda like Scandal’s “The Warrior” on 80’s radio stations.

Of all the places to put a hanger, they choose the floor. Not back on the rack. Not even on their bed or on the freaking doorknob. They don’t even hang them from handles on the dresser. Nope. Hangars are strewn about the floor like Custer’s 7th Cavalry after Little Big Horn. What the hell? How is that message even transmitted by your brain? Among the things in your bedroom, very few things have a more obvious storage location than the hanger. Maybe the bedspread. But that’s it. Hangers and closet racks go together like Harris and Bleier. Like Matthew Fox and tortured characters. Like the air drums and “In the Air Tonight.”

They do this knowing that it ticks me off. Wouldn’t it be a helluva lot freaking easier to stand in front of your closet rack, remove said shirt from the hanger, and return the freaking hanger to the rack? You’re standing right in front of the freaking thing. Just put it back on the damn rack! Essentially all you have to do is extend your arm. Nope. Drop it on the floor. Good spot. Seems logical. It’s just dumb. Like calling Troy Polamalu overrated. Or trying to hit the high notes with Jon Bon Jovi at the end of “Runaway.”

Last is that this activity stuff is crap. Exposing your kids to various sports, the arts, and a multitude of other opportunities so they can experience things and develop interests and decide, for themselves, what it is they like to do…yeah, that’s all bullsh…crap.

All time was not meant to be occupied. I’m pretty sure of this. It’s in the Bible. But somehow we get something sent home on a daily basis offering some type of awesome activity that, for a small fee, gives your child the opportunity to experience awesomeness. The latest awesomeness is cheerleading. Yup. The local high school cheerleaders offer a cheer clinic for little girls. Then the girls get to cheer at halftime of the homecoming game. Well, the sophomore game anyway. That’s tonight. And yes, Bails is super pumped for it. Rye did it when she was in 2nd grade. Kinz did it when she was in kindergarten. My memory might be a bit hazy, but I’m pretty sure it consisted of a billion little girls dressed in orange and black yelling, jumping and saying “Woooooo!”

Yeah, hate to break it to you but I get this kind of thing every morning. Not always orange and black but I’ve been exposed to yelling.

So, yeah, to get back my original point, I lost it the other night. I mean I’m watching Monday Night Football, thinking about all the crappy activity logistics we have to navigate this week when I realize its way past the girls bedtime. I walk into their room and what do I see? Crap, toys and…hangers. Multiple hangers. After I had already picked up seven of them upon getting home from work. In addition to the hanger infractions, Bails is crying because Kinz took her snack and Kinz is whining because she left her blanket in the basement.

So I reacted like any seasoned, reasonable, veteran parent would when they’ve reached a certain line.

I did my impression of thunder. Actual thunder, not the hair band that sang 1991’s “Dirty Love.”

It accomplished nothing. Except more crying. Naturally.