First Day of School

The first day of school for the girls was yesterday. I think it was more worrisome and stressful for me than the girls. Or Mom. Mom’s like a Roman Legion. She just marches on and takes everything in stride.

Anyway, I’m sitting around Monday evening getting ready to watch Grimm when it hits me that it’s a school night. First school night since May 31. Gotta get the girls in the shower, gotta outfits ready for the morning, gotta get backpacks ready to go. Sorta freaked me out. Not to mention the fact that I had just spent most of Monday working on the Chronicles of Dad Family Master Matrix Schedule. As of this writing we have at least one kid activity everyday of week except for Wednesdays and Fridays. Although if Riley decides to join choir at school then we have a 6:45 a.m. Wednesday morning addition. She already has dance five days a week. I’m okay if she doesn’t want to add anything.

This year is the first time since the fall of 2008 that the girls won’t all be in the same building. In fact, if my calculations are correct, they’ll never all be in the same building again. At least until they all decide to go to Iowa State. Anyway, Rye started 7th grade. So she’s switching rooms between classes for the first time. Mom and her went to school on Monday and did the walk through to help her find her way around the new building and map out her comprehensive strategy to finding her classes. Do you remember the first time you did this? I do. It went poorly.

We moved from a small town in Illinois to a suburb of Rochester, NY. Small Catholic grade school of about 200 kids to a public high school of about 900. And I didn’t know a soul. Oh and I really, really do not react well to situations in which it is totally new and I have a complete inability to prepare in any real sense. I remember my Mom walking with my sister and I through the halls of our new gigantic high school trying to help us find our way around and I, well, I was a total ass.

Mom said her time with Rye went better than that but was still developing shin splints from walking up and down the stairs so many times. Rye is a bit thorough in her preparation and she wanted to be sure she knew what she was doing.

Rye’s school starts about 7:30. Which means the bus picks her up prior to 7. Yeah, that’s early. In December its going to still be dark outside. And cold. But yesterday it was all still new so Rye was up at 5. She’s like her Dad in the fact that she doesn’t like to be rushed. Kinz and Bails day started with a pretty good surprise. First, I didn’t embarrass them by taking their pictures at the bus stop. I did that at home. But I did walk with them to the bus stop. What? I wanted to see who the other kids were. Gotta make sure they aren’t being influenced by any kids with tendencies toward Democrats/hawkeyes/Ravens. Second, the first bus to arrive at the bus stop was their bus. And it was one minute early. Last year the fourth bus to arrive was their bus and was 15 minutes late. Plus, they got a new bus driver. He wore sunglasses and a Hawaiian shirt. They girls immediately thought he was cool. But when you dress like Magnum and give kids high-fives its tough not be cool. According to the girl’s, the bus driver they had last year was mean. She was grumplestiltskin.

Only fly in the ointment to the first day is the fact that our neighbors are picked up right at the end of their driveway while the girls have to walk to their bus stop. Why you ask? Well, the school district has two policies. One says that any kindergartener and their siblings are to be picked up at their house. Good policy. Kindergarteners are little. They can get lost walking across the hall. Another policy says that NOBODY else can be picked up at that stop. Doesn’t matter if you live right next door and the bus stop is about 40 feet from your front door. So despite the fact that the bus stops to pick up our neighbor’s two kids right next door, our girls cannot get on the bus at that stop. They must instead walk to their stop. Now their stop really isn’t all that far away. But it still seems that these two policies could use a little bit more real world common sense. But so could the media’s reporting on what happened to all that bailout cash. That’s just me though.

Otherwise the first day went well. All the girls had good days. Nobody had any complaints. Kinz and Bails both liked their teachers. Kinz came home genuinely surprised about how nice her teacher was. Bails’ 3rd grade teacher is the same one Riley had four years ago and we think they’ll get along like peas and carrots. Eventually. Until then it’ll be more like Roscoe and the Duke boys.

Rye, since she’s switching rooms between classes has several teachers. Which sorta puts the final nail in the argument of whether or not we have little kids anymore. I, on the other hand, did have a single 7th grade teacher. 7th grade was kinda a tough year for me. My teacher and I had a hard time seeing eye to eye, the NFL players went on strike and wiped out half the season and freaking Mickey hit #1 for a week.

The girls did make some cookies last weekend though. Which was nice. Guess which one is mine.


Trapper Dad

Do you watch Survivorman? How about Mantracker? I love these shows. Mostly because I’m a dude and there’s a lot of dude stuff going on in both shows. The real reason is these guys just know to do stuff. Tracking dudes. Building shelters out of birch bark and conifer branches. Making fire. And hunting, cleaning and cooking critters.

I don’t know how to do any of this stuff. I don’t hunt. I don’t camp. I don’t fish. Closest I get to any of this stuff is pruning the big maples, river birches and ashes in our yard, sawing the branches into firewood and burning it in our woodburning fireplace. I think its cool. I like having a firewood stack in our backyard. I like burning wood. Especially when that wood comes from trees on your own land!

Segue – I like my yard. A lot. It’s not perfect but its pretty damn nice. When we moved in we had a couple white pines in the back and a purple ash tree in the front. Since that is not nearly enough trees to provide enough shade in the summer and color in the fall, we added 2 river briches, 2 red maples, a cypress, another ash and a fruitless snowcrab. They are all pretty big now. Big enough now that they attract suburban wildlife. Squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits are ever present. I’ve seen deer run through the neighborhood on occasion. Even a rather large buck in the middle of the street at about 2 a.m.once. Family across the street had the unfortunate situation of having a raccoon living inside their attic. A neighbor has seen foxes. And one time taking out the garbage early on a late winter morning, I had a weird encounter with a coyote. Or a wolf.

Swear to God.

Mom never believed me. But its freaking true. The thing was WAY too big to be a fox. And it wasn’t a German Shepherd.

I forgot to put the garbage out the night before so I got up early, still dark out, opened the garage door and started wheeling the garbage container out of the garage. As I turn around at the point the garage turns into the driveway I looked up and noticed a grayish four-legged ratty looking creature sticking its nose into my neighbor’s garbage.

I did what nearly everyone would. Except Survivorman and Mantracker. I froze. And the coyote/wolf starts walking right up to me. I let go of the garbage container and it made a smacking sound as it hit the concrete and the werewolf, err…coyote, side stepped behind a big burning bush we have. So me and the demon creature are sorta staring at each other through the bush when I realize that I’m not only totally stupid but completely unarmed. So I armed myself. With one of those ice scrapers you use to chip off the ice that builds up on your driveway underneath the tire tracks in the winter. I took one step onto the driveway and the wolfbear took off across the street…eyeing me the entire way with its spooky yellow eyes…

At this point I decided that there was no way I was getting up again to take the garbage out so I had to risk it and get the container to the end of the driveway.

Obviously I succeeded. But that damn beast never took its eyes off me and then, just as I put the garbage container in place, it disappeared. But that’s what ghost wolves do. No one believes me however. I may as well have seen Bigfoot.

Not that I’m wishing for that mind you…

Anyway, suburban wildlife is not something with which I even pretend to have any sort of understanding. We have not reached détente. It doesn’t pay the mortgage, I do. So that makes them trespassers.

I do not dislike squirrels. I’m kind of agnostic about them. Although the guy who lives behind me has a squirrel feeder. And I’m pretty sure its not permissible for me to hop his fence burn the feeder to ground.

There are also decent sized oaks next door and across the street. I like oak trees. They don’t break in wind storms and they look are gnarly in the fall. But its illegal for me to just go over and cut down a neighbor’s tree. So eliminating the food source isn’t really an option.

So I’m left with this gray squirrel who won’t freaking leave. He’s built a nest in both maples and both pines. Now he’s decided to move back into the maple closest to the house. During the summer you don’t even notice the nest way up in the tree. Except for all the damn little tree limbs that keep falling to the ground while the little bastard builds his nest.

Some have suggested I employ the “just feed them and then they’ll leave you alone” strategy. I’m just spitballin’ here but I’m pretty sure it didn’t work for Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938 and its not going to work in my backyard. Another strategy that seems prevalent is the relocation strategy. Yeah, um, I really don’t care about relocating the squirrel. There’s lots of them so I don’t I need to worry about population management. So I’m not going to trap them and then transport them to a nice retirement grove of oaks in the next county. So from what I can tell my options are pretty much firearm related.

The squirrel also has a friend. He lives in the front underneath the concrete walkway up to our front stoop. He’s been there for a few years too. This little guy has at least three entrances to his living quarters. One on either side of the concrete walkway and another hole that dug near the aforementioned burning bush that served as a temporary DMZ for me and the coyote-like wolf creature. Now, I‘ve read chipmunks are territorial. They even force their own young out of their tunnel after about a month or two. So I’m assuming its just the same one every year.

But the little dirtbag has grown tiresome. He digs up our flowers and mulch. And after returning from vacation recently, it appears something was chasing him around in our flowers and trampled and killed half of them. Not saying it was the ghost wolf. I’m just saying…

So I decided to use superior intellect to outwit the rodent. How you ask? Well, all you need is a bucket, a piece of a 2×4, some sunflower seeds and a hose. And you build yourself a trap. Fill the bucket about halfway with water. Dump sunflower seeds into water. They float and look like solid ground. Prop 2×4 up onto bucket and line the 2×4 with sunflower seeds. The seeds serve as the yellow brick road of DEATH for the little bastard.

Guess what? It works. Got him the first night I put it out. I was pretty damn proud of myself. Also amazed. But still proud.

Then I’m outside watering the grass and my Mantracker senses start tingling. There is another…

So I did it again. Turns out they are fairly active in the morning. But not active enough to learn how to swim. Got the other one fairly easily.

But this tunnel is like a freaking clown car for chipmunks. Saw another one scamper back into their condominium complex just the other day. So I have the trap set up again…bwahahahahahaha!

Some may say this makes me heartless. To this I say, well, I wish I had a bigger bucket so I could get the squirrel and the damn rabbit that is living in the hostas under our deck!