8th Grade

As previously mentioned we are presently the parents of our first 8th grader. My folks went through this in 1981 with my older sister. I don’t really remember much of it. Mostly because I was in 6th grade. And at that time, I was pretty damn certain that 6th graders were pretty cool. Also that I probably ranked at or near the top in the coolness rankings. Just saying.

Aside from that I have mostly fond memories of 8th grade. I liked it. In my school, it meant that you were the oldest kids in the building. Or to paraphrase Rizzo in Grease, we ruled the school. Not that the nuns agreed to or with this assertion. I went to a Catholic school. And just to be clear, I loved Catholic school. Really did. Wish everybody could have the experience I had in grade school. But that’s another story, or really a short book. How Catholic school, a two-parent family, the 80’s, the suburbs and over two decades in politics turned me into a totally normal dude. Hmm…

But I’m wandering off topic. 1983. The year in which I began 8th grade, Tom Cruise was making All the Right Moves and Cliff Stoudt quarterbacked the Steelers and by quarterbacked I mean the opposite of being good and winning games. So he’s kinda Mark Sanchez. But without all the talent and success. Anyway, I actually remember what I wore on that very first day of 8th grade. And no, it wasn’t because my school required uniforms. Which it, of course, did. But 8th graders were allowed to deviate on the colors. Normal uniform consisted of navy blue pants and a light blue polo. We were allowed to wear a navy blue sweater if we wanted. And that was it for boys grades 1-7. It did make the decision making process in the morning rather uneventful. But in 8th grade we could wear other colors than navy blue for our pants. I focused on khaki. A trend that has extended into, well, now. We also could wear polos consisting of colors other than light blue. And if you recall, back in ’83 polos were more awesome than the moonwalk, Eric Dickerson’s rec-specs and parachute pants….combined. And now that I think about it, I pretty much wear the exact same uniform to work every day in the summer now. Hmm… But, and this is a big difference between then and now – not that I would actually do this now but I could, you know, if I wanted to – the uniform requirements prevented us from flipping up our collars. Damn you Catholic discipline rules! Anyway, again, in 1983 Izod polos had reached the peak of their powers. Kinda like Studio 54 in 1979, the British Empire in the mid to late 1800’s and James Carville in 1993. But I was 13 and my Mom wasn’t about to spend cash on Izod polos in every color. So I was stuck Hunt Club polos from JCPenney. Whatevs. Still cool. Khaki pants, white JCPenny polo on the first day of 8th grade. Pretty sure I was rocking a pair of these too:

8th grade shoes

But we’re just about two weeks into 8th grade. So I’m not real sure which 8th grade boys need to be…um…put on my own version of NSA surveillance and be pre-approved for the list of idiots on which counter-measures and the use of uneccessary force have been authorized. I’m just spitballin’ here but I have a feeling that list will include all of them.

Oh and if I see one kid wearing a pair of Pony’s with feathered hair and an Izod polo, well let’s just hope for the kids’ sake that he’s fast. Because if there’s one thing experience has taught me, its that you can’t trust an 8th grader in Pony’s with feathered hair and an Izod polo…

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End of Summer?

Seriously weather we already did this once. Back in February you waited until the very end of winter to start snowing like crazy. Now you’re waiting until the very end of summer to heat it up to 100 degrees. I think it sucks. And I want you to stop.

Last weekend we spent all day Saturday and Sunday outside at softball tournaments for Kinz and Bails. We threw in a four hour dance class for Rye on Sunday just to bolster the logistics.

Saturday didn’t start out too badly. Bails had a doubleheader that started at 9. Usually takes a little over 3 hours to get both games in. We arrived at the fields and lo and behold they pretty darn nice. Plus lots of shade to go along with a nice morning breeze. And I got to help warm the girls up by hitting grounders to them. I admit, it was fun. Bails is playing 10U ball but her team is the third best of four 10U teams for our local girls softball association. So they are playing in a “rookie” league which means that its regular softball until the pitcher throws four balls and then the coach comes in to pitch to his or her own players. Coaches are limited to 5 pitches. Bails doesn’t really have any confidence that she can hit off the pitcher and almost always waits for the coach to come in. She almost always hits off the coach. As do the rest of the girls on her team. In this coach-pitch league they are 5-1.

At the same time I’m out watching Bails, Mom is watching Kinz play two games at our local fields. Our softball association is in charge of the tournament. Good news is that the fields are 10 minutes from the house. Bad news is that we have to volunteer to help with various things. Kinz’ team goes 1-1 in the morning, she gets a couple hits and plays a clean second base. She’s done playing for the day. But we told her and Riley that were going to come watch Bailey play later.

Later you say? Yup. After all the morning games are done, we get a break before Bails has two more games in the evening. Bails’ team is playing in the same tournament as Kinsey’s team except at the 10U level instead of 12U. But this tournament is all girl-pitch no coach-pitch. Also means that nearly all the teams in the tournament are the second, not third, best teams in their respective softball associations. So we’re pretty much just assuming two losses. The other thing you can assume with evening games is that they will start late. First game is supposed to start at 5. We arrive about 4:15 for warm-ups. Heat is mid-90’s. After warming up for 30 minutes, we walk to our field only to see the game before us go into extra innings. Lots of extra innings.

About 6, we start. Around 7:15 the game ends. We managed to get a runner to second base as the result of a walk and a steal. That’s it. No hits. To be fair, the girl pitching against us was throwing faster than the 12U pitcher in the game directly behind us. She also was the size of a Big 12 linebacker. You should have seen the look on Bails’ face when the first pitch came across the plate, belt high, at what must have looked like 217 mph. I’m just going to paraphrase what she was thinking but I’m pretty sure it was “you gotta be f’ing kidding me.”

Again, just guessing. Pure conjecture.

But the late start in the first evening game led to a late start in the second evening game. A 6:30 game became a 7:30 game. We literally walked right from one field onto the another, no warm up, barely even broke stride and the girls went right to their positions.

Temperature? A sticky 90. Now, to recap, this team is made up of girls under the age of 10. They are what can be described as the “C” team. Some of the girls are good enough to play on the “B” team. But what holds them back is that their attention spans and concentrations levels are not at optimum levels. Then you decide to play FOUR FREAKING GAMES IN ONE FREAKING DAY. Oh and you mix in some humid late summer 90 degree weather. And, as every parent knows, oppressively hot and humid weather really brings out the best in every 10 year kid.

Fun times.

We got a runner to third in this game. Small victory. But still no hits. At one point late in the game, one of Bailey’s coaches goes up to her and asks her to bunt. She, as she does with most things, considers this a request and not an order. She considered it for about two seconds and then said “no.” Coach dropped his head faster than Magnum when Higgins used to start telling stores about how he was there when the Bridge Over the River Kwai was destroyed. Coach had the look of a man who knew he had no options other than to just accept defeat to a 9 year old blond in a pony tail and cleats.

Have I mentioned that Bails’ team also had two more games scheduled the next day. A day in which it was supposed to be hotter. First game at 2:30. Right at the time when the sun should be hovering around a temperature level of flamethrower. Woo hoo. Also, Kinsey’s team has two more games at 11 & 2.

How could it get better? Just as that second so-called game is ending I get an email from Kinz’ coach – “Just got word that our team has gate duty 7am-9am Sunday morning.”

So quick recap – of the 13 hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., Mom and I have each spent roughly 10.5 of those hours at softball fields. Now news comes that one of us gets to be back at the fields just before 7 a.m. for gate duty. Upon receipt of the email Mom says, “Well you can go date duty or take the kids to church. Which one do you want to do?”

“C.”

Which meant I volunteered myself for gate duty. Truth be told, it wasn’t bad. But if we’re being completely honest here, if I’m outside at 6:45 a.m. on a Sunday it better be in the parking lot at Heinz Field while I’m tailgating before a Steelers game. Two hours of gate duty later, plus two more hours of just walking around visiting with folks, I finally got to watch Kinz play. They lost 10-4. The good news is that we only had about an hour to wait for our next game to start which we won 10-9 in extra innings. Kinz scored a couple runs and recorded the last out in the top half of the last inning when she covered first on a bunt. She drops the throw and a run would have scored. So good job outta Kinz!

Kinsey’s second game ended about 3:30. A quick check of my watch tells me that I’ve now been outside since just before 7. It’s about this time when you realize how gross you feel. You and your clothes are all sweaty and covered with that crusty dust from the softball fields. I tried to come up with a word to truly describe how I felt standing out in the heat. That word is “swampy.” And I mean that in the grossest possible way.

So we grab all of Kinz’ gear and head home. She heads for the shower and I head across town to Bails’ games which started at 2. I get there just in time to see her get left in the on-deck circle as the first game ends. No big deal, schedule said her second game starts at 3:30. So I figure its gonna start any minute. But, alas, there’s been a change. The winner of the first game plays at 3:30, the loser plays at 5. We of course lost. But I learn from Mom and some other parents that we got a few hits and actually scored some runs. Lost 11-3. I hang out till about 4:30 when we remember that Riley is at dance and somebody needs to pick her up at 5. Before a decision is formally reached on which one of us should go, I’m gone. Literally. I just started walking. Aside from the time in the car between field complexes, I’ve been outside in 90-plus degrees for 9.5 hours. So I just kinda decided I’m not staying. I pick up Rye, go the grocery store, and water the newly germinated grass seed I have down before finally making it inside for my first shower since 7 a.m. Saturday. Which, if you think about it, kinda sucks. If this was say back in ’91 and I was outside all day because of softball it would have been because I was playing in some college intramural tournament. And when we finally finished I would just drive home, shower up and crank the Trixter and Firehouse and rock out. But now we have these damn kids. So before I can shower I have to do all this, well, crap. When really all I want is a freaking shower.

And listen, it was a long shower. Wouldn’t have been surprised if the city called during my shower to complain about excessive water use. Once out, I check my phone to discover that Bailey’s second game was of course delayed. Didn’t start at 5. Almost made it to 6 before they started. Mom got home about 7:45. Which, if you take the time to track the mileage between the fields Bails’ team was on and our house you conclude she was driving over 85 all the way home. Not that I blame her. Totally justified.

The good news is that the heat is so stupidly ridiculous right now we went until Wednesday before we had any softball practices. Tonight Bails is back on the field too. But that’s after she and Kinsey have dance. Yeah, we’re slowly but surely cranking back up the other activities. But we’ve still got at least a month left of fall softball. Including another tournament for Kinsey the weekend. Three games on Saturday. Yay. Her games also unfortunately collide with Iowa State’s home opener. So something’s gotta give there…

Back to School

School started this week. But a strange thing happened…we seem to have avoided the normal painful transition. The only thing of which I am certain is that this is simply a cosmic conflagration of luck and biorhythms and has absolutely nothing to do with good parenting.

Sure we tried to get the girls to get up earlier for two weeks leading up to the first day. We explained in annoying detail how they had to reset their body clocks or they’d be miserable for a few weeks. We went through the rules for the morning getting ready routines and the after school before Mom and Dad get home routines. But after the first week, it appears that this year is the year without the recurring torture of morning tribulations brought on by the summer to school transition.

Here’s what I mean; last year Rye moved from 6th to 7th grade and her wake time moved from 6:30 to 5:30. In the a.m. That meant she not only was making noise in the bathroom much earlier but she also moved up to the middle school building. Our district does K-6 in all the elementary schools, 7-8 in two middle schools then brings everybody together for one year in a big 9th grade building until finally shipping everybody into the high school building which is 10-12.

When we first got married and were the pre-kid version of ourselves the stand alone 9th grade seemed kinda dumb. If you’re going to build a brand new building just go all out and add a second high school. It’s a big freaking school district. But the old guard won out and they simply built the 9th grade. We continued to think it was kinda dumb. Right up until sometime early in Rye’s 7th grade year. That’s when it became obvious to us that she was in close proximity to older 8th grade boys. Suddenly the idea of having 9th grade girls separated from 11th and 12th grade boys by miles of real estate, brick walls and locked doors became a really damn good plan.

Anyway, this year Rye is in her second year at the middle school. There’s virtually no transition. Other than her going out for the cross country team. She rides the same bus, the bus comes at the same times, she knows her way around the building, the same friends are at the same school. She slept late all summer, got up super early the day before school started and has seamlessly shifted back into school mode. I’m really kind of envious. Seriously who can do that? Not this guy. I suck at transitions. Mostly because I find transitions uncomfortable. Especially transitions on the front end. You may also feel this way. But my aversion to front end transitions borders on loathing. Abhorrence. The thing you feel every time Nancy Pelosi is part of any public policy decision that affects your day to day existence. But not Rye. She finds the 7th graders a bit amusing now that she’s not one of them. But repeat of last year’s activity schedule would be too easy. So she decided to go out for cross country. To be honest, I thought this was great. It’s active, she represents her school on a sports team, and its over in mid-October so it doesn’t really force us into Herculean logistics efforts. I know you’re tired of reading this but transportation and logistics not only dominate a large portion of our non-work time, they pretty much have replaced breathing as the thing I do most.

Kinz and Bails entered 6th and 4th grade respectively. After a week both like their teachers and don’t seem to be whining about going back. But this should not be confused for some authentic enthusiasm for school. Kinz, after an entire summer at home with Rye, needed some space. Those two needed some time apart. Because girls, especially sisters, in this age range are exploring their inner…umm…well I don’t want to offend anybody’s sensibilities here but it rhymes with schmitchiness Sorry. But it’s a stone cold fact. Water is wet, hair metal is awesome, sisters fight.

Bails on the other hand was just bored. Yes, I said it. She was bored with summer. Two weeks before school started she said wished it already had. She’s 9. If you’re 9, and summer bores you, that means one of the following: 1) you love school and learning and homework and cafeteria food, 2) you’re parents tried to save money on day care and left you home with your moody soon to be 8th grade sister in charge, or 3) you’re 9 and after a month of school you’ll be bored with that too.

Or a combination of 2 and 3.

Although Bails did let me know that she’s not having any trouble with the front end transition into the fall months with this exchange:

“Bails are you ready for school and to see all your friends and ride the bus and everything?”

“Nope! But man am I ready for Christmas!”

Gave me her list and everything…

Not Ready

I’m just not ready. Well maybe ready isn’t the best way to describe it since you don’t really get to decide if you’re going to do it. Its happening whether you perceive yourself to be ready for it or not. Maybe it is that I simply don’t want to experience it. Like the last 20 years of Pirates baseball. In order to get ready for something, you have to prepare. In order to prepare, you have to know what it is you are getting ready to do.

I do not know what it is that I am getting ready to do. So I’m not prepared. And I like to prepare. Mostly because I have a pathological dislike of surprises. Since I am neither ready nor prepared, I do not want to experience it. Mom, on the other hand, I do believe is somewhat ready because she is prepared. In a sense. She hasn’t done exactly this before but she does have some first person knowledge.

I don’t. Sure I had two sisters growing up. So I’ve been around teenage girls. But I was not only the lone boy, I was also the middle kid. The middle kid is good at certain things. Oldest kids are good at relating to parents. They’ve always been the oldest and for awhile they were kinda like really short grown ups. The youngest kid is really good at getting lost in the noise. The older kids break the rules first, deal with the consequences first and therefore experience the punishments first. Youngest kid watches, learns and executes the “Mom and Dad will be worn down in a few years and I’ll just coast from there” strategy. Middle kid is good at situational awareness. Noticing what is happening around you, sorting out the conflicting data, recognizing the common patterns and outcomes, and boom, you know how to avoid landmines and compliment the right people.

So, I guess, awesome. But that skill set has actually led me to the conclusion that I simply don’t want to experience what is coming. Oh and I purposely chose the word “survive” instead of a word like “raise” or “handle” or even “navigate.” I’m only 8 months into teenagerdom and I’m already looking for possible exit ramps. Ejection handles. Large quantities of cold beer. Well, to be honest, I’m pretty good at that last one. Allegedly. Just got back from vacation down in the Ozarks. Three words…Michelob Lime Cactus.

There are lots of things I’m ready for. The 2013 NFL season for example. A Pirates playoff series that ends in a game 7 NLCS victory over the Braves! The fall premiere of The Walking Dead. All things for which I am ready.

TuborggoldNotice what was missing? Yeah, nowhere in that short but still impressive list are the words “teenager” and “girl.” For teenage girls possess the special talent for defying all reason and common sense in nearly every situation. For now, you might not sense it, but I consider myself lucky. There’s just one of them. But starting in the fall of 2016 there will be three of them in the house. Often at the same time. My sanity will become as extinct as Tuborg Gold, the golden beer of Danish kings.

Yesterday, Rye called me crying. Wait, I mean Rye called me sobbing. Like a legion of vicious velociraptors overran a merry band of frolicking super cute puppies devouring each of them one by one. That kind of sobbing. The reason? Bailey ate two cookies and crème malted milk balls from Harry and David. Now, to be fair, most of the stuff from Harry and David is really good. I’m looking at you Black Bean Dip. You too peanut butter filled pretzels. But not together. That would be gross. But the malted milk balls were Riley’s. Or they were a small gift Riley purchased for one of her friends for covering a teaching shift at their dance studio. Rye is assistant teaching a couple classes. Yeah, pretty cool. Hopefully this turns into a paid gig down the line. But she is teaching hip hop to 4 year olds. That has to be like teaching financial literacy to the president’s team of economic advisors. Anyway, the malted milk balls weren’t Bailey’s to eat. And I had completely forgotten that they were a gift so when Bails asked for a couple, I said “sure.”

That led to the call.

“Dad, Bailey ate some of the cookies and crème malted milk balls and those were a gift for Madison for teaching my class.”

Sobbing. Tears. Unintelligible snorting noises.

“Okay. The first thing you need to do is stop crying. I told Bails she could have some. I didn’t remember they were a gift. So don’t go and yell at Bails. Then just give them to Madison. Tell her the truth. She’s not gonna care. They’re free malted milk balls from Harry and David. Ain’t nobody upset about that. Maybe if you got her one of those weird gift baskets with goat cheese and dried fruit she’d be mad. But she’ll be fine if two cookies and crème malted milk balls are missing.”

That seemed to at least walk her off the ledge. She was still crying when we hung up though. Seriously, WTF with hormonal changes? Are logic and perspective to teenage girls what humility is to Texas fans?

Oh and the tensions between Kinsey and Riley escalate by the day. It’s the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s Steelers-Raiders in the 70’s. It’s He-Man vs. Skeletor. I’ve come to the conclusion that I might as well just start referring to them as Senator McConnell and Senator Reid. It doesn’t matter what one says, the other is not only going to disagree but ultimately employ some of type devious retaliatory maneuver. Yesterday Kinz and Bails wanted to walk down to Menchie’s to get frozen yogurt. Menchie’s sells frozen yogurt and toppings. That’s it. So naturally this led to an argument. Rye refused to walk down there with them even though its only a mile from the house. This is similar to Rye refusing to walk up to the pool with them earlier in the summer. The pool is probably a little over a mile from the house. In both cases, I came home and just told Rye that part of the job her being in charge over the summer is that she has to go places with the girls. Plus its swimming and freaking ice cream. Err..frozen yogurt. Only a 13 year old girl who doesn’t want to do anything with her sisters can find a problem with that. Or so I thought.

I get a call today from Kinz who says that Rye won’t let her walk to Menchie’s with our neighbor. My response is predictable as I explain that of course she won’t let that happen, Rye has to take Kinz and Bails to Menchie’s. Kinz can’t walk down there with just our neighbor who is a year younger than her. Kinz, explains, and by “explains” I mean whiningly details that she just wants to walk to Menchie’s with our neighbor. And our neighbor’s younger brother who is about enter 1st grade. But Rye can walk with Bails. So even when I order Rye to take her sisters to get frozen yogurt there is a problem. Not from Rye, but from Kinz because while she gets to go get the frozen yogurt, she doesn’t get to get it the way she wants to get it.

This should be simple. This isn’t Dick LeBeau’s zone blitz defense. Rye, Kinz and Bails work together a lot like the French, British and Americans during Operation Torch in 1942. Sure they are on the same side. Allegedly. But even when there is a common interest, in their case the frozen yogurt, in the Allies case the German Afrika Korps, they still can’t agree on how to achieve said interest. I’m seriously considering the same solution General Eisenhower turned to back then. I’m firing everybody and putting General Patton in charge.