Things that happen too early…

Quick aside before I actually write about what I meant to write about…

“Dad, did you put up your flag with 13 stars in a circle for the 13 colonies because its Veterans Day?” says the bespectacled inquisitive 4th grader in my back seat.

“Yes, yes I did.”

Now I get asked lots of questions. Most of which I answer with equal parts sarcasm, movie references and spur-of-the-moment bullsh…malarkey. When the questions come from the girls I try hard to refrain and answer as a parent and adult. Sometimes, rarely, this involves me being so emotionally affected by the question that I’m moved to tears. That was, however, the case with this question. Not only did she know what that the American flag I usually fly outside the house had 13 stars representing the original 13 colonies but she also knew I put the flag up because it was Veteran’s Day. The Revolutionary War and Veteran’s Day in the same question. Now if she does it again on Pearl Harbor Day, I won’t be able to maintain my composure whatsoever. Additionally, she was picked out of her class to go sing to local Veterans. Only 4 kids from each of the 4th grades were picked. She was excited and we were too. She left with the strictest of orders to behave and show the veterans respect and thanks. They sang America the Beautiful and It’s a Grand Old Flag. Still a little surprised the local chapter of the ACLU hasn’t pressured the local teacher’s union into shutting down this little shindig. I mean these kids are not only singing about the awesomeness of America, they are learning about American history from the folks who lived that history. Seems like a perfect target for termination by the radical left since they weren’t singing about Lenin, whales and wealth redistribution.

Anyway, some things happen too early. Lynn Swann’s retirement. Ted Cruz’ ascendancy to the “Guy Nobody Listens Too.” The demise of hair metal. All happened too early.

You know what else is happening too early? Christmas music. Are there any radio stations near your house which have already begun playing Christmas music exclusively? We have one. Started Nov. 1. And it’s not the station that normally goes to the all Christmas format. Which means we now have two stations doing it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the all Christmas format. And I mean that literally. It’s all I listen to between Turkey Day and Christmas. Mom and the girls think its weird. But you know who doesn’t? Santa. That’s who. But even I have to admit that Nov. 1 is too early. The regular Christmas music station will begin next week. And even that seems a bit early. I think the day after Thanksgiving is the appropriate start date. But I realize that won’t happen since many of you continue to cheat on Thanksgiving by putting up your Christmas decorations after Halloween. I’m mainly looking at you malls. But I do have something to confess…

jtpantsDamn you Karen Carpenter and Josh Groban and you too Andy Williams for your sweet magical melodies! I can’t stop myself from listening even though we’re two weeks from Thanksgiving. It’s like musical crack. It’s the gateway drug to Christmas shopping. Holiday music is to Christmas nostalgia what the smell of toast is to mornings, the smell of burning leaves to fall, the smell of Milwaukee’s Best Light to hangovers. I’m powerless, POWERLESS I SAY, to end my own cheating on Thanksgiving. I’m so, so sorry but its really hard to turn off the songs. Its an excuse, I know. I realize its entirely up to me and I need to take ownership of my failings. I’m sorry to you Macy’s Department Store. You made giant balloons cool and allowed Matt Lauer to host something he doesn’t suck at. And I’m sorry to you John Madden. Since the mid-80’s you’ve made Thanksgiving so much more important than Myles Standish, Abraham Lincoln and FDR could have ever hoped. I’m sorry to you Joey Tribbiani. For it was you who made Thanksgiving pants acceptable. Finally, I’m sorry to you mashed potatoes and gravy…and probably pumpkin pie too. When paired with beer, you make Thanksgiving so delicious I shouldn’t stray.

The solution of course is simple. I should just stay away from things that happen too early. Sounds simple. But its not. You know why I know? Because I had a conversation about bongs with Kinsey and Bailey. I rather talk to them about the dominance of the Steel Curtain. Or the why the conventional history of Custer’s Last Stand is probably incorrect. But instead I’m talking to an 11 and 10 year old about bongs. Thanks a lot hippies.

I’m bringing them home from dance class and as we’re merging onto the highway there is a slowdown on the on-ramp. This, of course, is the most annoying thing that can happen on an on-ramp. On-ramps are meant for acceleration not deceleration. But here we are slowing down. On the right side of the ramp, almost exactly where the ramp turns into a merging lane, there are two police cars pulled off to the side. Pulled off far enough that the wheels on the right side of both cars are well into the grass. Both cars have the lights flashing. In between the cars is a red Chevy Lumina that looks like its been on road for many, many years. The trunk is open on the Lumina. Next to the open trunk, on the grass, are four teenagery looking boys. One police officer is behind the boys on a cell phone. The other officer is standing next to the trunk addressing the boys while holding what appears to be a bong. The officer is alternately pointing at the bong and gesturing towards the boys. Three of them have their hands in the pockets and one has his palms facing upward in what all parents recognize as the universal signal for, “Yeah, I don’t know what that is but it is not mine.”

Luckily for me we were driving slow enough that both of the girls were able to take in most of the details from the scene and wanted to know what the police officer was holding.

“He was holding a…well its a…its a thing that people use…um…well its a bong.”

“A what?” they both ask in a giggly sort of way.

“A bong.”

“What is a bong?”

“Well have you guys talked about drugs in guidance yet?”

“No but we had a police officer come in and talk to us about illegal drugs,”says Kinsey.

“What about you Bails?”

“Yeah, we did too…wait are they using that to inhale? Cause inhaling is bad. People do that with drugs. Is a bong for drugs?”

Wait, what the hell just happened there?

Turns out our local law enforcement is doing a fairly detailed job talking to kids about the dangers of drugs. All I had to add was that a bong is generally used to smoke marijuana. I added that if they see one to just stay away from it and whoever is using it. Because everyone near it is an idiot. And in high school and college, idiocy is contagious.

“So are those guys in trouble?” asks Kinsey.

“Damn right they are. Probably going to jail. Do you want to go to jail?”

With amazing speed, Bails answers, “No. You don’t get to do anything in jail. And they make you eat moldy bread. And you have to go the bathroom in front of everybody.”

“Um, right. And nobody wants that! So don’t hang around people who have drugs and bongs.”

And that, my friends, is how a lot of this parenting thing goes…


The Power of Change

During the summer Mom and I finally pulled the trigger and spent some money. It was painful. But the result was awesome. We renovated both of our second floor bathrooms at the same time. It created some awkward traffic patterns and scheduling conflicts but it was during the summer. The girls activities were at their yearly low point, they didn’t need to be up early for school and the demolition was going to take place while we were gone on vacation. Of course every time I take a shower now it feels like I’m visiting somebody else’s house. Not sure how long it will take before I realize that the these sweet new bathrooms are in fact located within the walls of our house. I know other people do this, but to actually have some input into what the interior of your house looks like is kinda foreign to me.

The only problem is that once the bathrooms were done, we realized how craptastic our second floor carpet looked. It looked the way the Constitution does after Eric Holder interprets it. The house is 22 years old and the original carpet was still in there. It was like walking on plywood. Really, really crappy, hard, stained plywood. So we shopped around, Mom found a deal and we picked out new carpet and scheduled it for install just a couple days ago.

Certain things should be obvious to you whether or not you have any experience in the field. For example, the White House will demand accountability from Congressional Republicans while showing a complete lack of it regarding IRS snooping. Nike’s and ESPN’s overwhelming need to destroy tradition in college sports. Bruce Willis, regardless of age, will be in movies in which he’s super cool and able to withstand amazing amounts of punishment. But what wasn’t obvious to me was the amount of stuff that needed to moved in order to have an entire second floor recarpeted.

Mom has a lot of shoes. I have a lot of t-shirts. We have a lot of drawers. The girls have tons of sh*t. And that’s what it is. Sh*t. I’m amazed the engineering schematics for our house were designed to support the amount of sh*t we have on our second floor. But once the sh*t is removed, its kind of amazing how much room there is. For example, our closet is pretty darn big once you remove all of things that are supposed to go in a closet.

Anyway, here’s the thing – if you are going to completely renovate two bathrooms and completely replace all the second floor carpeting, you kinda need to paint the entire second floor in the process. Used a color called Lovely Bluff in the hallway. Who names these paint colors? Used white on the ceilings. Which, if I’m not mistaken, hadn’t been painted since the builder did it. And let’s be honest, a builder’s coat of paint is applied with the same care and attention to detail that the producers of Caddyshack II used.

Anyway, when you paint an entire second floor you have to move all the furniture. So everything is pushed to the middle of the all three bedrooms. And we kinda left it that way for about a week. It was weird and unsettling. Like Nancy Pelosi’s eyes or the Jaguars uniforms. It messes up your routine because things aren’t where they are supposed to be. Like moving Person of Interest to Tuesday nights. Or when your grocery store rearranges their shelves. Is there anything more disruptive than that? I mean all you’re trying to do is make a routine trip to the grocery store and you get there and suddenly you’re supposed to be freaking Magellan.

But it gets worse after you finish painting. Which sucks a whole lot all by itself. Because painting an entire floor doesn’t get done in one day which means it requires multiple clean-ups. Boo. Then, once your are done…you still don’t get to put the furniture back because you need to move it all down the stairs and place it as logically as possible throughout the first floor. I used the word logically because I failed to use it consistently throughout my placement of the upstairs stuff. For example after you take a shower, dry yourself off, you expect to get dressed before you leave your bedroom. But if all your clothes are missing and you happened to come up one day short on your estimate of how many days worth of clothes you’d need on temporary basis, you end up in the kitchen completely naked looking for a pair of boxers. Not that it happened to me or anything…

I still can’t get over how much stuff we moved down the stairs. I recommend exactly nobody actually do what we did. Just live with the crappy carpet.

I also learned that the carpet guys aren’t messing around when they say they’ll be there between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. They called the house at 6:30 and said they were in the process of loading the truck and will be there shortly. 25 minutes later they are unloading carpet into our house. We hadn’t even broken down the beds yet because Kinsey and Bailey had just gotten up. I was sweating like an HHS Secretary answering questions to Congress about a doomed health care system. Which really isn’t a big deal. Lots of people sweat. Except I had already showered and was dressed for work. I had to open up all the windows in the house just to bring my body temp down. Never was so happy for a 30-something degree morning in October.

Good news is that is all done. Bad news is that we still haven’t put all the crap back yet. Although some of the crap I don’t want to put back. It doesn’t deserve to go back up the stairs. What it does deserve is a new home at the county landfill. Still feels like somebody else’s house though. I mean the walls are clean and the carpet is soft and unstained. Which isn’t something I remember having since we had kids…

Published in: on November 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Last One

We inadvertently started a tradition in 2009. Or more accurately we unknowingly set a precedent. That precedent was a birthday party sleep over for all your rowdy friends when you are in 4th grade.

If you are going to set precedents with your daughters, this isn’t necessarily a bad one to set. You get to spend time with their friends and determine which of them are the greatest threat to your sanity. Sure they are only 4th grade but sometimes you can pick out the delinquents early. You can kinda set your expectations as to which of them is most likely to pursue a path of unhelpful, at least in your eyes, or even felonious behavior in high school. But let’s be honest, when it comes to precedents, there are probably a few more constructive or useful precedents that could have been set. Like any clothes that remain on the floor for longer than 1 hour end up in Clothes Jail. The warden of Clothes Jail is Dad. The only way to get clothes out of Clothes Jail is to master the art of folding clothes and putting them away. This is a lost art.

That would have been a good precedent to set. Or that talking to Mom and I during Person of Interest is a prerequisite to being fed. That would have been good too. We had that with LOST but have been unable thus far to transfer that precedent to our current favorite show.

Anyway, good news is we’re now done with 4th grade birthday party sleep overs. Unless we somehow end up with another kid that grows into a 4th grader. Which would be…well, it would be awful. Like a friend of mine said after she had her first baby a few months ago. The thought of being pregnant now is more terrifying than it was in college.

But these parties are a really big deal to the girls and they’ve grown in importance over the years. Bailey had been looking forward to her’s for months. She wasn’t really doing any planning other that deciding that they were going to eat ice cream and drink lots and lots of pop. That seemed reasonable to us but what do you with the rest of the 16 hours all the girls were supposed to be in our house?

Thought about giving them the Holland’s Personality Test and directing them on their way for the rest of their lives.

But we went with this instead:


Pumpkins and moustaches.

Turns out we only had to intervene a few times. At these kind of parties you’re really in a UN Peacekeepers role. Nobody is really listening to you because even if you some type of actual or metaphorical hammer to swing, nobody believes you’ll actually swing it. But after a 12-pack of pop, two pizzas, 3 bags of potato chips and 1 bag of Cheetos, they conked out. The last couple fell asleep around 2 a.m. Unfortunately for three of the girls, they had soccer games the next morning and had to leave a little early. See soccer is bad. It ruins birthday parties.

Here’s the thing though, Bails had all these girls over on Friday night. Then on Saturday night one of the girls at the party had her birthday party at a hotel a couple miles away. Where the nearly same group of girls stayed up late again, ate pizza, potato chips, and Cheetos. Except on Saturday night they went swimming instead of carving pumpkins.

By late Sunday afternoon Bails was moving at zombie speed. Walking Dead zombie speed not World War Z zombie speed. Had pretty much the same temperament too. But like I wrote earlier, we’re done. Boom.