One Year Replacement Warranty

Sometimes you make a decision based on all of your previously compiled Dad knowledge and think it’ll eventually pay off. Granted, this means you are actually compiling the knowledge you gain. Which isn’t a given. I mean TV execs keep giving George Lopez jobs. Unfortunately though, sometimes you don’t pay attention close enough to notice when all that knowledge pays off. Like while you’re watching the Cyclones win the Big 12 tournament and your kids successfully negotiate and settle a major skirmish involving territorial rights to the basement couch and claim jumping allegations regarding Doritos. All without your intervention. It’s really what should have happened instead of the Munich Agreement in 1938. If Chamberlain just lets the Czechs defend themselves, maybe things unfold differently for not only the Czechs but also the Poles. Then again there are other times when you not only notice that knowledge paying off but you nail it. Really, really nail it. Like how the Steelers nailed it when they took Rod Woodson with the 10th overall pick in the ’87 draft.

Case in point, Bails wears glasses now. Took her into the eye doctor last July and it turned out the squinting she was doing wasn’t just for fun. So in the last 8 months or so she sees things better but the glasses have taken a beating. But nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a focused application of needle nose pliers. Worst thing was when she took a ball in the melon during softball camp in February. Despite not being engineered to absorb the impact of an unguided softball, the glasses actually protected her eye. Ball hit the left arm of the glasses right between the hinge and the angle where the arm turns into the front part of the frame. Thankfully the hinge was fine but what was once a right angle was now nearly a straight line. Yeah, she got hit pretty hard. Nice bruise and scab for a few days. But the only thing she was worried about was her glasses. I honestly thought they were toast and was dreading the purchase of new frames. But I managed to MacGyver them back into shape with the aforementioned needle nose pliers. Naturally I assumed we’d dodged a bullet as far as glasses replacement goes.

But then a few weekends ago we’re on our way to the mall for some stuff. Bails, as she’s apt to do, was being obstinate. Or as my Mom used to say, she was being a nudge. She was doing everything in her power to move as slow as possible and infuriate everybody. She’s good at this. She may have inherited it from me. However, right next to that inherited gene sequence is the one that makes her act like a squirrel after consuming a Red Bull spiked with Jolt cola. So as she’s finally leaving the house she realizes she doesn’t have the sweatshirt on that she wanted to wear. And she’s very particular about which sweatshirt is worn for certain activities. So she whips around to get the correct sweatshirt and her glasses literally fly off her head onto the oak floor in the kitchen. Bails being Bails, she is unable to disengage from her now irreversible commitment to the Red Bull gene. So instead of hitting the brakes and doing what the rest of us would do which is of course stopping and picking up the glasses, she just kept going. Right onto the glasses resulting in not only newly bent frames but a totally stratched up right lens. It looked Egyptian hieroglyphics were etched onto the lens.

lightningIf Mom had harnessed the ability to control weather like Storm in the X-Men, Bails would have the felt the full weight and fury of a well-aimed lightning bolt. Then she would have went all Tom & Jerry and dropped an anvil on Bails. Both of which would have been fully justifiable.

So I’m looking at her glasses and thinking, “Crap, I’m about to pay for new frames and lenses.” Mostly because my first reaction to just about everything in regards to parenthood is “how much is this going to cost me?” The whole thing was even more infuriating because I was thinking about getting her some of those sweet new sports goggles so her regular glasses didn’t get damaged. I had rec-specs back in the day and its was pretty tough to look cool wearing those. But the models they have now are sweet. Not that it matters because she’s not getting them.

So the following Monday I get home from work, grab Bails and her glasses and head to Lenscrafters. We arrive and walk up to the counter.

“Hey, we definitely need a new lens and depending on the damage to the frames, we might need something new there too.”

“Did you remember if you bought the one year replacement warranty?”

It’s funny how your brain works. Up until this exact moment in time I had not thought of the one year replacement warranty at all. Not once. Not even when her glasses were smashed at softball camp. But now, I’m thinking, “oh man, please God let me not be a giant stupid moron who, despite knowing that my youngest daughter excels at breaking stuff she shouldn’t, failed to buy the one year replacement warranty.”

But this is what came out:

“Wait, what?”

“One year replacement warranty. Replaces lenses and/or frames within a year of purchase for just a $25 co-pay.”

Again, I’m rolling this around in my head, “Is it possible that I’m so stupid, and also cheap, that I declined to buy this warranty even though Bails is more likely to trash her glasses than Bigfoot is to avoid detection.”

But this is what came out:

“I’m going to need you to go ahead and check that for me.”

“Sure, just tell me her first name and when you purchased them?”

“Bailey. Last July.”

He saunters away to a computer to check. It took about 45 seconds. 45 long seconds.

“Looks like you did purchase the warranty.”

Just a reminder here that this is Lenscrafters on Monday evening in March. It’s a relatively placid atmosphere. Only about 4 or 5 other customers in the store. But they all heard this:

“Who was smart enough to buy the one year replacement warranty? THIS GUY! Yes! WOO!”

After having to replace Riley’s glasses about a month and a-half ago because 1) her prescription changed, and 2) she trashed her frames so much that taking the old lenses out would have resulted in the destruction of the original frames, I was keenly aware of the kick to the balls my wallet was about to take to replace Bailey’s glasses. Mostly because, I wasn’t smart enough to buy the warranty for Rye’s glasses…

But it turns out I was paying attention this time. I don’t really remember buying the warranty other having this hazy recollection of thinking to myself, “Dude it’s Bails, buy the damn warranty, it’s like $30.”

So now I’m just hoping she doesn’t bust her glasses after the warranty expires…

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Skills

I don’t mind learning new things. Sometimes I don’t like taking the time to actually do it, but the actual idea of learning something new isn’t something to which I’m opposed. I learned how to change poopy diapers. Nobody likes doing that. I learned to like baseball again. Thanks Andrew McCutchen. I learned to look the other way when paying for Rye’s dance team’s practices and trips. In 1983 I learned how to shoot the fade away jump shot. When the girls were little I even learned how to paint toenails and fingernails.

And now I know how to straighten hair. Which, of course, is of absolutely no use whatsoever to me. Its like the art of the tactical retreat to Robert E. Lee. Or self-awareness to Justin Beiber. Straightened hair does me no good. None. I could, however, use more hairs. Regardless it is an extremely targeted skill and is of no use outside of a very particular circumstance. A lot like long-snapping. But it’s not like there is a way I can translate this new competency to my job. Walking around with a flat iron isn’t going to engender confidence in me at work. It will, in all likelihood, simply result in derisively quizzical looks and maybe a visit by security to my office. Not that I mind that. I like the security guys. But I’m not enamored with the idea of them questioning me about my, or really anybody else’s, proficiency with the flat iron. Why? Because it will undoubtedly lead to other questions about hair care. And there ain’t no way I’m faking my way through a hair care conversation. You want me to fake my way through a discussion on top White Sox players of the 1970’s? Chet Lemon. Boom. But you want me to explain the uses for all the attachments for the hair dryer? Can’t do it. You want to know what a root straightening comb is? Don’t know. Colleges for each of the Super 70’s Steelers Hall of Famers? Easy. But my hair prep in the morning pretty consists of drying it after I get out of the shower.

But now, when Bails or Kinz ask me to straighten their hair, I have a very rudimentary understanding of my responsibilities. A lot like John Kerry. I acquired this new skill in much the same way most of my Dad skills were attained. Necessity. Which we all learned the importance of back in the 70’s.

Anyway, during one recent morning I’m about ready to leave the house. I’m doing the normal self-check for my vitals – wallet, phone, badge, money. Turns out I left my cash up on my nightstand. Oh and yes, I carry cash. I know some of you don’t and you smugly look at those of us who do with the disdain the future often bestows upon the past. Until the past repeats itself and kicks the future in the balls. Because that’s what happens. Look it up. European dictator acting like a bully? World’s leading democracies do nothing? Pretty sure this has happened before. Anyway, I run up the stairs to grab my cash and I hear this:

Kinsey: “Bails, can you help me straighten the back of my hair. I can’t reach it.”

Bailey: “No.”

Fairly straightforward and typical morning exchange between these two. As often happens to Dads of daughters, fate intervened. Just so happened that I was in the hallway just outside the bathroom as this exchange happened. As Bails exited said bathroom, Kinz popped her head out and looked at me. Now I could have said, “Ooooh, tough break dude. See you after school.” But that would have undoubtedly resulted in either ferocious hand to hand combat not seen since the Bloody Angle during the Battle for Spotslyvania Court House or Kinz calmly tucking this situation in her memory only to bring it up at some point in the future to make a point about me not helping her in times of desperate need. So I exhaled and said, “Okay Kinz show me how to do this and I’ll help. But its gotta be fast.”

That qualifier is key. Always need to leave yourself an escape hatch. Especially when it is not only possible but entirely likely that I’ll screw this up.

“Okay Dad, you just take a piece of hair like this, put it in the flat iron like this and slowly press the hair all the way to the end.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool. Bring it. Easy Peazy.”

Thankfully, it was the back of her head so even if I lit her hair on fire or maybe melted it or something, she couldn’t see it. I didn’t by the way. Kinsey’s hair is really thick. Obviously got that from Mom. But a few waves of the wand later and it didn’t look half-bad. Not salon quality but better than a kick in the head with a steel boot. Or something like that…

The First Lesson

We are on the cusp of a new era. The dawn of new age. We stand on edge of what many before us have described as one of the most significant transitions of parenthood. This is a big deal. We are entering the Drivaceous Period.

We almost, relatively speaking, have a third driver.

I took Rye driving for the first time last weekend. In my truck. Nervous isn’t really how I felt about it. Maybe more like I’m prepared to accept that we have reached this stage of life. I’m not excited about it. But I’m not dreading it either. I want her to be good at driving. Although, in the interest of full disclosure, she doesn’t have her permit yet so we stuck to a parking lot. A big lot with a good mix of interconnecting roads around a park, walking trails and a softball/soccer complex. The plan is to have her take the test to get her permit over spring break. So she has a couple weeks to get that nailed down. But I theorized that it might make more sense to her if she had some real experience behind the wheel. But a lot of things work in theory. Communism, remaking Red Dawn, the Run and Shoot offense. So it’s fair to say I was on high alert.

To be completely honest, I think this is first time since the girls were babies that my senses were running at peak efficiency. Remember when your kids first became mobile? Suddenly you became aware of how dangerous your house really was. You become acutely mindful of all the sharp edges, all the deadly poisonous chemicals and how absolutely lethal the stairs are. Putting a baby down in the house was like asking them to navigate the Danger Room in the X-Mansion. That’s kinda how it feels when you take your teenager driving for the first time. Suddenly you are hyper aware of your surroundings. Snow, curbs, wildlife, imperfections in the road surface, wind speed, changes in the gross national product, the NBA regular season. Everything.

So I put the truck in park, turn it off, switch seats and I give her the keys. First time I had ever done that. And yes I was aware of it as I did it and it did feel odd. Not in a doomed Pickett’s Charge way but more like a “Dammit, there’s nothing I can do about the relentless march of time!” Felt like I’d passed a milestone on my way to poverty with purchases for prom dresses and college laughing condescendingly over the horizon.

Anyway, I look at her and this conversation ensues:

“Okay, what’s first?”

“Um, I turn on the car?”

“Can you even reach the pedals? Look at where you’re sitting.”

“Oh, yeah. So I need to adjust the seat.”

“Right, then what?”

“Uh…turn on the car?”

“Dude, we’ve had a seatbelt law since 1989. Buckle up.”

“Right. Now do I turn on the car?”

“Adjust your mirrors so you can see what’s behind you.”

“Done…now do I…”

“Where’s the gear shifter?”

“Um, is that the thing right here that puts it in drive and park?”

“Yes.”

“What does R stand for?”

“What do you think it stands for?”

“Oh, yeah, reverse! Guess I should know that. Can I turn it on now?”

“Yes, put your foot on the brake and turn the key. Let go when it starts.”

“Got it.”

And we’re off. So I had her just drive around the parking lot to get a feel for how much pressure you put on the brake to stop and how much you need to accelerate. She did fine. So I thought we’d venture out onto the roads that connect all the lots. The main road has a speed limit of 15 and has three islands in the middle of the road designed to keep speeds down. But, if you recall, I have these sweet black rims on my truck. And I’m more than a little concerned that Rye might have difficulties steering the truck between the curbs when we get to the islands. I mean the evidence was right there. You could see all the tire marks on the curbs. Far more seasoned drivers had curb checked their vehicles. We go through the first one and I’m not kidding, it felt like Lando navigating the interior superstructure of the second, and now operational, Death Star on his way to blow up the main reactor. You run out of room real quick driving between the curbs around those islands. Maybe it just seems like it.

We did that a few times, practiced the stop and start at stop sign, practiced left and right turns, determined the exact location of the turn signal before finally practicing some maneuvering in reverse.

“Okay, pull up through the first islands and then stop right after you get past that garbage can.”

I wanted to have something close to her right outside the driver’s side (the garbage can) to distract her a little bit. Then I wanted her to back up between the islands and steer the truck around the driver’s side island and then stop. So she had to keep the truck’s path straight and then make a relatively sharp reverse turn around the island.

“So…you want me to backup between the islands and then turn so the one island stays on my side.”

“Yes. All without hitting the garbage can outside your window or bumping the curb.”

She puts the truck in reverse, turns around to watch where she’s going and eases off the brake. Her first attempt resulted in a truck path very similar to the path of a lightning bolt. She had to pull forward and try and correct herself a few times. I really provided almost no help here as she figured it out on her own before finally executing the turn around the island. Never really were in danger of bumping the garbage which I was watching like a fat kid eyes donuts. A couple more attempts and we were approaching what could be confidently describing as “driving in reverse.” Or what Brett Favre did in his second year with the Vikings.

Since we hadn’t really done anything except maneuvering the vehicle, I thought we might try something different.

“Drive down the end of the lot, turn the truck around and stop.”

“Why?”

“I want you to have some room to get the truck above 30 so you can feel what its like.”

“Cool. Let’s do it.”

She hits about 32 and starts giggling about how fast she going. Which is what I assume the President does when his approval rating stays above 40.

“You realize you only going 30 right?”

“Yeah, but I don’t care. I’m driving.”

We finished with some parking lessons before testing her winter driving instincts.

“Drive over there into that snowy part of the lot and turn left around that island with the tree…but don’t use the brakes.”

“Why?”

“Because I want you to see what happens when you’re going too fast around a turn.”

“Is it bad?”

“Not in this parking lot but it will be somewhere else.”

Rye takes the turn and start sliding toward a rather substantial snowplow created snowbank. It was fun. And she didn’t panic at all. She intuitively turned into the skid and regained control.

Then, since we were now facing a pile of snow, albeit much smaller than the one we almost slid into, I suggested we drive through it.

“Wait, what?”

“Drive over that snow pile. So you know what it feels like. Plus it’s gonna be awesome.”

And it was. In my mind, we hit it like Jerry Reed hit the barricade of police cars at the end of Smokey and the Bandit as he’s barreling into the Southern Classic. Probably a bit less dramatic in real life. Second lesson is probably this weekend. Snow is melting through…

Smooth Streak

We’ve had decent amount of positive news the last few weeks. Not really a hot streak but probably more like a smooth streak. For example, a few weeks ago we had to deal with some math. This is hard for me. I’m a closet supporter of the math atheism movement. But its tough to be a stickler when your 4th grader needs help with her homework. The homework in question was about measuring angles along with some long division. Thankfully my knowledge of geometry happens to remain around a 4th grade level so I was of some use. Not sure if you know this but they teach an entirely different way to do long division than they did back in the late 70’s. You’d think after my own 4th grade experience combined with our first two girls going through 4th grade that I would have figured it out by now. I haven’t. Not entirely my fault though. This new long division appears to be some type of mishmash of Mandarin Chinese, Klingon and random numbers arranged in the pattern of a Christmas tree. After several attempts to mind meld the competing long division styles, we decided that Bails probably needed to visit with her teacher about the specific things she was having trouble understanding.

Bails registered a nay vote on this course of action. Not that it had any impact. If there’s a person in our house who absolutely hates asking for help more than Bails, I don’t know who it is. Well that’s not true. That person would be Mom. But that’s beside the point. Bails does not like to admit she needs help with anything. And asking for it, in front of her classmates, is not something in which she’s willing to participate.

But after some coaching, she agreed. And by coaching we mean that it was explained to her that a failure to ask for help would result in her likely having the worst math scores in the class. Such a situation would mean she would be in a position where she’d have to ask for help on a daily basis. She might even have to repeat 4th grade. What? Our parental persuasive arsenal is well stocked with made up stuff.

So she asked for help and we received a good report from on the results of said inquiry. In fact, it went so well that she showed some initiative and went ahead and asked about some unrelated assignments that she was concerned about and now she’s all set on those too. That, my friends, is what we in the parenting business count as a “win.”

Last night we’re discussing another set of projects she’s working on. And this discussion is taking place a good 45 minutes past her bedtime. Let me see if I can summarize this for you. Assume the requisite amount of crying and frustration. Turns out she had a four paragraph “research” paper due today on key facts about a country of her choosing. She chose France. On purpose. Boo. She was to have it either written out or typed up by today and handed in. Whilst at school yesterday, Bails went to print it and discovered that two of her four paragraphs were missing. My reaction? “Well of course they are missing. You chose France. They probably ran away and and declared their loyalty for Marshall Petain and shot at the Americans when they landed in Morocco.”

Or maybe not, I could be wrong.

While she’s telling us about her France research paper problems, we’re reminding her that she also has a paper due on Friday summarizing a book. A book that she still has a few pages to read in order to finish. This paper has a rubric from the teacher laying out exactly what goes into the paper. Our plan? Bails reads the last few pages before bed and then we get her up a bit early so she can get started on writing the book summary. If she fails to get it done then she’ll probably have to miss softball hitting practice. Well turns out Bails really likes hitting practice. She finished almost the entire paper this morning.

So, with these successes fresh in our minds, we thought we’d address one of the major issues of the day. Much like the remilitarization of Germany in 30’s, the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball in the 90’s and the lack of punishment for Americans who put Nancy Pelosi in charge of the United States House of Representatives for four dark years between 2007-11, we have let this problem go on unchecked. We’ve reached the tipping point. It’s time to face the basement problem head on.

In our house, we have a family room in which Mom and I watch our TV shows. The Walking Dead, Archer, The Goldberg’s, etc. Then there is our basement which doubles as an exercise area and the kids TV watching domain. So far this plan has worked well.

Until they started treating the basement the way Jordan treated the Blazers in Game 1 of the ’92 NBA Finals. As a rule of thumb we believe that when you walk on a carpet it shouldn’t crunch, half-full pop cans should not be left on every flat surface and the number of dirty socks left lying around should not be more than number of Marines who landed on Iwo Jima in 1945. It really makes no sense. We rarely let them drink pop in the house and when we do, they only drink half the can and then leave it out. You’ve been asking for a freaking Diet A&W all freaking week and then you forget to drink most of it? That’s like shrugging your shoulders when a guy who promises to be the first post-partisan president and then proceeds to use the IRS to target political opponents.

So we addressed the issue with them. It’s on-going conversation with varying degrees of success. Their consistency at cleaning rivals Andy Dalton’s reliability in fantasy football or Nicholas Cage’s acting ability. But at least the basement appearance has improved to the degree the carpet is pretty much just carpet now instead of carpet fiber/potato chip combo. Again, this is pretty much a win…