7th Grade Open House

For the second year in a row I was surprised by the amount of parents that showed up to Open House. Not that I’m bagging on Gen X parents, its just that as a group we’ve decided its okay to have a crap ton of stuff going on everyday after school. Open House is a one-time addition to schedule. And one-timers are the kind of things that get forgotten or purposely ignored.

theflame1988Anyway, I went to 8th Grade House Open House last year for Rye. I enjoyed it. It literally, not figuratively, was the first time I’d walked the halls of any school going from class to class since the final days of May 1988 when I was finishing up high school. Also finishing up in May of 1988? Cheap Trick’s run at #1 on the top 40 chart with The Flame.

Rye, being the organized oldest child, provided me with a map of the school, a class schedule with the room numbers, snacks, a swiss army knife and GPS locater. She numbered each room with its corresponding period. This year I was expecting a similar night.

However there was a glitch.

Who has two thumbs and showed up to Open House without a map or a class schedule?

This guy.

Seriously. I did. And when I got to the first room which was a “team meeting” in the cafeteria it was extremely obvious I was the only parent without a school map printed on a light blue sheet and my kid’s class schedule written on a yellow sheet.

What did I have? A phone, a pen, two sticks of gum along with a mix of annoyance and panic. If I was MacGyver I would have justed whipped whip up a makeshift schedule and rudimentary classroom map. But I’m not MacGyver. I’m bad at science and comparing my hair to his at this juncture in my hair’s personal timeline is, well, like claiming the president is completely on top his foreign policy.

So what do you do when the bell rings and you have to go to 1st period and you don’t have a map or a schedule. Well, the first thing you do is mask your displeasure with the situation. Then you panic. Not like freak out levels of panic but panic none the less. Because who hasn’t had this dream. You show up for the first day of school and you can’t find your locker, don’t know how to get to your first class and the cool kids are all lurking behind corners to ridicule you and your knock off Levi’s faded jean jacket.

magnumA normal man would cower. Hide. Melt under pressure so intense it can only be compared to the level-headed steely eyed coolness displayed by Thomas Magnum when he finally cornered Ivan and asked him if he’d seen the sunrise this morning. I did have an advantage however. A few weeks ago after going through the 7th grade registration process I walked Kinz through the building. Then a few days later we did it again. And again. She wanted to be sure she knew where everything was so we literally walked her daily route. Three times. Including locker stops. Yeah, not kidding. She wanted to time herself so she was certain she could get to her locker, open it, exchange class materials, close it and make it to next class on time. She did this despite me telling her that the school knows it’s the first day or two of school and will cut the 7th graders some slack since they are all new.

No dice.

But all of that frustration had an ancillary benefit. I not only learned where her classes were but had a pretty good grip on order in which they occur. Like when you leave your clock radio on as you fall asleep in the August of ’82 and you wake up singing You Should Hear How She Talks About You by Melissa Manchester. Not proud of it, just saying that sometimes you learn things by just showing up and being there. I mean Joe Biden knows where the launch codes are and pretty much all he does is embarrass himself and, well, show up.

First period is Consumer Education. Right down the hall from our team meeting in the cafeteria. Second period is English. That’s down the hall, up the stairs, quick right turn. Third period is Math, just down the hall from English. And fourth period is…um…crap…I can remember what I have for fourth period!


Call Kinz quick before first period starts and her Consumer Ed teacher flips me a dirty look for being on my cell phone when class starts.

“Kinz, hey its Dad, text me the room number, teacher’s name and subject for your class schedule so I know where the heck I’m going.”


“This is no time for questions. This a Def Con 1 Code Red Alert. Text me the stuff right now! Gotta go, class is about to start!”

I notice at this point that my phone is dying. I get the ominous, “Please connect to your charger” message. Yeah, sure, no problem. No way I’m asking to borrow a charger so I can plug my phone in. I’ll spend the rest of Open House in freaking detention. How the hell would I explain that to Kinz?

Consumer Ed, turns out, is pretty cool. It’s kinda like a financial literacy class. Too bad nobody on Harry Reid’s staff had to take this. Anyway, they learn personal budgeting, about bank accounts, the stock markets, etc. I considered suggesting they spend some time on corporate welfare and why its strangling the rest of us…or you can just read Paul Ryan’s new book. Either way. Kept it to myself though. Already was a little late to my seat due to my conversation with Kinz after all.

Class ends and my phone buzzes. She sends me this:

“2nd Period English Rm 2318. 3rd Period Math Rm 2310. 5th Period Science Rm 1317. 6th Period Social Studies.”

Notice something?

Yeah, um, where the hell is 4th period? And what is the freaking room number for Social Studies? And since I don’t have a schedule sheet, like the rest of the far more prepared parents, I checked out the sheets of the Dad sitting next to me in English. Turns out we have 7 periods…so I’m gonna need to know where freaking hell that is too. Hence my response.

“Think you might have left something out. What about 4th? Room # for 6th? 7th Period?”

While I’m waiting for the response I listen to the English teacher. She’s a self-described dinosaur who still uses A LOT of paper and wants everyone to read books that she has on the shelves in her room. She also has what was described as a Curriculum or Learning Strategist that is also present in the room. The Strategist seemed like a very nice woman. I just was never real clear on what she did.

Then its over to Math. Which, if you recall, I know exactly how to find since I have the map of the school lasered onto my brain. The math teacher is hilarious. Which I found odd. Also pretty young and was sporting some nose jewelry. A hoop. It was distracting. But this teacher is super organized. Everything is on a website. Literally no excuses about not knowing what they were supposed to do. She even links to youtube videos of herself explaining the daily lesson so the kids can refer to it. They also had a funeral on Wednesday in class. For their “I Can’ts.” She had them list all the things they can’t do in math. Turns out most of them involved fractions. And they shredded them. She wore black and everything.

After that its down to chorus. How did I know? Well during math I got text from Kinz that said to go to Room 1158. I never was in chorus. Or anything remotely resembling chorus. So I was bored. But I listened. The best I could. All I can remember is at one point during the year they learn patriotic songs. Sounds good as long as one of the songs is The Battle Hymn of the Republic. No word on the use of 80’s hair metal.

Down the hall to Science. The Curriculum or Learning Strategist was also present in this class. Still hazy on what she does. Among the things they study are viruses and infectious diseases. I nodded approvingly knowing this will give the kids a base of understanding of what happens when the Zombie Apocalypse eventually happens. And how socialism is, in fact, a disease. They also will learn about the health effects of alcohol and smoking. I assume they will leave out all the good stuff…

Get text back telling me what room is home to Social Studies and finally the mystery regarding 7th Period. Spanish Room 2115.

Back up the stairs. The same stairs I’ve been up and down a few times now. I bet Kinz gets sick of these stairs. But they are pretty close to her locker giving her the advantage of not having lug around a lot of books and stuff. So that must be nice. But there’s no time to contemplate logistical minutiae, I gotta get to Social Studies!

Yes, Social Studies. The greatest of all school subjects. The only subject in which I once qualified for an AP class. Sophomore year I wrote a paper on what might have happened if Rommel won at El Alamein. But that’s beside the point. I get into class and we start going through the various units. Finally reaching “Unit 7: The Age of Revolution.” The Social Studies teacher then drops this on us, “This is an extremely important unit as the French and Russian Revolutions changed the political landscape not just in Europe but globally.”

Um…Hells To The Yes. I want to go to this class with Kinz. It’s going to be difficult not to rush home to do, I mean help with, her Social Studies homework. Don’t you wish you could have an hour or so every day at work where you go to a class about something that is awesome? Like “Unit 8: The World Wars – including The Cold War.” Man, I am so jealous. These kids don’t even realize there was an East and West Germany. Or what Blitzkreig means. Or what an astoundingly bad president Woodrow Wilson was.

Unfortunately, I still have Spanish. But, and I’m not afraid to admit this, I nearly skipped 7th Period to go to my favorite bar – The DT. But it was a Wednesday night and I’m not in college so I just went ahead and sat down in Spanish. The teacher begins her discussion with the parents by rattling off at least a paragraph and a-half of gibberish. I assumed it was in Spanish. Turns out she’s a retired high school Honors Spanish teacher who is subbing for the next 8-10 weeks because the normal teacher just had a baby. I don’t really have an opinion on either because, well, I’m just really, really happy I don’t have to take any more Spanish classes.

But that’s it for 7th Grade Open House. Didn’t have one for 9th Grade and I’m kinda upset about that. Because its not very often you get to directly employ the lessons of Gunny Highway in Heartbreak Ridge and improvise, adapt and overcome.


Almost Back to School

So what do American Eagle jeans, school supplies, school fees and combination locks have in common?

Funny you should ask.

Mom and I decided to take Rye out for a drive. Or to be more precise, we thought it was time for her to break the 45 mph barrier at this point in her development as a driver. Guess, you know, eventually she’ll need to get somewhere fast. So we let her drive us to the mall because American Eagle has a sale on jeans. And its time for some back to school shopping. So to recap…Rye got to drive. To the mall. To get herself jeans. Best day ever for her.

Then we entered American Eagle. Have you been there recently? If you have, did you spend any time actually looking around? I mean really looking around. Observing. Scrutinizing. Its like some sort of weird retro cross-pollination of 80’s preppy and hair metal faded shredded jeans. Its like Alex Keaton went to a Motley Crue concert. Rye says it fits her new 9th grade personal style. Which she has coined Chill Prep. To which I have counter coined it Very Stale. I was, and I’m exaggerating, walking around the store with one of those half grins chuckling to myself. Faded, shredded jeans? Popular. Jean jackets? On display. Plaid shirts? In the front of the store. Faded jean shorts cut off and then rolled up at the knee for dudes? On the mannequins. Faded denim shirts? Right there next to the shorts. Seriously. WTF is going on? Is it 1989? Is Love in an Elevator back on the charts? Did Herschel Walker just get traded to the Vikings? Is Hasselhoff singing on the Berlin Wall? Anyway, since we were there getting Rye new jeans, Mom and I couldn’t’ help ourselves. We both got a pair. I got mine, walked out of the dressing room, showed Rye and said, “Hey we should wear our new American Eagle jeans on the same day so we can be twinsies.”

We thought it was funnier than she did.

I’m looking around the store at all the high school kids in there, many of whom are also walking around with their parents getting some new back to school clothes, and all I’m thinking is – “these guys have no idea there is going to be a crap ton of 40-somethings dressed just like them this fall. Awesome.”

The jeans shopping with Riley went far, far better than the school supply shopping went a day earlier with all three of the girls. I don’t know how it works in your family, but in ours, Office Depot brings out the absolute worst in Bails. We’re walking around with three distinct lists for each kid. In an ideal world each individual supply list would enumerate each distinct supply in the same order so we could pick up the right thing for each girl as we move through the store in an orderly and somewhat reasonable fashion. That’s not what happened though because 5th graders and 9th graders do not need the same stuff.

We thought the logical and seemingly easiest solution is simply to have the kids walk around with their own lists and get the stuff they need. Bails is almost 11, Kinz is 12 and Rye is 14. They can do it. Sure they’ll likely miss something forcing a return a trip but its way easier than trying to manage the purchasing ourselves while they each bark at us about what they want. The issue is that the girls base their purchasing decisions based everything other than price. A one inch binder for $4 or a sweet pink binder for $8? Damn sure they’ll pick the $8 one. Zebra print folders for $2 or solid color folders for 25 freaking cents? Yup that zebra folder will find its way into the cart.

This means Mom and I have to manage this process. And it is a process that for some reason triggers a behavioral response in Bails that disables the electronic relays between her ears and her brain. Additionally, there must be something in the Office Depot ventilation system that blocks all memory of discipline and respect. Not kidding. She walks around the store with complete disregard for just about everyone, talks over everything you say, ignores instruction…so I guess what I mean is she behaves exactly like Chris Matthews.

You’d think that spending $354 on the three of them would, at the very least, make them appreciative. That’s a lot of stuff. It didn’t. But it did make me mad. Like when I found out Sharna isn’t going to be on DWTS this season. Sure Peta is still on and she’s smoking hot. But she’s also scary as freaking hell. Seriously, she one of those women who you can’t stop looking at but they also scare the crap out of you. Sharna’s just hot without the scary. And listen when you have a 9th grader who is on two dance teams and a wife who spent most of her formative years in dance, you spend a lot of nights watching DWTS. So if you’re going to doing that, you damn well have an interest in the hotness of the dancers.

But that’s just me. Whatever.

So, when I told them that if you take the $354 dollars in school supplies and combine it with the $600 I just paid in school fees for Rye and Kinz, it at least go them to pause briefly.

Yeah, we go to the 9th grade registration for Rye and I’m fairly certain that I pre-paid most, if not all of the school fees. Paid the $80 book fee. Paid the $25 for the year book. Paid the $55 for the all-sports athletic pass. Well, turns out, that property taxes do not pay for a whole plethora of stuff at public schools. Like the school bus. I still needed to pay the first quarter of bus fees. $118. Then there’s the plethora of other school fees including a crap ton of dance team stuff. $237. Then I had to add about 40 lunches to her balance. $112. Also present at 9th grade registration are other 9th graders. Including one whom Mom pointed out and labled a “cutie.” Rye agreed but added that he’s kinda full of himself. I took this all in decided that from thence forth he’ll be known as “toolbag.” Soon after that we enlisted the help of two soon to be 10th grade girls to show us around the school so Rye could find her locker and classes and other things of that nature. How it go? Here’s a sample:

“Where is your first class?”

“Speech in Room 107.”

“Omigosh, that is like the hardest class ever. It’s soooo hard. Like the hardest.”

“No it’s not. I got, like, a 96 in that class. Just pay attention and your teacher will love you. L-O-V-E you. I’m not even kidding.”

“Oh, right, here’s Room 107. It’s like super easy to find and all the English type classes are down here. You’ll totally be able to find it.”

I just went ahead and assumed that whole thing helped Rye.

The next day I had to take Kinz to 7th grade registration. Another $100 for lunch fees. But that was the least aggravating part of the process. Rye and one of her friends went with us to help show Kinz around the school. They’re walking her through the building, pointing out where her classes will be when we walk by her new locker. No big deal right? WRONG!

Kinz needs to learn how to correctly operate a combination lock. You may be like Kinz and be in possession of a brain that simply does instinctively know how to process the steps required to open the lock. Like President Obama and foreign policy.

So combination locks are pretty straight forward. Approach the locker. Make eye contact with the lock. Either commit the combination to memory or write it down. Place your dominant hand on the lock and spin it a few times. Then turn the lock to the right, without stopping, until reaching the first number. Upon reaching that number, turn the lock to the left past the second number, without stopping, until reaching that same number again and stop. Then turn the lock to the right, without stopping, until reaching the third number where you again stop. Open the locker.

Everytime Kinz tried she would start turning the lock to the left to start. And we’d tell her, nope stop, start over. And she’d get frustrated…and then she’d turn the lock to the left again. This kept happening until she finally said, “Why do I have to turn it to the right!?”

Wait, what? Did you just ask why? Why? Exactly how does knowing the philosophical underpinnings of lock mechanics help you here? Nobody knows why. But more importantly, nobody cares. No one. Not a single person. You know why? Because, much like any show that is on at the same time as Walking Dead, it is completely and totally irrelevant to anything anyone cares about. Locks are just locks. There isn’t a platform on which the lock’s tendencies are detailed. Just turn it to the right!

Eventually she figured it out. Although I’m quite certain she has since forgotten about how to correctly perform the procedure so it is entirely likely we’ll be heading back to the school to have her try it again a few times and walk her around the building to help her get comfortable. Because that’s what you do when you’re the Dad and your 7th grader is nervous about starting at a new school building.

Jury is still out on whether I’ll have to pay any extra fees for access to the building…

Reminding Yourself

I am one who subscribes to the theory that past repeats itself. I believe that if you fail to remember the past or, more precisely, if you fail to take the time to know the past, you are doomed to repeat it’s failures. This applies to politics, parenting, and George Lopez – seriously how does he keep getting jobs? It also applies to music. So it should be of no surprise when Mom and I go to a Motley Crue concert that many folks younger than us mockingly flash the horns and ask if we’re going to “rock out.” They snicker to themselves, in the smug way only fans of Green Day can do, as they like your concert pic on facebook of the freaking flamethrower attached to Nikki Sixx’s bass guitar. Your kids joke to each other and their friends about their parents and their horrible rock music and, ironically, are embarrassed when you tell stories about not only Tommy Lee’s anti-gravity drum solo but also the awesomeness of Lita Ford, Poison and Def Leppard two years ago in the same venue. Or even seeing Guns N Roses open for Aerosmith back in the summer of ’88 at Alpine Valley!

Common thread? They haven’t taken the initiative to blow an hour or two watching metal videos on youtube. Or taken the time to know history. Had America done a better job of knowing history we would not have been so quick to embrace a charismatic candidate who learned politics from a radical 60’s domestic terrorist not to mention a Chicago Democrat machine bagman. Being a student of history and a proud Gen Xer, I like to remind myself and Mom, every now and again of the awesomeness of good old fashioned late 80’s/early 90’s hair metal. If you don’t know history, you can’t celebrate its awesomeness. Reminders such as these do have consequences.

Among those consequences is disquieting alarm that accompanies you as your kids become teens. I mean is it simply a fact of parenthood that your kids will be derisive of the music that you like? My parents were in their teens and early 20’s in the 50’s and early 60’s. I can say, with near metaphysical certitude, that I was derisive of the popular music of this period in American history. But there were areas where I found some common ground. My mom and I both like the Beatles. And on one long drive to Florida in the summer of ’87 at about 2 a.m. in central Georgia we also discovered that we both enjoyed listening to Journey.

However if I play Tesla, Poison, maybe throw in some Motley Crue what do I get from the girls? Groans about being forced to endure more “Dad Rock.” WTF? It’s freaking Tesla. Its not Nelson. Although you gotta admit that if Bon Jovi sang More Than Ever, it likely would not be mocked and instead celebrated as one of Jon’s many hits. Anyway, I cannot, intellectually or emotionally, understand how anyone fails to embrace the power of the beginning of Tesla’s Getting Better? Who, regardless of age, or position along the American musical timeline can’t identify in some way with Every Rose Has It’s Thorn?

Exactly nobody.

Yet I’m subjected to hours of relentless dance-electro-synth-hip hop-pop music by the girls. What the hell happen to the guitar? Does nobody play the guitar in bands anymore? And what is with the disturbing lack of power in this stuff?

Remember, without an appreciation of your own past, you miss the greatest high school reunion in history.

So you gotta remind yourself of the awesomeness every now and then. And inevitably, your body will remind you of its age the next day…