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.

Advertisements

Deuce

So we’re leaving Old Navy last weekend. We successfully executed our plan to zip out there and grab a couple of marked down swim suits for Kinz. Summer’s almost up and we figured we could find some bargains. We did. And now Kinz isn’t complaining about swim suits that have saggy drawers. Which, all in all, works out well for all involved.

On our way out Mom and I are having a conversation. Mom is in her typical spot in the co-pilot’s seat while all the girls are in the back seat of my truck. Bails is right behind me. Again, normal seating arrangement. Can’t remember the context but I think I used the term “douchebag” in reference to somebody Mom mentioned. It wasn’t Anthony Weiner. But my attempt at using the aforementioned term of derision under my breath evidently was a failure.

Evidence?

“What’s a doosh?” says the girl sitting right behind me. And she didn’t just ask it that innocent 9 year-old kinda way. There was genuine curiosity behind the ask along some unnecessary emphasis on the word. Like she’s heard it before. From me. In reference to somebody I hold in low regard. Like Bill Maher.

“DOOSH!”

Anyway, this inquiry was posited while I was rocking out to Blinded By The Light by Manfred Mann. Which, by happenstance, is my second favorite Manfred Mann song. Right behind For You. But despite its second place ranking in my all-time Manfred Mann songs list, I still love Blinded By The Light. I love it as much as I love nachos. So yeah, we’re talking nacho level love here. But, as everybody who has listened to this song knows, there is that consistent chorus where he says “Blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.” And, again, as everyone knows, there isn’t person on the planet who doesn’t believe they saying “revved up a like doosh.”

So thanks Manfred Mann for your weird 70’s lyrics that sound like doosh. Because now my soon to be fourth grader wants to know what a “doosh” is. Plus I was rocking out to the song. A song that really isn’t in the regular rotation on the radio. But now we’re talking about a “doosh.”

My purely instinctual reaction was to laugh. Because it was funny. Naturally, being the experienced parent that I am I resisted that response and formulated an age appropriate yet truthful explanation.

Seriously that’s all crap. I totally busted a gut laughing. So did Mom. But I did have the presence of mind to attempt a redirect. It’s parenting equivalent of faking a hand off and hitting the tight end over the middle. I simply said he’s not saying “doosh” he’s saying “deuce.”

What’s a “deuce?”

“It’s means the number 2.”

“Like poop?”

For about a second a half, there was silence. Then we all busted up laughing again.

“Um, well, yeah. Like poop. Number 2.” Then to myself I muttered under my breath, because I don’t have the self-control to stop myself when it comes to poop jokes, “hence the phrase ‘droppin a deuce.’”

I’ve yet to hear the girls employ the phrase so either I was successful in my muttering or the girls simply are only saying it when I’m not around.

But Bails remained undeterred in regards to her initial and primary question. She still wanted a definition for a “doosh.” So I told her.

“In the this context, a doosh is an insult somebody calls another person when they think the other person is, well, a real jerk who does crappy things to other people because they are super selfish and often just mean.”

I quickly added, “It’s not a word kids should use.”

So far so good.

Then later during our nice little Saturday, we’re at Bed, Bath and Beyond. We just renovated both of our upstairs bathrooms. Which by the way are now awesome. They were vintage 1991 with builder’s grade everything in there. Now it feels like somebody else’s house. It’s like we’re grown-ups now. I mean it’s kinda weird. Yesterday morning I experienced two firsts. Took my first shower in the new master bath and then I went down to the gas station and cashed my first ever lottery winnings.

$18. Haven’t spent it all yet. But I got my eye on a six pack of Miller Lite tallboys.

Back to Bed, Bath and Beyond. I’m good at alliteration. I want to know who is in charge of the soundtrack in there. Because I heard, in order, Missing Persons doing Words, Big Country doing In a Big Country and LeVert singing Casanova. That’s a combo you don’t hear often. Well, that’s a combo you never hear. Ever. In fact it may have been the first time. Big Country gets played all the time on 80’s stations. That’s not uncommon. It’s like hearing Come on Eileen. Now Missing Persons is a bit more rare. Not totally unheard of but c’mon, you just don’t flip on your radio and hear Missing Persons. And when you do, sometimes it’ll be Destination Unknown instead of Words. But LeVert? C’mon man, nobody has heard that song since 1987. Not that I’ve been clamoring for it…I’m just saying that who goes to Bed, Bath and Beyond and ends up hearing LeVert after having a discussion about Manfred Mann’s pronunciation of the word duece?

We do. Apparently.

The Time Between Vacations

Lots of people call this work. I like to call it the three weeks in July between trips to Florida/July 4th week and the Ozarks. It’s also the three weeks when I have to shave for at least five consecutive days for those three weeks. After you spend about two weeks never having to save more than once a week, you kinda fall out of the habit. That’s what happened to me. Yesterday was the third consecutive Monday I’ve had to shave. Thankfully I did not have to do it today as Mom and I caved and agreed to let Kinsey take four of her friends to Adventureland. It’s a local amusement park and waterpark. I was not excited about it. Going to work sounded like a better option. Now don’t get me wrong. Going to Adventureland with Kinz and her friends is not like being in the trenches during the siege of Petersburg in 1865. I’ve not been asked to fight Apollo Creed for the Heavyweight Championship of the world. I didn’t grow up a Lions fan. But as a guy who likes routine, and is not a fan of supervising a gaggle of soon to be 6th grade girls along with Bails who gets to come along, this was not my Tuesday activity of choice.

Turned out fine. Weather cooled off, kids all behaved and there were no injuries. And that’s a win.

That all being said, an interesting and entirely unrelated question occurred to me the other night while I was watching The Breakfast Club on AMC.

When should we let Riley, or any of the girls, start watching John Hughes movies? I don’t mean Uncle Buck and Home Alone either. I mean the ones that defined the teenagerdom of Gen Xers. The Breakfast Club. Sixteen Candles. Pretty in Pink. Ferris Bueller. Weird Science. Okay, not Weird Science, that’s for dudes. Sixteen Candles came out when I was finishing 8th grade. Rye will be starting 8th grade this fall. Too early to let her watch them? She went to see World War Z the other night so I’m not sure Long Duk Dong is going to warp her in any sort of permanent life defining way. And truth be told I don’t screen every movie she watches. Which means she’s already been exposed to the same stuff I’m worried about. Which in turn makes my initial question somewhat less interesting. But here’s the thing, I’m all in favor of not only Riley, but all the girls watching these movies. Just not sure its time yet. Especially after watching The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles for the first time in awhile. I love The Breakfast Club. One of my favorite movies of all time. It’s lands on the all-time list somewhere after Hoosiers, It’s a Wonderful Life and Patton. It could be fourth. Then again, it might not be. Red Dawn, The Blues Brothers and The Hunt for Red October are pretty good movies too.

Have you seen TBC lately? Go watch it again. Now that I have a 13 year-old daughter my perspective on this movie has changed. I really didn’t expect this. I mean I watched it plenty of times since the girls were born. But this was the first time I watched it while I was father a daughter whose age end in “teen.”

That changes a man.

John Bender is far more frightening and menacing now than he was when I was 15. Plus with today’s anti-bullying and harassment laws, he’s a walking lawsuit. Dick, excuse me, Vice-Principal Richard Vernon is so fired if he did any of that stuff in 2013. Back in ’85, I guess it just made him a douchebag. But the movie is still relevant to teenagers even after 28 years because it still deals with all the crap that teenagers think about and deal with. Which, if you recall, is not stuff you really want to do twice.

Second question that we recently discussed involves dancing. Rye and her friend Madison are going to dance a duet this coming dance season in addition to being on the various pom and hip hop dance teams. As far as I can tell the largest impact of this decision is on my wallet as another costume will be purchased and another set of classes/practices will be paid for. Hoo. Ray. The most interesting thing about the duet is that they have to pick a song. Bailey suggested Physical from Olivia Newton-John. Which we thought was hilarious. Also disconcerting. How does Bails – age 9 – know Physical? Has Disney assimilated this song into its empire and sanitized it’s lyrics? Mom suggested PYT by Michael Jackson. Somebody mentioned Express Yourself by Madonna. I had three suggestions. The first was Highway to Hell by AC DC. It was summarily dismissed. Next I suggested Ride the Wind by Poison. It did not gain the necessary traction to be part of the debate. Finally I suggested Let’s Go Crazy by Prince and the Revolution.

Mom seemed intrigued. Riley not so much. However – mitigating factor – she’s never heard the song. So I attempted to explain its awesomeness.

“Back in ’84 at the nightclub, the Kid and his band, also known as the Revolution, were big rivals with Morris Day and his band The Time. The Kid had all kinds heavy, depressing, emotional issues to deal with at home. And there were doubts he’d ever realize his potential on the stage. Then, in one awesome night, he freaking belted out Purple Rain, I Would Die 4 U and then Let’s Go Crazy. And, as I’m sure you assumed, Let’s Go Crazy blew everything else out of the water. Oh and its awesome to dance to and the judges being of similar age to Mom and I will be unable to contain their smiles, enthusiasm and outright love for this song choice. BOOM!”

I was unpersuasive. They picked some song called Dance With Me Tonight by Olly Murs. Yeah, I never really heard of this guy either. And if he got in my car and starting singing the song right there in the passenger seat I not only still wouldn’t recognize it but I’d have to call 911 to report aggravated face punchisizing.

So there’s that.

Islands of Adventure

Mom and I went to Islands of Adventure at Disney about ten years ago. Haven’t been back there on our trips to Florida because the kids have been too small and they’d rather go to Disneyworld anyway. Now they’re too big for Disney. There is no appeal in the rides aimed at the 8 and under demographic. So we took them to Islands of Adventure. Word on the street is that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or as I call it – Asswarts – is the place to go. Everybody says the only thing more awesome than Harry Pottersville is having Helen Mirren in RED as your Grandma. At least that’s what my nephew said.

But before we made it Hogwarts we went on a few other rides. Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall, the Incredible Hulk roller coaster, Poseidon’s Fury, Flight of the Hippogriff and Jurassic Park. The only ride we had any sort of wait time was for Poseidon’s Fury which as it turned out was like the Chicago deep dish of cheesy attractions. My advice? Disney should gut it and put up some kind NFL themed ride.

vwThe wait for Harry Potter and Forbidden Journey was 90 minutes. My sister, Rye and I skipped it. Kinsey, Bailey, Mom and my nephew went on Flight of the Hippogriff instead. They said it was pretty fun. Rye and Kinz went on the Dragon Challenge. They said it was awesome. What isn’t awesome is the mass of humanity wedged into Harry Potter land. Now to be fair the set design is cool. The castle that contains the Forbidden Journey ride is really, really impressive. But, and I’m being as polite as I can here, that place is awful. Horrible. My sister took Bails and my nephew into the Honeydukes store and had to exit because it was like Vince Wilfork’s jersey in there. Some other place was selling freaking wands for $35. Wands. You know what I can buy for $35? Two cases of Miller Lite and an order of nachos. Didn’t take me long to make that calculation.

I admit I don’t have any interest in Harry Potter. Didn’t read the books, saw the first movie but none of the others. In fact, we only rented the first one out of some kind of popular culture guilt since we didn’t go see it in the theater. I’d rather watch Hot Tub Time Machine. HP is just not my thing. I understand it might be yours. I like the Walking Dead and World War Z. You may not. I like the NFL, you might like badminton or even soccer. I get that we could have divergent interests. Which might be why the congested nature of Asswarts made it even more unpleasant. I mean I’d rather have lunch with Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman-Shultz. In San Francisco. Surrounded by aging hippies throwing broccoli and pictures of Sid Bream sliding into home to beat the Pirates in Game 7 of the ’92 NLCS at me. You really have to like Harry Potter to be there.

Its possible, I suppose, that Disney really didn’t anticipate the popularity of this particular area of Islands of Adventure. Somebody needs to get ahold of the Asswarts city council or Board of Wizardry or something and get them to widen the streets. Create some more room. Because I don’t need to see any more Brits with skin paler than White-Out walking around in tank tops. And what’s the deal with the Brazilians? Do you guys go anywhere in groups smaller than 75? Don’t even ask me about the footwear decisions the Europeans make. Practicality and socks with your Nikes is evidently completely optional.

Regardless, it was fun. Glad we went. Despite the ticket prices…

So that’s a shark…

While we were down in Florida we headed over to the Gulf coast which is far superior to the Atlantic side. IMHO of course. Just saying. Went to Anna Maria Island again like we did two years ago. And had lunch at The Sandbar like we did two years. Had the fresh grouper tacos like we did two ago. All still good. We drove down to Lido Beach and stayed there a night. Once we settled into the room we headed to the beach. I realize this shouldn’t surprise me but Bails decided she needed to collect shells. All kids do this. But I think Bails thought she needed to collect all of them. Needless to say, the shells didn’t make the cut when it came time to pack our bags for the flight home.

Anyway, on the Gulf side people always warn you of sharks. More sharks on that side evidentally. Something about the warm waters. I’m not a shark nerd so all of that might be total crap. Doesn’t really matter to me since the locals all talk about the sharks and how you don’t swim at dusk or at night. Good enough for me. But while they talk about the sharks they don’t tell you about the sting rays. Yeah, so I’m about two steps into the water when Bails tells me I need to shuffle my feet when I walk.

What? Why?

Sting rays.

“Sting rays? Really? Do I need to look out for an aquatic T-Rex too?”

Then my older sister disgustedly looks at me and informs me that there was a sign as you walked onto the beach that lets us all know that there were sting rays in the area and that you needed to shuffle your feet when you walked into the water because it would alert the sting rays to your presence.

Okay, but what is going to alert me to their freaking presence? Pretty sure the sting rays aren’t going to give two craps if I show up. But I sure as hell would like to know if they’re around because sting rays aren’t on my afternoon itinerary. Anywhere. I checked. Twice. Plus the girls would probably find the most pissed off sting ray on this particular stretch of beach who by happenstance is exceptionally displeased with feet shuffling in his or her neighborhood.

But we managed to go the whole afternoon without seeing any sting rays. Can’t say the same for old dudes in speedos however.

WTF?

I’m not sure how else to describe this but old tan wrinkly hairy dudes should not wear speedos. Ever. And if you really must know, no one should wear a speedo. Olympic swimmers don’t even wear them anymore. If the International Olympic Committee could swing it, they’d strike them from all Olympic photographic history.

Anyway, we make it through the night despite having to wedge Bails onto two chairs so she could sleep. I just assumed we’d get her a couple extra blankets and have her sleep on the floor. But we get into the room and it has a tile floor. Doesn’t matter how much Bails likes to stay in hotel rooms, she ain’t sleeping on a tile floor. Worked out okay though. We get up the next morning to take a walk down the beach with the girls and we see this:

Shark Lido Beach

It’s a dead shark. Animal Control Guy pulls up in his pick up and says its probably a dead bull shark. Not sure how it died. So two things here:
1) Bull sharks are more likely to attack people in shallow water than any other shark.
2) Animal Control Guy’s uniform consisted of shorts and a cell phone. Yup. No shirts, no shoes, no hat, no badge, no nothing.

Beach patrol must be a tough gig.

Vacation to Florida

Traveling stresses me. Air travel even moreso. We got back from a week in Florida last week. We flew. Its not that I’m afraid of flying, its that I just don’t really like the lack of a convenient exit strategy. Or even a handy “in case of” strategy. You can’t just pull over if you want. Then you add the girls into the discussion and there’s a lot more stuff going on. Oh, and it turns out that Riley is more of an obsessive detail knower than I am during trips. She wanted to know flight departure and arrival times, time zone changes, flight duration, flight numbers, location of gates, types of snacks served on the plane, types of snacks we brought in our carry-on bags, could they have pop on the plane since its vacation, should she chew gum or just have a couple mints to help with the pressurization changes, which section of the plane normally survives a crash landing, what is the safety record for our type of aircraft, what do you do if you sit next to a weird person, where do you plug in your iPod during the flight. I’m sure there were other questions but it became difficult to keep up. All Bailey wanted to know was where the poop went if somebody needed to make a deposit at Browns National Bank during the flight.

Regardless, air travel accentuates my already worrisome nature vis-à-vis traveling. You literally you are just along for the ride. I realize for some people that’s the great part of flying. All you do is show up, be polite to the security folks and then just sit and ride for the rest of the trip. It’s easy. By the way, can someone please explain what is motivating factor for people who subscribe to the “a verbal middle finger to the TSA is the best way to navigate security” theory? Sometimes, in my opinion of course, you get exactly what you’re asking for. Just FYI.

We’ve all been through security enough now to understand mouthing off to the TSA is dumber than Nebraska hiring Bill Callahan. Dumber than putting your money on Rockwell being the next big breakout star of 1984. Dumber than European soccer fans.

Anyway, one of the things that creates a bit of anxiety for me is the fact that the packing procedures are different for air travel than road travel. Be advised that I’m a roadtrip packing professional. Not kidding. If there were car packing games on ESPN I’d be in them. And I’d be one of the favorites. I get upset when someone tries to help. Just take your bag – once its fully packed of course – out to the car and I’ll take care of it. Don’t place it into the vehicle. Don’t place it next to ready to be packed bags if its not ready to be packed. When we used to take Mom’s Pacifica down to the Ozarks my packing jobs were feat of engineering genius. Now I have a truck and as long as the bungee straps don’t break it doesn’t take quite as much planning. Sorta takes the fun out of it.

But air travel has federal rules. Not just my rules which if you ask the girls have sort of an elastic enforcement policy depending on my mood and the time of year. On flights you can only bring fluids, lotions, etc that are under 3.4 oz. Do you realize they don’t make my deodorant in a travel size? And it all has to go into a clear plastic Ziploc quart bag.

Now don’t misunderstand, once we arrive my folks house down in Florida I’m all about air travel. Cuttin a two day 20-plus hour car trip down to about 6 hours is a pretty good motivator to get over all my crap about flying. And this was the third time we’ve flown to Florida with the girls. And experience always helps. 2009 was the first time and it was oddly really fun. Nobody in the history of airports was as excited as the girls were to eat breakfast in the St. Louis airport. They still think its cool to eat in the airport. Seriously. Go ahead and ask them about the Quiznos in Minneapolis. Best damn Quiznos in the city.

But as luck would have it, our flights were uneventful. We were delayed 37 minutes on our initial departure flight because of FAA rules regarding crew flight time and rest. But we had a three hour layover in Atlanta anyway. Plus Delta checked our bags for free! Plane was full and nobody was checking bags so they offered to do it for free to get some folks to do it. Checked them all the way to Florida. Boom! Free bags! Other than our flight being oversold in Atlanta and me being annoyed by it, it went well too. Coming home our flight left Florida on time and arrived in Minneapolis a good 20 minutes early. Then our flight home was delayed about 20 minutes. Two things we were happy about because we only had a 40 minute connection time. So bonus I guess. Flight home was quick and smooth. Car started when we got in and the house didn’t burn down while we were gone.

But did I tell you we’re renovating both of our upstairs bathrooms? And the renovations started while we were gone…

Flag Day and Father’s Day

In case you missed it, and judging by the number of houses not displaying the Stars and Stripes you probably did, last Friday was Flag Day. If your first question upon reading this is “what flag?” someone, to be as blunt and honest as possible, needs to come by your desk at work and punch you in the face.

Anyway, I like flag day. I like displaying the flag. All kinds of flags. I have three different American flags. Really like the Betsy Ross flag. Also have my fall football Friday flag which is a very sharp cardinal and gold Cyclone flag. I am, however, a bit embarrassed to admit that I do not own a Steelers flag. So I’m sometimes flagless on Sunday. You’d be surprised at how difficult it is to find a simple gold or black flag with the Steelers logo on it. This flag either isn’t produced in large numbers or is so popular you can’t find it anywhere. Like Old Frothingslosh beer in Pittsburgh back in the 70’s. Or a Love Boat episode without Morgan Fairchild guest starring. Anyway, in addition to my affection for flying flags, I like to teach the girls about the flag. Which is why I was really, really proud of Kinsey.

Kinsey wrote an essay on the flag in May. Which, as you recall, is a month I missed and by the law of transference, missed learning about this essay until much later. Regardless, every 5th grader in the district wrote about what the flag means to them. She came running into our room during one of the last school nights of the year to tell Mom and I that she received a Top 10 award from the local American Legion for the essay. The award wasn’t a college scholarship unfortunately. Wasn’t even one of the sweet tiger-camo boonie hats. It was a certificate. Needless to say this award is a direct result of excellent parenting. Also my suspicions regarding the teaching of American history and government in the local public school district may be overblown. Or Kinz simply overcame the left wing indoctrination so rampant in teacher education programs at our major public universities and then perpetuated in the public school system.

But maybe that’s just me. A failure to articulate what the flag means to you is akin to living through the late 70’s and not remembering Ponch and Jon. Or Seven Mary Four and Seven Mary Three respectively.

Regardless, Kinz never was given the essay back yet so I haven’t been able to read it. Which means I don’t really know what she said. But I’m pretty sure it was awesome. It also makes me leery that the Pelosians may have conveniently disposed of the Top 10 essays so they wouldn’t influence other students and foil their neo-Marxist plan to program the next wave of mindless Obamabots.

Last Sunday was also Father’s Day. I’m sure you remembered. Interestingly, it doesn’t have a flag. Although if it did, it would almost undoubtedly be a flag of every Dad’s favorite NFL team. I suppose there are those of you who would choose to fly the flag of your favorite MLB team. Or NBA team. I guess hockey too. If you’re from the Confederacy, maybe NASCAR. But God help you if a Manchester United flag or some such crap was on the front of your house. Why don’t you just fly a flag with a picture of you spitting on a flag that says “Father’s Day?” Or a flag with Darth Vader wearing a cape emblazoned with the Soviet hammer & sickle while he smashes the Lombardi Trophy under his boot and shoots a bald eagle with an AK-47? It’s the same thing. And listen, while I understand not everybody watches youtube highlights of 1978 NFL Today shows and shares my deep appreciation of NFL history and how the sport is woven into the fabric of America itself, that doesn’t mean I accept that you don’t .

What? I’m not the one with the problem, you are.

The Year of Polamalu

Turned 43 last month. Which of course makes it the Year of Polamalu. Hopefully that means Troy stays healthy this year, turns back the hands of time, and looks like the old Troy from 2008. Conversely, it may also mean that life is simply disguising its blitz packages and at any moment a Somoan safety could come unexpectedly flying across my desk and give me a grade 17 concussion.

Anyway, people react in varying ways to their birthdays. Most, if not all, of your reaction is based on your new number. When you turn 21 its this:

When you turn 30 its this:

When you turn 40 its this:

43? Well, I’m not sure. It’s hard for me to believe I’m 43, even harder to come to grips with the fact that once it gets to about 8:30 at night I’m pretty much shutting it down, but I really just can’t fathom that Return of Jedi came out 30 years ago. I remember going to the theater with my buddies Greg and Dan and being as impressed then as I am now with Admiral Ackbar’s coolness under pressure. Still my favorite Star Wars movie. I know its cool and fashionable to say Empire is the best one but c’mon, nobody really enjoyed all that time Luke spent bromancing with Yoda. Other than that I don’t really remember all that much about turning 13. I do remember caring a lot about keeping my hair properly feathered. And that we treated the comb in our back pockets the way Riley treats her cellphone. Oh, and that the video for Chris DeBurgh’s Don’t Pay the Ferryman was weird, Markie Post was the hottest bail bondswoman on TV and the Pirates were still wearing these:
piratehat

1983 was a long time ago. And I feel bad for those of you who don’t remember it.

Anyway, I just realized last night that we don’t get a break from any of the kids’ activities this summer. Normally, July has a week or two free from the scourge of child transportation. Not so this year. The only breaks we get are when we’re “officially” on vacation. Riley will have summer dance crap into August while both Kinz and Bails are trying out for competitive tournament softball teams next week. So I kinda feel like every morning starts with “WTF?”

Anyway, favorite summer song from 1983:

I Missed May

So I missed May. Both on this blog and pretty much everywhere else. And I think that kinda sucks. My birthday is in May, it’s my second favorite month and the unofficial start of summer is contained within its boundaries. But, it turns out, EVERYONE else thinks May is so awesome that everything should be scheduled in it. People do the same thing in December to a certain degree. But in May we get dance recitals, dance performances, dance banquets, orchestra concerts, band concerts, chorus concerts, church picnics, softball games, softball tournaments, and the tremendous stress caused by the fact that all the girls are staying home this summer. Oh and May is the busiest time of year at work for me. And Mom was out of town for a full week. A week when I had to miss two of Kinsey’s softball tournament games. Which meant that I missed the game when she not only broke up a no-hitter but did with her best hit of the season. Somehow though I managed not to miss Bails spilling a container of glitter all over the kitchen floor. That stuff gets everywhere including the corners of her mouth. Bonus was that she looked really sparkly.

I’ve concluded that the other months conspired, out of a jealousness not seen since Ashton Main tried to get her brother-in-law captured and/or killed by Confederate troops because he rejected her in favor of her sister Brett in North and South, to bring down May’s approval ratings by putting so much stuff into the month that getting punched in the face by Clubber Lang would appear to be a welcome respite. I wouldn’t put it past February to have led this nefarious scheme either. Nobody likes February. It’s cold, has few advocates and without the recent addition of the Super Bowl, has nothing to offer. It’s the Eric Holder of months.

From May 3 until May 26 we didn’t have a single day unoccupied by some type of kid activity that required us to make multiple trips, commit multiple hours and get irritated multiple times due to logistical challenges. I understand this doesn’t make us special. It’s just makes us parents of three girls between 3rd and 7th grade. Most parents face similar issues. But WTF? From 4 p.m. on Monday, May 20 through 4 p.m. on Saturday the 25th we had 6 softball games/practices, 2 regularly scheduled dance classes, 2 dance recital rehearsals, 2 dance recitals and an orchestra concert. And these recital practices have elusive ending times. Mom barely beat me home and this was the week when I didn’t get home from work before 9 p.m. until Thursday.

Surprisingly, that week did not include Kinsey’s 11 day stretch when she played or practiced softball every day. But that also included her 10U team winning its bracket in their most recent tournament and her rec league team winning the third place game. She has two brand new medals. She’s very proud. Her 10U team won the championship when our pitcher struck out the batter on four pitches. Pretty cool. But cooler when the tying run was at third and the winning run at second. Oh and the pitcher showed up just before gametime from her baton twirling recital in full makeup with sparkly eye stuff and everything. Welcome to 10U softball…

Depending on how things fall this weekend, we could end up playing 4 games in one day. So it’s kind of a win/win. If they do well, they keep playing. If they lose, we get to come home. Tough to be angry about either outcome. As long Kinz makes contact at the plate. That’s her definition of a successful at-bat. Not a hit, not a walk, not a sac fly, not even a hit-by-pitch. Contact. Could even be a crappy foul down the 3rd base line. But its contact. The ride home from games when she strikes out without hitting the ball is awful. Horrible. Like being forced to watch every episode of After MASH. Kinz wears her emotions on her sleeve and tends to tear up and/or cry when things don’t go her way or she feels she’s disappointed the team. Mom and I find this unacceptable and after many, many attempts to change this behavior…Mom finally reached the breaking point.

Before the day Kinsey’s team went 3-0 and won their bracket, I had her practicing off the tee. I put the tee up to armpit level which forces her to keep her hands high and hit line drives instead of dropping her hands and popping everything up. Well, Mom and I have different coaching strategies. Mom offers alot of feedback on everything while I’m a bit more selective. Anyway, Kinz started whining while hitting off the tee in front of Mom. The whining led to tears which led to crying. It was a lot like Britain signing a mutual defense pact with France and Poland in 1939. One thing led to another until Stukas are chasing your backside out of Dunkirk and Mom is dragging you by one arm away from the tee and up the stairs into your room where both Mom and Dad chew you out for crying and being a wuss.

Sometimes the only option is actual force. Not a show of force but actual operational action. Often times there are casualties. One of them was Kinsey’s wussiness. She hasn’t cried since. We could tell she wanted to a few times but she’s held off. So far. Mission accomplished, I guess.

Hey so its summer and here’s one of my favorite summer songs of all time. ELO. 1979 baby. Jeff Lynne’s white man fro and beard. Flashing neon hot dog. And bassist Kelly Groucutt’s fu Manchu. Tell me you don’t want that fu Manchu. It’s so awesome it should be mentioned in the liner notes as a member of the band.

The Fine Arts Dinner

What could be better than going to the Fine Arts Dinner at the local elementary school for three hours on one of the first Fridays of the spring with awesome weather? How about Mom bidding $50 over the minimum bid on the most expensive item in the silent action? It was a painting. By the kids. That is now hanging above our mantle. Here’s a pic:

DSC02322

Looks very 70’s to me. Anyway, the Fine Arts Dinner last Friday entailed dinner and performances by the students. And – bonus – we were in the gym. The dinner consisted of pork and chicken along with dinner rolls, a salad, and some other stuff I don’t remember. Oh, and homemade cake pops. The pork was surprisingly good. The chicken was expectedly dry. Salad? Good. Cakepops? Awesome. Bails had four.

After dinner we were treated to selected songs from the school’s production of Grease. I thought this was fairly brave. Not on our part for listening but on the teacher’s part for having a whole boatload of 5th and 6th graders take on Grease. The girls came home after the initial performance and said they loved it! So much that they wanted to go out and rent Grease so they could watch the movie. I figured nearly all of the sexual innuendo would go over their heads but what really surprised me was that they hadn’t already seen it. I mean hasn’t everybody pretty much seen it? I was just 8 when I saw it back in the summer of ’78 when it originally came out. Completely warped my idea of what high school was going to be like until I watched Porky’s. Which again skewed my theories on how my high school years would unfold. Until finally I saw Sixteen Candles and Red Dawn which got it all straightened out. Notwithstanding my expectations for the years in between and including 1984 and 1988, I guess it shouldn’t come as all that much of a revelation that someone has not seen Grease. I recently learned that there are actual Americans roaming this great nation of ours that have never seen Star Wars. I’m completely serious.

How do you go through childhood without the Empire and the Rebellion as reference points? Without Luke, Darth Vader and Han Solo anchoring your definitions of good, evil and smartassery?

But then again I just had a conversation at work with some early 30-somethings about who Tony Manero and Sonny Crockett are. Or were, I guess. They, and I’m not exaggerating, had no idea. None. I had to say “Don Johnson” to even get a nod of recognition. Rico Tubbs? Blank stares. Rick and AJ? Nothing. Carmine Ragusa…aka The Big Ragoo? Crickets. Joanie loving Chachi? The Regal Beagal? TJ Freaking Hooker!? It’s like I was talking to an empty depressing wasteland. A wilderness void of any knowledge gathered from the Carter and Reagan administrations.

Regardless of the alarmingly high rate of Gen Y idiocy at my place of employment, it didn’t change the fact that I spent my Friday evening at an elementary school watching 11 year-olds sing “Summer Loving” and “Beauty School Drop Out.” To be completely honest, the kids did a great job. Far better than I could have done. I mean if I had the guts to actually sing in front of people about girls when I was 11.

The girl who sang “Beauty School Drop Out” really could sing. Afterwards, we were treated to performances by the orchestra and the band. The 6th grade orchestra, the 5th and 6th grade orchestra, the 6th grade band, the 5th and 6th grade band, the school’s chorus and then there was the well-meaning teacher who felt the need to fill the time between performances with comments. Well, they are probably more accurately described as annotations. Because every 5th and 6th grade musical needs footnotes. To be as polite as possible, they were unnecessary. Like anything said by Joe Biden. I mean all you have to do is introduce who is performing. Done. We don’t need backstory. I’m already trying to follow the 2nd round of the NFL Draft on my phone and I want to avoid distractions. Robert Woods and Kevin Minter both went off the board before the Steelers picked. So I was thinking they might take Keenan Allen or even reach for Jonathan Franklin. Proving once again that the Steelers are smarter than me, they took LeVeon Bell! Great pick. Sadly though Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore is a freaking draft genius. Dude just keeps making the Ravens better.

Being at the school was a distinct change from where I watched the last half of the First Round of the Draft however. Have you ever been to Twin Peaks? It’s a restaurant. They market their “Eats, drinks and scenic views.” The scenic views are the wait staff and bartenders who wear really short shorts and what is essentially a bikini top with a lumberjack pattern. Or the same pattern Lamar Alexander wore during his failed 1996 bid for the GOP presidential nomination. And their beer is chilled to 29 degrees. So its really cold. However, and I’m just spitballin’ here, I don’t think anybody is going to Twin Peaks for the coldness of the beer. But when you pretty much leave the location determination to two of the single guys in the league, this is where you end up.

So here’s the thing. I’m married with three daughters. Which means I’m living with four women. In college that would have been freaking awesome. Now? Not so much. I don’t really have a bathroom and nobody shares my appreciation for Fletch quotes. Now you add girls in their late teens and early to mid 20’s barely dressed. Me in college would have thought this was the best damn Friday night ever. Now? Its just dudes in their mid-40’s flirting and taking pics with girls in their late teens and early to mid 20’s. Tad bit creepy.

I also was told that the hostess was too young to serve alcohol which meant she was probably 17. My oldest daughter is 13. I’ve often said perspective is a wonderful teacher. And my perspective is that I am mentally unprepared for teenage girls. Mostly because I remember being a teenage boy.

Which brings me back to the Fine Arts Dinner. As I’ve become an adult, a husband and a father I’ve learned, often the hard way, that lapsing back into being a teenage boy becomes less acceptable. Not everyone thinks farts are funny, the versatile uses for the f-bomb aren’t appropriate and selfishness is regarded as you being an a-hole not simply part of the maturation process. As they are doing the silent auction, it became apparent that these fine educators had never done a silent auction or anything remotely related to one in any way. So it took far longer than it needed to take. While I’m standing there holding a couple music books, my phone displaying what is now the 3rd round of the NFL Draft and a violin, I keenly observed, in a totally self-congratulatory kind of way, that I’m am so much better at being a grown-up than I used to be. Back my late 20’s this kind of thing would have led to an impressive display of self-absorption and annoyance. I actually said, “Hey, I am way better at this stuff than I used to be. If this was 1999 I would be bitching up a freaking super storm.”

Instead I write this blog.

In the interest of full disclosure, teenage me, college me and Dad me do share at least one thing in common. Miller Lite. After getting back from the dinner, my neighbor is in his garage repainting his cabinet doors. He’s pretty handy and far more ambitious than myself. He asks how the dinner went. I respond by walking up his driveway, past the him and his cabinet doors, right to the fridge in his garage. It was then when I decided to liberate several Miller Lites from said fridge.

Rest of the night went pretty well.