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…

Advertisements

Independence Day 2014

The 4th of July, as holiday rankings go, is a pretty solid third for me. Thanksgiving and Christmas are 1 and 2 respectively. Although I gotta admit that it’s a pretty tight race for that top spot. It’s like deciding your favorite Def Leppard song. Photograph or Armageddon It? Tough call. Regardless, I think I’ve landed pretty squarely on Independence Day as my number 3. There was a spirited debate between The 4th and Halloween but in the end, grilled burgers, cold beers and high explosives won out. I am American after all. Plus I get to lecture everybody else about the glaring lack of patriotism on their houses as nearly everyone fails to display Old Glory. C’mon man, at the very least, pretend for one day, you have at least a conversational grasp of American history and traditions and hang the freaking Stars and Stripes out front. You can borrow one of my flags. I have three. A Gadsden Flag featuring the Don’t Tread on Me symbol depicting a rattlesnake. A rattlesnake, according to Benjamin Franklin, was a good symbol for America since America “never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders.” The Betsy Ross Flag displaying the thirteen stars arranged in a circle. This is my favorite. And I have our current edition with 50 stars. Although I don’t think anybody would be that upset if we reduced it to 49 and let Illinois leave the union. I’m embarrassed to say I spent a good deal of my youth growing up in America’s most corrupt state. I feel bad for the all the folks in the Land of Lincoln not from Cook County yet have to deal with the waste from Rahm and Springfield.

Anyway, Independence Day, like most holidays is about traditions. This one just happens to be about America. And summer. Tough to extricate summer from the 4th. I’m writing this on the morning of our nation’s birthday and I’ve already heard firecrackers off in the distance. It won’t be long before I start smelling the sweet, sweet intoxicating aroma of grilled meat. Is there anything more 4th of July than Americans untrained in the use of explosives and gunpowder blowing stuff up while smoke from a grill rolls across the neighborhood backyards? I can still remember my Dad pulling the grill out onto the driveway, swearing at the charcoal as it failed to light and then running with my friends across the backyards of our neighbors as we nearly lost our minds in anticipation of fireworks. I still am somewhat befuddled by the anticipation and excitement for fireworks. I mean, for kids, anticipation and Christmas morning go together like the Obama administration and learning about scandals on the news just like the rest of us. That was sarcasm by the way. Regardless, Americans have been getting together for neighborhood parties since, well, since Lexington and Concord. Difference is back then the British showed up wearing the wrong colors for the party so a bunch of guys, fresh from the local tavern, walked out to meet them. After realizing they were outnumbered the Americans, as Americans sometimes do, talked some smack, flexed their guns and let them know in pointed terms to get the hell off our lawn. Also that taxes sucked. Especially when the money paid went to people who didn’t pay any taxes. Hey, wait a minute…

Anyway, the British, being the heavy favorites according to Vegas odds and not wanting to deal with all their jerkoff bosses back in Boston if they came home with a loss, decided these drunk, small town, animal skin wearing, Kid Rock looking hicks needed to be shown a lesson in manners and professional military combat maneuvers. And, after the typical back and forth jawing often seen at tailgate parties, Thanksgiving dinner and shows hosted by Bill O’Reilly…somebody decided to pop off a round. It was likely preceeded by the following statement, “Dude, hold this, I’m gonna try something.”

Upholding that tradition today are Americans at countless July 4th parties who, after a few cans of Sam Adams, pop off a strategically placed cuss words followed by some firecrackers and finally ending with an argument over whose fans are worse – the Red Sox or Yankees.

Today we show up with a cooler, our tailgate chairs and some deviled eggs and breakdown the top summer songs of the 80’s and early 90’s, discuss the inevitable disappointing exit from the 2014 NFL playoffs by the Peyton Manning led Broncos and the astounding level of douchiness shown by Harry Reid. This guy is like JR Ewing and Mr. Burns rolled together. We punctuate our arguments with f-bombs, our own renditions of Axl Rose’s slither dance and which beer, Miller Lite or Bud Light, really is the unofficial neighborhood get together beer. So its just like Lexington and Concord except nobody has muskets. I mean folks are drinking, talking smack, somebody shows up and causes a problem and the night ends with explosions and the smell of gunpowder. Nothing has really changed. I mean if you go ahead and forget all the unrelenting damage caused by the domestic policies of Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Obama.

And since I know you’re wondering about this – My thoughts on the topic of top summertime songs of the 80’s and early 90’s? Far, far too detailed to summarize here but, in no particular order, here’s a very short sampling of my favorites:

Midnight Blue
Technically not a summertime hit as it peaked at #5 on the charts in February of ’87. But I remember listening to it A LOT in the summer of ’87. So suck it real world timeline.

Summertime
Upon seeing this video for the first time our 14 year old daughter uttered, “Will Smith was a singer?”

Tainted Love
Nothing, absolutely nothing says summer 1982 like this song. I think their was some sort of suburban pool rule that said you had to hear this song at least once while swimming.

That’s a Dinger

We are now 3 and a-half weeks into summer vacation. Not gonna lie. It has been awesome. Mostly because there is no homework for the girls to do. Don’t feel guilty at all about saying that. Mom and I needed a break too. And a roughly 11 week break sounds about right.

Girls have been busy. Bails built this:

BunnyTrap

If you can’t tell from the sign that says “For Bunnies Only,” it’s a bunny trap. Here’s to hoping the literacy programs are better run than IT department at the IRS.

Bails won the Golden Bone award the last week of school. The award is given to all the 4th graders who correctly identify all the human bones on the skeleton test. In actuality it’s a dog bone painted gold. I told her good job. Her response?

“Dad, some people are good looking. Some people are awesome. I just happen to be both.”

“You don’t lack in confidence Bails.”

“That’s just the way I am man.”

The period of time between May 9 and July 6 encompasses nine weekends. We have softball tournaments on eight of them. Just two left however. Oh and Rye has dance three mornings a week and four evenings a week through the 4th of July. And we have softball practices in there a few times a week. And Bails was in this orchestra camp for the last two weeks. Scheduled right in the middle of the morning for the convenience of working parents. If you are searching for the word to describe this, its “stupid.”

Truth be told I’ve really started to enjoy the softball tournaments. Granted it’s a helluva lot easier when Bails hits a homer. Seriously. It was like a combination of Roy Hobbs and the 1978 version of Dave Parker. Except it didn’t clear the fence and there weren’t any sparks falling from the sky.

Gotta admit it was pretty sweet. Bails is not an imposing figure at the plate. The opposing coach never waves his outfielders back when she’s in the box instead a bunt warning is almost always issued. Yes, Bails is built like a pencil and no, she has not been blessed a great deal of height. But its not like she’s a stick figure walking up there. And most of these teams do not have extensive scouting reports. Notice I said “most” because after having spent some time around youth coaches, you realize that even though its 10U softball, some of them do have detailed scouting reports and advanced metrics.

Anyway, she hit the ball into the gap between two outfielders. The ground was pretty hard so when it landed and took a bounce it just took off and rolled to the fence. The complex we were at did a poor job of watering the fields so every time the wind kicked up, which was about every 14 seconds, it was like Maverick and Goose hitting the afterburners creating straight line winds in excess of 70 mph. At one point both the batter and catcher disappeared from view. Like Flight 19 back in 1945. But that meant we had some help from the wind too. As soon as I see the ball headed to the outfield, Mom and I are up yelling “Go 2! Go 2!” then we realize that she’s got a triple easy so we’re yelling “Go 3! Go 3!” She looked like she expected to be held at third but her coach sent her home. One time last fall she hit a liner past the shortstop and aided by a few fielding and throwing errors she came running into third at which point her coach gave her the hold up sign. But it was about 95 degrees that day and all we needed was one run to win the game. So she took it upon herself to just run home. Scored in a cloud of dust. Afterwards when I asked why she ran through the stop sign the coach, she told me “Dad, it’s really hot out here and coach said we could get ice cream if we won.” Good enough. This time she actually had permission to go home. And she didn’t even have to slide. Coolest thing was it wasn’t aided by a bunch of errors. She just beat the throw. Didn’t even realize she was safe until her team mobbed her on the way back to the dugout. Then the next time she’s up I notice something for the first time…the opposing coach telling his outfielders to back up. Damn right I was smiling.

The Final Days

Many days are cause for celebration. NFL kickoff Sunday for example. Admittedly diluted by Goodell and his Thursday night double header to start the season. July 4th always has a certain magical anticipation throughout the day. Also any day that I’m planning on getting nachos at Rock Bottom. And the last day of school. Which was Wednesday. The girls are excited. But their excitement pales, PALES in comparison to my own excitement. There no longer is homework to check, slips to sign, emails to read or logistics to manage. Okay, that last part is a huge load of crap. Transportation and logistics are still going to suck. Despite my inner voice telling me I should let the girls laze around the house all summer, Mom and I ignored that voice and signed them up for a boatload of stuff. Still doesn’t take away from our joy regarding the last day. I mean yes, we still have to go to work instead of sitting around until 10:00 watching Battle of the Planets and Tom & Jerry eating Cheerios. Which I didn’t mind doing when I was 10. But in the name of all that is holy, this last two weeks of school was absolutely killing us. Beating us down mentally and physically. Like the ’89 Pistons. End of the year projects for Kinz and Bails came at us like Mahorn defending the rim. Softball and dance plowed into us like Rodman patrolling the boards.

What is the freaking deal with projects being due the last seven days of school? C’mon man. The kids are already checked out. You hit that weekend after Mother’s Day and that’s it. You can’t really expect their best effort after that. Kinda like if you dropped by your neighbor’s house and he offered you a Schlitz. C’mon man, yes, it’s the beer that made Milwaukee famous but nobody still believes that when you’re your out of Schlitz you’re out of beer and seriously, nobody ever really went for the gusto when they grabbed a Schiltz. They probably went for the bathroom and grabbed the toilet with both hands. Which raises a question. How in the hell does Pabst Brewing stay in business? When you produce Schlitz, Old Style, Old Milwaukee, Olympia, Strohs and PBR aren’t you really just asking to have bankruptcy attorneys on staff? Geez, why don’t you just go ahead and revive Dubuque Star and Red, White & Blue?

Regardless, we had to supervise, cajole and sometimes threaten the girls into completing:

1-A project for Bails on Career Day. Project #1 involved Career Day. She came with me to work. And it really cannot be overstated how excited she was. Which is was cool but also a bit perplexing. I’ve been going to work for about 22 years and I’ve never been this excited. Part of the excitement likely had something to do with us stopping to get donuts and cookies for the office. And that fact that she was allowed to bring Mom’s Kindle with her. Also that I have a TV in my office and I told her that she’d probably get to watch some TV during the day. Here’s a pic of her walking up a really big staircase.

DSC02556

But her project was to bring back at least four “artifacts” from her visit along with several pictures adorned with captions describing said pictures. She also conducted an interview with me. The artifacts and pictures were to be placed on a gigantic poster board which eventually required me asking my neighbor to use his Tahoe Suburban to drive her to school with Kinz and his own kids. Not kidding. But she spent most of her Memorial Day weekend muscling her way through this. It took about 5 or 6 hours to complete mostly due to her inability to stay still. For some reason Bails decided to complete this project along with project #2 concurrently. So she’d move from the kitchen table after working on Project #2 to the family room floor and attach some pictures and write some captions on her gigantic poster for Career Day. And maybe this happens in your house too but what the hell is the deal with kids doing projects in an area of the house limits your mobility to walk from room to room? At one point I could not get to the couch in the family because of the poster, construction paper and sharpies all over the floor.

2-A one page letter Bails had to write pretending she was a character in a book she recently read. The objective was to write a letter as that character and send it to another character in the book. Not totally sure of the objective. Likely something to irritate parents. Or possibly something about putting yourself into somebody else’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective. Or I just made that up because getting Bails to write it was like getting Princess Leia to admit she had feelings for Han while they were stationed on the ice planet of Hoth.

3-A State’s Fair project for Bails. Every year the 4th graders hold a State’s Fair. They make…wait for it…gigantic posters detailing important facts and information about the state of their choosing. Four years ago Rye chose Missouri and renamed it “The Awesome State.” Not sure if that ever went to popular referendum. Two years ago Kinz chose California and I made sure a picture of Ronald Reagan made it onto the poster. Bails chose Idaho. She wanted Pennslyvania since I lived there back in the 70’s but the kid right before her picked it so she went with Idaho. Not sure why. We’ve never been there. When I inquired as to her reasoning she let me know that Idaho has a weird shape so she went with it. Good enough. But neither her nor I knew anything about Idaho other than they grow a lot of potatoes and Sun Valley is evidently a popular resort. Turns out fishing is a big deal up there, huckleberries are native to the mountainous areas of northern Idaho and it was the 43rd state. She also decided she wanted to bring a snack of Idaho food to people to try. Naturally her choice was french fries. Excellent decision. Except for the fact we had no way to keep them warm. Which also meant we had no way to prevent them from becoming cold and soggy. So, since huckleberries are native to the mountainous areas of northern Idaho, she went with that.

Did you know that huckleberry products are not widely available in supermarkets?

Eventually we found huckleberry fruit curd at Whole Foods. Bails said it tasted like sweet and sour sauce. I took her word for it.

4-A World’s Fair project for Kinz. She chose Poland. Everybody in the house, except for Mom, is Polish. I’m half Polish. The girls are a quarter Polish. I detailed my feelings about this before back in May 2012. We think Polish is the largest nationality, by percentage, they possess. I say “think” because Mom has no real idea what her nationalities really are. We’re fairly certain she’s German. She also suspects she has a bit of English heritage. Maybe Scottish, not really sure. Two years ago Rye chose England and we made some English cookies or some such crap. This year Kinz insisted on bringing something Polish. Mom and I in turn insisted we were not going to cook, bake or make anything. So if you’re not going to grill some kielbasa or make some pierogi’s, what the hell is left? Lucky for us poppy seed cakes and rolls are a traditional Polish dessert. We bought some poppy seed muffins, cut them into bite sized pieces and called it good. Polish-American ingenuity.

5-An inordinate and totally inappropriate, at least in Rye’s eyes, amount of homework regarding the Civil War and its causes.

Truth be told, I was kinda excited about Rye having Civil War homework. You know how many people I can talk about the Civil War in our house? Zero. Or some number less than that. Let’s also remember that this is homework Rye believes is completely unacceptable due to its timing during the school year. But more infuriating is the absolute indifference she shows towards the Civil War era of our nation’s history.

“Dad do you know anything about the Compromise of 1850?”

“Yes.”

“Awesome how did the Compromise of 1850, Bleeding Kansas and the Dred Scott decision help the common man?”

“What? That’s the question you have to answer?”

She said something in response at this point but all I was able to make out was a long sustained whining noise. Finally I couldn’t take it.

“Good Lord Rye, literally right behind you on that table is The Patriot’s History of the United States. Contained within its pages are historical facts. At the back is this thing called the index.”

But I couldn’t take it and looked it up the stuff myself. Yes, I should have had her do it. But I reached that place where parents find themselves at various points during their parenting days. That place is found at the intersection of Just Go Away Drive and Please Stop Whining Street.

But she finished. As did the school year. They have two days of summer vacation in the books so far. And yes, they are already bored…

Somehow this involves Bob Seger

So this is the busiest time of the year for Mom and I. My job just gets stupid with the lack of a definable schedule and the girls’ activities get crazier than Biden at a Daughters of the American Revolution mixer. Got home from work around 11 last Tuesday night and then Wednesday I found myself driving back and forth on the same stretch of pavement three times within 90 minutes. Two girls at church, one girl at softball and one city cop running radar. He didn’t get me. But I felt like I should have been waving the last time I passed him humming The Last Mile by Cinderella to myself. Things could be worse though. I could have made fun of Mitt Romney and his claims that Russia is our greatest geopolitical foe in a 2012 presidential debate and laughed heartily with the media sheep when I jabbed him with a one-liner about how 1980’s called and wanted their foreign policy back. That would really suck if I did that and then found myself getting outmaneuvered and verbally punched in the face by Putin on a daily basis. Anyway, Kinz had to be picked up from softball at 7:00. Bails had to be picked up from church at 7:30. And Rye had to be picked up from the same church at roughly 8:00.

The sucky part was that each trip is about 10 minutes. Short enough that I could get each one of them home before heading back out to get the next. Well, you’re snootily thinking to yourself, if the church and softball fields are so close why don’t you just pick up Kinz from the fields, then head over to church and get Bails and then hang out and get churched up a bit while waiting for Rye to be done?

Sounds reasonable. If you’re dumb. And your kids all get along swimmingly instead of being total jerks to each other. You’re saying c’mon, all that driving back and forth is a waste of gas and it’s bad for the environment. Oh, is it? Hmm, really? You know what else is bad for the environment? The fallout from a nuclear freaking eruption. Because that’s what was coming if I had to deal with the girls unprovoked fights with other in that absolutely maddening teenagerly girlish method of jerkiness. Especially after a day when I had to work until 10:30. At night. I mean the uneccessary levels of fight picking are astounding. Like the levels of cheesiness from Kip Winger in the Can’t Get Enuff video.

Plus, and those of you with experience will back me up on this, any benefit gained from getting to spend some one on one time with the girls whilst driving them back and forth pales in comparison to the peace achieved by staggering their bathroom/shower times. Don’t underestimate this. The harmony achieved by doing this is stunning. Like Reagan and Gorbachev at Reykjavik in ’86.

So it was tough to decide if the one on one time with the girls or the peace and tranquility was better. It was a difficult debate. Like trying to pick a top 3 for Bob Seger. Night Moves, Even Now, You’ll Accompany Me, Against the Wind…wait crap that’s four and I haven’t even mentioned Hollywood Nights, Main Street or Fire Inside. Dammit. Or tyring to decide who has a better moustache between Seger or Sam Elliot. Or who is a better story teller – Seger or Billy Joel. Irrespective of all of that, I’m hoping my schedule is a bit more conducive to patience this week. We’ll see…

Okinawa and our Basement

So we’re sitting on the couch in the family room watching The Goldberg’s on Tuesday night. Once again, the show was hilarious. Amazing how they nail it every single time. But while we’re enjoying the show a skinny blond 4th grader appears behind us. And she’s in tears. Sobbing. The kind of sobbing that is so powerful she can’t really form words without inadvertent snorts and the signs of hyperventilation occurring.

“I keep ruining everything!”

Now regardless of what is happening at the moment in time when you hear this, you are not expecting the result to be positive. All that you’re wondering is whether you’re going to be unhappy or pissed off when you find out what it is that has occurred to elicit this statement. I mean it is a 4th grader that uttered the words. She could have torn her favorite pajama pants. She could have let all her sharpie markers dry out by not securing the caps after the last use. Really, the words about ruining everything, and the volume at which they are spoken, are not themselves cause for rage.

magnumBut there are times throughout our lives when our mettle is tested. It happened to the marines in Hue back in ’68. It happened to the Steelers on that cold December day just before Christmas in ’72. It happened to Magnum in ’82 when he was forced to kill Ivan to prevent him triggering more Communist sleeper agents in the U.S. And it happened to Mom and I on Tuesday night.

“Bails, what are you talking about?”

“I was painting my toenails and…”

If you have girls, never in the history of parenting has anything that combined hysterical sobbing and a reference to toenail painting ever ended in something awesome. NEVER. No 4th grade girl has ever said while sobbing, “Dad I was painting my toenails and I remembered that you got a phone call last night from Bruce Willis, Lynn Swann and Paul Ryan. They wanted you to go lunch with them and maybe hang out afterwards.” That has never happened.

You know what does happen when a sobbing 4th grader tells you she was painting her toenails? You voice, in rising alarm, the following sentence:

“WHERE WERE YOU DOING THIS!?!?!?!?!”

The answer you’re looking for involves the phrase, “on top of a plastic tarp.” Instead we hear this:

“In the basement and…”

Quickness, turns out, is highly influenced by circumstances. Also turns out purple nail polish does not blend into the sandy colored carpet in our basement. What purple nail polish does do however is form itself into a stain roughly the shape of Okinawa. On a smaller scale of course.

Other relevant facts to this situation include the fact that during the fall Bails decided to paint her fingernails on the kitchen table. The only thing between the kitchen table and the nail polish was a single sheet of newspaper. Turns out newspaper is powerless against the destructive chemical agents present in Fuchsia Shock. Other things that yield to the power of nail polish? The finish on our kitchen table.

So, learning from that mistake and what was sternly explained to her, Bails decides that painting her nails on the brand new family room coffee table this winter is a better idea. Now in possession of the information regarding the uselessness of newspaper to defend against the muscle of finger nail centric cosmetics, she figured that a single paper towel would do the trick.

It didn’t.

Lucky for her I happened to walk into the family room at almost the exact instant she realized that some polish had found its way onto the paper towel and had begun the devastating process of literally eating its way through the paper towel, the coffee table’s finish, the coffee table itself, the first floor of our house and likely all the way to China. As a reminder we have a very small remnant of the aforementioned paper towel still stubbornly clinging to the coffee table. Damn thing is like the Congressional Dems insisting the IRS and Lois Lerner didn’t target conservative groups.

All of this is going through my mind as I look at the purple map of Okinawa on our basement carpet. So here are some things that don’t help remove nail polish from carpet. Swearing. It doesn’t help. I tested it. Repeatedly. Intuitively you think it should. But its just one of those weird things that just doesn’t do the things you hoped it would. Crying also doesn’t help. Bails tested it. A lot. Saying “This is the THIRD FREAKING TIME!” over and over again while increasing your volume doesn’t help. Also not helpful is your 6th grader sitting on the couch watching TV while all of this happens. Seriously. She claimed ignorance. Didn’t see the spill, didn’t see the botched clean-up effort from Bails, barely noticed she left the room in tears.

Turns out, thanks to the internet, I learned rubbing alcohol is helpful. Once I got to the stain and tested the swearing theory I ran back up the stairs, grabbled my laptop and googled “removing nail polish from carpet.”

Supplies needed: paper towels, sponge, rubbing alcohol. Also clearly outlined was the need to act quickly. You soak up any excess polish by dabbing, not rubbing, the carpet strands with the paper towel. Then you put some rubbing alcohol on the sponge and slowly and patiently dab the carpet until the stain is removed – providing you acted quickly enough in the first place. Then when the stain is no longer visible, you use paper towel to soak up any excess rubbing alcohol. Lastly you consume alcohol in beer form to celebrate your victory. I added that last part.

So it turns out getting nail polish out of carpet isn’t impossible. Who knew?

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…

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…

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…

Mom’s Back Today

Mom’s been gone since Thursday afternoon. The 2014 National Dance Team Championships were in Orlando this weekend. What? You didn’t hear? Scheduling it on Super Bowl weekend proves once and for all the entire dance industry is run by the scheduling impaired/adverse. Anyway, Mom went down with Rye. That means I’ve been home with Kinz and Bails since then continually wondering why we’re paying for a trip to Orlando for a dance competition for an 8th grader. It’s not like the competition is populated with college scouts determining who is going on the scholarship offer list. But whatever.

Here’s kinda what’s gone down in our ‘hood since Mom left.

Thursday:
I take the girls to dance as I do every Thursday. Except this particular Thursday their 86 year-old dance teacher kinda had it with some of the shenanigans displayed by them and their classmates. Seriously, their teacher is 86. Or 80 something. I don’t really know. But she remembers Pearl Harbor and might’ve dated Bronko Nagurski from the ’23 Bears. And she has ups. Not kidding. I’ve seen her catch actual air. I know some 46 year-olds who can’t jump anymore. She also has that freaky superhero dancer balance. Oh and a reminder…she’s 86. Time to put down the Cheetos and get your arse in shape because there’s an 86 year-old who, if she needed to, could Chuck Norris roundhouse kick your arse. Anyway, she laid some of that old school discipline down on the class.

We went directly from dance to Bails’ 4th grade orchestra concert. That means once again we have the in-car wardrobe change. But the girls have done this so often that its really not a big deal anymore. What is a big deal is that I remember to bring snacks. Strawberry Nutrigrain bars, pretzels and water. Check.

We arrive at the concert on time. Good job outta me on the logistics. As Kinz and I are sitting in the stands we scan the floor of the gym for Bails. We find her in a row with all her buddies. Weird thing is that while they all have instruments, Bails does not. How sure was I that she walked into the concert with her viola in its case? Pretty darn. Also pretty sure that it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that she has somehow lost track of its whereabouts during her journey from the front door to backstage to the gym floor. Adding to the intrigue is that she made at least three trips from her seat to the backstage door emerging from the door each time without an instrument until, with just minutes to spare before the start of the concert, she finally heads back to her seat with the viola.

Concert was your typical 4th grade orchestra concert. Although afterwards, Bails told me that she didn’t know one of the song. At all. They had practiced it for the first time Thursday morning. I told her you couldn’t tell. To which she responded, “well I was hoping everybody else knew the song and I could just fake it.” Sound strategy. Cliff Stoudt did for the entire 1983 season as the Steelers quarterback.

Friday:
After school the girls convinced me to take them to see Frozen. I agree with certain stipulations. 1) I get to go to the hat store. 2) We’re going to eat dinner somewhere that costs less than $15. 3) I’m not going to Claire’s to look at crappy trinkets.

I almost recorded a blowout win. Ended up having to set foot in Justice. But after having been inside the same Justice during Christmas shopping season, this went smoother than a Glen Rice jumper during the ’89 Tourney. At one point we were the only three people in the store. It was glorious. Didn’t find a hat but did eat at Subway for just under $14. Boom.

Frozen was pretty good…if you’re a girl under the age of 12. But it was fun hanging out with Kinz and Bails. And I ate a giant tub of popcorn. It was good. I have no regrets.

Saturday:
Went out to breakfast and enjoyed the greatest of all breakfast dishes. The breakfast sandwich. Cheese, ham, eggs, English muffin. Mmm… I let the girls have Diet Coke for breakfast. It was as if I cured cancer, found Amelia Earhardt and went back in time to strike out Francisco Cabrera in Game 7 of the ’92 NLCS to win the pennant for the Pirates. We didn’t do much else the rest of the day. Bails had softball practice at this cool indoor facility. Oh and I’m the proud owner of $150 in new softball bats. New bat standards for 2014 so you can only use bats with the official insignia clearly displayed. Pretty surethe USSSA and the bat manufacturers are cahooting.

Sunday:
Didn’t have to get up early because we went to church Saturday evening so all I had to Sunday morning and was wake up and read the paper. Oh and watch Bails eat a whole bag of donuts. Whole bag of Little Debbie Glazed mini-donuts. Don’t get me wrong, if you are going to eat a whole bag of something, you could do worse. Those cheeseburger potato chips for example. Seriously though, that’s a lot of donuts for someone who is built like a pencil.

Went to the gym while the girls went to softball camp and received 90 minutes of hitting instruction from the local high school coaching staff/varsity players. They loved it. Hopefully it translates. But I spent a good portion of that time on the treadmill in front of a TV that COULD NOT BE CHANGED watching golf. F’ing golf. There was college basketball going on at the same time. Hell, there was even freaking hockey being played. I would have been happy with Property Brothers. Instead I’m watching Craig Stadler’s son figure out how to play a ball he hit into a freaking cactus. Yeah, and the ball is literally suspended about 3 or 4 inches off the ground because it appeared to have been impaled by one, or several, of the cactus’ spines. What the hell with the TV’s in gyms that don’t change channels? If you are going to have multiple TVs in front of freaking treadmills, one of them needs to be on an all sports station FOREVER. Not freaking Food Network. Unless Giada is on. But otherwise set the damn channel to ESPN or NFL Network or even Fox Sports 1. But don’t force me to watch several guys stand around a freaking cactus looking at a white ball for 15 freaking minutes. How the hell are you supposed to motivate yourself when you’re watching a fat guy win $1.1 million when part of his day involves standing around looking at a freaking cactus!

Eventually though we made it to a buddy’s house to watch the Super Bowl. He’s a Broncos fan. He had a bad day. But the girls had fun with his daughter. Mostly because all they ate was sugar. Not really kidding. You know what fun dip is? Its sugar. Pure uncut sugar. It’s like crack to grade school kids. They reacted to it the same I way I would if you gave me access to the NFL Films vault.

Managed to be home about 9:30 and the girls were asleep fairly quickly after that despite the artificial energy. This morning? They were a tad bit slower and less agreeable. But it was Monday morning. And there’s still 93 days until the NFL Draft…