The School Permit

In Iowa once you’ve completed a certified Driver’s Ed course and are at least 14.5 years of age, along with having an absolutely clean driving record for the last 6 months, you can obtain a School Permit. The school permit allows the permit holder to drive, without adult supervision, between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. to and from school and school activities using the most direct route to school.

We obtained such a permit a couple weeks ago. And starting this week, our 10th grader is driving herself to school and school activities using the most direct route. We’ve had several discussions on what exactly constitutes “the most direct route.” My definition, and I’m just spitballin’ here, is that most direct route is one in which you leave the house and, follow me here, you take the most direct route to the school or school activity. Rye’s definition is one which involves going, literally, the opposite direction from the school but allows her to go to a Starbucks. I feel pretty confident in my argument.

But all of that takes away from the point that we now have a child who is ACTUALLY DRIVING HERSELF TO SCHOOL. This seems odd to me. I still remember her first day of kindergarten. This is different. And by different I mean glorious. We’ve been freed from the shackles of transportation and logistics for one kid for a certain limited amount of activities. I don’t even know how to describe it. I mean imagine that for nearly your entire time as a parent you’ve been carting kids from one thing to another. Mapping out your mornings and evenings around where the kids are supposed to be. Arranging your own schedule around the kids’ activities. And then, suddenly, you’ve been handed something you really haven’t seen in years – time.

Now don’t get me wrong, you fill that time with a certain amount of worry and stress over all the dipshits on the road at the same time as your 15 year old daughter. And, pretty sure you’ll back me up here, there is a staggering level of dipshitty driving. Then think about that relatively normal level of dipshititude and apply it to a high school parking lot. Yeah, that’s approaching Obama/Hillary/Kerry foreign policy levels of dipshittiness.

She actually has to park across the street at a church because there are not enough spots to accommodate all the student drivers and school staff. Which is interesting since this high school is more or less a small college contained within a single building. Not kidding. 2,100 kids in grades 10-12. It has a performing arts center with a hydraulic lift under the stage. Because, I assume, the performing arts center doubles as a loading dock thereby justifying not the lift but also the expenditure of taxpayer cash.

The building is so big that she doesn’t even use her locker. You remember high school. When you had a chance you’d run by your locker exchange books, notebooks, etc. and then head to the next class. Rye can’t do that. She gets to school and pretty much loads up her backpack with the entire day’s worth of stuff and lugs it around. That. Must. Suck. I mean we walked her schedule last week and I had to pull off to the side because I was getting a cramp in my hip. They should have golf carts. It’s like a 9 mile walk between her 8 classes. I wasn’t even hauling around a big heavy backpack. Plus all the rest of those kids are dragging around their backpacks too. I’m guessing that you really have to keep your eyes peeled and senses on red alert to avoid getting taken out by some kid’s backpack if they round a corner too quickly and the torque generated from the turn transforms the backpack into a mini wrecking ball.

But maybe I’m overthinking this…

It’s Thanksgiving Season Dammit!

Once you get past Halloween, and election day every other year, it’s just a countdown to Christmas. It shouldn’t be, but it is. As many of you know I am of the belief that Thanksgiving doesn’t get it’s due. In past I’ve described Thanksgiving in various ways:

2008: “Thanksgiving! It’s more than just bird and mashed potatoes. It’s the only time of year that everyone cares what the Detroit Lions are doing.”

2010: “Regardless, in 1863 Abe Lincoln was the first to name the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving in America. Then in 1941 Congress and FDR permanently established the fourth Thursday in November as a national holiday. Interestingly enough FDR tried to move Thanksgiving from Lincoln’s designated day to earlier to give the country an economic boost. It would seem liberals need to control the economy extends to changing national holidays.”

2011: “Anyway, Thanksgiving gets lost in the corporate commercial onslaught of Halloween and Christmas. Evidently, turkeys and pilgrims aren’t all that marketable. Thanksgiving has pretty much been rebranded as the tailgate immediately preceeding black Friday. Not that anything is wrong with tailgating. Especially when it is centered on turkey, potatoes, corn and beer.”

2012: “We’re all cheating on Thanksgiving and it needs to stop. This truly American holiday gets lost between Halloween and Christmas. It’s Wendy’s to McDonald’s and Burger King. It’s Coors Light to Bud Light and Miller Light. It’s the Admiral Ackbar of minor Star Wars characters. Appreciated? Yes. Quickly discarded? Also yes.”

2013: “Holiday music is to Christmas nostalgia what the smell of toast is to mornings, the smell of burning leaves to fall, the smell of Milwaukee’s Best Light to hangovers. I’m powerless, POWERLESS I SAY, to end my own cheating on Thanksgiving. I’m so, so sorry but its really hard to turn off the songs. Its an excuse, I know. I realize its entirely up to me and I need to take ownership of my failings. I’m sorry to you Macy’s Department Store. You made giant balloons cool and allowed Matt Lauer to host something he doesn’t suck at. And I’m sorry to you John Madden. Since the mid-80’s you’ve made Thanksgiving so much more important than Myles Standish, Abraham Lincoln and FDR could have ever hoped. I’m sorry to you Joey Tribbiani. For it was you who made Thanksgiving pants acceptable. Finally, I’m sorry to you mashed potatoes and gravy…and probably pumpkin pie too. When paired with beer, you make Thanksgiving so delicious I shouldn’t stray.”

You know, Ren MacCormack was right when he was speaking before the Bomont Town Council and Rev. Moore back in ’84 when he quoted from Ecclesiastes that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. And the time for winter is winter. Not November. Winter, you’re getting greedy my unwelcome friend. You’re killing Buffalo for no reason. What has Buffalo ever done to deserve this? C’mon man, they’ve missed the playoffs for 15 straight years and now that they’re actually in the hunt, you hit them with this crazy biblical snow. Oh and it was 12 freaking degrees on Nov. 17 here. This after last November when Rye and I went to an Iowa State game where the kickoff temperature was 8 f’ing degrees. That sucks. Go home. You’re like Green Day at AC DC concert. Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet you cold bitter old bastard. Stop dumping snow on us. I mean I’ll live with the cold temps. Sucks, but I’ll do it. What I don’t want in mid freaking November is ice on the damn roads. I don’t want to be chipping that stuff off my driveway a week before Turkey Day. First it’s Americans rampantly cheating on our own damn holiday. We invented it. It’s ours. Now it’s the weather. I blame Al Gore. Dammit America, am I the only one who this feels way about Thanksgiving?

Something about 1987 and remembering things

Have you ever really gone through the list of top 40 songs from 1987? Not that you’d ever really have reason to do that but you know, hypothetically speaking. Kind of like going back through every weekend of the 1977 NFL season and seeing which days you actually remember based on the games played that day. Weird how many of those days I have distinct memories of.

Anyway, if you’re like me and the fall of ’87 happened to be the fall of your senior year in high school, you remember that particular autumn fondly. Except for the NFL strike, the replacement players and the Steelers mired in year 3 of a 4 year stretch of suck. That all sucked. And you know what else sucked? The songs. Not kidding. It’s embarrassing. Not as embarrassing as my 9th grader defending some of the stuff in the top 40 now, but embarrassing nonetheless.

Catch Me (I’m Falling) from Pretty Poison? How did we let this happen Gen X? What in the hell is that song? Answer? It’s the genetic seed of the suckitude which now fills the top 40. But you know what sucks worse than that song? When I hear it, I can feel the tension in my brain between my natural affinity for nostalgia and that horrible burning sensation in my esophagus that stomach acid leaves when vomit starts to creep up. I mean the same fall that we embrace Animal from Def Leppard and Is this Love from Whitesnake, we let Pretty Poison onto the chart? Expose was in there twice! I’m ashamed. And you should be ashamed too Class of ’88. But this is why you have to go back and look at history. Things aren’t always the way you remember them.

For example, I remember Stroh’s Light not tasting all that bad. I don’t remember at all being upset that turtle necks were so popular. I remember seeing the premiere of thirtysomething and thinking, “that must suck.” More recently, I remember saying, “Man, I’m never being one of those Dads whose life consists of carting kids from thing to the next.” Turns out there are some things that inevitably happen. Troy Polamalu is getting slower. My propensity for making fun of millennials is getting higher. And if you were in high school in the fall of ’87, you will remember the words to Belinda Carlise’s Heaven is a Place on Earth. Whether you want to or not. Weird but true. You also are pretty damn sure Running Man is good movie.

Anyway, last a couple Wednesdays ago I wake up early to take Mom to the airport. She’s going to Houston. Quick check with my brain reveals that a major city in Texas is infested with Ebola…or so says the mainstream media. I remember that city is Dallas. Crisis averted and I get Mom to the airport at 5 a.m. Drive back home, read the sports section of the paper for 20 minutes, run upstairs to make sure Kinz is out of bed, then take Rye to dance team practice at her school at 6:00 a.m. Come back home, complete daily morning workout, wake up Bails, shower, dress and…wait why is Kinz still home? Her bus is probably already at the…

“Did you miss the bus?”


“Awesome. How much time until you have to be at school?”

“About 20 minutes.”


Then I hear Bails, “Dad remember we have to go over my Age of Exploration stuff before I go to school because my test is today.”

Right. It’s tough to keep Coronado, Ponce De Leon and Hernando De Soto straight.

I shower, shave and brush my teeth, get dressed, get Kinz to school on time and then head back home to help Bails study. It goes well enough that I’m optimistic she’ll do well.

So to recap, I have transported 3 of 4 other people who live in my house to their various activities and helped the other one identify at least 15 different explorers of the New World. All before 8 a.m.

Get home from work and my folks are in town. They are on their way from Florida to Colorado to Texas to Florida. So they stopped for a day. It was cool. But there is an issue. Kinz is laying on the couch saying she feels sick. Which later proved to be accurate when she walked into the family room holding a garbage can full of barf. And garbage. Awesome that should be easy to clean up.

But remember Ebola is spreading. So I do a Level 1 Surface Scrub Down Containment Protocol, dispose of the vomit, and get on with my evening.

Thursday I wake up, work out, call the school to the tell them Kinz won’t be there due to the whole vomit/garbage can state of affairs. Get ready to take Bails to school early because Thursday morning is orchestra day. We make it. On time. That’s a win. Make it through my day unscathed until I walk out of work look under the back of my truck and realize that I have an issue. Throughout the week it appeared that something was leaking from under my back axle. Some kind of fluid. But now this leak seems to have become worse because there is a puddle under my truck. I get home and ask my neighbor to check it out. He jacks up the truck, crawls under and says, “here’s your problem” while he points to a drain seal that had been clearly loosened and left that way. Turns out the dudes at Jiffy Lube forgot to tighten that bad boy up when they were checking fluid levels. I call them up and say, “hey I’ve been driving around all week since you guys changed the oil and checked the fluid last Saturday morning and now I have a puddle of fluid under my truck that has a red tint.”

“Please bring your truck in right now. That’s transmission fluid.”

If a car place tells you that AFTER they’ve just performed their signature service on it, isn’t the natural reaction panic followed by a perplexed but justifiably boisterous “WTF?”

Plus I need my truck. I have to get Bails to her softball scrimmage in about 20 minutes and then I need to pick up Rye from dance and transport her from dance to the freshman football game and then I need to go the aforementioned scrimmage to watch Bails. Oh and then I need to take Bails home after the scrimmage and then go pick up Rye from the football game.

And then I need to pick up Mom at the airport at 11:30 p.m. Thankfully, I have a cool neighbor. He’s also the owner/operator of the DT. I may have mentioned that previously. Anyway, my neighbor takes Bails to her scrimmage and I take the truck to Jiffy Lube. They fix their mistake and I head to pick up Rye from dance. I’m driving down the on-ramp thinking how sweet it is that I got this potentially expensive transmission problem fixed for nothing more than a little bit of inconvenience. Right up until I noticed my hood wasn’t latched properly. If there is something that you do not expect to be moving while driving down a highway on-ramp, it is your hood. Driving with an unlatched hood is a bit unsettling. Like seeing Joe Biden anywhere near the Oval Office. But the hood has a safety latch so all it was doing was bouncing around a bit until I was able to get out and close it properly once I arrived at dance. Rest of the evening was pretty normal.

Right up until I started checking Mom’s flight status. Here’s the summary. Original flight lands at 11:30. They get to airport in Houston and realize they can hop on a flight that lands at 10:30. So they switch. Once on the plane, the pilot lets them know that door sensor says they have a door that will not close. I assume that the same guys who failed to properly execute the hood closing procedures on my truck do not have cousins working at the Houston airport, so I assume that this is just a glitch. Turns out it is. But it was a glitch that lasted an hour. So her new flight ends up landing at almost exactly the same time as her original flight. Except they got to deal with the aggravation of the door sensor. So bonus I guess. Also, since she switched flights at the airport, they had her check her bag. Which took an extra 30 minutes to make it to baggage claim area. So we didn’t get home till almost 12:30. Back in college getting home at 12:30 in the morning after going out on Thursday night just meant you were the first one home. Now it means I’m going to be worthless at work for the few hours of the day Friday morning. But it’s Friday morning. Which, and I’m just spitballin’ here, but isn’t it kind of an understood thing that we’re all worthless for a few hours on Friday morning? Like ESPN destroying college football rivalries and traditions. Or Green Day sucking. Or being able to stop whatever you’re doing when Shooter is on and not get yelled at.

Anyway, take heed, for it is inevitable. You will turn into that Dad who carts his kids around everywhere. And it happens whether you can remember lyrics from 1987 or not.

Homecoming and Freshmen

It’s weird having a 9th grader. I have extremely clear memories of 9th grade and the fall of 1984. Not all good. I mean aside from Red Dawn being released nothing good happened. My family moved from Chicagoland to the suburbs of Rochester, NY. And Wham hit #1 with Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. Then Jack Wagner hit #2 with All I Need. Plus I spent every football practice getting run over by a kid who went on to play college football. Things could’ve been better.

And now our oldest is braving the dangers of maiden voyage into high school. Although locally its not the same for her as it was for me. Or Mom. In our town the 9th graders are separated from the rest of the high schoolers. So much so that they have their own building. Yep. A stand alone 9th grade.

The Powers That Be sold it to the voters as a stand alone 9th grade building that would be built in such a way so that it could be easily expanded into a second high school. At the time I was childless and thought, “hey, normally I don’t vote for this stuff but by the time I have kids, the current high school will be overcrowded and…crappy, I guess.”

So I voted for it and it passed.

Then about 7 years later, the Powers That Be decided that they never said it could be expanded into a second high school and tried to pass another bond referendum expanding the current high school. Turns out I wasn’t the only person who voted for the 9th grade in anticipation of it turning into a second high school. Because, as most of you know, bond referendums need a 60% vote in favor to pass. Unfortunately for the Powers That Be, 60% of the voters – including me – gave them the finger and voted no.

Later on it turned out that the school district was able to finance an expansion using the district’s reserve fund. Which of course led to more middle fingers while asking why the hell didn’t you just do it that way in the first place.

Regardless, Rye is in 9th grade and she’s physically separated from older boys by a few miles and several brick walls. Turns out that once you have a 14 year old daughter in 9th grade you are okay with her being in stand alone building regardless of the promises of the Powers That Be.

Last weekend she had her first Homecoming Dance. She went with a kid who made a poster for her which contained the actual ask. It was creative. First sentence on the poster said, “I hope you don’t think I’m a nerd for making you this poster.” But instead of writing the word “nerd” he glued a box of Nerds onto the poster. Yeah, that’s pretty creative. Throughout the rest of the poster he the same thing gluing candy strategically into sentences. But what I was really impressed with was the kid’s speed. Not kidding. The doorbell rings and I’m sitting at the kitchen table. It’s no more ten normal steps from my chair to the door. And I got up right away. There was no lag between the doorbell and my movement towards the front door. I open the door and nobody is there. I look down and see this poster on the concrete. I smiled, yelled for Rye to come to the door, and then scanned the horizon.


My thoughts? “Man, this is the fastest kid on the planet. Where the hell did he go?”

I’m sure he was hiding around the corner of the house with one of his buddies who he convinced to come along. But still it only took me about 5 seconds to get to the door. And he was gone. Vanished. Kid has like Rickey Henderson speed or something. Or a cloaking device. Which would be both cool and disconcerting. I mean you don’t want your 14 year old daughter going anywhere with a kid who knows how to become invisible to the naked eye. Plus if a 14 year old kid has a cloaking device…well, what the hell do the terrorists have? But still, a cloaking device! Sweet.

Anyway, the kid and his Dad come over and pick up Rye and drive downtown to the park where they are taking pictures with the rest of their group – about 40 kids in all. Then they went to dinner and then a bus took them to the dance. Mom and I following to get our share of pics and thought we’d take advantage of the fact that we were downtown on a Saturday evening and go to dinner at one of the local brewpubs.

Sound plan right?

Except for the glitch. I know what some of you are saying, “you have a 14 year-old daughter, there is a glitch embedded into your day. All the time.” Which, of course, is correct. This particular glitch involved me giving up a sweet parking spot and driving all the way back home and then all way back downtown. Now its Des Moines, so its not like I have to navigate the streets of Chicago. But still…

Mom’s phone buzzes just as we’re parking my truck. All I saw was the look on her face when she said, “Well you have to tell your Dad.”

Exactly nothing awesome has ever happened when you combine that sentence, Mom’s facial expression and the tone of her voice.

“Hi Dad. I forgot my school ID and they won’t let us into the dance without it. Can you drive home and pick it up and then bring it to the restaurant. And you have to be back her in about 45 minutes.”

So there are, in fact, numerous ways in which to respond.

1) You can say, “Sucks for you.” And hang up the phone. But as every Dad knows this is a death sentence. From that point forward until the end of your natural life – and likely well into eternity – your oldest daughter will constantly be looking for payback. Teenagers often confuse the notion of payback with the process of making really bad decisions so their Dad will be pissed. So I decided against this option.
2) You can lose your sh*t, make her feel terrible and still have to run home get the damn thing.
3) Or you do what I did. You keep calm and using all the strength granted to you by the sweet baby Jesus and the patience you’ve gathered after 14 years of raising kids, you say back to her, “tell me where it is and I’ll be back in 45 minutes no problem.”

SummitOctoberfestWhy do you with option 3? Because you’re her Dad and its her first Homecoming Dance and you are not going to be the person who ruins it should it actually be ruined at some point. Thankfully, it wasn’t ruined. For either of us. She came home and said, “Best night ever!” when I asked how it went. And we ended up testing a few of the microbrews before settling on the traditional marzen style Octoberfest beer and then heading home and hanging at our neighbor’s – which we have affectionately named “The DT.” It’s short for The Downing Tap and is located in both our neighbor’s garage and driveway. It’s our favorite bar. No lines for the bathrooms. Great parking. There’s a TV. Sometimes they have food delivered. And you can bring you own beers. Which I do. Often. Plus when you’ve had too much, you simply stand up and walk home. Which in our case is about 30 feet.

So I guess that’s a win-win.

The Last One

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

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

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

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

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

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

But we went with this instead:


Pumpkins and moustaches.

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

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

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

Halloween ’13

DSC02450Happy Halloween. Or if you’re from the Des Moines metro area, Happy Day After Trick or Treating Occurs. Yes we continue with the inanely stupid tradition of Beggar’s Night in which kids are forced by the local powers that be to trick or treat the day before Halloween. Not only that but they have to tell a joke. Yeah, the trick part of trick or treat in Des Moines is that they have to earn their candy by telling a joke. This, if you have not already surmised by now, I also consider stupid. I always kinda assumed that the trick part of the trick or treat was “give me some candy or my friends and I will egg your house.” But I prowling the streets trick or treating back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. People were still giving out apples and homemade cookies. Until somebody decided to stick razor blades in the apples. Or maybe that was an urban legend. Regardless, sometime during the first few years of the Reagan administration, fruit was no longer part of the Halloween madness. And madness it was.

I remember riding the bus home from school in ’79 or ’80. Had to be about 3:30 in the afternoon and parents were already taking their little kids door to door. Yeah, that early. And people were ready! They didn’t tell the kids to go away and come back later. They didn’t lecture them about running across their lawn. They gave them candy. Might even have been those candy cigarettes. Ha! Not that I want those to come back or anything but its kinda funny how its entirely unacceptable to manufacture candy cigarettes but its okay to use the IRS to for your own political agenda. Whatever. Back to trick to treating. When those folks answered their doors at 3:30 with a big bowl of candy were they excited? Well, no. It was 3:30. I’m going to go ahead and assume they were unhappy. Why? Nobody wants to hand out candy starting at 3:30. Idiot teenagers are still going to be showing up at your house around 9. And that’s a long freaking time to be camped out by your door before the internet and smartphones.

We’ve been handing out candy at our house since ’97. And yesterday was one of the least active trick or treating events we’ve experienced. Not sure why. But I’m okay with blaming the same folks I blamed last year. Anti-American funsmashers and helicopter parents. Sometimes they are one in the same.

Who in the hell are you people who hate Halloween? Fundamentalist Christians who think it’s a pagan holiday? Relax, it isn’t. Communists who think it’s disrespectful to the authority of the state? Um, FYI, not even the communists could make communism work. Or good old-fashioned grumpy a-holes? Because if you turned your lights off and sat at home watching TV while little hopeful children dressed up as their favorite superheroes and princesses walked by your house…you, my friend, have put yourself on a list. You know what list that is? It’s the asshat list. Not everybody goes trick or treating anymore. And local city governments almost universally limit the timeframe in which it happens to something like 6-8 p.m. So for those kids who still believe in George Washington, apple pie and the American tradition of asking for stuff from your neighbors, you just wiped you nose all over their happiness. Why don’t you go ahead and throw a flaming bag of dog crap at the Lincoln Memorial. Fly out to Pearl Harbor and dump some sewage on the USS Arizona. Because that’s what you’re doing.

Trick or treating might be the only way to save America. When I was doing it in the late 70’s the streets were packed with kids and parents. It was like a roving block party. And neighbors talked with each other. Pretty soon, after all that talking, they realized that Jimmy Carter sucked and Keynesian economic theory was asinine. As a result, Ronald Reagan was able to cut taxes, 70’s easy listening was replaced by hair metal and the three point line was added to college basketball. By your refusal to take part in your patriotic Halloween duty, you’re dooming America to a future of 70% tax rates, Seals and Croft and uncomfortably snug NBA shorts. And ain’t nobody want that…

The Glory of Wednesday

We’re looking forward to Wednesday. Not for the reasons you’d assume either. It is not the 53rd anniversary of Bill Mazeroski’s home to win the ’60 series. That was Sunday. It is not the 36th anniversary of my first college football game. That’s today. It is not the 28th anniversary of A-Ha hitting #1 in Billboard’s Top 40 with Take on Me. That’s next Sunday. Wednesday is the day when we no longer will have daily cross country practice or softball practice. Last softball tournaments of the year are this weekend while the last cross country meet of the year is Tuesday.

Cue Handel’s Messiah.

I might be engaging in a tad bit of hyperbole but it feels like freaking Christmas Eve and the last day of school combined. Or that feeling you got when the Bears Dave Williams took the opening kickoff of overtime back for a touchdown against Detroit Thanksgiving Day in 1980. Or when you see Steelers GM Kevin Colbert walking along the sidewalk outside Jack Trice Stadium at the Iowa State-Texas game and you go all fanboy on him asking him about scouting. All awesome. Last week we had 5 softball practices and 8 games, 4 cross country practices, 1 cross country meet, 4 afternoons/evenings with dance. I’d give the exact number of dance classes contained within those 4 afternoons/evenings but I don’t know. Rye has so many classes that drain our checking accounts, I don’t really care to know the number. If I were to give you an estimate, it would be…a lot.

My point, if I have one, is that the schedule is catching up to us. And by catching up to us I mean in the overwhelming sense similar to what Hans Guderian and his panzers did to the French in the spring of 1940.

The elementary school the girls attend have a program called Challenge of the Books for 4th, 5th and 6th graders. Every month for about five months, kids in the program are assigned a particular book to read. Within each grade level the kids broken down into several reading groups comprising about five kids. The 4th grade groups all read the same book and so on. Once a month each group gets together to discuss the book. And, by the way, this reading is in addition to the normal assigned reading they get in the classrooms. So its more homework. But Rye did it and Kinsey has been doing it since 4th grade. This is Bailey’s first year in the program. We totally believe in it. The girls reading levels are a testament to the extra work. And after reading Outliers, I’m a total believer in more practice is always good. Anyway, the books were assigned in early September and they were supposed to get together last week for their first meeting to discuss the books.

Sounds straight-forward enough. Kinz had no problem getting her book, reading her book and preparing herself to discuss her book. Bails path to her first meeting was a bit more rocky. And by rocky I mean like running the ball on the ’76 Steelers using the ’76 Buccaneers offense to do it.

She never actually obtained the book she was assigned to read. Which was a complete breakdown within the sister teamwork processes. Kinsey’s teacher has all the books for all the Challenge of Books groups in her room. She’s like the Challenge of the Books quartermaster. Kinsey, even though she was asked to do it, never found the time to walk the 8 or 9 feet over to the shelf in her room and get the book for Bails. However, Bails, despite knowing the date of the first meeting was coming up displayed absolutely no sense of urgency when it came to acquiring the book. Much like the current administration in regards to anything John Boehner says.

Anyway, I get an email on Friday, October 4 reminding us that the first meeting is the following week. I of course ignored this email because I had taken the day off and was home watching Pirates future pitching ace Gerrit Cole mow down the Cardinals. Too bad the Pirates couldn’t duplicate his effort against Wainwright on last week. Regardless, the email says that Bails’ first meeting is Tuesday Oct. 8 and she’s supposed to bring a cold lunch to school so they don’t waste valuable meeting time waiting in the lunch line.

Well the only email I had checked was the original email containing the book list which was sent around Labor Day. That email also said that the first meeting was to be held the week of Oct. 6 without specifying a day. I asked Kinsey when the meetings were held. She said Wednesdays. I believed her. Which in retrospect is a lot like the US Navy believing that the Japanese didn’t have the technological expertise to develop plane launched torpedoes capable of running the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor. I should have done a bit more checking.

So last Monday afternoon we suddenly realize, albeit erroneously, that Bailey’s first Challenge of Books meeting is Wednesday and she not only hasn’t read any of the book but hasn’t even bothered to secure a copy of the book. Our reaction? I asked Mom to download a copy onto her Kindle, Baily would read as much of that downloaded copy as she could Monday evening and Tuesday and then she’d go to the meeting.

Naturally a copy is not available for download.

Okay, so how about we find a nice detailed summary so at least she’ll be able to partially participate in the discussion. Then we’d have her read the book afterwards while also reading the next regularly scheduled book.

After all we still have Monday evening and Tuesday.

Except we didn’t. Once we got home from softball practice, took a shower and did her math homework it was time for her to go to bed. So we’re down to Tuesday to get everything done.

Except we weren’t.

While at work on Tuesday I find the email from Friday the 4th and learn that not only is her meeting on Tuesday and not Wednesday but she was supposed to bring a cold lunch to the meeting. As I finish the email I feel with absolute metaphysical certitude that Bailey, upon learning that information while at school, either refused to go the meeting in the most stubborn and obstinate manner imaginable or she went to the meeting under duress and misbehaved so badly that we’ll need to move out of the school district and send her to a private military school on Iceland.

So I’m sitting at the kitchen table when Bailey gets home from school.

“Hey Bails how did your Challenge of Books meeting go today?”

“We didn’t have it.”

“What? Why?”

“Nobody in my group read the book. Well, nobody read it except for one kid. Everyone thought we were supposed to start reading the book today not finish it today.”

“Huh. Cool.”

So now we not only have a copy of the book courtesy of Kinsey’s renewed efforts but we also have another month to finish it. Plus we have next Wednesday coming up.

Not a bad start to October. I mean if you ignore the Steelers record.

One thing about Fandom

Somewhat recently there was a football game that, in these parts, always is a pretty big deal. Iowa State vs. Iowa. Not to mention that a few weeks ago Mom and I found ourselves on opposite sides again for the Steelers/Bears game. The internet, for all its awesome glory, has taught many of us that its okay to be a complete douchebag because we can hide behind handles and nicknames while typing really nasty things about other people. Twitter also seems to be an accelerant on this fire. Sports fans, Hollywood groupies and political consultants are among the worst when it comes to yelling instead of talking. So Mom and I have decided that douchbaggery is not something in which we want the girls to excel. It turns out that nobody is teaching kids how to disagree without resorting to personal attacks, disrespect and general, well, douchbaggery. So how Mom and I interact with each other and our friends and neighbors who have sports loyalties different than ours, is an opportunity to push back against the continuing acceptance of douchism.

And listen, rivalry games in college sports are among the greatest conflagrations of asshattery in these United States. Regardless if our game is held in Ames or Iowa City, fans of the visiting team show up in their colors. I’ve done this many times. In fact I’ve donned the Cardinal & Gold in Iowa City 10 times. I’ve been treated poorly each time. This is to be expected. You are showing up on the other guys’ turf. Several people asked me during the week leading up to this year’s game if we were bring the girls with us.

Um, no.

First off, we had a live band at our tailgate. I also brought a 10-pack of Miller Lite Tall Boys for myself. This is not an environment in which my Dad skills would have been operating at maximum efficiency. Second, it’s a rivalry game with public drunkenness, rampant f-bombing and widespread dumbassification. So taking the girls to this game is not an ideal environment for teaching the skills we want the girls to learn. A byproduct of this conversation was that we wanted the girls to learn how not to be the type of sports fans whom everyone detests. That in turn led to an interesting debate at our tailgate.

Let’s say you are an Iowa Hawkeye fan. On gamedays you proudly wear your colors. When the Hawks are in Ames to play the Cyclones you show up to the tailgate/game in your black and gold. This seems perfectly acceptable to me. Also seems acceptable to most of the folks at the tailgate. Your team is in the visitor’s stadium to play a game. But what if the Hawks aren’t playing in Ames? Let’s say they are playing in Madison against Wisconsin while the Cyclones are home in Ames against the Kansas State Wildcats. So what you say. Doesn’t matter where your beloved Hawks are playing, its gameday for you. You get up, throw on your favorite black and gold Hawkeye gear, and head to the nearest bar to watch the game with your friends right? No. You get on the road early and head to Madison on a road trip? No. Grab a bag of Ruffles and a six-pack and watch the game on your couch? No.

You drive to Ames and go to the Iowa State-Kansas State game while wearing your black and gold Hawkeye gear. You go to a tailgate with some Cyclone fans you know and then head in and watch the Cyclones and Wildcats. All while wearing your black and gold Hawkeye gear.

Does this make you a douchebag?

Yes. Yes it does. If you answered no, you are, in fact, a douchebag fan. Or you harbor douchebag sympathies. Or your own fan douchebaggery is still in the larval stage and while not fully developed as of today, its only a matter of time until you too are universally identified as a douchebag fan. Even if you behave admirably throughout the tailgate and game, maybe even cheer for the Cyclones, you my thoroughly clueless friend are a douchebag. Simply put, you are a douchebag of considerable magnitude if you wear the gear of your team to an in-state rival team’s stadium and your team is not playing. The excuse that its “gameday” for your team too is so unacceptably lame it is difficult to convey through the English language. I wish there was a word to express, in a literary sense, a throat punch. Because that’s what you’re asking for when you engage in this type of douchebaggery.

Okay, you say, grudgingly admitting that wearing rival team gear in this example is, in fact, asshattery. But let’s say you wear a Georgia Bulldog or Arizona State Sun Devil shirt to an Iowa Hawkeye/Michigan State Spartan game as I witnessed this past weekend. Does that make you a douchebag? Sure does.

You do not wear team gear to a stadium when said team is not playing in that stadium. This is a universal truth. It’s like the 11th commandment. Naturally, there are exceptions. They are well-defined and easy to remember.

You can wear a MLB hat of any team to any game of any sport other than baseball at nearly any time. Detroit Tigers hat to a college football game? Totally fine. This past weekend I wore my Pirates gear to the Iowa/Michigan State game. Douchebag move? Nope. Not only was it gear from a different sport, it was the team colors of the home team. Completely acceptable.

Same thing with NHL or NBA gear. Different sport usually means its okay. Unless you wear a LeBron jersey to anything except a Heat game.

What about wearing your favorite NFL team gear to a college football game. Same sport. Does this constitute douchebaggery? Only if your NFL team sports the same colors as the team the home team is playing or has the same colors as a rival of the team you are watching. Wearing Steelers gear to an Iowa State game is a douche move. I have tons of Steelers gear. But its black and gold. Same colors as the Hawkeyes. So even if its freezing cold in Ames, as it was last Thanksgiving weekend, and my warmest stuff is black and gold I can’t wear it. Why? Because I’m not a douchebag. Wearing Jets gear to the Hawkeye/Spartan game in Iowa City? Douche move. Why? Jets and Spartans are both green and white. See what I’m saying here?

There are some nuances of which everyone should be aware. If you wear your Reds hat to a Pitt Panthers game you’re still a douchebag even though it falls into the different sport rule. Why is this douchebaggery? Easy. You need to be aware of which teams, in every sport, the locals hate. In Pittsburgh, its never okay to wear Reds or Ravens gear. Ever. Doesn’t matter what game you are attending. It’s a douche move.

Anyway, I think I won the debate at the tailgate. The same woman who was arguing that she should be able to wear her Hawkeye gear to every Iowa State home game showed up to the Iowa State/Texas game last Thursday in a white shirt. That my friends is the color of surrender. Of course Iowa wasn’t playing on Thursday so it wasn’t technically gameday for the Hawkeyes. Still counting it as a win.

Regardless of all that however is the underlying responsibility of you, as a parent, to teach your kids how NOT to be a douchebag fan. And I’m just spitballin’ here but my unofficial completely unscientific survey tells me that many of you are not only failing, you are actively engaged in the propagation of fan douchebaggery. I’m blaming Harry Reid and John Boehner. Everybody else is…

The Magic of Mid-October

A couple weeks ago on SNL Christina Applegate sorta mocked the nothingness of mid-October. As if the gold soybean fields, the smell of burning leaves and pumpkin beer mean nothing. Every other year we get the glory of negative political ads. Which are awesome. I love them. If I win the lottery I’m totally buying time and going negative on everybody who deserves it. You’ve been warned. Anyway, I’m just paraphrasing but Applegate said something about no decorations, no cards, no weird family tension. It’s that period of time before the holidays. Before Halloween, before Turkey Day, before Christmas and New Year’s.

Well…that’s crap. Fall is the best time of year for many reasons. Among them are pro football, college football and pumpkin beer. But mid-October is the kickoff. It’s really doesn’t get the credit or appreciation it should. I mean Columbus Day falls right in there. I love Columbus Day. It’s always on a Monday and in grade school we got the day off. And that meant I could watch the NFL all day without the gnawing feeling of doom of going to school the next morning. The girls don’t get Columbus Day off. I assume it has something to do with the revisionist anti-American historians like Howard Zinn who can’t find anything good about America’s past. So public schools don’t celebrate Columbus Day anymore. Rumor is he hates the NFL too. Can’t confirm that but it stands to reason. Anyway, aside from simply being the beginning of what really is the most nostalgic two and a-half months of the year, it contains several monumental history changing events.

October 13, 1960…3:36 p.m. eastern. I became possible. Not kidding. On a sunny mid-October afternoon Bill Mazeroski stepped to the plate with no outs in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. About a minute later he hit a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall. And my Dad walked from his job at Gimbels Department store to meet some friends in front of the Pittsburgh Hilton. He met my Mom there. So don’t let anyone tell you sports don’t matter or they are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. They’re full of crap. Thanks Bill Mazeroski. I owe you one.

October 15, 1977. With the leaves changing a little 2nd grade boy sat in the south endzone with his parents and watched the 17th ranked and defending national champion Pitt Panthers beat Navy 34-17. Mid-October is what college football is about. And I fell in love with it that day. Mostly because there was so much more of it compared to the NFL. So be careful to what you expose your children…you never know what they’ll fall in love with. This is mostly the reason our girls don’t play soccer.

October 12, 1980. Nobody really sensed it at the time but it was the end of the 70’s Steelers dynasty. First play from scrimmage Franco fumbled. Then near the end of the first half the greatest outside linebacker of the era was beat by Pete Johnson on a short pass over the middle. Jack Ham was beaten by Pete Johnson! On a pass pattern! I know. Its hard to even say let alone type it. It’s like saying Abe Lincoln was bested by Nancy Pelosi. Or Justin Bieber is better than Def Leppard. Or Thundarr the Barbarian was outclassed by Zan from the Wonder Twins. Anyway, the Steelers lost 17-16 and I experienced the NFL playoffs for the first time without the Steelers. It was horrible. Awful. Like the first day of an Obama second term.

October 14, 1992. Braves 3 Pirates 2. There are times in your life in which you learn to deal with disappointment. With loss. When you are old enough to know that the last chance at a wonderful opportunity has been missed. And you must deal with the consequences in an adult and reasoned manner. Except I was still in college at this time so I dealt with it with lots of Miller Lites. Regardless, Jose Lind’s error, Francisco Cabrera’s hit and Barry Bonds’ poor throw are why when something really awful happens to the girls, something that tears their hearts out, that knocks them off their feet with the brunt force of disappointment…all I have to say is, “10-14-92, damn you Jose Lind!” That should get the point across that I too have suffered at the bony, gnarled, pitiless, heartless hand of destiny.

So, um, not sure what my point was with this post but I like mid-October

Thanksgiving is Awesome

Quick summary on Thanksgiving. So everybody knows that the Pilgrims left England in search of religious liberty. Two months later they arrived, signed the Mayflower Compact and quickly proceeded to starve and get sick. About a year after they landed they celebrated, with their Indian neighbors, what we’re all taught was the first Thanksgiving celebration in America. Conveniently left out is the fact that their collectivist plan nearly led to their complete starvation.

Regardless, in 1863 Abe Lincoln was the first to name the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving in America. Then in 1941 Congress and FDR permanently established the fourth Thursday in November as a national holiday. Interestingly enough FDR tried to move Thanksgiving from Lincoln’s designated day to earlier to give the country an economic boost. It would seem liberals need to control the economy extends to changing national holidays.

Top Three Reasons Turkey Day Rocks:

#3 – Liberals hate it. They haven’t declared war on it like they have with Christmas, but they still hate Thanksgiving. They keep trying to convince America that we’re celebrating the advent of the extermination of the Indians by white Europeans. But nobody cares. Mainly because of reasons 1 and 2 but also because listening to hyper negative America haters is just tiresome. Especially when those purveyors of guilt are wealthy self indulgent morons.
#2 – Carbs. Every single type of potato is served. Every form a potato can take is displayed. Every carb know to man is mixed and cooked into stuffing. And those potatoes and that stuffing end up covered in butter and gravy. Then you use crescent rolls to mop your plate in an attempt to consume any carb remnants that evaded your mouth. Finally…somebody rolls out the pumpkin pie..sugar and carbs baked together into an irresistible pan of gastronomic pleasure…
#1 – The entire day is scheduled around football. Its really just a formalized tailgate party. Football and the entire Thanksgiving Weekend are inexorably intertwined. Like Kid Rock and fringe coats. Even if you hate football and the American values it embodies, you can’t avoid it on Thanksgiving. It’s like trying to watch TV in December without stumbling across Home Alone. Americans love Thanksgiving. You get a short work week, leftover turkey and the beginning of Christmas!

This year we’re going to Mom’s aunt’s house. Mom’s mom, hereafter known as Grandma, detailed the relish tray to us. I took this as an indictment upon our ability to cook and prepare anything within the Thanksgiving food genre. I mean isn’t being assigned the relish tray kinda like being picked last in kickball? At least she said Mom can bring her Famous Deviled Eggs. But the reaction to Mom’s suggestion that she bring an apple pie was met with the kind of swift and fierce response not seen since the Red Army bludgeoned the German 6th Army in November of ’42. Grandma evidently doesn’t want any competition when its comes to apple pies. Anyway, here’s the email she sent us earlier this week:

I will make your dip for your veggies if you will also make deviled eggs.

We are only having 15-16 people so make your veggies and eggs accordingly.

I am going to Candace’s by 11 a.m. but dinner will not be until 12:30 or 1. We will have your veggies and a cranberry cracker appetizer ahead.

Love you,


Here’s the response I sent last night.

Got it. We’ll leave early and get to your house so you have plenty of time to put Mom to work in the slave mill known as your kitchen. We’ll unload our stuff and we’ll get to dinner with plenty of time to spare.

Oh and we decided against bringing a relish tray. Hope that doesn’t monkey wrench the pre-dinner fiesta. Instead we’re whipping up four different types of gravy to fill the four-piece gravy boat set I got as a gag gift last Christmas. Probably go with a traditional gravy assuming we don’t screw it up. But I’m not sure our relish tray skills translate. Then we’re going with a vegetarian gravy with sage, soy sauce, flax seed and nutritional yeast. Never hurts to have a healthy option around. And then we have a nice ethic Polish gravy that I’ve had my eye for years. It’s really just smoked kielbasa and sauerkraut that you dump on top of potato stuffed pierogi’s. Last one is really up for grabs. The girls want us to go with a chocolate theme and with all that left over Halloween candy we’re thinking this might be a good option.

Hope that’s okay.

Even though I’ve been giving Grandma a hard time for almost a decade and a-half, its still fun. For me anyway…

Published in: on November 25, 2010 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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