Status Update

So it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything about, well, anything.  And, truth be told, its mostly my fault.  Work sorta kicked my arse through the beginning of May.  An 80 hour work week is exactly as mentally and physically draining as you imagine.  Plus, we’ve had some stuff to get ready for that took up a lot of time and energy and my ability to concentrate for relatively long periods of time took a hit.  Although, that could be related to my rampant consumption of Miller Lite.  We don’t have the data back yet on that question.  Regardless, the fact remains that I’ve failed to update this blog.  My fault.

Anyway here’s a few things that I feel need to be expounded upon now that I have some time.  Translated that means I want to share a few thoughts that you may or may not give two craps about.  But, and I say this with all due respect, I don’t give any craps about your feelings on this.  I’m doing it anyway.  So here goes:

I was asked to help coach a softball team of 15 and 16 year old girls.  But I didn’t play baseball as a kid, so I’m was a little out of my element.  Like asking JR Smith to know the score at the of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.  But I do have three teenage daughters so I did have some experience dealing with all of the…stuff that comes along with that.

Our 16 year-old daughter who was on that team termed me a “Low Key Bad Ass” on our trip to Kansas City for a tournament.  I don’t know what that exactly means but I plan on opining about it.

Lollapalooza seems like a really crappy concert to you and me.  And most patriotic Americans.  But it was really important to our high school senior.  However, Mom and I weren’t really as excited about it as she was…so I have some thoughts.

Did you have a Graduation Party when you graduated high school?  I didn’t.  And I didn’t realize it was such a big deal.  This, as you may have suspected, led to some differences of opinion as we hosted a grad party for our senior and one of her best friends.

Graduation itself is a big deal.  It’s also weird to realize you are old enough to have a kid who not only graduated from high school but will be in college in August.  Not gonna lie, it’s a gut check.

Mom’s folks put together a 50th Anniversary Party for themselves back in Mom’s hometown.  So we have to be there.  It’s tonight.  I don’t want to offend anybody but I’m pretty sure it is going to be an old person party.  What?  Facts are stubborn things.  And I don’t really know what old people do at parties.  But my guess is that once I learn, I’ll have some thoughts to share.

Parents and teenage girls haven’t agreed on appropriate attire for decades.  And that happened this morning on the last day of school for our 8th grader.

I have several millennials in my office.  I don’t get a lot of the stuff they seem to be attracted to…but I just turned 48 and spent most of my birthday trashing the reboot the Magnum, P.I.  So I have a different frame of reference.  But one of my millennials did ask me to put together a list of the songs from my era that she needs to become familiar.  So, as you might have suspected, I’m compiling not one, not two, but three distinct lists based on a chronological system of my own design.

Finally, the last few months have marked the end of a lot of stuff that we’ve been doing for the last few years.  Things are changing.  And, as we all know, change is stupid.  So I’ve put together some observations on that.

So get ready…


So I have a question…

When is it appropriate to call a meeting with a high school teacher and how is it done as to avoid any negative blowback on the student in question?

High school is different than junior high.  Junior high is different than grade school.  In grade school it was easy.  Junior high also pretty straight forward.  If there is a problem, whatever that problem may be, you send an email and set up a meeting.  Situation is addressed and everybody moves on.  Teachers expect, and sometimes even welcome, parents to be involved and keep track of their kids’ academic and social progress.

I don’t want to offend any teachers out there who might think it is belittling or maybe flat out preposterous to suggest a teacher would be so unprofessional as to retaliate against a student whose parents choose to disagree with the teacher on a particular matter.

Columbus Day for example.  Or Thanksgiving since I’m sure we’ll be engaged in that annual battle with the PC illuminati.

We’re sitting in church last month and I mention that Monday is Columbus Day and that the girls don’t have school so they can sleep in.  Bails responds with, “Columbus Day?  Gross.”

“Gross?  Why?  No school!”

She responds, “After Columbus got here millions of native Americans died because of disease and other bad things.”

Bails’ social studies is a Bernie supporter.  Good teacher and otherwise good dude.  But he’s a gullibly idealistic millennial.  Last fall her social studies teacher, different guy but also a naive lefty millennial, barely could teach the class the day after the election.  Still makes me smile.  Anyway, her teacher this year has evidently “taught” the class – and by “taught” I mean deconstructing American history through a PC disinfectant – that Columbus’ intent upon sailing from Spain was to enslave and infect any indigenous peoples he might need to overrun while he was stealing land for the rich oppressive elites in the super white European aristocracy.  And that any of the current flaws America currently suffers from are, in fact, the fault of Columbus.

This shallow misunderstanding of basic American history conveniently forgets that Columbus himself was an Italian Catholic.  Italian Catholics, if you recall, weren’t exactly popular with the Anglo-Saxon nativists during their emigration to America in the late 1800’s.  Columbus was a source of pride for this persecuted minority.  And, in an ironic and confusing twist to modern PC stormtroopers, an article in The Atlantic pointed out that Columbus Day parades in the early 20th century were a way to advance the goal of assimilating immigrants into a single American identity.  Local newspapers even “celebrated it as an important step in combating prejudice and bigotry, but it was much more. It served as a formal acknowledgment that immigrants could preserve their own ethnic identities and simultaneously embrace their new nation.”

Weird how a lack of historical perspective leads to a lack of, well, perspective.

Of course my on-going frustrations with millennial PC snowflakery aren’t the only source of consternation in relation to contacting high school teachers.  What about a biology teacher who only teaches biology in a way which makes it literally, not virtually, impossible for anyone to get better than a C.

How is that teaching?  I mean, and I’m just spitballin’ here, I thought the point of teaching was to impart knowledge.  Knowledge that the pupil will be able to recall and use.  Knowledge that helps them become a functioning and contributing part of American society.  Knowledge which makes them a well rounded citizen while also helping the pupil slowly but surely narrow down their academic interests in such a way that it allows them to decide which way to take their future education thereby determining the direction of the professional lives.

Nowhere do I remember in either the formal or informal definitions of teaching making the pupil hate the subject in question with same intensity Jack Lambert hated quarterbacks in the 70’s.  Nowhere do I remember the teacher purposely putting things on tests that were deliberately glossed over in the class in order to give the teacher the pleasure of abundant red pen usage.

But that’s is what is happening.  So we’re put in a position of having to challenge the teacher.  Gotta admit I kinda resent it.  So instead of going all Beverly Goldberg on the teachers, I’m writing about it here.

And yes I realize this blog post solves nothing.  Whatever…

An Awesome Time Machine

Time travel is cool.  And thanks to the magic of Youtube it is possible.

I can’t be the only person who has sat down and watch an episode or two of Magnum, P.I. and Riptide on Youtube.  I mean c’mon, Nick and Cody lived on a freaking boat in L.A.! Nor can I be the only one who has watched the Monday Night Football game from October 20, 1980 between the Raiders and the Steelers when we all realized the dynasty was over.  And there’s no way I’m alone watching old MTV videos.  Now, don’t get me wrong, if given the choice I’m watching old NFL Films highlights all day.  And maybe a couple of the Riptide episodes when the all-female crew of the Barefoot Contessa were featured.  But if you really want to go back in time, go watch the videos.

Like this doesn’t take you right back to the May of ’83?

How about May of ’85?

May of ’87?

But here’s the thing, it is still just a video.  You’re not there.  Granted, you’re experiencing nostalgia at awesome levels.  Actual time travel, while elusive, is possible.  You can get there.

Again, if you went to high school or college with me in the 80’s and early 90’s, this might make some sense…especially after watching that Poison video.  Mom and I went to Def Leppard, Poison and Tesla a few weeks ago.  Five years ago we went to a similar version of this concert when we saw Def Leppard, Poison and Lita Ford.  The common factor – I mean besides the fact that Phil Collen is like 57 years old and still doesn’t wear a damn shirt – is going to these concerts is like experiencing an awesome time machine.  Its like you’re in one big giant DeLorean.  I love going.  Because just for a few hours, you’re back! Which, at our ages, is really all we can handle at this point anyway.

You get into the arena and you immediately do two things that you didn’t do in high school or your first couple years of college.  You go buy a couple of these:


That’s $18 worth of Miller Lite right there.  You need a salary and health insurance to afford these.  You don’t have that in high school or college.

Then you buy a $36 concert t-shirt because its freaking worth it. Here’s mine:


After you get your second 25 oz Miller Lite you head to your seats.  The first beer is a walking beer.  Meaning its the beer you drink while walking to get your sweet new concert tee.  Once in your seats I always take a look around at the folks sitting in my immediate area.  I like to know who will be rocking it old school with me, flashing the horns and belting out every single freaking lyric.  Who are my co-pilots on this awesome journey back to the late 80’s and early 90’s?  Also its good to get a feel for those who won’t be doing that so you have an idea who you are going to be annoying for next 3 hours or so.

Tesla is first.  I wanted to hear 4 songs – Getting Better, Little Suzi, Signs and What You Give.  Ending up hitting .500 as they left the stage without singing Getting Better and What You Give.  And I gotta be honest, it felt a little empty without hearing Getting Better. But…Little Suzi, well she’s on the up.  It was awesome.  And the only person who probably liked it better than me was the woman in the row below us and off to the right who was absolutely rocking.  She was belting out those lyrics so loud she was shaming the rest of us.  We became immediate friends.

When they hit the first few chords of Signs there was an impressive roar from the Gen X dominated crowd.  And we clearly – CLEARLY – preferred the unedited version as we sang, “So I made up my f*#&ing sign!”

Poison was next.  And Bret Michaels obviously understands who his audience is.  No messing around with their new stuff.  Listen, it was a good thing they can dial it back a bit with Every Rose Has Its Thorn and Something to Believe In because I probably would have needed to take a knee just to regroup.  Ride the Wind, Fallen Angel and then Nothing But A Good Time…I was exhausted.  I mean that’s A LOT of air guitar.  My fingers were cramping up.  Plus Nothing But A Good Time is synonymous with the summer of ’88…along with my sweet ’81 diesel Volkswagen Rabbit, Stroh Light and the Lakers going back to back.

Then Def Leppard.

DefLeppardSugarDef Leppard dominated my senior year of high school. Dominated.  Like Markie Post’s hotness dominated the set of Night Court.  Sure Micheal Jackson got in there with Man in the Mirror and David Lee Roth kicked our asses with Just Like Paradise and Arnold Schwarzenegger was in every freaking movie. Anybody else think they should remake The Running Man?  No?  Just me then. Anyway, point being Def Leppard was awesome in the ’87-’88 school year and they are still awesome. Armaggedon It is a like flamethrower showering us with late 80’s nostalgia.  Plus it melts your face off. Pour Some Sugar On Me hits you like city bus filled with all your high school memories.  Like the time my buddy Pete almost blew his finger off in the front seat of my car as he lit a bottle rocket that recorded a total travel distance of his side of the dashboard to mine and then exploded. Or The Longest Day (Feb. 27, 1988) when my buddies and I, allegedly, used fake IDs to load up at EJ’s Liquors to keep us hydrated throughout an entire Saturday.

It all hits you.  You feel it.  And for a few fleeting instances, you’re there.  You’re really there. And then you realize you’ve spent $54 dollars on a six pack of 25 oz Miller Lites and you have to be up early to make sure your 7th grader has a ride to school.

But it was still awesome…

After Prom

High School Prom.  You remember it.  I liked Prom.  Had a great time both times I went. Junior year 1987 theme was Bon Jovi’s I’ll Be There For You.  Top Gun had recently hit VHS and the Atomic Shakespeare episode of Moonlighting was the funniest thing anybody had ever seen.  Senior year, if you can believe it, was even more awesome.  The series finale of Magnum aired the same weekend as Prom.  Poison had just released Nothing But a Good Time and we had access to multiple 30 packs of Stroh’s and Stroh Light.  Now, I know what you’re thinking…how does any self-respecting high school senior pick Stroh’s over Milwaukee’s Best?  Well, it came in a 30 pack.  Just saying. Also next time you have the chance to crack a Stroh’s or an MB you’ll swear to the sweet baby Jesus that it smells exactly like high school.  And Prom…if you went to high school in the late 80’s with me.  Seriously, just for a second, you’ll feel like you’re wearing shredded jeans, listening to Just Like Paradise on your way to see Coming to America.

Now sure as as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti some of you are judging me right now.  How in the hell can I hold any high moral ground while talking to my oldest daughter about Prom while I’m writing about the venerable and sorely missed Stroh’s 30 pack?

Well, thStrohs30pack1988e truth is parenting teenagers is f’ing hard.  I’m not perfect and I certainly don’t have all the right answers.  I mean example #1, I miss the taste of Stroh’s.  Sure its mostly nostalgic but I still do.  Example #2, I have no freaking clue where the point of balance is between letting your teenage daughter do things and protecting her from things actually is.  Example #3, I really don’t have any idea how these kids can enjoy Prom without hair metal.  These morons are listening to Chance the Rapper and DJ Khaled.  But here’s the thing, I remember being a teenager.  So do you.  I remember my two proms.  I thought about two things my last couple years of high school – girls and beer. That’s it. Sometimes, during basketball practice, I thought about basketball.  But that was kinda hit and miss.  As was my playing time as a result.  So while I was pretty unhappy about Mom volunteering for the After Prom party at the high school, it did put me in a position to at least be in proximity to my 17 year-old daughter during a key high milestone.  Plus, we did have access to a truckload of free food.

First, if your high school doesn’t do an After Prom party, here’s the low down.  The school opens itself up, parents volunteer to staff various activities and other crap to occupy the Prom-goers from the end of Prom to the middle of the freaking night.  Ostensibly to keep them in a relatively safe environment instead of driving around slamming beers.   Which, as we all know, may or may not have happened to a few of us Gen Xers during our high school years.  Afterwards, since these kids do everything in groups, the groups assemble at somebody’s house and they all sleep there.  Then your kid shows up at home sometime Sunday morning.

Our adventure begins with us meeting some of the other parents downtown to take some Prom pics.  Here’s one of the group.

Prom 88 Matt Ladd Jeff Nick

Oh, wait that’s a pic of me and some of my friends at Senior Prom back in ’88.  Here’s Rye and her group.


Two things become obvious – 1) the guys are more excited about the pics than the girls. 2) My own douchiness as a high school junior and senior became painfully clear to myself.   These guys were posing their asses off.  But I did get to meet Rye’s date for the first time. But it was a day late.  While I was at work Friday night, Rye brought him over to meet us. We’d made a pretty big deal out of the fact that he hadn’t been to the house and we hadn’t met him.  Rye and him spent a little time talking to Mom about Prom and what their plans were.  Mom was pleased.  I was not.  Mostly because I was stuck at work during that 23.5 hour marathon.  I explained to  a couple coworkers what was happening while lamenting the fact that none of my questions for him could be answered.

So I improvised and started texting Mom the aforementioned questions.  Here’s the list:

  • What is his parent’s debt to asset ratio?
  • Any history of felonies or involvement with organized crime?
  • Trump or Hillary?
  • Steelers or Ravens?
  • Who was the better president: Woodrow Wilson or Calvin Coolidge?
  • What kind of car does he drive?
  • Grunge or Hair Metal?
  • Skinny jeans or normal jeans?

Mom was no help.  All she told us was that he drives a white car.  Which is useless. Provides me with absolutely no actionable intel.  Might as well have told me Tom Cruise is coming out with an action movie this summer.  Or that Eric Dickerson had a pretty good rookie year in ’83.  Useless.

PromdonutsAnyway, we head home after the pics for a hour or so then head over to Jersey Mike’s to pick up 8 boxes of subs.  Local businesses were donating food or giving us a deal. Our job to pick up Jersey Mike’s.  We arrived and there was Subway, Jimmy John’s, Krispy Kremes, Scratch Cupcakes, mini blizzards from Dairy Queen, a truckload of Papa John’s pizza, and not nearly enough wings from Buffalo Wild Wings.  After getting everything set up, I volunteered to be in charge of ice.  It required me to get ice and dump it into the big coolers to keep the pop, water and Gatorade cold.  I spent most of my time sitting while marveling at the amount of food these kids can consume.  These kids just wasted the donuts.  They looked like the Terminator walking into the West Highland Police Station looking for Sarah Connor.

One kid took 6 donuts and built them into a small pyramid on top of his pizza.  6 donuts. Who eats 6 donuts at midnight before they eat half a pizza?

PromjerseymikesI ended up with some leftover Gatorade, a box of Jersey Mike’s and two cases of Diet Pepsi.  We got home about 3:15 am…and were up at 6 am for more softball.  But as luck would have it, Bails’ team lost their first two games of the day and we were home by 11:30 and I immediately went to sleep.  5 and a-half hours later, the girls woke me up so I could mow the lawn.  Because this is what Dads do.  We go to softball on a couple hours sleep for two days in a row, we volunteer at After Prom parties and then we come home and mow the lawn.

Go Dads.

Next blog…An Awesome Time Machine.


Growth Rates and Satellite Dish Placement

If you’re going to be without something in your house for a week, what is the last thing you’d want it to be? And don’t be a goof and say “oxygen” or “beer.” We already know the lack of said items would cause outright panic and anarchy. So what would it be? Hot water? Wi-Fi? The appearance of any teenagers whatsoever? Okay, that was a trick. Of course you’d pick the last one. I mean nobody wants to spend time with teenagers. We’re forced by biology and human nature and the law, in some cases, to do it. The circumstances and results of our previous decisions to, in fact, have babies has ultimately led to the unfortunate scenario in which you, as an adult in his or her 40’s (or so) have been placed, by the terms of human physiology, in an unchangeable situation in which you must spend time with teenagers. Its just the way things are. Like Hillary and conflicts of interest.

Anyway, for me it would probably be the lack of TV. I don’t mean the actual physical lack of a television in your house. That’s just crazy. I mean all of the TV’s in your house lack the ability to show anything. This happened to us. I wish I could say we are such awesome parents that the girls screwed something up so egregiously that we dropped the hammer and said “no TV for a week!” But that’s really just punishment for us and we have no way to police it since they are home by themselves so often.

Oh, and we love TV. Just saying. Although the fact that Person on Interest probably isn’t returning until after Christmas is straining that love.

Turns out nature doesn’t care about any of this. Much like babies, trees grow at fairly steady rate over the years. Back when we got married 18 years ago, I used some of the wedding cash to plant two glorious maples in our backyard. They look great and they’re huge now. However when we made the switch to Direct TV, we placed the dish in such a place that it was not really visible from the front of the house and was somewhat reachable to dust off snow in the winter. This was 8 years ago. In June the signal on some channels got a little sketchy. Got a little worse as summer wore on. Then just before we went to the Ozarks last month, I noticed that FX and the NFL Network were extinct when it came our dish. Gone. Like sanity in Bernie Sanders brain. I found that realization to be disturbing. Not Bernie Sanders’ lack of sanity, that’s been evident for years, I mean the loss of FX and the NFL Network. I mean Shooter is on almost once a week on FX. And the NFL season is literally breathing down our necks. So I called Direct TV. About a week later Direct TV Guy shows up, gets on the roof and tells me the maple closest to the house is too big and needs to trimmed. I asked for another option. He said there really isn’t another one. He could move the dish to a different part of the roof with a higher elevation but he didn’t think it was high enough anyway. Told me he got up there and tested the signal reception and moving the dish wasn’t really an option. I nodded and said thanks for coming out. Pretty sure the real reason he couldn’t move the dish was because it was already 4:45 in the afternoon and he just wanted to go home.

So I called the Tree Guy. Tree Guy comes over and tells me, yeah, it’s probably the tree that is interfering with the signal. Here’s the problem though. The branch which most likely is the signal interference culprit has a taller branch right behind it. So if we chop the culprit branch (which by the way is the size of a small tree), he doesn’t think we’ll solve the problem. Plus the tree is just going to keep growing and I’ll likely be back in the same boat next year. His solution? I gotta move the dish to the higher roofline and shoot it over/between the backyard trees.

My response? “Boooooooooooo.”

Tree Guy gives me his personal cell number and says if he needs to come back, let him know and he’ll be right over.

I have a couple options. 1) spend the cash and hack up the tree and hope for the best. 2) call the Direct TV guy and insist he get up on the roof and move the dish despite his initial findings. 3) Something else.

I went with #3. I called one of the local satellite providers, explained my problem and asked for some help. Response? They were at the house in 36 hours and moved the dish for $50. And now we have TV back. And it’s glorious. Wonderful. Magnificent. The first night we had it back I stayed up late on just watching TV because it had been so long. Then I went upstairs and turned on the TV in our room and watch MORE!

Yes, welcome back old friend, welcome back.

Published in: on September 4, 2015 at 8:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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High Drama

High Drama yesterday morning at the Chronicles of Dad Base Camp. A typical school day morning involves a bit of staggered wake-up schedule and some arguing over the bathroom when one of the three girls lollygags a little bit and wanders into the block of time normally occupied by another. This kind of thing happens regularly. And by regularly I mean every day. I think part of the problem is that they communicate through grunts, dirtly looks and the unexpected blindside hip toss.

Kinz is up at 6 and out the door for the bus stop by 6:50. Then Rye is up around 6:30ish and leaves for school around 7:30. Then Bails rolls outta bed at 7 and leaves for the bus stop at 8:25. This plan has some logic to it. Each girl gets about 30 minutes to themselves in the bathroom. In theory. But Keynesian economics, the Run and Shoot Offense and The Legion of Doom also seemed to work in theory. Anyway, the weakness in the plan is the girls need to get up on time. They don’t. A secondary weakness in the plan is that girls must be in relatively close proximity to each other as they pass in the hall or switch places in the bathroom.

Do other parents seriously considering moving to a bigger house and taking on a larger mortgage and putting themselves at financial risk simply to avoid the daily conflict that occurs amongst their children? We’re thinking about this. A lot. It’s not just the bathroom skirmishes, it is the ceaseless officiating we’re asked to do in regards to tensions arising from the fact that Kinz and Bails share a room. You’d think at some point they’d achieve détente. Reagan and Gorbachev did it, so should they. I mean its not that we want much more room in a house – just an extra bedroom, an extra stall in the garage and a tiny house in the backyard equipped with Direct TV, a mini fridge and wi-fi.

But the drama yesterday morning had nothing to do with space. Yesterday was gym day for Rye. So she needs to wear, or bring, her Nikes. They are almost two years old and pretty beat up but she likes them. But I still broke down and bought her some new ones last week. Should be delivered any day now. But she needed her old ones yesterday morning. And they were gone. My first reaction when she told me they were gone was, “Are you sure?” The doubt in regards to her assertion of their disappearance is entirely due to the fact that a growing heap of shoes is building up next to the front door. It’s a like volcanic island forming in the Pacific. Flip-flops, sneakers, cleats, Toms, sandals. It’ll get worse in the winter when the Uggs and other boots move in. And there is no way you can ascertain the existence of a pair of Nikes within this pile through a casual 15 year-old glance. I am a parent. I am well aware of the “thoroughness” in which 15 year-olds “look” for stuff. They’re like Hillary looking for classified emails. But I wanted her to be sure that the shoes in question were, in fact, gone.

They were.

“Dad, Kinsey wore my Nikes to school without asking. My only pair of gym shoes. And I have gym today. I have to have them. I know exactly where I left them and they’re gone. She never asks if she can wear any of my stuff and then she does it anyway!”

Before she could finish the rant, I cut her off. Mostly because I could see the anger/adrenaline ramping up and since she was about to drive herself to school, I thought rage would only distract her from keeping her eyes on the road. But also because I had a question.

“Don’t you have a pair of black Converse?”

“What? Um…”

So she wore the Converse. And I banned Kinz from wearing any of Rye’s stuff until Oct. 1. Because I’m tired of this particular issue. We’ll see if the ban holds…

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…

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.

Almost Back to School

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

Funny you should ask.

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

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

We thought it was funnier than she did.

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s just me. Whatever.

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

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

“Where is your first class?”

“Speech in Room 107.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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