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.

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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…

End of Summer?

Seriously weather we already did this once. Back in February you waited until the very end of winter to start snowing like crazy. Now you’re waiting until the very end of summer to heat it up to 100 degrees. I think it sucks. And I want you to stop.

Last weekend we spent all day Saturday and Sunday outside at softball tournaments for Kinz and Bails. We threw in a four hour dance class for Rye on Sunday just to bolster the logistics.

Saturday didn’t start out too badly. Bails had a doubleheader that started at 9. Usually takes a little over 3 hours to get both games in. We arrived at the fields and lo and behold they pretty darn nice. Plus lots of shade to go along with a nice morning breeze. And I got to help warm the girls up by hitting grounders to them. I admit, it was fun. Bails is playing 10U ball but her team is the third best of four 10U teams for our local girls softball association. So they are playing in a “rookie” league which means that its regular softball until the pitcher throws four balls and then the coach comes in to pitch to his or her own players. Coaches are limited to 5 pitches. Bails doesn’t really have any confidence that she can hit off the pitcher and almost always waits for the coach to come in. She almost always hits off the coach. As do the rest of the girls on her team. In this coach-pitch league they are 5-1.

At the same time I’m out watching Bails, Mom is watching Kinz play two games at our local fields. Our softball association is in charge of the tournament. Good news is that the fields are 10 minutes from the house. Bad news is that we have to volunteer to help with various things. Kinz’ team goes 1-1 in the morning, she gets a couple hits and plays a clean second base. She’s done playing for the day. But we told her and Riley that were going to come watch Bailey play later.

Later you say? Yup. After all the morning games are done, we get a break before Bails has two more games in the evening. Bails’ team is playing in the same tournament as Kinsey’s team except at the 10U level instead of 12U. But this tournament is all girl-pitch no coach-pitch. Also means that nearly all the teams in the tournament are the second, not third, best teams in their respective softball associations. So we’re pretty much just assuming two losses. The other thing you can assume with evening games is that they will start late. First game is supposed to start at 5. We arrive about 4:15 for warm-ups. Heat is mid-90’s. After warming up for 30 minutes, we walk to our field only to see the game before us go into extra innings. Lots of extra innings.

About 6, we start. Around 7:15 the game ends. We managed to get a runner to second base as the result of a walk and a steal. That’s it. No hits. To be fair, the girl pitching against us was throwing faster than the 12U pitcher in the game directly behind us. She also was the size of a Big 12 linebacker. You should have seen the look on Bails’ face when the first pitch came across the plate, belt high, at what must have looked like 217 mph. I’m just going to paraphrase what she was thinking but I’m pretty sure it was “you gotta be f’ing kidding me.”

Again, just guessing. Pure conjecture.

But the late start in the first evening game led to a late start in the second evening game. A 6:30 game became a 7:30 game. We literally walked right from one field onto the another, no warm up, barely even broke stride and the girls went right to their positions.

Temperature? A sticky 90. Now, to recap, this team is made up of girls under the age of 10. They are what can be described as the “C” team. Some of the girls are good enough to play on the “B” team. But what holds them back is that their attention spans and concentrations levels are not at optimum levels. Then you decide to play FOUR FREAKING GAMES IN ONE FREAKING DAY. Oh and you mix in some humid late summer 90 degree weather. And, as every parent knows, oppressively hot and humid weather really brings out the best in every 10 year kid.

Fun times.

We got a runner to third in this game. Small victory. But still no hits. At one point late in the game, one of Bailey’s coaches goes up to her and asks her to bunt. She, as she does with most things, considers this a request and not an order. She considered it for about two seconds and then said “no.” Coach dropped his head faster than Magnum when Higgins used to start telling stores about how he was there when the Bridge Over the River Kwai was destroyed. Coach had the look of a man who knew he had no options other than to just accept defeat to a 9 year old blond in a pony tail and cleats.

Have I mentioned that Bails’ team also had two more games scheduled the next day. A day in which it was supposed to be hotter. First game at 2:30. Right at the time when the sun should be hovering around a temperature level of flamethrower. Woo hoo. Also, Kinsey’s team has two more games at 11 & 2.

How could it get better? Just as that second so-called game is ending I get an email from Kinz’ coach – “Just got word that our team has gate duty 7am-9am Sunday morning.”

So quick recap – of the 13 hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., Mom and I have each spent roughly 10.5 of those hours at softball fields. Now news comes that one of us gets to be back at the fields just before 7 a.m. for gate duty. Upon receipt of the email Mom says, “Well you can go date duty or take the kids to church. Which one do you want to do?”

“C.”

Which meant I volunteered myself for gate duty. Truth be told, it wasn’t bad. But if we’re being completely honest here, if I’m outside at 6:45 a.m. on a Sunday it better be in the parking lot at Heinz Field while I’m tailgating before a Steelers game. Two hours of gate duty later, plus two more hours of just walking around visiting with folks, I finally got to watch Kinz play. They lost 10-4. The good news is that we only had about an hour to wait for our next game to start which we won 10-9 in extra innings. Kinz scored a couple runs and recorded the last out in the top half of the last inning when she covered first on a bunt. She drops the throw and a run would have scored. So good job outta Kinz!

Kinsey’s second game ended about 3:30. A quick check of my watch tells me that I’ve now been outside since just before 7. It’s about this time when you realize how gross you feel. You and your clothes are all sweaty and covered with that crusty dust from the softball fields. I tried to come up with a word to truly describe how I felt standing out in the heat. That word is “swampy.” And I mean that in the grossest possible way.

So we grab all of Kinz’ gear and head home. She heads for the shower and I head across town to Bails’ games which started at 2. I get there just in time to see her get left in the on-deck circle as the first game ends. No big deal, schedule said her second game starts at 3:30. So I figure its gonna start any minute. But, alas, there’s been a change. The winner of the first game plays at 3:30, the loser plays at 5. We of course lost. But I learn from Mom and some other parents that we got a few hits and actually scored some runs. Lost 11-3. I hang out till about 4:30 when we remember that Riley is at dance and somebody needs to pick her up at 5. Before a decision is formally reached on which one of us should go, I’m gone. Literally. I just started walking. Aside from the time in the car between field complexes, I’ve been outside in 90-plus degrees for 9.5 hours. So I just kinda decided I’m not staying. I pick up Rye, go the grocery store, and water the newly germinated grass seed I have down before finally making it inside for my first shower since 7 a.m. Saturday. Which, if you think about it, kinda sucks. If this was say back in ’91 and I was outside all day because of softball it would have been because I was playing in some college intramural tournament. And when we finally finished I would just drive home, shower up and crank the Trixter and Firehouse and rock out. But now we have these damn kids. So before I can shower I have to do all this, well, crap. When really all I want is a freaking shower.

And listen, it was a long shower. Wouldn’t have been surprised if the city called during my shower to complain about excessive water use. Once out, I check my phone to discover that Bailey’s second game was of course delayed. Didn’t start at 5. Almost made it to 6 before they started. Mom got home about 7:45. Which, if you take the time to track the mileage between the fields Bails’ team was on and our house you conclude she was driving over 85 all the way home. Not that I blame her. Totally justified.

The good news is that the heat is so stupidly ridiculous right now we went until Wednesday before we had any softball practices. Tonight Bails is back on the field too. But that’s after she and Kinsey have dance. Yeah, we’re slowly but surely cranking back up the other activities. But we’ve still got at least a month left of fall softball. Including another tournament for Kinsey the weekend. Three games on Saturday. Yay. Her games also unfortunately collide with Iowa State’s home opener. So something’s gotta give there…

Early Spring Thoughts

Does the first real spring day make anyone feel, um, thirsty? I haven’t zeroed in on the exact causes of this phenomena, but its real. Happens every March. Maybe its St. Patrick’s Day. But I’m not Irish and don’t claim any honorary Irishness, I’m not a fan of Irish cuisine and I grew up hating Notre Dame. I’ve sometimes thought its some combination of the NCAA Tournament, memories of FAC’s in college and smell in the spring that gives off the distinct of thawing. You know what I’m talking about. I think olfactory recognition triggers nostalgia.

Anyway, I learned something this week. If you want to look like you’re drinking but not really, drink Sprite Zero. At least three this week at work I was walking around holding a Sprite Zero can and was asked if I was drinking a Bud Light.

Seriously.

What kind of douchebag do you have to be if three different people not only think you’re boozing at work but actually roaming the building with an open beer in your hand?

I evidently am the type of person who falls onto that list. I didn’t really know this. Which has forced me to look at the Man in the Mirror. My conclusions?

1) I wish I did work at place that allowed beer cart Fridays. This, at least to me, is a rockstar morale booster. The boss pushes a beer cart through the office offering beers. This is also the kind of place where you could wear jeans and your favorite Cyclones hat to work. But alas I do not work in such a utopia.
2) Many of the people who also work in my building evidently are drinking. There’s really no other explanation as to why they’d seriously believe I’d be walking around drinking beer in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. I mean literally no one does this. Not even the guys who make beer at work.
3) Friday afternoons make me thirsty.

So there’s that. Hey, learned something else. Bails likes to plan for the future. Here’s what she told us on the way to church:

“I want to marry someone with the last name of “awesome.” So then I’ll be Bailey Awesome.”

Sound logic.

Self Selection

The winnowing or weeding out or self-selection process is underway at our house. With dance, softball, gymnastics, orchestra, band, choir and the mathlympics all fighting for time, I think we’ve started the activity elimination phase of life for the girls. I made up the last one.

But don’t make the mistake that winnowing simplifies things. Now that I mention it, I’m not sure things ever really simplify. Everytime you graduate from one stage, you enter a new one. It’s like trying to run the ball on the ’76 Steelers. Sure you managed to get by Ernie Holmes but Jack Lambert just filled the hole! Boom! Just when you figure out how to coexist with a newborn, they start crawling and demonstrate an attraction to the stairs not seen since Nancy Pelosi and the use of private jets.

For the last three years, we’ve had all three girls in the same school. This simplified a certain amount of logistics. Starting in about a month Rye moves to a different building. Boo. Different bus. Different start and dismissal times. Just when you start to get a bit comfortable, the school district decides to punch you in the face.

I know this happens to everybody as their kids creep into middle school and high school but its new to us. Two quick things – yes, I do enjoy seeing the girls really develop their interest and skills in certain things and making decisions on their own. But I also really hate change and disruption to my routine.

But Rye loves dance and she’s starting to look down the road. She wants to be on the high school dance team. And she’s closer to 13 now than she is to 12 so she’s putting together the pieces of what she needs to do to get there. However, it is still stunning to me how many parents are willing to treat 12 and 13 year-olds like teenagers. Short rant coming…just because your kid’s age ends in teen does not mean they have reached a certain level of maturity which allows them to wear clothes or engage in certain types of behavior. For example, how many people do you work with who have ages that begin with a 2, a 3 or even a 4 who act like their ages really end in teen? Yeah, so case closed.

Anyway, Rye joined a second dance studio which means softball next season is almost assuredly out. This is both cool and a bit disappointing. She really improved this season as a player. Her rec league team played in the championship game and she played better than she ever has. But while she liked playing, I don’t think she’s going to miss not playing. And that’s a key difference. With dance we have to stop her from doing her self-choreographed routines combining ballet and ninja in the middle of kitchen. Or in front of the TV when I’m trying to watch the Pirates. Pennant race baby! C’mon be the year, be the year! But with the addition of the second dance studio we’ve added a LOAD of dance classes. Before we had ballet, tap and pointe. Now we have a technique class, a poms class, a core strength class and a copmetitive dance team class. In addition to ballet, tap and pointe. Rye actually wants to take the core strength class twice a week instead of once. That’s what watching all those P90X infomercials will do to your kids.

We’re three days a week now but when fall gets here we’ll be five days a week. Yes, five. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think that makes it a job. Thankfully, the transportation between the two dance studios requires little planning. They are fairly close and are connected by major arterial roads. That will not, however, stop me from finding a shortcut…

Kinsey tried out for the 10 and Under competitive softball team. She made the orange team which I guess is the “B” team. That means dance or gymnastics is going to face a fight for time on the schedule. I’m guessing that by next spring gymnastics will soon go the way of the pro-business Democrat and the Run and Shoot offense. They are already going to start practicing this month. Good news is that when it came time to pick a number she chose wisely. She had to pick her favorite number and then a back up number. She picked #1 as her favorite but as luck would have it, so did the coach’s kid. We all know who is going to win that argument. Her back up number? #43. Why? Troy Polamalu. And that’s why its awesome being a Dad.

Bad news is they are going to play in fall league. Fall. As in weekends in the fall. They may as well just drive to Canton and spit on Chuck Noll’s bust in the Hall of Fame. How about just burning the section of turf where Franco caught the Immaculate Reception? Or throwing Rocky Bleier’s Purple Heart in the garbage.

Seriously, I didn’t get the NFL Sunday Ticket so I could watch Kinsey play softball. We don’t have season football tickets to Iowa State in order to miss the games.

Grrr…but on the bright side the fall softball season starts in August and only runs into September. No word yet on how far into September we go. Best case scenario? Labor Day weekend is the end. Most likely scenario? We’ll still be playing on Halloween.

Now at least Bailey’s schedule looks to be fairly similar this coming school year as it was last year. Dancing, gymnastics and softball. Bails hasn’t had the chance to start orchestra or band yet. That doesn’t happen until 4th grade. But she has expressed some interest in track. She’s built like a pencil and never gets tired. So we’re kinda thinking we might want to explore this interest of hers. But, again, that’ll have to displace something and she’s only 8. Well, 9 in about two months. Geez, our youngest is almost 9. Anyway, not sure that she should have to start giving stuff up when she’s only going to be in 3rd grade. Plus, and again, maybe this is just me, but I think it’s kinda weird to sign a 3rd grader up for a track club. I mean she’s in 3rd grade…all she does is run. Why do I need to sign her up and pay for her to run?

Regardless, I’m becoming more and more convinced that the best solution to our activities matrix is simply having a third parent. You can’t convince me that you haven’t considered it too…

Minor Things

Best new show on TV? Person of Interest. Tough not to like Jim Caviezel, tougher not to like his character in this show. Plus Ben from LOST in it. So not being awesome was a tall task. Funniest new show? New Girl. Not close either. Maybe it’s because I like making fun of twenty-something singles, maybe it’s just good writing, who knows. But this is a freaking funny show. But when talking about the most hilarious shows on TV, you can’t go long without mentioning Archer. Yes, it’s in its third season but seriously, if you haven’t watched it, find the Rampage episode from last season and watch it. I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard.

Anyway, that really has nothing to do with anything. But since I writing about things that really don’t have anything to do with anything, I do have some additional thoughts.

First, Mom has a weird, almost maniacal dislike of Katherine McPhee. She can’t see an ad for that new show Smash, without the words “stupid” or “gross” leaping from her piehole. Its weird. I mean if you are going to have irrational dislike of someone, why Katherine McPhee? It’s not like she called a “blarge” in the 2000 Elite Eight killing Iowa State’s shot at the Final Four. It’s not like she took a great movie like Clash of Titans and remade it into a CGI’ed video game. I’m starting to like movies that have less special effects.

Second, am I the only one who thinks Jessie J’s “Domino” is really just a remake of Kathy Troccoli’s “Everything Changes?” Only me? Alright, but you gotta admit, in that video, she’s a dead ringer for Ashton Main in North and South. Video kinda reminds me of that Cathy Dennis video from way back in the spring of ‘90. It is just isn’t it? Whatever.

Third, teaching your daughters the everyday street smarts and cleverness needed to operate in the real world is key. For example at work we have several pop machines. They do not, however, operate with same rules. And only one of them stocks cans of Diet Pepsi. It also, like Run DMC used to say, is tricky.

There’s a certain protocol most folks follow upon approaching a pop machine. Ascertain the flavor of pop you’d like, check the price, walk away or buy. Done. Pretty straight forward. But not with the Diet Pepsi pop machine at work.

This machine displays no prices. Anywhere. Best way to figure out the price? Hijack Jonesy’s sonar from the USS Dallas in Red October. Second best way? Slide a dollar into the dollar slot. No way a can is more than a dollar right? You may or may not be right about this…however, this pop machine won’t take dollars. Ever. Without Matthew Broderick’s sweet decoder abilities, you ain’t getting a pop using a dollar out of this machine.

Let’s, for the sake of time, assume you guessed correctly and deposited 80 cents into the machine. Ahh, just seconds away from enjoying your Diet Pepsi right? Nope. Despite the fact that cans cost exactly 80 cents and you’ve deposited 80 cents into the machine housing the 80 cent pops, you remain popless.

This is where you need the everyday skills only Dad can teach. Up to this point, you’ve succeeded on your own by locating a pop machine with Diet Pepsi’s, you’ve determined how much the cans of Diet Pepsi cost despite the maddening lack of labeling. And finally, you’ve learned that this remorseless machine won’t take dollar bills. As mentioned, now is when you need Dad. How do you get that magical can of Diet Pepsi? Well, naturally you put exactly 85 cents into machine. Press the correct code and get your pop. And then you grab your 5 cents in change.

How does Dad know all of this? Because he’s like Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge! He adapts, he overcomes, he improvises.

Fourth, you need to take the time to cultivate the emotional investment in your teams within your daughters. If you don’t, you could be sitting around 15 years from now trying to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner while your daughter’s fiancé has her convinced its no big deal to root for the Cowboys or the Ravens or the freaking Patriots. Worse yet, she’s shows up with some witless tool who thinks its perfectly acceptable to be one those bandwagon a-holes who cheer for Nebraska in football and Kansas in basketball. And pretty soon you’re the bad guy for making the fiancé eat his turkey on the back deck and drink out of the hose.

Its more than buying them a sweatshirt. It’s more than waking them up when Ben hits Santonio with the game winner and reenacting the catch so they fully understand the context. You gotta tell them stories. You gotta explain how the battle between the Empire and the Rebellion is similar to the rivalry between the Hawkeyes and the Cyclones. You need to explain how you learned about the true existence of good and evil in the world through watching the George Atkinson clothesline Lynn Swann back in ’76. You gotta take them to games and display the genuine joy you take in your teams. We took Bails to the ISU-KU basketball game a couple Saturdays ago. This is among the most important things you can do as a father. Plus, if you want to cultivate Cyclones, Hilton Coliseum with KU in town is a pretty good place to be. Not to mention getting a gigantic Clone Cone for her. Yeah, it was like 8 pounds of soft serve ice cream. By the end of the game she was standing on her chair with both arms raised every time we hit a three. Tear to the eye, I tell you , tear to the eye.

Time’s List

You know what’s awesome? Hearing a Journey two for Tuesday when its Stone in Love and Ask the Lonely. Yes, I know, Don’t Stop Believing is a classic. I love it too. But then again, I love We are Family from Sister Sledge too.

You what isn’t awesome? Time’s story on the Top 10 Things Today’s Kids Won’t Experience. Last month they ran a story about this. I would have written about it when I first saw but I have three kids who started school at the same time and I was overwhelmed with the lifestyle shift from summer to school. Then I had my fantasy football draft and the NFL started and well you can see how things get away from you…

Anyway, you know when you read something and are just dumbfounded that somebody would write something so utterly absurd you laugh out loud in stunned wonderment? I do this every time I mistakenly read something by Paul Krugman. I’m sure the writers at Time put some thought into this list and probably even chuckled to each other in smug satisfaction after compiling it but their list is, well, dumb. I don’t think I’m alone in my assessment either. Read the list yourself:

1- Camera Film
2- Landline phone lines
3- Real Books
4- Being Lost
5- Music Videos on MTV
6- Walkman’s
7- Glory Days of Nick at Nite
8- Tan M&M’s
9- Czechoslovakia
10- Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator

See you’ve already raised an eyebrow, frowned at the screen and said “C’mon, it’s Czechoslovakia. It’s not like we’re going to Moscow. It’s like going into Wisconsin.”

Stripes is awesome. You know its awesome.

Furthermore, Czechoslovakia was just the forced merger of the Czechs and Slovaks into a country that didn’t really want to be one. Kinda like the Big 12 South and Pac-10.

Seriously, how did this list make it past quality control?

Camera Film? You know what else kids won’t experience? Time Magazine if it keeps coming up with lame lists like this. Sure kids won’t experience camera film. But you know what? I experienced it and I don’t really miss it.

Real Books? Um, hello? Is no one else paying a real textbook fee for their three kids in elementary school?

Being Lost? Are you freaking kidding me? Do these perspectively-challenged buffoons really believe that every 1st grader is walking around with a GPS? Or with a computer locater chip implanted in their neck so their parents and school can track them on a hourly basis? Being Lost? Something so completely and totally stupid could only be written by some doofus twenty-something with no kids and a Smart Car.

Tan M&M’s. Really. Now say this in your best John McEnroe – “You Cannot Be Serious!” No one cares about Tan M&M’s. Kids don’t. Adults don’t. The other M&M’s don’t. You know why? Because there are now peanut M&M’s, almond M&M’s, Dark Chocolate M&M’s, and Reese’s Pieces and depending on the summer blockbuster super movie marketing tie-in, there is always a special flavor available only for this summer. And despite rumors to the contrary, color does not determine taste.

I don’t have any real complaints with Music Videos on MTV. That is an excellent observation. It was pretty awesome to come home from school, flip on MTV and watch Rock the Casbah, Pass the Dutchie and Hungry Like the Wolf. The only videos they see now are Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato since Disney has cross-marketing down to an absolute formula.

As you may have guessed, I have some of my own suggestions for inclusion on Time’s list.

1-Saturday morning cartoons. Scooby-Doo. The Superfriends. Thundarr the Barbarian. Spiderman and his Amazing Friends. You can even include the Smurfs here. Why? Because, free from government intervention or social programs, they were able to develop and maintain their own community. I always thought Gargamel was a metaphor for Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs anyway.

2-The NFL Today with Brent Musberger. You know why YouTube is awesome? Because there are other dorks like me who think it is awesome that you can find this:

Or this:

Sure Musberger is kind of a tool. But random highlights from week 10 of the ’79 NFL season? Awesome! Plus, if you’re my age you know that the best thing about Sunday morning when you were a kid, besides the end of the sermon, was hearing ol’ Brent say, “You’re looking live…” Plus back then the only time you actually could see games outside your home market was on shows like the NFL Today.

3-History Class. I’m not kidding. Go randomly ask a 16 year-old who the crossed the Delaware on Christmas night. I’m just spit-ballin’ here but my guess is that a fair number of them will say Santa Claus. We’ve allowed environmentalism to become part of public school curriculum but we don’t require anybody to actually read The Constitution.

4-Halloween. I know I’ve written about this previously. But what the hell has happened to Halloween? This is an epic national tragedy that has gone woefully under reported by major news organizations. There are kids who don’t dress up on Halloween. Even worse there are kids who dress up but have no where to go because an alarming number of so-called Americans do not purchase candy to distribute. Instead they choose to close their doors and turn out their lights. Maybe its just me, but if you’re going to behave like that on Halloween why don’t you just torch the Bill of Rights and recite Karl Marx while waving the hammer and sickle overhead.

5-ABC’s Monday Night Football with the real freaking MNF theme instead of the Hank Williams, Jr. crap. I know if you are in your 20’s or early 30’s you’re reading this thinking this guy is nuttier than faking a field goal down three in overtime. Listen, it isn’t MNF unless it starts with this and ends Frank Gifford saying “Tonight on ABC’s Monday Night Football!”

Speaking of football, I’m taking Riley and Kinsey to the Iowa State game this weekend. It’s a night game so they are pretty excited about it. Of course, promising them chips and hot dog for dinner gets them pretty worked up too. We’ll see how it goes…

A weekend of awesome

So as far as weekends go, last weekend was pretty awesome. Steelers took Maurkice Pouncey in the first round and Jonathan “The Diesel” Dwyer in the sixth. Welcome home power running game, we’ve been looking for you.

Then, with my folks in town, all three girls got their first hits in softball. Kinsey caught a fly ball. Riley stole two bases and Bails was the only girl on either team in her game not to have to use the tee to get a hit. Awesome! But she’s the coach’s kid so you know how that goes…

Friday we go to our favorite restaurant and order our favorite nachos. Upon delivery we noticed they have been changed. And they are better! Awesome.

Then Creighton bailed out Iowa State by taking Coach McDermott off our hands. Awesome.

Further awesomeness? I got to ride in a parade with 11 little girls. At 9:00 in the morning. On a Saturday. And we all got to wear our neon Miami Vice green t-shirts. And throw candy. Have you ever really paid attention to children throwing candy in a parade? Picture someone throwing open the side door on UH-1 Huey and opening up with the mini-gun. I hope the softball league has good liability insurance because there were a few kids limping away, clutching their bags of candy, bleeding…

Anyway, Thursday night Kinsey and Rye had games at virtually the same time. So, yes, we were those parents literally running back and forth between fields so we wouldn’t miss anything. Kinz gets a hit in her first at bat. Ever. Then the girl up after her smacks a hit into left center. Kinsey takes off so fast she left that Road Runner-like dust trail between bases. She gets to second and without even braking stride, plants her foot on the inside of the bag and takes off for third. Evidently aggressiveness on the base paths comes naturally to her. She gets to third, does this weird half pirouette with pointed toes, stands on the bag, looks at us and pulls out the double thumbs up. It was freaking excellent. And also against the rules. No taking extra bases at Kinsey’s level. She was ticked. Evidence? The clenched fists, straight armed-foot stomp back to second.

That quickly faded when she caught her first fly ball. Ever. The loudest cheer you get at a softball game being played by 1st and 2nd graders is when one of them catches a fly ball. Everybody cheers. Both teams. All the parents. Everybody. Its so rare nobody wants to miss a chance to celebrate it. Like when Ben Affleck makes a good movie.

We run over for the start of Rye’s game. She’s leading off. She swings…makes contact. Little dribbler right of the pitcher and she beats the throw. Subdued fist pump from Rye. High fives between Mom and Dad. At Riley’s level, they can steal bases or take the extra base if the catcher drops the ball. So she did. Turned into Vince Coleman. Stole second. Stole third. Then scored. Met her at the bench for the Dad-daughter fist bump.

Then on Friday we’re eating the aforementioned nachos. I’m texting with my buddy regarding the wisdom of the Steelers second round pick. Outside linebacker from Virginia Tech. He’s a tweener, so he’s risky pick. Riley asks what I’m doing.

“I’m texting about the Steelers last draft pick. They left a couple guys on the board that I thought might be better picks.”

Bails looks up at me with this look of utter disgust and says, “Ugh…men…”

She’s six by the way.

We get to Saturday. All three girls have games. Bailey’s game is first. Coaches pitch to their own teams so I’m out there. And aside from my Mom criticizing my ability to get the ball over the plate, one of the girls almost falling asleep during her second at bat and another abandoning second base for a bathroom break, it went smoothly. But I’m pretty sure at our level that all goes into the “without incident” file.

Although I’m pretty sure if a kindergartener stands on a base there is some sort of neurological reaction that causes the kindergartener to become completely unaware that a softball game is happening around them. I am also suspicious that the U.S. military may in fact be testing some type of secret weapon system that causes disorientation and motor skill dysfunction while running from first to second. Can’t prove it but it’s the only logical explanation when you have girls on every base and they all somehow end up between the pitcher’s rubber and second base.

Finally, there’s this – if you are coaching a softball team populated with girls between the ages of 4 and 6 do not, I repeat, DO NOT have them play a game on field with any kind of flowering tree near the outfield. Flower petals falling to the outfield grass mesmerizes little girls faster than Obama mesmerizes Democratic convention delegates. Just sayin’…

PJ Day

You know what call I dread receiving? I mean aside from the one I get from my buddy after a Cyclone loss where he blames everything from a low completion percentage to the failure of Operation Market Garden in September of 1944 on Iowa State’s quarterback.

I dread the one I get about 5 minutes after Mom leaves to take the girls to day care before school.

Why?

Because it means we forgot something important to the girls that has them in a panic resembling Tom Brokaw’s reaction when he realized Florida didn’t go to Al Gore on election night 2000. This morning I received that call.

“Hey its PJ and blanket day for Kinsey. Can you grab some jammies and her blanket and run them up to daycare?”

I hate PJ day. In fact, I think it sucks. That’s right – sucks. I said it. Its not like I don’t already have to remember to sign three permission slips so the kids can go see The Nutcracker or that Riley has violin on Mondays, and that Kinsey has to bring a sack lunch on Tuesday and that Bailey has some some weird art day on Wednesday. Add some random unscheduled activities that significantly change our morning routine. And make sure that those random activities involve some type of wardrobe modifications or lunch adjustments so it is widely apparent to the rest of the kids in class who the few are who forgot about it. Sure, no problem. While you’re at it how about Celtic Dance Day? Or dress like a Viking Day? Scandinavian armor is easy to find.

And do it during the last few days before Christmas, excuse me I mean “winter,” vacation. I mean its not like there isn’t anything else going on this time of year. Its not like I am already mad because the Direct TV guy won’t get on the roof to install my HD so I can watch the college football bowl games. Stupid snow. Plus its not like we don’t have a lot going on this weekend like a rehearsal dinner tonight, a wedding tomorrow and Christmas with Mom’s family on Saturday. Plus the only organization on a longer losing streak than the Steelers is the French Army.

Hey, but its cool. No problem. I can remember freaking PJ day…

Hoops

We’re probably going to attend more Cyclone basketball games. The girls had fun and more importantly, they were really pretty damn good.

Aside from Bails trying to get out the door wearing these.

Orange shoes? C’mon Dad, what’s the big deal?

This. This is the big deal.

And if you discount the fact getting her to sit relatively still was about as successful as trying to contain a greased octopus. But all of that happened with about 5 mintues left.

Anyway, I don’t think any of the girls had more fun than Kinsey. Maybe Bailey and Riley when Kinz and I brought them cardinal and gold snow cones. No ice cream because the line looked like a bunch of Canadians waiting for health care.

We’re about midway through the first half and Kinz leans over to Mom, “Mom we’re doing awesome! They are really trying hard!”

First, this is awesome because she referred the Cyclones as “we” and second she was paying attention. On her own. And she was enjoying the game. Not watching the cheerleaders, not watching the mascot, but the game. I guess I was right when I said the NCAA tournament is good for babies…

Then a few minutes into the second half I ask her, “Hey Kinz, how do you think we’re doing?”

She replies, “Dad, it’s 50-28, I think we’re doing pretty good.”

Plus we were six rows off the floor behind one of the baskets. Great seats. Mom and the girls even got on the big video board a few times. More basketball games for us.