Not Ready

I’m just not ready. Well maybe ready isn’t the best way to describe it since you don’t really get to decide if you’re going to do it. Its happening whether you perceive yourself to be ready for it or not. Maybe it is that I simply don’t want to experience it. Like the last 20 years of Pirates baseball. In order to get ready for something, you have to prepare. In order to prepare, you have to know what it is you are getting ready to do.

I do not know what it is that I am getting ready to do. So I’m not prepared. And I like to prepare. Mostly because I have a pathological dislike of surprises. Since I am neither ready nor prepared, I do not want to experience it. Mom, on the other hand, I do believe is somewhat ready because she is prepared. In a sense. She hasn’t done exactly this before but she does have some first person knowledge.

I don’t. Sure I had two sisters growing up. So I’ve been around teenage girls. But I was not only the lone boy, I was also the middle kid. The middle kid is good at certain things. Oldest kids are good at relating to parents. They’ve always been the oldest and for awhile they were kinda like really short grown ups. The youngest kid is really good at getting lost in the noise. The older kids break the rules first, deal with the consequences first and therefore experience the punishments first. Youngest kid watches, learns and executes the “Mom and Dad will be worn down in a few years and I’ll just coast from there” strategy. Middle kid is good at situational awareness. Noticing what is happening around you, sorting out the conflicting data, recognizing the common patterns and outcomes, and boom, you know how to avoid landmines and compliment the right people.

So, I guess, awesome. But that skill set has actually led me to the conclusion that I simply don’t want to experience what is coming. Oh and I purposely chose the word “survive” instead of a word like “raise” or “handle” or even “navigate.” I’m only 8 months into teenagerdom and I’m already looking for possible exit ramps. Ejection handles. Large quantities of cold beer. Well, to be honest, I’m pretty good at that last one. Allegedly. Just got back from vacation down in the Ozarks. Three words…Michelob Lime Cactus.

There are lots of things I’m ready for. The 2013 NFL season for example. A Pirates playoff series that ends in a game 7 NLCS victory over the Braves! The fall premiere of The Walking Dead. All things for which I am ready.

TuborggoldNotice what was missing? Yeah, nowhere in that short but still impressive list are the words “teenager” and “girl.” For teenage girls possess the special talent for defying all reason and common sense in nearly every situation. For now, you might not sense it, but I consider myself lucky. There’s just one of them. But starting in the fall of 2016 there will be three of them in the house. Often at the same time. My sanity will become as extinct as Tuborg Gold, the golden beer of Danish kings.

Yesterday, Rye called me crying. Wait, I mean Rye called me sobbing. Like a legion of vicious velociraptors overran a merry band of frolicking super cute puppies devouring each of them one by one. That kind of sobbing. The reason? Bailey ate two cookies and crème malted milk balls from Harry and David. Now, to be fair, most of the stuff from Harry and David is really good. I’m looking at you Black Bean Dip. You too peanut butter filled pretzels. But not together. That would be gross. But the malted milk balls were Riley’s. Or they were a small gift Riley purchased for one of her friends for covering a teaching shift at their dance studio. Rye is assistant teaching a couple classes. Yeah, pretty cool. Hopefully this turns into a paid gig down the line. But she is teaching hip hop to 4 year olds. That has to be like teaching financial literacy to the president’s team of economic advisors. Anyway, the malted milk balls weren’t Bailey’s to eat. And I had completely forgotten that they were a gift so when Bails asked for a couple, I said “sure.”

That led to the call.

“Dad, Bailey ate some of the cookies and crème malted milk balls and those were a gift for Madison for teaching my class.”

Sobbing. Tears. Unintelligible snorting noises.

“Okay. The first thing you need to do is stop crying. I told Bails she could have some. I didn’t remember they were a gift. So don’t go and yell at Bails. Then just give them to Madison. Tell her the truth. She’s not gonna care. They’re free malted milk balls from Harry and David. Ain’t nobody upset about that. Maybe if you got her one of those weird gift baskets with goat cheese and dried fruit she’d be mad. But she’ll be fine if two cookies and crème malted milk balls are missing.”

That seemed to at least walk her off the ledge. She was still crying when we hung up though. Seriously, WTF with hormonal changes? Are logic and perspective to teenage girls what humility is to Texas fans?

Oh and the tensions between Kinsey and Riley escalate by the day. It’s the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s Steelers-Raiders in the 70’s. It’s He-Man vs. Skeletor. I’ve come to the conclusion that I might as well just start referring to them as Senator McConnell and Senator Reid. It doesn’t matter what one says, the other is not only going to disagree but ultimately employ some of type devious retaliatory maneuver. Yesterday Kinz and Bails wanted to walk down to Menchie’s to get frozen yogurt. Menchie’s sells frozen yogurt and toppings. That’s it. So naturally this led to an argument. Rye refused to walk down there with them even though its only a mile from the house. This is similar to Rye refusing to walk up to the pool with them earlier in the summer. The pool is probably a little over a mile from the house. In both cases, I came home and just told Rye that part of the job her being in charge over the summer is that she has to go places with the girls. Plus its swimming and freaking ice cream. Err..frozen yogurt. Only a 13 year old girl who doesn’t want to do anything with her sisters can find a problem with that. Or so I thought.

I get a call today from Kinz who says that Rye won’t let her walk to Menchie’s with our neighbor. My response is predictable as I explain that of course she won’t let that happen, Rye has to take Kinz and Bails to Menchie’s. Kinz can’t walk down there with just our neighbor who is a year younger than her. Kinz, explains, and by “explains” I mean whiningly details that she just wants to walk to Menchie’s with our neighbor. And our neighbor’s younger brother who is about enter 1st grade. But Rye can walk with Bails. So even when I order Rye to take her sisters to get frozen yogurt there is a problem. Not from Rye, but from Kinz because while she gets to go get the frozen yogurt, she doesn’t get to get it the way she wants to get it.

This should be simple. This isn’t Dick LeBeau’s zone blitz defense. Rye, Kinz and Bails work together a lot like the French, British and Americans during Operation Torch in 1942. Sure they are on the same side. Allegedly. But even when there is a common interest, in their case the frozen yogurt, in the Allies case the German Afrika Korps, they still can’t agree on how to achieve said interest. I’m seriously considering the same solution General Eisenhower turned to back then. I’m firing everybody and putting General Patton in charge.

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Ozarks ’11

Florida? Check. Grampy’s and Grammy’s house for the 4th of July? Check. Colorado? Check. Ozarks? Check. I think we done traveling this summer.

But that does make 13 consecutive years in the Ozarks. And 3 consecutive years where we haven’t added any babies to our entourage. That’s a good streak we have going there.

There are many things I enjoy about going down there for vacation but the one thing that always amazes me is that it is one of the few places where Whiskey Tango and Delta Bravos can both eat in the same place and you really have to look to determine which is which. If you watch them get off their boats, its easy. Whiskey Tango get off just about every type that isn’t a small ocean liner. Delta Bravos get off a boat that usually look like something like this:

As is usually the case, we had a good time. In fact, Grammy let me know her favorite part of vacation is when we arrive and she can start unpacking and organizing everything she’s brought with her. I’m totally serious. Unpacking is her favorite part. Regardless, to most people the only things they have to unpack are their clothes and a cooler. To Grammy that list grows to include pots, pans, utensils, various breakfast cereals, a barbie castle, parachutes, masonry tools, sewing machines and canned goods. I’m kidding about those last things. Mostly…

However there are always 4 or 5 boxes that if I didn’t know better, would lead nearly anyone to believe that she’s not only going camping but she also has to manufacture a tent on site and then construct a base camp. When in reality, she’s staying in a 3 bedroom condo. With a grocery store right down the road.

Most of the girls, and by this I mean all of them except Riley and her fellow 11 year old cousin, played with the platoon of Barbies and Live Dolls everybody brought. Not sure how much action the Barbie castle saw but the girls did make up a game involving the dolls which required each doll to have a talent. As I’m listening, I’m thinking that they’ll start calling out things like, “my talent is dancing and my talent is playing the piano.”

Nope.

“My talent is to be cute,” says my little niece who is about to start kindergarten. Self-esteem she does not lack.

Oh, I have also come to an indisputable conclusion that Grammy would rather get food poisoning than throw food away. Doesn’t matter if we have to bring home grilled meat in 100 degree heat on the boat or eat a tray of chicken that’s been in and out of the fridge for the whole week, we’re not throwing it away. It was so hot the melted cheese on our nachos turned became translucent until it eventually was just an oily stain. But I’m sure it’ll fine to eat later if we put it in a Styrofoam box and wait a hour to put it into the fridge. I mean it was so humid we could chew the air.

We did a family portrait again as we did in ’08 and ’10. All 16 of us. This year Grammy decided she wanted a picture but didn’t want to pay for it. I was cool with that. We took it at the same spot in a nearby state park we used the first two times – despite the fact that most of the area is infested with poison ivy. Yeah, evidently getting 8 children ages 3-11 to smile and look in the direction of the camera wasn’t challenging enough so we need to keep introducing the poison ivy. This year, however, we upped the ante. Dog poop. Everywhere. Evidently our family portrait locale doubles as a dog bomb minefield. So that was nice.

And Tuesday it was 108 degrees. Naturally we went shopping at the Outlet Mall. The Outlet Mall where you walk outside between stores. It was so awesome we decided to go back on Friday…when the humidity was like Cape Gloucester for the 1st Marines back in ’43. Best part was as we’re walking with the girls and one of their cousins, we pass a nice Whiskey Tango family allowing their small son to pee on the wheel of a mini-van. In the parking lot. In front of the Under Armour outlet. No confirmation on whether or not it was their van.

Solution to misbehaving children at a restaurant? Separate them from the adults. Yup. I said it. Less supervision led to better behavior. Maybe someone has already discovered this. Maybe there are theories currently being debating regarding this development. We, however, do not care. We were able to eat in peace. Or as peacefully as you can eat while you are sweating on your food.

Okay, quick, answer this – would you eat a burrito named The Dirty Sanchez? Of course you wouldn’t. It’s funny in a gross way, but no way are eating it. Cost $30 too. But you get a t-shirt with it telling everyone that you actually ate The Dirty Sanchez. You know what that makes you? Delta Sierra.

Last thing – if you are looking for a place to have breakfast, I’d suggest Shorty Pants. Veggie omelet had more veggies than eggs. It was ridiculous. Plus when we walked in, this song was on:

Which of course got me thinking about the summer of ‘87’s top songs.

Here I Go Again – Whitesnake
Midnight Blue – Lou Gramm
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2

And we’re done

Coming home from vacation is always a little disappointing. Not as disappointing as the 1980 Pitt Panthers failure to win the national title with 11 players taken in the first 5 rounds and 6 college/pro football Hall of Famers, but disappointing nonetheless.

But we did only have three people in the car which was nice. The two little girls went to Grandma Camp until today. And I swear to the Almighty that Bailey and Kinsey talked more in the first 6 minutes they were in the car when I picked them up than Riley did the entire 6 hour drive home on Sunday.

They had lots to say. And they said most of it loudly and at the same time the other one was talking. So for most of the ride I wasn’t really sure what was happening except that Bails was connected somehow to a high voltage cable. There’s no other explanation for the amount of pure energy she displayed.

Anyway Kinsey said Grandma let them eat dinner in her living room and watch a movie at the same time. They were both very excited about this. The movie was “The Man from Snowy River.” My older sister loves this movie. Never seen it myself and I’m pretty sure I don’t have to now that Kinz painstakingly explained the entire movie to me. While she was only occasionally interrupted by Bailey, I still couldn’t help but zone in and out of the description. As far as I could tell, here’s what the movie is about:

There’s this cowboy named Jim Craig. Don’t know if Jim Craig is one word or two or a first and last name. But Kinz was saying it so many times so quickly, I’m pretty sure it’s like Jim Bob or Billy Ray. Anyhow, Jim Craig is a cowboy. Or a horseman. He has a Dad and they live out in the mountains. Or the wild. The mountains are tall. And steep. Sometimes called bluffs. So in the beginning of the movie Jim Craig’s Dad dies. So does a horse. I think. Because it was chained to a tree that fell. And there is a stampede of horses too. This stampede evidently occurs over and over. Then this fancy lady, who is a horsewoman, somehow gets lost in the mountains and Jim Craig rescues her. The fancy lady’s Dad doesn’t like Jim Craig. But then Jim Craig manages to tame the entire stampede of horses by saddling them. In the mountains. By himself.

And that’s it.

They also told me they came up with a game while they were at Grandma’s house. It’s called “Scare the dickens out of each other.” Here’s how you play: You run around, backwards or forwards, and as soon as you bump into somebody else – you scream as loud as you can. And then giggle a whole lot.

I asked if Grandma and Grandpa liked this game. The girls said they didn’t. I wasn’t surprised. Also failing to surprise me was when they decided they should teach the game to Riley when they got home. We wiped out that plan faster than the Redskins’ implosion in Super Bowl 18.

Anyway here’s some highlights from our vacation. Our 2010 vacation cliché was “Yeah baby puma!” My two year old nephew gets the credit. He decided this was what he’d say when he was excited. And that was good enough for the rest of us to start saying it too. For example, we’d ask him if he wanted to go to the water park and he’d reply – “Yeah baby puma!”

Speaking of the water park, here’s a pic of bro-in-law:

He’s doing what Dads do at water parks when their kids are all old enough to swim.

Here’s one of my sisters-in-law going down the half-pipe:

I decided against that ride this year. Last year’s brush with death has convinced me that gravity, while reliable, isn’t foolproof.

It got pretty rough on the lake on Saturday as the boats normally reserved for ocean travel starting coming out. I mean seriously, who needs a 60 or 70 foot boat in the Ozarks? Naturally, we waited until then to let the girls go tubing. But they didn’t mind. My evidence? Bailey gets back and I ask, “Hey was tubing fun?”

“Oh yeah, my two favorite words are “tu” and “bing.”

You could hear Bails and her 5 year-old cousin screaming as they bounced up and down the cove. You know Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock were right, it does take two to make a thing go right. If only one of them was in the tube, that thing would have airborne. Here’s a pic:

Best burgers on the lake? Close race between Captain Ron’s and Backwater Jack’s. Worst burger? Paradise. It tasted like a really big McDonald’s cheeseburger. It also didn’t help that the heat index was 105 the day we ate lunch there.

My niece also turned 5 while we were down there. Best gift she received?

Anyhow, the end of the Ozarks vacation always signals the end of summer in our house. Just 14 days until school starts. I think I’m more disappointed than the girls. Backpacks, dance, gymnastics, and orchestra are all back. Rye is adding band this year because she wants to learn how to play saxophone in addition to the violin. Of course the Steelers and Cyclones are in camp now too…