Some Things Don’t Change

Seven weeks in the new house. I know everybody tells you moving is a huge hassle, and the truth is…its worse. Unless, of course, you’re old neighbors were Keith Olbermann, Bill Belichick and Elizabeth Warren. Then moving is glorious. But outside of that, moving just sucks. Not along the lines of working in a coal mine in the early 1900’s, watching golf or being a Bengals fan but still pretty crappy. I’m still somewhat, but not totally, amazed that we actually pulled it off.

The main reason we moved was sheer square footage. In the new house, each girl has her own room and now they have two bathrooms to fight over instead of one. But, and this is key, there are three sinks. In case you’re having trouble with the math, that means each kid can be in front of a sink at the SAME FREAKING TIME. Literally, not figuratively, life changing. The garage is bigger so now we don’t have to play musical chairs with the cars every morning to get out of the garage/driveway and lastly, the basement is now big enough that the girls can invite more than one friend over at a time.

But some things simply don’t change.

Millenials suck. Skynet will eventually become self-aware. And the girls still steal each other’s clothes and shoes and deny it happened.

They’re like Soviet diplomats in the 80’s. Did you take Rye’s shirt and wear it to school? I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand the question. But if I did accurately understand it, I have no knowledge of any shirt, let alone the shirt in question. Furthermore you have provided nothing that demonstrates my involvement and I am forced to conclude that this is yet another attempt by a corrupt and greedy western system to undermine the proletariat.

Also, they refuse to put their shoes in their rooms. Refuse! Now, see if you can follow me here – they get ticked off at each other when one of them absconds with a pair of shoes that is not their own. They complain – loudly – and insist on the involvement of Mom and I to officiate the annoyance and then keep score regarding the number of times their shoes have been pilfered. Keeping their own shoes in their own rooms provides a degree of security that the small area in front of the door to garage does not. Yet that is where the shoes end up.  It’s as if their wi-fi connectivity depends on their shoes not being in their rooms. Their actions can only be construed as an outright repudiation of the principals of The Drop Zone. As I’ve previously mentioned, our new house has this sweet drop zone as you walk in from the garage. It has three hooks, a bench and plenty of space beneath the bench to TEMPORARILY locate 4 pairs of shoes. Maybe 5 if they’re small. Plus right next to the drop zone, and I mean literally right next to it, is a coat closet. So shoes, jackets, backpacks all have a place in which they can be put. None of those places can, in any reasonable way, be misinterpreted as piling them on top of each other in such a manner than they resemble the county dump. I have to use the door to the garage as a snow plow to push the shoes out of my way when I get home. Bails has more shoes in the drop zone than she does in her closet. Not kidding. I asked her why all her shoes on in the drop zone instead of in her closet. Her answer?

“How am I supposed to know what shoes I’m going to want to wear everyday? It’s easier if they’re all just downstairs.”

So, in case you’re not following along, her convenience is the primary directive on which we’re operating.

I think Missing Persons pretty much nailed my conclusions in their 1982 new wave hit Words.

“Do you hear me, Do you care…I might as well go up and talk to a wall ’cause all the words are having no effect at all…What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin at all…My lips are moving and the sound’s coming out, The words are audible but I have my doubts.”

You know I’m saying…

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Unforeseen Issues

Okay, so make a quick list of things you expect to be issues and/or problems with your new house.  This may be easy for you.  Maybe even second nature if you watch HGTV as much as Mom does.  But that last time I moved How Bizarre by OMC and Fly by Sugar Ray were racing up the charts, John Elway was still a quarterback, and college interns were still interested in Slick Willie.

Anyway, make a list…take your time.  I’m just spitballin’ here but I’m gonna say cracks in the drywall, maybe some grading and/or drainage issues in the yard, and probably some minor leaking issues on the roof or in the bathroom are on your list.  Of course there are other issues with which to deal.  Maybe your neighbors to the west are Ravens fans.  Maybe the couple on the corner really likes garden gnomes.  Maybe the people across the street are freaking millennials who drive a Prius and are offended by everything.  Just speculating.  I don’t really know what kind of neighborhood you moved into.

But one thing that we failed to include on our list was rabidly aggressive robins.  At any point while you ran through the things to double check with the builder and/or house inspector did two crazy-ass belligerent robins show up?  Upon taking possession of your new house whilst at the bank during your closing did it dawn on you to mention that one thing that might derail the whole deal was two avian kamikaze terrorists?

Yeah so we have two robins that have built a nest in one of the pine trees along our back property line.  Normally I wouldn’t think twice about it.  In fact, it is a better spot than where the robins used to try and build a nest every spring in the old house.  I used to have a yearly battle with these two winged morons who insisted on building a nest on the house light right next to the front door.  Every morning I’d knock down the beginnings of a nest and those two idiots would just keep building.  They were like the Terminators of robins – they just absolutely would not stop!  But these two robins at the new house have evidently become somewhat accustomed to having complete dominion over the backyard.  A part of this misguided dominance is an exceptionally hardline stance against other robins.  Particularly robins which look exactly like them and have the annoying tendency to mimic their every move.  Every.  Damn.  Move.

But reflections in windows do that.

The brain of a bird is roughly the same size as the list of Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments as Secretary of State.  And the birds behave accordingly.  The day we moved in I’m down in the basement doing the things you do when you move into a new house.  Unpacking boxes, moving furniture, wondering what all the bird crap and accompanying bird like markings were doing all over the patio and sliding glass door.  It looked a velociraptor was trying to get through the door.  Bird shaped feet marks all over the glass.  So much that it obstructed your view.  They’d been evidently attacking these “other” two intransigent robins repeatedly for months with no success.  I’m sure it was frustrating.  It was probably like attacking Donald Trump in the GOP primary.  Doesn’t matter what you do, he just keeps showing up same as before.

The obvious solution to this problem is deforestation of the backyard.  In gleeful disdain I dubbed this the Al Gore option.  There are only five pines and a maple back there.  Having some activity in the house and the installation of window blinds has helped keep these two supremely dense robins away from nearly all the windows.  But not the basement slider.  In fact, I met out new next door neighbor while I was out cleaning the outside of the door.  Neighbor walks over, introduces himself and then starts marveling at the robins’ persistence when smashing themselves into the glass.  Trading blows with the reflection over and over like Bird and Dominique in Game 7 of the ’88 Eastern Conference Semis.  Then, when they aren’t hurling themselves at the glass, they sit right up against it and crap all over the patio. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is what Bernie Sanders supporters plan to do at the Democratic National Convention.

I’ve narrowed my options down to the following:

  • The aforementioned Al Gore option. Doomed to failure or irrelevancy like most of the things bearing Al Gore’s name.
  • Bob Lee Swagger Option. In a ghille suit I lay in the tall grass in the undeveloped lot behind us, check wind speed, range, target movement, barometric pressure, the number of beers left in my cooler and decide how to eliminate the target – pellet gun, pressure washer or bottle rockets.  Not gonna lie, I really like the bottle rocket idea.
  • Total War. Here’s the plan – first, I grind up Krispy Kreme donuts and infuse the tiny donut particles into the seed in a bird feeder placed near their nest.  After a couple weeks or so the birds become so fat they can’t fly.  Using their sensitivity to sound against them, I play comments from Debbie Wasserman-Shultz over and over until the fat flightless birds are immobilized with liberal guilt.  Pretty soon something higher up the food chain will just take care of business.

So I guess I’ve got some thinking to do…

Leaving Your House

It’s been about three weeks since we moved.  It’s weird.  You live in a house for almost 19 years then one morning you wake up and all your stuff gets moved to a different house.  And listen, it is amazing the stuff you’ve not only accumulated over 19 years but the things you’ve somehow kept.  Like my cassette tape single of Dirty Love by Thunder.  Not only a great song but totally emblematic of the summer of the ’91.  Other things awesome about the summer of ’91?  The T-1000, Andy Van Slyke in centerfield for the Pirates and I went to Game 2 of the NBA Finals and saw this:

jordan1991game2handswitch

I really thought it would be more difficult to leave the house once we fixed all the little things and made it look so nice.  Over the last few years, we’d renovated two bathrooms, replaced all the windows, put a new roof on, re-sided the house, sealed and patched the garage floor, put new carpet in the upstairs and downstairs and I really thought, man, we put a lot of cash, time and effort into this house…and then the bank handed me the check at closing.  Turns out I don’t really miss it as much as I thought.  I miss our old neighbors.  I miss the big trees.  I mean the convenience of the location.  Dude, I could get anywhere – bank, grocery store, gas station, Mexican restaurant, Target, mall, softball fields, three different schools, dry cleaners, hardware store all in 10 minutes or less.  New house?  We’ve been completely sealed off by traffic lights.  Everything takes more time.  Seriously add 15 minutes and lots of swearing to everywhere you go.  By the time you’re home on the couch watching The Goldbergs you’ve become pretty irritated.  Thankfully, I’m figuring out the shortcuts.  There’s exactly one.  As in uno.  Regardless, what I really miss is knowing where the hell everything is located inside the house.

You spend 19 years in a house and you literally, not figuratively, know where everything is.  Forks and knives?  Same drawer they’ve been in for 19 years.  Duct tape?  Utility drawer in in the kitchen.  DePaul Blue Demons pennant you’ve had since the ’83-’84 season?  White bin on the second shelf in the basement.

Now?

I don’t even freaking know which freaking switch turns on the freaking lights in the freaking house.  I came down the stairs early in the morning this week and I’m hitting every freaking light switch I can find to try and turn on the damn light above the kitchen table.  It probably looked like gun shots if you were standing outside watching.

You know what else is a bit unsettling?  Tampa Bay possibly playing San Jose for Lord Stanley’s Cup that’s what.  Also, mowing a different yard.  An entirely different patch of earth.  Yeah, I had the pattern rotation down cold in the old yard.  I had it down so I could mow, trim and edge all under an hour.  Now?  I almost collapsed from exhaustion the first time I mowed the new yard.  Didn’t help that the mower kinda crapped out me  but listen, this new yard…is a BIG DAMN yard.  It’s like push mowing Montana.  I looked like Forrest Gump when he was finally done running.

Plus the first time I did it the internet guys hadn’t buried the cable line yet so I had to constantly pick up and mow under the freaking thing.  Pretty sure this is how involuntary amputations happen.  Oh, and special thanks to the builder who decided it was swell idea to grade the dirt around the southeast corner of house so pushing the mower up that hill is like running up the damn American Ninja Warrior Warped Wall.  That was super enjoyable.  Plus the self-propelled part of the self-propelled drive on the right rear wheel packed it in for the rest of the job which meant that not only was the mower now half self-propelled and half 45 year-old-Dad-propelled, but it was pulling heavily to the left.  So I’m trying to mow a small hill that is, roughly speaking, an 80 degree grade while reaching down and picking up the exposed internet line with a mower running at 50% propulsion that really just wants to turn left.  If I had video I’m pretty sure it would be a good visual representation of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Before I could get the trimmer out I had to go inside and sit down for 20 minutes to prevent a cardiac event.  Pretty much decided at that point that I was going to mulch…or pave…the entire yard.  I’d start looking at lawn tractors…or as some of you may know them – riding mowers – but that really just feels like quitting.  Like giving into my impending 46th birthday.   My solution?  American Ninja Warrior.  I’m just gonna scale that damn hill full speed everyday until its easy.  46 years-old my ass.

Show Teeth Part 1: Impact

So remember how I was describing wonderfulness of picking up other people’s garbage in minor league baseball stadiums? Yeah, so anyway, I was wondering if you had to choose – and I mean you had to or there’d be dire consequences…like you’d be forced to watch the Don’t Worry Be Happy video over and over – so would you rather do pick up other people’s garbage…or get hit in the face with a line drive?

Take your time. Picking up the garbage is pretty gross when it mostly consists of empty beer cans and stadium food. Oh, and bees. Bees evidently really like to hang out inside empty beer cans. And, truth be told, not too many people are going to have a reliable frame of reference for this particular choice. So you’re guessing. Which is the same thing Josh Scobee evidently does whenever he kicks the football.

Softball really has two seasons. Teams get picked in July, practice starts right after that and then they start playing tournaments in August and, if they want, can play all the way until November. This seems like overkill. People in the Midwest are already complaining about going to football games in November and we might still be playing softball. Thankfully, we usually play until the end of September. So Mom and I decided to take the girls out for some extra practice in August before school started and activities completely took over our lives. It was going really well. We convinced Kinz to adjust her batting stance and suddenly she really started hitting the ball. Hard. Line drives. Rod Freaking Carew. One Thursday afternoon, let’s say it was August 13th, I took her out to the fields. Mom was about 15 minutes behind us. We thought we’d do a little bit of hitting while Bails practiced and we waited for Kinz’ practice to start. I set up with the bucket of balls and tossed a few warm up pitches. Kinz stepped in and took a few cuts to settle in. Hit a couple weak grounders and fouled a couple off, then she got serious. Good contact. Line drives and one-hoppers toward shortstop. It was going pretty well.

For about 10 minutes.

We got out there about 6:15. And about 6:30 or so things changed.

Remember that shot Clue Haywood hit off Ricky Vaughn mid-season back in ’89. The one that he crushed towards South America and left nothing but a vapor trail. Kinz hit one of those except it was a line drive. At my face. Directly into the middle of top lip. Just below my nose. Absorbed completely by my two tooth front teeth.

Blood is warm. You really don’t realize how warm it actually is until it is filling your mouth and spilling out between your fingers as you instinctively – albeit pointlessly – hold your hand(s) over your mouth. Also, just to confirm, it is an odd feeling holding your two front teeth in bottom of your mouth. I’m not a dentist but I was pretty sure this was bad.

I start heading to the dugout to get my phone because I was also pretty sure we were going to need Mom ASAP. Kinz comes sprinting up to me.

“Dad! Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. Are you okay?”

This is one of those times that you really have to be completely in control of your emotions and have a high degree of control over the brain functions that control speech, word choice, voice tone and other things which convey things to your 13 year-old daughter. If I freak out, all the improvement and momentum she’s gained hitting the ball might evaporate overnight. And after listening to all the 13 year-old girl whining about not hitting the ball as well as she wants…that ain’t an option.

What my natural reaction was:

“MOTHER FU@#*&!!!!! YOU GOTTA BE FU@#^%@ KIDDING ME!!!!”

My actual reaction:

“Nice hit…but you knocked my teeth out.”

You know in movies when the actor gets injured and you’re all, “Dude just get your phone and call for help.” Yeah, so using a smartphone with a touch screen isn’t as simple as you’d hope when both of your hands are covered with blood, you’re holding your two front teeth in the bottom of your mouth, and…just in case you were wondering, it hurts like a MOTHER FU@#*&!!!!!

I quickly did the math and freaking out wasn’t going to stop the bleeding or permit me to travel back in time and complete the Jiu-Jitsu training necessary to improve my hand speed allowing me to bring my glove up in time to catch the ball. Or, worst case, change its trajectory and decrease its air speed. Also I figured out that I needed something to jam into the gaping space that used to hold my teeth. I gave my bloody phone to Kinz and we quickly walked to my truck. And, FYI, in addition to being warm, blood is slippery. I couldn’t get my damn door open because my damn bloody hand kept slipping off the damn handle. Kinz opens the door and then calls Mom. I stop myself from leaning too far into the driver’s side seat of my truck because I don’t want to bleed all over it. I was impressed with myself that I still cared about upholstery…or at least the cost of cleaning it. I manage to reach the roll of paper towels I keep in there.

What? I have three kids. There is always crap to clean up in my truck. Anyway, I shove a couple paper towels into my mouth. Kinz keeps calling Mom because, as is usually the case, she’s ignoring calls from my phone. Kinz tries calling her from her phone. Still no answer.

Thankfully one of the Moms we know from softball sees us struggling and asks if I’m ok. Through the paper towels, blood, fat lip and loose teeth I give a brief, but rough, explanation. She grabs some ice from her cooler. I wrap it up and hold the ice on my lip with the paper towels shoved into my mouth. At this point I’m frustrated that Mom hasn’t answered so I make the call to head to the emergency room ourselves. We just have to grab our stuff off the field before we leave. Just as I’m doing that one of the coaches for another team in our system, who is also a local cop and pretty big guy, comes over the outfield fence and runs over to us. And this is not a short fence. It’s like a 8 foot fence.

Weirdly somebody got video of it:

“Take a knee!” he orders. “What happened?”

“Kinz hit a line drive into my mouth, knocked out my teeth.”

“You black out?”

“What? No, I’m fine. Got my teeth knocked out.”

He takes a look at my mouth, gets a big smile and says, “Unfortunately for you, being the handsome man you are, you now look like a hockey player.”

Kinz is still kinda freaking out. “Dad I’m so, so sorry.”

In the calmest and most reassuring tone I can muster I answer, “Kinz, that’s the best hit you’ve had all fall.”

Cop smiles again, “That’s a good Dad right there. Daughter knocks out his teeth and he’s still encouraging her.”

End of Summer Ramblings

So here’s a quick run down of our summer.

Went here:
GulfCoastbeach

Didn’t ride this:
universalrollercoaster

Drank this:
ozarksbeer

Just got back from here:
Ozarksfeet

Here’s what our soon to be high school sophomore daughter bought while on vacation earlier this month:
JoeElliotJeans

I couldn’t say no. I mean, they are freaking awesome. Pretty sure the tag actually says “Hysteria.” I really don’t mind walking through the mall and going into the some of the stores the girls like because all the stuff is pretty familiar. Except I’m the old guy in the store now. But the clothing racks sure look like it could be any random day between 1987-1991. I mean, shredded jeans? Not that I can pull it any of it off in the least by the way, but a dude can reminisce. All I need is a 12 pack of Milwaukee’s Best, hair, and my faded Levi’s jean jacket.

Anyway, summer in all its brilliant awesomeness is coming to a close. School starts Monday for the girls. Like Bob Seger tells in Night Moves – “Strange how the night moves, With autumn closing in.”

It always is interesting to me how this happens. I mean you roll through June with the outlook that the whole summer is ahead of you. Then the Fourth of July arrives. You’re complaining about having to wear socks to work, you’re kids haven’t been out of bed before 10 a.m. since the last day of school and baseball is really, really holding your interest. Seriously, how are the Cardinals doing it? I’m convinced they are the Patriots of the MLB. They’re cheating. Anyway, you my friend, are without any question, a summer veteran.

July is a good month for us. Not too much dance stuff going on with Rye, softball takes a break with Kinz and Bails, and we normally take a vacation. This year we jammed two separate trips into a span of 24 days. 16 days on vacation and 8 days at work. I’m not gonna lie, it was really pretty great, as the visual summary above indicates.

So now it’s August. I’ve always liked August. Never really been all that fond of September though. Not sure why. Maybe its because September always seems confused. Like Rick Perry. Is it summer? Or is it fall? August knows that it’s the end of summer. How does it know this? Pre-season NFL football begins, Octoberfest beers start to appear in your grocery store coolers and kids start to have that resigned look that only the impending first day of school can generate.

Oh, and I can’t wait to hear the whining next week when they have to be up early. It will be an extravaganza of completely unjustified whining. They are going to school. With their friends. For 6-7 hours. That’s called leaving early if you have a job. They will be in 6th, 8th and 10th grade this fall. Every year it becomes more and more disconcerting. Sure, when I started 10th grade it was the fall of ’85. I was listening to this:

Watching this:

And wearing these:
oldschoolreeboks

So, yes, it was a long time ago. But still…our youngest turns 12 in about a month…again disconcerting.

Independence Day Ramblings

When it comes to discussions and debates about the awesomeness of summer, it is difficult to overstate the significance of the Fourth of July. It is to summer days what Mean Joe Greene was to the Super Steelers of the 70’s. Its what Joe Elliot was to shredded jeans my senior year of high school. What Dr. Venkman was to the Ghostbusters.

Many of you have your own traditions. As do I. They mostly involve Miller Lite, sparklers and an incoherent rant about the systematic and relentless creep of federal intrusion into the lives of everyday Americans who just want to be left the hell alone. Sometimes I’ll veer off and get lost in my disgust for FDR’s economic advisors and Woodrow Wilson’s passage of the income tax. But, just as easily, I’ll be diverted into a discussion about the cars I’d buy if I hit the lottery. What? Like you don’t have your own top 3…in no particular order, Bandit’s ’77 black Trans-Am from Smokey and the Bandit, Blake Shelton’s truck in the Boys ‘Round Here video and then the black Lamborghini in Cannonball Run. Pretty sure if you were a teenage boy in the 80’s, you had a poster of a Lambo on your wall.

Anyway, as with most holidays, I enjoy them. You have traditional favorites like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Independence Day. Some of you will have Halloween in there. Others will list Valentine’s Day thereby admitting their susceptibility to corporate America’s marketing schemes. Then you may have your own personal partialities. For example I’m looking forward to Opening Sunday of the NFL Season, Season Premiere For The Walking Dead (Oct. 11 btw) and whatever day it is that Rock Bottom starts selling Pumpkin Ale. And then there’s Every Single Friday Afternoon. Is there a time of the week Americans look forward to more than that period of time right after you leave work on Friday? Because, just like Loverboy said back in 1983, everybody really is working for the weekend. And everybody really does just want to get it right, get it right…

The girls have made this year’s Independence Day celebration a sort of homage to Lewis and Clark. They’ve spent the last couple of days sleeping on the neighbor’s trampoline with friends. They said its comfortable. I don’t believe them. But they have everything America’s westward explorers had – blankets, gunpowder, oiled cloth, snacks, i-Pods, etc. All without the threat of grizzly bears. Although Bails insists she saw a bobcat in our backyard at one point…

Return From Hiatus

So sorry for the long hiatus. I have several excuses. First, work got the best of me. Or if you were to put it in plain language, it kicked my ass and sucked the life out of me. It was like watching Steel Magnolias and listening to Ed Sheeran over and over again while you are intermittently interrupted by that guy at work whose only contribution in every meeting is to point out what you’re doing wrong without offering any solutions of his own. And this is all happening right as you get out of your car in the work parking lot, in the rain, only to find out that your freaking kids have pilfered your umbrella. Oh and once you make it into the building there’s that other guy who asks, “Wow, raining out?” No, it’s not raining. I took one of those selfie sticks and put a watering can on the end and walked under it all the way into the office. Then, after putting your money in the pop machine, you realize there isn’t any freaking Diet Pepsi. That’s what it was like. For all of May and the first week in June.

Second, it turns out April, May and June are, in fact, the busiest months of the year in our family. Not only was work tough on me but softball cranks up, every freaking club the girls are in at school needs to have some sort of spring performance, Rye’s dance team was in what seemed like 427 competitions and Mom was busy. In April, she went to Tacoma for a week for for work, then to Orlando for four days with Rye’s dance team. In May, she was in Kansas City for a weekend with the dance team again and then in June she went to Chicago for four days with some friends from high school. To all you single parents out there, especially the ones with multiple kids…you guys are freaking rock stars. You are the Robocops of parents. I have an entirely different appreciation for my Mom and how she took care of my sister’s and I when my Dad was traveling to West Germany, England, Alaska, Iran, Japan, etc. Normally, if you were in my shoes, you’d just fight your way through the week doing your job and carting the kids around looking forward to the weekend. But the weekends weren’t a break. There are nine weekends between May 1 and today. We had softball tournaments on all of them including this weekend. Last weekend, we were down in Kansas City with Kinz’ team. We had a great time, they won the tournament and the parents exhibited the mental toughness to sit through five games and 100 degree heat on Saturday. Then on Sunday the girls won their first three games which put them in the championship game. A game which was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening. But a 17U game went long so we didn’t get on the field until a bit after that. Except while the girls are warming up we find out that the tournament director had rescheduled the 10U championship game to our field which pushed our game back to 8:30 or so. And remember, we all have a three hour drive home after the game. And we all are sweaty, covered with infield dust and dirt and, I’m just spitballin’ here, but I’m reasonably certain we all smell like a foot covered with goat cheese after it had been wrapped in a wet towel and left in the sun for two days. The aggravating part was that right behind our field were two other fields. Fields that weren’t being used and would take 15 minutes to get ready. And we had umpires available. Logic dictates that since the game was already scheduled to go at 6:30 both teams would be ready to go. The tournament director just needed to make the call to switch fields and tell both teams. We decided to expedite the process a little by expressing our approval of the field switch immediately to everyone within a 2 or 3 mile radius. The problem? The tournament director said he’d already told the other team that we wouldn’t start until 8:30 and they all had left to go get some dinner. Seemed reasonable until we noticed that they were actually about 300 feet from us sitting under a big oak tree doing nothing. Well, I mean except for a few of their parents who were out in the FREAKING PARKING LOT DRINKING BEERS. Not kidding. It seemed to us to be a reasonable thing to ask the tourney director to simply go over to the other team’s coach and say, “since you guys all seem to be here and you’ve found the time to booze, we’re going to go ahead and start the game in about 20 minutes and get going so everybody gets home before midnight.”

Their reaction? “Nope.”

Our reaction? “This is how parent-on-parent violence happens.”

So we had to sit around until about 9:00 before the game started. Finished about 10:15. Thankfully, Kinz’ coach and his family decided enough was enough and got themselves and us hotel rooms for Sunday night. I figured that was a better idea than getting home at 1:30 in the morning. And we got a shower. Which is better than smelling like the aforementioned foot all the way home.

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…

Independence Day 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a Dinger

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

Girls have been busy. Bails built this:

BunnyTrap

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

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

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

“You don’t lack in confidence Bails.”

“That’s just the way I am man.”

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

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

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

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