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Sort of proud…

14 Oct

I think we’ve been over this before:  I’m a horrible person.  H.O.R.R.I.B.L.E.

Last week was parent-teacher conferences for Thing 1.  She’s in middle school now, so I guess they’re sort of a big deal…  So The Boss and I go to the conference (leaving Thing 1 at a soccer game with some friends/family) to meet and talk with her teachers.  Of course The Boss works in the school, so she already knows everyone.  Me?  Not so much.  On the way The Boss tells me that Thing 1 told someone in band that she was afraid she was failing Social Studies.  Well turns out, she was right.  She got an A-.  For reference, see the first 2-3 seconds here:

Her teacher said she was doing great, and was an awesome kid to have in her class.  All good things.  Whew!  To be fair, the Social Studies curriculum is very difficult and she has one of the top grades in her class.

We go around to most of her other teachers and as it turns out in her core subjects she is a straight A student.  The important (to me) classes:  math and science she has a 95 and a 98 respectively.  Woot!  I am so proud of my little girl for really blossoming this year and for doing so well.  Of course I’m a cynical pain-in-the-butt and can’t ever actually say that I’m proud of her without first poking fun and/or making a joke of things.

Back to the soccer game we go.

I walk right up to her majesty, Thing 1, and beckon her to come see me.

“What!?!”

“Come. Here.”

“What?!?”

“I. SAID. COME. HERE.”  At this point her friends have shocked looks on their faces.

She gets up and walks the couple of steps to me “What?”

“Why are you failing Social Studies?!?”  Her friends jaws drop to the bottom of the bleachers

“WHAT!?!”

“You heard me:  WHY ARE YOU FAILING SOCIAL STUDIES?!?”  Yes, I did raise my voice a bit.

A terrified 12 year old responds:  “Daddy, I’msosorryit’sreallyhardandI’mdoingmybest,honestlyit’shardandI’mdoingtheverybestIcan!!!!!”

“A 92 is unacceptable!  How could you only get an A-!”  A smile ghosts across her face

“Daddy!”  Her friends, relieved, bust out laughing.  “That was the best thing I’ve ever seen” – Thing 1’s friend

I get a hug and go back to my seat.  Later, I told her the rest of her grades and how proud of her I was/am.

This weekend, I learned some things

3 Oct

That’s right.  Things.  Many, many things.  Yes, I will of course tell you all about them.  Let me build this up will you?

Now, where was I?  Ah, yes.  Things.  So in order of their happening, here are the things I learned this weekend:

1.  When my father-in-law and his brother are together eating at Wind Tiki, hilarity ensues.  My father-in-law is usually a pretty funny guy.  Get his brother and a few Mai Tai’s in them and he becomes hilarious.  I think I may have peed my pants.  Just a little.

2.  Installing a new front door is not too difficult.  Removing the old door prior to installing the new?  Not. Fun.  At least I remembered to remove the old one before installing the new one….

3.  Weddings can actually be fun.  After spending the entire morning, and some of the afternoon installing a door, the last thing I wanted to do was go to a wedding that we had RSVP’d to 6 months ago and I had completely forgotten about.  I didn’t even remember what I had put down for my dinner…  Turns out I had the steak.  And what a steak.  Perfectly cooked (rare thank you very much), with garlic mashed potatoes (with a bit of skin in there for good measure and the potatoes actually mashed not whipped).  A couple of Jerry Collins and a beer to round things off, and I was very content.  Getting to spend time with The Bosses family was awesome.  They are good people.  We should get together more often.  I’m not sure if my sides can handle it though.  I was laughing way too much.

4.  This may be the most important lesson I learned this weekend:  CHECK THE WATER DEPTH PRIOR TO DOING AN OTTER SLIDE WITH YOUR KAYAK.  Knowing me, I will have completely forgotten this the next time I try it.  Rather than sliding gracefully into the water and popping back up without getting wet, I torpedo’d.

Instead of doing this:

I did more like this:

Did any of the people I was with happen to get a picture, or even more funny a video?  No.  Of course not.  I guess I really will have to try it again….

The saddest days of my life

2 Jun

Growing up I was very close to my grandparents on my mom’s side.  I’m still very close with my gram.  She’s the best.  So was my gramps.  My gramps served in the Navy in World War II, on a submarine chaser.  He came home to Dayton,Ohio and became a teacher and then a principal.  When he retired, he and my gram moved out toConnecticutto be closer to family.  They eventually bought a huge white colonial with a detached garage and a small barn on the property.  I used to sleep over their house and would hang out with my gramps while gram was doing her thing.  My gramps and I would sit in his study and listen to Bill Cosby and Bing Crosby records.  We’d play war/forts, with Legos, and we used to spend hours sitting in their attic looking at old photographs and talking about life.  Those are some of my favorite memories and times.

My gramps was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the late ‘80s / early 90’s.  For a few years he was still the same gramps I had always known and loved.  Then things changed.  Suddenly the bright, fun-filled, intelligent man I had known diminished.  We stopped taking long walks around their property and hanging out in their barn.  We stopped spending hours in the attic playing fort and talking about life.  We even stopped listening to records.  My gramps, the guy who I thought would out-live us all, was not there anymore.  His body was there.  His facial expressions were the same.  His mannerisms were similar enough.  The light just wasn’t there anymore.  The bright, cheerful smile was missing that special sparkle in his eyes.  That gleam of mischief was gone.  He never affectionately yelled, “Callie!” at my gram anymore.  Not that he would ever really yell at her.  She always did things her own way and fit perfectly to the song:  Caledonia.  With lyrics such as:  “Caledonia !Caledonia ! / What makes your big head so hard? / I love her, I love her just the same / Crazy ’bout that woman ’cause Caldonia is her name.”  The song fits her to a tee.  My gramps loved my gram like I’ve never seen before or since.  They spent every day together, working in the garden, mowing the lawn, and taking care of their house.  Since my gram doesn’t drive, gramps would drive her on her errands.  They did everything together.

1993 my grandparents moved from their huge white house into an assisted living facility.  This was really hard on all of us.  I remember sitting on the couch with my gramps as my mom and gram were packing things up.  He started talking to me like I was one of his Navy buddies.  He talked about his training, being on the boat with “me”, and the crazy shenanigans “we” got up to.  I think this was when it hit me that my gramps wasn’t ever going to be the same.  He wasn’t going to get better from this.  I was so hurt by this I actually wrote a poem about it, which was published in an anthology of poems by kids.

January 14, 2002my gramps at age 84, finally succumbed to Alzheimer’s.  He died peacefully in his sleep, yet to me his death came many years earlier.  Gramps, I know you’re in a better place.  I miss you.  This one’s for you:

In which I discuss the politics of RISK

25 May

I hate politics, yet love strategy games.  Both politics and games have always been a huge part of holiday traditions for my family.  We’re a group of arguers, my family.  We’ll argue anything.  A-N-Y thing.  It doesn’t matter what we believe, or even if we agree with the opposite party.  We’ll argue for the sake of arguing.  It’s what brings us together.  Recently over on Lessons from Teachers and Twits Renee asked, “What are some non-traditional family rituals that bring you joy?”  I of course had to respond.  The following is an expansion of my reply:

Every Christmas and Thanksgiving we get together as a family (no way, really?!?!).  After the presents are opened, dinner had, dishes done, and desert well on the way we all join together to play a game.  We usually play Trivial Pursuit which gives us ample time to argue over the correct answer to a question and to fight like cats and dogs.  We’ve also been known to play Monopoly (until dad lands on my brother’s hotel on Boardwalk and flips the board over), RISK, and more recently Bananagrams.  These are times of family bonding.  And times to ritually destroy each others fragile emotions over board games.

I believe I was 13 or so the first time we played RISK.  Both my brother and I were smart enough to know not to trust dad, yet dumb enough to think that he wouldn’t destroy us given the tiniest chance.  For those not in the know, when playing RISK you basically try to take over the board by chancing dice roles and armies against your opponents armies.  My brother, being twice as competitive as I am, immediately gets into a land war with dad over the control of Australia.  I sit back and collect every territory of South America giving me extra armies at every turn as long as I hold those territories.  Dad picks Latin America as a starting point to try to knock me out of S.A.  I pick North Africa to protect my border.  Eventually all the territories are divvied up and we can begin.  Immediately, my brother attacks my dad to wrest control of Australia away from him.  Dad of course gives him a run for his money.  I fortify my border with Latin America and attack dad, taking him out and gaining control of a crucial border.  We go back and forth winning and losing territories at each turn.  We’re collecting cards, trading them in for extra armies to use to fortify borders all over the world.  Here’s where the politicking comes in to play.  Dad sees himself as the loser in this if things keep going the way they are.  He’s more competitive than my brother is, and HATES to lose (see Monopoly above).  So he starts making deals.  He first tries to get my brother to stand down and allow him to keep Australia.  Failing in this, he makes a pact with me to not attack me for 4 turns if I take my brother out at the Ural Mountains territory.  Stupidly, I agree.  Two turns later, I’ve taken out my brother at the Ural Mountains, drastically depleting my armies in Asia.  He strikes.  First he blows through my defenses at Latin America, then Venezuela, second he switches up and attacks North Africa.  Then abruptly he ends his turn.  “What about our agreement?”  “Yeah, I went and broke that.  I needed you not to have control of South America.”  Eventually I’m wiped out and it becomes a one-sided two person battle for control of the world.  Dad of course wins.  We win a valuable lesson:  We can’t trust dad.  Especially when it comes to board games.  If he can’t win legitimately, he’ll cheat to win.  So now when we play, it’s two on one.  Many times my brother and I are able to take out dad and begin our head-to-head battles.  Occasionally I win however it’s not really about that with me.  It’s about teaming up with my little brother to destroy dad.

Are you competitive?  Does your family get together to play games?  Which ones?  Comment below: