The crew

Most families from my generation have photo albums where their most precious pictures are stored. I have a photograph of a photograph, sent via text.

That’s me and my squad, my crew… my mom and siblings. Looks like we were checking out a parade, perhaps? I’m the one striking a cool yet casual pose on the railing, resplendent in my turtleneck and double-breasted overcoat. (Eat your heart out, Zoolander!)

There may be other photographs of my mom with all four of her kids, but not many. She died not long after this photo was taken.

Yesterday was the birthday of my dad. He passed away in 2010… would’ve been 88. I cannot fathom what life must’ve been like for the 41 years when he was still around, but my mom was out of the picture.

I feel like we kids cut him some slack when he was raising us, at least subconsciously, because we knew he was working double duty. But still, it was no easy task.

Here’s to you Herb… rest in peace, after a job well done.

The Graduate Part II

Our son Peter graduated from high school Thursday. Not just any high school, either, but one of the best public high schools in the country. Walnut Hills High School recently made the news when 17 of their students got a perfect score on the ACT. Of course, on the heels of the college admissions scandal, folks like Jimmy Fallon made light of it:

Peter wasn’t one of the kids who aced the test (where’s Felicity Huffman when you need her?), but he did just fine. Better than fine, actually. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, perhaps in plastics.

In just a few short months, he’ll be attending Ohio University, the oldest university in Ohio (and 8th oldest public university in the U.S.). It’s about two and a half hours east of Cincinnati. Which means he’ll be our first kid to leave town to go to college. That’s not surprising… Peter is quite independent. Some kids march to the beat of a different drummer… Peter has a complete band playing in his head.

He’s a fitness fanatic with a super-healthy diet, has a sly sense of humor and never got in trouble during his high school years. Well, other than that silly senior prank involving Silly String.

He got busted and had to stay after school on his 18th birthday… adulting is hard!

I know Peter’s ready to leave the nest, but I don’t think we’re ready for it.

By August, we’ll have two kids out of the house and two left. It’s hard to believe… and even harder to let them go.

Life imitates comic strip art

My son Peter has his final day of high school today. I imagine his last couple of weeks have gone something like this:

And then there’s Peter’s old man, the aspiring writer. This strip sums things up nicely:

Have a wonderful weekend, and keep chasing those dreams!

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Here’s my 18-year-old son, fast asleep in “stare at phone” mode.

Not many folks can pull this off, but Peter is a pro. When he’s not at school, at the gym, or at work, this is where you’ll find him – sprawled out on the couch. Many weekdays, he’ll wind up falling asleep there, and when I get up at 6 a.m., I’ll wake him to either get ready for school (weekdays) or head upstairs for another few hours of sleep (weekends).

Oh to be young again…

Sidewalk surfin’… and sidewalk fallin’

Spring has sprung (and I’ve got the allergies to prove it) and thus commences the daily struggle to get the kids off the couch, off the phones and out in the “fresh air” (achoo!).

Leah went out in the fresh air yesterday. She was grabbing a skateboard from the garage as I left to go pick up her younger brother from soccer. When I got home, she mentioned that she had fallen on the driveway and that her elbow hurt. Time for a trip to urgent care…. where time stands still, and the only “urgent” is your urgent desire to get a nurse, then X-ray tech, then doc to show up without an interminable wait in-between.

Four hours later, we finally got a diagnosis: incomplete radial head fracture. Time for a splint, and soon a cast. It’s her left elbow… and yes, she’s a lefty.

Poor thing is gonna have to learn how to text righty. While sitting on the couch.

Image result for the best laid plans of mice and men
Robert Burns knows the score.

If I had a boat…

And if I had a boat
I’d go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I’d ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
I said me upon my pony on my boat

“If I Had A Boat” by Lyle Lovett

I don’t have a boat. Instead, we have four cars. Which means four tickets in the car repair lottery. About five weeks ago, my 17-year-old’s ancient Honda got a crack all the way across the windshield. It just magically appeared. A week after I got the windshield replaced, aforementioned 17-year-old managed to scrape the rear passenger door on one of those two-foot high poles that are put in public parking lots to… create more business for repair shops and replacement parts dealers, apparently.

I still miss The Far Side…

He did that on a Friday night, and never mentioned anything to me, even on the Saturday morning after, when I woke him up for bowling. The trim piece by the door was loose… and when he drove Saturday, it flapped in the wind and wound up breaking a taillight housing. If you’re keeping score at home, a replacement trim piece is $20… and a taillight housing is $100. Actually the taillight housing is $100 on Amazon or eBay, but I found it at a local auto salvage yard for $80… a penny saved is a penny earned!

Two weeks later, on a Monday morning, he was driving to school and skidded on a thin layer of ice that had formed… right into the back of the car in front of him. Everyone’s OK, it was just a fender bender… but in addition to paying the deductible, I’ll be paying for that for the next several years via higher insurance premiums.

Ah, the joys of old cars and teen drivers, and the magical combination of both.

After all those incidents, I was looking forward to a repair-free week. Walking into the house the other day, I saw this on my wife’s car:

Is it any wonder why I take the bus to work most days?

My son’s car should be ready tomorrow. I don’t know if I’m ready. Where’s that boat?

Going to the dogs… and cats

Many moons ago, we fostered a puppy named Bibo for 4 Paws for Ability, local non-profit that provides service dogs for children and disabled veterans.

My wife: “Such a pwetty widdle pupper-dupper…”

Our job was to cover the basics with bouncing baby Bibo: the usual sit/stay/come commands, potty training, and “socializing” him to get him used to public spaces. Meaning my wife took him everywhere – stores, schools, sporting events, restaurants, parades… any place where he’d be exposed to new sights, sounds and smells.

At age one, Bibo needed to go back to the non-profit (much to my wife’s dismay) for hardcore “boot camp.” The training runs the gamut, as the dogs could be put into service in a variety of roles: mobility assistance, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, epilepsy, etc. It’s like Navy Seal training for dogs, and only the very best make it through to graduation.

Bibo was a dropout. There’s no shame in that. But he needed a forever home. I’ll give you three guesses as to where he wound up (and your first two guesses don’t count).

Now that those silly “obedience” lessons are over, can I sleep on your bed?

Bibo is back (we should change his name to “Boomerang”). He joins Hope, our seven-year-old mutt (adopted from a local shelter)…

So good at hogging the couch.

…and Coco and Lily, our two cats (also adopted) in our house turned menagerie.

I should buy stock in pet companies… and lint roller manufacturers.

When it’s time to change…

Our youngest child is 13 and a half… and his voice is starting to crack. Of course, the first thought that springs to mind for someone my age is the Brady Bunch episode where Peter’s voice was changing.

But then when I clear the TV Land cobwebs from my puny brain (it takes roughly three hours to lose that stupid little Sha-na-na-n-na-na-n-na-na… sha-na-na-na-na! riff), I realize that our youngest child… our baby boy!… is leaving childhood behind.

That makes me sad, because if he’s moving to another phase, that means I am too. The phase where parents aren’t needed as much. We’re becoming accessories rather than necessities. Heck, we already have a kid in college (and another who will be there by August), two teenage drivers and another with her temps… They can fend for themselves. They’ve been off school for the past three days thanks to frigid temperatures and snow — and they probably didn’t even notice their old man was gone.

I’m not ready to be an empty nester just yet. In fact, the “failure to launch” concept is starting to sound appealing.

I know change is inevitable.

But that doesn’t make it enjoyable. At least not for parents.

The cost of convenience

Earlier this week, we were running low on bath tissue.

(OK, OK, let’s just call it toilet paper because that’s what it is. “Bath tissue” is just a marketing ploy. Much like “Chilean sea bass” was invented to put a more palatable spin on the real name of that species: Patagonian toothfish.)

We’re always running low on peanut butter, too, thanks to our teenagers and their protein shakes.

So instead of driving the three measly blocks to the grocery store, I ordered a four large packages of both TP and PB online. Sounds great in theory – who really wants to go to the store to hand pick their TP? (Other than bogus 70s housewives and Mr. Whipple, of course.)

But then the packaging showed up on our doorstep. Two different shipments, on two different days, in giant cardboard boxes, and for some reason the packers felt it necessary to “cushion” the TP with a mile of those plastic air bubbles. Seriously, I thought it was a costume for a Chinese New Year parade:

Each giant plastic jar of peanut butter was also hermetically sealed in a plastic bag. I guess to prevent “leakage”… or “oozing” in the case of peanut butter. It seemed completely unnecessary. I’m sure anyone who orders online has also experienced the “giant box for one tiny item” phenomenon. That’s a lot of cardboard wasted. Delivery is usually by diesel trucks, which pollute more than passenger cars. My order came from a warehouse, which is certainly farther away than the three-block distance to my store. And the truck probably wasn’t completely full because of the haste required to meet the arbitrary two-day shipping deadline. Not to mention the fact that my home delivery won’t replace a trip to the store… it’s just in addition to those jaunts. That means more vehicles on the road spewing pollution.

Here’s a nice article that sums up the environmental challenges of home shipping. Here’s a video too:

Then there’s this article about how all this shipping can wreak havoc on the labor market and infrastructure.

So I’m going to choose “no hurry” shipping when I have to order online, and go back to the old-school way as much as possible – it feels more earth-friendly. Especially if I ride my bicycle.

Be who you want to be

My 17-year-old son is a workout fanatic. He’s also a funny kid in his own unique — and typically stealthy — way. Recently, when he ordered a new dip belt online, he had some fun with the mailing label name. (BTW, don’t ask me what a “dip belt” is… I thought it meant loosening your pants by a couple of notches after you’ve had too much guacamole.)

Peter has already figured out what his pro wrestling name would be, and he often refers to himself in the third person of that imaginary person. It’s especially funny because in many ways he’s quite shy.

Yep, Jackson Steelflex. Sounds like he could be a future WWE Heavyweight Champ, brother!

The name has a lot of flair.

Peter will be going off to college in a few months. I remember a faculty member who spoke at my freshman orientation (back in the Jurassic Period) and told us that in college, we could be free of the the boxes that high school put us into, and become who we want to be. Here’s hoping that Peter leaves Shy Guy behind, and becomes a bit more Steelflex.