Sweet summer freedom

Today’s the last day of exams for my “rising senior, rising sophomore and rising 8th grader”… which means they won’t be rising at the crack of dawn for a few months. I’m sure they’ll celebrate in typical movie scene/music montage fashion this afternoon.

Well, they’re not the only ones who are celebrating. Daddy is delighted too! Summer vacation also means freedom for me:

  • Freedom from having to wake up 20 minutes early to squeeze in a quick workout (kettlebell swings in the basement – sun’s not out, guns not out)
  • Freedom from trying to wake three teenagers at 6 a.m. (there’s not enough blasting powder in the entire world)
  • Freedom from the headaches caused by the four kids/two bathrooms challenge (it requires a greater degree of planning and precision timing than the D-Day invasion)
  • Freedom from making Peter’s chicken and brown rice lunch (and freedom from our dog staring at me with those puppy dog eyes while I cut up the chicken).
  • Freedom from 26 “hurry up or you’ll miss the bus” warnings per morning (plus or minus 10).
  • Freedom from driving my daughter to school when she ignores the 26 warnings and misses the bus. Which means I have to miss my relaxing reading-filled bus ride to work, and instead I have to park 15 minutes away from my office. (Actually I could park closer but I’m too cheap to pay.)

I know it’ll end all too quickly, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

 

 

 

Stay classy!

It’s Graduation Day for our oldest child.

Seems like just yesterday he was a toddler, and we were signing him up for preschool at the church down the street.

He’ll be leaving the nest in a couple of months, but he won’t be venturing too far from home. He’s attending the University of Cincinnati (dreaded basketball rival of my alma mater… kids are such rebels) to study engineering. I’ve talked to several folks who have either been through the program themselves or have kids who’ve gone through it, and it gets rave reviews. And as my friend Art (who was my college roommate) says, “college can be as far away as you want it to be” – meaning just because you’re going to a school that’s 10 miles from your house doesn’t mean you have to come home every weekend… or any weekend for that matter.

He’s a great kid. He’s smart, kind and a hard worker. He’ll do just fine.

 

 

All That Jazz(ercise)

On Saturday, I attended a Jazzercise class for the first (and perhaps only) time in my life. My wife has been an instructor for nearly two decades, and on Saturday they had a “bring your sweetie” strength training class. So basically it was me and all the other spouses/significant others of the instructors and a few class regulars.

                                                               Team shirt.

My wife has been asking me to attend a class for many years — the answer was always a resounding “no way!”

But some of the other spouses/boyfriends have attended classes occasionally — I call them “curve-wreckers” — and I hear all about it for months. Because it was Mother’s Day Eve, I finally waved the white leg warmers of surrender.

Not me. Not Jazzercise either.

Also, I was promised there would be beer afterward.

Here’s what I learned from my adventure:

1. I am the most uncoordinated human being on the planet.

2. “Jazzercise” may sound like something your grandma does at the senior center, but it will kick your butt. And your pecs. And your abs. And every other muscle area in your body. It’s like P90X, set to music.

3. They really need to update their name… because I didn’t hear a single jazz tune. It was more like a “hot hits” radio station.

4. Beer tastes better after a workout. If I keep going back, maybe I can have both kinds of “six-packs.”

5. Happy wife, happy life!

 

 

 

E.T., don’t phone home

My son’s Algebra teacher is also my new hero. Here’s a note she sent out to parents of her students:

Parents –
I have “preached” from the beginning of the school year, in August, that cell phones are not to be out during class unless I have given permission.  Most students are having no problem with this as I allow them to take the phone out to take a picture of a homework screen on the Daily PowerPoint or to use an app for making note of the homework assignment.  Most students can put their phones away after completing the task.
Apparently my long-term sub was a bit more lenient about cell phone use and some students seem to feel his policies still stand.
Noticing this after my return on Monday, I let students know that my policy still stands.  But, I had to confiscate phones from students today.  My policy is stated in the Policies, Procedures and Rules document all students received from me in August.  It is also posted on Schoology.  It refers you to the Student Handbook for the school’s policy on cell phones.  The pertinent section is on page 12.  The Student Handbook is on the school website – www.walnuthillseagles.com.
I’ve heard all the excuses: it’s my mom letting me know that she’s picking me up after school; it’s my grandma telling me she’ll be coming to get me at a certain time for a dentist appt; it’s my friend letting me know what we’re doing this weekend, and on and on it goes. I even had a student tell me (as their phone was actually ringing), that they needed to take the call.  Did I mind?!
If as a parent, you feel it is more important that your child is always checking their cell phone for a message, please let me know.  I will not repeat instruction, during class or at a Help Time, for students who choose to use their instruction time for cell phone time.  I feel they can last 50 minutes in a class, then check for messages on their way to their next class.  We often finish with a few minutes left in the bell and I haven’t minded that they pull their phones out then.
Emergencies should always come through an office.  I cannot release a student without office notification anyway, so letting them know about something through a cell phone message isn’t the proper or most expedient way to retrieve your student from school.
I hope you can support me in this.  My assumption is that your child is at Walnut for an education.  If that’s not important to you or your child, then I need to know this.
Thanks so much,
Mrs. Burris
 I love it! Her class is the high school equivalent of Luke’s Diner on Gilmore Girls: 

I love the closing lines the most: I hope you can support me in this.  My assumption is that your child is at Walnut for an education.  If that’s not important to you or your child, then I need to know this. 

Not-so-humble brag

Child #2, Peter, turned 17 yesterday. All he wanted for his birthday was protein powder, t-shirts and some sneakers. He’s a man of simple means. Always has been. He’s been working at the local pizza parlor for nearly a year, and he never spends any of his paychecks – they just go right into the bank.

I wish he’d give lessons to my daughter… she’s more like this:

Peter also had been taking all of his tip money and throwing it in a box in his room. A few weeks ago, we counted the cash, and it was more than $800. Of course, once he gets his license and starts driving and dating, that surplus will dwindle quickly.

This past Saturday, his “Caring for our Watersheds” project finished 9th in a countywide high school competition.

Peter is at the far right. He won’t spend any of his oversized check.

He and his project partner, Fiona, worked with school officials and their science teacher to get two water bottle refilling stations installed in high traffic areas at school, and put announcements about it on the school P.A. system. (He’s a chip off the old tree-hugger stump!) Fiona couldn’t make the final presentation to the judges, so Peter had give a five-minute presentation on stage, solo, then field questions from the judges. Waayyy out of his comfort zone, but that’s part of the process, right? Now it’s in his muscle memory.

Speaking of taking the stage, my first cousin once removed performed on the Today Show yesterday. She plays Cady in Mean Girls, which just received 12 Tony nominations. NBD.

I’d feel inferior if I weren’t a world-renowned blogger. (Hey, I have readers in France and Slovenia! Actually, make that “reader” – singular. )

An Apple a day won’t keep the ghost of Steve Jobs away

Help! My 14-year-old daughter and my 12-year-old son have joined a cult. I’ve tried to rescue them, but they’ve been brainwashed. No matter how much I try to reason with them, they won’t budge. I’ll have to resign myself to the fact that they are… (sob)… Apple worshippers.

They’re bowing their heads out of reverence… or maybe they’re just checking their phones.

My son’s hand-me-down iPhone 5 gave up the ghost a few days ago. We made the mistake of taking it to the Apple Store to see if they could fix it… at a mall… on a Saturday… without an appointment. I thought we were going to a store, but clearly we wound up in the 7th circle of hell. Never before have I seen such a mass of humanity transfixed by bright, shiny objects, drawn like moths to a flame.

Consume mass quantities!

You would think they were giving out free ice cream and puppies, instead of charging people $1000 for phones that will crap out in 19 months, and $2000 for laptops will be obsolete before you get home.

Somehow I managed to elude the tablet-toting army of green-shirted minions, trying to trick me into spending a mortgage payment on a phone. (You think you’re pulling one over on me with your lack of cash registers, but I’m onto your devious “seamless transaction” plan!) As a cheapskate parent, I tried to talk my son into using a discarded Android phone from our basement mobile phone graveyard. But no, that simply won’t do.

He wouldn’t be able to FaceTime with his friends… which is the modern-day equivalent of actually talking face-to-face with your friends.

When I started looking at refurb iPhone 6 models online, my daughter hit the roof, because her 6 is also a hand-me-down (thanks Cousin Brian the tech junkie) and SHE deserves an upgrade, not him! (She would make a great scorekeeper.) And even though, according to my kids, the lowly 6 should be relegated to a museum of ancient history, a friggin’ refurb is still nearly $300. I got my brand new Android for half that.

I don’t get it. As a fan of zigging when everyone else is zagging, I’m not on the Steve Jobs bandwagon. And I believe that an open development platform (e.g. Android) will always win out over a closed system (looking at you, iTunes, iPods, iPads, i-whatever). Seth Godin said it best (as usual): Apple has become a fashion brand, a status symbol… nothing more. They can charge a premium not because their products are better, but because the name has cachet.

 

The Oatmeal has a funny take on Apple addiction too. Check it out here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apple

My designer friends (that is, friends who are graphic designers… I’m not buddies with Ralph Lauren) will vehemently disagree, but I will not be swayed by their arguments, even if they create a visually stunning infographic and show it to me on a retina display.

So, in summary, I’m starting a Kickstarter for my kids’ upgraded phones. You can contribute at www.DadIsBrokeAgain.com.

 

 

Friday. Cry day.

We send our kids to school in the morning, and they come home in the afternoon. That’s how it works. Until it doesn’t. Kyle Plush went to school on Tuesday morning. He never came home.

Image result for judy zehren cincinnati

He was supposed to play his first tennis match that afternoon, and as he was reaching over the third row bench seat of his 2004 Honda Odyssey to get his tennis gear, the seat flipped and he got trapped.

The emergency system let him down. Even though he wasn’t able to reach his phone, he used Siri to call 911. Twice.

“Help, help, help,” Plush said in a call he made at 3:16 p.m. “I’m in desperate need of help.”

Plush said several times he was “at Seven Hills,” though the operator apparently did not hear clearly or understand what he meant. “Where are you?” she said, over and over. “What is the address?”

Two officers arrived on scene at 3:26 p.m. They were there for 11 minutes, patrolling the area to look for anyone in distress. 

While they were in the parking lot, Kyle was making his second 911 call. In that second call, Kyle gave more details of the van he was trapped in, including its color, make and model. That information was never relayed to officers on the scene.

“I probably don’t have much time left, so tell my mom that I love her if I die,” he said. “I’m trapped inside my gold Honda Odyssey van. In the (inaudible) parking lot of Seven Hills Hillsdale.

“Send officers immediately. I’m almost dead.”

At 3:37 p.m., the officers closed the incident and went back into service. 

A short while later, a Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputy who was at the school to direct traffic said he wanted to look again. 

“Your guys couldn’t find any van with anybody stuck in it,” he told an operator in a four-and-a-half minute phone call, “but I just wanted to go around and double-check one more time.”

The deputy said he had only seen one van in the lot during his check but didn’t find anybody in it. Chief Isaac said later that that was probably the van Plush was in. 

The deputy and the operator continued talking about Plush’s 911 calls and what might have been happening.  

“(He) was unable to hear me and just kept repeating, ‘Help, help, I’m stuck. I’m in the Seven Hills Parking lot,’” the operator said. “It was really hard to hear (him). It sounded like (he) was kind of far away from the phone.”

“That’s weird,” the deputy responded.

“Yeah, it was really a strange call,” the operator said

They also talked about whether the whole thing might be a prank. Around the same time Plush was calling 911, the deputy had run into a woman at the school who was getting in his way. He wondered if that woman was up to something – especially since the first officers who looked for the van didn’t find anything awry.

His dad found him at 9 p.m. that night, trapped in the van. Lifeless. So senseless.

In the classroom, teachers saw a bright future for Kyle, a strong and independent student with a tender heart and a love for those around him.

“Kyle’s gentle spirit made it a joy for others to be around him. We lovingly remember Kyle as creative, vibrant, and kind,” said Patty Normile.

We send our kids to school in the morning, and they come home in the afternoon. My wife and I send our 18-year-old son to school every morning in his 2003 Honda Odyssey minivan. The epitome of a “safe family car.”

Visitation will be 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at T.P. White & Sons Funeral Home, 2050 Beechmont Ave., Mt. Washington.

Kyle’s funeral will be 9:30 a.m. Monday at St. Rose Church, 2501 Riverside Dr., East End.

The family is asking for memorial donations to go to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati, 350 Erkenbrecher Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229.

“Tell my mom that I love her”… a phrase that breaks the heart of every parent.

We send our kids to school in the morning…

 

Snowy synchronicity

I hate Winter. Especially when it happens in the Spring. Woke up this morning to find a dusting of snow on the ground. Enough, Jack Frost! Game over… I surrender, you win. But there was some good that came of it. I got to wear my Buffalo Tom knit cap while waiting for the bus.

My kids need to teach me how to take selfies.

And that reminded me of the Buffalo Tom song “The Bus”…

Obviously, it doesn’t take much to take my feeble mind off the weather.

I love those little moments of synchronicity, or at least of loose ends all tying up neatly in ways you’d never think of ahead of time. On Friday, I stopped by the offices of Cincinnati Magazine to pick up a copy of the April issue. Seems my subscription had lapsed in March, and I was never notified. But my old friend John Fox is the editor, so I hounded him for a copy – after all, it was the music issue, which is right in my wheelhouse. The cover photo is of the Cincinnati-bred band The National.

Lead singer Matt Berninger has a side project called EL VY. Their song “Return to the Moon” name-checks Cincinnati landmarks Eden Park and the Serpentine Wall. I heard that song yesterday afternoon… in friggin’ Big Lots! (Don’t judge me – it was their 20% off storewide sale, and I’m a cheapskate. Also, props to whoever programs the Big Lots Muzak channel.)

The magazine features a profile of Bootsy Collins, written by Gil Kaufman. Gil’s wife Stephanie was the teacher’s assistant for our son Andrew in grade school, and our daughters have played on the same soccer teams. Saturday night I went to the FC Cincinnati soccer game with my friend Phil, who had gotten the tickets from — you guessed it, Gil and Stephanie.

The April issue also features an article about Chuck Cleaver from the band Wussy. Before Wussy, Chuck was in a band called Ass Ponys (Chuck’s not big on having a band name that has broad appeal, clearly). I love both bands, but Ass Ponys will always have a special place in my heart because they were big when I was at 97X. Back then, John Fox (hmm, where have we heard that name before?) was the editor of Everybody’s News, and he and his staff would come in once a week to do on-air segments about local events.

Yesterday, our son Andrew had a soccer game. He’s one of two Andrews on the team. The other one? Well, he’s the son of Dave Morrison… drummer for the Ass Ponys! But wait, there’s more… they have a song called “Last Night It Snowed”!!!

All roads lead to music. Just be careful, those roads may be icy in spots.

“Dryer” rhymes with “fire”

It was a very relaxing Easter weekend… oh, other than the part where I nearly burned down our house. On Saturday morning, I threw a load of freshly laundered clothes into the dryer, just as I’ve done hundreds of other times. (With four kids, laundry is never “done” – the wash/dry cycle goes on forever.)

Roughly 30 minutes later, I was upstairs and smelled an acrid burning-plastic smell. My son Peter did too, and he was in another room. We couldn’t figure out where it was coming from until Peter looked out the kitchen window and saw smoke billowing out of the dryer vent pipe. We headed down to the basement laundry room… and smoke was pretty thick at the ceiling level. I opened the dryer and saw clothes on fire in the drum, as well as flames behind the clothes compartment. We unplugged the dryer, and used a wet towel to extinguish the burning clothes, then poured some water in the back to put out the flames we could see yet not reach any other way. All of my fire safety training (i.e. a childhood spent watching every episode of Emergency!) had paid off! We were like a modern day Gage and DeSoto.

“Give them an I.V., D5W, and transport to Rampart immediately.”

At the time, it seemed rather funny – especially the sweatpants/running shirt/boxer shorts that had melted/melded into a charcoal briquette. But after the adrenaline rush subsided, I realized that if no one had been at home while that load was frying instead of drying, our home would be toast. Scary stuff.

Welcome to laundry hell!

It wasn’t lint buildup, either. I clean out the dryer vent line once a year. But our dryer is so old that recently drawstrings have been getting caught in a gap between the drum and the back of the dryer. My best guess is an article of clothing got caught in there, and the spinning of the drum created enough friction to start a fire.

Don’t worry, Fire Marshall Bill… I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t dry clothes when I’m not at home. Unless I’m using this:

 

 

 

Egging you on

[I’m doing a rerun today – this post originally ran back in 2015, when only three people knew of this blog’s existence. Now there are at least 10 – count ’em – 10 folks who check out this blog on occasion, which counts as “going viral” in my book…]

Happy Easter! Here’s hoping your kids feel like these kids today:

Parents, just a few Easter Egg Hunt reminders…

1. Don’t hide hard-boiled eggs unless:

A. you really really would like egg salad for lunch for the next 3 weeks

B. you keep a map with the location of every egg. If not, it’s guaranteed that at least one egg will go undiscovered… and your house will stink to high heaven in a couple of weeks.

2. Be prepared to find that fake plastic Easter basket “grass” around your house until at least the 4th of July.

3. Using leftover Halloween candy in Easter baskets is unacceptable.

4. Coconut may help your cake look more like a bunny, but most kids won’t eat it.

5. Get the hollow chocolate bunnies unless you want to make an emergency visit to the dentist for a cracked tooth.

choco_bunnies