Archive for the ‘Ballet’ Category

Wrapped Up In Cookie Dough

October 10, 2012

When our oldest was in Girl Scouts my wife was the “Cookie Chair Person”.  That meant we warehoused cookies while the girls….er ummm their parents took the cookie sheet into work and danced the dosido to get their coworkers to buy a box of Dosidos, or Thin Mints or…Our phone rang night and day as Girl Scout parents called needing more.  My wife put a message on our voice mail mentioning the cookies.  My friends would all call and leave lewd comments about the cookies.  As the sale was wrapping up I was a little cukoo about the cookies.  So I changed the voice mail to say, “If you are calling about Girl Scout Cookies, my wife isn’t here.  She took the money and went on a vacation to Florida.  She’ll catch you when she gets back.”  Well one of the mom’s…one who was wound too tight…turned us in to the cookie police.  We were investigated and when it was determined that my story was half baked…we were cleared, but asked to turn in our apron and not return as a cookie chairperson again.

I still buy the cookies because I want to help the girls.  I also buy popcorn from the Boy Scouts and when the band kid comes around I shell out ten dollars for the scented candle with a scent only a great aunt could love.  That’s because her olfactory nerves were burned out by years of lavender perfume abuse.  I’ve bought cookie dough and then wondered what the heck I’m going to do with a ten pound cask of macadamia nut/white chocolate cookie dough…feed it to the birds in the winter?  One year I bought Chanukah wrapping paper to use at Christmas….just because.

So when our youngest, Grace, had an opportunity to go to France as a foreign exchange student I braced myself for “the Fund Raiser” speech.  Then a friend told me about Crowd Funding.  There are websites dedicated to helping you raise money for things like…an educational trip to France without schlepping peanut brittle.  I think we all realize that the company rolling in the dough when it comes to Girl Scout Cookies is the bakery not the girl scouts.  So why not cut out the middleman?    If we really want our money to go to good use…donate the 10 bucks we would spend on a pumpkin spice candle…straight to the kid with the cause…that way at the end of the day…the cause ends up with a lot more money.  It sounded like a great idea so we are doing that for Grace and her opportunity to be a foreign exchange student in France.  Here’s a link if you’d like to donate.   http://www.gofundme.com/1b20zg

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Grandparent’s Day

October 20, 2011

When I hear the name grandpa I have this visual in my mind and my face isn’t on it.  Don’t get me wrong I love being one.  I look forward to seeing the twins every week, but the title seems surreal.  I keep feeling like… a dad.  There is this age connotation that comes with the title, Grandpa, and I can’t seem to get past it.  Carly will say something like, “Girls, look at Grandpa”, and I turn around expecting my dad to be standing in the door.  Then I realize she’s talking about me and it’s…just …out of body.  There are certain titles that I’m good with like, Uncle Greg…I’ve worn that hat for eighteen years and I dig it.  Mr. Phelps is a little formal, but I can connect the dots on the right day.  Sir….that one strikes at the core of my internal struggle between young at heart and the fact that my high school graduating class just celebrated our THIRTY year reunion. 

On the other hand Keely has thoroughly embraced the title Grandma.  She found out on her fiftieth birthday.  She had been half a century for about half a day when she took the call from the home office.   By the next day she’d digested the news (with the help of soft food and tea:-)).  She picked up the knitting needles, reading glasses, and her Martha Washington cap, and began making blankets and sweaters.  Our house looks like a third world sweat shop with all of the yarn, patterns and needle point.  She even bought extra car seats so we’d have a set.  The girls will be a year old at the end of the month.   I think she’s knitting them a birthday cake.  She answers to Grandma…she is Grandma. 

Every Thursday and Friday evening at our house is Grandparent’s Day.  Alexis works evenings so the twins come over to magically transform our home from the teen lounge into camp run-a-muck.  We put up the barricades so they are confined to the family room where they drag, paw, pull, and chew everything they can get their soggy paws on.  Really at eleven months the only thing that separates baby humans from puppies is the fact that puppies are faster at learning where to poop.  They both chew everything.  When the twins first started pulling themselves up they were teething on our glass top tables, the frame of the tables, DVD boxes, shoes.  If you turn your back on them, they switch from chewing on toys to eating cat food and drinking from the watering bowl.  I saw it before with our kids, but our baby is fifteen now.  We haven’t covered the sockets or locked the cabinets for fourteen years.  They are also really good at showing us how inferior we are at mopping floors.  We can wash our floors three times a week and it doesn’t seem to matter.  The girls come over, crawl around for ten minutes, and their knees and socks look like they’ve been visiting the Clampett’s dirt floor cabin.  I should strap sponges to their knees so they can mop while they crawl.

I pick them up at day care each Thursday.  The first thing I had to master, aside from telling them apart, was juggling.  One baby is easy to manage.  I did that all the time.  When you carry one you still have a hand free for keys, a door knob, car seat straps…you get the picture.  Two is a whole different ball game.  The first time I picked them up it was raining.  I had two babies in my arms, their backpack, car keys in my pocket, rain on my head, and a locked car.  Nice!  And I thought Sales as challenging!  When I got to the car I found it easiest to hold them like squirming footballs together in one arm so I could unlock the door.  I really didn’t care what the passing motorists thought.  Years of hearing my coach yell “Don’t drop that football Phelps!” suddenly came rushing back.  You don’t want to be the guy who drops a baby in the day care parking lot.  The next challenge was strapping one in the car seat without the other one escaping.  If I put her down by my feet she’d immediately get wet in the puddle, crawl under the car like a turtle, and try to eat gravel…maybe if I stick her in my shirt like a kangaroo baby I can manage this!  Then we pick up Grace, take her to ballet, change diapers…theirs…not mine… and return home to the magical land of barricades, yarn, and soft food.  Thankfully the soft food isn’t for me either …yet.

 

 

Spats, The Badminton of Arguments

September 22, 2011

My friend Mike had parents who were married for life.  I’m sure they loved each other, but sometimes they argued over silly little things that didn’t matter.  One minute you hear, “pass the pickles” the next thing you knew they would erupt into some disagreement.  Opinions would ricochet between the two like a tennis ball in the US Open.  They’d spin their position back and forth.  It wasn’t the kind of argument that wasn’t upsetting so we would watch like spectators and he would comment to me.   “My parents will go through life arguing about the same things,” he’d say while shaking his head. The topic was always something life changing, like wiping off the ketchup lid.  They would volley back and forth.   Neither would give any ground and nothing would be resolved.  The Ketchup bottle would be wiped off by the irritated party in an overly dramatic way.  Maybe a sarcastic comment would accompany it from the other side like, “I think we will all sleep better knowing the ketchup lid is clean.”   There would be silence for a minute or two.  Then his mom would look at Mike and say, “would your friend like more milk?”  Mike would say, “Mom you can ask him he’s sitting right next to me.”  I would say, “Yes thanks” and suddenly the Ketchup cloud had passed and the sun would shine again.  The condiment issue would be tabled for further discussion the next time they had hamburgers.

Now that my wife and I have been together for nearly a quarter of a century (I said it that way because it seems longer than if I’d said twenty-five years)I understand what Mike’s parents were doing…aside from entertaining us.  Keely and I are a couple, but we are also individuals.  We may both be working together for the common good.  We love each other, our family, and our goals.  We just have different ways of daily living.  We both take our pants off one leg at a time.  However it’s what we do with the pants that can become the irritant.  I’ll give you an example; one of us reads the mail, shreds the junk, and files the other stuff.  The other places their mail in random piles around the family room.  Those piles grow and spread out incorporating magazines, textbooks, school papers, and other collateral in much the same way a glacier moves and collects things in its path.  The next thing I know our family’s counter top space has been covered in sprawl.  I’ll make a couple of attempts to rein in the debris field, but it’s like trying to contain an avalanche with a privacy fence.  The conglomerate takes over and there is no stopping it.  Keely knows where everything is regardless of the visual created by the filing system.  If I try to undo her system and she needs to find something…we have a ketchup lid conflict.  The flip side, if her system encroaches on the last bastion of open space on the counter I force a ketchup lid incident.  The jagged vibes I feel when I look at piles are equal to the ones that fly from her shoulders once I’ve uncorked the situation.   I understand.  I go there too.   I have to say that once she’s fueled by irritation she moves to dismantle the offending areas with speed and precision that would make Martha Stewart’s head spin.  It’s impressive to watch.  She multitasks.  While her hands are, filing, shredding, moving, and wiping.  Her lips are uttering things about me being anal, and my life insurance policy needing to be increased, and yet there is love in her heart.  Of course I don’t feel that love initially. I stay out of her way.  I learned early on to resist the urge to make sarcastic remarks or offer advice on clutter prevention.  I just let the magic happen while hiding the knives.  After the dust has settled and the flowers and card are received there is a feeling of harmony both visually and emotionally. 

The next day the mail comes, we get a magazine from her PA organization, a sale flyer from Kohl’s, and a coupon from Jiffy Lube.  Suddenly, subtly, there is a little bit of gooey ketchup forming on the lid again.

 

 

 

Pets Part 1

February 25, 2010

Driving home from ballet yesterday Grace was talking about the cute little lap dogs she wants.  I would interject, “When you move out you mean?” with a smile.  She would ignore that comment and continue on about these little dog hybrids and how badly we need one.   I can see it now; she’ll be walking down the streets of Manhattan with a little dog in a big purse.  The dog will be wearing a hat, cape, and go go boots.  It will have one of those names like Mrs. D.  It will only eat a certain type of food from a can and only when Grace feeds it to her with a certain spoon.  It will develop skin allergies and lose all of its hair.  The vet bill to fix this with steroids and follicle implants will be more than she makes dancing for SAB, but that’s OK.  She takes a third job to pay that bill and together they live happily ever after.

Then the conversation shifted to accusations that I hate all animals because I won’t drive right then to buy her this little furry bundle of love.  I hate animals?  Why do we have two cats?  We’ve had dogs, other cats, snakes, hamsters, and fish.  I don’t hate animals.  I have a full schedule and it doesn’t include adding more responsibilities to the list.  I’m not a pet person right now.  I don’t want to have to let dogs in, out, clean up after them, and feed them.  “I will,” she said sincerely.  Yeah she will for a week or less and then it’s on me.  We’ve done this experiment time and time again and it always comes back to me so…when you live in New York and you are dancing for SAB you can have a Puggle, Wiggle, Fuggle,  Piggle or any of the list of little shark bait dogs and I will visit it.

As a kid we had four dogs.  The first, Coco, was a brown poodle who didn’t mind.  The only way we could get it to come in the house was for me to run around yelling “charge!”  It would eventually follow me and I’d run in the house.  Once when we were visiting my grandmother Coco ran next door, knocked down a little girl, and bit her arm.  It was nothing serious…just a nip.  After that he took a ride with my dad and never returned.  Then they bought a poodle who behaved.  We named her coco # 2…because the kids were in charge of naming her.  We had cats.  I saw kittens born.  We had a Samoyed.  Those are white sled dogs.  She was hit by a car in front of our house, in the winter, on a snowy day.  I witnessed it.  Then our house burned to the ground and Coco # 2 and all of the other pets perished. 

My kids have seen their share of heart ache when it comes to our pets.  Nick, our lab, died of a heart attack in front of them.  That was…a life lesson.  Our coolest cat Henry was killed by a hawk on Father’s day.  Our oldest pet Tater just went to the white light earlier this month.  He was 22.  Yep he lived a long, grumpy life.  The older he grew, the grumpier he became.  He was older than Grace and Carly.  He missed Henry.  After Henry was buried Tater began this annoying habit of howling.  Not a normal cat howl.  This was more like a dying wolf.  It started low and would build like a storm siren.  It jolted you out of bed at three AM like a storm siren too.  Some times he’d do it when I was on a business call.  The person on the other line would always say, “Do you need to evacuate?” or “What is that sound?  Is everything OK?”  I’d cover by saying, “They are testing the sprinkler system in our office building.”  Tater had a stroke.  I had to use an axe to cut through the frozen tundra and bury him in a short ceremony in the back yard.  We are left with two cats, Tina and Tyler.  We rescued them when they were two weeks old.  We bottle fed them along with their brother Tim.  Tim lives with my brother…Tom and his kids.  Don’t worry none of them have names that start with a “T”.  It’s a hassle to keep the girls on task with the litter box.  I’m over the pet experience.  I like fish.  They are like living art and when they die…you flush them end of story.

The Boys of Fall

September 26, 2009

About 6 years ago I was raking leaves in the fall when a pack of boys Carly’s age came walking down the street tossing a football.  I heard my mom’s voice, “Please play touch. No one needs to get hurt.”  The truth is any time a group of boys get together someone may get hurt.  It has nothing to do with sports.  If there are five boys in a room full of feathers one of them could end up with a quill sticking out of his eye.  We played touch if the game was up near the house where parents could see.  We always played with three rules.  Defense had a five apple rush and no blitzes.  The offense couldn’t use running plays.  Running plays led to an endless string of touchdowns which took all of the challenge and fun out of the game.  A five apple rush is this; you have to count out loud, one apple, two apple, three apple, four apple, five apple, before you rush the quarterback.  It made up for no blocking.  Those are really universal rules for any sand lot game, any where in the country.  The count may change from apples to Mississippi’s, but everything else is the same.

Playing football in a house full of ballerinas just doesn’t happen.  My girls love to watch it, but that is where it ends.  I felt the need to get grass stained and sweaty.  When they made it to our yard I said, “Are you done playing or going to play?”  They said, “Waiting on some other guys before we play.”  I really wanted to play. I went straight for the justification. I can rake these leaves Monday evening. So I said,” Come get me if you need another player.”  One of them said, “Mr Phelps, you’re funny”.  I said, “Seriously, come get me if you need another guy.”  They never showed.  The following week there were even more of them walking down the street with football in hand.  Again I was raking.  Again I felt the tugging of childhood. So I threw out the offer…again.  They stopped, “Seriously?”  I said, “Yeah!  I wouldn’t offer if I was kidding.”  “OK Mr. Phelps we’ll call you before we play”. They agreed just because they are nice.  I had just finished raking when my wife came outside saying, “Some boys from the neighborhood want to know if you can come down and play football?”  She thought it was cute.  I thought it was cool.  I’ve known them since they were in preschool.  Now they were old enough I didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone.  On my way out the door she said, “Honey, please don’t play tackle.”  It had come full circle. 

Our neighborhood has a creek that runs along one border.  The homes that line that creek have perfect back yards for football.  I walked down there wearing a T-shirt about ballet, jeans, and tennis shoes.  I wasn’t even thinking about it.  That’s what I was wearing to rake leaves.  They were all dressed in NFL jerseys and athletic shorts.  I could tell by the looks it was like showing up wearing black socks and dress shoes.  Half the kids were from our neighborhood and the other half were school friends who rode their bikes or were dropped off by parents.  I think our neighborhood kids were embarrassed.   “Ballet shirt?  Jeans?”  Wisdom taught me that at this stage of my life, Russian Pointe shoes at $85.00 a pop, are a better investment than a Polamalu jersey.  I was picked last.  Truth be told I was picked at all because they felt sorry for me.  The dad who lived there came out and tried to convince me not to play.  He was permanently on the “Physically unable to perform” list.  Said another way, he was too old to play.   He wanted me to be too.  He tried to talk the kids into making me the all time quarterback so I wouldn’t get hurt.  I knew him.  I like him.  I said, “Bill I’m not ready for the wrinkle ranch.  I came down here to have fun.”  He mumbled, “Make sure you guys play touch,” and went back inside.  I had a blast.  Mr Ballerina shirt could still play ball.  They saw me as something more than a stale dad.  I came home dirty, wet with sweat, the knees ripped out of my jeans, and the feeling of youth in my heart.  It sounds funny, but I was happy to be accepted.  I hadn’t been one of the guys, since college.  Carly thought it was funny.  They talked about it on the way to school Monday.  “Your dad can play!”  From that point forward I was on the list.  Friday night we went to the high school football games and every Sunday the phone rang.  My wife would answer, smile, and say, “The boys want to know if you can play.”  For the last five years we played.  This year it ended.  Most of them have responsibilities that come with getting older.   Others went in a less productive direction.  For a while I was given a second chance at childhood, another opportunity to be one of the boys.  It was cool.

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sometimes dads cry

September 19, 2009
I was at an Indiana Pacer Game with a friend back in the nineties.  They asked everyone to rise for the National Anthem.  A young kid with leg braces and crutches shuffled out onto the court to sing.  He had the confidence of a pro.  He belted out that song with such emotion and power that it made me cry.  Women are great with crying.  If a Hallmark ad hit’s them the right way – BAM – tears.  I can count on one hand the number of times tears came to my eyes in the last decade and still have fingers to spare.  Yet here I was at an NBA game with a buddy and I couldn’t look his way because I was sobbing.  I couldn’t use the, there’s something in my eye ploy because it was both eyes!…like sprinklers.  So I covered it by acting like I was looking all around the arena.  He was talking to me and I was talking to him, but I couldn’t make eye contact until my face was dry.  Watching that little boy sing was just one of those perfect moments that will live with me forever.  Those times are so special to experience. I think about how grateful I am to be there.

Last Friday the Butler Ballet had an open call for young dancers.  The Ballet was casting parts for the party scene in the Nutcracker at Clowes Hall.  Most of the cast is filled with Butler Ballet students.  Some years Clara is a Butler Ballet student, other times it’s a younger ballerina.  For young dancers in Indiana a part in this ballet is an honor.  Getting the part of Clara is the Holy Grail.  Clowes Hall seats a crowd of 2500ish.  There are eight shows and most are sold out.  Grace went to the open call on Friday evening and made call backs on Saturday afternoon.  After the call back you’re told… don’t call us we’ll call you.  They said we wouldn’t hear anything before Tuesday.  I mentioned the audition to that friend who went to the Pacer game.  To give you a little background on him, his exposure to culture takes place at the doctor’s office or when he walks down the world foods isle at Meijer to buy pasta.  His only interests are hunting and fishing.  The day they stage a deer hunting ballet with camouflage tutus and antlers is the day he MIGHT attend a ballet, but only if it’s realistically portrayed….if it’s interpretive…forget it.  He said, “Could she get a speaking part?”  I said “No it’s a ballet, not a musical,” which made him defensive.  “Why are they doing the Nutcracker again?  They did it last year.  Can’t they get a little more creative with their show selection? What about A Christmas Carol” He grumbled.  “That’s not a ballet.”  I said beginning to see where this is headed.    Do you ever have conversations that start well and then they slowly suck the life out of the moment to the point you make something up just to get off the phone?  I did that.  “Let me call you back.  I think I ruptured my spleen”.   Then tried to shake off the funk like a dog that was caught in the rain.

We didn’t hear anything on Tuesday.  Wednesday morning I wondered if we’d get a call then quickly forgot about it because I was so buried at work.  So when the phone rang and the ID said Butler University I thought it was work related.  The guy said his name and that he was with the Butler Ballet and I thought, “Cool, they want us to do some DVDs” He said, “We’d like to offer Grace the part of Clara in the Nutcracker.  I was puzzled….I remember thinking, that has nothing to do with DVDs.  I said, “What?”  Still trying to figure out how this was a work related call.  He said it again and it started to sink in.  I said, “She’ll be thrilled and so am I.  That’s when it hit me.  My daughter was going to be a featured ballerina at Clowes Hall.  I started to cry.  I have no idea what else he said.  It didn’t matter.  It is one of those moments I’ll never forget.

http://www.cloweshall.org/calendar/event.lasso?-KeyValue=175&-Token.Action=

Grace - Les Sylphides
Grace from Les Sylphides

Grace - Les Sylphides