Posts Tagged ‘Dance’

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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The Faucet Episode

October 29, 2011

I like doing home improvements (drip, drip, drip) I embrace the challenges and I gain satisfaction from a job well done.  I also understand my limitations.  So if it’s a repair I haven’t done before, there will be some type of… learning curve.  Before I start one of those projects I make sure my girls aren’t around because odds are good that at some point in the heat of the learning curve… the words that roll off my tongue …are four letters and commonly shouted by every football coach and fourth grade boy in the Western Hemisphere.  The girls would chastise me more than they already do…they think they are steering the ship. (drip, drip, drip).   I’ve noticed that the more challenging improvements in our home seem to come in groups rather than being spread out over time.  Lately they have all involved plumbing.  (drip, drip, drip) The tough ones are deceiving.  They appear to be simple half hour jobs and yet somehow they are magically transformed into an odyssey that requires an attitude adjustment, two hours of YouTube instructional videos, a part that is on back order, and schematics designed by engineers…for engineers. (drip, drip, drip)  I think I just realized that maybe I don’t understand my limitations.  However I’m not talking about installing a new furnace, or rewiring our house.  The latest task was…wait for it…fixing a dripping faucet in the girl’s bathroom.  Seriously, now that you know the repair, would you expect the fix to take…two UPS shipments, and seventeen days?  It’s important to highlight the fact that even though it appears I’m in denial about my capabilities…I didn’t discontinue the model of our faucet, I didn’t decide to only label the schematics in Chinese, Latin, and Mayan, or take the replacement parts off retailer’s shelves…I did however turn off the hot water in that bathroom until the parts arrived because the drip became a small stream after the third time I partially took the faucet apart (see learning curve for details).  So every day it wasn’t fixed…there was more of a sense of urgency to do so.

Several years ago we remodeled our home.  Our bathrooms were rebuilt from the studs…by studs.  I say that because they did a great job.  I draw the line at totally rebuilding a room because frankly that kind of construction project takes a lot of knowledge, resources, and time.  Time that I need to devote to working so that I can pay for the stinking upgrade!  I’d love to do a project like that, but I’d also love to keep my marriage, keep my job, keep my sanity, and the list goes on. 

So the new faucets were all higher end Brizo Faucets by Delta which look like this.  They’re nice…when they aren’t dripping.

 

 

They come with a lifetime warranty.  Our model was discontinued sometime between installation and malfunction.  So Delta replaced the bad parts for free.  That makes the repair inexpensive, but we had to wait for them to fill, ship, and deliver the order, which takes about ten days.  Thanks to technology upgrades in plumbing you don’t simply replace a washer to stop a leak.  The top of the handle slides off revealing a set screw, unscrew the set screw to take off the handle.  That leaves the inverted bell shaped thingy (in the schematic it’s called a 鐘形片) I had to unscrew the bell from the base.  That reveals a cartridge that is held in place by another part that screws…since I didn’t do this installation I didn’t know the bell had been cemented to the base with clear calk.  So my attempt at unscrewing had me a little… screwed.  The bell wouldn’t budge so I was stuck, and puzzled.  Could the schematic be wrong?  I was forced to regroup.  After two trips to Economy Plumbing for advice, a pair of vice grips, and some choice words, I was able to separate the base from…my life which revealed the cartridge.  Under the cartridge was a spring and a rubber ball like thing.  Thanks to my first UPS shipment I could replace the spring, ball, and cartridge.  Then I screwed everything back in place, slid on the handle, set screw, cap, and…presto change, no drip.  I get to undo it again in ten days when the new bell comes in.  At least now I know what I’m doing. 

Each time I worked on that drip I had to clean everything out from under the cabinet. That way I could get under the sink to bang my head and wrench my neck.  I didn’t realize the cabinet had accumulated so much stuff.  There were two hair dryers (two?) A curling iron, a flattening iron(?)…why the curling iron if you need a flattening iron?…two rags, tampons, pads, sponges (the cleaning variety), toilet cleaner, Clorox wipes, half of a fresh water clam shell, fifteen swear words, some of my thinning hair, and several hours of lost productivity.  The last three are relatively new additions.

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.

 

 

Vom – Part 1

September 30, 2011

It was late one Halloween night.  The goblins had all come and gone.  The girls had compared loot and talked about their experiences.  The candles inside our jack o’ lanterns had flickered out and everyone was asleep.   Our dog Nick, a black lab who’d never grown up, decided he wanted in on the Halloween treats.  He ate all of the girl’s loot.  Every last piece of the candy was quietly consumed.  Sometime later that night as his stomach became upset he sought shelter in Carly’s room.  She was in preschool at the time.  In the darkness of her room he began to puke.  Immediately screams of freight erupted and late night mayhem ensued.  The sound of Nick’s Halloween lurching would torment Carly for years.  After the incident we had to rearrange her room so that furniture covered the area where the event occurred.   There wasn’t a physical stain, but there was a mental one.  Changing the view somehow made a difference.  Once we moved her furniture around and made sure the dog slept in another room we were able to reclaim our room and once again there was peace at night.

 Some people are better at coping with sickness than others.  As parents we are forced to deal with it.  I mean you can’t just move every time someone pukes and misses the intended target.  Someone has to play janitor and remedy the situation.  The vom episode as Carly now calls it has shaped her tolerance for the hurl.  I’d say her threshold is somewhere south of extremely low.  If she was married and starting a family today she would give the janitorial supplies to her husband and say, “Congratulations you’ve been selected.”  As Murphy’s Law would have it, Carly’s younger sister Grace is a world champion barfer.  So every year when school is back in session, the weather cools, and stomach bugs begin to sweep the nation, Grace’s number is called, and Carly does the, Serenity Now, chant until the storm passes and the sun prevails.  I’ve never seen someone so susceptible to stomach flues.  Luckily Carly, Keely, and I have pretty strong immune systems.  So the bugs Grace brings home seem to bounce off us more often than not.  However this year, we also have grand kids in the picture.  They brought over something wicked.  Forget the fact that we washed hands like we were OCD, we’re fit, and that we get more than our recommended dose of fruits and veggies.  None of that mattered.  This bug had claws or tentacles or little fists that grabbed us by the hair and pulled us kicking and screaming to the porcelain god.  Like an Olympic relay team we passed the baton to each family member and Grace ended up being the anchor of the team.  Apparently it gained some steam as it reached her.  The day I had it I received a call from the school nurse saying Grace had it too.  I couldn’t walk to the kitchen without falling down in a pile of sweat.  So I phoned a friend who donned her hazmat suit and picked Grace up from school. 

This semester Carly doesn’t have classes on Monday.  The night before, as we watched the Payton less Colts flop on Sunday night football, she made the comment that it was too bad that she would be home alone on her day off.  Twelve hours later when Grace came home and hurled she took it all back.  She was in hell.  Halloween came flashing back…again and again every hour on the hour all day long.  Grace doesn’t just vom.  She goes at it with a decibel level that is slightly less than lightning strikes, airport noise, and indoor concerts.  Relatives in California hear the sound, recoil, and call to make sure she’s alright.  Combine that with the fact she never hits the target and you get the picture of what it’s like…all…day…long!  Carly weighed her options.  Her friends were all in classes.  She saw me in the fetal position in my room.  I could have emerged to lay sick on the couch instead, but she didn’t ask, so I didn’t offer.  She could have fled to Starbucks, but she didn’t.  She stayed, found her happy place above the gaging…serenity now…serenity now!!!…and helped her sister.  That evening after Keely came home from the ER to find her home had been turned into a vomitorium she and Carly laughed about the episode as they sanitized the house.  She’d taken a step.  It took 17 years and a hurling sister to begin to exercise the demons of that Halloween night when her dog had one too many at the Snicker Bar.

Where the Wild Things Are

September 27, 2011

One evening recently I was working on my computer when Grace shrieked and in a panicked voice called for me to quickly come over and kill a bug.  The Phelps women hate bugs in the house.  Especially anything that might be a spider…I say might because two of the three Phelps women wear glasses.  If they aren’t wearing them at the time…anything including the cat looks like a spider.  Grace doesn’t wear glasses.  So when I got there and saw what it was…the term, “overreact much?” came to mind.  I could understand it if she was calling me to get rid of some rain forest freak of nature or a killer mantis from a 1960’s horror movie.  However this wasn’t a mutant 350 pound cricket with the voice of Barry White.  It was your standard half inch cricket, not rabid, carnivorous, or venomous.  Thanks to one of our killer cats this little guy was missing both hind legs.  So he couldn’t even kick to defend himself.  He was an emasculated cricket who was reduced to crawling around with his stubby front legs like a beetle.  None of that seemed to matter to my five foot seven inch, sure footed, dancer.  She wanted me to send him to the white light post haste.  I didn’t kill him.  I like the way they sing at night.  I picked him up and tossed him out in the back yard to sing for his supper.  If he was a millipede, different story,  I’d have smashed him in a…Tell Tale Heart…beat.

My grandmother was the Anne Oakley of Greene County.  She bought fur from the trappers, butchered chickens, processed deer, and yet she was scared to death of snakes.  Her mother chewed tobacco, dried it on the window ledge, and smoked it in a pipe.  So she wasn’t raised by softies, but the sight of a snake, even one the size of an earth worm, made her scream like a high maintenance debutante.  They must have sensed her fear because every summer at least one would end up sneaking in into her house.  She found them in her bath tub, curled around her sewing machine, and curled in the branches of an indoor tree like a baby boa.  I think they were trying to say, “Embrace us.  We will eat your mice.”  She never got their message, but she gave them one at the top of her lungs.  I’m sure her scream could be heard all the way in Brown County.  After she recovered from the initial shock she would flip them out the door and show them the business end of a garden hoe.  “Take that you no good varmint”, she’d say.  Then she’d fling it out in the field.  There were so many snakes on her farm the dead snake probably landed on one of the live one’s who were lining up to take his place.  When I was little I remember thinking, “Never tell her I don’t like liver and onions.  I could end up like the snake.”

Several nights after our cricket episode the Phelps women were sewing while watching some show about murder.  My wife loves those shows, Unsolved Mystery, Criminal Minds, Forensic Files.   She’s a walking encyclopedia of ways to kill your spouse.  Paul Simon sings that song, Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.  Keely could kill me fifty different ways and have fifty more to use on the next husband.  Not only does she know ways to do me in, she can sew a tasteful burial cloak too.  It’s no wonder she got along so well with Grandma Mengele, the snake killer.  A stitch in time…kills nine.  So as they watched the latest episode of murder by numbers (while taking notes) they heard a high pitched whine.  It grew louder and louder until they saw one of our cats with a mouse in its mouth.  Keely opened the door to the screen porch.  The cat ran out and dropped the mouse.  Thinking the mouse was dead, she picked him up in a towel.  Carly looked at him, cried a little, and named it Mickey.  That mouse needs to thank they were wearing glasses that night.  Just then Mickey opened its eyes, leaped to the floor, and began scurrying around the porch.  Carly opened the door and it scampered off into the night only to trip over a legless cricket and break its neck…kidding…or am I? Mwa hahahah!

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.

Sexting the Wrong Number and Other Goofs

February 14, 2010

When Carly’s boyfriend went to college she lobbied for me to get a web cam so they could Skype.  She missed him and felt that if she could see him when they spoke it would make the distance seem shorter.  I was a boy in college once too.  If I had this technology I know what I would do.  I would enjoy talking with and seeing my girlfriend on the computer for about a week.  I would spend the next week trying to talk her into taking off her shirt.

After weeks of hearing her beg, I agreed to split the cost of a web cam provided she only used it in the family room when I’m there.  Using it in the family room if I’m gone …doesn’t work.  I can hear the conversation.  Boyfriend, “Just show me real quick while your dad’s gone.  Come on just real quick.  No one’s here.  No one will know.  If you love me you’ll do it.  Please!”  I know the tricks.  I was eighteen. 

Skype is only one of the tools boys can use to see the goods.  Sexting is another.  As much as I try to educate my daughters on boys and the do’s and don’ts it only takes one bad decision to cause heartache or worse.  Just ask Greg Oden or a parade of other public figures that have had candid photos posted on the internet. 

My favorite digital gaffe came from my ex boss who sent an email to all of our customers and prospects as we headed into the New Year, 2002.  He told them, (I’m paraphrasing), “Thanks for all of your support.  We are going out of business in 2002.”  That comment came at the end of an inspirational email that he sent without proofing.  We started getting calls from shocked customers almost immediately.  He was on suicide watch for about a week after that.  I was one of two sales people fielding the calls.  We asked him if he had anyone proof the email before he sent it.  He picked his head up off his desk, shook his head no, and went back to sobbing.  That was just one of a million things he did wrong, but it was my favorite.

Just recently my wife did something similar.  She sent me a steamy thought provoking text, but it didn’t go to me.  It went to a dance mom whose name started with “G”.  Wow!  Could you also copy Grace’s teachers?  Maybe my mom would like to know what you want me to do!”  After she hit send and realized what she’d done she called to tell me what happened.  I burst out laughing.  You can’t get it back…it’s out there.  I’d rather it hadn’t happened.  Now the mom will look at me with a little more knowledge of my abilities.  The mom responded saying, “I’m not Greg.  Maybe if you texted the right person he will grant your wish…good luck with that!”  Rather than letting sleeping dogs lie Keely tried to text an apology.  The mom responded saying, “Don’t know you or Greg, but good luck.”  Keely’s schedule hasn’t been dance class friendly for a long time so most of the moms don’t know her.  This one had forgotten who she was.  Add the fact that it was so out of context.  One minute this mom is in domestic mode and the next minute she is receiving a Penthouse Forum request.  So Keely sent another text saying, “You know us.  It’s Greg and Keely with the daughter Grace.”  I was saying, “Leave it alone you freak!  Who cares if she knows us?”  She ended up texting Keely the next day saying, “Oh yeah Keely!  It’s good to see you and Greg are keeping it fresh after being married all these years.”  Super!  Now she can put a face with the request. 

So Keely will be away at grad school for another seventeen months.  I guess the next step is Skype.  I’ll be content seeing her on the computer for a week.  The she’ll hear, “Are your room mates gone?  Take off your shirt!  Come on…no one will find out!”

Speaking in Code

February 9, 2010

We have a sump pump in our basement.  It’s a round concrete hole that’s about two feet in diameter and two feet deep.  Foundation water drains into the pit and is pumped away from the house.  My friend had one when we were kids.  During sleepovers we would pee in it and then turn on the pump to pump that water out of the house.  That way we wouldn’t have to go upstairs to the bathroom which would tip his parents off to the fact that we were still awake at three AM.  We probably didn’t really have to go to the bathroom.  I’m sure it was the lure of peeing in a hole in the basement that drove the necessity…boys!

There is no good way to dress up the pit.  You can’t drain it, paint it, and add fish because they would get sucked out every time the pump kicks on.  It would be cool to have a tiny water garden, but that would clog the pump which would be very bad.  It’s just a round cement hole in the basement that catches foundation water.  Ours also catches discharge from the water softener.  In the winter that softener discharge is the only thing going on in the pit because any foundation water is frozen or non existent. 

Six years ago we did some renovation work to our home and our plumber, ARS, changed the flow of that discharge.  It used to go into our septic tank.  Now it runs through a pipe that drains into a storm sewer out at the street.  It enters storm drain underground because of winter freezing.  As we all know, freezing plus pipes equals headache. 

Recently I heard the pump kicked on and continue to run.  The water was filling the pit from the softener, but wasn’t discharging out of the pit.  It was just spinning like a little whirl pool as the water level continued to rise.  I realized the basement was going to flood if I didn’t start bailing.  Yipes!  So it was like the Disney cartoon where Mickey Mouse is in a mad dash to fill buckets and bail.  He creates an army of brooms to help, then loses control of the brooms and…you know the story…a story written on acid apparently.  I didn’t have an army of brooms or acid.  It was just me, adrenalin, and two buckets.  The discharge pipe just outside our home had frozen.  Apparently the pipe wasn’t buried below the frost line.  So I took a heating pad and a blanket out side and laid it where the pipe exits the house….after the mad bailing episode.  Several days later the pipe was thawed.  However the morning after the bailing exercise I called our builder and explained the dilemma to an answering machine.  The office manager called me back and was less than helpful.  I reminded her that we had recommended their work to others and I knew we had given them new business.  If she wanted to continue that good will she would help to resolve the issue.  She reluctantly agreed.  Then I call a commercial construction friend who told me that there is no building code that requires discharge water be piped away from the house below the frost line.  I said, “We don’t live in Florida, we live in Indiana.”  He agreed with my assessment and made a derogatory comment about the people in charge of building codes.

Two weeks later our builder showed up with an ARS customer service rep.  He used the building code as a shield.  I said, “There are two ways to do a job, just good enough to get by, and great.  I didn’t pay you to just get by.  He shrugged.  I looked at our builder’s rep.  She said to the ARS guy, “What would you do if this was your home?”  He shrugged and said, “I wouldn’t buy a home with a septic tank.”  He talked with an inflection that led be to believe he smoked way too much pot in high school.  She said, “Well they are on septic, so what would you do?”  He thought for a long time and said, “Probably drain it with a soft hose out into the yard.”  That was his solution!  Use a garden hose that we would run though the basement window!  I can’t believe it didn’t incorporate duct tape and bailing wire.  Is that code?…maybe in West Virginia.

It’s been two weeks.  The company’s line is, “We built this to code”.  My position, “This code represents poor workmanship” Their counter, “Our work is up to code” My response, “It may be code for the word sucks”.  Their motto should be, “ARS, when it comes to plumbing…we’ll drain you!”

Grandmas & Pat Boone

January 28, 2010

During the Nutcracker I got to know most of the parents of the young dancers. One little girl was always accompanied by her grandmother.  The mom was non existent.  I thought it was so cool that the Grandmother took such an active roll in her granddaughter’s life.  One Saturday afternoon I was sitting with Grace outside the third floor studio in Lilly Hall.  There was a break between rehearsals.  The Butler students had left the building. The young dancers and parents hung out, ate lunch, and chatted.  The elevator door opened and the little girl’s mom stepped out in an outfit that was …tragic at best.  She was trying to reclaim youth that….had also left the building…years ago.  She seemed startled at the laughing kids.  As she navigated the hall she looked at them like they were piles of dog poop in the back yard.  Later that day she belittled her mom, the helpful grandma, in front of me and the stage manager.  She accused her of being unorganized, less than helpful, and a bunch of other garbage.  The distasteful barrage was reminiscent of a tantrum thrown by a spoiled thirteen year old.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had the grandma’s email address.  After the verbal flogging I sent her an email saying I thought she was doing a great job.  I didn’t see that woman again until the week of the shows.  She was an ass during that week too.

Apparently I endeared myself to the grandmother because she started sending me emails.  They weren’t personal emails.  They were the ones you get that say, “Microsoft is giving away a free vacation to Disney if you forward this email to everyone in the world”.  Or…”Traffic cops in California were using a radar gun to catch speeders when an Air Force jet on a training exercise locked onto the gun, thought it was enemy radar, and nearly fired missiles at the cops”.  You know the emails.  You get them too.  If there was a fake news story circulating on the web, she would send it to me with a note saying, I thought you should know this.  Today she sent me one that said Barack Obama is anti Christian.  It was a speech by Pat Boone…the singer.  First of all I thought Pat was dead.  Apparently just his career died.  As proof of our president’s anti Christian views Pat’s speech sites quotes from speeches Mr. Obama has given around the world like this, “You might say that America is a Muslim nation.”- President Barack Obama, Egypt 2009.  I love quotes that are taken out of context.  Kennedy said, “Ich bin ein Berliner” He was a Berliner?  What a commie!  What was President Obama supposed to say when he was in Egypt trying to find common ground with a different culture?  Should he have said, “You’re not welcome in America unless you eat happy meals and drive a Ford F150?”  My first reaction was to send her that picture of Pat Boone in leather from his heavy metal CD, No More Mr Nice Guy. (See photo below) I thought about adding a caption that said, “Jesus died for his sins”.  Apparently Pat wasn’t talented enough to write his own metal songs so in 1997 he covered songs from Guns N Roses, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and Judas Priest in an attempt to revive his career.  You know Christian artists.  He wore the dog collar, leather, and fake tattoos on stage because that outfit is commonly associated with god fearing Southern Baptists.  Now he should wear a straight jacket because he’s crazy if he thinks I’m buying into this publicity stunt.

I’d like to turn the table on her.  The next time she orders a frosty for her granddaughter I could say, “She only feeds her granddaughter Frosties.  See, here is a photo of her buying one at a Wendy’s on 86th street on January 28th.  The poor child needs real nourishment”!  I could also remind her that America is a melting pot.  I could show her that there are Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Atheists, Jews (several danced in the Nutcracker!) and a host of other cultures.  I should remind her that the Pledge of Allegiance ends by saying, “With Liberty and Justice for All” – key word – ALL which includes bone heads like Pat Boone, Pat Robertson,  spamming grandmas…

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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