Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dancing with the Real Stars

For Rebecca Black.
Friday is a day to get down.
For my 14-year-old daughter Rebecca.
Friday is a day to pick up.
Every Friday.
That’s the night each week she goes dancing with the stars.
The Stars dance team that is.
A collection of eight dancers.
Eight dancers with special needs.
Some physical disabilities.
Some mental disabilities.
All severe.
All special.
All... Stars.
But on Friday nights for 90 minutes, nobody has a problem.
Everyone has a smile.
Including my daughter.
She's been working with this team for more than a year.

And loving every minute of it.
The dancers range in age.
From eight to 25.
Some of the dancers love shaking their booty.
Some can’t get out of a wheelchair.
Some love yelling.
Some just scream.
If they want to laugh.
They laugh.
If they want to cry.
They cry.
But at the end of those 90 minutes.
Every Friday night.
Something special has happened.
For everyone.
My only job in this special event is to be a chauffeur.
Driving my daughter to and from the dance studio.
And I do it with a smile.
My daughter’s job is far more difficult.
She is one of the coaches.
Her job is to help these special people do something special.
And every Friday that’s what they do.
Something special.
They love to dance.
Just like the other teams.
They have a routine.
Just like the other teams.
They perform at competitions.
Just like the other teams.
But they are unlike any dance team you’ve ever seen before.
A few weeks ago they travelled across the country to a national dance event.
And at this event, they danced.
They danced their heart out.
Just like the thousands of other dancers at this event.
But it didn’t take long for the crowd to see that they are not like anybody else.
They are special.
They are Stars.
I’ve watched this team perform many times.
And every time the routine ends the same way.
With a standing ovation.
A trophy.
And a room full of tears.
It may be predictable.
But it never gets old.
At “just” 14, I really don’t expect my daughter to fully understand what she is doing.
I don’t expect her to understand that what she is doing is amazing.
To her, it’s just what she does.
And she wouldn’t give it up for anything.
I’ve tried explaining that these 90 minutes are probably the best 90 minutes of the week for these dancers.
And probably the high point for the parents too.
Thankfully I have no idea what these parents are going through.
But I’ve never heard a negative word out of their mouth.
That’s pretty special too.
Sometimes I’ll sit with the parents, just outside the dance studio.
And I’ll watch.
Watch the kids through a one-way mirror.
And watch the parents who are sitting right next to me.
I’ll watch the parents smile.
Watch the parents breathe.
Watch the parents... be parents.
I won’t say a word.
Just watch.
Watch as something special is happening.
Right in front of my eyes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Birds, the Bees & the Butthead

I’m not Rick Santorum and he definitely wouldn’t approve of this blog...
So where was I...
Oh yes, sex.
A subject I’ve never been good at.
But practice makes perfect, right?
Well a few days ago I had a sexual encounter I had never experienced before.
It involved me.
And my 14-year-old daughter.
Now before you take this into the gutter.
And go all Mackenzie Phillips on me.
Slow down.
You see my daughter had a big exam a few days ago.
And she needed some help with studying.
Unfortunately for her I was the only one around.
But I did my best.
When it comes to English, I’m pretty good with words.
And when it comes to Math, I’m ok with numbers.
But when she told me it was about the reproductive system.
I broke into a deep sweat.
Not because of the subject.
But because of the company.
I’ve been talking about the reproductive system since I was a kid.
But talking about that with my kid?
That’s an entirely different story.
Fortunately the assistant principal at her elementary school took care of the basic stuff when she was in fifth grade.
That’s when he gets the boys in one room.
The girls in another.
And gives them an open book lecture on the birds.
And the bees.
No parents.
No giggling.
Just the facts.
Ok, there’s probably a little giggling.
But thankfully the kids walk away with a better understanding.
And I walk away with some new material.
Like the other day when my 13-year-old son wanted to play catch with me in the backyard.
I told him if he didn’t put away the dishes first, he’d be playing with himself.
‘That’s called masturbation,” I said.
He laughed.
I laughed.
His older sister laughed.
His younger sister said, “what?”
I’m not sure Rick Santorum would approve of my parenting, but from where I’m sitting.
So far, so good.
Now four years removed from that fifth grade speech, my high school daughter has moved on from all that yucky stuff.
And is now concentrating on the real stuff.
Like the bulbourethral glands.
The vena cava.
And the vas deferens.
Terms I can comfortably say, I had never heard of.
Until two nights ago.
But fortunately she had the definitions written on the back side of the index card.
So all I had to do was say the name.
Ask for the definition.
And bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing.
Sometimes that worked.
Sometimes it didn’t.
For both of us.
When I asked her to define that bulbourethral thing.
She started with “during sexual arousal...”
That was followed by “hee hee hee.”
Something you might expect from a 14-year-old.
The problem is I’m 44.
But thankfully after a few childish moments.
I grew up.
And actually became quite helpful.
She had a hard time remembering what the urethra did.
So I looked at the definition.
And started singing it.
To the tune of “Think”.
By Uretha Franklin.
Who else.
Problem solved.
She also struggled with the epididymis.
That’s a long coiled tube that does something involving sperm.
I told her to that she would remember that definition since it was a long coiled word.
And you can’t spell sperm without epididymis.
Ok, the R is missing.
But for learning purposes, it did the trick.
After a slow start, we were actually able to maintain a mature learning conversation.
Even though every time she referred to the main parts.

They were always, “pee pee” and “va jay jay.”
But the bottom line is after a good hour of studying.
And bonding.
My daughter was ready for her test.
And I was ready to show her my favorite video involving the subject matter we had been discussing.
Courtesy of those two great scholars.
Beavis and Butthead.
It was the episode where the boys were having a hard time going through a school day without laughing.
Well the principal had had enough.
One more laughing spurt and they would be expelled.
Only problem was, for them, is that was the day they had Sex Ed class.
With Coach Buzzcut.
If you’ve got six minutes, click on the link below.
It just might possibly be the best six minutes of your day.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Reality Beats Fantasy

Last baseball season was the worst baseball season of my life.
Well, my fantasy life.
I’ve been playing this fantasy game since 1985.
And 2011 will definitely go down as the year of the loser.
I could blame it on injuries.
And there were plenty.
I could blame it on my co-owner.
It’s always his fault.
Or I could blame it on our miserable players.
Too many to count.
But the bottom line is we finished in last place.
Dead last place.
The first place team had 102 points.
We had 28.
With a capital P.
How pathetic?
Let’s just say if we would’ve got three points for each of our one points.
We would’ve still finished in 6th.
That’s bad.
A lot of guys deserve the blame.
1 and 1A are the two owners.
But you can’t fire the owners.
So let’s blame the players.
Ubaldo Jimenez.
Carl Crawford.
Sucked more.
Adam Dunn.
The suckiest.
Every baseball team needs good pitching.
And fantasy teams are no different.
We really thought we had it coming in.
But none of our guys panned out.
Including Ryan Franklin.
When we drafted him, he was the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals.
When the season ended, the Cardinals were World Champs.
And Franklin.

He was out of baseball.
Released midway through the year for being awful.
How awful?
How about an 8.46 ERA?
That would get you kicked off your little league team.
We also drafted Fausto Carmona.
He was the Indians #1 pitcher.
Past tense.
On opening day he made it through all of three innings.
Giving up 11 hits and ten runs.
10 RUNS.
In just three innings.
Those numbers are so bad, Ryan Franklin even laughed.
Things got so bad for Carmona, he tried to change his name.
He was arrested just two months ago in the Dominican Republic for using a false identity to obtain a U.S. Visa.
Now that’s a bad pitch.

And when you consider that Carmona is scheduled to make $7 million this year.
That’s just plain dumb.
But if they were to hand out a Cy Young Award for the dumbest move made by a pitcher off the field.
That award would have to go to John Lackey.
We drafted him too.
Through his first nine seasons, Lackey was as steady as they come.
A bunch of strikeouts.
A bunch of wins.
And a good ERA.
That’s why the Boston Red Sox signed him in the winter of 2009.
To a five-year deal.
Worth $82.5 million.
For that kinda cash, he should be curing cancer.
Instead he was spitting on it.
On the night of August 30th, John Lackey pitched seven innings for the Red Sox.
A game he lost 5-2.
But it was what Lackey did earlier that day that made the real headlines.
You see Lackey had had enough of his wife Krista.
And on August 30th, he officially filed for divorce.
Not the first person to do that.
Not the last either.
But when you consider that Lackey’s wife was five months removed from a double mastectomy.
And two months removed from chemotherapy.
And the baseball season was a month from being over.
John Lackey gets an F for timing.
Hey I’ve never met John Lackey.
And I never met Krista either.
Living with either of them could be a nightmare.
But there are some things you just don’t do.
And divorcing your wife when she is full of cancer is one of them.
Even George Lopez waited five years after his wife gave him her kidney before he dumped her.
I’m happy to report, thanks to Krista’s twitter account, that as of Feb 20, she is cancer free.
A long stretch from November when the disease had reappeared in 12 of her lymph nodes.
As for John, he’s not doing as well.
You see, just three weeks after the season ended, we learned that he has an arm injury.
An injury that needed surgery.

A surgery that will keep him off the field in 2012.
Maybe more.
From where I'm sitting, this doesn't even come close to evening the score.
But maybe someday John will learn that you might be able to beat the Yankees.
But you will never beat karma.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Blinded By Science

Science has never been my thing.
Oh, did I say never?
I meant... NEVER!
I blame it on fourth grade.
That’s the year we dissected a frog.
Everything was good.
Until I opened Kermit’s stomach.
And one second later.
A beetle popped out.
Had it been John, Paul, George.
Or even Ringo.
I probably would’ve been ok.
But having a dead insect in my open palm was more than I had ordered.
I took plenty of science classes after that.
Because they made me.
But none of them tickled my fancy.
And that included Physics in 11th Grade.
And Biology in college.
Oh, not because I liked it so much the first time.
More like I never went to class.
And for that I got a big fat F.
The only class I ever failed in my life.
But I really didn’t fail the class.
I would’ve had to try to fail.
It was so bad that the night before the final exam I begged my friend Phil to come over and tutor me.
Phil is one of those brainiacs.
When he got to my place, we sat down at the table.
And he opened my textbook.
That’s when we heard that sound.
You know, THAT SOUND.
The crackling sound of the first time a brand new 300 page textbook gets opened.
Not a good sound to hear the night before the final exam.
I ended up taking Biology again to wipe that F off my permanent record.
And through the miracle of academic dishonesty.
I passed.
I can admit that now.
Now that the statute of limitations have run out.
I hope.
Fortunately for my kids, they haven’t had to go through that same route for a good grade in science.
And not only are they doing well.
But they actually enjoy it.
And sometimes their love of science really pays off.
Just yesterday I got the hiccups.
After five agonizing minutes I begged my 14-year-old daughter for help.
She told me to lean my head backwards.
And then she poured some of my Bud Light Lime down the hatch.
Ten seconds later the hiccups were gone.

Take that Isaac Newton!

My kids enjoy science so much it’s not only one of their classes.
It’s also one of their extra-curricular activities.
That activity is called Science Olympiad.
Science Olympiad is a nationwide event with a bunch of competitions centered around... Science.
240 regional and state tournaments.
They get metals and everything.
I mean medals.
Well this past weekend my son’s middle school was competing in our local event.
The top X number of teams advance to the state competition.
Then the top Y number of teams from there go to nationals.
Get it X and Y.
I am so scientific.
And smart too.
So smart, I wore my Stanford sweatshirt to the event.
Oh I didn’t go there.
But I sure did fit in at the Science Olympiad.

And so did my son.
He was entered in four different events.
And each of the events has a cute science name.
Like Awesome Aquifer.
Or Shock Value.
Or Dynamic Planet.
Well one of my son’s events was called Storm the Castle.
Storm the Castle is where you load a little hackie sack ball into a trebuchet sling.
And you try to fling that ball into a box.
Well, Castle.
That empty Castle is sitting at a distance that the shooter requests ahead of time.
Closest to the Castle wins.
If you make it into the box, free suspenders for everyone.
My son spent bookoo hours working on his trebuchet.
Built it from scratch.
If you haven’t figured out, he got no help from me.
As in zero.
It’s not that I didn’t want to help.
It’s that he didn’t trust me.
And that was probably a good move on his part.
We were the last ones at school the night before the competition fine tuning his hot rod.
Every time it failed he would look at me.
And every time he looked at me.
I looked at my watch.
Father of the Year.
That’s me.
Well eventually he got to the point where this thing was working like a charm.
In practice.
But that didn’t mean it would work during the actual event.
An event where he had exactly five minutes to get four launches off.
Two “light” projectiles.
And two “heavy” projectiles.
(P.S.  I think that’s the first time I’ve used the word projectile in a sentence without the word vomit right after it.  Wow!)
He had five minutes to get his business done.
For launch one he put the box... Castle... 13 meters away.
For those of your outside of Canada, that’s like 40 feet.
Or 42.65092 if you believe yahoo.
Unfortunately his launch went a little more than half of that.
But with the clock ticking he kept pushing forward.
For launch two, he cut the gap in half.
Launch three... um.. let’s just call that a malfunction.
With less than a minute left, he still had one more try.
“Launch in 3, 2, 1,” he barked.
Then as he pulled the pin, time went into slo-motion.
The arm of his trebuchet pushed the object into the air.
It felt like it was floating for more than ten minutes.
It was probably closer to two seconds.
But when it landed, the silent room started cheering.
The projectile had landed about a meter from its destination.
A score that was not good enough to get him on the medal stand.
And not good enough to qualify him for the state tournament.
But a result that did earn him a bunch of high fives.
And a giant hug.
A winning formula from where I'm sitting.