Excused Absence From School For The Oireachtas

Oireachtas Sick Note
Dear ZandB
School is back in session (school school, not dance school) and my daughter’s school district is cracking down on “excessive absenteeism” and “unexcused absences”.

The school district does however allow excused absences for “Attendance at special events of educational value as approved by the school attendance officer”.

I talked to the vice principal (who is the school attendance officer) about our Oireachtas travel plans in December and she said all I have to do is submit a letter documenting the educational aspects of the Oireachtas and she’ll approve it.

I can barely spell Oireachtas, let alone put an educational spin on it and can use your help!

Distraught Feis Mom

Dear Distraught Feis Mom,

Most Feis moms have to resort to the bad case of “Acute Viral Oireachtal-Nasopharyngitis” absence note after the fact and hope for the best.

You’re lucky to live in a school district that allows for “educational absences.”

Here is a sample letter I created for a Feis Mom to help her comply with this requirement for the Southern Region Oireachtas being held in December this year..

September 10, 2014
Mr. Pouter Bullard, Principal
Blue River Central High School
1234 Central Street
Carriere, MS 39426

Dear Principal Bollard;
I am writing to inform you that Bridget will be absent from school on Thursday and Friday, December 4 – 5. She will be traveling to attend a regional ethno-cultural, educational event in Florida  that weekend.

The primary purpose of this event is to advance the understanding and appreciation of Irish cultural identity, heritage, and traditions through use of various media. Events of this nature include enrichment-based activities such as, music, costumed dance, and drama competitions. In addition, craftspeople and vendors from throughout the United States will be displaying products, artifacts, and supplies related to these activities.

Bridget will be participating in both individual and team competitions demonstrating her competency and interpretation of certain terpsichorean aspects of Irish folk traditions.

A panel of adjudicators will evaluate these presentations and provide guidance and feedback to our Bridget as regards to her demonstrated expertise and proficiency.

Our aim is that this absence from class does not affect Bridget’s academic performance. Please let me know if she will need to complete any assignments before she leaves. My wife and I will make every effort to ensure that Bridget completes her schoolwork while she’s away.

Please e-mail me at zebadiah_beauregard@yahoo.com with Bridget’s assignments for the dates that she will be absent. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.


Zebadiah Beauregard

Zebadiah Beauregard
1040 Forsythia Blvd
Picayune, MS 39466

Hope this helps!

Good luck to you and your daughter at the “Big O”

Posted in Advice for Distraught Feis Moms, Letters and Forms | 2 Comments

Feis Camping

It’s Sunday. “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” (Genesis 2:2).

Unfortunately, there is no rest for the wicked or for mothers who begat Irish dancers.

Sunday means Feis Day!

After extricating her daughter, Bridget, from bed with a large garden tool, Marcie and nine hundred other bleary-eyed Feis Moms are on the road again, this time converging on “Our Lady of Perpetual Motion High School” for yet another Feis.

Each mom had the same worrisome thought in mind: “Did I pack her hard shoes this time?”

Getting dancers to a Feis on time is quite an accomplishment in and of itself. Getting dancers there and back with all their stuff is, well, rather miraculous.

The logistics of preparing for and attending a Feis can be rather overwhelming unless one remembers the “Three P’s” of Feis management:

Planning: Things you do at home before the Feis.
Packing: Knowing what to bring.
Pillaging: Ok, for the life of me I can’t remember what that last “P” was but I think you get my drift.

As a category-four Feis Mom, Marcie did her homework well. In the “Planning” and “Packing” phases she discovered that coolers, along with outside food and beverages, were strictly prohibited at this Feis and packed accordingly prompting Bridget to ask, “Mommy, why are you putting ice and Gatorade in my Feis bucket?”

The indispensable Feis bucket.

There was a Feis Mom from Nantucket
With a magical well-stocked Feis bucket
Said she, “At a Feis,
I’m never distressed
If I need something I just buy it from the vendors!”

A Feis bucket, for the uninitiated, is an empty five-gallon container typically used either in construction or in the restaurant business to hold drywall joint compound or bulk guacamole (available free from your local construction site or Tex-Mex restaurant dumpsters).Slap a little paint on the outside, glue a piece of foam on the lid and you’re gleefully shelling out fifty dollars to a Feis vendor for the ultimate gadget in Feis-gear-hauling and Irish-dancer-butt sitting.

Now back to the Feis.

Marcie’s first task on entering the building is to quickly establish a semi-permanent “base camp” from which she and her daughter will make forays throughout the day. One need only recall movies depicting the Oklahoma Land Rush to get a feel for what this activity involves when competing with eight hundred ninety-nine other Feis moms for that perfect piece of Feis real estate.

Location is the key. Marcie hunts for an area with quick access to the competition, food-concessions, and restrooms but in a nice upscale neighborhood with good schools.

She also has to properly stake out her claim in a manner that asserts her rights to her selected camp site with a clear and unequivocal warning to latecomers, “This is mine!” Marking her area with urine, although effective, is now frowned upon at most Feiseanna. One accepted practice is the use of chairs, a picnic blanket, or younger siblings to define the perimeter.

This area is called a Feis Camp.

But only for a few minutes while her daughter is off wandering and reconnecting with long lost Feis buddies.

The previous evening Marcie spent nearly an hour carefully layering all Bridget’s Feis necessities inside the Feis Bucket in the chronological sequence which they would be retrieved; makeup, wig, hair tackle, ghillies, bloomers, sock-glue and hard shoes.

Three minutes before scheduled on stage, Bridget is back, frantically tearing through the bucket’s contents howling, “My poodle socks! WHERE ARE MY POODLE SOCKS?”

While Marcie is off chasing down a pair at the vendors Bridget continues her devastation and destruction, frenetically tearing off her clothes (mind you this is a public place) and applying her makeup while emptying the contents of the bucket on the floor for easier access.

This area is no longer a Feis Camp. It is now officially a Feis Pile.

Like many dancers at a Feis, Bridget prefers the “pile” system of storing and sorting her Feis paraphernalia and the consequent “digging” method for extracting items from the pile. One draw-back of this approach is the constant infusion of cash required to supplement items that somehow become permanently lost in the pile, or possibly migrate to other piles.

Marcie and Bridget are not alone.

Like a colony of sea birds, from all around the gymnasium come the squawks and cries of dancers and parents as Feis Camp after Feis Camp deteriorates into pandemonium. Whether gravitational attraction or a severe case of static cling, Feis Piles wax and wane throughout the day. Their contents intermingle creating a scene that hauntingly resembles the debris field of the Titanic.

Marcie must now make a tactical decision. Should she stay with the remnants of her Feis Camp and attempt to maintain some semblance of order? Or should she abandon her holdings to the inevitable chaos and mingle with the other Feis Moms?

She knows that eventually the contents of each pile will be recovered, shoved unceremoniously back into Feis buckets, and transported back home, albeit maybe not to their original abodes.

And later that evening, she’ll join the online scavenger hunt/swap meet looking for missing items of the day via email and message boards.

Without glancing back, Marcie walks away… preferring the mingling over the mayhem.

Posted in Feis Stories, Marcie and Fiona | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Never Loan Your Sock Glue to a Gymnast!

Nadia: Hi Bridget!

Bridget: Hey Nadia! What’s up?

Nadia: I was wondering if I could borrow some of that “sock glue” you were telling me about.

Bridget: But gymnasts don’t wear socks! What are you going to use it for, better grip on the uneven bars?

Nadia: Uh, YES! That’s exactly why I need it! THE UNEVEN BARS!!

Bridget: No problem! I have some in my bag, just a moment and….

Sounds innocent enough.

But if your non-Irish Dancing buddies gave you grief because they thought sock glue was weird. Pity your poor gymnast friends.

That which dancers use on their socks is needed elsewhere by gymnasts. “It Stays” is a “Gentle Roll-on body adhesive” that many Irish dancers know well.

Irish dancers call it “Sock Glue” ($10.50 for a two ounce bottle).

Why do gymnasts need it?

Here’s a description for “It Stays” from a gymnast’s online store:

“Put an end to those mid-floor routine wedgies – this glue keeps your leotard in place! This glue is a gentle roll-on body adhesive available in a 2oz. bottle. Washes off with soap and water”

Gymnasts call it, “Butt Glue” ($10.50 for a two ounce bottle)

Nadia: Hi Bridget! I brought your sock glue back!

Bridget: Uh…that’s OK, you can keep it!

Posted in General Silliness, Tools of the Trade | Leave a comment

Guinness OnStar

This is an actual Guinness OnStar call transcript:

Guinness OnStar: Hello, Guinness OnStar.

Customer: Thank God! I need your help!

Guinness OnStar: How can we help you Ma’am?

Customer: (sounds of whining kids in back seat)

Guinness OnStar: How can we help you Ma’am?

Customer: I’m just leaving an eight-hour Feis and I swear I’m gonna kill them if they don’t quiet down…I need a Guinness quick!

Guinness OnStar: I’m already on it Ma’am…

Customer: Hurry! I don’t know how long I can hold out!

Guinness OnStar: Is that bottled or draught Ma’am?

Customer: Draught! PLEASE HURRY!

Guinness OnStar: Yes Ma’am, I’ve located a Bennigans only one-half mile south of your location on Edwards Avenue. Do you want me to go ahead and make a reservation for you?

Customer: No thanks, I’ll just use their drive-thru!

Guinness OnStar: Uh, Ma’am, Bennigans doesn’t have a drive-thru…

Customer: They will in a few minutes!

Guinness OnStar: We’re there when you need one!

Posted in General Silliness | 1 Comment

The Gospel Accordion Zebadiah

“Why the pouty lip Bridget?” Marcie asked her obviously chagrined daughter who had wandered into the kitchen.

“Dad’s hogging Accordion Hero again!” Bridget lamented, adding with a rather disconsolate shrug, “I’m never gonna be a Feis musician”.

“BOB! Let Bridget have a turn once in a while!” Marcie yelled in a practiced voice just loud enough to cut through the din of the family room.

“Can’t stop now honey!” Bob gasped, struggling with the Xbox controller, “I’m in the middle of Dean Crouch’s ‘Reel Medley’!”

If you’ve read this far, you are now an unwitting participant in the second of a series of articles on Irish musical instruments titled “Irish Music 101 – The Accordion”.

The accordion (or hand-held, bellows-driven, free reed aerophone as it is often called) comes in a variety of forms, shapes, and sizes from which musical sounding noises are extracted by pushing buttons or keys and squeezing.

Lots of squeezing.

While a mainstay in a variety of music genres, the accordion has not received the level of respect one would expect of such a versatile instrument. To find out why, I interviewed a “primary source” of information on the subject of accordions, to wit, my daughter.

My daughter happens to be an accomplished musician who has twice competed in the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann (pronounced Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann), which is essentially a Big Honking Irish Music Festival. She first graciously explained to me the taxonomy of humiliating terminology applied to the musically inclined at her high school. Band members are irreverently referred to as “Band Geeks”, and the String Orchestra members are flippantly called “Orch Dorks” (my daughter being one).

When I asked what degrading term kids might use to describe an accordion player, she thought about it for a few moments and responded, “Accordion Player”.

Wishing to expand my research, I then turned to my dog-eared copy of “The Idiots Guide to Hand-held, Bellows-driven, Free Reed Aerophones” to provide some additional insights and little known facts about this rather unique instrument.

For instance:

Famous “celebrity” accordionists include Richard Nixon and Idi Amin…

When dropped, the accordion is the only instrument that emits a sound similar to the noise of a flatulent cat being stepped on.

The first mention of accordion music comes from the bible: “And they cast him out into the desert for the sound was not pleasing unto them.” (Abominations 16:32).

In a recent survey, thirty five percent of respondents cited lack of accordion classes being offered by their school districts in their decision to home-school their children.

Listening to accordion music is one of only two birth control methods condoned by the Catholic Church. (And 27% more effective than the rhythm method).

And the list goes on and on….

In truth, as a young lad, I myself played a distant cousin of the accordion called the melodica, which was basically a keyboard with a blow tube.

And it was because of the melodica that I became the first student to receive a three-day suspension at Corpus Christi Elementary School, in Levittown, New Jersey. Apparently the nuns did not think playing the second stanza of “Tantum Ergo” using my nose to blow the melodica during a Lenten observance was as witty and charming as one would think.

The Corpus Christi Elementary School Melodica Marching Band (comprised of me and a strange asthmatic kid named Leo) gave concerts at local nursing homes over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Leo would immediately begin coughing and wheezing while I belted out a rather irreverent version of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.

After one of our bedside recitals, a rather emaciated octogenarian stretched out his withered, trembling hand towards the nurse and in a whispered voice gasped, “I’m not afraid of dying now”.

“How are you doing on the Accordion Hero, Bridget?” Marcie asked checking in on her daughter after dutifully banishing her husband from the family room.

“Great Mom! But this Lawrence Welk guy is kicking my butt!” adding, “Lady of Pain is hard!”

“Spain,” Marcie corrected, “Lady of Spain.”

“What?” Bridget mumbled somewhat distracted, her fingers quivering on the controller trying to keep pace.

“Come to think of it, maybe you’re right,” Marcie thought to herself.

Posted in Irish Music - 101 | Tagged | Leave a comment

Imaginative Solo Dress Financing

Dear ZandB,

At a recent Feis, an adjudicator commented that my daughter’s solo dress might be a “tad short”. The fact that she doesn’t have to bend over to see her bloomers might support his viewpoint. Well I started calling the usual suspects and was shocked to learn that, along with gas, solo dress prices are skyrocketing! Is there any way I can purchase a solo dress from a major designer without having to forego my daughter’s college education?

Distraught Feis Mom

Dear Distraught Feis Mom,

I feel your pain. My daughter is the queen of growth-spurts and regrettably, buying a new solo dress still costs less than having her legs shortened (I did find one doctor willing to do the operation, but my health insurance refused to cover the expenses).

Our household recently embarked on the “solo quest”. As many are aware, it’s a fanatical process in which every facet of existence is focused on the design concept of the finished product. We replayed the Kentucky Derby over and over again just to watch the jockey outfits as they rounded the final turn. Even NASCAR autos were evaluated for potential color combinations. All the sponsor decals and logos festooned on the cars certainly enhanced the decorative impact.

And that’s when it hit me.

If NASCAR teams could have sponsors, why not Irish Dancers?

So I started making some phone calls and, to my immeasurable delight, found that the folks that sponsor products for major sporting events are either desperate for new venues or have a greater appreciation of craic than I do. Within a week, we had lined up two major sponsors and have several strong “feelers” from companies who need to “poop or get off the pot” as we say in the marketing industry.

Before you laugh, we now have enough money to pay for the whole enchilada, which dedicated readers recall is not a fruit. Shoes, ghillies, dress bags, wig, clothing for the pit crew (ahem, Feis Mom/Dad) and even sock glue, are part of our new “corporate package”. We even get free samples of the endorsed products and always attract quite a crowd at a Feis when we’re handing them out.

And all this for a dancer who, well let’s just say we don’t have to keep track of where the venue is for next year’s world championships.

My daughter had one stipulation; she would only wear logos for products which did not go against her value systems. This really put the kibosh on the Feis Mobile provided by a major smokeless tobacco company.

But hey, I can live with that, I now have a lifetime supply of Moon Pies….


Posted in Advice for Distraught Feis Moms, Solo Dresses and Wigs | 1 Comment

Feis-Aid Kit for Feis Moms

Every dancer’s Feis Checklist should contain personalized First-Aid items that he or she may require and let me tell you, I’ve seen some Dancer First-Aid kits with enough supplies to handle virtually every ailment and injury to include performing emergency appendectomies on-stage.

Common sense and personal needs will dictate the contents of the Dancer’s First-Aid Kit, but at a minimum, you should include items that handle minor cuts, bruises, and abrasions.

An instant cold pack and compression wrap are absolute necessities when it comes to treating the “thousand natural shocks that Feis is heir to” along with Duct Tape. Don’t ask me why, but everyone seems to need Duct Tape. It must be good for covering botched appendectomy scars.

But what about the Feis Moms?

Although not physically competing, there are a variety of stresses, strains, and minor emergencies that Feis Moms face at the Feis that necessitate creating your own “Emergency Feis-Aid Kit.”

Like the Dancer’s First-Aid Kit, the recipe for a Feis Mom’s Feis-Aid kit is very personalized but should typically include the following ingredients.

Chocolate: Any gal will tell you that chocolate soothes the soul and should be a primary item of every Emergency Feis-Aid Kit. There are two basic types of chocolate that you should pack; dark chocolate and liquid chocolate, the latter being the preferred method of delivery when immediate relief is required.

Corkscrew: Whether celebrating or commiserating, you’ll eventually need a corkscrew. Corkscrews come in many shapes and sizes, but I’d recommend the type that also has a bottle cap opener on one end as this extra functionality is extremely helpful when, after five minutes of shredding the palm of his hand, Feis Dad finally admits that bottles of Guinness Stout don’t come in twist-off caps.

Look! Up in the air! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a cell phone?

Sometimes you need to go the extra distance and require a little more help than chocolate can provide. Whether you’re trying to be discreet or simply want to avoid sharing your own unique “medicinal compound” with others, there is nothing like the Cell-Phone Flask. Most efficacious in every case.

Your daughter is up next and the judge is nodding off again? You can hardly blame them as, unlike you, they have to sit through hundreds of dancers, one after another, watching an endless stream of competitors which can have lulling effect. A quick blast of the “Adjudicator Wake-up Alarm” will rectify this immediately.

Nine hundred girls competing and your daughter’s trip to the restroom is taking much longer than expected when they call for her competition on stage three. You need a delaying tactic to give your daughter extra time to report. What better way than the tried and true “Fake Dog Poop” ploy. The stage manager and competitors are aghast as they send for someone to rectify the situation giving your daughter those few precious minutes needed.

Your daughter switched schools six months ago and you and the previous TCRG still aren’t exactly on speaking terms? The best way I’ve found to avoid confrontation is to travel incognito and what better way to put the “cog” in “nito” than a simple disguise.

One of the most important attributes of a Feis Mom is a sense of humor. For those folks that are somewhat reticent in their communication style, there is nothing better than an instant “ice-breaker” to achieve the desired level of craic. Rubber chickens and whoopee cushions lighten up the situation, but I personally prefer the tried and true can of “Spotted Dick”. Trust me, it’s an instant conversation starter and you’re sure to come up with your own unique introduction as you pull it from your Feis-Aid Kit.

There are many other items that show up in “Feis-Aid Kits”, your imagination being the only limitation.

Posted in Advice for Distraught Feis Moms, General Silliness, Tools of the Trade | 1 Comment