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January 17, 2022

grief, germs, heavy, & re-entry - not necessarily in that order

Is it time to wash the sheets, AGAIN?

That's where I am. Sort of. Dragging. Stuff to do makes me want to scream. Didn't I just do that? Everything feels heavy. This is not my normal mode. 

I imagine part of it is grief. I'm so grateful that I was able to attend Joe's wake and funeral on Thursday and Friday. It did my heart good to spend time with his family. We hugged and laughed and cried and told stories and got caught up. 

His wife, Gina, didn't know that my sisters and I were coming. After we talked to the family members that we ran into as we entered the wake, my sisters walked to the front of the room to pray near Joe's ashes. I was trailing them. Gina was sitting on a couch. She saw me, hopped up, and came over. We hugged it out for a long time. Sobbing. 

I told her how upset I am that I wasn't able to see him in the fall when he tried to stop in Chicago. How I always felt he was in my corner. How much I already miss him. She kept saying, "Oh, I know, I know. Oh my gosh, I can NOT believe you guys came all this way. I can't believe you're here." 

Then I whispered to her that I felt Joe would probably also appreciate the dynamics of me driving with my two sisters. Shaking with laughter, Gina said, "Yes he would. He certainly would." 

*****

I came home on Friday later than expected because we ended up staying for the luncheon. I'm so glad we did. I embraced that extra time. 

I cried myself to sleep Saturday night. I woke up Sunday morning and lay there for a few minutes thinking. A few more tears. 

There's so much that is weighing ne down:  

 What am I DOING? When Joe died, I started thinking. Why babysit, when I really just want to write my book(s) and get them published? Well, we all know why. Money. There is no guarantee that my writing efforts will lead to a paycheck. You know:  DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, etc.

Lad. When I listened to the eulogies (3 people spoke, each was amazing - a beautiful tribute to an amazing man), I thought about Lad. I wish Lad could've spent time with Joe, learning to take responsibility, to lead, to make the most of every situation. Not that he doesn't have parents that try to get through to him.

I know that this wouldn't necessarily have been a fix. We've been begging him to go see a therapist. He says he will. He is so much better than he was, but he needs help. I see all that Joe was and I want to bottle that up somehow and gift it to my kid. Joe was one of 5 brothers, and they didn't all lead the way he did - so I get it. Everyone has their strengths. 

Germs. I got home Friday night. Mini played 2 basketball games an hour from home Saturday. Followed by a team lunch. She told me after the first game that she'd thrown up before the game, but she knew she wasn't sick. Ate too early, or something. I believed her. She believed she wasn't sick.  She threw up on the bus after the team lunch and then came home and puked for hours.  

Not sure I ever mentioned here:  Reg, Coach, and Curly all had covid the week before the funeral. Mix in a stomach bug that Lad and the tots/babies had and that might paint a better picture.

 I.AM.SICK.OF.GERMS.

*****

This is Joe and his brothers
and me and my siblings
 (plus 3 parents, my mom snapping photo)
on our deck in Davenport.
 circa 1975ish. I'm the very
front with an orange shirt.
 Johnny, my best bud
 who was in the accident is next to me in
 yellow. Joe has brown hair. Wearing a
yellow t-shirt, he's standing
 in front of his dad who is holding
up my youngest brother. 
I tried to explain to Coach how heavy everything feels, but I'm not sure he gets it.   

I don't want to clean house, beg people to help clean house, do all the laundry, plan and prepare all the meals, grocery shop, babysit, pay bills, communicate with teachers, schedule ortho appointments, repeat. Not sure if this is because I'm sad, or just adding to how sad I am. 

Maybe it's all so hard right now in part because I was SO focused on getting to Minnesota. That was a good thing to be able to do, but I'm finding it hard to hop back into all the demands of life. Re-entry, if that's what we call it, is not all that easy. 

I guess after sitting in a car for hours, which sucked but it was also quiet and still and not busy, followed by lots of crying  and thinking of things I want to talk to Joe about and not being able to, and then getting home and trying to dive back into everything here, well it's rough. 

I decided when I woke up Sunday morning to make a list of the things I can control and the things I can't control. I'm hoping that helps. *Have I made that list yet? Well no, but I did do two loads of laundry and a grocery run that involved $600 worth of food.* 

The list is in my mind. I still have to sit down and write it out, but I'm hoping that it'll be therapeutic. 

*****

My youngest brother, Mike,
and my mom at said pool.
A funny from Joe's brother, Mike's eulogy:  Mike said that he'd only once heard Joe say the wrong thing. Joe ALWAYS said the right thing. The brothers were at the neighborhood pool next to their house and two doors down from our house in Davenport. There was a mom with 5 little kids there, some were Mike's age and some were younger. Joe asked this mom if she was pregnant. She wasn't. When they got home, their mom hollered at Joe:  YOU DON'T EVER ASK A WOMAN IS SHE'S PREGNANT. 

*The 'Are you pregnant' was directed at my mom. 


January 13, 2022

a surprise, almost blown, recovered, and then shared, plus a final blooper

 OF COURSE THERE'S MORE TO THE SURPRISE STORY:  

On Christmas, Ann's son Prince  who is Curly's godfather wanted to zoom with her so he could watch her open her Christmas gift that he'd gotten her. Ann's son is a prince, great kid. Coach and I both felt he was an excellent choice as Curly's godfather. He was about 13 when we asked him. Now he's 26, I think. Oh, and we're still pleased that we selected him.  

Believe it or not, he got Curly a pair of basketball shoes. She'd JUST gotten new shoes the same day Coach took Reg, right before Christmas. At least Prince had asked me for her size, but I assumed he was getting her slippers or something fun and typical of the gifts he buys. Anyway, he's offered the receipt in case she wants to go with a different size, etc.

Was the universe sending out vibes that Coach and I are currently unable to afford shoes for our offspring? 

Ann was on the zoom. So was I, because Curly wanted me there. She felt goofy being in the limelight and having Prince stare at her as she opened a gift.

Ann:  So, Pat and Marie think we should just tell Mom about the Lake Lawn trip now, so she has something to look forward to. 

Me:  Oh, yeah. Sounds good. 

A few days after Christmas, Ann texted everyone to let us know:  'WE TOLD MOM AND DAD ABOUT LAKE LAWN ON CHRISTMAS AND THEY'RE VERY EXCITED.'

Wait, WTF? I get that Ann planned this gift, but when she said they were thinking of telling mom and dad, I assumed they'd do so with all of us . . . on a zoom, or on a patio, or something. Nope. My two sisters are the 'we' in this - they apparently spent Christmas together. Anyway, they took the liberty of sharing the gift that we all agreed to/paid for. 

We were eating dinner when I got Ann's text. 

Mini:  OH. THAT SUCKS. I WOULD'VE LIKE TO HAVE SEEN NANA'S FACE WHEN SHE FOUND OUT. 

Of course she would've, because she is one of the grandchildren. I wanted to scream. 

Of course, we all know what would've happened if I'd taken the liberty of telling them about the surprise, like intentionally - not accidentally in a Christmas poem. Ann would have been LIVID. I grappled with calling Ann out for this overstep, but Mini was like JUST FORGET ABOUT IT. Coach weighed in and was of the same mindset. 

It doesn't tick me off that she told Mom, but that if any of us had done that she'd have lost her shit. Get me?  

AND ONE MORE BLOOPER:

The Zara jeans were returned on my birthday, December 30th. I'll wait while you all store the date in your phone for next year. I intended to return them on the 23rd, because I envisioned this store being, well, I don't know - organized, or something. Like the GAP. On the 30th it looked as though it had been ransacked. 

I thought I'd be able to swap out the sizes and surprise the girls with the right sizes in time for Christmas. 

I don't know what state the store would've been in on the 23rd, because I didn't end up going. I came home from physical therapy with my husband (for some people that might mean the hubby comes along to be supportive, for me it means he's the guy that is making me do painful exercises and sticking me with a dry needle IN THE BUTT). I was gearing up to go to the mall. 

Anyway, I checked my email and that's when I learned about Joe passing away unexpectedly. I was a mess, understatement, so I bypassed the mall and made a few of the dishes that I could make for Christmas dinner in advance instead.

I'm a multi-tasker, so I was looking at email and blowing my nose and calling Delilah and crying and cooking. On email, I saw someone post something on the next-door platform about a shooting at the mall. 

This high end mall that is not far from my house had an active shooter. I told the girls to put on the news. What? I couldn't believe it. The place was on lockdown. They had people calling in who were trapped wherever they were shopping or eating, lying on the floor of a store or a restaurant, scared. 

I COULD'VE BEEN AT THE MALL IF I HADN'T BEEN A PUFFY-FACED EMOTIONAL MESS. Unreal.

Fortunately no one was killed. I believe a few people were injured. Still, terrifying. 

The next morning aka Christmas Eve, I looked online and still saw that Zara supposedly had inventory of one of the pairs that Curly wanted. I asked her if she'd go with me, return the non-fitting pairs, try new ones on. I had so much to do, but if I got enough food finished I figured I had time to scoot to the mall and back and still have time to get everything done before church. 

Curly agreed to go and we bolted. I had tried to call the store first but it was automated response that just gave me the store hours. I didn't speak to anyone at the location. 

You can guess, right?

I wanted to get there right when they opened. That wasn't until 11. We arrived a few minutes after 11 and there was a crowd outside the store. Other stores were open. The mall was hopping.

Me:  WELL, THEY'RE JUST RUNNING A LITTLE BEHIND. THEY'LL OPEN SOON - OH, LOOK. HERE COMES A WORKER TO OPEN THE DOORS.

Curly looked skeptical. 

Worker:  SORRY, WE AREN'T OPENING AT ALL TODAY, BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT. THERE WAS A SHOOTING.

This is why we'd tried to call. What if stores were still coping with the trauma, etc. And here we were. That was the ONLY reason we left the house. Bummer.

As we walked back to the car, a woman came out of, or to be more accurate was ESCORTED out of, a Williams and Sonoma store. Hello? What's this?

The 'scene' caught my attention initially because I heard voices that sounded loud and not at all in synch with mall voices. It's an outdoor mall:  music playing and people chatting with one another, even laughter - but this other noise. I thought someone was playing a radio, loudly. I looked around.

What the disgruntled shopping woman was saying to the WS employee, over AND OVER again was:  

IT ENDS WHEN YOU SAY IT ENDS. 

IT ENDS WHEN YOU SAY IT ENDS.  

Can we all take a moment to imagine what in the fresh hell could have set this woman off to require an escort out of the store on Christmas Eve? She'd expected more options in the china department? Perhaps the inventory on line was off and the store was out of the silverware set she'd intended to buy last minute? 

Anyone feel like Finn after shopping or
 cooking or baking or wrapping?
No modesty. I might start posting photos
of how this dog sleeps regularly. I mean, I've
 never owned a dog so I have no idea if this is normal.
Or maybe the store was hosting a political rally and this chick didn't jive with the majority's views? 

I so wanted to pop inside the store and do a little snooping, but Curly wouldn't hear of it. Off we went to get my million things done, now that the jeans exchange was clearly not gonna happen. 

Anything derail your last minute shopping? Anyone have a relative like Ann? Would you like one?
Anyone think I should tell her that it disappointed some people not to be part of the surprise telling (I'm over it and all, and I don't know if she can LEARN that what goes for her should go for everyone else)? Or should I make like Elsa and LET IT GO, LET IT GO? Any guesses on the disgruntled WS shopper?

***edited to add:  MY SISTER, MARIE AND I WERE PLANNING TO GO TO THE FUNERAL, LEAVING AS YOU READ THIS . . . THEN LAST NIGHT ANN DECIDED THAT SHE CAN GO BECAUSE SHE GOT OFF OF WORK. OVER SIX HOURS WITH BOTH SISTERS IN A CAR, TWO DAYS IN A ROW? PLEASE PRAY FOR ME. 

 

January 12, 2022

Christmas bloopers, because I cause shit to happen: THE POEM ADDITION

not quite the final installment, but tomorrow's post is the rest of this story, as is the saying I SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST . . . 

CHRISTMAS BLOOPERS, 3rd INSTALLMENT, 

#5, THE POEM ADDITION: 

I don't have a photo for
 this post, but because
 we'd been looking through bins for Star
 Wars guys, Curly surrounded my water
 bottle with some spare
figures Christmas morning.
5. My annual Christmas Poem included a line about how we're going to a summer resort twice this summer. Once with my side and once with Coach's side. The same place. I even made it rhyme with a funny-ha-ha by saying that I'd reveal which side was more fun in next year's poem. That's me, just leaving people on the edge of their seats all year long, and maybe encouraging each side to try to be fun. Some family members struggle with this concept. 

When I was gathering info to insert into the poem, I totally forgot that the stay with my family is a SURPRISE. It's how we are celebrating Mom's 80th b-day in March. Oops. My sister, Ann, organized it and we all made our individual reservations back in May or June (eternity ago) for June '22, then chipped in towards my folks' room.

Not the best example,
but see how the lights
 don't reach the end of
the porch, by like 2 feet?
It looks like this caption. 
Why?
In my defense, I was busy preparing for the boys to move in when I made the reservation. I was getting organized to stay with them in a hotel room for a week . . . after driving to the no-wake-lake-house owned by Pat and Aunt Leprechaun for a party that had been postponed. Remember? 

Once I paid for my part, I checked it off my list and moved on with chaos central life, completely forgetting that the reason we were going there was to surprise my mom. I was in WHAT DO I NEED TO DO mode and once done, failed to register the details. 

I was out shopping with Ed on the 22nd and my sister, Ann, texted me:

First of all, I'm surprised Ann read my poem. Around 7 or 8 years ago during Christmas dinner, my SIL congratulated Coach on getting his fellowship. Ann was baffled. WAIT, HOW COME I DIDN'T KNOW THAT? Um, you didn't read my Christmas poem. Then she shared that she felt it was weird to send the poem anyway as it was too long and probably something no one would read. 

Sometimes in my family you must read between the lines to hear the very subtle:  Merry Christmas, I love you,.

Example B:  See the gap? I referred
 to our weak lights
 in an earlier post or
 comment, so I thought
 I'd demonstrate. I'm fine
 with it, but it is a little
 underwhelming when you
 drive up to the house.

Well, technically their mailman put the poem in their mailbox, but SHIT. I went weak in the knees. Is there anything quite like a bossy older sister who berates your every move and then has something real to be upset about to make you feel like you're 4 all over again? 

I really don't mean to downplay my role in this. Honestly, I screwed up. I felt terrible. I gripped Ed's arm and said I'd done it again. Landed in deep doo-doo. Ann, in case you don't recall, is the most controlling person alive. God help the fool, aka me, who derails something she has worked on. Even getting in the way of a small thing that she wants or expects can get her crazy fired up. This was a biggie.

I called Coach. Begged him to help me. 

Coach:  WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?

Me:  I DON'T KNOW. I GUESS CALL. FIND OUT IF THEY'VE READ IT OR NOT. THEN GO TAKE IT FROM THEM IF THEY HAVEN'T READ IT?

Coach:  OK, HANG ON.

When I got home from the store, Coach re-enacted how the call went: 

Dad answered. 

Dad:  UM, SHE'S JUST READING IT NOW.

Coach:  TAKE IT FROM HER. 

Dad:  HUH? NO SHE'S READING IT. (the surprise-blowing lines were on the back, we still had a chance. It's a legal size page poem, sp Ann is right - it is LONG)

Coach:  THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE POEM THAT SHE CAN'T READ JUST YET, TAKE IT FROM HER. DO IT NOW!

Dad:  WELL, THIS IS THE SILLIEST CONVERSATION I'VE EVER HAD. NANA, GIVE ME THAT (sound of dad lunging from his seat, grunting, a scuffle in the background), COACH? OK, I GOT IT FROM HER. (sounding winded).

I still chuckle at the visual of my mom sitting down at the end of a day cleaning house (she's obsessed, proof that I'm adopted) and making food for my dad and possibly still wrapping the HUGE pile of gifts she buys before looking at the cards that arrived that day.

My dad answers the phone. Then, despite his old 81 year old age, he starts wrestling rather inexplicably with her for the letter in her hand. 

I know, I know, you all wish I was part of your family because I make stuff happen, keep things lively and fun. (Ann might disagree). It's OK to be jealous. 

Once home, I grabbed another copy of the poem and tried to sharpie over the two 'revealing' lines. Curly was looking over my shoulder:  YOU CAN STILL READ IT. I grabbed the scissors and cut out the lines. I wrote the lines from the front that were included in the redacting on a small note and included them. Then Curly and Tank drove to my folks' house and swapped the tell-all letter with the cut up version. Merry Christmas. 

I called my mom to let her know they were on their way to swap out the uncensored poem with a redacted version. Ann was texting me for updates. Did Dad now know? I hadn't even realized that he didn't know in the first place, but Coach said he hadn't told him and that Dad seemed clueless. Rightfully so. This was a confusing ordeal. 

Tune in tomorrow for how the surprise ended up no longer being a surprise. NOT MY DOING, PROMISE.

So let me know if you'd like to me join your family around the holidays to liven things up. I'll see what I can do. Want me to draft a Christmas poem for you and share your true feelings about how irritating your Uncle Frank is? I'm here for it.


January 11, 2022

More Christmas bloopers, because shit happens: THE SHOE EDITION

 Cliff hanger answered:

I wrapped up a toy baby bed from the basement to remind Lad that we gave him his mattress for Christmas. He's said to me a few weeks prior that we didn't need to get him anything since he was staying here WITH A DOG. That showed some real maturity, I felt. I did get him a few real things in addition to a toy baby bed.

Plus next to Lad and Ed's stockings, I hung VERY tiny sport coats that I'd saved in case H and L would one day wear them. 

Tank:  UM, I DON'T THINK THIS WILL FIT ME. 

Me:  IT'S JUST AN EXAMPLE - YOU NEED TO BE WITH ME TO TRY ON A SPORT COAT. IT'S LIKE A PROMISE. DUH.

This bottom piece was a tad thicker
 so that Baby Jesus could stand up
.
MORE CHRISTMAS BLOOPERS, 

BECAUSE SHIT HAPPENS 

3.  I think Finn is an atheist. Look what he did to my sweet wooden Baby Jesus. It's part of a nativity set that I've had since before we were married. I wasn't very happy. This happened while I was napping a few days after Christmas. Mini begged to let Finn off of his leash to hang out in the kitchen. She and Tank promised to watch him. :"WE THOUGHT HE HAD A BONE." 

4. Reg had one gift to open from my folks. Usually there are more boxes per kid, so I told him it must be a big 'un. It was. 

On their patio he opened an amazing pair of Air Jordan basketball shoes. His face. Well, he was blown away. He looked at me like WTF? Nana called from the doorway, ARE THEY THE RIGHT SIZE? They weren't. They are a 14. 

Ed:  YEAH, BUT NIKE RUNS SMALL. * proof that we've trained our kids to just show gratitude and we can discuss size options/ returning at home. 

Reg was incredibly grateful and thanked my parents profusely. But he's a size 13 - sometimes even a 12.5. The shoes do not fit. We pondered what to do. 

Options:

    1.  I could ask for a receipt and get them in a different size or just return them. Reg JUST bought new basketball shoes before Christmas. 

    2.  We could hope or anticipate that his feet might keep growing, but most of my guys are a 13. Tank is the exception with his size 15, but even lately he hasn't been measuring that big. 

If you are nodding your head and saying, OF COURSE TANK IS THE EXCEPTION, that just shows that you come here often. 

My kids also pointed out that these aren't really the kind of shoe you wear to play basketball. They're more to wear around for status, or to be cool. Well. That really isn't how we roll. I believe my mom bought these before she heard the story of the kid on the opposing Entitled team telling Reg:  "NICE BROKE ASS SHOES." My kids would never wear a $200 plus pair of shoes, just to be showy. They also said, you COULD wear them to play basketball, but they made it sound like they aren't necessarily made for performance on the court. 

Later, I noticed an EBAY tag on them. Hmm, another layer to the quandary. What on earth? My mom has never touched a computer. Well, she'd probably dusted one. How could she have gotten something off of ebay, and what would that mean in terms of trying to return them? 

Detective Ernie texted my brother Pat and asked if he'd helped her. Yep. Below is his response:

Please hold while I grab my crystal ball and check to see
if Reg's feet are done growing. AND yes, he was excited. He hadn't tried them on. AND DUH - he has manners, of course he is excited. What is even happening?

Big enough so he wouldn't outgrow them, or so big that he would never wear them? Excited - YES, until we got home and he tried them on, and then I noticed the ebay tag.  

I cannot wrap my brain around why she asked Pat for help. Other than, he is billed as the hero, someone who knows stuff. I mean, I am his mother and I happen to know Reg's size. I could've offered guidance here. Now we are stuck between a rock and a potentially non-returnable pricey item. This is different than a polo shirt Mom bought on sale for $25 that can't be returned. 

Reminder:  Pat's the same brother that proofread the book my dad wrote and distributed at Christmas that made Lad feel terrible. My dad described people's 'issues' if they had any -  for Lad that was having ADD. Pat and his kids and wife? Glowing descriptions. Lad flipped to his page and ran out of my parents' house balling. Imagine Pat telling Dad:  "SURE PRINT IT, DAD. LOOKS GREAT."

I waited for Pat to come back from Disney. Then I texted him to let him know that there are no guarantees that these shoes will ever fit Reg. Also, Pat might be Mr. Basketball from the 90s, but his boys aren't athletic. He probably doesn't realize that these shoes aren't worn to PLAY basketball. 

DOES THIS MEAN IF HE DIDN'T RECENTLY BUY AIR JORDAN'S THAN THIS PAIR MUST BE BETTER? AND HE SHOULD JUST TOSS OUT HIS CURRENT PAIR THAT CAN'T BE RETUNED BECAUSE HE WORE THEM? A COLLECTOR'S ITEM? WHAT? 

I could call my mom and let her know they don't fit, but for now I'm letting Mr. Hero navigate the situation. He's said nothing since I texted him a week ago.

Please share your thoughts. Weird factor? Pat's involvement? What would you do? Am I alone thinking this was strange, particularly Pat's involvement? Anyone have an idea where to find a new wooden baby Jesus? Anyone know a guy with a size 14 that wants to buy a pair of Air Jordan's? Anyone else use household items to alert kids to difficult to purchase, or already purchased gifts?

Tune in tomorrow for a not-so-frustrating blooper, but one that I think will make you split a gut. 


January 10, 2022

Christmas bloopers

Birthday breakfast heading
down to the basement. 

Pausing the remaining birthday bits to share our Christmas bloopers. What can I say? It's what I'm in the mood for and since my home is a shit-show at the moment, I'm going rogue. 

Birthday boy eating in
 his cave. He has
 the couch pulled out.
He admits he's watched like
13 movies.
Um, how about a book?

SHIT-SHOW DEFINED:  Reggie tested positive on Wednesday, Jan 5th and even thought the CDC says people without symptoms can leave isolation after 5 days, the public schools in Illinois are sticking with 10 days. What that means is that if he has no symptoms after 5 days, he can go to the health club, church, friends' houses, but not school. He's missing a ton of basketball games. Plus final exams. 

Tank insisted that I also serve bacon
 and sausage. Not because he was
 worried that Reg might want some
 for his birthday, but because he
 wanted some. He went to the store for
 me and this is next course
being left at the top of
 the basement stairs.
 

Oops, I listed basketball first, as if it's more important than school. 

Oh, and by the time you read this - Reg will have celebrated his not-so-sweet-16th birthday while still in isolation for covid. His birthday was yesterday, January 9th.

Coach and Lad were sick on Wednesday and Thursday respectfully. Stomach bug issues. Both tested negative. Most of the babies went home on Wednesday and puked all night too, but not me. Weird since Lad and Coach had no contract with them. My brain hurts from trying to track who has what and where they may have gotten it. I don't advise it. 

My old Burger King booth looking like the
 maid hasn't around to cleaning up
 after the covid captive. When Tank called
 down to let him know the bacon and
 sausage were ready,
he said COME HERE, LEPER.


Because the good times keep rolling, today (I'm drafting this on Friday) Curly woke with a headache. Low grade fever. Fatigue. Cough. Her antigen test was negative. Doc doing a PCR. 

There will be a quiz at the end of the post to see if you can figure out who has what. Extra points if you can identify the strand. 

I'm trying to rise above the petri dish atmosphere and maintain my sanity and keep my distance from EVERYONE. If I end up getting sick and missing Joe's services the 13th & 14th in Minnesota, you will hear me sobbing in whatever corner of the world you live in. You've been warned. 

CHRISTMAS BLOOPERS:

Technically mystery gift should fall into this category, but I've already shared.

1. My dad sends out a list each year. He likes to read history books (yawn fest).  His list, in case this sort of thing interests you: (since I'm paranoid about writing long posts - I'm not counting his list in my word count, so skip if you don't care): 

·        James Garfield and the Civil War by Daniel Vermilye  @  $31.99

·        Grover Cleveland, A Study in Courage by Allan Nevins @ $70.00

·        The Presidency of Benjamin Harrison by Homer E Socoeofsky and Allen Spetter @ $39.95

·        William Howard Taft’s Constitutional Progressivism by Kevin Burns  @ $37.00

·        William Howard Taft:  The American Presidents Series: The Twenty seventh President 1909-1913 by Jeffery Rosen and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. @ $24.50

·        The Triumph & Tragedy of  Lyndon Johnson: The White House Years by Joeseph A Califano JR  @ $30.00

·        Richard M Nixon: A life in Full by Conrad Black @ $48.67

·        Gerald Ford: An Honorable Life by James Cannon & Scott Cannon @ $35.00

·        The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter by Kai Bird @ $ 25.38

·        Bill Clinton: New Gilded Age President by Patrick J Maney @ $39.95

While contemplating which book to get him based on what books my siblings had already purchased, I scrolled down and accidentally realized that he had a list of Star Wars action figures below his book preferences.

Well, to each his own, right? Some of the guys on his list are available for $350 on Facebook marketplace. Some for like $8 to $12. I called Dad:

Me:  SO, WHAT'S YOUR GOAL? IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A COMPLETE COLLECTION OF STAR WARS GUYS AND SOME OF THEM ARE CRAZY EXPENSIVE, ARE YOU GOING TO STILL WANT TO COLLECT AS MANY AS YOU CAN? ALSO, WHY?

Dad:  YEAH, I KNOW. JUST GET ME THE CHEAP ONES. THAT'S FINE. I'LL PROBABLY GIVE THE COLLECTION, EVEN IF IT IS INCOMPLETE, TO ONE OF THE KIDS ONE DAY.

So, I tend to be negatively impacted by the favoritism thing (in case you hadn't noticed) and I cringed a little thinking:  I'll get him some of the guys and then he'll leave his somewhat complete set to a grandson that isn't one of my four sons. 

These guys came in a few
days after Christmas

I decided not to care even though Tank already said he'll be ticked if Da leaves it to someone other than him. See. Weird, right? Tank dug through our bin of guys and came up with at least one on the list. Lad wasn't willing to part with our guys. Fair enough. I just bought 4 or 5 of the cheaper guys.

By the time I'd done 'research', the action figures weren't here on time. So, we did what we Shenanigans do. We improvised. Below is the video of how we acted out the gift that was on its way. Yes, faces are visible. Oh well. Tank is wearing his Yoda backpack for effect. Reg and Curly agreed to grab light sabers and play along. If you watch, you can tell Reg rethought his involvement. 


2.  Coach and I didn't get one another gifts. Sort of. I had one fuzzy pullover for Coach. I bought the same thing for Tank and Reg and they are wearing it in the above video. Coach had nothing for me. Usually I buy something for myself and wrap it up, from him. I really don't need any clothes, but I had one top that I had gotten and I told him he could wrap that up for me. 

I ended up hating it when I eventually tried it on. I assumed I'd put it on backwards. Nope, it was made weird and all it did was simulate choking. I took it back. 

He usually takes the kids to Target and asks me for ideas, or he wings it, and they get me a few things too. Last year he surprised me and bought me an office chair to replace the yoga ball I'd been sitting on at the computer, per my PT husband. 

Anyway, when Coach was a bit panicked that he'd never gone shopping with the kids, I gave him the Heimlich-maneuver-sold-separately top to wrap up. He worried that the kids would be upset that they hadn't gone shopping. I said HEY, WE JUST PUT SIDING ON THE HOUSE. WE GAVE THAT TO EACH OTHER. If nothing else, I'm a problem solver. 

We are often so busy, like ships passing in the night, that we don't discuss this in advance.

Oh Christmas Eve, I wrapped whatever stuff wasn't purchased at the world's greatest department store where they wrap stuff for free. When we went to bed, I thought of a few things I needed to do in the morning. I wrote my TO DO list on a scrap of wrapping paper.   

The next morning after I made breakfast, I ran upstairs to be sure we hadn't forgotten anything and to consult my TO DO list. We didn't even end up putting the gifts under the tree until after we'd made breakfast. It was a weird year, but it was  low key and I'd chosen to be VERY chill because of my recent reminder that life is short and all. 

Me:  MY TO DO LIST . . . I LEFT IT RIGHT HERE.

Coach:  (groaning from across the room) OH. OOPS. I MAY HAVE USED THAT WRAPPING PAPER SCRAP. SORRY. 

Me:  OK, THEN. HELP ME REMEMBER WHAT WAS ON IT. 

We managed to remember the four things. 

When I opened the top that threatened to injure my wind pipe, I realized what he'd done. He used that scrap to write TO:  ERNIE on my 'gift.'  

How did he not notice that his note also said:  BABY BED, SPORT COAT, etc.?  He's not detail oriented, have I mentioned? 

Points to whoever can guess why I needed to be reminded about BABY BED and SPORT COAT. I will share in the next segment of Christmas bloopers. Please share your own bloopers in the comments, if you are like us and you don't celebrate in the desirable but over-rated magazine-perfect style. 

*turns out this is at least a 3 part series. What can I say, Shenanigans are always up to something or getting tripped up somehow. I'm gonna  share all the installments this week. You won't want to miss any of them, but the poem edition might make you howl laugh. Get excited and grab your popcorn.












January 5, 2022

it's my birthday and I'll shop if I want to

On my birthday, Curly, Ed, Tank, Mini and I hit the mall to return or exchange stuff on our way to Reg's 4:30 pm basketball game. Normally going to the mall with this group would make me a little nutty, because there would be so many different agendas and a wide spectrum of enthusiasm for shopping. Since it was my birthday, they all opted to be on my page. 

Unrelated, but this is what I served on
 Christmas morning. Two egg casseroles.
 Three Apple Puff Pancake. I could eat the
 eggs plus one of the pancake dishes made
 GF. Delish. Tons, and I mean TONS of work
 to feed my crew, but oh my gosh were they
 grateful and happy. Christmas morning
 turned into Christmas afternoon, and we
 were chill and well fed. Mind you, a few
 hours later I was back in the
 kitchen whipping up big meal #2.

It was their page too:  some of them were hoping to get store credit for the polo shirts from Nana (my mom), or exchange jeans, etc. As I mentioned, my mom shops for 22 grandkids - remarkable. She doesn't always have a great handle on sizes - particularly for my boys. Add to that the fact that my boys aren't really in need of polo shirts, particularly those that are a size too small, and we had some work to do. My mom also shops VERY early and continues all year. Some stores won't allow a return if the item was bought in, say, June. It's all good, everyone got things they really did like/perfect fit from her and we will donate the shirts that no one will use. I might try to find a way to suggest to Nana that the Shenanigan men (including Coach) are not in need/favor of polo shirts (like, ever again). Something to ponder. 

Back in the day when I cleaned out the boys' closets, I honestly felt like I could open a Ralph Lauren resale shop. Any color, any size - you name it, we had it. 

Anyway, we divided and conquered and got stuff done. Fun fact about me:  I LOVE GETTING STUFF DONE OFF OF MY LIST. You knew that though, right? Since there were piles everywhere in our house of stuff that needed to be handled, this was a decent way to spend my birthday. 

The girls got Zara jeans for Christmas. Sort of. One of Mini's friends recommended these jeans, because they come in long lengths or full lengths. Zara might be a game changer for my tall girls. I had them pick out what they wanted on line *thus my SORT OF label above*. The jeans arrived before Christmas. They didn't fit. Crazy tight. We reordered and took back the original order on my birthday. 

Curly still hasn't found a pair that fits her. Long story but a 0 was too small. A 2, also too small. Mini's size 4 were way too big on Curly. It's a riddle. 

This store, like my house, was up for grabs when we attempted to solve the sizing riddle in person. There was no rhyme or reason to the stacks of clothes, probably because so much was being returned, plus the fitting rooms were closed. We're trying again with another online order for Curly. Updates will be shared as warranted. I'd never heard of this store. Am I alone? 

We went to Vineyard Vines next while the boys were apparently dealing with a grouch at Macy's. She was ticked that they had polo shirts from June to return, but they had no idea when Nana bought them. Last Christmas Nana bought Mini a frilly Vineyard Vine sundress that was more suited for a little girl. Mini was blown away by how much she received on a gift card for the dress. My kids don't really like the clothes at Vineyard. Too preppy, I guess. So, I've been walking around with her gift card for a year. *I still owe you a post about how great Mini is, but ahem, there are issues. Let's just say a gift card in her possession would do a disappearing act, as in WAIT, WHERE DID I PUT THAT?*

I used the gift card to buy solid, long sleeve t-shirts for Mini for Christmas. I also bought Aunt Leprechaun's daughter, who like VV clothes, a birthday gift. I had no idea how much was on the card, so imagine my surprise when I paid with the gift card and all I owed was $3.47. I was like HEY, WELL DONE, ME. 

Mini didn't like the shirts, even though the whale logo was subdued. The sleeves weren't long enough, etc. I may or may not be raising monkey-armed children. When we returned the shirts, the cashier should've given me the funds on a gift card. She asked for my credit card, probably because of my $3.47, and then put the whole amount back on my credit card. Bonus. Mini was relieved too since we can buy something at a favorite store now and not be obliged to forced to shop at VV. 

Just before we entered the preppy store, Ed called me with an update. This is when I learned that the Macy's woman was a beast. Two of the four shirts couldn't be returned. Tank got a gift card for his shirts but couldn't decide what to buy with it. 

My advice to Tank told to Ed:  TELL HIM DON'T BUY ANYTHING - WAIT TILL HE NEEDS SOMETHING. 

Elementary, right?  Has he not met me? Was he raised by wolves? Or, I guess, wolves with big bank accounts? 

Me to Ed:  WALK TO THE CAR AFTER TANK LOOKS AROUND FOR A FEW MINUTES, AND BUYS NOTHING. DRIVE OVER TO WILDFIRE (my favorite restaurant) AND WAIT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIRS. WE WILL PROBABLY BE DONE BY THE TIME YOU GET THERE. 

Have I mentioned to you that I'm always in awe of the many career paths out there that I never knew anything about? Well, I think I should've gone into logistics, because as we exited VV Ed called.

Ed:  WE ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIRS OUTSIDE WILDFIRE.

Me:  OK, WE ARE WALKING DOWN THOSE STEPS RIGHT NOW. 

Yes, in case there was any doubt, I am THAT good. 

It was like I had a getaway car ready, in the form of a minivan, in case shit got ugly at Vineyard Vines in case I was tempted to tell someone they didn't look good in stripes or something. 

Next time we meet, I'll share another shopping story, Reg's game, and dinner out. I have an opinion, discussion starter, on purses coming up in the near future too. Get excited. 

Is there a career that you knew nothing about in your youth that now appeals to you? Would you tell Nana, we're solid on our polo shirt pieces? Do you have your people pick out there gifts in advance? Or do you go full on surprise mode? Who wants to be responsible for reminding me that I owe you a Mini-issues post? 

January 3, 2022

That wasn't Mary Ann, and Violet

Thanks again for all of the sweet birthday messages. I'm so grateful for all of you, truly. I was thrilled that a few readers decided to comment on my birthday for the first time ever. Thanks for coming out of hiding. 

One new commenter told me that she is nearby *I jerked my head to my study window, in case she was hiding in the bushes, but all I saw were our half-ass Christmas lights.* 

I have to wonder if she is indeed Mary Ann disguised as a friendly person. Kidding. Mary Ann would never bother with a disguise. Wink, wink.  

My birthday went well. In summary:  one kid cleaned a toilet, one kid made my salad for lunch, one kid purchased a short list of groceries. No one gave me grief when I asked them to do stuff. What more can I ask for? 

I'll share more about my day soon, but I do want to tell you about Violet.

VIOLET:  

I've written in the past about the family, the Maplewoods, that I babysat for ions ago. I started when I was 12. When the Maplewoods moved into the neighborhood, my mom arrived on their doorstep with a plate of cookies to welcome them. She also offered our home phone number and a promise of three babysitters. I was the most available sister. My sisters already had 'families' that they were busy babysitting for. This was my good fortune. 

I gravitated towards this family. Oh how I loved their 8 children. When I met them there were only 3 littles, but the family grew fast. I learned so much about how to care for newborns. I was hooked. They were crazy about me. 

My family often glossed over me while raining attention down on my brothers, particularly Pat. When I was at the Maplewoods, I was the center of their universe. I mattered. I was important to them. They helped form my sense of self, my self esteem. In a word, they were instrumental to me. 

Fast forward to present day. Lad sells cars for one of those 8 kids, Stephen. Stephen has been really good to Lad. Lad really likes working there - he'd started out at a different dealership working for Stephen's cousin, who I also once babysat for. In April, Lad will be at this dealership for a year. 

In early November, Lad called me. He said, PRAY FOR VIOLET, THEY GOT BAD NEWS TODAY. SHE HAS AN INOPERABLE BRAIN TUMOR. 

Violet had JUST turned 4 years old. 

I assumed Lad didn't have the info correct. I hoped he was wrong. Not 10 minutes later, Stephone's sister, Beth, who is the Maplewood that I keep in touch with the most, texted me. She asked for prayers for Stephen's daughter, Violet. She'd been diagnosed with a brain tumor and the outlook was grim. 

Then she described it as a DIPG tumor. I froze. This was the same type of tumor that a little boy from our local Catholic school had died of a few years ago. It is an aggressive tumor. The child usually doesn't live more than 12 months after being diagnosed. 

This news. Well, it hit me at my core. How could this be? She's just a little, tiny, sweet child. She has a sister who is 2 years old. How will she ever remember her sister? 

By Curly.
This was just weeks after the young man who Tank knew well was crushed to death at the Texas concert. Sometimes I would cry so much at Church, that Coach would ask me:  VIOLET? JAKE? It was both. So much loss and heart ache. 

One of Stephens' brothers texted me the next day about a physical therapy issue, needing Coach's phone number. I told him that I was praying hard for all of them. He thanked me. Then he let me know that Stephen had said that Violet was thrilled to get birthday cards in the mail. If anyone wanted to send her a note or a card in the mail, that would be a great way to show them your love and support. 

BTW:  Violet likes unicorns, rainbows, Nickelodeon, and Disney characters. 

This horse, OK, so not technically a unicorn,
 is the softest ever. You'll have to take my
word for it. The tiny penguin
was for Violet's sister, Rose.

Well, say no more. I emailed everyone I knew. Invited people to send her cards, etc in the mail. Asked everyone to pray. I have not been able to pass up a unicorn themed anything without buying it and mailing it to her. Von Maur, my fav store, ships for free. She's gotten unicorn finger puppets, stuffed toys, etc. Just before Christmas I bought her a unicorn sweatshirt - with a unicorn horn on the hood. I still have to drop that one off for her. 

I drew this the weekend after we learned
about the tumor. Mini colored it.
She didn't trust me not to mess it up. 
Hey now, Mini, give me some credit.

We've drawn pictures. Sent stickers. Colored cards and sent messages. Her favorite is probably the story Tank wrote for her the day after he came home from college. It was about a unicorn named Violet who saved the day and helped Santa when Rudolph caught a bad cold. All the people knew that Violet the unicorn had helped Santa because she pooped out colorful sparkles that landed on the snow as the sleigh flew overhead. I stuck a note in that one for Stephen and his wife, explaining Tank is our resident comedian. Stephen has only been at the dealership once since the diagnosis. His brothers come in and cover for him as needed. One of them told Lad that the Shenanigan's cards, gifts, messages have blown them away. I just wish we could do more. 

When I found out Joe died a little over a week ago, I was still sobbing, leaning across the kitchen counter, when I put him to work. I begged him to help. 

Send Violet a miracle. Please, Joe. You've got this. 

Hey, maybe these angels get special privileges right when they arrive . . . last year my brother in law's mother died way too young. Covid played a role in her death. It was the end of January and as Coach and I drove away from her funeral, I asked her to help us with Lad. 

Lad came home a week or two later. He said something hit his car on the expressway. It scared him and he decided life was too short. He was done with the nonsense. He's been home ever since . . . and now we have a dog. 

I believe in the power of prayer. Please pray for Violet, or send good wishes her way, or whatever works for you. My heart aches for all that they are going through.