December 14, 2017

Aunt-of-the-year award nominee: will you vote for me?

Saturday was a hectic day here, since we attended two basketball games at the United Center.

I briefly considered decorating
this fixture on our
driveway with a string
of Christmas lights.
With several hours of a 'layover' between, we brought three cousins back to our house to hang out with our kids.  These cousins don't live in close proximity to us.  They hadn't witnessed the construction zone we currently live in.

As we pulled into the driveway in our former airport-shuttle, Chevy express van that seats 12, I called back to the cousins:  'So, we are having work done on the house.  The only bathroom that functions right now is this port-a-potty on the driveway.'  Margaret, who is 13, was sitting right behind my seat with her buddies Mini and Curly.  Her eyes got really big.

I couldn't have them in panic mode for more than 10 seconds.  Just couldn't do it.  'Just kidding!' I blurted out.  Mini scowled at me.  She wanted the joke to go on a bit longer.

Several hours later we were scurrying into the United Center for the second time.  I looked down at Jimmy, who is Curly's age.  He had no coat on.  What the Hell?  He told me he forgot it in my house.

Well, I guess arriving home at 1:30, running to Home Depot to select new shelving with Coach, squeezing in a 30 minute nap, whipping up a turkey breast dinner with stuffing (from a box) and all the fixings for this crew by 4:30 pm, rushing them out the door to church at 5 where Coach and I had to teach religious ed and Tank was subbing in Ed's class, and finally corralling them to the United Center was more than I could handle.  Somewhere along the lines, I forgot to check that a 10 year old WAS WEARING HIS COAT!  This is Chicago.  It is December.  It was beyond freezing, and it isn't like we parked 10 feet from the building.

After the game Margaret and her brother left with their dad.  He was sitting with us in the nosebleed section.  Coat-less Jimmy was spending the night at our house, because he lives where God lost his sandals (and maybe his coat).  His dad, Coach's younger brother, was driving down to pick him the up the next morning.

When we got home at almost 11 pm, I ordered kids to bring bags of stuff into the house.  I refused to buy snacks and drinks at the United Center.  Instead, I brought a small grocery store along in the car and distributed the loot to the kids before we braved the harsh winds for our jog into the game.

Curly looked pregnant with all the contraband she was smuggling in under her coat.  The other kids also proved to be excellent mules.  I, on the other hand, got stopped by security for having a short water bottle in each of my puffy winter coat pockets.  I was ticked.  The kids were a tad nervous that I was going to let lose on this guy for making me surrender my beverages.  My offspring have seen me in action at water polo games when refs suck.

It wasn't booze.  I had a bad cold.  I wanted some water.  I think charging $6 for a water bottle at this venue when you force people to leave unopened waters at the door is downright unamerican.  Sorry, I had to vent on that one.  Back to our main attraction . . .

With everyone assigned religious ed books or partially filled grocery bags to haul into the house, we marched thru the under-construction kitchen.  We were taking off our coats in the front hall when we heard someone knocking on the glass of the deck door.  'It's Jimmy,' Tank informed us.

We questioned him as to why he was still outside (without a coat).  Why had he not come inside BEFORE we put the garage door down unintentionally locking him out of the house and forcing him to stumble around over the dismantled deck to pound on the back sliding door?

'I had to go to the bathroom,' he explained.

Oops, he hadn't heard my 'just kidding' punchline way back 10 seconds after my initial tom-foolery.  We laughed our butts off, but tried to rein it in when we noticed that our shivering guest
looked like he might cry.  Being from Timbuktu, he doesn't hang with us all that regularly.  Not sure how he saw his way around a port-a-potty in the pitch black.  Reggie asked the burning question on his 11 year old mind, 'Was it #1 or #2?'

December 12, 2017

Is your husband 'single', or is it just mine?

Is your husband 'single' and therefore making his own schedule, or is it just mine?

When I crawled into bed Sunday night, I mumbled a reminder* to Coach that I was going to need his help on Thursday.  *reminder denotes that this has been previously mentioned/discussed.  He was already half asleep, but he mumbled back a reminder to me.  Not so much a reminder as an announcement.  A news flash. 

Control central, aka my calendar.
He is working late on Thursday.  He decided to swap his Wednesday schedule with his Thursday schedule.  

'I wanted to see Reggie's basketball game, so I switched my days.  You told me to.'  He explained.  Ah, so it is my fault.  Oh, well now it makes perfect sense.  Of course when I suggested that he swap some days around to be able to attend Reg's games, I didn't mean for him to do it without sharing the flipping date changes with ME.

All 6 kids and I have dentist appointments Thursday.  I will be babysitting for the two little boys, too.  My appointment is before lunch.  I have no trouble bringing the little rascals along for my appointment.  I CANNOT, however, round our kids up from 3 different schools during nap time and deliver them to the dentist.  Not possible.

I intentionally scheduled all of us for a Thursday, BECAUSE Coach is flexible on Thursdays.  He doesn't see patients.  If you screamed the capitalized 'because' in the previous sentence, then you read this as it was intended.  

Our dentist is only open Tues, Wed, and Thursday, or believe me- I would be handling the entire ordeal solo on Friday when I have the day off.  I don't mind solo.  I'm used to it.  Things tend to work out better for me when I don't have to rely on someone else.  

Before I went to sleep, I pondered what life would be like if I just set my own schedule.  Did my own thing.  Failed to worry about ANYONE else's stuff.  Couldn't grasp it.  Too far fetched. 

Coach suggested I just change the dentist appointments.  While I'm at it, maybe I can just snap my fingers and get all of the gifts bought and wrapped for Christmas.  I mean we are talking about some kind of magical powers here, I'm assuming.  Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to tap into my Harry-Potter-bad-ass-self just yet.  That's why the damn house is always such a mess.  My lack of special powers.

We all gravitate towards the same hygienist, so I always try to book us with her.  Preferably on the same day.  I book these appointments months in advance.  Don't remember the hygienist story . . . read this to get caught up.  (It's surprisingly short).

I will look for any excuse to share this photo.
Oh, that comment!  Does he really think that calling up the dentist to make 8 appointments that work with b-ball practices, school schedules, and college breaks is that easy?  At the moment Coach is on a different dental rotation than the rest of the fam since getting his teeth knocked out and repaired.  (OK, this post is long, but it details how Coach's teeth get knocked out in the yard hours before Lad's high school graduation.  Fairly unique).  I guess I should pat myself on the back for making what I do look that easy.  

Poor Tank.  Unable to locate a spare
toothbrush.  This formerly insane
toothbrush storage system
pictured here is no
 longer an issue since I started
 conducting occasional bathroom
drawer inspections.  
Oh by the way, both Tank and Mini announced over the weekend that when Reg cleaned the bathroom last he dropped their toothbrushes in the toilet.  Not sure yet if this was an strategic and intentional move by Reg in the hopes that he be relieved from any future bathroom chores.  I need to conduct some research.

Tank was upset that I was out of new toothbrushes.  Mini got the last one.  He shared that he had been brushing his teeth with his finger for days.  Oh, and why does this not surprise me?  I am out of toothbrushes and I am on strike with the grocery store since I hung out there every day last week but Tuesday.  Peeps in need of new toothbrushes need to wait until Thursday when the dentist hands them out . . . assuming the stars will align and I will get everyone to their appointments.                                                                                     

December 10, 2017

My 10 days of December (at least you won't have to hear me sing)

This post is meant to explain my absence for the past 4 days - in fact even longer than that.  My last few posts were written and scheduled.  Does that bother you, that I scheduled a few posts to 'drop' after I wrote them?  Does it not feel, well, fresh?

The bold parts of this post should be hummed to the tune of '12 Days of Christmas' . . .

On the 1st day of December, I told my daughter Mini:  'You need a bra!'  ♪ ♫
These flimsy colorful
preteen bras are
no longer suitable for Mini.
     Not a sports bra with ALWAYS exposed, racer-back, bright colored straps or the skinny strap variety intended for an 11 year old who isn't 5 foot 8 inches.  Those straps look like they might leave permanent little lines embedded in her shoulders.  The internet search was on for a very small bra with legit straps that wouldn't supply her with a cup size two times what is necessary, because she SO doesn't want to appear bustier than her basic flat chested self.  After following the online instructions for how to measure - something I had never done - we ordered a 30AA.  It came yesterday.  We think it fits.

Now I need to look for this
 certified gluten fee
label before I shop.

On the 2nd day of December, my GI doc said to me:  'Go visit a dietitian',  ♬ ♪ ♪
     Since I recently discovered that I am inadvertently getting gluten in my supposed gluten free diet (thanks to celiac disease) this was a necessary, time-consuming adventure.  I went to the University of Chicago per my suburban doctor's instructions and learned about labels that say gluten free and those that are certified gluten free.  There were other tips too.  I feel like I am starting over after previously feeling like I was very careful.  Insert loud, depressing, heavy sigh.

On the 3rd day of December, I told my fam-ily:  'Don't interrupt me while I start my Christmas poem!'  ♭ ♬
A few examples of
previous Christmas letters.
     This tradition started when Curly was due on Christmas day.  I prepared a baby boy and a baby girl birth announcement/Christmas card with a poem set to 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'.  When Curly arrived Dec. 19th, I inserted her name and weight, printed them out, snapped a photo of all 6, and had the cards in the mail on Dec. 23rd.  I've been creating a rhyming letter detailing our yearly adventures ever since.  I include lines like:
     Coach and I are grateful that our neat and tidy kids always listen the first time to our requests,
     They are constantly sweeping the floor, folding laundry, and exhibiting behavior that’s their best.
     I’m assuming you sense the sarcasm in that line– but a mom can dare to dream,
     Honestly, Coach is usually at work, and I when I’m not driving them around I just yell and scream.

On the 4th day of December, I paid a visit to the mall.  ♬ ♩
     With three of the 6 kids born around Christmas, I have extra shopping to do.
Leftover meatballs. 
They look better fresh.

On the 5th day of December, I cooked spaghetti & meatballs for Tank's birthday dinner request!  ♩ ♫
     Cooking big meals in the basement is a thrill a minute.  Oh, dishwashers- please be installed soon!

On the 6th day of December, I attended Tank's holiday high school band concert.  ♪ ♬
     Well, there's 2 hours that I will never get back.  Honestly, the concert WAS amazing.  Lots of talent.  I just had too many things I needed to do with my time.  TWO HOURS.  That's lengthy.  Before the concert I drove all the way to Irish dancing to drop off the girls.  Coach agreed to pick them up after work.  I texted Coach mid-concert to alert him that he had dodged yet another bullet.  

On the 7th day of December, I found myself back at the high school.  ♫ ♪
     Another 2 hours invested at the high school.  It was 8th grade night.  Soon-to-be freshman meet their counselor, take a tour of the school, and walk around the field house to be introduced to available clubs, activities, and teams.  Fun, but again a time investment that kept me from my blog.
Nosebleed section
of the Bulls game.

On the 8th day of December, I attended two high school basketball games.  ♫ ♫
     Both Eddie and Tank played in home games.  Friday I don't babysit, so I was committed to completing the Christmas poem.  Well, so much for self-inflicted deadlines.  It's almost done.  An opponent knocked into Tank's jaw during his game.  The trainer said he sprained his TMJ.  I asked him if he recommended Tank not speak for several weeks to speed recovery.  Wishful thinking.  

On the 9th day of December, the family drove to the United Center TWO TIMES!  ♪ ♫
     Ed's varsity basketball team played at the United Center at 11:30 am.  $25 tickets included entrance into 'Da Bulls game that night.  Ed's coach begged us to sell tickets.  Friends, cousins, aunts, and uncles attended.  A nephew slept over.  BUSY!!  Lots of hustling people to buy tickets weeks ago, followed by:  countless emails, last minute ticket requests, group text messages, family, driving, and orchestrating groups of people.  No blog time here.    

On the 10th day of December, I looked back in disbelief . . . ♬ ♩
     In addition to all of this, I taught religious ed, got groceries 9 times, cooked several meals, attended 2 of Reggie's away games, washed dishes by hand, moved mountains of clutter so I could vacuum 4 bedrooms., washed 7 loads of laundry, sorted 6 stacks of laundry, listened to Ed complain about our 2 dancing girls leaping, called the builder, met with a guy about our custom built-in bench, found fabric for the bench, ordered two kitchen stools, finalized the new kitchen table, AND FINALLY FOUND TIMMME  . . . TO BLLL-OOO-GGG!!! ♬ ♪ 

Hope it was worth the wait!  What things are happening in your December days that keep you from blogging?


December 6, 2017

Ho ho help!

I love Santa.  My kids have always been big believers in Santa.  I think their steadfast belief comes in part from their mindset that their parents would never choose to add more toys to our home.  Time and time again I've heard them come home off the school bus and argue the point aloud.  'Well, Jimmy the Jerk on the bus said there's no such thing as Santa, but I know there must be because there is no way you and Daddy would ever get us all those toys!'  Wink, wink.

My heart aches a bit each time one of the kids stops believing.  Laddie believed for so long, I feared that he would get laughed at when he professed his belief at school.  His class was full of a bunch of aggressive punks who pounced on anyone who wasn't 'cool'.  Oh, how I despised this group of kids.  They were MTV to my kid's Romper Room.  There was no gelling with them for the oldest child of a big family.

Years ago, I ran a garage sale for the parish and one day someone brought in a gently used toy kitchen set.  I snagged it for Curly, who was about 2 or 3 at the time.  I explained to Laddie as he helped me drag it out to the car that I would save it for Christmas.  That's when he expressed some confusion about Santa.  I think he was in 6th grade.  I set him straight, but it broke my heart.

Curly is the last of a dying breed here.  She is my only 'believer'.  She is still 9, but will be 10 in less than 2 weeks.  Reggie decided to be a punk ass older brother a few weeks ago.  Curly came up from the basement and asked me if I was Santa.  Reg was coming up the stairs right behind her and she made a googlie-eyed face at me.  Translation:  don't let Reg know I was asking you that.

Reg was chuckling, and looking a little nervous at the same time when he appeared from the basement.  I think he realized that his 'joke' had overstepped.  He's in this phase currently where he can't say anything legitimate.  Everything he says ends with 'just kidding.'  The formula goes something like this:  tall tale, split second, 'just kidding', followed quickly by him admitting that his teacher didn't really light a book on fire in class or he somehow clarifies whatever the Hell cockamamie story he just made up.  He's a barrel of laughs.
Ah, the good ole days when
they all believed.  Look at the
way Tank is eyeing Santa. 
Love this!  Believe you me,
Reggie is getting coal
and nuts in his stocking!

'I was just kidding, Curly,' he pleaded giving me the once over to assess how much trouble he was in.  How could I have raised the next 'Jimmy the jerk'?

I played it cool.  Curly kept giving me weird eye expressions begging me not to admit in front of Reg that she had questioned me about Santa.  I just assured her that Santa was the real deal and playfully shoved Reg, whose brow was beading up with sweat.  'Knock it off Reg, of course Santa is real Curly.'

A week later Coach was flipping thru channels one night.  The kids enjoy watching something for a few minutes before bed.  Well, I guess I don't have to tell you that there is very rarely anything family friendly on the TV.  Let me first point out that my husband is TYPICALLY the most over-protective, insanely conservative father when it comes to inappropriate TV.  So, I'm not sure what happened here.

He landed on 'Four Christmases' with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughan.  Yes, this flick is inappropriate, but parts are clean and it is funny.  Well, we hadn't seen this movie in years.  It happened to be a night when I was still suffering with the bad headache.  It was just one of those things where you sit there and try to remember what might be coming up in the next scene, but it is impossible - especially when there is funny stuff happening.

Vince Vaughan's character was passing out Christmas gifts to family members he hadn't seen in awhile.  He makes a joke to his nephew that the kid's dad probably didn't spend much on his 'Santa' gifts.  Well, he has just blown Santa's cover and he doesn't realize that the kid still believed, because he's a bit out of touch over the kid's age, etc.

Curly was sitting on the couch next to me.  I made no sudden movements, but my insides ached now more than my head.  I feared that if I changed the channel very abruptly there would be red flags everywhere.  So, just before she went to bed, I turned to her and said, 'You know that was just a movie.  They were just joking around with that kid.'  She said she got that, but her body language said something else.  Crap!

I am asking for help here.  Any suggestions on how to reel Curly back in?  How can I convince my sweet young baby (who IS almost 10) to continue to believe?  I am thinking we need to stage something creative.  If you are as stumped as I am, then just share how you discovered 'the truth.'  How old were you, or your kids?

December 2, 2017

happy tears

The girls danced beautifully on Sunday in their Midwest Irish dancing championships.  It's technically called an Oireachtas.  There you go.  The next time you play scrabble you are all set to wow your opponent with that one. 

Mini doesn't plan to dance in high school.  This was her swan song and I wanted her to end on a note that she felt proud of.  Her goal was to qualify for National championships -something she has never done.  It was going to be tough.  There were 181 dancers in her under 13 age group.  Seriously!*#@!  They placed the top 91 dancers.  Mini had to rank 56th or above to make it to Nationals.

She came in 43rd.  So that may not sound impressive, but please remember 181 girls competed!  I wept.  This girl works so hard.  She wanted it so bad.  Her face was pure excitement, relief, and joy!  Hooray!  I was poised in front of the stage with my video camera.  They announce the awards in reverse order.  With each number called I held my breath hoping it wasn't her number until we had cleared the National qualifying number.  Midway through the announcements, I noticed that I could see Mini, who was standing side-stage with the other girls who hadn't been announced yet.  I zoomed in and watched her jump up and down screaming with excitement as she got closer to her award.

Curly admitted to Mini and I on Friday night that her goal was to beat 7th place, since that is what she was last year.  I flat out told her to pick a different goal.  Vote me in for mom-of-the-year.  I felt like her goal was too lofty, and near impossible.  I feared that she would be disappointed.

Mini and I squeezed together in front of the stage to watch Curly's results.  While I thought Curly danced great, I felt like two of her three rounds were not her best.  I told her over and over to brace herself, so that she wouldn't be upset.  The other point I must make is that my girls' competitions were happening at the SAME BLEEPING TIME.  I watched each of Curly's and Mini's dances and I got to see some of each group, but it isn't like I was sitting and watching an entire competition.  I wasn't completely convinced where either girl's ability fell since I hadn't seen all of the competitors.

Mini was holding my phone and snapped
 this blurry picture when Curly
came down off the stage.
Curly went nuts when she realized that she had made it into the top 10.  She was on stage hugging her friends beaming from ear to ear.  I was relieved beyond measure.  Then they announced 7th place -still not Curly's number.  Again - lots of squealing and celebrating.  Mini and I exchanged a look.  This kid had done it again - exceeded her goal.  Curly came in 4th out of 147 girls.  She qualified for Nationals like Mini.  She also qualified for World Championships.

We didn't get to bed before midnight.  Too many pictures to take and too many happy hugs to squeeze in before we went home.  Our drive home was much more celebratory than last year.  Curly pointed out that I kept reminding them no tears, and the only tears we had were happy ones!

World Championships take place in Scotland this year.  The competition is held around Easter.  I whispered to Curly, 'Let's just not bring up the 'Scotland' word to Daddy just yet.  We are still finishing a kitchen after all.'  Gulp.

Maybe it is best that Coach didn't attend the awards ceremony and remains clueless about Irish dancing overall.

December 1, 2017

remembering last year's results

I swore that I would not allow the dancing competition to derail my life and render me a sleep-deprived, stressed-out lunatic this year.  We've been participating in this annual competition the weekend after Thanksgiving for the last 7 or 8 years, so it was time to put the damn thing in perspective.  Despite my aftermath headache, I swear I succeeded.

I have not been sleeping much for the last 3 months.  Seriously.  Completely unrelated to the dancing scenario.  I finally got some answers from my doctor the day before Thanksgiving.  More about that later.  Nothing life threatening, but an interesting revelation.  Knowing that there are bigger evils than Irish dancing aka SERIOUS sleep deprivation, I was able to keep my Irish dancing demons at bay.

Being extremely organized with all of their gear helped.  I was also very excited that it was almost over.  In typical Shenanigan family I brought meals and snacks so we could avoid waiting in long lines and spending EVEN MORE money while trapped at the competition from 6 am until 10:30 pm.

I lectured the girls multiple times.  I would not allow ANY crying.  I begged them to keep their emotions in check until we reached the car on the drive home.

Friday night I took the girls to the competition (it goes for 3 days, but we were scheduled to dance on Sunday) to watch the awards ceremony for the older girls.  This is Curly posing with two of her older classmates while they were donning their wigs.  When she was very young and not yet competing, I took her with me to a competition.  I turned around after watching one of her siblings dance on stage, and for a split second I couldn't find her.  I learned quickly that in a sea of wigs, my kid was easy to lose.  
Last year recap:  Mini came in 69th out of like 75 placements (about 150 dancers overall - they place the top half).  She was incredibly disappointed and my heart broke for her.  Meanwhile Reg placed 15th (of course there were only like 22 boys in his competition and all boys place- so it is all relative).  He qualified to compete at Nationals, but quickly announced his retirement when he exited the stage with his award.  Finally, Curly, whose goal was to be in the top 10, placed 7th.  She was elated.  She had competed against roughly 125 girls.  Thankfully, Mini was ecstatic over Curly's success despite being majorly bummed out over her own results.

My drive home last year was a mixed bag.  I dealt with Curly's excitement, Reg's indifference, and Mini's broken heart.  As usual Coach was living the dream last year (and this year).  He picks and chooses when he shows up at the competition.  Breezes in and out of the venue when it suits him.  Wishes the dancers luck and cheers for them with gusto, but his life is his own.  Do I sound jealous? 

This year he watched the kids dance a few rounds, but then opted to return home.  The awards ceremony apparently is not his cup of tea.  In his defense, the awards ceremony traditionally runs painfully long and always starts late.  Coach gets up for work at around 4:30 am on a Monday.

Dancing is definitely more my area of expertise, and like it or not - I am without fail the dedicated 'dance mom'.  Sometimes I consider giving myself a swift Irish dancing kick in the butt for this.

November 30, 2017

vanishing act for 4 pounds of chicken

On Friday night, I made a huge dinner.  Part of my master plan included bringing meals to the Irish dancing competition on Sunday.  Last year I got stuck with hungry kids and no time to run out and get them fast food before the awards ceremony started, because Curly's competition dragged on and wrapped up just before awards.  This time I knew my new handy-dandy Stanley thermoses would save the day.

Saturday night before I went to bed insanely early in preparation for my 4:40 am scheduled wake up, I reached into the fridge to pull out the multitude of leftover honey mustard chicken.  I was going to cut up enough for the girls and I, so that it would be easy to heat up and plop into the thermos.

Imagine my surprise when I could only locate a small Tupperware container with one and a half chicken breasts in it.  Coach shrugged when I demanded to know where the rest of the chicken was. The girls and I ate an early dinner on Friday, so I wasn't home when the boys ate and stored the leftovers.

Then it became clear to me, that the boys didn't so much 'eat' Friday night . . . they scarfed.  They inhaled.  They partook in a feeding frenzy that I'm not sorry I missed.

Folks, I had prepared 4 pounds of chicken.  Laddie's big-ass appetite is away at college.  How could they have polished off that much food in one sitting?

I insisted on remaining chill for this competition, so I remained calm - slightly grumpy and fearful of the future of my grocery bills, but calm.  The girls and I would make due on less chicken.  Coach, who was supposed to feed the boys the remaining (and now non-existent) honey mustard chicken Sunday night while I was away at the dancing shin-dig could fend for himself.