May 21, 2019

metamorphosis into a teen as witnessed on a road trip

Something else happened on our drive to Florida besides Coach going all granny on me and my driving.  Reg became a teenager right before our eyes. No, it was not his birthday.  He turned 13 in January. You remember, the no gift birthday?

CLUE #1 of how I could tell my little boy had shed his little boy-ness:  His voice changed somewhere between when we backed out of the driveway and when we hit the palm lined expressway in Florida.  Like in the blink of an eye!

not sure if you can see the odd coloring
of Mini's legs.  Bright red mixes
 with swishes of lily white
Me, waking up from a little snooze in the car: 'Who got in the car while I was sleeping? Who is that talking like that in the back of the minivan? I do not recognize that voice. What just happened?' I mean, I was a little groggy, but his voice change was that sudden and drastic.
CLUE #2: Reggie's appetite is now bottomless. Some background: Reg is a kid that is known to throw up pretty regularly after parties or sleepovers - so maybe his appetite has always known no bounds, but he could not handle overload initially. Or, we are in deep denial and he really has celiac disease. That would suck, so we are better off in denial. I cannot cut a 13 year old off of sheet cake and mountains of cereal. I admit that his fixation on food has been ramping up a bit lately- not just on the trip (not the eat till I vomit ramp up - that was mostly reserved for parties). It became more obvious on the road when our well-stocked pantry was back home in our unfinished kitchen.  

CLUE #3: Reg's sense of humor slapped us in the face with a steady stream of wise-ass, goofy remarks - the kind that only a teenager would make.  Half the time we shrugged and looked at each other like, ‘What?’ At times our 'what' was in reference to Reg acting stupid, the rest of the time it was because Reg has a new marble-in-my-mouth form of speaking.  His comments and jokes consisted of a confusing mumble jumble of nonsense.

I was anxious for Eddie to arrive home from Europe thinking he would literally stop dead in his tracks and say, ‘What happened to Reg’s voice?’  It is that dramatic of a difference. Ed has not commented yet. Jetlag? Fixation on choosing a college?

CLUE #4: This one might not be a teenage thing, but based on Reg's sunscreen issues, I think I am on to something. Reg put on sunscreen. Coach applied it to his back.  Reg claims to have reapplied. This 13 year old with the new voice spent more time in the water than the rest of us, because we don’t all appreciate the adrenaline rush supplied by hypothermia.  (Each day the water got a little bit more tolerable as the days became warmer). Anyway, we wonder if maybe he hopped in the surf too soon after slathering himself with sunscreen? Or, is it a telltale sign of a teenager?
What happened to this guy?!
(update - he recovered after a few days)

The first day, Mini suffered some oddly shaped burns on the back of her legs. Results of lazily rubbing sunscreen (or maybe rubbing is too generous a term) haphazardly across her legs. She's a teenager too, so maybe their frontal lobes just isn't developed enough to focus on SPF.

The girls were both jealous of Reg after that first day claiming that he has better tanning capabilities.  

Well, the next day is when Reg either rubbed the protecting layer off with a towel after swimming or dove in too soon. His nose skin started oozing a strange orangish gel. His eyes swelled up. Now my deep-voiced teen started to resemble a puffy faced helpless infant.

May 19, 2019

said no wife ever

This post about our spring break is still totally relevant and awesome, but I kept pushing its post date back to accommodate pressing topics, like college decisions.

On the drive to Florida, I drove a stretch on the second day. Long drives might bother some people, and while at times it drove my sciatica crazy (literally a pain in the ass/down my legs to be specific), I embraced it. I was excited to read a book. To just sit. To nap. To edit my manuscript. To snack. I had an agenda here. Of course, at some point I knew I would also be expected to take a shift driving the car.

about as scenic as the drive got
I am a lousy long distance driver. I fall asleep so easily. In fact, I do not even consider myself a strong short distance driver. I used to explain it away by blaming Celiac disease. (Before I was diagnosed, I was just frustrated and clueless) Unable to absorb my nutrients, I was dog tired. ALL THE TIME. That issue has mostly been remedied with my gluten free diet (that I hate). So no idea why it is still SO VERY HARD for me to stay awake while driving.

Coach drove Thursday night when we left home. He drove for about 5 hours. It was beautiful. After sleeping less and less the closer the trip got because I had so many reminders constantly running thru my head, I napped almost instantly. I was so happy to wake up feeling human again.

The next day was Friday. I drove the first leg of the trip. No one was paying attention to the terrain that we were approaching. If we had been map reading, on-the-ball types, I would NOT have volunteered to do what turned out to be the dreaded mountain bit.

This is what my dining room looks
 like before we head out of town.
 No coke, but EVERYTHING else.
After exactly one hour behind the wheel, I started to nod off. Coach was exasperated with me. I, in case this is not clear, do not become sleepy intentionally! I asked for a few pieces of licorice and that helped me perk up. I am not a huge fan of caffeine, and while I plan a ton of meals and snacks for the trip - I rarely remember to pack Coke, because I don't keep it in the house. All this world needs is Tank on caffeine.

There I was driving along and the road started to get pretty damn steep. Coach morphed instantly into an old woman who decided that I was a 15 year old with my permit and could not handle the steep road. He kept yelling at me not to ride the breaks.

Well, what in the Hell do you suppose I do then? Ram into this dude's ass? I mean, I really didn't have many options. A car naturally speeds up when driving on a steep incline. Why is this even a conversation right now?! I was not happy. Neither was he. Most importantly though, he did not have a response for my very specific question: What should I do if you would like me to lay off the breaks? Hmm, I'm waiting. And while I wait we gather speed and prepare to crash. Crickets? OK then, brakes it is.' Honestly.

Other fun moments with my granny co-pilot included:

1. Reminders to not get a ticket. Obviously not my strong suit, but as luck would have it - I did not get ticketed.

2. Coach: 'You should not drive in this lane.' Me: Aren't you ready for a nap or something?

3. And then he argued that I should not check my email while I was driving, which I would normally agree with but we were stopped in bumper to bumper traffic thanks to construction. This tip from a man who insisted on searching for a hotel on his phone while he was driving like 80 down the expressway the night before.

We were mostly driving on level ground here.
 Coach was displeased that I took a pic while driving.
 I knew I would need something for this blog post
 - sorry I couldn't caputre the steeper part,
but there was some stress to contend with.
I managed to drive for 4 hours (and on the way home I even pulled off a 5 1/2 hour stretch- we had picked up some Coke by then and it did not just make me almost wet my pants but seemed to help me stay awake) that day. No problems unless you count marital strain.

I texted my friend Becky while I was safely back in the passenger seat (where I gave no pointers, and was only slightly irritated to be required to hold the GPS and alert him about the next set of instructions . When I drive I do both . . . drive and navigate and manage not to punch him in the nose). I described the 'helpful' hints Coach was giving me while I drove.

She texted back: 'Road trips with a husband are the best . . . said no wife ever!!!'

So true. Me: Keep your eyes on the road, Coach. No need to concern yourself with why I am splitting a gut over here in my comfy passenger seat.

May 17, 2019

How'd ya like them apples? with a Barbie arm

We next find our super hero (yes, that’s me - duh) driving home from Luigi's shop on a crazy adrenaline high.  It occurred to me that this meeting Luigi was hosting under the premise that he was an actual contractor and not just a crook with an Italian accent was quite possibly still going on.  (If you didn't read the last post:  this is the meeting that I barged into and shared with his clients aka 'the blinkers' that he sucks).

I marched into my kitchen and invited Mini to join me as I returned to Luigi's.  I actually hoped to snag Tank as my impulsive yet comedic heavy, but I forgot he was out on a driver’s lesson.  I threw my dinner and a piece of paper and a sharpie in the car and we were off.  When I described our mission, Mini moaned a little that she feared I was going to get in trouble.  Me:  bring it!

I had her text Eddie instructing him to call me when he finished up at volleyball practice in case I needed backup.  Luigi’s place is fairly close to the high school.

On the paper, I had Mini write my name and number along with the name and number of the saleswoman, Kat, at the appliance store who highly recommended Luigi.  Kat, who so regrets this recommendation now, can fill the blinking dudes in on the elderly couple who was swindled out of $150,000 by Luigi if they want more info.

My big master plan was to slip this paper to the blinkers as they exited Luigi’s office. 

Hmm, I wonder whose car that is?  
I parked far enough away from Luigi’s place so that he could not see my ever so inconspicuous great white van.  After 10 seconds of sitting there, I saw a blinker standing in the window in the store front next to Luigi’s place.  The window is connected to Luigi’s showroom window, but it is separated from the main room by a wall.  Sir-blinks-a-lot was standing in front of this other window making a phone call.  

I hopped out of the van and grabbed my informative paper.  The guy nodded at me a bit and then ended his phone call.  There was no way to get him the paper without going thru the showroom on the other side of the wall.  Not that I was afraid to do that, but I sensed that Sir-blink-a-lot- also now obviously a Sir-nods-a-lot type of guy- didn't want to be public in his acceptance of info about Luigi.

Me:  (pointing at the paper) Take this!  You can call me or Kat for more information.

Sir-Blink-a-lot:  more nodding.  (maybe I haven't mentioned that these fellows were most likely middle eastern.  I wondered if the language barrier was an issue). 

The other foreign blinker from the initial table meeting that I busted in on entered the room and the blinker who nods a lot pointed at my paper and I guess he told him to take a picture of it.  Maybe Sir-Nods-a-lot's phone is only for important calls.  He walked away and the other blinker nonchalantly took his phone out and snapped a pic of my informative paper.

At this point I wanted to imitate Matt Damon in 'Good Will Hunting' and holler:  'How'd ya like them apples?  I got her number!' - but I think ending with:  'I'm sharing numbers to fill you folks in on that pathetic man next door' would have been more appropriate.
from Giphy
I hopped back in the car while pumping my fist to Mini.  We stopped to get gas and Eddie called.  I was shoveling my dinner in while the gas was pumping and I was trying to update him on how I had entered a phone booth while he was in volleyball practice and exited with superpowers.

Ed:  Stop shouting, and are you eating something?!  Stop it - I cannot understand you.  What?!

Ed's friend in the background:  Dude, who are you talking to?

Ed:  My mother!

So now Ed's friends know that their suspicions are true and that I am a nutty lady.

I swallowed my bite of sloppy joe's because I am nothing if not a gourmet - hey, I make them from scratch and they are crowd-pleasing delicious.  I filled Ed in on the details and let him know his services were not necessary.  I pulled up next to him at a light with sloppy joe's smeared on my face and I demonstrated my boxing moves despite the fact that I am stricken with a Barbie arm.  I know my Rocky moves really impressed him because he flipped me off.  Mini just sat there shaking her head.

I came home and started kick boxing around the kitchen, which made the kids think I had really flipped my lid.  I workout daily, but I DO NOT take kick boxing class.  As a retired Irish dancer, I am still able to kick my feet up . . . it just isn't very pretty.  Never really was in my case, but that is another story.

So much adrenaline and no more meetings on my agenda to interrupt.  Barbie arm cannot be relied on to knock anyone out, so best that I reign it in.  This tennis elbow injury (and no, I don't play tennis OR kick box) makes me walk around without moving my arm past a 90 degree angle, so fixing hair and inserting a contact lens is a painful process.  Luigi is damn lucky that I wasn't fully functioning.

May 15, 2019

this just in - epic Luigi encounter: think 'Good Fellas' carpool mom style

I have a post that I keep bumping from the queue because of more pressing topics like college searches/decision, Easter invitations, and kitchen/Luigi updates.  The next post after I update you on the latest is titled 'said no wife ever' - the post is growing old, but no worries -the subject matter is timeless.  So if you find yourself tiring of my kitchen disaster, hang in there.

Or, you are new and want to review?  here or here or here or here or here or here where cops were really called, or here  or here or here or here (this is the post from Monday, so there you are all caught up). 

old news, but my view
 in my hoodless kitchen
On Monday I drove Curly to dancing and on my way home I stopped to pick up Reggie and his two buddies from a basketball clinic.  I always fear that I will forget the b-ball players because I drive to and from dancing so much, pulling off of route 83 interferes with my autopilot mode.  I have only forgotten once. 

Monday I remembered.  And I remembered that I keep meaning to pop into Luigi's store front - ya know to just say 'howdy' and maybe also mention the fact that he owes us money and he still has our brand new, still-in-the-box hood insert for our kitchen.

I drive (or fly by, as it is a busy street.  Me, speed?  You must have me confused with someone else) past his place often.  I sometimes glance to see if his car is there.  His car was NOT there Monday night, but I saw people sitting in the huge window of his storefront place.  I decided to stop. 

If I was feeling cute, I would come up
with a fun contractor joke:  how many
contractors does it take, etc? 
I got nothing though.
'Hey boys, I am just gonna pull in here really quick and see if Luigi the world's worst contractor (I think he might have claimed the #1 position ahead of our first horrid contractor.  Tough call as they are both crooks) is in his office.'  Three boys sporting BO nodded. 

Well, Luigi must have gotten a different car, because while his car wasn't there - he WAS.  Timing was perfect.  Well, it would have been more perfect if he had been sitting at the table with rolls of $1,000 bills out so I could have reimbursed myself and continued on my merry way. 

He was seated at the table with three individuals.  On the table:  architecture plans rolled out so they could all see what he was pointing at - my guess, these guys are building condos or something.  Luigi was surprised to see me. 

Luigi:  Hello.  What you want?  (thick Italian accent, think Good Fellas, I wasn't packing - only wishing I was)

Me:  Hello?  I want my hood!  And the money you owe me.  (me turning to wide eyed, blinking clients)  Whatever you do, don't give him any money!  He is a crook.  He will not show up to do the work.  There is an elderly couple in Oak Brook that is out $150,000 because he gutted their place and stopped showing up.  They live in a hotel and he TOOK THEIR MONEY!

Luigi:  You gave me the wrong specs!  (This is why I must take him to court.  What contractor tells the judge that they blame the customer for providing them with the wrong size of the hood insert?  I have all my emails where I sent him the correct invoice with the correct hood insert specs.  PLUS he had the code to my garage and could come in ANYTIME and measure the hole where said hood should in theory be, or he could look at the boxes holding the appliances that were parked in the dining room)

Me:  I did not give you the wrong specs!  #@$%!&@#

Luigi:  I spend so much. like $20,000 to make hood for you, it keep breaking.  (again with the nonsensical shit, why can't you make a hood?  why agree to make one if you can't?  I am not even being picky)

Me:  What contractor offers to make a hood, has customer pick from two hoods, and then says he cannot make hood AND REFUSES TO REIMBURSE THE CUSTOMER DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE DOESN'T DO THE WORK???!!!!  (turning to clients again)  GET OUT AND FIND SOMEONE ELSE.  YOU CAN THANK ME LATER!

Luigi:  I gonna call the police!

Me:  Go right ahead.  I will be happy to talk to the police.  (turning to clients who appeared to be having a blinking contest to see who could blink more in the span of our spat).  My lawyer doesn't even think I should bother suing him, because he is most likely uncollectable. 

A woman came out of her little receptionist office or whatever and offered to have me removed.  I looked at her and laughed, but didn't budge until I had said my piece.  Here I repeated a few things while I watched Luigi fumble around wishing he knew where his phone was so he could call the cops.

I had kids to drive home in my smelly car, so I looked at the blinkers once more - 'I hope you have not given him any money!'  And I left. 

NEVER.  FELT.  BETTER.  Well, having my kitchen done and not having to deal with this would feel better.  Because this is already longer than I intended, I will tell you more next time.  Poor little 'said no wife ever' post, bumped further out. 

Oh, the boys in the car - they could see me thru the window and they were pretty pumped up/impressed.  Turns out I am a bad ass carpool mom who can do more than just weave thru traffic in a 12 seat, white, looks-like-a-painters, far-from-a-sports-car van. 

BIGGEST REGRET:  That I didn't make Reggie come in and video the confrontation with my phone.  It was epic.  Just saying.

May 13, 2019

itigate, mitigate, alleviate, or punch-in-the-face-igate?

The end of my rope was reached so very long ago in regards to our kitchen addition/renovation that BEGAN in June of 2017.  That’s right . . . ALMOST 2 YEARS AGO!

If you have followed this unbelievable saga, then you know we rid ourselves of the first contractor who was robbing Peter to pay Paul.  He didn’t pay his subcontractors - maybe they weren’t named Peter or Paul.  Fearing a lien could be taken against our house, our neighbor sent him a letter to put an end to his nonsense. 

Next Luigi entered the picture.  That IS his real name-too perfect to change.  He was recommended by the woman who sold us our appliances.  She now regrets recommending him.  Supposedly he did beautiful work, but by the time he landed in our lives he had transitioned to a thug.  This we figured out AFTER we paid him $5,000 -a percentage of overall amount to finish up the kitchen.  Mostly just bits and pieces.  The biggest issue -we needed a hood.

That contract was signed in July.  He agreed to complete the work by mid-August.  Other highlights of our Luigi experience:  gave me 2 hood designs to choose from.  Chose one.  Then he struggled to make it, or didn’t bother to try.  Who knows.  He tried to convince us that he was having the hood made in his homeland of Italy- thus the long-ass time it was taking to make it.  In January, he brought a hood to install and the non-Italian dude who made it, and it didn’t fit.  He left my house with part of my mechanical hood insert (that had been sitting in the box for over a year in my dining room).  And that was the last time I saw him AND my $550 hood insert.  

After a very embarrassed me admitted to our kind lawyer neighbor that we found ourselves  in another contractor nightmare, he offered to once AGAIN send a letter.  This letter gave Luigi 10 days to finish the work, or return the money and the hood insert.  It was sent about 4 or 5 weeks ago.  No response.  Crickets singing in Italian, of course.  

This is a short snippet
of Luigi suggesting
 how they remade the
 hood so it would fit.
 Why create a hood
 and measure
 afterwards?  Seems
bass-ackwards to me.
Kind lawyer neighbor has advised us that we can pay $271 and take Luigi to small claims court.  Or, we can file a lawsuit and one of his associates can help us out to the tune of  $250/hour.  My fear, and kind neighbor agreed that this fear is valid, is that Luigi is uncollectable.  He did suggest that we could possibly recover some of our expenses thru the Home Repair Fraud Act or Consumer Fraud Act, but there is no guarantee. 

SO . . . what to do?  

1.  Try to find another contractor.  (this will have to happen regardless of what we do with Luigi) Demand that said contractor has 4 billion positive references and walk away from Luigi and our hard earned $5,500..  

2. file in small claims court and hope to collect from Luigi if when we win 

3.  file lawsuit and hope that we can recover our expenses AND hope to collect from Luigi.  WHEN we win

4.  contact the news stations and see if they want to knock on Luigi's door and embarrass him into giving us back our money (I did try this with the first awful contractor by submitting info to local new stations on their websites, but never heard back from any of them.  I suspect that our story is all too familiar and that the newsy-ones are those that have no running water, etc.).  My friend's sis-in-law is a reporter for NBC's news station.  Maybe reach out to her and ask what she thinks?

5.  (my favorite)  show up to Luigi's place with my tall, strong sons who happen to be carrying baseball bats and wearing sleeveless shirts (to show off the pipes) and threaten the shit out of him. 

PLEASE VOTE NOW BEFORE THE POLLS CLOSE, THANKS, signed:  all out of patience here 

May 11, 2019

humor vs punky plus a realization and a shock

Ed was irritated with me recently because a kid in Mini’s class came to the door selling coupon books to support his high school baseball team.  Ed would have preferred that I bought the coupon book from his senior buddies who are baseball players vs a freshman.

Coupons galore. 
Some softball players
caught me off guard AFTER
 I had already bought a coupon
book and I bought another
one from them.  My kids sell
crap too, so I felt obligated.
‘Isn’t that kid a punk?’ Ed snarled.  No. I didn’t think so. I turned on my heel and faced my other high schoolers who were snarfing down after school snacks. Was this coupon kid indeed a punk?

‘No, he’s hilarious,’ they both agreed.

Last year this coupon-wielding boy and Mini were voted the boy/girl most likely the be the next Jimmy Fallon in the 8th grade superlatives.  

As an aside, (because I specialize in those) I was shocked when Mini came home and told me about the vote. My response, ‘You mean you talk at school? Like other people hear you speak?’  I had no idea that she came out of her shell at school and spoke loud enough for kids outside of her circle to hear.

I believe that birth order is to blame for why our family rarely associates Mini with having a strong sense of humor.  Tank was born 16 months before Mini. From a comedic standpoint, he is a tough act to follow.

Coach and I rotate taking a
different kid to breakfast
 each month so they all score
coveted alone time
 with us - really, they are in
it for the food.  This
 stuffed caramel french toast
is what Tank
ordered last weekend at a place
where we used a coupon.
At our dinner table, you have to be pretty aggressive and quick witted to get the floor and score a laugh. I literally stood in my kitchen and froze in a state of total surprise when my kid told me she was voted the funniest girl in her class.  I guess that’s better than discovering that your kid is on drugs. Still, I felt kind of lousy. How did I not know my kid was funny?

Ed was confused when Tank and Mini insisted that coupon kid is indeed funny and not punky.  

‘He is? His brother isn’t funny at all. He’s my age and he is pretty serious . . .’ Then Ed's voice trailed off.  ‘Oh, well,’ he shrugged.

I had never considered this before, but a parallel example occurred to me and I shared it with Ed. ‘Well, imagine what people say about Tank - and how he is your brother, and  . . . ‘

‘Yeah, I get it.  I just realized,' Ed understood where I was going with this.

Enough said.  Ed has a sense of humor, but he is known as being very dependable and straight as an arrow.  Tank is known throughout the school as being an unpredictable joker who would do anything for a laugh - a trait that frightens his family members who care about his well-being and our family reputation.  

My coupon booklet purchase was forgiven and Ed had a self revelation.  Everyone could support contributing to a character - just not a punk. As a mother, I knew the difference.  Come on Ed, give me some credit.

May 9, 2019

misconstrued text, late to the party, why not morph?

Why oh why did Eddie choose X University?  Arriving late to this discussion:  check out the background and come right back over here.  Do it now, it will just take a minute!  We're waiting.

I think Grid joined the party a little late.  He was 99% sure he was going to X.  He envisioned himself there.  Then Grid started to throw tuition money and scholarship offerings at him - um, in late APRIL.  It was hard to change his mindset.  He knows people going to X from his class and he knows kids that are already there.  After poling several students, he learned that they all really liked it.

He has also gotten lots of feedback from people involved in the Full Ride Scholarship (the one that he didn't get this year, but he could apply for again next year).  The advice:  should our finances go back to normal (aka:  suckie), which they did - then he should try again.  He knows he may not get the scholarship, but he liked that the business school ranks so highly and he is confident that even without free tuition for the last 3 years, he will be glad he chose to attend X.  It may cost more, but the graduates tend to earn higher salaries upon graduation than those from Grid.

I'm not gonna lie.  It was tough.  It was totally his decision.  Thank the good Lord, because I could not have decided this one.  Coach did a great job or not swaying him towards Grid even though it was his alma matre.  He did suggest to Ed that if he was that uncertain, he could go back out and take a second look at Grid - 8 hours away and all.

Busy, busy time of year.  At least
 it finally stopped raining and
the sun came out for the
prom picture extravaganza.
Coach said last minute offerings were no reason to turn them down - go visit!  Ed passed on going out there again.  It IS a busy time of year - prom, volleyball tournaments, AP exams.  Not really the easiest time to peel a senior away from his 'stuff' to go look at a school.

The student at Grid, who served as the intern to the man who gave Ed the awesome scholarship, was so incredibly impressive.  She blew Ed away.  In the end, he kept leaning towards X but he felt BAD turning down what Grid was offering him.

He and I texted back and forth about college choices a few weeks ago while I was at the zoo with the tots.  Texts, as you may have experienced, can be easily misconstrued.  So, I asked Ed to clarify one of his texts.  He texted back:  'I am not thinking about X anymore.'

I was like, 'WHAT?'  But, I didn't type anything close to that.  I turned to Becky, my fearless babysitting compadre, and said, 'I think I am going to go throw up now.'

I did not know that I felt that strongly about which college Ed went to, but apparently I cared more than I knew.  Ultimately he chose X and that didn't sit right with me either, even though it was my top choice.  I hated to see him walk away from a college that clearly valued him.  Ed thought I was rooting for Grid all along.  Not true.  I finally told him that I just wished he could take the best components of each school and morph them into the perfect college.

I think he will be very happy at X.  Now, getting used to not having him around in the fall . . . another story ENTIRELY.  (soft sobbing)