April 19, 2019

Mr. Diversity High School (drum roll, please)

I am getting to the point, promise - but first a little background information on Tank and Conrad.  The high school has a fundraiser each February.  Senior men compete for a title to be Mr. Diversity High School.  Over the years it has grown into a memorable tradition - one that gives those daring enough to enter an opportunity to showcase their sense of humor thru a series of skits.  

Conrad entered the competition and he recruited Tank and another one of Ed’s good buddies (another senior) to accompany him for his talent portion of the event.  Tank attended a few practices, but would not reveal any details. Top secret. Then Conrad got sick and wasn’t able to coordinate any more practices. He feared that his talent segment would not come off great if it wasn’t in perfect sync, so he opted to just demonstrate his talent solo without his accompaniments.  

I attended the competition.  Ed had a small part in one of his other friend’s skits. When Conrad got on stage dressed in a sleeveless leotard with tights, I almost fell off my chair.  He had a long, twirly, rainbow colored streamer at the end of a stick. Not sure what legitimate terminology is associated with this talent. I believe that gymnast sometimes use similar props when they perform during their floor routine, if that helps you visualize it.  

Conrad is not a gymnast.  He lunged, leaped, and hopped his heart out all the while rhythmically twirling the streamer.  It was extremely entertaining. He is now officially Mr. Diversity High School 2019. Obviously.  He earned that trophy, people.

My high school kids sat with their friends in the auditorium. I offered to drive Mini and Tank home while Ed celebrated with his buddies.  On our walk to the car, I asked Tank what his role was supposed to be in Conrad’s um, exhibition. He glanced at me dead pan, ‘I was supposed to do the streamer thing with him and Robbie.’  What?! I asked him what he was going to wear, had the three of them pulled it off. ‘Same thing as Conrad,' he shrugged.

The thought of Tank parading around on stage in a leotard with tights left me flabbergasted.  ‘Yeah, I’m bummed. It would have been hilarious. Our practice sessions went well, but we just didn’t have enough time to pull if off.  If our act wasn’t good, then it wouldn’t have been funny,' Tank explained.

I beg to differ. Three guys on stage doing that ‘routine’, even if they were not totally in sync, would have been gut-splitting. I mean one was enough, but three? I fear what Tank will come up with over the next two years, because he is just the kind of goofball that will give the Mr. Diversity High School competition his all.

April 17, 2019

tracking Tank

This is what the unfinished kitchen (imagine
what it will be like when I don't preface the
word 'kitchen' with 'unfinished'.  Dare to dream)
 looked like just before we left town.  I pulled out
 all the leftovers and told everyone to dig in.
  I packed some of the food to take with us- we
brought all of our food and ate two dinners out
- only because we were on the road.
We left home on Thursday at 5:15 for Tampa from Chicago knowing full well that Tank’s flight (also to Florida, but with a friend) was not scheduled to depart until early Sunday morning.  Spoiler alert? I think you know where this is headed, but there is much more to the story and the best part is the picture - but I will not reveal that until the end of the story, so hang in there.

Neil, Tank's friend who he was going to Florida with (it helps if you read the previous post- come on now, keep up!) was swimming at swim championships in Orlando the first weekend of break. Tank would fly down with Neil’s dad and sister, Margo, and meet up with Neil and his mom on Sunday.  Confused?

Well, here's what is important: in order for us to leave town I had to have lots of ducks in a row. Ed going to Europe. Phone calls checking in with Lad to make sure he was aware of his flight times, etc. to/from New York/Montana.  In addition, no one would be home to look after Tank/keep him out of trouble/donuts or whatever else he found in the pantry that he could ingest in its entirely. What to do?

Coach suggested my folks.  That made me chuckle. My parents are on the older side of old nowadays. Mom does not even help shuffle my kids to or from a practice at the local high school a few miles from her house, let alone have one of my sloppy, drippy, crumb-making, stain-creating kids stay the night at her home. Especially Tank. Not gonna happen.

I was pulling the Tampa-bound kids out of school on Friday.  It was only a half day. If Tank was still in town, then he could attend the half day kindly hosted by the high school - I assume to keep kids busy when their parents were already heading to Florida, but were driving because no one invited them to fly down (we did pay for Tank's flight with Neil's family- just to clarify. Buying airfare for the rest of us was not in the budget, and this was a budget trip).

A few weeks in advance, I texted a friend whose son Conrad, is one of Ed’s best buddies. Conrad (a senior) enjoys the younger, goofier Tank. A lot. In fact, Conrad’s friendship with Tank has irked Ed at times. When Ed and I were out east looking at schools, Ed got annoyed because he saw on Snapchat that Tank was hanging with all of his senior buddies at Conrad’s house.  Of course.

Conrad is the student body president. He started a school spirit-building Instagram campaign in the fall and made Tank his leading star. Tank appeared in clips doing his best imitation of Fat Bastard with quotes like: ‘I’m gonna put you in my belly!’ and some other assorted nonsense. I have never seen the movie all the way thru, but I am told Tank does a great imitation. Of course. Yes, I am proud. Thanks for asking.

April 15, 2019

a spring break that only Rand McNally could track

Not sure if you can see that - next to my
big ass cup - a huge tangle of cords.
 The pitfall to not being a driver, having
to navigate the cords and chargers!
There we were, speeding along the expressway (don’t worry, Coach was driving - not the queen of tickets - I assume you are familiar with this story, but just in case. If you are new here, then there are several posts after this one that are pretty unreal) about 4 hours into our long road trip to Tampa from Chicago for spring break.

Curly had already begun to beg for me to plug in the DVD player so she and Reg could watch a movie. I felt it was a bit premature for a movie. We just got in the car.  I was into my book. Digging thru the stuff piled at my feet to uncover the DVD player and struggling to plug it into the lighter thingie in a tangle of cords for GPS and phone chargers did not appeal to me.  Hey, I had expended a ton of energy to get us and all of our gear and our mountains of provisions into the car. I wanted to relax.

That’s when my phone delivered a ping signaling that I had a text message.  It was from a friend of mine who was watching the Chicago Blackhawks game on TV.  She took a picture of the TV screen and sent it to us.

We were surprised at who was nestled between two TV announcers (no - not these animals - that is Yellowstone, silly!) - well, in the background of the two announcers but looking as if this individual might be depositing himself between them in the foreground not the background.  

Big horn sheep - some day I will tell
 you about my family vacations to
national parks as a child and my dad's
 quest to see big horn fricking sheep!

Our trip to Tampa only included our three youngest.  It was a treat to rent an airbnb that would fit 5 of our fam instead of all 8 of us.  Don’t worry, we didn’t ditch anyone - well, not exactly.

Some of these pics were taken by
Laddie and some were taken
 by his buddy.  Pretty cool, huh?

Lad had a different spring break then the rest of the kids.  He had flown out to Montana to visit his best friend from high school who goes to school there.  Their adventures included Yellowstone.

Guess how I am coping with my
decision to cancel the family Yellowstone
 trip for this summer.  Well, postpone.
  I'm fine.  Really.  These
photos aren't making
 me the least bit antsy.

Ed was off to Europe with a school sponsored trip geared towards foreign language students.  He and I exchanged a glance at the meeting when the head chaperone encouraged all the students to use their language skills.  Um, Eddie is a 4th year Latin student.

Then there was Tank.  This is the 3rd consecutive year that his buddy from grade school, Neil, who now goes to a Catholic high school, has invited Tank to travel over spring break with his family.  They were in Hilton Head one year and last year and this year two different locations in Florida.

These people consider Tank another member of their family. I consider it a gift in and of itself when someone likes one of my kids THAT much. What makes it an even better treat is that while Tank is VERY entertaining and keeps life jazzy as Hell, we could all use a teeny break from his antics and tough-to-live with issues.  Neil’s mom always thanks me for allowing Tank to travel with them. I always insist that WE are the ones who are incredibly grateful to them for taking our quirky son with them.

My blog is struggling with
 the number of pics I added here,
 so Ed's Europe trip pics will need to
 be shared at another time.  So sorry -
 this post is turning into the ultimate
 cliff hanger.  I am guessing you
 are going to survive though.
Exhibit A:  I was able to buy donuts for breakfast at the grocery store this morning in Tampa, and NOT have to hide them.  Only Tank would eat all the donuts in a box and later claim that he din’t know that the other kids hadn’t had any.  

So who appeared on screen during a Blackhawks home game over spring break? The answer to that riddle coming soon . . .

April 13, 2019

When priority mail is not a priority

This was the phto I snapped just before
 we left for the post office.  Dresses are
 worn pretty short in dancing these
days, but this was ridiculous.
 I asked for another inch.
In case you didn't visit here the other day, Curly's Irish dancing dress needed to be let down before she dances at World Championships Ap;ril 14th.

I know a lady that can let the dress down locally, but I really wanted the original DG (dress guy in Belfast) to fix it.  I felt like the work would be better if the guy that created the dress altered it. I emailed DG in early March.  ‘If I send you the dress tomorrow, will you have time to let it down an inch and then bring it with you when you come to World Championships?’  

He emailed me back.  ‘Sure send it over.’ I consulted with Curly’s dance teacher as to whether or not there was a specific carrier I should use, or just the United States post office.  She texted back that the post office was fine. It cost me $75 to mail it priority on March 5th. Ouch.

Almost two weeks later, I typed in the tracking numbers to see if it had been delivered.  It showed that they tried to deliver the dress on March 17th. A Sunday. St. Patrick's Day, no less! What? No further attempts had been made even though at this point it was Thursday.  Huh?

We do love this dress!
I emailed DG.  That is when he shared that he was not going to be attending World Championships in North Carolina this year.  (Last year it was in Scotland - remember? I am so embracing the almost 'local' venue this year). He also pointed out that the postal service wanted 160 pounds to get the dress thru customs. Guess how many tines in the last 10 years I have felt like Irish dancing is the most expensive activity known to man? No one mentioned expensive customs fees when I considered my alteration options. That made no sense. He asked me to contact my post office and see where the dress was. The minute the post office opened, I was on the phone.  

They were nice, but they admitted that they couldn’t do much once the dress was in the UK.  Um, what? They agreed to send an email. Then this postal worker read a statement that said the UK would respond within 30 days, she assured me -as she sensed my growing hysteria, that the 30 day part was a policy. We would undoubtedly hear before that. I was shaking.

I sent a few more emails to DG in the UK.  I carbon copied Curly’s teacher on every email.  Secret message implied: 'Hey, DG - if you want one of my fellow dancing friends to buy a dress from you, you better sit up and pay attention.  Damn it.' I asked him to kindly get in touch with the postal service on his end, because my post office suggested that this would be the solution. All this was taking place while I was on spring break, um, 'relaxing.' I didn't dare tell Curly.

Thank goodness I kept track of
 this receipt from March 3rd!
He finally admitted that the dress was held up because they were waiting for the customs fees to be paid.  Well, what the HELL!? Our window of time for the dress to be fixed and on hand before Curly wears it on April 14th shrunk when I learned that DG is not flying in to Greensboro with it (yes, Beth and Gigi - World Championships are being held in Greensboro this year).  He now needs time to repair it, and ship it back. Pay the flipping fees and get your hands on the dress DG!

He was apparently worried that he was going to be stuck with the customs bill.  Do I dare point out that had he created the dress to fit her right the first time, neither of us would be footing the bill for this customs nonsense or freight?!  What I did point out to him was that no one had requested the money from me. I had no link. My pay-pal request. I would not know where to begin to send the money.  Pay for it, damn it. I will get you the money, because if there is one thing I have learned about Irish dancing - money is no object. Hard to believe that I have been involved in this mess for over 10 years.  Luck of the Irish, my foot.

The dress arrived on Tuesday April 2nd altered perfectly. We leave to drive to NC on the 12th. It is as if the magic of leprechaun gold is sprinkled on me causing me to forgive all the stress and patiently await the ridiculous bill. Silly Coach. I have apparently been drinking the Kool-Aid for years.

April 11, 2019

drinking the Kool-Aid

This is one of our favorites.  We
bought it used from someone in
 Belfast.  I think I held my breath for
weeks until it arrived and it literally fit
 perfectly.  Such a relief!  Now, I
cannot sell it and it is
 beautiful and still current.

While I am a fan of the used dress circuit when it comes to purchasing a dress for my Irish dancer, I folded in July and ordered a custom made dress for Curly from Belfast. Coach had one thing to say to me when I told him (while cringing) that I was ordering her a new dress. 'That's it then. You are drinking the Kool-Aid.'

Buying a new dress has its perks. For starters, when selling a used dress the buyer wants to know if you had the dress made or if you are already the second owner. If you bought it used, then this is the equivalent to admitting that the dress is nearing antique status. (Irish dancing dress styles change in the blink of an eye and no one wants last year's beauty. Unfortunately). So, I can buy a pricey dress brand new and have an easier time selling it (let's hope - this is my first time), OR I can buy a still-pretty-pricey dress and have a really tough time unloading it. Now my ‘bargain’ dress is not such a great deal, as I am stuck with it. Thus, the bargain dresses that we bought used, loved, and then tried to sell that are still taking up real estate in my closet despite numerous price drops.

Mini's last dress before she retired.
  Still own this one too. 
I have lowered the prices
on these dresses.
It is more economical to fork over some serious coin upfront and get something back later vs paying slightly less for a used dress that might need alterations, and when it is time to sell being stuck holding the bag, or in this case the dress.  Follow? (insert sound of Coach pouring me Kool-Aid here).

This one - oh my.  Mini's first dress
 as a 7 year old, I think.  It is a
relic that will never be worn again
unless as a Halloween costume.  Shortly
after I bought this used dress they changed
the rules so that young girls could
not wear sparkles in our region.
 Can you say 'stuck'! 
Curly’s new dress arrived from Belfast a few short weeks before she competed at regional championships back in November.  It fit her. Barely. The dress maker measured her in July when we were in Orlando for that nightmare trip, remember - when I lost the important dance bag?  Well, guess what? Curly grew a lot between July and November. That’s what 10 year olds specialize in. Some dress makers will take a second set of measurements before they finalize the dress.  Not this guy.

I was not thrilled about paying for a new dress that would not fit for very long.  Truth be told, at the level that Curly dances at her teacher will not allow her to wear the same dress for too long. Top dancers must stay current. Puke. Can I have some popcorn with my Kool-Aid?

Preparing for World Championships
in North Carolina.  Wig.  check.  Sprakle socks.  check.
  Fancy headpiece.  check.  Can you say:  DRESS?!
I emailed the dress guy (let’s call him DG) to let him know that the dress barely fit her.  I asked him if he would be able to meet me at the November competition, and take the dress back with him to Belfast. Lots of dress makers have booths set up at these competitions to showcase their wares. He wasn’t coming in town for regionals. Damn.

Then it fell off my radar.  Did you know that I used to have 5 of my 6 kids in Irish dancing?  Now I am down to one. Life is busy with other things and lots of older kids’ activities.  So an Irish dancing dress that won’t be needed until World Championships in April was not a huge priority in early December.  Until - um, she tried the dress on in early March. The teacher was like, ‘Well, maybe it is OK that it is so short on her, but it is really, really short.’  Crap.
I know you know this, but: 

If I had my way, only dancers at the top level would be allowed to order new dresses. Then the other dancers are forced to buy repeat dresses. Great idea, right? The teachers would never go for it. Too hard to police, and they do not want to tick off the dress makers who would be practically out of business. You would not believe the number of dresses people like me lug to competitions to toss on a used sales rack and hope for the best. It is maddening.

Anyway, tune in next time to read about the panic that ensued when Curly's dress was not delivered.

April 9, 2019

rethinking or retooling, but always reloading

Well, this could not look creepier. 
This is Becky's brood and my
tots on a combined outing. 
Yes, that is a 4 kid stroller.
I must admit, I am rethinking my 'career'. While I prefer babysitting for 'normal' families, how do I know if a family is normal or not before I agree to sit for them? I prefer for a family to stick around for a few years or more, but that is not always the case. I had the crazy people leave in December this year and more recently had the fake-financial-issues family leave too.

Too bad rearranging dishwashers full of dirty dishes in order to accommodate even MORE dirty dishes doesn't translate into profitable job opportunities. I would be in high demand.

I worked hard to buy these 3
second hand high
 chairs that fold up easy as pie
 (and sprinkle uneaten goldfish all over
 the place in the process) before
I haul them into the dining room
for the weekend.
I doubt I am going to retire from my babysitting gig. I have all the gear imaginable. I have tons of experience. I have summers off! And, I get to spend lots of time with my good friend, Becky. Becky also babysits primarily for teachers' kids. My little guys and her little guys have a blast when we plan zoo trips, library visits, park rendezvous, and play dates in my basement every few days. Becky and I are on the same page, and we help each other out whenever possible. Who doesn't need a warm body to stand next to a stroller while the other babysitter hustles into the nearest bathroom with the tykes that 'gotta-go'!

I would TOTALLY prefer to write all day and get my manuscript ready to send off to an editor who would undoubtedly be excited and thrilled to receive it (wink, wink - hey, I need a shot in the arm at the moment, work with me here). If it weren't for that damn that college tuition. I cannot exactly afford to forgo making ANY money right now.

Maybe I just retool my school year sitting services next year. Should I take a month upfront and request that people sign a contract? Then if they leave mid-year they don’t get their deposit back.  Hate to do that. I don't want to give new families the impression that they might not be overjoyed with my care.

I know from experience that it takes several interested families to get to the desired number of families to sign on with me. Remember last year? I met with a family who was wild about me, but the mom was BFFs with Self-Taught. Once I fired Self-Taught's dad as my first crappy contractor the wild about me mom jumped ship.

A family I sat for this year is not coming back next year because of logistics - even though they are crazy about me. She teaches at my kids' high school and lives in the city. It will be easier for her next year to bring Billy to the same Montessori school that his older brother goes to. Of course, she is normal (aside from being a fan of the Montessori concept) - so, that bites for me.

Yes, this pic is blurry.  At least I did
not have to hide anyone's faces here.
What would I do if 

I had to pack up all these
 kid toys once and for all?
Other high school teachers are youngish and newly married. Perhaps it is best to be patient and wait for them to have babies. Also, people were still calling me in August looking for care, but my home was busting at the seams with little people.

In the meantime, I have this new baby who was born in October.  He is a tough customer who comes here a few times a week. His tummy troubles cause him to not want to eat.  I have mostly figured him out, and he usually eats for me. The dad texted me recently, ‘You are the best.
Now that made my day - although I don't know that I am 'the best' - unless we are talking about packing obscene amounts of dirty dishes in the dishwasher. In that case, if the title fits!


April 7, 2019

solving riddles and good riddance

When Lynn came to pick up her two kids on Mondays and Fridays, Eddie noted that she always acted like she was at a funeral, ‘How did it go?  She would speak in whispered, hushed tones to Jimmy to gage how he survived.

Meanwhile one of my kids would retrieve her overweight (but very sweet 20 month old) from her nap.  Her chubby baby will be 2 in July and still takes a bottle. Not on my watch. Lynn gave me a cup early on and said she was trying to get her off the bottle. Enough said. A few weeks later, I gave Lynn back the bottle. Chubs drank from a cup solely at my house.

Based on tidbits that Jim told me, I have formed a few of my own theories about why they opted out of my babysitting service with only two and a half months of school remaining.
* Jimmy told me that next school year his Mommy is retiring.  If he is right about this, then perhaps she approached her parents suggesting that if they could just finish out the babysitting for the school year, then she would be staying home next year and they would be relieved of duties all together. I imagine this was prefaced with, 'You know how much Jimmy hates going there.'

* Jimmy claims that he might be attending Catholic school for kindergarten in the fall.  They were still deciding. Maybe they decided that if they were going to spring for Catholic school, then they could cut my sitting services out of the equation to be more financially prepared for his tuition in the fall.  Still, this doesn't fall into 'we are having financial issues' - especially since they committed to me for the school year.

Why I do NOT believe that their finances are dire:
  1. They FLEW to Florida for spring break.
  2. Both kids got motorized cars for Christmas.
  3. Both parents work.  He is a lawyer.
  4. The remaining weeks of the school year were not going to make or break this family.  Two days a week of childcare does not equate to much - especially when they get the other 3 days a week for free. Trust me here, my fees are not out of control.
  5. I think it was an easy out - like, ‘Well, if we say we have money trouble, then Ernie can’t say anything.’  vs. If they said ‘Jimmy just isn’t happy here', I could try to fix it.
  6. They have never paid for childcare until now and I suspect that they didn’t like it. Perhaps Lynn struggled to leave her kids with someone who was not family. (I would have struggled with this too, but I would not classify that issue as a financial difficulty. I was the queen of scraping and saving because I stayed home with our gang).
On the plus side:  
  1. One afternoon I sketched these animals
    and then hid the toys that coordinated with
     the drawings and invited Jimmy to search for
     them in the basement. 
    Over and above?  I think!
    I no longer need to jump thru hoops and create scavenger hunts and building challenges for him.  (And feign interest when he wants to chat about little old man topics like traffic patterns in the area and his sister’s upcoming flu shot appointment)
  2. There is not much of the school year left.
  3. They were not part of my original childcare duties - they were added in late August.  It was nice to have the added, unexpected income for the majority of the school year.
  4. Soon the weather will be out-doorsie and I can visit parks more often which will give my remaining preschooler opportunities to play with other kids his age as he is currently trapped in baby-land and missing his buddy Jimmy.
On the bummer side:
  1. front and back, people!
    After Christmas when the triplets quit, I rearranged Harriet and Joey's days so that Joey and Jimmy landed on the same day once a week vs. never. Now Joey is left wondering where his buddy is and he is lonely. Thanks, Lynn!
  2. I tend to be sensitive and while I get lots of positive feedback from the other families, I will always wonder if Lynn left because Jimmy would rather be at his grandparents house and I wasn’t doing enough to engage him.  The way this school year has rolled, my babysitting self confidence is shot.

Trust me, I create a fun atmosphere that is very homelike for these little rascals while their folks are off working.  We do all the fun things I used to do with my gang. I know I am partial, but I do think that these people are lucky to have me, and that their little guys are benefiting from the social interactions with the friends they have at my house.

For Jimmy and Maddy's last day, I bought little sidewalk chalk boxes for them. Jimmy thanked me for being his babysitter, but I thought it was in very poor taste when Lynn did not pass me a hand written thank you note - or mailed one later. I have cared for her kids for most of the school year. Like, CARED for them! You don't write a thank you note for that?

Good riddance.