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.

November 29, 2017

stress headache - but I was trying not to be stressed!

I have almost recovered from the exhausting weekend of Irish dancing championships.  I'm getting caught up on sleep, I managed to squeeze in a couple of loads of laundry, and I have high hopes that my nagging headache will soon release me from its powerful grip.

Coach had a bad cold that started on black Friday.  It turns out that a man with a cold, who had to work like 14 hours the day after Thanksgiving followed by a shift on Saturday really can make a day feel black.  When my head started throbbing on Saturday I feared that this was the beginning of cold symptoms that he may have shared with me.  I did not want to deal with a cold while I was trying to cheer on the girls on Sunday.

So no, I didn't get the cold but the damn headache has been coming and going every since.  Mornings start out OK, but as the day wears on my eyes feel sucked into my skull and the pressure in my noggin is bone crushing.

I've had a headache like this before, but I couldn't remember at first how I survived it - or what I decided was the root of it.  I blame the distracting throbbing of my head for my memory loss here.  Since I'm married to a physical therapist, I requested constant deep massages to help relieve the pain.  And it worked . . . temporarily.  I kept wondering if I could be coming down with a sinus infection, but I never got Coach's cold.  Could severe muscle strain from a bootybarre class be to blame?  I don't do bootybarre all that often, so I thought I tensed up too much in the shoulders while I was strengthening my poor booty. 

I may not drink caffeine often, but
I need to make a mental note
 that this can help my stress headaches. 
Because, hey - life is stressful. 
I think it is remarkable that I haven't
had one for almost a year.  And to think,
I was MUCH less stressed than
normal about the dancing competition. 
I forced myself to relax, because it just isn't worth it.  
Then I remembered in a moment of clarity late last night that the last time I felt this way, I saw a doctor.  It started last Christmas and on my birthday, December 30th, I surrendered and made an appointment to seek professional help.  She thought I had a migraine headache brought on by stress.  Stress?  At Christmas?  What?  Oh, last Christmas was a doozie.  My hubby might be great at massaging muscles, when I beg enough or when I am rendered completely helpless by a horrific head ache, but he has no involvement with gifting, wrapping, buying, baking, envelope stuffing, addressing, etc.

Last year the doctor suggested I drink caffeine to get rid of my on-going headache.  Caffeine is not one of my vices, buy I got almost instant relief.

You better believe that as soon as I am out of my pajamas this morning, I am running out to get an ice cold coke.

Please stay tune for an update on how the girls did at dancing championships.  Promise to share soon . . .

November 25, 2017

Laddie's headdress photo abyss

Just showing the quarters I used
when baking pumpkin bread.
Great news:  Laddie got our care package on time.  I drove to the post office on Monday morning to  mail him the box with the 3 loaves of pumpkin bread and the fabulously hilarious Native American headdresses.  They were going to charge me $18 for 2 day service.  Perfect.  BUT - they wouldn't guarantee the 2 day deal.  What?

Well, what good is pumpkin bread and humorous Thanksgiving head-wear the day after Thanksgiving?  That just wouldn't do.

The monotone postal worker (whose face must have frozen in that pouty-puss-like expression despite her mother's constant warnings not to keep pouting or her face would stay that way . . . wait, she works at your post office too?  CRAZY!), offered to charge me $64 to overnight it.

I was babysitting for the two tykes.  Translation:  I had dragged them out of their carseats along with the box into the post office.  And I had waited in line.  And I was about to fork out 64 bucks and just chalk it up as a rookie-mom-with-a-college-kid-far-away mistake.  I would vow never to try to ship something in 2 days again.  Then I had a thought.

My friendly postal worker allowed me to step aside while I called UPS.  How was that for shocking?  UPS would ship it in two days GUARANTEED for 15 bucks.  Done.  Well, accept for the part where I had to haul my young charges and my box over there, etc.- but you get the idea.

Depending on Lad's mood, we figured he could toss our project in the trash, or he could find it funny and share it with his friends.  He seemed to enjoy the package and promised to pass the hats out at the Thanksgiving feast he and his friends were having - AND take pictures.

See - we aren't drunk when cutting
out feathers for the hats - just blurry.
We exchanged texts a few times on turkey day.  When asked about producing photos of the fanfare with the hats, he assured me he would take pictures but the hat thing wouldn't be happening until some adult beverages were flowing.  Fair enough - although we were sober when we made them and we found them very entertaining.  'Just add alcohol' - not part of the instructions.

He did make me chuckle when he texted me late in the afternoon for my yummy rice broccoli casserole recipe.  I still haven't gotten the skinny on whether or not he was trying to whip that up at the last minute, or just trying to rattle off ingredients to a female guest so he could act like he knew a thing or two in the casserole department.

Dining room table/dance supply central.
It is now Saturday evening, and still no pictures.  He swears that they wore the hats and that photos were snapped.  He is fuzzy on who used their phone to take these photos.  Adult beverages playing a role, perhaps. 

This situation is reminding me of another Laddie missing photo, and I will describe that to you in an upcoming post.  I don't have time right now because, this was supposed to be a quick update, (drum roll) . . .

Bedazzled everything - check!
Tomorrow I have two dancers competing in the Midwest Oireachtas - for those of you who care about your life savings and haven't enrolled your children in Irish dancing classes - is the Midwest Irish Dancing championships.  It is a very stressful event.  Happily it is local for us this year, but I need to leave the house at 5:30 am. - with two sleepyhead dancers in tow.  We don't expect to arrive home until after 10:30 pm.  It's only 35 minutes from our house.  Long day?  Why not?

I've been busy preparing for this day- that I dread all year.  Shining shoes, changing out laces, purchasing new bedazzled socks, packing snacks, making lists of things to remember, etc.  Enjoy your turkey leftovers, your early Christmas shopping, and your chilling out on the couch, but think of me.