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September 25, 2018

Feverish budgeteers

We dosed Mini with Motrin.  It was July 1st- the day of our flight.  She was feeling a bit better.  Not
 100%.  July 2nd would be our get acclimated day.  Mini was scheduled to dance in Championships on the 3rd.  Curly would dance on the 4th.   Our flight home was at 5 am on the 5th.  Short and sweet and exhausting.

This picture tells it all.  Check out all
 of our crap necessary for 2 days of
dancing and no fun at the theme parks.
Hotel strike 1:  Our hotel room had this funky sliding wall with slats.  Not sure what Chip and Joanne Gaines would say about it.  The door slid back and forth to divide the bathroom area from the rest of the room.  The actual bathroom was toilet and shower only.  I prefer a bathroom to have a door that separates the entire area from the living space.  Give me a toilet, sink. mirror, shower - the whole shebang in one room.  I was not a fan of this set up.

Hotel strike 2:  I thought a walkway connected our Double Tree Hotel to the convention center where the dancing took place.  I asked about that specifically when I made my reservation.  Of course I preferred to stay at the hotel that was in the convention center.  So did thousands of other visitors.  The rooms reserved in the hotel at the convention center were gone in seconds once they opened the block of rooms.  We ended up at the Double Tree.  Recalling my conversation with the reservation guy, I should have asked if there was a 'skywalk' instead of a walk way.  Wrong terminology.  My fault.

We arrived to Orlando in the early evening.  Went to bed.  The next day we went to the convention center to get the lay of the land and buy our program.  It was 9 in the morning.  The convention center was less than 3/4 of a mile walk from the Double Tree.  I wanted to see if we could walk it and bypass paying for a taxi.  There would, after all, be several back and forth trips necessary.  I was TRYING  to do Irish dancing on a budget, remember?  Unheard of, but try I would.

We, the budgeteers (not to be confused with Mouseketeers), arrived soaked in our own sweat.  It was THAT humid so early in the morning!  CRAZY!  I missed the non-existent skywalk.

You can barely make out the black and red
t-shirts that the boys were wearing as
 they worked their way through
 the overgrowth back in 2016.
A quick memory from our 2016 visit to Orlando.  We stayed at a hotel called the Royal Caribe.  Or something.  On our 'get the lay of the land day' I suggested that the four of us walk to the convention center.  The boys were not interested in coming to the dancing early, so I wanted to see if walking between our hotel and the convention center was doable.

Um, there were no sidewalks, walkways, or dare-to-dream skywalks.  We were walking on the shoulder of like a highway.  On our return walk back to the hotel, (because I was not willing to call uncle just yet), the boys tried to avoid walking too close to the road.  They veered off behind some tall grass became thicker.  Eventually that tall grass divided where the girls and I were walking and where the boys were SINKING.  The little bit of grass that they were walking on gradually transformed into a swamp.  They had to wade thru the tall grass and reeds by following our voices in order to pop out on the more civilized side near the road where cars were buzzing by us at 70 miles an hour.
My prep area.  Next to the sink there was a
microwave and fridge area (to the right in
this picture, off camera. Just too tight to
 get all the angles).  I hoped the non-aesthetic
 sliding door would work its magic.

This was weeks after the little boy was attacked and killed at a Disney resort by an alligator.  Let's just say we opted for the pricey cab ride from there on out!

Back in present day, I asked one of the assistant teachers to handle hair and makeup for both girls.  I had asked many times what time she would want them to meet with her.  The day before she texted to say she wanted Mini to be at the convention center at 4 am.  The insanity never ends.  4 am?  How could they dance if they woke up in the middle of the night?

She adjusted the time slightly.  I rushed the girls to bed early so we could pretend to be rested the next day when Mini danced.  I slid the goofy slatted door into place so that I could wake up early (understatement) and prepare breakfast and shower pretending not to wake them.

September 23, 2018

when in Rome? (the Mickey version)

Irish Dancing National Championships are always schedule over July 4th.  They were held in Orlando two short years ago.  For 2018 we were headed back to Orlando!  Why would they schedule  at the same place so soon?  I couldn't justify the cost of visiting the parks in Orlando this time around, but of course I toyed with it.

I don't think I was trying to avoid their faces
 - just a misfire
2016 Splash Mountain. 
Mini's ear, Reggie's shoulder, Curly's curls,
 and that might be my knee or my elbow
blocking Tank's arm.
Back in 2016, I brought the four youngest to Nationals.  Curly was my only dancer eligible to compete that year.  I brought all 4 kids to the parks for two days after Curly danced.  It was a blast.  Exhausting, but fun!

Our former sitter is NOT
wearing a dress.
  He is in the tux.  Curly
was so crazy about
 him (when she was 3)
that he joked with
 me on the dance
 floor at the reception
 that he told his bride
  he suspected Curly wore
 a white dress to the
 wedding mass (she
didn't come to the
 reception) out of protest
 of their wedding.  Ha!
Our former babysitter was getting married this summer on July 7th.  I planned to be back from Orlando for the wedding.  Visiting a theme park during the days leading up to a big competition was out of the question.  I considered squeezing in the Magic Kingdom after the dancing wrapped up on July 4th, but there wasn't much time to pull it off and make the wedding back home. 

I would have felt compelled to bring Reggie along if I added Mickey Mouse to our agenda.  The added cost of another plane ticket plus the added aggravation of having a former Irish dancing brother tag along and be forced to sit thru two days of competition made my head spin.

See -look how much fun we were
 having in 2016!  Awesome smiles in
front of the magic
 carpet ride.  Oh, how I wanted
to go back.  Damn budget.
To cope with my indecisiveness, I lined up the three youngest.  (Sorry, Tank.  He was not being considered for this trip).  I rattled off various scenarios. 

Reggie agreed.  Sitting thru dancing for two days to attend Disney for one day wasn't worth it.  Mini voted loud and clear.  No parks.  She reasoned aloud:  1.  It was too much money.  2.  We had just done Disney.  3.  It would only make me crazy.  (Who me?).  Curly agreed with the other two, but she sort of shot Mini a look that said, 'Hey, are we really turning down Disney here?'

That was it.  Orlando would be limited to a dancing focus only.  Reggie would stay home.  It was Mini's swan song.  She had just made it into Open Championship.  Now this would be her last big competition.  She had never qualified for Nationals until this year.

I packed with my usual budget sense.  Meals and snacks were stored in soft sided coolers inside my checked luggage.  The hotel room had a microwave and a fridge.  Irish dancing was expensive enough -especially when you retire from sewing your kid's Irish dancing dress.  The food part I could control.

Everything was ready to go.  The day before we were leaving Mini sat in our toasty kitchen shivering in a sweatshirt in JULY.  WHAT??!!  She had a fever.  Damn it.  Why is nothing ever simple?


September 21, 2018

humor card, repetitive maybe, but still the only option

My two older sisters both celebrated birthdays last week.  Their birthdays are 5 days apart.  I may have mentioned in the past that these two are BFFs  . . . to one another.  They communicate constantly and get together regularly without inviting me. 

My Mom knows when they are getting together without me.  She is often WITH them for their outings.  I have picked up on an annoying fake yawn that Mom subconsciously slips into conversation just when she casually mentions something they did without me. 

It took me awhile to get over being left out.  Well, I guess you can say I am still not 'over' it. 

My folks threw Ann a surprise party about 6 years ago when she earned an advanced nursing degree.  The plan was for Marie to come in town from Milwaukee and take her to a movie.  They would then show up at a restaurant after the movie thinking that they were going to dinner together.  Surprise!  We would all be at the restaurant. 

My older boys were invited to the party.  Laddie asked me, 'Wait a minute - isn't Ann going to think it is weird that you aren't going to the movie and dinner with them?'  I tried to explain:  'Nope.  They do this kind of thing all the time.  Ann would think it was weird if I DID show up to go to a movie and dinner with them.'

Of course it hurts when I am excluded from their outings.  What helps is remembering that I don't typically enjoy their company. 

My sisters don't make a move unless my Mom approves what they are contemplating.  Remember how my Mom was opposed to my monogrammed table?  Same link describes Ann stealing my favorite baby name.

My sisters don't think outside the box.  They are close minded and judgmental.  They tend to be on the same boring page.  They are the kind of women who talk one way when they are at home, but their tone changes dramatically when they chat on the phone with a friend, or encounter someone they know in public.  I call that 'fake'. 

I wonder what either of them would have
 done if I gave them a card
that said this on the front?
With me what you see is what you get.  I don't put on airs.  I speak up for myself.  I manage to form my own opinions.  I tell stories with emotion and drama.  Ann likes to roll her eyes when I get going, 'OK, stop it.  You're so weird.' 


My point?  I suspect that I gave the same birthday card to my sister two years in a row.  I can't remember which sister I gave it to last time.  I tried to guess at which one got it and then I wrote the other sister's name on the envelope this year.  I always go with the humorous cards for them.  None of that mushy, sentimental stuff.  It just doesn't apply. 

Second year in a row card:  'I couldn't ask for a better sister . . . . (open card), well, I could - but I think mom is too old now!  (Ha!  I love it).  The other sister got a card that read:  I almost got you a membership to a wine of the month club.  Then I realized one bottle of wine to last a whole month.  (Ha!)

funny texts, I'm here for you - puke!
Last year I gave them gift cards to the Cheesecake Factory - thinking they could go eat there together.  This year I went with gift cards to see a movie.  Together?  Probably.  I am just that thoughtful. 

Ironically they like to tell people how prideful they are that they come from a close knit family.  Sure.  If our family was any closer, I would strangle one of them with a loose knit scarf. 

Are you one of those people who gush about how tight you are with your sister on Facebook?  Or are you the third-wheel (definitely cooler), often left out sister?




September 19, 2018

(method/madness, last part) and then there were 10

 With my babysitting jobs beginning to take shape, I ignored Eddie's mockery of me - despite his accurateness.  Hey, I worried about bills to pay, affording finishing touches on the kitchen, etc.  The worst part was that I was kicking myself for not being more tolerant of the nutty family.  Should I have tried to make that work?  I needed to find a way to let it go and get back to my happy place.

Then . . .

8.  Another family interviewed me mid June.  They have one 6 mo old baby girl named Jillie and they needed care 5 days a week.  Really, Jillie?  That made us chuckle since I already had a Billy.  Jillie's folks live nearby and the mom teaches in a local district.  I was really hoping to build a relationship with families like this one with ties to nearby schools, because word of mouth is definitely easier than fliers, care.com, and stress.

9.  Coach insisted that I was being crazy considering taking on ANOTHER baby.  I told him I could handle it.  My kids were rolling eyes and moaning.  They feared that I would be grouchy because so many kids on the babysitting docket would make me nuts.  I cleared up the confusion.  'Clean up your own crap.  Make your own lunches.  Don't walk thru the family room dumping pen caps, loose change, and other choking hazards out of your pockets.  If you don't make extra work for me, then I won't be ultra grumpy.'  Why isn't this obvious to them yet?

Curly aka my temporary right-hand
 man holding Jillie at a local
forest preserve - preschoolers are in
 front of her looking at turtles.
Jillie's folks texted me July 6th to say that they were going to look into cheaper options.  Knowing there isn't anything cheaper than me (aside from an actual daycare in a strip mall), I thought:  'You'll be back.'  (Um, look whose confidence is returning?)  Later that morning I saw that they were shopping for a nanny to come to their house on care.com.  (Stop rolling your eyes.  It WAS them- they included a photo in their profile).  Um, a nanny is much pricier than what I offer, but whatever.

Four weeks later, Jillie's folks texted me back.  I was what they wanted all along.  Did I still have space for Jillie?  I joked with Mini that I was going to text back and say that my rates went up in August.  Hee hee.

I started babysitting Aug 13th.  It is busy.  Very busy.  It is going quite well.  Curly and Reggie were still home to help me for about a week before they started school.  I teased Curly that I was going to have her drop out of school.  I would attempt to home school her between diaper changes.  OK, I am not THAT crazy.  I have hired a friend, Andie, to help me two or three mornings a week, if she is available. 

Some of the older guys checking
out a koi pond across from our neighborhood. 
10.  After about two weeks, Jillie's mom asked me one day if I might have space to sit for one of her co-worker's kids.  HELLO, WORD OF MOUTH!!  It's happening!  I told her that I had already turned away two families because I was full (This is true and I didn't hesitate to share this tidbit with her, because she narrowly missed not getting Jillie on my schedule when she looked into other options).  Her friend only needed two days of care . . . Monday and Friday.  Those just happened to be the only two days I could do, because Joey and baby sister only come Tues, Wed, Thurs.

The mom came over the next day.  We hit it off.  Her kids were freakishly the same gender, age, shape, and personality types as Joey and baby sister.  They started the next day.  My family members threw up their arms in disbelief that I had added ANOTHER family.  I had two words for them:  college and tuition.  Besides, who loves chaos more than me?

I started out sketching larger heads on Monday - don't worry, the kids show up with normal size heads everyday.  I shrunk their heads only to make their noggins fit on the remaining days of this schedule:
Jillie (6 mos), Billy (14 mos) come 5 days a week.  Maddy (13 mos) and Jimmy (4 yrs) (who I forgot to draw initially on Monday, but don't think for a moment that I love him any less.  He is a riot.  Keeps calling me Aunt Kathy.  I plan to ask his Mom next time he comes if his Aunt Kathy is very pretty or something) - these two swap places with Joey (3 yrs)  and Harriet (11 mos).  Joey and Harriet are here Tues, Wed, Thurs, but grandma grabs them on Wed at noon to take Joey to preschool.  Then there is Zack, Suzie, and Lila.  They are 4 yr old triplets.  Very sweet.  Lila has autism and attends a special full day preschool program.  She comes here after school when the bus drops her off at 3:20.  The other two triplets leave at 11:45 each morning to go to preschool on a bus.  They return at the end of the day with their kindergarten brother Matt (almost 6) at 3:10.
Usually everyone is picked up by 4:00.  Oh, and the 'ten' is the total number of kids I sit for, but not all at once and some are here or less than an hour after school.
SO, now you understand my madness, . . . as for my method:  sometimes I just have a really long story to tell.  Breaking the lengthy stories up helps me stay one step ahead.  So, if I am juggling 10 kids during the day (never at the same time - 8 is the most, usually), does it irritate you to read a story broken up into shorter stories?

September 17, 2018

(method/madness part 2) reasons #3-7 my school year is a tad busy

I continued my efforts to fill my childcare spots . . .

3.  I made up fliers and distributed them like crazy to area schools.  I got a couple of calls.  Interviewed with a few people.  One lady really wanted her toddler son to hang with me for the school year, but the logistics of her commute wouldn't work.  Bummer.

4.  In mid June I met a family on care.com.  They ended up living in my district and need me to watch 2 of their kids at my house before the bus picks them up for the district preschool at noon (plus 2 other kids after school).  We clicked.  Hired.

5.  Tank's algebra teacher hired me because Tank raved about how good I am at babysitting and she wasn't happy with the place she had been leaaving her guy, Billy.  (Woo hoo, Tank.  This guy can DEFINITELY make me crazy, but he is excellent at marketing).

By mid-summer I hauled all my baby
 equipment out of the basement and garage.
  The kids helped me clean it.  The last several
weeks of summer would soon be
 a blur of travel, so I knew
I had to get organized!
6.  Then Joey's mom was hired for a job closer to home, so her kids would be back in my care 3 days a week.  Hooray!  Joey always makes me laugh.

7.  Since things were starting to fill up, I decided to text Self-Taught's best friend.  While she hired me BEFORE the contractor craziness, this text inquirt was taking place AFTER the nonsense.  Follow?  I wondered if she would still want me watching her kid since I fired her best friend's dad.  Part of me was like, 'Well, if the suckie contractor operates suckie all of the time, then maybe it wouldn't even come up in conversation between best friend and Self Taught.  Business as usual, ya know?
 
     Best friend texted me back to say that she should've let me know that she had changed plans for the fall.  (yes, she should've!  Manners?!)  She claimed to have accepted a part time job and was going to use family to watch her baby.

     I was ticked.  Everything would be fine though- I was returning to my happy place.  I was, however, REALLY curious to know if my firing of suckie contractor influenced her childcare switch.

Now that my available babysitting spots were filling up, Eddie started making fun of me for the drama and emotions that became an ongoing theme all spring.  Just what I need, a 17 year old wise ass mocking me:  'What am I going to do, if I don't find another family to sit for?'  (imagine this in a high-pitched, male voice complete with exaggerated arm motions).


September 15, 2018

method or madness or both?

There is a method to my madness.  I know, I know.  I told you a ton of stories about the trials and tribulations of my babysitting situation in the shape of one super long story broken into a bunch of little snippets to make it readable.  Be honest, did that drive you crazy?  Were you like, 'Hey, I vote for a new topic?'

Same with all the cluster of Irish dancing stuff.  Ditto?  Were you in suspense or just OVER IT?

I am curious what you thought of my write-a-ton and break-it-up approach to blogging.  Please share your thought in my comments.  You can be brief.  You can be anonymous.  You can say 'boo-hiss'.

So, the method (or reasoning) to my madness?  And by madness I mean stories drawn out over several posts . . .

First I wanted to share how stressed out I was in the spring about babysitting.  I hadn't told you about all the babysitting nonsense (just a few little bits) as it accumulated, so I didn't know where to begin.  Now that you are all filled in, here is the story that was too hard to explain without first sharing the background:

1.  I was NOT going to sit for the nutty family this school year.  (Yippee!).  Joey's family, who I sit for three days a week, was possibly going to take a year off.  The mom wanted to find a teaching job that wasn't so far away.  I am crazy about these folks.  Joey is all personality, the baby is a fave, and most importantly, their parents are great.  We are on the same page.  Totally.  I was so worried that I would have no nutty family AND no awesome family, and therefore no additional in come.  My mind was working on overdrive.

2.  In April, my friend suggested that I check out a website called 'next-door' for local neighbors.  Sometimes people post babysitting needs.  Turns out you can also learn about anything from 'unique bird' sightings to 'what day is garbage day' questions and everything in between.  The very day that she suggested I sign up for it, someone posted that they needed a school year sitter for their one year old in the fall.  I responded to her post.
There it is . . . the ever important hummingbird advice!

      Within seconds - no exaggeration, SECONDS- my phone rang.  It was this teacher from this 'next-door' website looking for a sitter.  Her first name is the same as my first name.  Self-Taught, my kitchen designer.  She remembered Self-Taught talking about my family.  My name sounded familiar.  A few weeks later, she and her husband and their cute baby came to meet me.  They were all in.  Hired me for 3 or 4 days for the fall on the spot.
She asked me if I was having work done to my house.  I was like 'yeah.'  Ready for this .  . . turns out she is best friends with
   
     Phew.  I was like, 'OK, one customer.'  I hoped to find more teachers in need of school year daycare.  There is an awful lot of college tuition on our horizon!

September 13, 2018

at a loss, contractor style

We hired a new contractor July 15th.  He came highly recommended by my appliance saleswoman.  I mean, come on - we had totally learned our lesson, right? 

During the whole suckie contractor situation, the appliance lady kept insisting that she wished we had gone with this guy who does so much work in our town.  His storefront is not far from our home.  Oh, believe me my rear end was sore from all the imaginary kicking of myself I was doing.

Now I am not so sure that I needed to kick myself so hard.  Perhaps I should have geared my kicking elsewhere.  Insert:  heaviest sigh imaginable. 

The new contractor, who I will now refer to as Mr. Italy or just Italy because that is where he is from, seemed to know his stuff.  He pointed out things that suckie had messed up - stuff that we hadn't even caught. 

Remember the two cabinets that couldn't open at the same time, because suckie hadn't utilized a spacer?  Mr. Italy agreed to take the cabinets down, insert a spacer, and put the cabinets back up.  I was excited. 

I made a list of all of the stuff that still needed to be handled.  Most of it was itty bitty stuff.  Put a dimmer switch in the kitchen so we can stop getting a sunburn when the light fixture over the table is on.  I emailed Italy this list per his request and he came over to have me sign a contract.  Of course, he wanted money.  Oh, how I wish these contractors could just be paid when the work was complete.

Italy and his people have done a few things.  Literally.  A few.  There are a few plate covers on the outlets that hd no plate covers.  The cabinet spacer thing has been fixed.  Both cabinets can open now. 

Most of the time, I just wait.  I text Mr. Italy.  'Anyone coming today?'  He is all smiles and jokes and assurances in his thick accent.  I was hosting two parties over the weekend.  He assured me that the work would be done before the main party.  Guess what?  Not even close. 

Note the light fixture in the background.
  It is typically off, because we would
 need to don sunglasses until they put
 in a damn dimmer switch.  Coach could
do this, but the man doesn't have
 time to put his laundry away.
The biggest issues remain:  no hood and no barn doors. 

Remember the leaking ceiling?  The damn ice dam?  Then the kids' bathroom that started to leak into the kitchen?  (Did I ever tell you about this?  Can't find a post to share).

Italy checked out the kids' bathroom.  He told Coach that the floor of the shower needed to be replaced.  This is a shower that was just done about 6 years ago.  By a professional.  Not sure if I should laugh or cry here.  Coach wanted to continue to attempt to seal the bathroom shower floor.  His re-grout or re-seal job had kept the ceiling from leaking into the kitchen for about 5 weeks.  I wanted it to be fixed properly.  I believe that Italy does things correctly.  It just takes a long time for he and his people to show up.  Sound familiar?  So for $2,500 we are getting a new shower floor.

Best to not blow this photo up to see
any of the detail.  I took this after
 they poured the cement threshold.
  They say that the original guy
 should have used cement and he only
used wood, and that was the problem.
 If you look closely you will see a small
 sand timer on the shower ledge.  It makes
 me laugh to think that my kids
 pretend to time their showers.  AS IF. 
I know my little job is not a priority.  I begged him to get the kitchen done for the party.  Instead they came and ripped up the shower.  Italy insisted that the shower would only be out of commission for 3 days.  While components of the shower work needed to dry, the workers would finish the small kitchen stuff.  Not so much. 

The shower was torn up on Labor Day.  Weird, I know.  The workers were shocked at what they saw.  I think we are lucky that the shower didn't crash into the kitchen at some point.  There was mold.  There were worms.  Gross doesn't begin to cover it.  I assume that Coach and I have the same issue in our shower, because the same guy did that.  The only difference:  2 showers a day vs. 6 kid showers a day.  So the shower started on Sept 3rd.  The kids are scoring showers in other available bathrooms.    Yes, that is just as crazy convenient as you are imagining it to be.  So much for 3 days.

Nothing was done in the kitchen while a bathroom floor dried.  NOTHING.  I texted Mr. Italy yesterday.  'I really did not expect to text every day and beg for the work to be completed in my house.'  He texted back that he was coming later in the day.  No show.  This morning I texted, 'Today?'  He texted back 'yes'.  He was here for 5 minutes at 4:00.  I was busy handing off a baby to a mom, so I didn't speak to him.  Besides my vocab is limited in situations like this to 4 letter words.  . 

At a loss.  In more ways than one.