September 20, 2017

getting what you pay for/overcharged for?

Freedom Trail - some kids wanted to break free from it!
Originally I planned for us to stay in Boston for three nights.  It was so expensive, that Coach suggested that we stay out in the suburbs and take a train in each day.  I hated that idea, so I agreed to reserve a room in Lexington for our first night.  With a one night stay in Lexington, we only needed to sleep in Boston for two nights.  Shortening our Boston hotel reservation ended up being a Godsend.

Our agenda for our first day in Boston was simple - walk the freedom trail.  We dropped the car off at our hotel before we set out on foot to explore the trail.  Our room wasn't ready yet, but we were going to pay an additional $40 bucks a night to park the car at the hotel, so we figured it made sense to drop it there instead of paying for another parking garage.  

I actually captured Eddie holding hands with Curly and Reg.
Since it is a family tradition to cram extra bodies into our hotel rooms, it is a little dicey to show up with everyone in the car and act like they don't all belong to us.  We can usually avoid raising hotel staff suspicions by entering the hotel in shifts.  The layout of this hotel failed to cooperate with our usual disown-half-the-kids plan.  

The Holiday Inn was very near the Garden where the Celtics play.  It was an old building.  Tiny.  The lobby was minuscule.  There was no parking lot where we could park far from the building while we re-grouped and mapped out our entry. 

The valet guy was super friendly.  He didn't seem to be taking a head count as we filed out of the Great White.  Still, Coach and I encouraged the kids to disperse a bit on the sidewalk so as not to draw attention as we fumbled around for a few essentials before the car was valeted.  

Beautiful day for a walk thru Boston Commons. 
The weather was perfect for a lengthy hike along the freedom trail.  It was sunny, but breezy.  Despite the fact that we weren't suffering from heat stroke, a few of the kids began moaning about how much longer we needed to follow this annoying little brick sidewalk.  They were officially on history overload.  

When we got back to the hotel, we asked for them to bring the car to us so we could unpack it now that our room was ready.  After waiting for over an hour for our car, we gave up.  We ended up going out to dinner before our car was brought around.  I had hoped to change clothes and fix my hair, but that wasn't happening.

When we returned from dinner, I shared my ID and credit card with the hotel clerk.  She asked me to initial in a few places on a payment form.  I noticed that by initialing I was agreeing to pay $324 the first night and $244 the second night.  This was a surprise to me.  

I spent a considerable amount of time shopping for a hotel in Boston.  I compared rates, location, and complimentary breakfast.  Before I even got that far, I identified hotels that offered two beds plus a pullout.  This would only require us to use two air mattresses.  When I called the hotel, I was given a rate of $244 a night.  There was no mention of $324.  Ever.  

I told the hotel lady this.  She told me that if I pulled up my confirmation and it reflected the rate I was given, then she would honor it.  Well, I should have learned my lesson before now - but I am not a fast learner, apparently.  I do not typically read confirmation emails.  Shock.  Call me crazy, but I tend to expect that what they tell me over the phone is accurate.  The woman said she could adjust my rate for the first night to $284.  I accepted this, although I was still annoyed.  I signed the paper and helped unload the car.    

The kids who had been up to the room with the first load of bags reappeared in the lobby with weird looks on their faces.  They described the room as 'interesting'.  'Small'.  'Odd'.  Uh oh.

September 17, 2017

humming a hymn adds to carpool awesomeness

Because my day had already gotten away from me, the rest of this makes perfect sense . . . .

Kyle showed up just as I sat down to help Mom complete the last few details of the mass booklet for my Uncle's memorial mass.  Kyle is Curly's friend's brother.  He is on Curly's soccer team, and his sister, who doesn't play soccer, cheers from the sidelines.  Coach is - you guessed it - their soccer coach.

Kyle gets dropped off at our house on practice days by his grandpa because his mom works.  Coach drives him to practice with Curly.  The kid is supposedly very active and a bit mischievous.  His mother has described him as a handful.  She laughed out loud when I revealed his timid and quiet demeanor when he gets dropped off at our place for his ride to soccer.

I told Mini to wave him inside.  He entered the house and stood in my front hall.  He looked frightened despite the hip sunglasses he wore.  He's 8 years old.  I swear none of us have threatened to do him bodily harm or tried to bite him, but he is clearly uncomfortable and tense in our constant-motion home.

Mom greeted him from her position at my elbow at the computer.  I half wondered if he thought the sunglasses served as an invisibility cloak, because he didn't respond.  I assured him Mr. Coach would arrive shortly, but then I became slightly panicked that this wasn't the case at all.

I texted Coach.  'Do you remember soccer practice today?  Kyle is here and Curly is getting ready.'

I turned my attention back to Mom but occasionally called out into the great abyss, 'Curly are you getting ready for soccer?  Bring a sweatshirt.  Grab a water bottle.'  Mom was pointing to her official copy of the prayer booklet.  She managed to tape a dozen pieces of paper together and write in little chicken scratch all over it, so she must sit and interpret the mass booklet for me instead of leaving it with me to decipher.

If I struggled to cut and paste something into a spot just the way I wanted it, Mom would hear me groan.  Then she would look from the screen to my face and ask, 'It's saved though, right?  I mean it's in there and you can still print it out, right?'

Oh, how I wished I had gotten my nap!

'OK, Aunt Nora wants us to use the song:  'Here I am Lord.'  It's right here.'  Then Mom began to read it to me, so I could type it into the book.  This reading evolved into singing.  I think she thought her choir imitation was helping me type.  It wasn't.  Kyle was still standing about 5 feet from us wearing shades and most likely begging the good Lord to make him invisible as Mom broke into:  'Here I am Lord.  Is it I Lord?  I have heard you calling in the night . . . '

Ah, that awkward moment when a kid gets dropped off for soccer practice, your husband forgets about running soccer practice, and your mom starts belting out church hymns!
I am pretty certain that Kyle will instruct his mom to let him skip soccer practices going forward unless she arranges another carpool.

After typing one stanza, I realized that Coach never texted me back.  Not unusual as he is typically with patients.  I called the main number.  When the office manager answered, I simply said several times, 'Please, tell me Coach already left.  Did he leave?  He's not still there, right?'  I flashed Kyle a grin from my spot by the computer to assure him that Coach was definitely coming.  There was no way I could coach a soccer practice.

The call was transferred to wherever Coach was in the office.  'What?  Soccer practice?!  For who?  Shit!  Can you drive them to the field.  Bring me a sweatshirt.  I'm leaving now.'


'I'll be right back', I called to my hymn-singing Mom as I directed Curly and Kyle to hop in the car. 

September 15, 2017

life with a mom who is MORE technoligically challenged than me

My Mom's oldest brother passed away in Portland on July 17th.  We live in Chicago.  My Mom and her sister decided to have a memorial mass here since none of us attended the funeral out there.  The two sisters had recently visited their ailing brother back in June. 

A little background:  my Mother spent some time in the convent before she decided to marry Dad.  My folks are regulars at daily mass at their parish, and Mom attends more than her share of funerals.  She has told us that she has made notes (which she keeps in her nightstand drawer) to help us plan her funeral mass when the time comes.  She's prepared - both spiritually and organizationally.

My favorite photo of Mom's family.  Used in mass booklet.
I have assisted her over the years in preparing mass booklets for funerals when a family member passes away.  I know how to create a document, adjust the font size, select the correct paper size, use boldface, and scan photos to be utilized on the front and back cover.  I am capable of emailing said document to a printer and giving detailed instructions for the type of paper, staples, and folding we require.  These 'skills', as simple as they are, elevate me to some sort of super-hero computer user in Mom's eyes.

Mom showed up at my house unannounced.  It later became clear that she had TRIED to call.  My landline had no dial tone, which made her think I was napping.  No nap in the cards for me, and for the record- I don't ever mess with a dial tone in order to nap.  I might close a door, or turn on a fan.  I was unaware that my landline wasn't working because a wire that connected the main handset had recently come lose during construction. 

Mom was incredibly impressed that I could add a Celtic cross to one of the pages in the booklet.  My uncle graduated from Notre Dame, thus the 'ND Our Mother' song.
Mom, the least likely person to embrace technology in the universe, doesn't own a cell phone.  She DOES however, know the phone number for mine.  I don't understand why she hesitated to call it when my land line wasn't functioning.  Ah, how handy it would've been if Mom had called my cell number to gauge whether or not I had time to help with the mass booklet.  

So, there she was ready to put the finishing touches on our latest project despite the chaos factor that ramps up at 3:00 in my house.  I began to rearrange my afternoon from my position in front of the computer.  I was struggling to re-position my afternoon in my head though.  I had JUST started to work on my blog.  I saved what I was working on before opening the mass booklet document.  Mom leaned in closer:  'What's that?'  Me:  My blog.  Mom:  'Oh, I don't know what that is.'  Me:  (to myself) 'No kidding?'

Kids filed in from school.  'Curly, once the junior high kids have had their snack they can play a rousing game of memory with you and Theo, since I can't now.'  Curly was bummed.  She is one of my few remaining offspring who enjoys my presence during things like Memory, snacks, and well . . . just about everything. 

When Ed walked in, I shared a look with him and he knew.  'I know my room is gross.  I will handle it.'  I had texted him my disgust while vacuuming.

Lad texted to share that his latest tonsillitis symptom included a fever. 

I typed a few of the changes Mom requested before Mini called out, 'Kyle is here!'

Mom was sitting next to me witnessing what our after school routine is like.  Mayhem.  Pure mayhem.  She was dealing with the interruptions and probably wishing she had come earlier during nap time when the house was quiet.

That made two of us.

September 13, 2017

vacuuming STILL, homework in the shrubs, and questionable computer skills

The lengthy conversation with my kitchen contractor interrupted my plan to vacuum BEFORE I had to put the tykes down for naps.  I tossed some more food their way (these guys can always eat), and raced back upstairs.  Eventually I brought them up to where the beds were piled high with stuff - but hey, we could see the carpet and walk across a room without twisting an ankle, causing other bodily harm, or risk losing a tot in a stack of God-knows-what.

I laid them down, and continued on my vacuuming mission in the rooms void of nappers.  Laddie called from college to let me know that he has Tonsillitis.  Awesome.  I finished my vacuuming and enjoyed the look of clean rooms, so long as I trained my eye to avoid the beds piled dangerously high with shit.
Tanks' clean clothes landed back on his floor shortly after he entered his room.

I changed the laundry loads and jogged downstairs to the makeshift kitchen area to whip up my salad.  I tired to do a few things on the computer.  OK, I am going to come clean here and admit that I was wasting time.  Not intentionally, but in a zoned out kind of way.  I kept trying to decide what local Irish dancing competition we would attend next, so I was clicking on MapQuest to determine how long a drive might be from my house, etc.

My chronic afternoon-nap-requirement started to creep up on me.  The minute I shuffled some hoodies (I had started to stockpile them when I stumbled upon them upstairs, so that I could demand that kids lay claim to a few and stop whining that they didn't have any) around on the couch to lay down, the plumbers started drilling.  LOUDLY.  I let out a heavy sigh, realizing that my nap opportunity was now non-existent. 

I decided to power full speed ahead, well with a desperate-for-a-nap energy level - and began to blog about our next phase of the Boston trip.  Before I knew it, I saw Curly's bus come around the bend.  I continued typing.  After a few minutes, I became concerned.  With construction happening, I expected to see her bound through the front door instead of the garage door.  The front door is just steps away from the study where I was yawning typing.  Nothing.

I stood up and saw her fluffy hair in front of the shrubs that line our walkway.  When I called out the front door to ask her if she was OK, she explained herself.  My 4th grader had escaped homework in her first few weeks of school.  Now she had an assignment to complete, but she felt that if she finished it before she walked into the house she could maintain her 'no homework' record.  With that mystery solved, I went back to my blog.

Theodore was awake now.  He was playing in the basement, but he likes to pop up from time to time to tell me completely inconsequential things.  Like, 'I found this.'  (holds up a paperclip or a small lego or a piece of lint).  When Curly came in from her non-homework moment on the front lawn, I asked her to read him a book.  I promised to play memory with them when the book was done.

My Mom poked her head thru the heavy plastic sheets that separate the construction zone from the rest of the house.  The day before Mom had been over to borrow my savvy computer skills.  OK, I use the word savvy sarcastically, but if you can grasp that my 75 year old mother has never sent an email or typed and saved a document on a computer, then you understand how my 'skills' would seem stellar.

I hadn't expected her, and I blinked for a minute as I once again readjusted my hopes for accomplishing anything on my agenda that day.

September 11, 2017

my 'we have a probelm' contractor moment

I piled the boys' plates with food so I could run up and vacuum a room or two while they ate.  Just before I darted upstairs, the contractor called me into the construction zone.  He wanted to review a few things.  Which way did I want my fridge to open?  Where did we want the grill to be installed on the deck?  Then came the moment that I am all to familiar with after viewing various HGTV home improvement shows.

It's the moment I refer to as the 'we have a problem' moment.  It seems no one ever manages to escape this segment of the taped programs, so why did I think we were going to be able to avoid it?  On the TV shows, the homeowner is told to brace for bad news.  It typically comes in the form of something like:  'Did you know that whoever built your house failed to pour a foundation?  They apparently just dug a hole in the mud and built on that.  You are honestly lucky that the house didn't collapse on you.'

Kitchen with the bump out.  Lots of work to be done!
Our scenario is not quite that drastic.  Still, it's a problem.  About 6 or 7 years ago, we renovated our two second floor bathrooms.  Our master bathroom was insanely large and monopolized by the world's more enormous whirlpool tub- surrounded by wall to wall mirrors where my self esteem was lowered a bit every day as I saw everything each time I took a shower.  I often bathed all 6 kids or at least 5 of them in that tub, but otherwise it served no purpose.  We decided to install a second floor laundry room in the space created by reworking the two bathrooms.

Have you ever seen an un-vented pipe? 
Turns out the guy who did the work (um, he's my brother's friend thru Irish music.  This guy, who I will refer to as Mr. O'Cut Corners, is from Ireland.  He builds homes in an affluent Chicago suburb) didn't bother to do any of the plumbing to code.  None of the pipes have been vented.  The current crew can fix it, but not for free.  They informed me that the inspectors might or might not require it to be fixed.  I feel like it would be dumb not to fix it since the ceiling to the kitchen is open at the moment.  Of course, it would mean that walls in the bathrooms would need to be ripped open.

Lots of pipes are exposed now with the kitchen is ripped open.
Good thing there were no cameras here for my 'we have a problem' moment.  I didn't cry.  Or swear (which if you spend any amount of time with me, you will find amazing).  I just held my hands up to my face.  Massaged my temple.  Tried to imagine telling Coach this one.  While also trying to imagine being without a bathroom, or two, or a laundry room if the construction zone widened to include those areas upstairs.

I'm not a big Facebook user.  Ironically my phone sent me a little notice yesterday morning.  It wanted to suggest that I become friends with Mr. O'Cut Corners.

I will tell you what I didn't add to my joke-of-an-agenda:  friending Mr. O'Cut Corners.  

September 8, 2017


While I'm sure you are on the edge of your seat waiting to read about the next chapter of our east coast road trip, I am interrupting these details of our survival techniques to describe yesterday's events.  I had an agenda yesterday . . . AGENDA:  VACUUM THE UPSTAIRS AND WRITE.  This short list morphed into a never-ending agenda.  I promise to fill you in on the remaining nonsense of our Boston/college drop off adventure very soon.  Seriously, I was just getting to the good bits.

I babysit on Thursdays.  Yesterday I had two boys.  The other guy I usually watch didn't come  because his mom started her maternity leave.  After I worked out, I treated the boys to some time at the park down the street.  The park wasn't on my original agenda for the day, but I decided to squeeze it in.

Carter is just beginning to utilize the English language.  I announced in the car driving home from the gym, 'Who wants to go to the park?'  After much celebrating, Carter hissed at me:  'That's not fair.'  I'm guessing he's heard older brother Theodore toss that phrase around willie-nillie and decided to see if he could get any mileage out of it.

After calculating in a little outdoor fun, I believed that I would still have enough time to get something done at home. 

There was so much to do at home.  MUCH.  After spending the summer focused on staging food prep/eating areas in obscure places around the house to compensate for our kitchen construction, drastic oversights had taken place in other rooms of the house.  The upstairs was a free-for-all.  The lack of organization was most obvious when all Hell broke loose yesterday morning due to a Hoodie shortage.

How could the kids not locate a hoodie?  I could open a used hoodie store.  My stock in this wardrobe area is plentiful.  If my kids couldn't locate a hoodie, then someone needed to tear the house apart.  My growing agenda:  park with the tots, hoodie hunting, vacuum/organize the upstairs, blog writing during nap time.

This is a pile of 20 hooies that I gathered yesterday - and that isn't including the 5 that the kids wore to school today.  Hoodie shortage my ass!
After the park, the boys played in the basement while I dedicated an hour to unearthing the carpet on the 2nd floor.  I moved mountains . . . mountains of clothes, books, toys, and in Lad and Eddie's room - a mountain of garbage.  I texted Eddie from where I stood in his room.  I was disgusted!  'Don't make ANY plans this weekend until you clean up this room!'

Confession time:  my room, good will.
The truth is that a good deal of stuff was abandoned by Laddie in his whirlwind to pack for college.  Since I am not completely clueless, I easily identified LOTS of stuff that landed in that room because of Ed.  Ahem, Ed isn't alone . . . there is a substantial stack of stuff in my room that I have been collecting for good will.  Tank refuses to put clothes in drawers or his closet rendering his floor often impassable.  I heaved all of this stuff onto of beds to clear the carpet.
Laddie's bed.  Yes a drum is part of this mess.  He hasn't touched it for years.

In Eddie's room I dug up some hoodies.  I snapped photos and texted those to Eddie.  Done?  Yes, he had either outgrown or become uninterested.  Score. . .  a hoodie for Tank.  Tank hates hand-me-downs, so I would hear about it.  Beggars can't be choosie, particularly when beggars are in need of hoodies because they don't put their own stuff away and as a result can't find the sweatshirts that fit them.

Tank and Reggie's room - laundry I placed on Tank's bed landed right back on the floor today.
I was about to get the vacuum started but decided I better throw some lunch at the two tots dumping bins of toys out in the basement while I busied myself organizing the upstairs.  Housework is after all, a vicious cycle. 

The plumbers showed up to work on the kitchen just as I was spreading the PB&J.  They kindly threatened to turn off my water for a bit.  (kindly - because any work done here is progress.  I refuse to stand in the way of progress to get a functioning kitchen.  It's only been 2.5 weeks since it was gutted, but I still recognize progress as an end-in-sight kind of thing.  By all means - turn off the water).

I did hesitate for just a moment before I asked them when and for how long the water would be off.  My laundry piles might topple over and smother someone - thus the short guys being relegated to play in the basement.  No water shut off until Saturday.  I abandoned my PB&J project for a moment and raced upstairs to start a load. I mentally added 'completing laundry' to my pesky agenda. 

Damn agenda just kept growing.  I felt like coining a phrase from Carter:  'That's not fair.'

Oh, it doesn't end here.  Tune in next time for:  plumbing news, hymn singing, typing for Mom, the reluctant carpooler, searching for books, forgotten practice, breakfast sandwiches, and undeniable exhaustion.  Yep, all in a day.

September 4, 2017

Boston memories - Lexington

The complimentary breakfast at our stop in Middleton, New York was top notch.   After what seemed like a short drive compared to the long stretch the day before, we were jogging into the Minute Man visitor center to watch a highly-rated introductory film about the first shot of the Revolutionary War.  Jogging - yes, not because we needed to stretch, but because I had prepared a schedule and I wanted to stick to it. 

I had arranged for a private tour of the village green, where the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired, and it was important that we arrive on time.  My dad, the history buff who once made a group of grade school grandchildren research both a battalion and a general in order to prepare a presentation to share with their cousins during our forced-march visit to Gettysburg, was jealous of my per-arranged tour.  The guide was informative, and while our incoming college freshman offered a few interesting side notes here and there I couldn't help but wonder if we were actually hearing much additional detail compared to the free tours offered of the same village green.

I insisted that we purchase all three tickets to check out the three houses available to tour in town, because I am my father's daughter.  We began with the house where John Adams stayed when he learned of the first shot fired.  Our guide here was on a mission to bore us to death with details about the economy, the family connections, and all political implications making me long for the college kid who offered a few funny asides minus information overload.

Coach kept motioning/begging for us to exit/retreat and save ourselves from the tour early.  He used his subtle jerk-of-the-head signal (if you factor in his 6 foot 4 inch height you grasp how difficult this is to ignore) followed by mouthing the words 'Come on!'  Our entire tour group consisted of our family of 8 plus one older woman from California.  I wasn't confident that we were allowed to wander thru the house unaccompanied by a historical society employee- they tend to guard these relics with strict rules and eagle eyes; nevermind, there was no discreet way for us to abandon ship.

Once the kids caught wind of Daddy's lack of interest, I became a villain in the eyes of my offspring.  When we were set free to the outside world, I was the target of a verbal lashing.  What was I trying to prove?  Did I follow that boring woman's monologue at all?  Coach and I both wondered if she could have tailored her spiel a bit considering her audience was mostly kids.  She had exceeded the hour long schedule and in the process had clearly lost most of us at least half way thru.  Knowing that my dad would have been disgusted at our lack of interest, this wasn't the first time in my life I considered that maybe I was indeed adopted.

After an abbreviated self-guided tour (definitely more our speed) of the old pub off the village green, we skipped the third house completely despite our pre-purchased ticket.  The information was beginning to feel repetitive.  The house we skipped was supposed to offer a glimpse of the Redcoats perspective.  Who the Hell cares what they thought of the battle that started the war?  They were charging the colonists tax on their tea to finance their debt from the French and Indian War.  Rude!  See, I was paying attention.  I decided it wasn't unamerican to bypass their viewpoint.  The fam was fading fast.  I made a note to myself to ask my folks for a copy of my adoption records after our trip.
Note the unused (unpunched) portion of our ticket that allowed us entry into all three houses.  We skipped out on the Munroe Tavern.  My folks don't read my blog, so it is OK.  They won't disown me, because they will never know.  Oh, the emails I was getting from my Dad the night before we walked the Freedom Trail in Boston.  It almost put me over the edge. 
A visit to the former home of Louisa May Alcott wrapped up our time in Lexington.  The older boys were uninterested in this house, so they became ticked off when I celebrated that we had made it in time for the final tour of the day.

There was a woman on our crowded group tour who insisted on firing off a ton of questions at our guide before we left one room to view the next.  I became convinced that this woman was unaware that there was anyone else on the tour.  You know the type, she took great pleasure in grilling the guide but then she stood there nodding as if she already knew the answer but had only wanted to quiz the guide to see if she was on her A game.  She chuckled at each little anecdote the guide shared and nodded at her companion as if they had been old friends of the Alcott family and they were merely reminiscing about the good ole days.  I was honestly surprised she wasn't dressed in period attire claiming to have borrowed a dress form her buddy Louisa at one point.

To amuse themselves and to torture those around us, the older boys managed to silently pass some awful smelling gas each time we were ushered into the next room.  They would vacate quickly but look back over their shoulder to see if anyone had been impacted.  Embarrassing.

Knowing that we were staying at an Embassy Suites, the excitement in our former airport shuttle was palpable.  We drove to our nearby hotel just as the place was scheduled to launch the free appetizer hour.  I can't call it a free happy hour, because most of the snacks are riddled with gluten, which doesn't make me happy.  Additionally, we learned the hard way that in the state of Massachusetts, the Embassy Suites doesn't serve free alcohol.  I had been looking forward to a glass of wine after our history infused day.

The staff did agree to bring me out a small side salad since I couldn't enjoy the other snacks.  I think that makes it official . . . the fact that I celebrated eating a salad over a glass of wine makes me an old lady. Let me know where you stand on that - it's OK, I can handle it, assuming I've had my nap for the day.