September 2, 2013

the night before the first day of school

I had plans.  Big plans.  School supplies that hadn't been delivered to school during the open house day, would be magically sorted and stuffed into the appropriate back packs.  Clothing options for the week would be stacked on dressers.  Lunches would be started and lunchboxes would stretch across the counter top awaiting the addition of cold food in the morning.  A decent easy meal would be shared and last minute jitters discussed.  Bedtimes would be enforced.  Since I was returning to work after having the summer off, my work bag, clothes, and lunch would be sorted out as well.  An early bedtime would assure that I wouldn't experience a drowsy commute home.

How quickly the best laid plans can unravel.

The kids' school hosted an open house/ orientation this year the week before school started.  We were allowed to unload supplies into their lockers.  Awesome - let's clear a walking path in the kitchen and dump this stuff at school.  So, the night before the open house I spent a late night organizing the piles of school supplies purchased from various stores into five piles in the kitchen.  With the crumbled copies of the supply lists splayed out in front of me, I tried to decipher my markings and notations.  After everything was distributed, I discovered a few holes in my system.  Not enough colored pencils, does this kid need folders and an expandable, don't I have a drawer somewhere with at least 10 pairs of scissors in it? 

After the orientation at school was complete, I dropped the piles of paperwork and teacher handouts in a heap near my desk and continued to enjoy what was left of summer break.  Mistake number one.  These packets distributed by teachers included forms to be filled out, explanations of snack procedures, an invitation to a boohoo breakfast for kindergarten moms, and maps of the junior high layout for Tetonka to study prior to attending the new building.  Oops!  I should have known that the hidden agenda behind the orientation day was parental homework from the teachers. 

After I assembled the remaining supplies into the backpacks lined up on the cedar chest in the kitchen, I sat down barely able to focus from sheer exhaustion and began to fill in the kindergarten packet for Curly's teacher.  Questions like, 'When did she start talking?'  It seemed like Curly has always been able to talk.  Hard to remember a time when she couldn't.  And 'Does she like to play alone, or with others?'  Both.  If the kids are home, it's on.  Playtime.  Constant.  If the kids aren't home, she is singing to herself as she lines up her princesses on some building she's constructed of magnet blocks.  Mistake number two:  focusing too much energy on the fact that Coach stayed at work an hour longer than usual.  Wish I would have just pressed onward, accepting that last minute prep was left up to me.  It's not as if he would have grabbed a pen and started cluing the kindergarten teachers into Curly's most likely time of day to have a bowel movement.  So much for my respectable bed time.

Organized piles of clothes on kids dressers saves me from fumbling around in the dark each night to find something for them to wear.  Part of my evening ritual involves flinging an outfit over the back of each kitchen chair.  Of course dressing in the kitchen will only function so long as they are young enough not to care.  (That being said, I no longer pull out clothes for Laddie and Eddie.  They shower in the morning and get dressed upstairs - don't get me started about how Laddie wanders around from the laundry room to my room searching piles of clean laundry until he finds just what he wants to wear.  And the wet towel?  Oh yes, I find it after school in a damp heap wherever he made his wardrobe selections.  Ugh!).   Mistakes number three and four:  Intended to start to hunt for matching clothes to stack up hours earlier.  Oops.  Also, I failed to inform Curly that her school requires that kids wear athletic shoes to school so that everyone is ready for P.E. class.  Her vision of a  pretty dress with sandals for the first day were dashed.  We compromised, and she decided to tuck her sneakers into her backpack and wear sandals with socks to school.  What kindergarten teacher would get mad at that face anyway?  Besides, it was the first day she could lead with a look of confusion, and she is a quick change when it comes to shoe changes.

The search for lunchboxes was mostly successful with one exception.  Mistake number five:  check the lunchbox inventory earlier in the summer.  Eddie apparently no longer owns a lunch box.  The two he was operating from in 6th grade no longer exist.  Not sure that we ever successfully removed the rotten lunch-meat smell from the secret pocket only he knew about anyway.  He dragged that not-quite-right lunch box to school all of last year.  Good riddance.  Mistake number six:  oops, am I really that low on groceries?  Lunch packing was a stretch.  A little dry cereal in a baggie at snack time instead of goldfish never hurt anybody.

Dinner.  Mistake number seven:  Introducing a new recipe the night before school wasn't a well thought out plan.  A few kids liked it.  A few tolerated it.  Tetonka, who has the most jitters about starting at a new building with a locker combination to memorize, needed the calm dinner environment more than anyone.  He hated the dinner the most.  It got ugly.  Ugliness devours time in our house.  Enough said.

Finally bedtime.  The most important piece to the night before school.  Set the tone for the year.  Be firm.  Get them started on the right foot.  Mistake number eight:  The blue nail polish didn't raise any red flags earlier in the evening.  That would have been too easy.  Now that most of the day's soccer practices, Irish dancing workshops, and driver's ed classes were complete, I had a minute to think while I rinsed a few kids in the tub.  Oh shit!  I am not sending a kindergartner to the first day of school in blue nail polish.  This was a gift bestowed on Curly while she played at a friend's house.  Who knew I was only going to have a few tablespoons of remover left?  Who knew that this particular brand of polish would be the stubborn kind?  Who knew that Curly would take such offense to her beautiful, blue nail polish being scraped off?  Who knew that she could work herself into a major tizzy?  Who knew that when I asked Curly to use the wad of paper towel soaked in remover to continue to work on erasing the blue while I ran to pick up Reggie from soccer that she would dump the rest of the remover out (even though she was instructed not to touch it)?  While this disaster was unfolding, Mini shared with me that she had lost a tooth.  Only problem - the tooth was still in her mouth, because it was stuck on her braces.  (Nine year olds with braces - don't get me started!).  I offered to try to pry it off.  This seemed to make the most sense to her.  Mistake number nine:  Removing a tooth from braces exposes a gum to a bracket that is now free to irritate the gum.  Ouch!  No wax available in the house.  Tetonka reappeared several times like a stubborn weed to whimper about his fears concerning the new building.  I felt his pain, and related my freshman year first day story to him.  I hoped that once he spotted humor in a similar situation, he could relax.  Finally he stayed in bed, and I began the paperwork nightmare that I failed to realize lurked in the pile on my desk until the eleventh hour - literally.  So much for an early bedtime. 

Is it too late to decide to home school?  Now that would create some serious blog topics!   

August 12, 2013


Coach and I enjoyed dinner out Saturday night to celebrate our 17th Anniversary.  After all these years, we still recognize our marriage is a work in progress.  We agree that communication is still the area that needs the most attention.  Our lives are so hectic that we often converse through sleepy grunts, scribbles on scraps of paper, and misconstrued body language.  Truthfully, even before the kids, the house, and the financial strain that came with both, we weren't always on the same page.

While we were dating, Coach lived with his folks about 45 minutes north of my little one bedroom condo.  He worked in a lab while he was applying to physical therapy schools hoping this would be the year he was accepted.  I interviewed candidates for an insurance company in hopes of identifying someone willing to work on 100% commission.  We sometimes spoke briefly on the phone during the day, but often we would talk in the evening when we were home because he didn't always have a phone at his disposal.  Yes, we are old enough to have dated prior to cell phones, texting, and constant communication in general. 

One night after work, I drove to his parents house to join his family for dinner.  Coach's maternal grandmother, who lived  out of state, was quite ill with pancreatic cancer.  I could tell when I arrived that his mom seemed emotional and flustered.  I avoided asking for an update on her mother so as not to upset her further.  Looking back, I feel like this was extremely insensitive of me.  Knowing the outcome of the evening, however, I am relieved that I chose not to inquire about her mom's health. 

I recall most of Coach's four siblings (his brothers are four and eight years younger than Coach, so they still lived at home and his sister had come in from her apartment in the city) and his parents being at the table that night.  Conversation at dinner included travel plans, funeral arrangements, lots of faraway glances, and sniffles.  I assumed that the end was close for grandma, and I was hearing the plans that were inevitable.  In an uncharacteristic move on my part, I said very little.  I felt like I was infringing on a very private family event, and wished my boyfriend had told me this wouldn't be a good night for dinner after all.

When Coach and I were alone after dinner, I asked him if there was something new that had happened with his grandma's health that I was unaware of.  He looked at me with a puzzled expression.  "My grandma died today."  Shock.  Horror.  Confusion.  Disgust.  We had spoken briefly on the phone that day.  He called me in my office to check that I was still coming for dinner.  How could he have failed to mention that his grandma had passed away?  He said that he had told so many people at work, that he didn't realize that he hadn't told me.  Completely understandable, right?  The woman that you love, who you've invited to dinner in a household of grieving family members, is overlooked when it comes to sharing very important news?  Without this information, her demeanor can be misconstrued by her future mother in law as indifference.  Could I be put in a more awkward position?  Doubtful.

I looked like an ignorant slob.  Worse.  I had entered the house and not expressed any empathy for her situation.  I ate a meal prepared by a woman whose mother had just died, and I acted unmoved and cold.  Perfect.  Where do you go from here?  If I offered my condolences now, I looked silly, emotionally unavailable, immature, and mentally delayed at best.  Could I explain that Coach failed to inform me that his grandma passed away?  Then he looks like an idiot.  In the end, we went with making Coach look bad.  He still had the unconditional love thing going for him.  His own mother probably recognized his communication short comings, and it might not even surprise her.  I, on the other hand, had so much more to lose.  Coach and I were already talking marriage.  How long would it take before she got over my odd behavior at dinner, if she didn't realize the circumstances of my lack of information? 

Before I slunk out the front door to leave the family to grieve, I offered my sincere condolences and Coach explained his goof in how he thought he had told me the unfortunate news during our 30 second conversation that day.  I'm sure it mattered little in the big picture to his mom that I didn't offer my sympathies initially, because she had just lost her mother.  It mattered to me though.

While we have bumped over other communication snafus in the last 17 years, I don't think there has been one quite so essential.  Even if there had been cellular phones, I can just hear Coach now . . . "I thought I texted you that my grandma died."  I should print this out and wave it around each time Coach claims to have the upper hand in a lack-of-communication dispute between us.  "You really think I am the one who can't communicate?  Do you remember the day your grandma passed?"

August 8, 2013


The nice thing about blogging is that I am usually able to see the humor in a situation and transform the moment into a must-share story rather than dwelling on the frustration that typically goes hand in hand with mothering my nutty brood.

Today I was taking the three youngest to the pool for a few hours.  Laddie and Eddie were caddying and Tetonka was staying with a friend at his lake house for a few days.  I reminded Mini at least twice that she would have to bring her dancing bag with a change of clothes in the car, because I would be dropping her off at her 4:30 Irish dancing class after our fun in the sun. 

A bit later, I asked Mini (9yrs.) what she needed to do before we left.  I got the deer in the headlights look as she hesitated.  (attributing the look to running out of steam, not sleeping well due to a sinus infection?) Lately she has been very forgetful and has struggled to find things right in front of her face.  Praying it's just a stage.  She first guessed the bag full of towels.  Her next stab was delivered with even less confidence, "My book?'  I told her through gritted teeth to pack her dancing bag with clothes and socks and put it in the car. 

This is when she mentioned to me that the dancing bag that she brought to the class the night before was lost. She lost the dance bag while at the dance studio.  During class.  She failed to dance in her hard shoes, because she couldn't locate her bag when it was time to switch shoes.  Who loses a dance shoe bag in a coat room that is smaller than 10 x 10?  I was so confused.  She marched past me with the clothes and soft shoes for the car as I finished packing a cooler of snacks.  She managed to somehow get into the car without the bundle of clothing and shoes.  Fortunately, I noticed her stuff sitting on a kitchen stool before I left the house.  I made her come back in and grab it.  Ughh!

After a few hours at the pool, I sent a bored Mini, who had forgotten to bring her book, out to the car with my keys, so she would have five minutes to change.  When I got to the parking lot, she was standing next to the car claiming that the car wouldn't unlock.  After I successfully unlocked the car, I tossed the change of clothes to her in the backseat.  That is when I noticed that she failed to bring socks along. 

I was thrilled to find one lone, stray, random sock on the floor of the car.  It even looked clean.  No match.  Bummer.  My car was recently cleaned out, otherwise I probably could have outfitted a whole Lord of the Rings Dance troop in t-shirts, soccer socks, and winter gloves.  As a last resort I dug down into the depths of the passenger side door.  There is a compartment on that door that is never intentionally used for anything, but crap falls in there and is left unnoticed for years.  We once lost a nice stride rite baby sandal of Curly's in this hidden pocket on the door of the car for two or three years.  My phone calls back to the zoo's lost and found department, which is where we were the day the shoe went missing, were borderline harassment.  Anyway, I still underestimate the treasure trove that this storage pouch produces.  Buried under some CD cases, tissues, and wrappers I discovered a deranged looking, discolored, preschool-produced, sock snowman decoration.  I quickly plucked off it's pom pom enhancements, yanked free the pipe cleaner arms, ripped open it's innards, and pulled the shredded paper stuffing from it's bowels. 

I tossed the slightly discolored, misshaped sock to Mini in the backseat.  "Here is another sock for you.  No need to thank me."  (It was so tempting to quote my father in law, who once scolded my husband in my presence at an airport when we were dating 'Get your shit together!' - now here is a story for another blog).  Mini was less than pleased.  Her preference was to drive in the opposite direction, retrieve a matched pair of socks, and return to the class late.  Please.  She struggled to get the sock on and griped about it's small size, especially in relation to the other sock.  I gently reminded her that she could have brought her own socks, but didn't.  "I look like I have poverty," she remarked.  Funny, I'm sure she is not suffering from poverty, just from scatter-brainlessness. 

The highlight of the day was when we arrived at the studio and found her dance bag resting on the bench in the coat room right where she had left it/ lost it the night before.  Silly me.  I thought staring at something right in front of you and not seeing it was a male trait. 

I stayed up way too late last night organizing a closet, but after my McGyver-mom-moment today I felt energized and awake.  I continue to wonder what kind of career I am going to settle on after staying home with my kids for so long.  I sometimes feel under qualified for the 'work force' but know I am prepared for just about anything.  How do you phrase 'ability to prove resourceful in any situation' on a resume?  How can I turn a sock-puppet moment into a marketable quality?

August 6, 2013

reality tv

On several occasions my friends have suggested that TLC should feature our family in a reality TV series.  With college tuitions looming in the near future, I admit that the thought has lingered from time to time.  We have the perfect last name for it.  Of course you realize that 'Shenanigans' is a fictional name.  Our actual name would need no adjusting; it fits us to a tee and would catch people's attention when promoting a show based on our day to day lives.  Our identity would no longer be a secret, which would be a bummer.  While I'm not sure I am ready to air our dirty laundry on national television, there are some aspects of starring in a reality TV series that might prove interesting.

I don't watch much reality TV myself.  The bits I have seen I find far from realistic.  Typically if the people starring in the show would act as if  'reality' mattered to them, then I doubt there would be any entertaining quality worth airing.  I wonder though, if people saw the way we lived, would they find us difficult to relate to? 

We would probably be viewed as odd for many reasons.  For starters our home is free of video games.  Don't worry, our kids find plenty of other things to fight about besides whose turn is it to play the video game or who broke the hand control (I'm so clueless I don't even know what they are called anymore - I was going to call it a joystick from my Atari days, but that seems wrong on so many levels).  A lack of video games is only one of the ways we might seem out of touch. 

Up until eighteen months ago, we didn't even have cable television.  We still utilized the ever popular, rather frustrating, almost worthless, retro rabbit ears.  Now that we do have cable, every channel is blocked.  Why have cable if you can't watch TV, right?  Much to the chagrin of our six kids, they have to ask us to unlock the TV in order to watch something.  They have figured out the code before, but they aren't so clever as to cover their tracks and we caught on.  Codes can be cracked, but they can also be changed.  It isn't that we don't trust our kids (we don't), it is that there is so much crap on TV.  Not to mention, I have a few kids who become transfixed by the boob tube or video games and they don't know what else to do with their time if they get sucked in for a while.  I prefer that the kids read books, color pictures, play outside, and create fun with the bins of toys they keep conveniently scattered around most rooms in the house.  Of course homework forces even the most resistant minds to learn, leaving very little time for television or video game competitions. 

Fast food is rarely ingested by the Shenanigan kids.  When one lucky soul does visit the golden arches while at a friend's house after school, for example, there are no details left out.  Noses are rubbed in visions of chicken nuggets and salty fries whenever the occasion presents itself.  The injustice of life reveals itself at such an early age, and my kids never hesitate to inform me just how unfair life seems on these occasions.  Don't get me wrong, we aren't health freaks.  I love a good, juicy burger from time to time.  I cook chicken strips at home.  My husband flips burgers on our grill.  As fast as that food may be, I cannot accept how fast my dollars disappear in one dinner visit.  We just find our dollar stretches farther when the food prep is done in our own noisy, cluttered  kitchen.  As far as reality TV goes, I am guessing that eating meals created at home and ingested on paper plates wrapped in tin foil in the car rather than hitting drive thru on the way to the game might cause viewers to gather around the TV so they can stare and wonder, "Do people really live this way?" 

My kids are convinced that they are the only children on the face of this earth that are required to perform household duties daily.  While I doubt this is true, perhaps our reward system (that I am constantly revamping- and that Laddie continues to mock me because of it's continuous imperfections) might interest some viewers.  The eye soar of a dry erase calendar in my kitchen that serves as the center for the job chart, reward offerings, and activities listing might score some much needed guidance from Nate Berkus.  When he pays us a surprise visit, perhaps he can offer advice on patching the numerous dry wall holes that grace our walls, and some space saving suggestions to help us get organized and look good at the same time. 

There are aspects of our life that already resemble parts of current reality TV shows.  I'm very verbal when the kids practice their Irish dancing.  I danced when I was a kid, so I feel somewhat qualified to offer suggestions.  Eddie likes to call me 'dance mom.'  He and I caught part of an episode once, and it definitely left an impression.  The fact that he chuckles when he says it keeps him out of the dog house.  Additionally, how many shows are focused on families with lots of children?  Well, we might not have double digit kids, but isn't it unique nowadays to have six kids who don't all share the same birthday?  That might be where our similarities end.  Duck calling isn't my thing.  I am, however, proficient at kid calling.  The neighbors probably tire of hearing me call somebody inside, or they cringe when I yell at a naughty kid to get out of my sight.  We are also aware of a mild hoarding gene that is present in our makeup.  I'm convinced that Tetonka will someday secure a spot on the hoarder show.  Seriously. . .  a concern of mine.  Imagine if that becomes a 'reality' after we have starred in our own series.  The producers could flip to scenes from Tetonka's childhood to show behavior leading up to the official pack-rat stage.  I think Coach and I have tendencies to stockpile crap in our house, but this issue stems from a lack of abundant time to clean out closets verses a belief that this stuff will someday have another use.  I am working diligently this summer to rid ourselves of some of the excess in our closets. 

Don't worry, I don't think you will be tuning in to see the Shenanigan's any time soon.  Until then, I hope you find some other wacky family to keep you bored, and remind you how normal you are!

July 5, 2013

the relaxation of summer!

Ah, summer . . . sunshine, fun at the pool, outdoor fun, time to relax!  It sounds wonderful.  Add six active kids to the mix and there is a noticeable shift. 

Fozzy and I now chuckle while we recall the good 'ole days, when summer meant school was out and my youngsters were home for twelve weeks.  We could sleep in, play at the pool, nap when time permitted, visit the zoo countless times, and eat dinner on the deck.  I was always happiest when the kids were home.  They would thud quietly down the stairs in the morning wearing their summer pajamas with their squinty eyes buried behind puffy cheeks.  I would be greeted by their raspy voice as they cozied up on the couch.  Once their sleepiness was replaced with playfulness, they would gobble up breakfast while we made plans for the day.

Flash forward eight years:  while I still prefer summer to any other time of year, the start of this glorious season is typically marred by my kitchen becoming a dumping site for backpacks jammed with partially used school supplies and more paperwork than a lawyers' office sees in a year.  Groggy morning routines transform from stringent school schedules, to chilly swim practices.  Swim team practice snaps into place without allowing any days for sleeping in. The prepping for school questions of:  "Am I getting hot lunch?" "Did you put my homework in my backpack?" "Did you sign my test?" are replaced with: "Where is my suit?" "Isn't it too cool for practice today?" "Why did you wake me up so early?" "Can't I skip today?"

Of course swim team isn't the only event listed on our bigger-than-life kitchen calendar/ dry erase board.  There is football camp, piano, drivers ed,  Irish dancing, fiddle lessons, and basketball camp.  Caddying at the local golf course may not be noted on the board, but it is a daily expectation for Laddie and Eddie.  Birthday parties litter the board like random strips of ripped up wrapping paper.  Despite busy summer events, we still manage to log several hours a week at the local pool. 

The pool has always been our favorite summer hangout.  Some of my kids were born with the hereditary webbed toes that run in my family.  Years ago my sister-in-law joked that my kids were part fish after witnessing them take to the water at a very young age.  Swimming benefited me in many ways:  1.  It wore the kids out.  2.  The pool was never boring.  3.  It saved us money, because once the annual fee was paid, why go anywhere else?  4.  Social time for the kids.  A number of friends would show up on any given day.  5.  Social time for me.  I met other moms and looked forward to having adult chats while the kids played with their toy boats.  6.  A clean house.  OK, let's pretend that my house was clean (a rare occasion).  Spending the majority of our day soaking up the sun meant if I pulled the place together occasionally, it would stay that way.  Of course, it also made it difficult to get household tasks complete.  But laundry, bathroom scrubbing, and vacuuming would always wait for a rainy day. 

A recent rainy day reminded me of how different life is now that my kids relish being rascals.  It was a Monday, so the golf course was closed.  Laddie and Eddie's presence in the home changes the whole dynamic.  The weather was unseasonably cool, so a trip to the pool was out of the question.  Our plan was to visit the zoo the next day with friends.  I welcomed the opportunity to get something done in the house.  I cracked the whip and insisted that everyone get a solid piano practice in along with a bit of reading and a math worksheet.  There are always chores for the kids to do around the house, so I reminded them of that as well.  (Translation:  plenty for them to do).  I busied myself trying to organize the school supply/ workbook cabinet that was overloaded and mostly ignored. 

In the morning between a few of my swim team drop offs I discovered that some of my offspring had opened and eaten most of a box of cookies . . . all before ten in the morning.  The wrapper was in the trash, which is how I knew that something was up.  I had only purchased the cookies the night before.  Tetonka eventually fessed up and showed me where he was storing the remainder of the treats.  He also ratted out Laddie and Eddie for their involvement.  Shock!  The box lay on the dining room floor covered loosely by a paper towel.  What a great invitation to ants and other pests!

One of the day's events included the removal of a screen from the girls' second floor bedroom window by Laddie and Eddie.  After luring Tetonka over to the area below the window the two hooligans dumped a bucket of water on him.  I didn't realize for hours that they did not replace the screen after completing the stunt.  Fortunately, no little sisters (aka Curly) were in danger of plunging out of the window, because Curly and Mini were busy playing together in the basement.  (ah, girls)  Luckily, no birds confused the girls' room for a nesting area before I snapped the screen into place. 

Laddie also caught a young bird.  He ripped up a screen that he stumbled upon in the garage to cover the shoe box that he was keeping it in until he 'found it's parents' and released it a few short hours later.

Tetonka and Eddie began a squirt gun battle in the backyard.  Although Laddie had instructions to paint part of the dining room, he managed to join in the water gun fight.  His only obstacle (besides painting, which was clearly not a priority to him) was his lack of a water gun.  He grabbed the small plastic water bottle that I keep in the kitchen to refresh Curly after a particularly good sleep mattes down her locks.  Of course the little pink bottle wasn't built for combat and it was broken in no time.  Eddie's squirt bottle was just a larger version of Curly's.  He brought his home from school filled with a sample of a natural cleaning supply that they had concocted in science class.  He swore that he rinsed it out before he began squirting people with it, but his opponents gave off a minty scent for the rest of the day. 

Ah summer!  At least now that I am not pregnant or nursing, I can enjoy an occasional adult beverage, because there are days when their lack of impulse control just about sends me over the edge. 

May 20, 2013

Never again?

While we were away, I  exchanged text messages with the friends who were caring for my crew.  There was a photo sent to me of Tetonka and Curly riding bikes with their friends.  They were the only two who doubled up, although this friend 'Ms. M' originally expressed an interest in hosting the youngest four.  Her generous (albeit crazy) offer was made after I had already committed Mini and Reggie to their closest friend's houses respectively.  Ms. M was genuinely bummed not to be relishing time with the fab four, who she took in last year while I worked like a maniac at running a garage sale fundraiser for the kids' school.  Mini and Reggie had second thoughts about skipping an awesome time with Ms. M to hang out with his/her best friend, so Reggie ended up joining Ms. M while waiting for his friend's mom to get him after her work day.  He scored the best of both world's, although his weekend ended up turning a bit dismal.  I also got messages asking permission for Eddie to see a PG-13 movie, and telling me that Mini and friend were getting along great as usual.  Of course Laddie failed to return my text asking him how the day in the life of a caddy panned out.  I later learned from Nana that he didn't get out.  Coach and I will be interested to hear how this transpired, did he sleep late? 

I tried not to be alarmed when Reggie's host mom, Ms. B, asked me to call her on Sunday morning.  I assumed, knowing Reggie's rough and tough tendency, that he had a broken limb.  No broken bones, but he was up all night throwing up.  Ugghhh!  What could I do but apologize profusely?   She explained that at first when Reggie complained of a tummy ache she thought maybe he just missed us.  "Not Reggie," I assured her.  She chuckled realizing what a silly thought that was. She assured me it was no problem, but wondered if she should still give him back to my mom, Nana, at the designated time.  I was confident having not thrown up for hours, that he would be on the mend and Nana would be fine with him. 

Today we return to the little darlings, future plumbing problems, a microwave that works sporadically, and a rigorous after school activity schedule.  Reggie surprised us all by repeating his Saturday night performance and throwing up from 3:30 am until 7 am for my mom early this morning.  I thought I was so clever to have arranged for Curly to spend the day with cousins to give Nana a break while the older kids were at school.  Now Nana is stuck at my house with Reggie and Curly, who can't play with cousins for fear she will fall ill next.  Nana survived a spell of crippling frustration this morning when the TV and remote decided to rebel against her.  At long last PBS graced the screen, and happiness was restored. 

I'm glad we enjoyed ourselves this trip, because the chances of us getting away again before Curly departs for college, are slim to none.  Sometimes the best laid plans leave you feeling like you have a debt of gratitude that you are unable to repay.

Where there's a will, there's a way

We were able to escape to the airport for our first weekend away in years without too many other hiccups, unless you count the fact that the kitchen sink chose this morning to back up.  It was gross, and not clearing with Coach's usual adjustments.  He tried to share details with me about traps, and his handy man diagnosis.  My interest was limited as I tried to run through all of the last minute details on my list.  I managed to call my dad, who as an accountant is more organized than your average human being, and he provided me with the plumber's phone number.  I left a rambling message for the plumber, who was my parent's plumber first so I indicated my relation to them hoping to cash in on their valued customer status.  I revealed the code to get into the house, begging him to repair the sink before Sunday at 3:00 when my mom would be holding down the fort.  Then we were off.  I only had to call my mom twice to share a few more tidbits with her, one of which was please put the smelly towels that were used to clean up the kitchen mess in the dryer when the load is done.

I traveled to Denver with a right butt cheek sporting a deep tissue-gray-stained-turtle-shaped bruise about the size of my hand with all of my fingers fanned out.  (read 'Ode to . . . pain in the ass!' to learn more about my early morning mishap) I believe it was the batman toy that left the biggest mark.  I made the necessary adjustments as I strode through the airport, switching my carryon bag to my left shoulder so it wouldn't continuously thump on my sore rump.  It was an uncomfortable flight as I hunkered down on my damaged ass.  As the bruise transformed from a dull gray to a beautiful array of colors, I did have Coach take a photo with my phone, which I promptly sent to Fozzy.  Now that is the measure of a true friend . . . someone who can view your injured ass and not disown you.

I'm not sure why I envisioned a luxury hotel with an outdoor pool, attentive staff, and a short walk to  downtown.  Maybe Coach told me were staying in a Hyatt and not a Hyatt Place.  Denver was a good distance from us, which bothered me little, since I really didn't care about exploring this unfamiliar city.  While I was initially disappointed that the hotel was only furnished with an indoor pool, I made due on Friday and Saturday by dragging a pool chair out to a grassy section across the parking lot to sunbathe with my nose buried in my book.  Coach and I ventured to downtown Denver Friday night for dinner and people watching. 

Sunday morning, after I enjoyed the complimentary breakfast where I lingered as long as I would allow myself to read my interesting book ('Those Who Save Us' by Jenna Blum),  I enjoyed a long walk while admiring the beautiful backdrop of the Rockies in  the distance.  That is when I noticed the apartment complex about a block away from our hotel.  The temperature was only expected to reach the '60's, but there were people laying beside the pool, and the sun was shining.  The gate, which looked like it was typically locked was propped open with a rock perhaps out of convenience for the child's birthday party that was being celebrated at the pool.  I pondered it the remainder of my walk.  It was worth a try.

After my walk, I raced into our hotel room and loaded up my bag with my book, snacks, phone, water bottle, and towel.  I sauntered into the pool unnoticed.  I dove for the first available lounge chair, and planted myself face down with my book extended to the side of the chair so I could read, and partially cover my unfamiliar face.  The chair was lined up perfectly with the sun, so no adjusting was necessary.  It was a big complex, so I couldn't believe the staff would know everyone who lived there.  This was living, even if it was a bit of a sneaky way of living.  It sure beat sitting upright in the pool chair at the edge of the hotel parking lot.  A boy tapped me on my shoulder at one point to ask me to retrieve his ball from under my chair, not to ask me what apartment I lived in, thankfully.  An adult, who may have been hosting the birthday party, invited me over to enjoy cocktails.  So, this was the attentive staff I imagined?  I thanked him, but stuck to my chair deciding that no sudden movements was my best bet.  My only mistake was that I lay on my belly the entire two hours I was there.  Although the air was cool, the sun punished me with a decent lobster-like burn on the back of my legs and back.  My front had received enough attention from the sun the previous day while sitting upright in the hotel chair, so I didn't want to overdo it.  My refusal to move, my enthralling book, and my knowledge that no one needed me to be anywhere aided me in losing track of time.  The shocking red color at the edge of my suit contrasts nicely with the purplish decorated portion of my dairy air.  At least I wasn't wearing a thong suit, which would have displayed my treacherous-toy butt bruise. 

Pain in the Ass!!!

As Coach and I prepared to head out of town, I spent hours mapping out a plan so that each kid had rides to activities that were necessary.  I was exhausted trying to supply everyone who graciously involved themselves in our getaway with the correct phone numbers, addresses, and instructions necessary to make the weekend as smooth as possible.  The month of May is busy with year end school celebrations, family First Communion parties, and my need to wrap up all of my work responsibilities until I would return in late August.  Adding a long weekend away was another stress.

My mom would have the kids Friday afternoon until they were picked up by friends.  She was scheduled to be back at the house in time for them to be dropped off on Sunday at 3:00pm.  A neighbor would drive the kids to school on Monday, so my mom only had to deal with the morning routine without any guilt about a tardy attendance mark . . . honestly, what is one more tardy at this point in the school year?  The two gifts for the two different birthday parties that Tetonka and Mini would attend were purchased and wrapped in advance.  Baseball gear was packed in Reggie's bag for his Saturday game, and his coach was given a cell number to call in case the game finished early and his ride wasn't there yet.  Irish dancing snacks were tucked into Mini's bag for the long workshop she would attend.  Rides for Eddie's basketball tournaments on Saturday and Sunday were set up and directed to pick him up and drop him off at his best friend's house.  Laddie was instructed to pack his caddy clothes and to perform the impossible task of getting ready quietly at his buddy's house for his early morning caddy round.  Clothes appropriate for the weather were packed into four different bags.  Laddie and Eddie packed their own bags without too much input from me.   Curly's baby bear was added to her bag at the last minute, so she could sleep at night.  After all this, I felt like sleeping all day!

I stayed up packing my own bags, sending last minute reminder emails, and stacking chocolate chip cookies (previously baked and stored in the freezer) on paper plates with each family's name attached as gifts to their hosts.  I fell into bed after midnight and rose at 4:30 am.  I spent a few hours trying to quietly make the house look presentable, and searching for my bathing suit bottom that disappeared as soon as I was ready to pack it.  I was checking under the couch balancing on my knees and one elbow while reaching under the couch with my free hand.  I believe I was performing a yoga move, but I failed miserably.  I lost my balance as I tried to free a set of star wars light sabers that were lodged under the couch.  I toppled over onto a structure built to house batman, princesses, and star wars guys alike and perhaps the occasional Barbie - although her height deemed her a threat to the compound.  It had been rebuilt several times in the last few weeks, but was always comprised of the same components:  a hard plastic formed batman castle, magnet blocks, wooden blocks, and at times a castle or doll house.  The doll house had been added as an after thought by from the girls' room by determined little hands when they thought I wasn't looking.  The family has come to accept this eye soar's constant presence in the middle of the floor. 

Anyway, I flopped over, crushing it and more importantly damaging what used to be known as my right butt cheek.  Coach found me writhing in pain moments after my 'fall'.  It is admittedly hard to call it a fall, since I was kneeling on the floor to begin with.  Reggie, who was perched on the couch with a scrunched up morning face, witnessed the entire clumsy event.  I had a hard time catching my breath, but when I could speak Reggie jumped into action as soon as I croaked out the command, "Clean this up!"  Coach, forever the physical therapist, strapped a bag of frozen fruit to my ass, and informed me that in the morning light my suit bottom had surfaced on the top of our comforter.  Perfect, it was right where I had left it after all. 

You are familiar with the saying, "What a pain in the ass?"  Well, perhaps leaving town was just that - too much of a pain in the ass for me to manage.

May 18th, baby!

At dinner one night during a particularly mind numbing conversation between the kids, I glanced at Coach whose pupils were fixed and dilated.  He too longed to escape the talk which involved kids choosing sides and challenging the other side to prove that their opinion was correct.  I believe the dispute involved who knew more about what horse might perform better in a race of speed:  a plow horse, or a draft horse.  I whispered to Coach across the table, "May 18th baby, May 18th."  This was the date of our upcoming long weekend getaway without the kids.  One of the kids lost interest in this tantalizing horse talk, and asked what Daddy and I were laughing about.  Reggie was the first to repeat it.  "She said May Eighteenfff."  They puzzled for a minute until Reggie burst into a smile and began to lead the other rogues in a chant.  "Oh yeah, we can't wait for May Eighteeff eivver.  That is when we get to go to our friends' houses."  They pounded their fists on the table and chanted the date over and over, "May 18th, May 18th." 

It went on for weeks.  When they were upset, or debating our parental wisdom, they began the 'May 18th' chant.  I must admit, I envisioned waking up alone in a hotel room.  With Kevin on his way to class, and no kids to discipline, drive, or direct in any way, the entire day was mine to plan.  Sleeping late was top on my priority list.  Their chant caused me to smile as well.


Divide and conquer!

Coach and I  have been married for almost 17 years.  We have left the children for brief overnight stays when we headed to out of town weddings or to celebrate an anniversary.  Those occasions are few and far between.  Last year, my sister took them to sleep at her house so we could host a St. Patrick's Day party at our house.  I can't recall though when the last time was that we actually went out of town, since the wedding invites that once peppered our calendar have been inherited by some other younger couple in the wedding-celebrating-stage of life.

A few months ago, Coach mentioned that he wanted to attend a continuing education class in Denver.  He suggested that I accompany him on the trip, since the hotel room would be paid for anyway.  There is nothing I desire more than sitting in an empty hotel room or relaxing at the side of the pool.  The promise of boredom was too much.  I agreed to investigate what we would do with the kids.  The gang was in ear shot of our conversation of course, and they were instantly on board.  They envisioned sleepovers with friends, escaping the confines of the family, and experiencing a bit of freedom. 

I asked around.  I would never ask my mom to handle the entire load of a weekend with my Shenanigans, but she was on board for a partial assignment.  Next I asked my friends if they would each be willing to take a kid apiece.  I was going with the divide and conquer plan.  I figured spreading the love was the best chance I had at successfully heading out of town.  As I prepared for the trip, I joked that I hoped these women would still value my friendship enough to speak to me when I returned. 

For weeks we anticipated the trip.  I started a list of things that would need to be done in advance.  Everyone was excited.  There would be no tears shed or pleas from the kids not to leave them.  Absence would make the heart grow fonder, or in our case . . . absence might make the kids beg us to go away again soon.


April 28, 2013

The Hair Garden

With summer approaching, I remember all too well the events as I prepared for another season at the pool in 2003.

Everybody does it, right?  That was the thought that ran through my head as I finally picked up the phone to schedule 'the' appointment.  After years of dealing with the dreaded bikini line, I finally got up my nerve to take care of it.  At this point in my life, I had given birth three or four times, so how hard could it be to get waxed?  I longed for the freedom of pulling on a bathing suit and not worrying about whether or not there was any growth, stubble, or even worse red shaving bumps.  No more itching as it grew back.  No more adjusting to make sure everything was tucked and tamed.  Ah, let the summer relaxation at the side of the pool begin . . . of course, having those little tots in tow meant very little relaxing.  Instead I would be constantly checking swim diapers to avoid the dreaded spillage, reapplying sunscreen to chubby limbs, and keeping a watchful eye to be sure no one stayed under too long!  But chatting with other moms and soaking up the sun's rays was enough of a respite for me.

OK, it wasn't this bad, I promise!
Being on a budget, I shopped around.  Since I was new to the bikini wax market, I had no idea how much I should expect to invest in a wax job.  I was still uncomfortable talking about the process in polite company, so I could not rely on recommendations from friends.  I called around and inquired about pricing at a few places that I looked up in the yellow pages.  Finally, I scheduled myself at 'The Hair Garden.'  It won my business because it was the cheapest place around.  It has been about ten years since this memorable event, so I honestly don't even remember how much it cost.

It wasn't until I arrived that I realized that 'The Hair Garden' was a beauty salon catering to a clientele that was primarily of East Indian decent.  This shouldn't matter.  I believe hair down there grows the same on everyone, so I pressed onward in my adventure.  I was led into a back room.  The chatter among customers flowed in a foreign tongue, so I had no idea if the other patrons were chuckling about how nervous or out of place I looked or if they were just carrying on regular conversation.  I reminded myself that this would all be over soon and I would be chuckling about it long distance with Fozzy.

I feel ya!
Laying on a table, I bared my own 'hair garden' of unruly, unwanted overgrowth.  The dingy ceiling tiles, and the flickering fluorescent light completed the Frankenstein-like, lab atmosphere.  Where the Hell was I, and what was I doing?  The professional warned me that the wax would be warm, and then warned me that I would feel some pain.  Damn!  That was no joke.  She repeated the process a few times before proudly announcing that the job was done.  I barely remember paying.  Everything else is fuzzy (no pun intended).  I half cried, half laughed the short ride home. 

I don't think I applied any ointment or other soothing treatment before I reached for the phone and called Foz.  I described my ordeal in great detail.  We laughed and chuckled at the awkwardness of it all.  Then Fozzy asked an important question, "Was it worth it?"  That is when I decided to examine the condition of my screaming skin. 

Dare to dream!!!

Ironically the worst of the de-weeding was about to be realized.  When comparing prices, perhaps I should have inquired about technique or success rate (I guess I wasn't aware that a bikini wax could be unsuccessful).  Upon inspection, I was shocked because I had been serviced with an 'incomplete' bikini wax.  There were entire areas that remained intact.  How difficult is it to get it all?  I promise that I am not some kind of amazon woman with hair growth rivaling that of Chewbaca.  What good is an incomplete bikini wax?  I was still forced to deal with the renegade strips of hair that apparently avoided the less than thorough efforts of Ms. Hair Garden.  I would certainly not recommend her for the employee of the month.  How dare she botch this, when every ounce of my courage was summoned for this particular endeavor! 

So approximately ten summers later, I have chosen to spend summers sporting swim suits that shroud my bikini line in a skirt rather than 'woman up' and repeat the icky process all over again.  I have accepted the reality that I have an area where the sun doesn't shine.  On the flip side, Fozzy and I only have to mention the name of the now closed business, 'The Hair Garden' in order to enjoy a good hearty laugh!  And so now I share the laugh with you too, my readers.

April 21, 2013

Where does time go?

I don't recall when it happened.  It must have been a gradual shift.  Time used to be on my side.  There was an abundance of it.  Time for television as a kid when my homework was done, time to talk to high school friends on the home phone (until I feared that my dad might be calling from work because we had no call waiting), time to shop for new clothes after work before I was married, and time to relax or nap while the baby was napping. 

Of course there were days when time was cruel . . . fighting to keep my eyes open while holding down the fort during a late night babysitting gig in junior high.  If there was nothing on television and I would be too embarrassed to be woken up, every minute squeaked by at an alarmingly slow pace.  Years later, I recall anxiously waiting for the phone call from a guy in college while time stood still.  When I counted the months until I could afford to move out of my parents house after college, time was as slow as Friday traffic. 

Today that has all changed.  I am constantly racing the clock.  The list of tasks I hope to accomplish on any given day grows and grows with no end in sight.  My notebook assists me in tracking everything I need to get done, and I recently began dividing the page into multiple columns just to fit it all on one sheet.

It seems the more pressed for time I am the more direction I have.  If my schedule permits some freedom, I waiver- unable to commit to any one objective.  Choices about which errand to run first, or whether laundry should take precedence over groceries interferes with progress.  It boggles my mind and frustrates me to no end.  Of course, that situation rarely presents itself.  Instead I plow forward and feel time slip away as I attempt to squeeze more and more from each available minute.  At the end of the day, I constantly feel like I've come up short, like I've spent time unwisely.  Like I've failed.  There must be some part of the day that I could have used more intelligently.  Coach would prefer I take the 'glass is half full' approach and focus more on what I DID accomplish.  Trust me, I do have those days - where so much gets done, and everything falls into place.  I just need more of them.

Lately I have noticed that I start to come unglued if all my hopes for a block of time come crashing down as quickly as a Lego tower constructed by Reggie and Curly.  Freakishly last week, almost all of our after school activities were cancelled.  Mini's Irish dancing class was the sole scheduled activity as I received email after email that everything else would need to be set aside due to the intense rainfall our area received.  The stress of needing to be in three places at once on a night when Coach wouldn't be home to help drive kids and pick them up was released just as quick as you could say 'major rainfall.'  I whipped out my mixer and baked and froze a batch of cookies that I needed to make for Sunday.

Looking back, my big mistake was expecting my offspring to feel my sense of urgency in correctly utilizing this unexpected gift of time.  I promised them a movie night if they helped get the house cleaned up (anything is an improvement around here), and finished their homework before dinner. 

I had a vision.  That vision included a sparkling house, bathed children, dinner that served and cleaned up after itself (it did practically cook itself because I started my crock pot that morning), discipline that would prove unnecessary, laundry that landed effortlessly in correct drawers, Eddie's closet sorted out (this would be a true and amazing miracle), an Irish dancing carpool that made every green light, and a 'to do' list with very few items remaining.  Ah, dare to dream. 

Well, dream I did . . . but I ended up with a nightmare.  When I noticed the clock was closing in on bed time and no movie was being played yet, I started to panic.  I couldn't deliver a movie to them when the house was still a disaster, could I?  How could I start a movie this late?  Where did the damn time go?  I was supposed to have time to spare.  Then I snapped, and my mommy melt down heated up and erupted.  I screamed, stamped my foot, shouted orders, and pointed out all that didn't get done.  It was not pretty.  A few kids were scrambling to do something to please me, and the other kids were arguing that the house looked fine and homework was done - translation:  'Turn on the movie you promised, you mean old cow!'

I don't know how to describe it, but there is literally never enough hours in a day - 24, who ever came up with that number?  It isn't enough for me.  I race around like a lunatic so that I can get it all done, so that I can finally relax.  I don't know who I am kidding.  No matter how close I get to 'getting it all done' relaxing isn't in the cards for me.  There is always a new day dawning - usually too early for me to face - and that just means more to get done.

I did put on a movie.  I did let them stay up later than they should have.  They weren't thrilled with my movie choice, but it was an educational Peanuts movie about American inventors, etc.  It was due back at the library, so it made sense to me that they watch it.  I shared the fact with them that none of them were in any position to pick the movie since no one really stood out as a major helper.  I spent the remainder of the night working alongside Eddie, who insisted his closet was 'done.'  The only think that was done, was that the mound of clothes that could fill the washing machine three times was removed from the closet floor and stuck back on various closet shelves.  No folding involved.  What?  The garbage that littered his side of the room, and under his bed had not been addressed.  Very little had been eliminated.  Eddie is in the unfortunate position (or fortunate depending on how you look at it) of inheriting a ton of clothes from our friends with twin sons, and most boy cousins (my sisters started mass producing girl babies as soon as I stepped in and started reproducing the male variety - so we have a plethora of boy hand me downs.  Laddie was always bigger than their youngest boys, so I buy him clothes and then the hand me downs get thrown into the mix).  My night, that seemed so free, was dedicated to determining which clothes needed to be washed (yes, he stores dirty clothes on the shelves and the clean stacks that are placed on his bed he pushes to the floor.  This makes for a very confusing laundry dilemma), donated, handed down to Tetonka, or folded and placed on a shelf.  My need to accomplish something was almost as great as his need to kick back and relax.  I won, but it was a well fought battle complete with muttering under breath, begging to be done, and denial about the definition of an organized closet.

It was so much easier when I fell asleep during the graveyard shift of the babysitting job, when the college boy didn't call, and when I could barely afford to eat because I was scraping to pay my mortgage bill.  At least then, time was still on my side. 

April 17, 2013

Filing, elephant projects, water bombs, and other interruptions

I did it!  Once again I pulled it off.  The process involved some late nights, the usual amount of confusion, at least one occasion for desperate digging in my desk for paperwork, and of course procrastination.  But in the end, I did it . . . I filed my taxes on time.

I didn't procrastinate much this time around, but my busy schedule did not permit me to sit down and get the job done early on.  Having said that, I know that prioritizing the taxes ahead of other events that cropped up, might have prevented me from filing at the last minute.  Once I initiate the process every year, I can come back to it when I have a minute.  I tend to sidle up to the early stages of tax time, however, like Tetonka approaches his homework.  He checks to see if there is anything else possible that he might need to do before he dives in. 

I felt unprepared this year, and as usual . . . I was right.  The typical stack of tax paperwork wasn't growing in a corner of my desk.  I blame this nonexistent beckoning pile of envelopes for my lack of motivation to jump start the Turbo Tax software.  Apparently, most of my necessary paperwork was swallowed by a black hole that exists in our house.  I was missing a W2, and couldn't figure out how to sign in to the website to print it out.  Could the bank really have failed to send me any of my official documents this year?  Doubt it.  Having turned in all of my tax 'stuff' from the last few years to the mortgage rep, I struggled to find our property pin number.  Come to think of it, I am beginning to wonder if this mortgage rep has found a new line of work and not notified us.  It was a crisp day in October when I gave him a shopping bag full of poorly organized, somewhat wrinkled documentation.  The daughter of an accountant, I know that my dad would be sickened if he saw the condition of the paperwork that I handed Mr. Mortgage-Refinance-Man.  It goes without saying that Dad would be equally upset to see the disorganization of my desk, and he would have trouble grasping how envelopes disappeared into thin air.

Once a big chunk of my misplaced information was regurgitated from various websites, I worked to input the info when prompted to by my dear friend, Turbo Tax.  A few other events occurred that caused me to pause my tax progress, but knowing that I was close to being done - I relaxed.  Mistake number 472 of the year 2013. 

While the details of my taxes might be boring, I can report on the never ending, eventful interruptions that occurred while I attempted to input tax data.  Coach was working late, and I finished up after school activities, dinner, and baths a little later than I would prefer - but what else is new?  Laddie was in a particularly irritating frame of mind.  His satisfaction at antagonizing his siblings was causing me to be more than a little perturbed.  

Reggie had a book that he had to write about elephants for a first grade project.  Although we were given months to research and create the book, ours was started just a week before the due date, not unlike my taxes.  While Reggie drew a few pictures of elephants for the required picture pages, he wanted to print the remaining images off of the Internet.  The computer was acting up, so Laddie turned it off.  It struggled to reboot.  I raced to the laptop, eager to find a handful of photos for Reg to select from and get him to bed.  My plan was to email them to coach at work and ask him to print them off, since the laptop doesn't connect to the printer.  The laptop decided to update just as we were finishing up.  This meant it had to shut down momentarily.  Did I want to save the file I had created, YES!  I know I responded correctly, but when I was able to reboot the laptop I couldn't find the photos anywhere.  This was a very nerve racking twenty minute stretch because Eddie stood in front of me and chanted, "Aren't you going to drive me to basketball now?  Come on!  I don't want to be late."  Over, and over, and over.  I urged him to read with Curly while I finished the elephant picture search, so I could quickly put her to bed.  In the distance there was a shrieking sound that I could only ignore for so long.  Finally I asked what the hell was going on even though part of me didn't really want to know.  "Who is screaming?!"  It was Mini.  It turns out that Laddie, who suffers from boredom at the most inopportune times, was throwing plastic Easter eggs filled with cold water at Mini while she was in the shower.  Alas, no taxes were accomplished on this eventful, yet typical, evening.  I may have even ended the evening pondering why I have so many dependents in the first place (tax deduction or not)!

Mini was born on April 12th.  I will urge her to never choose tax accounting as a profession, if she values enjoyable birthdays.  My childhood friend, Meggy, is a tax accountant.  I begrudgingly elected to use my 'phone-a-friend' pass a few times in the final days.  Fortunately, the software that I purchased included one free state.  I was relieved to complete my state income taxes immediately after my federal, and planned to call it a day before ten o'clock.  (A few years back, I got a shocking letter letting me know that I had neglected to file state income taxes.  Oops!)  There were a few hiccups to my plan, and I ransacked my desk looking for what I needed.  Another phone call to Meggie. 

Then, at last, I was done.  I just needed to input my bank account numbers for refunds and withdrawals, etc.  Then my good friend turned on me.  No not Meggie, Turbo Tax.  It asked me how I would like to pay for my Turbo Tax fees.   Granted I was tired, but I insisted on knowing what the heck fees I could owe.  It was charging me for the use of the 'not-so-free' state.  What?!  Eager for my misery to end, and my sleep to commence, I resigned to pay the fee.  I did decide to contact Turbo Tax during the day at some point to argue my case, but now my focus was on filing.  Over and over again, I received a message stating that Turbo Tax was having some difficulties and I would have to try again later.  There WAS no later!  I tried repeatedly.  Some times I would get as far as typing in my credit card data, and then the alert box would pop up in front of my tired, frustrated eyes.  Eventually, I was successful and Turbo Tax displayed the words I so wanted to see:  "You have successfully filed." 

I feel like I fought a battle with Turbo Tax, and T.T. won.  Of course at that point, T.T. could have demanded $500 instead of a simple $19.99, and I would have paid.  Anything to be done with this nonsense . . .  at least until next year!

April 16, 2013

The blog police!

My blogging progress can be measured in baby steps.  Over a year after it was first pondered, I finally narrowed down the name for the blog.  Because I am not computer savvy, the set up was a disastrous, drawn-out day that ended with no actual posts.  I marvel at the fact that I was able to create a log in, choose a platform, and upload a page format- which resembled my constant companion . . . my notebook.  It was all so overwhelming. 

Too many choices, and not enough knowledge about how to change the look of the blog.  It didn't help that I was using an outdated 'Blogging for Dummies' book from the local library.  The buttons they were guiding me to had been renamed and relocated.  Ugghhh!!  Translation . . .  I hope you find my blog 'look' appealing, because to have to change the appearance of my page might actually take an act of God. 

Now the continuous flow of post ideas stemming from amusing stories may benefit my blog, but my challenge to find the time to write or post continues to prove my biggest obstacle.  After all, the reaction I frequently heard from friends when I shared my blog aspirations was:  "How are you going to find the time?" 

I confessed my fear of not being able to keep up with the demands of a blog to Fozzy during one of our late night 'do-you-remember-this-from-high-school' conversations.  Fozzy became exasperated with me, "What are you worried about, Friend?  Do you think the blog police are going to come after you if you don't produce a weekly or daily post?"  She laughed harder than I did.  My reaction was more of a nervous, tension-relief giggle.  "Oh, I guess."

The biggest challenge now, a month after that mind-numbingly, long set-up day took place, is finding time to sit in front of the computer uninterrupted and type.  I do enjoy sleep, very much so.  Probably the thing I miss most before being a mom . . . not my bikini wearing capabilities, or my graying hair, or my messy house - just long, deep, uninterrupted sleep.  Translation:  when am I supposed to blog? 

My days are full.  I started working part time this school year, so when the kids are at school - I'm typically not home.  The free time that I do afford myself usually includes a couple of overflowing laundry baskets begging to be sorted (and the children with no clean underwear in their drawers begging even louder).

For example, this evening I had 5 minutes of down time, and I ended up emptying the sandwich baggie/ Reynolds wrap drawer.  (I must admit that I have discovered when I am not crazy busy, I become paralyzed with choices of how to fill my free time:  laundry, housework, bill paying, laundry, fridge cleaning, counter top decluttering, laundry, etc.)  There was a very impressive layer of toothpicks on the bottom of said drawer. 

I have no idea what cause we would have to own this many toothpicks, but it was becoming increasingly frustrating that I could no longer close the drawer without the use of both my hands to keep everything tucked in, and a free hip to give it a quick jab.  On a night when I secretly celebrate that Irish dancing lessons, and water polo games are all complete by 6:00 pm, AND my husband is home from work before dinner, where does the rest of the night go? 

Well, after the occasional drawer tossing - there is reading someone a book, or listening to someone practice reading a book.  Homework questions.  Bath time - technically I didn't give the youngest two their bath tonight.  I did, however, spend some time begging Mini, and a little later Tatonka, to save us a few pennies and instructed them to end their respective showers.  I told them I didn't care whether everything was clean or not (with the exception of hair - I cannot tolerate the smell of dirty hair). 

I refuse to let my kids go to school wearing clothes that don't fit, don't match, or don't look clean, so I pull clothes out of drawers for the youngest four every night.  Curly likes to approve of all fashion choices relating to her young life, so it recently became a ritual for her to lay in bed like a little princess while I give her a 'choice' of what to wear.  If she didn't feel moved by something in my hand, the process ended.  Then the evening is no longer about clothing choices, and more about choosing how long to cry about the loss of choices. 

To update the situation, I explained to her thru gritted teeth recently that getting dressed would now be about 'surprises.'  That meant, she would find the outfit selected for her by her mother in the morning, and she would put it on with a smile and no comment or she would lose a 'movie ticket.'  (movie tickets are my haphazardly used reward system in order to gain entry into the family movie night).  This new system has eliminated a few minutes from my evening routine, and I am happier - which in the end is all that matters.  Perhaps the experts would say that my five year old should be given choices.  Oh well, there was very little chance that my kids were going to avoid counseling at some point, so this might just be her anger issue. 

Tonight in addition to the ususal evening activities, I had to search for pay stubs and bank statements for the mortgage guy, so we can proceed with our refinance.  Throw in a little food prep, a dishwasher needing emptying or loading, discipline issues, a spill either in the fridge, on the homework that should have been put away, or on the floor, and you can see how time slips way until I find myself writing long after I would like to be curled up in my bed.

Hopefully, I will start to care more about writing blog entries than about whether or not lunches are prepared for tomorrow, and whether or not the floor is sticky.  After all, like everything else in my life- I like a challenge.  When people wondered how I would be able to do it, it only forced me to find a way.  But if the blog posts don't appear on a regular basis, I won't tell the blog police if you won't!

April 2, 2013

Starting a Blog

I don't recall when someone first suggested that I write a blog.  It popped up more than once after I related a true account of our family's nutty day to day life.  When I felt brave enough to share the thought seriously with friends, they encouraged me to start recording some of my anecdotes in a blog format.  But not having a keen cyber-sense, I wondered who would read my blog? (enter your name here______, thanks for reading!) 

A blog seemed too hip for me.  I must admit, however, that this blog proposal seemed slightly more realistic than inviting cameras into our home to film our uproarious lifestyle.  More than one person has quipped that we would be prime candidates for reality TV.  Our life already has a circus quality, we don't need a reality TV show to highlight our three-ring-like-edness. 

Eventually, when the nonsense continued to erupt around me and I found no other suitable outlet for it, I became convinced that blogging was in my future.  What better way to record all of our shenanigans?  The more I learned, the more energy I gave the idea. 

After particularly eventful days, I even started singing to my best friend, Fozzy, 'If I only had a blog,' to the tune of  'If I only had a Brain.'  If I could just get this thing up and running, I reasoned, perhaps I could someday get a book deal, not unlike the popular 'Marley & Me,' without the emotional death in the end of course!  After all, there may be times when my kids are as cute as puppies, but they certainly aren't any more trainable than an unpredictable dog.  Perhaps we have the right equation here:  cute + untrainable = adventure!

Once the idea took shape, I began to plan it out.  These planning stages have no doubt hindered the creative process.  There were so many 'what ifs.'  What if the kids ceased in providing humor and wreaking havoc?  Silly me!  That thought is ripe of wishful thinking.  Exciting events crop up willy nilly each and every day. 

Last Spring for example, Reggie and Curly (who were 6 & 4 respectively) began moving the bottom bunk mattresses off of frames, through hallways, around bends, past stairways into one bedroom.  Their final destination was a trampoline-like room, that impressed their older siblings after school, and left me frazzled trying to correct the mayhem before bedtime. 

The older kids have me wondering if other families have kids who eat like a pack of wild dogs in any room in the house, and then stuff the evidence above ceiling tiles, and into potted plants, or between the couch cushions.  (Do they not realize that throwing wrappers and pop cans in the garbage is far less likely to draw attention?)  Even everyday items find new life in their inventive little (and sometimes big!) hands. 

Recently, I was having trouble locating a handset for our land line.  We pay for our cell minutes as we go (a future blog post topic!), so our land line is still our main form of communication with the outside world.  Phones get misplaced in our house all the time, but on this day as soon as I found a phone it would go missing again.  One of the boys finally admitted under duress that they were using the phones as walkie-talkies.  Their talkies were missing, and they realized that our telephone was equipped with an intercom button.  Clearly I will be surrounded by a plethora of writing material for years to come considering the youngest just turned five, so on to my next concern . . .

I seriously couldn't wrap my brain around how I would find time to write for a blog, when I struggled to find time to email a teacher, sign my name to a field trip permission slip, or pick up my own dirty clothes off of my bathroom floor. 

How would I choose a name for a blog, and what if the name I liked was already taken?  Would I reveal our identity? . . . that question was quickly answered by Fozzy, who is much more world-web-ified than me.  No one would need to know our true identity - how would the kids survive having the real world know the many places they stick their dirty socks and other (more embarrassing) dirty secrets? 

I began to stockpile stories.  As a result, I have small scraps of paper retrieved from my pockets in my bathroom drawer, full pieces of paper hidden in the back of my daily-to-do-list notebook, and more defined memories saved as files on my computer.

So, while my blog might have as slow a start as some of my kids do when preparing for school in the morning, I hope to gain speed by oversharing blogging regularly.  I realize now that if I had been this focused on planning life to perfection, I would probably not have ever had children.  The timing would never seem right, the house not big enough, the bank accounts not full enough . . . so, like every other adventure in life, blogging just has to happen.

March 17, 2013

How to Live Like the Shenanigans

Curly at 18 mos.
Our family home is organized chaos.  My blog family name 'Shenanigans' may be a pen name,  but it accurately represents the spirit of our family.  With six kids - four of them boys - ages 5 - 14 years, the term 'organized' at times is admittedly a stretch.  "The youngest one in curls," is as close to a Brady bunch reference as we get.  Our last name perfectly fits us, and comes in handy when trying to make light of our hectic lifestyle. 

People ask me regularly, "How do you do it?"  My standard response is, "It's never pretty."  They usually laugh, but a lucrative reality show titled, 'The Six Shenanigans,' could be in our future.  After all, our attempt at getting to school on time alone is entertainment. 

Because many people have inquired, I have written a small list of tips. 

Tip #1:  Be organized.  Recording all my to do lists in a tattered notebook helps me keep pace with whatever we have going on.  While it adds nothing to the aesthetics of the kitchen, my enormous dry erase board serves as a calendar and a job chart. 

Tip #2:  Allow for a wide margin of error.  Despite tip #1, over the past few months I've missed birthday parties, overdrawn the checking account twice, forgotten to cancel a hotel room that we never used, and received notification that I neglected to file State income taxes a few year back. 

Tip #3:  Prioritize!  Translation:  some things will just not get done.  In my world, housework is the first thing skipped.  I don't have a cleaning lady.  If you use your imagination you might be able to grasp the disaster area we navigate through daily. 

Tip #4:  Put kids to work.  My kids have chores.  They scrub sinks, dust rooms, pick up toys, strip beds, put laundry away, sweep the kitchen, and vacuum.  When I check that they've done these tasks properly, it can help alleviate the mess.  This only seems fair, since they create the clutter and the sticky floors in the first place. 

Tip #5:  Rely heavily on a sense of humor and creativity.  When my seven year old launched his older brother's brand new, borrowed-without-permission Notre Dame football onto the roof of the commercial building where the kids take Irish dancing, it took some time to view the humor in the situation.  I placed a call to the local handyman whose office shares the same commercial complex as the dance studio.  I promised a plate of my delicious, chocolate chip cookies for retrieval of the football by way of their extension ladder.  The call came a short time later that the ball was accounted for.  The cookie for football exchange took place before the ball was even missed.  Now we laugh about it, or at least those of us who didn't almost lose a football get a chuckle. 

Tip #6:  Let some things go.  Shaking things off is not my strong suit.  If I can't laugh about it - I yell.  I'm not perfect, and I prove it daily.  People often compliment me for being calm.  They haven't witnessed my reaction when one kid accidentally shaved his brother's head in a reverse mohawk, or when the pet frog got loose in the basement for several hours before being found and released back into nature, or when a package of rotting lunch meat was discovered in a desk drawer in the boys' bedroom.  So, how do I do it?  Trust me, "It's never pretty!"