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.