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!