November 4, 2014


I work on Mondays and Thursdays at my 'real' job.  I have only subbed twice so far this school year.  I make a list of things to do Monday evenings, and I have a hard time agreeing to sub on my days off when I hope to accomplish errands, work out classes, housework, and laundry.  Once Tuesday is complete, I relax knowing that I can complete whatever I didn't get done off my list on Wednesday.  I am always in awe when the clock reveals that the kids are minutes away from getting off the bus.  Rarely does the day tick away that fast when I am at work.  There is no end to the tasks that I hope to scribble off my to do list.

Today was the day.  I was going to blog.  If it killed me.  Damn it.  I decided I would start my day writing a post, and then race off to my workout class at 9:45.  Perfect.  It was all planned out. No chance to procrastinate.  Although it seems that while I get so much done in a day, my blog slides to the back burner easier than anything else. 

The phone rang at 8:05.  Curly and Reggie had departed for the bus stop over 30 minutes ago.  Eddie, Tetonka, and Mini were milling around in varying stages of preparing to walk to school.  It was Laddie.  He told me that he was in a car accident on his way to school.  No one was hurt.  Thank God.  His car was the only one damaged.  After I inquired about injuries, I told him I was on my way.  I brushed my teeth, shouted at everyone to stop screwing around, and bolted for the door. 

Halfway pulled into the library entrance across from the high school (yes, he was so close to making it safely!) was the tow truck.  Cars driving past slowed down to check out the situation.  The cop's car blocked one lane in the street with lights flashing to warn cars.  Eddie stood to the side watching our old mini van get pulled onto the bed of the tow truck.  The cop was very nice.  The man that Laddie rear ended was very nice.  The car had seen better days.  Because the pick up truck he hit was one of those pick up trucks on steroids, the bumpers didn't line up.  The 'not your grandfather's pick up truck' was elevated above our mini van so that his bumper tore back the hood and then wreaked havoc on a few of the important parts under the hood as well.  Apparently a woman darted across the street with her young child and caused one car to jam on its brakes.  The monster truck jammed on his brakes.  Laddie jammed on his brakes, but he also made impact.  Taking an educated guess I can assume that Laddie was following too close.  Perhaps it's because he chose to sleep in a bit.  He barely made a lunch for himself, grumbled at everyone within a 10 foot radius, and literally scooped a few handfuls of luke warm eggs right from the pan and shoveled them into his mouth.  Breakfast of champions?  I think not. 

By the time I arrived, the business portion of the event was almost complete.  The cop and the nice truck man greeted me and explained the pedestrian issue.  The cop explained the paperwork, and said no ticket (at which point I almost kissed him).  I drove Danny across the street to school.  With his voice choked with  emotion, he explained that he jammed on his brakes.  I told him no injuries and no ticket were good things, but I also pointed out that he wasn't allowing himself enough time to get to school.  Finally I stated what I felt was obvious, there was very little chance that we would be fixing the car.  In order to keep Laddie's insurance rates (well, I can't say normal, because the crazy expense of insuring a teen doesn't seem normal, although given the circumstances, expensive insurance rates for teen boys is hardly a battle I am in any position to wage) somewhat affordable, we opted not to carry collision on the blue mini van.  The car was on its last legs.  Of course we had hopes that it would last longer than a few months.  Not worth fixing. 

All day when I was not blogging, I pondered what our next step would be.  Remove Laddie from our insurance and give him a 6 month break from driving.  Replace the mini with another sturdy but unexciting used car.  I'd prefer to not live in the same house as a teen driver.  Two accidents in about 6 weeks.  Yikes. Is it OK to turn him into a mooch again?  We are rarely around when he needs to be picked up from sports.  Swim season starts soon and the coach shared with me that they will practice in the mornings before school in addition to after school.  I don't want to haul my ass out of bed when it is still dark out in the cold winter months to cart him around.

So, now I am tired after a full day and I insisted on devoting some time to blogging.  I think part of my problem is deciding what to focus on.  Today had its fill of events.  After dropping Laddie off, I raced home and thought about still trying to squeeze in time to blog before my workout.  I intended to peel potatoes and set them aside for dinner, go to the bank, pick up pictures, throw some winter coats in the wash, and drop off paperwork for Eddie's confirmation.  The blog would wait.  As usual. 

After working out, I drove to the mall where I returned a few things and bought a pair of boots that they were holding for me.  Coach can give them to me for Christmas.  I stopped in at Sears to see if any of their boom boxes were worth purchasing.  I've been looking on line, but I like to see what I'm buying.  Apparently boom boxes are a dinosaur.  No purchase.  Waste of time.  Drove home and voted in the election.   After I ate some lunch, I took a quick nap.  Just in time for the little guys to get off the bus. 

Reggie recently decided that he is entitled to invite a friend over every day of the week.  On a school night?  Not happening.  Crying and screaming ensued.  I've allowed it a few other times this fall when the weather was beautiful, but in general it isn't going to work.  Get over it.  The oven was preheating while I opened a turkey breast.  The horrid smell of rotten eggs permeated the kitchen.  The dates on the package were still good.  I called Costco, and was told to bring the turkey in for a refund.  Awesome.  Now my fridge has a smelly turkey in it until I can find the time to deliver it to them.  Fortunately I had another turkey breast further in the depths of the fridge that hadn't spoiled.  Stuck it in the oven, turned on the previously peeled potatoes, and assisted Curly with her homework. 

Just before dinner was done, I emptied a few shelves in the fridge anticipating my grocery shopping load later in the evening.  I ordered Reggie to Windex the shelves.  After assisting him with the extra gross, gummy parts, I started to load everything back in the fridge.  Started a load of laundry.  I called to the girls to get dressed for Irish dancing.  Instructed Curly to load their water bottles.  At this point, Mini begged me to let her use a water bottle that she had fallen in love with at the store recently. I announced my intention to take back the water bottle.  Tears.  Drama (from a no drama daughter).  I reminded her that I lost a car this morning, so bully about the water bottle.  Really. 

The idea was to get an early start to dancing and stop at the seamstress who is making a jacket for Mini's dress.  Rotten turkey delayed dinner.  My exhausting attempts of ridding the kitchen of the awful rotten turkey smell further slowed me down.  Mashed the potatoes, called kids for dinner.  Leaned over the counter and inhaled my dinner.  Rushed the kids thru their dinner and called over my shoulder to get in the car as I raced upstairs to the dungeon.  Eddie and Laddie live in a dungeon.  There are no other words, well - there are, but trying to be upbeat.  Eddie had strict instruction to clean up his room or forfeit his attendance at basketball practice that evening.  Shock.  The room began to take shape to look like a room again, but not quite complete.  The underwear drawer, unable to close, because the stacks of plaid boxers jammed in at all angles interfered.  I tossed the drawer unearthing a remote control to a plane he no longer owns, a set of headphones (odd because I just bought him new headphones after he lost his school-use pair.  This was a totally different set.  Curious), and several cookie and food wrappers.  Insane.  I took a photo with my phone and called to him that I would text his father and I would keep him posted on whether or not basketball was in the cards for him. 

As I bolted for the door, I noticed a pile of fridge food abandoned on the kitchen floor next to the fridge.  The nearest body - Reggie, 'Load that stuff back in the fridge,' I barked.  Backing down the driveway a few seconds later, the door to the house flew open.  Reggie beckoning me back inside.  So close to escaping.  "No."  I continued down the driveway.  Eddie will be no help because of his room.  I jumped out thinking this better be good.  He had dropped a huge tub of yogurt (not a cup - a tub) when he was trying to load it in the fridge.  Yogurt coated the slats at the bottom of the fridge.  It dripped inside the fridge door and spilled out on to the floor from the container that was wedged under the fridge door.  I cleaned up what I could.  He followed my demonstration, and agreed to do the rest.  Back to the car running on the driveway.  At a light I texted the seamstress and told her we would stop after practice, not before as originally planned.

I called Coach and asked his business manager to relay the filthy room situation to Coach.  Friendly messenger that she is, she called back to say that Coach thought that I could just drive him late when his room was clean.  I know Eddie often thinks of himself as an only child, but Coach now too?  Business manager friend confided that she clued him into the fact that I was not home.  Thanks.  She'd be great to have around the house to explain other schedule confusion areas to him on my behalf.  Ultimately Coach agreed to support me if I chose for Eddie to miss practice.  (Or he felt Eddie could walk, again slight difficulty with that - practice was moved to a further location because of the election - not that the original place would have been close enough to walk to in pitch blackness anyway.  Great input though).

I wondered if Tetonka ever made it home.  He stayed after school to cheer for the boys' basketball team that he didn't make in their first home game.  School is only 3 blocks away, but it was dark.  I didn't calculate the time right.  Should he have been home before I left?  I texted his friend's mom whose son was at the game.  They live down the street, so I asked her to drive him home after the game if she saw him standing around. 

The phone rang.  It was Laddie, "Yeah, can you come pick me up?"  It was hard not to laugh.  Did the boy who recently smashed up his car think that I was willing to go back to chauffeuring him around.  "Ask a buddy to drive you, I'm miles from home at Irish dancing."  Dropped girls off at dancing. 

I called my folks.  "Any interest in running over to my house to check Eddie's room and help me determine if he can attend his basketball practice?"  While they weren't terribly hip on the idea, away they went.  I got a text from Tetonka's friend's mom.  She didn't notice my ride home request text till she was home.  Should she go back and look for him.  Before I could call home to find out if he was home, friend's mom called me.  She had called my house and he had made it home.  Awesome.  I explained a bit about my day:  a totaled car, rotten turkey, play date insistent 8 year old, spilled yogurt, messy room, and missed seamstress appointment.  I pulled into the grocery store after we said good bye, and realized that I still had Gumby and Pokey stuffed awkwardly into the trunk of the red mini van that I was driving.  Would be tough to fit the groceries in. 

Stopped at the seamstress, chatted with the girls, and called home to make sure Tetonka and Reggie were practicing their tin whistle.  They hadn't.  I told them I'd be home in 10.  Get practice done, and Reggie get bathed.  Tucked in Reggie once home, and washed Curly in the tub.  Tucked Curly in, and realized that her retainer is broken in her mouth.  She cried when I discovered her secret.  She was hoping to avoid having it repaired out of fear of pain.  Gathered up outfits for the next day.  Forced Tetonka to go to bed way earlier than he would prefer.  Asked Laddie to clean up the yogurt more thoroughly.  Carried in the groceries.  Unloaded groceries.  Opened the vegetable drawer and stumbled upon the most God awful smell ever.  I couldn't believe it.  We were probably better off eating apples that had rolled around the grocery store floor unwashed than eating anything from this drawer no matter how well scrubbed it was.  Gross.  I removed the drawer, filled it with soapy water in the sink, and squirted the exposed bottom of the fridge that had a matching coagulated puddle of something I could not identify.  Once both drawer and fridge were clean, I loaded the dishwasher.  I turned Reggie's cup upside down.  Milk spilled over the side of the dishwasher door.  All over the floor - splash!  That's when I said my newly created word, 'Perfucked.'  I wanted to say the real word but Laddie was watching the Bulls play in the next room.  I started off with perfect, and midway decided the hell with it.  I proceeded to wash the kitchen floor surrounding the dishwasher. 

Tomorrow should prove interesting too.  Coach and I have been invited to meet with Eddie's teachers before school at 8am.  When I texted Coach about the meeting, he texted back that he would like to know what the was meeting about.  I responded with: "Well, I don't think they are offering him a special award."  Perfucked.

October 12, 2014

if it ain't broke, don't fix it

A few years ago, my parents decided to give us a very generous Christmas gift. It was an early gift. It arrived in November. Our dishwasher was loud, old, and ugly. They decided to replace it. After putting Coach through graduate school, giving birth to six children in 9 1/2 years, and moving into a bigger house, we weren't in the habit of replacing appliances just because they weren't our favorite. It was a luxury that we were excited about, although I recall feeling somewhat guilty. Perhaps there was something else that needed attention or another way we should be spending the money. My parents insisted that we needed the dishwasher. Once a top of the line dishwasher was installed, it felt great to be pampered.

The following December when the dishwasher was only 13 months old, it failed. The problem could be fixed by a new part. A part that wasn't stocked on the fix it man's truck. The dishes piled up while we waited for the part to arrive. Once the new piece was installed, the next problem surfaced. The power board was out. It was only when the new part was in place that it became obvious that the appliance couldn't run because there was no power. Again we waited. A new power board arrived after our family became responsible for filling a landfill with piles of paper products. The new parts to replace newish parts in a one year old top notch dishwasher were going to cost us a fortune. Ah, noting like the gift that keeps on giving.

I braced myself to pay the fix it man, but first I made one phone call. I spoke in strong, carefully chosen sentences to someone in customer service at the manufacturer. This conversation was brief. I requested to speak to his boss. Eventually I explained to someone who mattered at this well known name brand company that we were going to require new parts on the company's dime. They explained that the product was no longer covered by a warranty. I countered that if they couldn't stand by their product after 13 months, then I would need to share my frustrations with everyone I knew. The new board would arrive shortly. The cost covered by the company headquarters. I also was informed that I couldn't contact them again. This was a one time deal. I took the deal.

About 15 mos. later I was dealing with piles of dirty dishes, sticky toddler sip cups, and crusty silverware all over again. Apparently I was the proud owner of a very pricey un-dishwasher.  Thanks to another service man visit, our testy appliance was up and running again. Costs kept adding up. Six months later, same thing. After it was serviced a few more times, I got about one solid year of clean dishes before this past Saturday morning. We were greeted with a dishwasher holding what appeared to be clean dishes, but standing water in the bottom and no power. Familiar, but unwelcome signs.

I don’t get it. I tip toed around the thing, never wanting to upset it. I followed all of the tips my service man shared with me. At his suggestion, we began investing in very pricey dishwasher soap pellets. The powder soap we were accustomed to was doing damage to the appliance. Odd. A product made specifically for dishwashers, but not safe to run through a cycle. We ran the hot water in the sink prior to hitting the start button. The board could burn itself out if it needed to heat the water up to the necessary hot temperature.

Could this be the last straw? How much more money do we invest in it? Of course there is the old saying, ‘They don’t make ‘em like they used to.’ I guess not, but they sure charge a hell of a lot more for ‘em nowadays. I wonder how long that old clunker of a dish washer would have lasted if we had insisted to my folks that we were going to turn down their gift and stick with it. I’m not sure if we should cut our losses and invest in a new one. Different brand, of course.

Too bad they don’t make a dishwasher that could hold the multitude of dishes a large family soils daily. Drawback: where to fit it? It would stand a foot taller than the standard kitchen counter top, because it would require an additional rack. In place of the taller, impractical-but-awesome dishwasher of my dreams, I have developed a great skill for loading our current model. If I am not the loader (which is rare), I typically end up readjusting, rearranging, and reorganizing the dirty dish layout in order to squeeze the rest of them in. It’s a gift. Really.

I contacted the service man today. Although I should have his number on speed dial, but I once again had to wrestle with all of the paperwork on my desk to locate his contact info. I unearthed the receipt from his last visit. It was dated: October 18, 2013. It’s as if they installed a timer on this thing. This might be the day that I start shopping around for a dishwasher that might produce dishes with a lemon scent. I‘d prefer that to a dishwasher that behaves like a lemon. Lesson learned: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

October 5, 2014

we should be in commercials

Snapple does it to them.  Kiwi Strawberry.  Causes odd, unexpected, uncontrollable reactions.  Not allergic, thankfully.  Just idiotic fits that exhibit a true lack of self control.  It brings out an animal like response.  I don't buy the stuff, thus the ramped up excitement level when they make contact with it.  My mom will occasionally drop off a large jug of Kiwi Strawberry, because she has watched them gulp it down at her house.  She's witnessed the happy, grandma's-the-best moments.  She is lucky to escape the irrational, I-will-do-anything-to-get-me-more-of-that-liquid-love-in-a-bottle fight  that Coach and I have survived on a few occasions.  She recognizes that it is a treat for them.  If it is on sale, one magically appears on the kitchen counter top while we are out. 

I have refused to open the unannounced gift at times in order to wait for all Snapple lovers to be present, accounted for, and thirsty.  That is harder to do than it sounds.  Six kids tend to drift between after school activities, caddying jobs, and friends houses like leaves on a windy day (only noisier).  If I wait too long to give my blessing to open it, someone will open it when they think no one else is around.  Then we all have to hear about the wrong that has been done to a Snapple starved sibling.

When I do open it and pour it into anxiously awaiting cups, somehow the portions are never fair.  Whatever is left over after the initial mother-monitored serving, gets mysteriously hijacked from the fridge when no one else is around.  There is typically a gasp heard across town when someone discovers that the sweet, pink inventory has dipped below its last observed line.  A Snapple container housing less than a sip hidden discreetly behind the pasta sauce in the fridge is obviously a sign of foul play.  

It's embarrassing to admit that my offspring aren't smart enough to do away with the evidence properly when they actually do finish the remaining sip.  Shoving the empty container under the newspapers in the recycling bin might aid the thirsty fellow in getting away with his Snapple slurping crime.  Few of us would ever remember that there was actually a drop of Snapple remaining in the gallon size bottle in the fridge, if it was simply disposed of properly.  No, one of my clueless brood actually tosses the evidence behind the television stand.  The TV is positioned on a small cabinet with one door partially broken off and an array of DVDs fanned out on the carpet before it.  This scene, straight from House Beautiful magazine, is angled in the corner of the room partially blocking a window.  The space created by this arrangement is apparently the perfect landing spot for an empty, gifted-from-grandma, clear plastic container of Snapple.  It's true my housekeeping habits don't include vigorously inspecting, dusting, or collecting  debris from behind the TV.  Perhaps this clan is intelligent after all.  One of them has observed that this off limits haven for dust bunnies can throw me off the path for ages. 

I should point out that my children do not limit their consumer-love solely to the Snapple product.  I rarely purchase individual portions of Gatorade.  Our kids pack up reusable water bottles to their sporting events.  So much cheaper.  Anyway, a few years back I purchased a case of Gatorade bottles during the summer.  I was organizing an enormous garage sale for the kids' school, and I thought they would be easy to pack for the kids while they endured long hours of mommy sorting stacks of smelly clothes in the hot school.  Tetonka was getting picked up by a neighbor for basketball camp.  When his ride arrived, he made a mad dash down the basement stairs.  His excuse was something along the lines of 'Forgot to turn off the lights down there.'  On his way out, he shuffled past me without rotating his body towards the door.  Odd.  Was he practicing some kind of basketball drill?  With an eyebrow raised, I watched him head out the door.  If I had blinked I would have missed it.  There in the back waistband of his shorts covered by his t-shirt was an ill concealed Gatorade.  Unreal.  Later that day I headed to the grocery store with Curly.  She was about 3 years old.  When we arrived, she wouldn't get out of her car seat.  She insisted that she would just wait in the car.  Baffled, I chuckled.  Since when do I leave kids in the car at the grocery store?  Eventually I got her out of the seat.  There behind her was a sweaty bottle of blue Gatorade.  She winced and offered me a sheepish grin. 

There are many foods that I rarely purchase, because it requires too much energy to fight off the clan for very long.  When there is a treat in the house, they sense it.  I often joke with baggers at the store who offer to help me to my car, that I really need help at home stashing the good stuff so that it doesn't disappear overnight.  A package of frosted animal crackers just surfaced in Laddie and Eddie's room.  Only crumbs remained.  This bag of cookies traveled directly from the cabinet to their room.  It bypassed the pantry shelf.  It was never made free game to the other cookie lovers (OK, I love those damn things and I couldn't believe I never ate a single cookie).  I don't buy those often, and I only bought one bag.  Gone. 

Today Coach asked me to identify something he stumbled across in the back of the fridge.  Always dicey.  It took me a minute.  Sealed neatly in a zip loc bag were two Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.  I was perplexed.  Let me clarify:  they were uncooked.  Who would put two raw rolls in a zip loc bag?  Where were the rest?  Laddie has used the oven on occasion when I wasn't home.  Not something I encourage.  I once came home to the most God awful smell.  Never did find out what he attempted to 'cook' in there.  I cornered Laddie and Eddie.  Did either teenage son know what the back story was to the lonely looking rolls?  Eventually Eddie cracked.  What tin did you use to bake them in?  Oh, no, he assured us.  He didn't bother to cook them.  He figured he ate about 3 of them.  Couldn't account for the other three.  Gross.  Literally.  Salmonella? 

This diving into whatever they can get their paws on has reached new levels.  Perhaps we could channel our excitement over treats, and star in some reality based TV commercials.  Viewers might actually stay tuned. 

September 28, 2014

cup o' sugar Mary Ann?

Have you noticed a shift in the ’can-I-borrow-a-cup-of-sugar’ mentality in your neighborhood? I have. I’m lucky that my mom lives nearby. When I’m rushing to bake something and I come up short on an ingredient, I ask a kid to hop on a bike and race to my mom’s to borrow a tablespoon of this or a cup of that. It’s not just that there aren’t people home to reach out to because they are working, it’s the rude way they behave when they are home. My neighbor (and I use the term loosely), Mary Ann, is one of them. This woman takes the cake. I am confidant that I could devote enough posts to Mary Ann’s self involved, entitled behavior that it could become its own blog. I have avoided mention of her antics thus far, but her most recent un-neighborly infraction was the last straw. Now I feel compelled to share.

Although we knew the family before we moved in across the street six years ago, I would not classify Mary Ann and I as good friends. Her boys were a bit older than mine followed about 5 years later by a daughter who arrived a year after Eddie.  We had some friends in common, our children attended the same Catholic grade school, and we were on friendly terms. Shortly after we got settled, the fact that we would never become close became evident.

Mary Ann walked over to the house one evening in the fall with her 7th grade son’s sweatshirt in her hand. She explained that 4th grade Laddie had ripped the pocket during a recent backyard football game featuring our boys. I was shocked. I failed to grasp how this Hoodie sweatshirt with a ripped pocket could be my problem. Mary Ann stated that since I knew how to sew, she thought I could fix it. As her words were spoken, a fussy Curly wailed unhappily in my arms. I agreed to fix the rip even though I had yet to unpack my sewing machine. That year I managed to create Halloween costumes without the use of my machine- by design. I was focusing on simplifying my life. Curly was a very fussy baby, and the move across town to a larger house made me one busy mother. No plan to take on sewing projects anytime soon led to a sealed and stowed sewing machine box. Tending to Curly, unpacking boxes, painting rooms, adjusting to life without bus service to school, and taking care of the other five kids under 10 kept me constantly in motion. A ripped pocket on a neighbor kid’s sweatshirt had no business being added to my overflowing plate. The nerve. My kids wore appropriately crappy clothes when they ventured out to toss a ball around in the yard. I’m no dummy.  Mary Ann informed me that this was the only coat he would wear no matter what the temperature. Sounds like a discipline issue, if you ask me. But the only thing she was asking was when could I have the work completed.

I stepped inside where my crew was crowded around our old kitchen table eating dinner. Coach was at work. The kids wondered why I was holding the neighbor boy's Hoodie in my hand. I shared the news with the boys. Laddie worried that he was in trouble. He was apologetic and explained that it was an accident. Eddie told us that the Hoodie-lover’s little brother had also been playing in the game. When Hoodie-lover made a fuss about the damage to his ‘coat‘, the brother told my boys not to worry about it.  He confided that the pocket had suffered a previous tear. This backyard incident just made the rip worse. Interesting.

The next day I phoned Mary Ann and asked her for a favor. I was still in disbelief that we were both driving our kids in separate cars to the same school at the same time each morning and again after school. What mother could be opposed to a carpool? I was lucky enough to move in across the street from one of the few. I explained to her that Laddie needed to remain after school for altar boy training. Rather than drive to pick up Eddie at 3:00 followed shortly by a jaunt to pick up Laddie at 4:00, I was hoping she wouldn’t mind giving Eddie a ride home after school. I quickly pointed out that this one day arrangement would also allow Curly to nap until 4:00 rather than being pulled from sleep and buckled in a car seat at 3:00 shortly after her nap began. Perhaps when she realized Curly was being awoken each afternoon, she would offer a carpool scenario. Not on your life.  I laugh now when I think that I ever thought this thought process would occur.  She did agree to grab Eddie for me. Sweet. There were parameters though. I was to instruct 1st grade Eddie to walk to her car. She waited in her car in front of the Church. She wasn’t accustomed to getting out of her vehicle, and driving home a first grader would not force her to alter her routine. I briefed Eddie on the situation at breakfast. Reminding him to walk over to her car. He grasped the concept. No problem.

I took advantage of the uninterrupted naps that Reggie and Curly were enjoying, and dug my sewing machine out of the unopened box in my closet. I had just settled in to sew the pocket in place, when the phone rang. I was greeted with a loud, frustrated voice. “Ernie? Where is he?” she screamed into the phone. I jumped up and grabbed my keys. It was a knee jerk reaction.  Did I really need to drive over there and help her find him? “Didn’t you tell him where to meet me?” she hollered. “These kids have homework they have to get done before basketball tryouts tonight.” I sputtered around, searching for sensible words when really I wanted to call her a bad name and light her son’s only-functioning, highly-inadequate winter coat (that ironically lay across my sewing machine) on fire. Instead I suggested that Eddie probably forgot about the special arrangement and that he was most likely standing by the flag pole waiting for me. She huffed and puffed about the fact that she would now have to get out of her car. I can only assume that her 7th grader was too cold to exit the vehicle and claim my 1st grade son, who I so recklessly left in their charge. Eddie admitted when he arrived home that the temporary change in plans had slipped his mind. I was testing the newly sewn pocket of the infamous hoodie that I had just completed.  I punched it forcibly over and over again with my fist. Seemed to hold up well. Good as new.  Super.

Countless other episodes of ’As the World Turns Around Mary Ann' have played out in our lives over the years. I call her infrequently, which allows me to avoid hearing her syrupy voice on her answering machine message utter, 'Have a blessed day!'  I ceased requesting rides from her, but promptly discovered two other moms with slightly older kids who lived in the neighborhood across the street.  They were more than happy to drive my kids home on occasion, and recalled the hectic days punctuated by napping babies and toddlers. They typically stopped for a McDonald’s shake or similar treat on the way home too. Major. Mary Ann would be unloading her kids on her driveway, while mine stepped out of another mom’s car with a snack.  Mary Ann had to recognize that these moms traveled slightly out of their way just to be kind and neighborly.

No chance in Hell I would be asking this barrel of fun for a cup o' sugar.  She is clearly so sweet herself, that she probably doesn't own any additional sweetener anyway.     

September 22, 2014

poor man's mantre

Whoever said, 'Money can't buy happiness,' was poor.  No other way around it.  I grew up comfortable.  There was very little we did without, unless you count our lack of high end clothing and expensive vacations.  We didn't eat out much either, or drive fancy cars.  My sisters were older than me, so I wore their ill-fitting, out of style hand me downs.  We traveled to some great places, but never sprung for an additional room.  Three kids slept on the floor of a crammed hotel room.  We had no problem sleeping because we were so happy to be out of our 1976 bright red, Chevy Impala station wagon, which we drove to our vacation spots.  Flying wasn't typically in the cards for us, nor was eating out at restaurants.  Our family was on the larger side, and my folks were savers.  We certainly weren't living pay check to pay check, but my parents were also very careful to remind us that money didn't grow on trees.

Coach and I do a decent job of providing for our kids.  He was a full time student when we got married.  Paying off my small, one bedroom condo shortly after we were hitched worked in our favor.  We consumed lots of pasta.  I shopped at the local Hostess outlet store.  My boss at the bank where I worked for awhile was stunned to learn that I purchased a loaf of bread for $.25.  He was on board to follow my shopping trend until he realized the product I was so proudly purchasing had reached its expiration date. Coach still caddied on weekends and juggled a part time job at Best Buy while I worked full time at crappy paying jobs to make ends meet and pay his tuition without requiring a loan.  I stayed home with Laddie when he arrived six months shy of Coach's graduation.  Those were lean days.  I became familiar with the garage sale circuit when Laddie was a baby.  Boasting of my weekend's finds became common place conversation with my close friends and my parents.  Moving out of the condo after Laddie turned one, we relied heavily on Coach's handy man expertise to fix the place up.  I appreciated the extra cash that I could make babysitting and dragging Laddie along with me.  Medical bills presented problems when Coach's student health insurance proved lousy at best.  Once he landed his 'real' physical therapy job, he added more hours at another hospital as a registry employee and worked weekends and holidays.  Bit by bit we became accustomed to being able to go out to dinner once in a blue moon.  Following in my family's footsteps, we piled into one hotel room despite the addition of more kids.  I potty trained the kids typically before they were two, and saved a bundle on diapers.  We finally had cable installed a few years ago.  I've mastered the art of cutting boys hair, and let's just say the girls' cuts are improving.  None of the kids have ever paid for a haircut, and Coach became my most regular customer shortly after we wed.  We scrimped and saved and sent the kids to Catholic grade school until about three years ago when we realized that we couldn't afford that luxury.  Despite Coach's salary improvements over the years, I completely avoid purchasing full cost clothing items when I shop.

Years ago, Coach was offered the opportunity to become a partner in the business.  We borrowed the money and invested in the partnership.  We paid off the loan in no time flat, and extended the partnership again.  These little incremental movements up the partnership ladder helped us to feel less like penniless adults with a houseful of kids to feed and more like a driven couple making sacrifices to improve their situation.  After years of decent dividends, eventually the partnership struggled to supply us with a great return on our investment.  This is when the kids switched to public schools, and I accepted a part time job.  Chalk it up to the many changes in health care in addition to adjustments in how insurance was paying claims.  Our quarterly disbursements became drops in a bottomless bucket rather than the constant answer to our prayers.  For a time a large expense surfaced, but the quarterly disbursement check bailed us out regularly.  Suddenly we could no longer depend on those checks.  We were far from splurging on expensive vacations, fancy cars, and full price clothes but between the house, the kids, and everything in between we were struggling.

When the owner of Coach's company recently accepted a deal for the majority shares of the business, Coach received a substantial check.  His portion of this business deal delivered us from the stressful life we were living.  How can you put a price on the ability to relax after 18 years of consistent financial strain and frustration?  What a relief to not constantly study the check book balance, or to periodically refer to the credit card statement online in hopes that it wasn't as high as last month.  Attempting to tune out climbing college costs didn't make the upcoming reality any easier to face either. 

Do you have a sniffer that senses something at times and you are transported to a different time and place?  There are smells now that remind me of my childhood.  I recall sucking in the air back around the time when I was learning to ride a bicycle.  These wafts of wonderfulness have taken me by surprise.  It was hard to put a finger on it at first.  What am I remembering?  It's a feeling.  Then one day I realized what it was . . . not having a care in the world.  That is the smell.  It isn't continuous, but it is present from time to time.  Now don't get me wrong.  I am not in a constant state of bliss.  I am the mother of six active children.  I am responsible for moving them from point A to point B, and feeding them before, after, and sometimes in between A & B.  Toss in heaps of dirty laundry, meal preparation, and a day that constantly fails to supply me with the hours necessary to get it all done and you will understand that life is hardly a walk in the park.  Still it's a walk I'd rather take without checks bouncing along behind me.  Life is full of chaos, but my mind is at rest more frequently now that our bank account isn't relying on an uncertain future of rubbing two pennies together.

So I have come to the conclusion that money does buy some degree of happiness.  Perhaps the person who coined the phrase was referring to millions of dollars causing life to run a muck.  That is a sum of money that I cannot comment on.  I may not have a million dollars, but I think my happiness still stems from  feeling compelled to search for a great deal at the mall verses sending someone else to purchase my clothes for me because I am too busy rolling around in my own piles of cash.  After all, some habits are hard to break.  Day old bread . . . now that, I don't miss.   

September 14, 2014


Allow me to introduce my son, Tetonka.  Tetonka is not his real name, but a code name I use for my blog.  My children need to be protected from themselves.  That is to say, the things that my offspring do may cause them embarrassment.  I still share, and at times I overshare.  Thus the necessity of assigned code names. 

Tetonka's code name comes from a joke my best friend, Fozzy Bear, and I laughed about when Tetonka was a toddler.  He suffered from a severe speech delay, which in and of itself is not humorous.  We used some basic sign language in order to communicate, and he grunted and moaned to further get his point across.  In addition, the kid had a very generous set of cheeks.  His facial expressions were almost audible they were so easily read.  One day I was chatting with Fozzy, and describing Tetonka's look.  Fozzy may have also heard his grunting over the phone.  She mocked him in a teasing but loving way, 'Me, Tetonka, you Dances with Wolves.'  We laughed ourselves silly remembering the Indians in the movie as they attempted to communicate with Kevin Costner, and realizing how much my chubby toddler reminded us of that scene.   Thus, I refer to my third son as Tetonka.

Although Tetonka once struggled to speak, that is no longer the case.  He is a curious 11 year old buy, who never hesitates to ask a question or fill someone in if he thinks they are missing something.  His lack of focus at times interferes with his academic success, but once an area of interest is touched on at school he practically takes over teaching the class.  His love for animals is intense, and his interest in social studies and American History dictates what classwork he enjoys the most.  The kid may be quirky, slightly germ-a phobic, and a food worshiper, but he is all heart.  He is the only one of our kids who ever shed a tear as he/she marched off to preschool.  His deep concern for others at times manifests itself in overactive worrying, but mostly he's just a giant, fun loving, eating machine with an enormous heart.

A few years ago, he shared an award that he was given at school from his teacher for demonstrating kindness.  He explained that all the teachers made a big deal about a card that he had made for a classmate with Downs Syndrome.  Little Joannie was in Tetonka's special ed math class.  When it was Joannie's birthday, the special ed teacher organized a surprise party.  Joannie's high school age sister and her mom hid in the classroom with a few other students including Tetonka while Joannie walked in anticipating that she was going to have to sit and listen to a lesson.  Prior to the party the teacher asked the students to make a card for Joannie.  Later, Tetonka's card was passed from teacher to teacher to Joannie's mom while the guests all enjoyed some cake.  Tetonka described the card that won him an award from his teacher.  'It was no big deal, really.  It was just a poem I wrote about Joannie.  I said she was the nicest person that I knew and that no one worked harder than her.  It's true though.  She is always nice and she always tries her best,' he shrugged off the greatness of the card as he explained its simplicity.  Of course I got choked up as I gushed how proud I was of him. 

Life as Tetonka's mom can be frustrating at times.  He's one of those kids who never has his shoes tied.  He can tie them, just not terribly well.  No matter what he wears, his appearance resembles an over-served gentleman, who spent the night in his clothes.  Constant reminders don't deter him from littering the bathroom floor with his dirty clothes.  A good book can cause him to become lost.  Eating is a favorite past time, and rules about eating before dinner, incorporating fruit into his diet, littering the house with wrappers, and transporting food to rooms other than the kitchen don't seem to apply to him.  New situations and intimidating settings still throw him for a loop, so trying out for sports teams or performing well rehearsed music can build into uncomfortable dramas.  Overwhelming homework assignments or misunderstood directions equally derail his day.  Tetonka has a hard time getting out the door, because his shoes are never properly stored in the mudroom.  His common episodes of severe deer-in-the-headlights when it comes to ANYTHING on TV frequently prove problematic.  Requesting his participation in household chores is typically met with a draining, combative conversation. 

On the other hand, he is wildly entertaining.  He'll try anything once, and enjoys relating his antics to us around the dinner table.  A good movie is never lost on Tetonka.  He recently answered the phone while visiting his cousins.  'Hello, what's your favorite color, mine's green?' a statement he borrowed from the family favorite movie 'Elf'.  His peers generally like him, and he could care less about those that don't count him as a cool com-padre. 

I've never really considered Tetonka to be a go-getter.  He isn't overly independent, shirks responsibilities whenever possible, and requires constant reminders to perform basic self maintenance.  He does seem to enjoy mowing the lawn.  Coach got him started on it last summer, although according to Tetonka he began pitching in with the lawn a bit the summer before.  (Tetonka would drop the 'a bit' part and have you believe that cutting the grass was his sole responsibility since the age of 9).  I departed for a run yesterday afternoon, and when I returned home I spied Tetonka mowing the grass of the Grogan family on the corner.  I called out to him and gave him a thumbs up.  His face split into a wide grin as he pushed the mower across the lawn and nodded his head, as if to say, 'Can you believe how lucky I am?'  We know the Grogan family.  Their kids are all in college and beyond, so I assumed that they approached Tetonka and asked him to cut their grass.  As I came inside huffing and puffin, I learned that that was not the case. 

Without asking anyone's permission or running the idea past Coach or I, Tetonka walked across the street to the Grogan's house and asked if he could cut their lawn.  Before they could respond, he gave them his pitch.  "If you say yes, then this time it's free."  Well, they agreed to have him cut the lawn, and when the job was complete they insisted on paying him.  He tried to refuse the money, but Mrs. Grogan insisted.  He is 11 after all.  Tough to turn down the green stuff.  He came home so proud and pumped up, it was hard to recognize him.  He explained that the Grogan's suggested he contact another house across from them.  The Grogan's believed that this family could use some assistance with their lawn.  Tetonka explored the possibilities of having more and more houses to mow.  I pointed out that he could write down his name, his age, and his number and give it to people who might be interested.

I drove the girls to an Irish dancing class on the north side this morning and waited for the class to be complete before we drove home.  Apparently a lot had happened while we were gone.  Tetonka mowed the grass at the other house.  Exuberance personified.  He explained that he brought the woman, who we don't know, a piece of paper describing his services.  (He is available to shovel driveways as well.  I guess it was my mistake to insist that he load the breakfast dishes each morning.  He thrives on more weighty jobs.  Literally.)  He described on this paper (that no one spell checked) that he had 3 years of prior experience.  This is debatable, but no one called to verify.  He invited the homeowner to call if they were interested.  By the time he walked the 4 houses home, this neighbor was calling.  Coach imitated part of the conversation at dinner tonight.  Apparently the woman has a very thick foreign accent, and the conversation was nothing short of entertaining.  She asked Tetonka if he could come and mow the lawn, and he replied, 'Well, do you have money?'  When we were done laughing, he pointed out, 'Well, I wrote on my paper that they could not pay me with a check.'  Made sense.  He also gave her the option of how much to pay him based on how he performed.  The paper supplied her with the option to pay him five bucks if she thought his work was OK, or $10 if she thought he did a good job.  He was paid $10.  Afterward he informed her that he supplied week whacking services too.  After dinner he begged Coach to give him a weed whacking lesson.  I suppose that was to be expected.  We don't want his handwritten paper to misrepresent.

The kid never fails to surprise me.  There are plenty of opportunities for him to concern me, but this weekend all I could think was, maybe there is hope for my Tetonka yet.

September 8, 2014

compliment interception

It was a true Seinfeld moment.  In the face of a dire cereal shortage situation, I ran to Costco Sunday afternoon.  Last place I want to be on a Sunday.  Late afternoon.  Without bagels and specific cereal, our mornings run a muck.  So, I took one for the team.  Apparently my recent Costco visits were unsuccessful as my efforts were focused on the basic lunch box staples of granola bars, Rice Krispie treats, and Ziploc baggies.  Of course still being in summer mode, I also stockpiled cases of juice boxes.  CASES.  I suspect that my offspring would sound some kind of red alert and go into emergency mode if there weren't at least 12 juice boxes available to pack in the cooler bag for our pool visits.  Not sure how my siblings and I survived a summer without portable or disposable water bottles, or juice boxes.  We didn't wear seat belts either. . . I digress.

As I headed to the checkout, I spotted a young man who used to work with my husband.  He is still employed by the same company, but has been at a different location for several years now.  I chuckled to see him pushing a cart with a baby girl and a toddler girl.  He was a fresh faced, new college grad back when I used to bring the kids in to visit 'Daddy's work' years ago.  I greeted him in passing, and he smiled and waved from his line a few lanes away from me.

His wife, Sue, joined him in line a moment later.  I waved to her.  She also used to work for the same company, but different location.  I hadn't seen her in forever.  She smiled, but it wasn't until her husband explained who I was that she made the connection.  My items were being scanned by my checker, Deb.  Sue was now still in line in her lane a few rows over from me.  We were on an angle.  Sue and I with my checker Deb between us.  As Deb faced my cart to scan a few large items, Sue called over to me, 'You look amazing!'  Not sure that this would be a typical reaction for the way I looked but I suspect that Sue hadn't laid eyes on me since I was pregnant with a ten pound baby or something.  I must admit, I am rocking an awesome, savage tan at the moment, so I'm assuming I was pale the last time Sue laid eyes on me.  I hadn't even bothered with my hair.  Allowed it to air dry while I cleaned house, and soaked up some sun on the deck.  (My reward for cleaning the house - kitchen floor scrubbing on my hands and knees, yes, reward well deserved).  My wardrobe selection was nothing noteworthy either.  No makeup, flat hair, old shorts, and an even older workout t-shirt.  Bland at best.  Makes me think I really looked crappy back in the day.  Nowadays I workout a ton since I can leave my children home, and no one calls children and family services (usually).  Back in my pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and post pregnancy days, I did always exercise . . . . . at least whenever possible.  I either pushed a stroller or ventured out for a 30 minute walk when I could grab 30  minutes alone. 

Anyway, Sue is paying me a compliment from across Costco.  The checker Deb is in the line of fire of this particular compliment.  She grabbed the 'You look amazing!' right out of midair and swallowed it up, drank it in, bathed in it.  Awkward.  'Thanks!' she hollered back at Sue, squinting at her trying to see if she knew her outside of the grocery checkout.  What was I to do?  I wasn't about to tap Deb on the shoulder and explain that I knew the woman.  I didn't want to rudely point out that I was pretty sure she was directing the compliments at me.  To be honest, I was pretty shocked someone would classify me as 'amazing' right at that particular moment.  I nodded at Sue, mouthed a word of thanks with a look of shock and confusion, because Deb's interception made me ponder how to play this.  I couldn't ignore Sue.  She continued to talk to me after the 'amazing' thing.  Was I going to look away, and act like I didn't know her, so Deb could continue down a fake memory lane with her?  I believe Deb asked Sue, 'Do I know you?', but Sue was not at all focused on Deb and was completely unaware that she had caused this embarrassing misunderstanding.  Sue called out to me, 'How is everything?  How are the kids?'  That was when Deb did a nosedive into the cart.  I should have checked my receipt.  Maybe she was scanning things twice while she flailed around in my cart trying to look like she hadn't just caught Sue's comments and mistook them for her own.  Beyond awkward.  I pretended that I hadn't noticed Deb's compliment interception.  Tried to save her any additional embarrassment.  I attempted to focus on what Sue was asking me, so I could respond without letting her think that I was amazing, but daft. 

Of course an ego boosting moment like this isn't directed at me that often.  Figures that the whole time 'it' was happening, I was distracted by the confusion caused by the bad angle and the misplacement of Deb.  I didn't get to bask in it for long, but I probably didn't deserve it much either.

September 1, 2014

cleaning showers

No one will ever praise me for my consistent and thorough house cleaning.  I's OK.  I'm over it.  Growing up, my mom bustled around organizing and cleaning up before our friends came over, and when adult company was expected she kicked her cleaning into high gear.  While I do exert more energy for adult gatherings, I typically put forth some effort when a rookie kid is entering our house for their first play date.  After that I try to relax and make light of the situation.  In a self-deprecating tone, I comment on how I bet they don't have to step over heaps of newspapers on their kitchen floor, or dodge piles of toys strewn across a family room, or waste valuable play time searching for a clear spot on the table to eat their snack.  A couple times the youngster has agreed that these are odd situations for he/she to be dealing with.  Usually, they just chuckle and enjoy pulling as many toys out as possible.  Why not?  The place was probably trashed to begin with.

Their is a job chart that hangs clearly in the kitchen.  It helps, but only when I enforce it.  Sometimes it is easier to spritz a bathroom counter myself rather than twist a kid's arm to do it.  Of course, it's even easier to just skip the bathroom counter top and hope it gets cleaned up next week.  We are busy people, so house work is the first thing to get tossed to the way side. 

My mom was blessed with the perfect birth order for a neat and tidy house.  After the three girls arrived, she birthed two boys.  I'm guessing the training started early, but I don't recall.  More credit for participating in the orderly house is owed to my older sisters than to me.  I fell into an interesting position.  Although I was technically a daughter, I seemed to get away with minimal housework participation.  After all, I was closer in age to my little brothers and my tom-boy persona allowed me to shirke responsibilities without much effort.  Additionally, it always seemed like my sisters were in control of the situation.  More hands weren't required.   Those prissy chicks were experts at picking up the slack, and they seemed to enjoy it too.  Once we got to a certain age, my oldest and bossiest sister ordered us all to gather up the items that belonged upstairs after my folks left the house for a while.  She was in charge.  Boy, did she take that role seriously.  In order to surprise my parents, we each took a stair a few ahead of the last kid.  In assembly line fashion, she had us hand all the misplaced belongings up the sibling chain on hands.  My mother often returned home in awe of the work we had accomplished.  My sister was pleased with the positive feedback to her let's-surprise-mom master plan.  In the long run, this pleasing outcome only perpetuated the controlling, bossiness of my sister.  Enough said.  I was always glad when Mom was excited, but I remained focused on my sacrificed play time. 

Now when my mom visits my house, I frequently hear a heavy sigh followed by a comment like, 'Why does your house always look like this?'  After feeling like a bit of a failure, I finally pointed out that being blessed with three strong sons like my offspring vs. three domestic daughters as in my upbringing (or perhaps two, because I'm unsure I can be counted in that number) caused a great deal of discrepancies in the way household tasks were handled.  I am a firm believer in all the kids being able and willing to pull their weight regardless of gender, but I will admit that boys are typically wired differently.  They are comfortable leaving dirty socks anywhere.  They believe spills will eventually just get soaked into whatever surface they land on.  And, they frequently can't recall where an object belongs, so leaving it on the floor or counter makes the most sense.  Of course if any daughter of mine is similar to me, then I can't blame them for not giving a hoot about the house either.

A few weeks ago, I thought perhaps I had created the best weight loss opportunity imaginable.  I scrubbed my kids' ceramic shower.  Never thought I'd eat again.  Clearly this is a task that needs to be tackled more frequently.  In my defense, I don't shower in it.  I bathe the younger kids in the adjacent tub and rarely peek in the huge shower.  In fact, the younger kids aren't requiring as much assistance in the tub these days either.  This particular shower is only a few years old.  We shuffled some bathroom and closet space around a few years ago in order to create a 2nd floor laundry room and a formerly non existent first floor mud room.  The mold was so bad that Coach had to replace the clear seal that lined the corners of the shower floor.  My arms ached for days after I scrubbed the walls with all of my power.  The red tinged mold that was taking over the beautiful ceramic tile chose not to budge during the first several scrubbings.  I actually discovered five bars of soap - all in various stages of use.  I gathered that if a bar had the misfortune to fall onto the floor it would be abandoned.  Fear most likely gripped the showering youth.  Who would want to rescue a bar of soap from a floor chock full of uncertain contaminates?  Older bars dissolved into a pile of mush, while other bars still held some shape.  The floor was also a stumbling ground of empty shampoo bottles.  A wash cloth someone refused to retrieve lay gathering mold in the corner.  (I wisely gifted the children with monogrammed bathroom towels and wash cloths back when the bathroom was complete.  It was the Christmas gift that kept on giving.  I now can usually deduce who has left a wet towel on the floor of a room despite how far off the beaten path it might be).  This particular cloth was an extra - purchased as a back up, or for a visiting guest.  No identifiable makings, unless you count the new mold pattern.  I was so glad when it was over.  Vowing never to let it get that bad again.  Hoping it wasn't too late in this stage of the game to encourage more participation from the lack-of-neatness crew.

My girl friend and her sisters can't stop cleaning.  They came from a huge Irish family and claim that their mother was always cleaning.  Now they call it 'the gene'.  They joke about this so-called curse of a gene that among other things causes them to sometimes stay up all night scrubbing things clean. I have yet to see even a crumb on the kitchen floor of my girl friend's house.

Of course I have to wonder:  what other areas of my house are that gross and I don't even know about it?  Certainly under a few beds and the backseat of the car.  Since I don't possess 'the gene', I may never know.

August 26, 2014

guys have it easier

Period.  Let me rephrase that . . . guys have it so easy, period.  Yes, that is what I meant to say.  Girls put up with having a monthly period, while guys can swim whenever they want, don't require a sudden purse carrying week in grade school, and aren't forced to wear dark clothes or long shirts just in case certain days are worse than anticipated.

I remember feeling awful when I heard about the inevitable.  Why?  This had to be bad information.  After accepting what was rocking my youthful world, I began to plan.  My friends and I discussed our need to start carrying a purse every day to school, so that when the purse was needed our issue wouldn't be so obvious.  Back in the mid 80's products were bulky and not easy to hide.  In addition to obsessing about how I would conceal the necessary products, I agonized over where I would be when 'it' arrived.  My mom showed me where the puffy, cloud-white pads were stashed in her bedroom closet.  In the few years after I was in the 'know' but not yet a 'woman', I would occasionally hear my mom reference my older sisters' time of the month with comments like, "Now don't be crabby just because you have your period."  And with a chuckle, "Grandma used to ask me if I my little red headed friend was visiting."  This last not-so-catchy catch phrase morphed into, 'Do you have your friend?'  I cringed when the topic came up, but these cutesie sayings only made it worse. 

Heading into Christmas vacation of 7th grade, my friends decorated my locker with candy and streamers to celebrate my 13th birthday, which fell over break.  I loaded the loot into a brown paper bag, lugged it home, and stashed it behind the upholstered chair in the family room for safe keeping and easy access.  My birthday fell on a Saturday.  I turned 13, and yes - that is the actual day when 'it' arrived.  Nightmare.  I wondered if anyone could tell that I was wearing a pad.  The pads were so thick, did I appear taller?  What surprised me the most was that I had horrible cramps.  I struggled to stand upright.  It felt like upon completion of approximately 1,000 sit ups, someone was punching me in the gut.  I attended an Irish dancing class that day, so I carefully chose somewhat baggy shorts to keep my secret 'my secret'.  I told my mom, but that was it.  There would be no celebrating.  No 'congratulations, you're a woman now'.  No thanks.  The less fanfare the better.

A while before we headed out to the south side for dancing class, my mom ran an errand.  My oldest sister approached me in my room with a smug look on her face.  "I saw what your friends gave you," she sneered.  Oh, no.  My sister knew.  Who else knew?  My head spun around and I hurled every insult in the book at her.  Crying and screaming, I pushed her out of my room and anxiously awaited my mom's return.  My mom laid into her when she got home.  Turns out my sis had simply uncovered my ill-hidden candy bag in the family room.  She was completely baffled as to why I over reacted to her candy discovery.  I mistook the 'friend' jargon for the period slang so often used by my mom and my sisters.  One more opportunity for the great sisterly divide to grow even larger.

This scenario was followed quickly by years of embarrassing, period-related incidents.  I once bled all over my Catholic School uniform as a freshman.  I still remember how mortified I was to stand up after a long history lesson and sense that something was amiss, or should I say a-flow.  I chose to ingeniously rotate my skirt conveniently swapping the front panel with the rear panel.  Now that the stain was in front, I could conceal it if I carried my books a certain way.  I worked at cleaning it up a bit, and then acted as if I had spilled catchup in my lap during lunch.  Nightmare avoided.  Other times I wasn't so lucky.

As an avid babysitter, I grew accustomed to kids crawling on me, springing off of me, and riding me around the house.  I once offered an airplane ride to a little girl I was sitting for.  Although I thought the ride would be quick, I ended up laying down too long.  The pad I wore failed to protect me from the 'river factor' which is greatly impacted by gravity.  The back of my shorts were stained in the blink on an eye.  Mortified.  The mom assured me it was no big deal when I explained why I needed to run out to my car to retrieve my customary back up outfit.  I could care less how comfortable she was with the situation.  I still wasn't at the 'we've all been there' sisterly phase of this relentless reality I couldn't escape.

One hot summer day, my sister and I went into the city to go to the beach with our oldest sister (the one who teased me for hiding my birthday candy in the lamest place ever).  My period arrived while we were sunbathing at the beach.  Terrible cramps.  The whole 9 yards.  I don't remember the particulars- miscalculation or simply failure at being prepared. . . . I do recall the fact that my sisters were annoyed with me, and I left my mark on the beach.  I remained stationary for most of the day, and when we departed my sisters and I quickly kicked the sand around to cover the evidence while I wrapped myself in a towel.

So much of these incidents could have been avoided if I could get over my fear of tampons.  Allow me to back for a bit of history on the subject. . . . I was at my best friend, Marge's, house.  It was early June, and we were celebrating grade school graduation.  This is when I first learned of the demonic notion of tampons.  Graduation party invites arrived daily, which was slightly odd because very few classmates in my ritzy, stuck up, Catholic grammar school associated much with my friends and I.  Apparently the parents dictated that the entire class be invited to these swanky parties rather than exclude the few of us that didn't don Izod apparel daily.  The gathering that caused the biggest buzz involved a pool party at a wealthy boy's house.  Another pool party at a nearby club also cropped up.  After doing some calculations, I realized that I would be unable to swim at the parties.  It wasn't that I thought it would be fun to swim with my classmates, but not to swim would indicate something else entirely.  Bummer.  Marge's mom asked about the distressed look on my face.  She called us into her room, and produced a box of products that required a bit of explaining.   How could this period thing get any worse?  Cramps, purses, strategic dressing, calendars, and now this?  It was too much.  To prove that it was too much, I passed out on Marge's mom's bed as she wielded this foreign object before me with nothing left to the imagination. Squeamish as I was, it would be years before this became a legitimate option for me.

Obviously the embarrassment factor presented issues right from the get-go, and that didn't improve for years.  Once while in high school, I was shopping with my mom.  I needed to purchase additional pads.  My pad preference were not on the shelf.  My mom flagged down a stock boy (and by boy - I mean a young, high school aged peer) and instructed him to search in the back for the box of pads I was looking for.  There was no where to hide, and she wouldn't hear of it anyway.  She was encouraging me to accept my circumstances and get over it.

I suppose she had the best of intentions when she outed me as premenstrual to my cousin Jerry, too.  My dad was taking one of my younger brothers, myself, and my cousin Jerry on a horse pack trip in Wyoming.  Jerry and I were both about to start our junior year in high school.  Since this cousin lived in the city, my mom drove to his house that afternoon and picked him up.  My dad planned to leave bright and early the next morning, so Jerry spent the night before the trip at our house.  Unfortunately, I remember it like it was yesterday.  Jerry and I were sitting in front of the TV watching Vanna White on the Wheel of Fortune.  Oddly no one else was around.  My mom, who was preparing dinner, called into us from the kitchen.  "Now, Ernie, don't go acting crabby just because you are going to have your period on the trip."  Yes, she did.  She said it.  She knew I was concerned about it, not sure why she felt it was important for Jerry to be in the know.  I had chastised my dad for booking the dates of the trip without consulting me.  I had a calendar for a reason.  Now she had ever so casually alerted Jerry of my impending issue.  Jerry and I didn't budge from our seats until we were called to dinner.  I honestly think we both felt like if we didn't flinch, the recent offensive comment would go away.

Yes, I did have my period while we were on that trip.  Not during the endless, air conditioned-car, comfortable days of driving, but when we were on horses for 6 hours a day with no plumbing facilities for miles.  My dad had inquired with our guide for me.  The instructions were:  keep everything with me or bury it sufficiently.  Blood in bear country.  Danger.  Try to imagine everyone waiting while I grabbed my shovel and got busy.  Instead, I literally rode through beautiful scenery on the back of a horse in a saddle enduring terrible cramps wearing an uncomfortable maxi with a bag of discarded pads strapped to my saddle bag.  I occasionally stopped to walk far enough away from our group so that I could pop a squat, pee, and replace my pad.  Then I would return to my horse, casually retrieve something from my back pocket, ditch my garbage in my bag, and hoist myself into the saddle again.  We were in the woods for 3 days.  I didn't defecate once.  I didn't shower once.  And miraculously. I didn't encounter bears once.

My periods are winding down.  The days of barely being able to function or leave the house are an irritating memory.  My oldest daughter is ten.  I'll have to explain this to her in the not so distant future.  I vow never to refer to her period as her 'friend'.  Anything but.  And I will commiserate with her when she realizes that her brothers have it easy.   Because they do.

August 5, 2014

a quiet house

I'm not sure of what to do with myself.  Other than the familiar hum of the dryer and the washing machine's swish, there is no sound in the house.  Coach took all 6 kids camping.  Just over night.  They left a few hours ago.  Enough time for me to thoroughly sweep the kitchen.  Laddie's daily job.  Apparently he skips it more than he actually completes it.  I showered.  No interruptions.  I'm on my second load of laundry.  All current dirty laundry is sorted into piles, which I plan to clean before the gross camping laundry gets heaped on the laundry room.  Organized the wallet and zipper pouch where my wallet resides in my purse (most things just get shoved in there - receipts, crumbled cash, gift cards,  more receipts, etc.).  I read a few chapters in my book on the deck in my bathing suit.  Tempted to go to the pool, but without the kids that would feel weird.  Besides, I go to the pool most days.  Come to think of it, I do laundry most days too.  Time to do something out of the ordinary. 

I rarely have time to blog.  Getting that done.  Awesome.  I even made a list of topics I would like to write about, so when I find the time I don't stare at the computer and wonder what it was that irritated me so much the other day.  Or what the funny thing was that Curly said that I wanted to share.  Or what childhood memory my mind stumbled over while I was watching Laddie learn to drive.

I have housework on my list.  I'd love to get that done, but don't know if I can force myself to do that when I have no kids home.  True, I hate cleaning house when they are present and accounted for.  It infuriates me to stumble upon the messes, wrappers, smeared toothpaste, broken pencils, and clean clothes they return to the laundry room because said items have been residing on the floor of their rooms for so long that they now believe that the clothes are dirty.  My cleaning is punctuated with screaming spells directed at various child sized slobs begging them to make a change.  As if housework isn't exhausting enough, my temper tantrums add a whole new dimension to the task. 

After my blog post, I am headed to the mall.  Love shopping.  I have a few things to return, and I may as well look around while I'm there, right?  I plan to purchase a new bathing suit.  I have two good suits, but one is fading after 2 years of dedicated service.  We are going out of town in a few days, and I'd like to have a spare.  In addition to the suit shopping, I am a sale rack junkie.  This can add up of course.  On the way to the mall, I will stop and get the blue minivan scrubbed for Laddie.  The trick he doesn't realize is that once it's clean, he'll be responsible for the continued upkeep as the sole driver.  I expect it will not be very different than the constant disgusting state of my kitchen floor, but wonders never cease.

Before I head home to watch a chick flick while I organize all the kid books from the book shelf in the family room that I dumped yesterday, I intend to stop at my girlfriend's house for a visit.  Maybe a glass of wine.   A long chat, a few laughs.  Her kids will be home, so hoping they don't interfere with my no-kid state of mind.

I look forward to the campers' stories.  They only drove about an hour south of our home.  Coach and I didn't grow up camping.  It's a form of vacationing that we have chosen to adapt to.  Not my favorite, but it does make good budget sense when traveling with a family of our size.  Our scheduled vacations are typically every other year, with the hopes of a short beach like getaway on the off years.  Since we didn't hike a mountain out west, or explore the Grand Canyon this summer our camping gear along with our little happy campers sat idle.  Coach feels like an overnight camp out renews their love of camping and refreshes their adventurous side.  I accept the camping journeys we have taken to distant national parks, but I don't feel compelled to camp near home just to say I've done it.  So far, that frame of mind and has served me well!

On to the car wash and the mall.

August 1, 2014

my 16 year old driver

OK, OK, I admit it.  I like to be in control.  I wouldn't classify myself as a control freak though.  No one ever accused me of being bossy as a kid.  I appreciate input, and therefore I still like to bounce ideas off of a good friend, a parent, or even Coach.  I don't believe that I have all of the answers, but I like to have a plan that makes sense.  Order makes me happy, but when it comes to housework I tend to be pretty lackadaisical until the place resembles a recently ran-sacked home broken into by a desperate junkie on a made for TV movie.  I guess when it comes to parenting, control is more of an issue.  Isn't that the case with most parents?

Maybe some parents accept relinquishing control better than I do.  I attribute my recently, self-diagnosed control -issue in large part to the fact that two of our children are teenagers, and the youngest just completed kindergarten.  It's difficult to linger with one foot in the teen world of hormones, attitudes, and bad complexions, especially while the other foot is still dealing with attempted early bedtimes, play dates, and reading practice.  Two feet straddling two different parental roles is enough to make me lose balance, because while my feet are in a wide stance I still have to juggle a variety of balls.  And my crew constantly throws things at me . . figuratively speaking of course (cue the circus music).

Time to test my ability to not be in complete control. . . driver's ed, permits, and a driver's license.  Laddie earned his driving permit last year.  He took drivers ed over the summer.  We allowed him to drive, but admittedly found it tough to get him behind the wheel.   Opportunities to drive were limited by which car was available.  The large white van, that seats 12 (similar to a painter's van - except ours has windows), was not an excellent learning vehicle.  Too big!  Our eleven year old minivan served as a decent option.  This was the car Laddie practiced on, but we typically had to wait until the back seats weren't brimming over with siblings.  Not unlawful, but too distracting - also not the safest situation to throw the younger set into.  Chicago's unrelenting winter produced an additional road block.  There weren't many days when the streets were free of snow and ice.  We limited our own driving in that sketchy weather, and certainly didn't encourage his.  Finally, Laddie's busy school and sports schedule left little time to drive around.  By the time his sports practices ended, there was little time to take the car out for a spin.  Eating and homework were priorities - unfortunately, in that order. 

How could Coach and I be old enough to have our oldest turn 16 in June?  We informed Laddie in advance of his birthday, that trying for his license wouldn't be part of his sweet 16th.  He needed more practice.  He agreed, and we tried to step up his behind the wheel time.  We noticed progress.  After talking to other parents with driving kids, it became clear that no parent ever believes that their kid is ready to drive solo.  We weren't alone.

As the time approached for Laddie to be driving on his own, we bought another car.  Nothing to get overly excited about.  Another minivan.  This one cherry red.  The dealer actually teased us about not expressing excitement about test driving a new car.  I pointed at a Land Rover across the lot and vowed to one day return and show some excitement when I climbed behind the wheel for that test drive.  We explained to Laddie that while the blue minivan (bearing rust marks, loads of wear and tear, but certified safe to drive) would be available for him to drive, he would never be allowed to refer to it as his car.  Just to be clear. 

As one of his final assessments, we decided that he would need to drive on the expressway.  I drove separately to an away swim meet so that we could check this goal off of our driver-in-training checklist.  It worked out great.  Coach left with the little folks in the 'Great White'.  Laddie and I buckled into the old navy minivan.  He took a right out of the neighborhood, took the next right on to the expressway, and exited a few miles later without ever a lane change, bumper to bumper traffic, or an additional issue cropping up.  Too easy.  This proved nothing.  A few weeks ago, we had two cars at Coach's sister's house after a family get together.  Coach let Danny drive home in the dark, on the expressway, for 30 minutes.  I drove home at the same time with the rest of the gang in our newly purchased third car.  After a bit, I chose to pass Laddie.  I begged the kids not to wave at him or distract him in anyway.  All appeared to be going well.  I just couldn't watch.  Coach gave him two thumbs up.  Yeah.  One step closer. 

Scheduling a time to test proved challenging.  Laddie is currently on a two week break from football.  Perfect.  He caddies most days, but the course is closed on Mondays.  The DMV is also closed on Mondays.  Freakishly, I had no children home on Tuesday afternoon.  Play dates galore.  Laddie came home from caddying, and we drove 20 minutes to the DMV.  He drove there.  I delivered a little pep talk.  Mirrors - use them.  Blinker - use them.  Hug the corner more in your turns.  We were driving home sooner than anticipated because I failed to do my homework.  He needed his birth certificate, his social security card, and a proof of address.  I misunderstood another mom who told me that they brought nothing with them on their recent visit to the DMV.  Her daughter had lost her permit.  Forgot the proof of insurance.  Still got a license.  She must have had the birth certificate, etc.  I assumed that since Laddie had his permit, which he was awarded after showing his birth certificate, etc. the year before that we were good.  It was a frustrating afternoon.

Second attempt.  I purposely left my reusable water bottle in the car this time.  The day before I was told no food or beverages were allowed in the facility.  Not water?  Unamerican.  I expected to be parked in the waiting area all afternoon, but without the correct documents that wasn't the case anyway.  All paperwork checked out.  Laddie expressed how nervous he was, especially about the written exam.  Discovered that there was no written exam, since that is administered when the kid gets a permit.  Sweet.  I watched him pull out of the parking spot with the instructor in the car next to him.  I stayed outside and waited for them to return.  I smiled at him as he got out of the car.  I gave him a thumbs up.  He shook his head.  I didn't believe him.  He insisted that he didn't pass.  Disbelief.  I kept waiting for him to crack up.  Wasn't happening.  I followed the test lady inside.  She made some markings on his paperwork and tossed it in a bin.  Laddie kept mumbling something about 'dangerous actions'.  The ladies behind the counter picked up his paperwork when I inquired and read thru her comments.  He didn't signal when he pulled out of an uphill parking spot.  He didn't look when he pulled out of the spot either.  She was uncomfortable with his right hand turn on red because of the oncoming traffic.  He wasn't interested in driving home this time.  I drove.  He stewed. 

Third attempt.  I awoke at 5:20 am this morning.  Went for a run.  Started removing clutter from the counter tops.  Shuffling shoes back into the frequently bypassed mudroom.  Ate breakfast.  I woke Laddie up just before I jumped into the shower.  'Let's do this.'  I wanted to be there by 8.  I drove.  He ate his bowl of cereal in the passenger seat.  We reviewed previous mistakes.  Arranged the paperwork in his lap.  Pulled up.  He jumped out and got in line.  I parked.  8:05.  The man behind the counter asked him who tested him the day before.  Computers don't lie, they knew about the failed attempt.  He assured Laddie he wanted to give him a different tester.  Phew.  Dodged that bullet.    I assumed my familiar place on the sidewalk.  Watched him pull away.  Now my nerves were acting up.  I hoped that I wouldn't have to run in and find a bathroom.  A 16 year old girl had left for her test 5 minutes ahead of Danny.  Why was he returning so soon?  The girl that was ahead of him still wasn't back yet.  Uh oh.  I watched as the test lady spoke to him from the passenger seat.  Her hands flailed.  No.  Can't be.  Laddie got out of the car.  Big smile.  What a relief.

As much as I don't think I'm prepared for him to drive, I wanted him to be able to do this.  The lady had a few pointers.  She must be a hand talker.  Simple explanation.  Not sure why the chick ahead of him returned 5 minutes AFTER him.  Longer route?  He closed his eyes in the first two attempts for the infamous drivers license picture . . . family trait on his father's side . . . choosing wedding photos was a challenge.  He finally posed for a photo that turned out like someone was taping his eyes open, can't say I would've blamed them if they had.  We were out of there.  I drove home.

I called to add him to our insurance.  That hurt.  $1300 for 6 months.  They suggested we drop the collision coverage.  It makes sense because if anything happens to that heap, we won't be investing much in it anyway.  That would save us more than $100 a month.  Still.  Ouch.  One down, five to go! 


July 22, 2014

Christmas in July

No one can accuse my family of gift purchase procrastination.  The women of the clan typically map out their purchases in advance, while my brothers aren't covered by this plan-in-advance-shopping umbrella.  My Mom, for example, has a closet in a spare room where she stores great finds throughout the year.  When Christmas draws near, Mom visits her stockpile of gifts that she keeps sorted by child for each of her 22 grandchildren.  She is organized, wrapped, and prepared months in advance. 

My siblings and I create a shopping list based on the annual Christmas drawing.  All the cousin's names are written on scraps of paper and drawn from a hat to determine who is shopping for who.  The adults draw names of other adults in order to exchange gifts with each other as well.  Most of the women in the family like to follow in Mom's footsteps and try to get a jump start on shopping . . .  as early as the summer months in some cases.  While the kids get excited about whose name they've drawn, they are typically uninvolved in the shopping and decision making.  At least that is the way it works in the Shenanigan Family. 

My brother and his wife are currently visiting her family for several weeks in Ireland.  Although we were all together over the 4th of July holiday, I was dragging my feet on whether or not the Shenanigan's would participate this year.  A few years ago, we withdrew from the Christmas drawing after we moved into a new house, because our budget was too tight.  My oldest sister struggled with our choice that year.  How dare we break tradition?  So this year, I pondered how grinch-like it would prove to be if we opted out of the cousin gift exchange.  I would be:  1. upsetting my sister.  2. disappointing my kids (who would sit and watch cousins open gifts), and 3. relieving myself of shopping for and purchasing an additional six gifts.  I caved, and agreed to participate.  Not in time to get the drawing accomplished though.

My sis in law emailed from Ireland seeking permission to conduct the drawing on the other side of the Atlantic so that she could begin her shopping in Ireland.  Permission granted.  Unfortunately, the shopping list she produced was incomplete.  Instead of 22 pairs of names, there were only 20.  The adult list was corrupt as well.  One adult, who I refuse to name, would be receiving two gifts.  Discrepancies were pointed out, and corrections made.  No harm, no foul.  Few of us, as eager as we are to shop early had actually run out to the mall to make any early purchases.

Although I didn't have the fiscal excuse that I utilized a few years back, I was very hesitant to be involved in the exchange this year after last year's debacle.  The year unfolded like this:  I shopped early for the cousin gifts.  Although I was working over 30 hours a week, I organized my list and hit the mall late one evening.  The next morning I appeared groggy for breakfast, but satisfied that my list was covered in pen marks, notations, and several check marks.  I even smuggled the huge bags into the house while the kids slept, taking the time to separate out the cousin gifts from offspring gifts.  Tired, but accomplished. 

A week before Christmas my brother (a gift purchasing procrastinator) called me.  After picking my brain a bit about ideas I might have for his godson, Laddie, he asked me if I had picked something up for his kids.  In a freaky twist of events, all four of his kids landed on my shopping list.  All of their gifts had been purchased.  They would all be receiving Play mobile sets similar to the ones that my kids currently owned and greatly enjoyed.  Each themed play set was packaged in a neat travel case.  Perfect for taking in the car, or at home storage.  Additionally, I had purchased a few star wars related items to round out the gifts.  They were after all a great deal.  He hesitated after my detailed description of what the kids were getting.  Turns out my brother and his wife weren't really interested in gifts with pieces.  Who is?  But at Christmas it's fair game, right?  His youngest was 3 years old, hardly a candidate for putting everything in the mouth.  He explained that his kids would be receiving a wii video game, so they were hoping that I could pick up a few additional games.  Shock.  I'm all for offering suggestions when asked.  If no one asks what my kid wants, I don't make suggestions . . . especially not in the 11th hour.

Gift receipts were already attached to the packages in my closet.  Why not do what all other controlling parents do, encourage your kid not to rip the packaging and return the gift after the holiday?  Obviously you run the risk of losing out to a spoiled child who demands to open the package on the spot.  I thought about those little receipts carefully taped to each box, 'Feel free to purchase as many wii game cartridges with the exchange money as your heart desires!' I wanted to shout.  The real struggle going on in my head was that my brother and his wife have excellent jobs.  To say that their income is plentiful is an understatement.  On the flip side, I had spent precious time selecting gifts their kids would enjoy and using coupons to keep the items affordable. 

I managed to get off the phone and keep my composure.  At first, I was just in disbelief, then irritated.  Later I broke down and cried.  Now in addition to all the wasted time I spent shopping for their four children, I would have to return the gifts in order to afford suitable items.  Coach was annoyed.  He told me to tell them to forget it.  Why had they waited until a week before Christmas to put in a gift request?  In this case it felt like a gift demand.  Rude.

Within a few days, my sister in law texted me some additional suggestions.  Turns out she overbought and she had some toys in her closet that she would sell me so that I could give them to her kids.  She hoped this would save me a trip to the mall.  Thoughtful.  It just kept getting better.  She failed to understand my budget issues.  My coupons didn't apply at her closet checkout.

On Christmas day, I opened a Lia Sophia necklace from the same sister in law who had systematically rearranged my shopping agenda.  There was no gift receipt.   A friend, who sells the jewelry, shared with me that the necklace was retired.  Translation:  it was most likely offered as a buy one get one.  Makes sense.  My other sister was given a Lia Sophia necklace as well.  I don't know whether or not my sister ever wore her gift.  I don't accessorize much, but when I do I choose to wear a diamond heart pendant that my mother gave me.  Lia Sophia is now safely stored in my top dresser drawer waiting to be re-gifted this year.  Now that the names have been assigned, I fear that my sister's husband might be receiving a Lia Sophia necklace in the near future, because I plan to limit my bending-over-backward trips to the mall.

I suppose my sister in law has begun her shopping in Ireland.  This complicated return procedure might make any gift exchanges highly improbable.  

July 15, 2014


I’m big on consistency.  As a middle child, who was the third and youngest daughter before the arrival of a first born son, my birth order experience left me with a desire for consistency for my children above all else.  I tried.  Correction:  I’m still trying.  I like to think my successes outweigh my failings in this area.  I must admit complications abound when it comes to consistent parenting.

The first born.  No one picked on him.  Who could’ve accomplished this necessary irritation in his life with the absence of an older sibling?  Should Coach and I have knocked down his lego towers and laughed?  Hidden his toys and played dumb?  Gobbled up the last of his favorite cookies as he watched horrified?  Without life’s lessons delivered by older, annoying siblings, Laddie embarked on his school years basically unaware of unexplained mean moments, name calling, and hurtful teasing.  Although Laddie was often confused and unsure of how to handle these situations, I longed to protect the rest of the gang from the same unwelcome childhood torments that his life was free of.  When Laddie unleashed the teasing and in your face nonsense on each new arrival to our family as they grew and invaded his space, I quickly reminded him that his sweet early years existed without such annoying behavior.  I hoped he would spare them, but that didn’t happen.  As a parent, I learned that I could only control so much. 

Other aspects of parenting were easier to maintain a consistent thread to.  Regular bedtimes, no eating in the family room, limited TV watching, helping out with household chores, manners,.  etc.  We demanded the same level of attention to these details as we had from the get go.   Of course our offspring break rules, complain about chores, and  stay awake later now that we are involved in more activities. 

Eddie’s friend’s mom assured him recently that his first cell phone would arrive any time.  She was confident he would receive a phone earlier than Laddie had received his . . . the night before freshman year of high school started.  I countered her thoughts, and Eddie soon understood that I wouldn’t bend on this one.  No cell phone prior to the first day of freshman year.  No exceptions.  If I had a crystal ball, I am guessing that it would show an image of Curly’s siblings as college age students instructing me to purchase her a cell phone long before her high school career began.  'Save your breath', I would instruct them.  They would know from experience.  Their parents were too set in their ways to change course.  Sorry, Curly.

The one inconsistent aspect of their childhood that I wish had remained the same rather than morphed into a short tempered version of her former self is . . .  me.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Although I crave similarities among the kids’ childhoods, I have failed to stay the course.  Opposed to the fun loving, playful, patient mother that began the parenthood journey 16 years ago, I am grumpy, frustrated, and busy.  I try.  There are carefree moments when I am not rushing around, when we enjoy a laugh, attend an event, or relax together.  I squeeze in time to read with them albeit less frequently than I did with the older kids back in the day, but I try.  In my defense, nowadays there are teenage attitudes to deal with, schedules to adhere to, mountains of laundry (bigger people - bigger clothes), and disgusting messes in every room in the house.  The bills are more substantial, grocery bags heavier, and meals devoured faster.  Even the overcrowded fridge consumes time as I try to navigate around all the stuff jammed in there just to find the jelly.  Nap times have been replaced with activities, sports, and homework.  Of course Coach’s hours continue to be lengthy.  The kids have begun to hide from me, if they sense I am about to assign them some household chore.  It’s a vicious cycle.  They would prefer a life with a fun loving mother who allows more free time to play and create childhood memories, but they refuse to recognize their own role in revealing my dark side.  I make very few messes, and I clean up whatever messes I cause.  On the other hand, they are comfortable leaving a mess and pretending not to be involved with it.  Although I am not a neat nick, I require some sense of order after awhile.  They beg me not to care and I beg them to put something away without being told.  Imagine the energy saved?

In all the madness, I frequently lose my cool.  I am quick to let lose a string of audible cuss words.  This is one huge change from Laddie’s early years.  I recall preparing our family favorite 'pizza casserole' for dinner one night.  Laddie, Eddie, and I planned to walk to the park before dinner.  I set the oven to automatically cook the dinner.  I was pregnant and arrived home from the park starving.  To my dismay, I had missed a step when I set the oven.  I may have even forgotten to insert the casserole in the oven.  I don’t remember the details.  I do remember my reaction.  I used the third person combined with the word silly.  Something like, ‘Silly Mommy forgot to put the food in the oven.  We are going to have to wait a bit longer for dinner.’  If the same scenario happened today, it would have sounded something along the lines of:  ‘Shit!  I forgot to turn the oven on.  God damn it!  Well, we’re all going to be late now or we’ll have to eat later.  Unbelievable!  If someone could help me out just once.’  Words that Danny never heard are part of Curly’s everyday experiences. 

Now I must go figure out what to feed the masses tonight, see if anyone bothered to put their own f-ing  laundry away, discover if Curly found her face mask yet or I’ll be forced to call and get the orthodontist to prepare her a new one.  Perhaps tomorrow my retro self can reintroduce herself to the children and we can go min golfing minus teen attitude, concern over the cluttered house, and unexpected swearing., but I won't hold my f-ing breath.