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!