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.