June 27, 2015

Cool at the pool

Ah, summer.  Fun in the sun.  Relaxing by the pool.  Enjoying adult conversation while the kids chill out and splash around in the shallow end.  Nothing beats long, hot, leisurely summer hours spent at the pool.  

I often wonder how parents of young kids survive the summer without a pool membership to keep them cool, collected, and sane.  People who either work full time or have the misfortune of living in a town without an affordable, local option, are exempt from my pool-membership-must-have school of thought.  Without the time to spend or the convenience of getting to a local swimming hangout, a pool membership would make no sense.  My hope is that these folks have friends with backyard pools or beach houses so they are able to score splashy invites making June, July, and August tolerable. 

There are a few factors that have led to my personal pool dependency.
     #1.  Coach and I avoid cranking the air conditioning unless:  the heat index is life threatening, we are entertaining, or we are caring for an infant (it has been 7 years since Curly could be classified as an infant).  Because the huge bill that accompanies fridge like temperatures flowing through the house is unwelcome, we tend to rely on the refreshing pool waters to cope with the hot summer months.
     #2.  My childhood summers were spent at the pool.  My siblings and I endured plenty of structure during the months when school was not in session.  We kept lists of the books we read, attended sports camps, accomplished chores, and hung out with friends.  Majority of our time, however, was whiled away at a nearby pool.
     #3.  I tan.  Despite my mostly Irish heritage, my skin darkens after being exposed to the sun.  No freckles on this Irish lass.  Lobster-like burns are extremely rare for me.  Although it is increasingly more popular to sit under an umbrella and avoid the sun's powerful rays, I credit my paternal grandmother's Hungarian blood for my tanning capabilities. 

Growing up in the suburbs, riding a bike to the pool was out of the question.  We drove to the private pool we joined each summer in our '76 Impala station wagon.  Getting there involved driving down a very busy street over an expressway without a sidewalk, so we were fortunate enough that my mom carved time out of her day to spend hours at the pool.  She would sunbathe while we competed in gutter ball, jumped off the boards, or dared one another to replicate a new underwater maneuver.  There was a heavy woman, who we would spot daily.  She kicked several laps across the pool utilizing a kick board.  We swam alongside her and imagined that her rhythmic kicking sounded like the heartbeat of a whale.  Of course we managed to incorporate her sound effects into our games, although it was hard to stay underwater near 'the whale' without laughing.  Malt cups were forty cents, the high dive (the ultimate adrenaline supplier) provided a great view of the adjacent public golf course, and the designated adult swim always dragged on a bit too long.

For several years my mom babysat one of Shane's best friends.  Lukas was an only child whose parents both worked.  He lived a few miles away, but he took the bus home with us during the school year.  In the summers he would be dropped off by his mother on her way to work.  He grew to be like another brother to us, but thanks to his Lithuanian lineage we weren't fooling anyone.  His skin was translucent and his hair was white with one part yellow mixed in.  Wherever we went, people recognized that Lukas wasn't really a member of our Irish brood.  Lukas' skin type required that he be slathered in thick white sunscreen before he could swim in the pool.  My siblings and I, who had never really seen sunscreen before, would stand dumbfounded at the process our mom went through to protect this pale kid's skin.  A sun-ray-worshiper herself, she was following strict instructions from Lukas' mother, who was an immigrant from Lithuania.  Eventually mom would be satisfied that the sun wouldn't scorch Lukas, so she sealed the deal with a white t-shirt over the sunscreen.  The lifeguards objected initially citing the rules of the pool.  No clothing could be donned in the water.  My Mom stood her ground.  She shook her head and insisted that it was the only way he could swim.  He was highly susceptible to burning.  No one messes with my mom, so they dropped the subject like an empty tube of sunscreen and Lukas enjoyed hours of fun in the sun . . .  with constant reapplications of white pasty sunscreen, of course.

One particularly hot day, my mom grew frustrated at the number of kids perched on the side of the pool.  We secured our spot on the edge ready to hurl ourselves into the refreshing water once the whistle blew signaling the end of the 15 minute adult swim.  My mom sat and grumbled about the lack of adults in the water.  Finally a few minutes before the whistle, she ordered me to get in the water.  Like I said, no one messes with my mom, so after a second of hesitation I accepted the role as her pawn.  I jumped into the pool and stayed down a bit longer than I was typically capable of.  I heard the muffled whistles and voices yelling for me to get out of the water.  I broke thru the surface just in time to hear my mom come to my defense.  "This is silly.  I told her to get in.  It's too hot to have these kids just sit here.  There are no adults taking advantage of the adult swim, so let the kids swim."  Other kids seized the moment and one after another they began to join me in the pool. 

Eventually Coach and I joined a neighborhood pool near our first house.  Although we have moved across town, we have maintained our membership for the past 16 years.  There were years of loading the double stroller with all of the supplies from the trunk.  An early start with a packed lunch at the pool meant we could still get a few good hours in before it was time to head home for naps.  Naps were often skipped or infants were rocked to sleep in the stroller in order to extend out pool hours.  Even the after math of cranky kids, it was all worth it.  I made friends, shared laughs, and discovered the adult connections I was craving.  The kids played with buddies, perfected their underwater abilities, and wore themselves out.  After dinner swims with Coach when the heat was intolerable or the calendar was wide open (which was often the case when the kids were tots and yet to be overly involved) were special treats.  Social events on the weekends served as a relaxing night out even with kids in tow.  No babysitter necessary.  Just add water.

One summer a few years ago, a woman I didn't know approached me.  She wanted to congratulate me on advancing from the baby pool.  She shared with me that after watching me manage my six little ones at the pool for years, she was so happy to see me sit and read a book at the pool.  It is a different experience now that all six kids are avid swimmers and active swim team members.  Lately, I have been known to nap on my lounge chair or read uninterrupted for long stretches.  I wonder if we will be one of those families that continues to invest in a pool membership after the kids have all moved out.  I wouldn't mind it.

When Laddie and Eddie were very small, I felt like I experienced a bit of the 'pool blues' after Labor Day.  When the pool closed, some of my friendships took a hiatus.  I didn't cross paths regularly with some of the 'pool moms' outside of our summer break hangout.  Even if we bumped into each other at the grocery store or during library story time, it wasn't the same as the outstanding summer experience.  Of course with the close of the pool also came the many neglected household tasks I needed to attack.  There weren't usually enough rainy days all summer to keep the house in order. 

It was often hard to explain to my little ones that the pool was closed for the year.  After all, there were plenty of toasty September days that warranted a quick dip.  I tried other activities on the days when the little guys begged to return to our summer stomping ground.  It may have been Eddie, I'm not sure.  Maybe Reggie.  One of the kids was so insistent that I had the pool closing all wrong, that I ended up driving over to the pool to prove that the water had been drained until the next season.  Maybe I needed just as much convincing. 

June 24, 2015

Food tours

My workout class ended this morning and while we were catching our breath, the instructor asked my friend, Jan, if she had done her food tour yet.  Ah, food.  Nothing like striking up a salivating-inducing conversation about how to reload on calories shortly after exerting yourself and burning off a trillion fat cells.  Jan shared that her tour of restaurants in the city hadn't taken place yet.  This purchased gift for her husband for Father's Day offered a variety of stops at a collection of restaurants thru a specific Chicago neighborhood.  The tour she selected would feature eateries in her husband's favorite area:  China Town.

Coach and I don't get out much, and we get out with the kids even less, so I admit this was the first time I had heard of a food tour.  I suppose the closest I get to a food tour is left-over night at our house in 'Irish Town'.  During this weekly tradition I can be found rummaging thru the fridge fishing for dinner options that are fresh enough to pass for good eats.  This is the closest we come to sampling a variety of offerings . . . albeit questionable, bordering on moldy, minuscule portions - but there is typically a variety.  This exciting adventure just occurred a few nights ago.

I used to look forward to left-over night.  An evening of warming up food and not slaving away in the kitchen.  Left over nights of late are anything but enjoyable, save the fact that I am thrilled to open up a bit of space in my cramped fridge.  If I didn't know any better, I would swear that my fridge shrinks a bit every six months.  I recently scolded Coach for attempting to save less than a dozen green beans in a small container.  Knowing I would find those buried in the back of the fridge with a nice layer of fuzz growing on them in about 6 weeks, I instructed him to force them down or toss them out.  Playing fit-the-food-(or worse yet force-the-food) in-the-fridge until the puzzle works well enough for the door to close is, after all, exhausting.  Although I admit to being an expert fridge organizer, in my rush to shove my new grocery purchases in and race out the door I often risk creating so many layers that edible food gets shuffled to the great fridge-abyss.  Our second fridge in the basement serves as a double edge sword.  It comes in handy and allows me to avoid multiple trips to the grocery store a week, but food often gets overlooked and uneaten down there until long after its expiration date.  With a food budget impossible to adhere to, I can't afford to toss food out.

Other than cluttering our cold storage space, the left-overs serve very little purpose.  Literally.  No loaves and fishes miracles happening here.  The portions I distract from foggy tupperware containers are typically insufficient to feed more than one or two hungry kids let alone sustain the entire crowd.  Gone are the days when Monday's casserole would feed all of us again on Thursday. Additionally, the length of time it takes to locate the available food items, allocate who gets what (inevitably there is one popular item and only half a serving size left), and heat them up is hardly worth the effort.  It often makes more sense to prepare a meal that will not only feed the masses, but will be warm when needed.  Choices only complicate an already chaotic time of day.  For example, if there is only so much pizza casserole remaining, and a pizza-casserole-lover meanders in the kitchen a minute after the last plate has been promised to another sibling, lock up all the sharp utensils because there is going to be war.

After my workout, I allowed the younger three kids to invite over a family with three siblings of the same gender, same age.  One phone call.  Three playdates.  Heaven.  Add that these kids are well mannered, well behaved, and on the same page as my younger set, the invite is a no-brainer.  Reggie had been given a free burger certificate at the hamburger joint 'Meatheads' as part of his baseball team participation.  I agreed to take the six of them to Meatheads for lunch.  The friends brought their coupons as well and off we went. Once all the kids had ordered, I asked about the salads.  Were they gluten free?  I selected a salad, added chicken to it, and then inquired about the dressings.  Four employees discussed the gluten status of the dressings.  They investigated.  Hard to believe my order could take longer than 6 kids all together. Embarrassing.  In the end they weren't convinced that any of their dressings were gluten free.  They suggested I order a burger in a lettuce wrap makeshift bun.  I had lost my appetite.

I wonder if their are food tours for gluten intolerant individuals who would enjoy a break from dinner preparations, hungry teenagers, and insufficient leftovers?  If so, sign me up.

June 17, 2015

Hair Cut Desperation

After growing up with boy hair, I am crippled daily by a fear of sporting bad hair AGAIN.  All it takes is one day in hair disarray and I fear the self consciousness over ugliness creep back up like a wayward curl.  Although there were a few years prior to having babies that my hair added aesthetic value to my appearance, overall my hair consistently frustrates me.  I long to wear my hair long (pun intended), but my thin locks look fuller in a shorter do.  Before we departed for spring break in March, I recognized that I needed a haircut.  I resisted the urge knowing that I might require the functional ability to put my hair up in a clip if the crowded hotel room bathroom or the hectic schedule didn't allow for much hair maintenance time. 

This year marked our first official spring break vacation.  In an attempt to accomplish a few goals, the agenda dictated several stops incorporating more of a 'get-it-done' approach than an actual vacation-feel.  The final itinerary resulted in a nutty road trip that included criss-crossing several states and splitting up the family for a few days in two different directions.  Any opportunity to escape the tough Chicago Irish dancing market where competition is steep is a welcome retreat, so we set out for Pittsburgh where the girls (who are more competitively committed to dancing) competed in hopes of winning the necessary medals to advance to the next level.  The next day I jetted to Montreal with Reggie so he could compete for 5 minutes with his ceili team in the World Championships of Irish dancing.  This off shoot of the trip was mandated by the dancing teachers.  The added expense, agenda disruption, and spousal irritation was mind blowing.  Meanwhile back in the great -white (12 seater, Chevy express van), Coach led the rest of the crew off the beaten path to tour a few colleges that Laddie wanted to check out.  Once the college scene and the World Championship leg of the trip was history, Reggie and I reunited with the rest of the family via airplane in Washington D.C.  Coach has been wanting to show the kids D.C, so once the 'business' portion of the trip was complete we toured the nation's capital and jogged down to Virgina to hit Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Monticello.  An acquaintance heard our itinerary and asked me if my middle name was Rand McNally. 

Rather than lose an entire afternoon regrouping at the hotel, I suggested to Coach that we cross paths at Arlington National Cemetery.  After a bit of research I realized that Reggie and I could jump aboard the metra at the airport and arrive at Arlington National Cemetery.  After all, we needed to make the most of our limited time after devoting days to our diverse agenda.  When I discovered that our flight was delayed out of Montreal, I convinced the personnel to move us to another airline so we would meet our connection at Laguardia.  Fortunately they were very accommodating, and our itinerary was adjusted.  An hour to make our connection seemed doable.  I had no idea that we would be required to exit the airport, wait for a bus, and endure another security check point before racing thru the airport to locate the correct terminal.  They were boarding first class passengers for our flight when we raced up panting for breath.  I handed Reg the handle to our little carry on with wheels and our boarding passes.  Promising to be right back, I darted to the restroom.  My pit stop took a few minutes longer than I anticipated, and as I trotted back to the gate I witnessed a very serious Reggie attempting to board the plane.  The woman he was handing our boarding passes to looked beyond him with a confused expression searching for a responsible adult.  Waving my hands around, I admitted that this was my independent son.  I explained how I had just run to the bathroom.  I questioned Reggie on his willingness to ditch me at the airport once we were seated.  He simply shrugged and stated that they announced last call to board.  Reggie is a task master and he likes to get things done (thus the nickname 'Reggie' which is short for regimented), but attempting to travel alone was a stretch.

Once on the ground, I texted Coach to let him know our flight landed 15 minutes early.  I was excited to get our trip back on track and put the alternate universe of Irish dancing, where a fool (myself included) pays dancing teachers to control their every move, behind me.  With no explanation, we were told after landing to exit the plane from the rear of the aircraft on this very windy day.  After we deplaned, we entered the airport windblown and in search of signs for the metra.  Within minutes we were at the airport metra station having only one carry on bag and my over-sized purse.  Traveling light paid off.  Beautiful.

I asked a woman working at the station how to purchase tickets to the Arlington National Cemetery station.  She helped me buy the tickets at the self serve machine and then guided me to the correct escalator.  Pointing up, she instructed me to get on the train on the left of the platform at the top of the escalator.  Reggie and I were on our way.  Waiting on the platform I asked a man next to me if this was the correct 'blue line' train because I wanted to go to Arlington National.  He nodded.  Train pulled up and we boarded.  We followed along on the schedule ticking off the three stops prior to our destination.  Rising from our seats, we positioned ourselves near the door.  Reggie peered out as the train slowed down and alerted me that this was not the Arlington National Cemetary stop.  My stomach dropped as I verified what he was saying.  A woman wearing a business suit and running shoes leaned towards us and asked us where we were headed.  She pointed out that we had mistakenly boarded the 'yellow' line.  In a state of denial, I insisted that we were in fact on the blue line.  She explained that the two trains share a track, but then veer off in opposite directions around the city.  She began to instruct me how to get back to the blue line as I exited the train pulling the carry on behind me.  Reggie was between the business woman and our little wheeled bag.  I focused on what she was telling me as I moved thru the door of the train.  Suddenly she yelled out, 'The doors!'

There wasn't time to react.  The doors closed.  Reggie was inside the train on the other side of the doors.  The air was sucked out of my lungs.  I gasped and started shouting and pounding on the window.  I could see Reggie's panic stricken face calling out to me, but his voice was so muffled.  The car was towards the front of the train.  I thought for sure an employee would open the doors when they heard my panic stricken hollering.  I was screaming for them to open the doors.  It all happened so fast.  The business woman put her hands on Reggie's shoulders.  She shook her head as if to tell me that my screams were worthless.  She pointed at the ground where I stood and mouthed the words, 'Stay right there!'  With a gush of air and a lurch the train was gone.  That was the hardest part.  I could no longer see Reggie.   

My screams didn't stop.  People came running from all everywhere.  They directed me upstairs.  I remember muttering to them that I needed to stay there.  This woman would bring Reg back to me.  She told me to stay where I was.  I was too weak to argue.  My stomach kept doing flips and it was hard to balance on my noodle-like legs.  They led me up an escalator to the security office where metra personnel were chatting and laughing.  The relaxed atmosphere was shattered when I raced up pulling the carry on and shouting that my son was left on the train.  They jumped to attention.  I was asked what Reggie was wearing and whether or not he was carrying his cell phone.  Although no explanation was necessary, I explained that I don't do cell phones until high school and he was just nine years old.  He knew my cell number though.  I described the Irish dancing hooded sweatshirt that he was wearing.  A woman at the desk made a phone call and a minute later told me that no one had reported a lost boy.  I kept telling them that there was a woman.  I was sure she was helping him.  At some point I called Coach.  He asked me to stop crying, because he couldn't understand me.  I repeated to him with a quivering voice and stifled tears that Reggie and I got separated and he was still on the train.  Coach told me not to worry.  'I'm sure he will come back.'  Did he think this was a ride at Disney?  The security man who was reassuring me while the woman was making phone calls placed my bag in the booth and took me down to the incoming train platform.  I argued with him at first.  'The woman told me to wait on that side.'  He pointed out that if she was bringing Reggie back, they would return from this side of the tracks. 

A train pulled in.  My legs were still shaking.  I got slightly dizzy as I scanned each car that passed us before the train stopped.  I started to mumble to myself that they weren't there.  Then I saw Reggie.  Right by the door of one of the last cars.  The business woman was behind him.  They were turned away from the window, because she was pointing to the other side of the tracks where she expected to see me.  I started to whimper to the reassuring man, 'That's him. That's my son.  She brought him back.'  The doors opened.  'I'm here,' I called.  Reggie was buried in my embrace in an instant.  In typical Reggie fashion, he appeared very stoic.  No tears.  I tried to thank the woman.  The words kept getting stuck in my throat.  I'm sure this woman was ready to continue her commute home.  She admitted that it was a very scary ordeal, but that everything was fine and she was glad she could be of help.  Finally I told her how much I appreciated the time she took out of her day to assist me.  And then she disappeared into the sea of people moving on and off the trains.

Reggie and I retrieved our wheeled bag from the security office.  We now knew to pay attention to a small light on the side of the train that would identify what color train it was.  This would have been good information to have when I inquired about boarding the blue train from two different sources from the get go . . . especially the woman whose job it was to direct people. 

I held Reggie's hand tightly as we waited for the correct train.  I saw my own reflection in the windows of other trains as they sped from the station.  My hair was standing on end thanks in part to deplaning and walking across the windy tarmac.  The other part was the questionable hair products I had relied on that morning in our Montreal hotel room.  I packed light for Canada to maintain a mobile and simple travel plan,  but in doing so I had jeopardized my good hair standard.  I threw in whatever partially-filled 4 oz travel size clear containers I could scrounge up in the depths of my bathroom vanity before we left Chicago.  Not having traveled via a carry on for quite some time, I sniffed at these unlabeled tubes and guessed at which were hair products at the last minute.  I fear that I was wearing oil of olay in my hair instead of my usual hair creme.  My longer hair travel requirement may have allowed me to fudge my way thru my styling routine but now I suspected even the pull-it-up option would fail me.  In addition to Medusa hair, my face was pinched.  I resembled a lunatic woman.  A woman who you would expect to lose her child on the subway system.  It looked as if I was preparing for a role in a made for TV movie.

There were many lessons to be learned from our underground train ordeal.  Perhaps I need to stop taking on too much.  Live more simply.  Don't over complicate.  Slow down.  Learn to say no (even if it means no more Irish dancing involvement).  Get a haircut.  It was definitely a moving experience.  Of course the first thing I did when I got home was to schedule a hair cut, so perhaps that was the lesson that hit home the hardest.  Of course the first thing Coach pointed out to me when we were reunited at Arlington National Cemetery was that he managed to travel with five kids, and he didn't lose any of them.  So . . . while I was feeling ugly, he was being cute. 

June 8, 2015

Clue- the board game/ Clue - get one!

Ah, summer.  The members of our family celebrated the start of summer at various intervals.  Although I subbed a few times in the last few weeks of May, I felt like my summer began when I learned that my position was being eliminated mid-May.  Now when anyone questions how I have such a jump start on my tan, I remind them that I am unemployed.  After my summer took shape, Eddie was next in line to breathe in relaxing school's-out days.  Because Eddie's 8th grade graduation date was determined and printed on the school calendar last year, his commencement was not impacted by the snow days utilized during the school year.  The rest of the students, who no doubt celebrated when school was cancelled for heavy snowfall and severe cold temperatures, suffered thru the four additional school days added to the end of the year.  At 3:00 today, the much awaited end of the academic year finally happened, kicking off the official start of summer for Tatanka, Mini, Reggie, and Curly.  Laddie had exams last week, although to an uninformed bystander it would have appeared that this high school junior also enjoyed most of the week off along with Eddie. Grades are available on line tomorrow.  I suspect his grades will reflect his 'study-time' spent MIA while he chilled with friends.  When he finally resurfaced he dedicated a whopping 15 minutes to his studies before he plopped in front of the television to cheer on the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.

This morning Laddie slept thru the start of his first day of football camp.  And so it begins.  I woke him up at 6:50 when I jolted awake to the pesky birds that were providing the sound track to my dreams.  Football started at 6:30.  At the combined graduation party for Patrick and his cousins yesterday, Laddie managed to hyper-extended his knee in a competitive basketball game on my sister's driveway.  Once he arrived at camp, he spoke to the coaches about his injury and showed up at home about an hour later with ice strapped to his knee.  He was baffled by my frustration.  Is it too much to ask that one of my kids becomes self sufficient?  Regardless of his sore knee, I felt he should have hauled (or limped) his butt to camp on time.

Because it was a Monday, the golf course didn't require the services of my caddies, so Laddie and Eddie had the day off.  With Laddie's football camp complete and Eddie's basketball camp slotted for the afternoon, I chose to assign them a few basic responsibilities.  Keep in mind that they are suppose to handle these duties weekly - without being told.  Key words 'supposed to'.  No homework.  No caddy commitments.  No sports practices.  No younger siblings to goof off with until after 3:00.  Time to pay the piper.

I instructed Eddie that I expected him to Windex the kitchen counter, scour the kitchen sink (that he neglected to do yesterday when told), and attend to the never-ending, always-ignored task of cleaning up his part of the room that he shares with Laddie.  This chore was, as usual, only partially dealt with late last week when I stumbled across the disorder, which was so appalling it surpassed my non-neat-knick, anti-perfectionist, low-level expectations.  I demanded it be addressed immediately.  While improvements were made, the job was far from complete.  I cleared the growing pile of clutter on the kitchen counter-top to make one of Eddie's tasks more manageable.  I made sure Laddie knew that he needed to clean out the inside of the microwave and the stove top and focus on preparing for his upcoming ACT test.  I started the dishwasher that was chock full of dishes (including two crock pots) used to prepare the party food the day before, changed the laundry loads, dealt with a few emails I needed to send, and prepared to leave for my run.  

I checked that the garage door was down, and left the house through the back screen door in the kitchen.  We don't have our air on yet, so I purposely left the slider open to take advantage of the cool morning air.  Less than an hour later, I arrived home winded and sweaty from my 5 mile run.  I was surprised to see that the glass sliding door to the kitchen was closed.  I climbed up on the deck and tried the door.  Locked.  Odd.  I peeked into the kitchen and the family room.  Empty.  I walked to the front of the house.  The front door was locked and no one was in the study.  If my blood wasn't boiling from exertion, it was now!  It wasn't that I couldn't get into the house, it's that I knew these two teens were up to something.  Or more likely:   up to nothing.  I used the code to enter thru the garage door.  Knowing full well what was up, I bolted upstairs.  My two teenage sons were exiting my bedroom.  The channels on all the TV's are locked to avoid endless amounts of time being spent on mindless TV, but occasionally the kids figure out the code.  I asked them what they were up to.  Not much.  Just hanging out.

I wasn't done.  I switched to CSI mode.  Evidence was everywhere.  I could tell by the indentations left by a body that a teenager had been laid out on the mounds of laundry tossed across my bed that morning waiting to be sorted.  I flipped on the TV.  Aha!  Instead of having the cable channel guide in full view, the DVD player screen showed up.  Someone had been watching a movie.  Hmm.  I ejected the DVD and saw that a Clone Wars cartoon DVD was inserted.  The plot thickens.  Eddie had retreated at this point, pretending that he had been on his way to the shower all along.  I asked why the slider door was locked.  Laddie shared with me that he was concerned about a possible home invasion.  My big football player was frightened that at 10 am his security was in question.  It just got better and better.  A red, solo cup of chewed up, spit out sunflower seeds and a baggie of fresh seeds sat on my dresser not far from the TV.  Although I had no idea whether or not the red solo cup was left there the day, or even the week before, I assumed it was a recent addition to my bedroom ambiance and I called Laddie out on it.  Remember, because my life is full and housework not a priority, the seeds could have become a fixture there and I wouldn't have noticed it.  Laddie failed to call my bluff though, and admitted to chewing the seeds (that belong to Reggie) in my room.  I flashed back to the board game Clue.  I was prepared to solve the mystery.  Just as I suspected . . . it was the two clueless teens, in the master bedroom, with sunflower seeds, who wasted no time in sucking the life out of the start of summer.  Guilty!  I marched down the hall and clapped my hands to a twisted little cheer:  'L-A-Z-Y you ain't got no alibi!  You lazy!  You lazy!' 

Laddie still claims that he didn't lock the back door in order to force me to enter thru the garage.  What do they take me for?  I know the sound from the garage door was the audible trigger they needed to afford them time to turn off the TV, vacate my room, and pretend to be acting in a productive manner . . . my room - where they had sprawled out on the clean laundry rather than sort some of it. Ugh.

When I relayed the story to Coach tonight, he gently reminded me out of earshot of the boys that 'it is summer after all'.  He feels that they should be allowed to relax.  Well, then.  How do we differentiate this time of the year from any other?  From where I sit - or should I say 'squat' constantly picking up after them- they need to start to contribute to the house that we are all trying to cohabitate in.  I asked for a few things to get done in the morning (some of which were chores remaining from previous relax-filled days).  Chilling out.  Plenty of time for that, AFTER a few basic tasks are completed.  We are, after all, referring to teenagers who unwrap food items and don't bother to throw the wrappers away.  Who miss the garbage can in the bathroom, and don't trouble themselves with the task of picking up their snot rags and shoving them in the receptacle.  Who toss clean, still folded laundry in the dirty pile because it is easier than putting it away.  Who wouldn't dream of loading or unloading the dishwasher, wiping down the kitchen table, or sweeping the floor without being asked, ordered, or begged to do it.  Who litter the first floor with their enormous shoes, their sweat socks, and their gym bags.  They do however want rides to games, the use of the car, time with friends, stocked pantry shelves, shows to watch at night, and clean sport jerseys.

So based on Coach's comments, I am now accusing him of being their clueless accomplice.  Nothing gets past this detective. 

June 7, 2015

Do you hear what I hear?

The day I was let go of my Advancement Director position, I heard mention of the town that I worked in over the radio.  Repeatedly.  I live far enough away from the small town that I worked in, that most people living near me are unfamiliar with the town of Woodshire.  Crossing paths with people from work was very unlikely in my neck of the woods.  Therefore, hearing Woodshire mentioned as the radio station promoted a station sponsored event out where Jesus lost his sandals made me chuckle.  After three years of never hearing the town's name over the radio, in conversation, or anywhere, I thought about the irony of the invitation to come out and meet radio personalities in Woodshire after I had just severed my ties with that community.

It reminded me of another time when a phrase mentioned repeatedly in the media grabbed my attention.  Over 20 years ago, I required a colonoscopy.  (Looking back, the issues I was having were likely caused by Celiac Disease.  This doctor was taking a peek from the wrong angle.  My Celiac Disease would go undiagnosed for another 20 years.)  Although Coach and I were dating at the time, I was single and living in a condo by myself about 45 minutes south of where he was living.  In order to undergo the medical procedure, I would need someone to drive me home and check up on me.  Ann, my sister who is a nurse, lived about 25 minutes from me.  She offered to pick me up after the procedure, so that I could recover at her house. 

Colin Powell
I barely remember getting back to Ann's house from the doctor's office.  I slept on and off most of the afternoon on a mattress on the floor of her small family room.  She put the television on for me while she kept busy with her one year old son.  It just so happened to be 1995 and Colin Powell was in the news.  I believe there was much debate over whether or not this undeclared presidential candidate would join the race.  While I'm not sure of the specifics, his name popped up on every news discussion that day.  I don't even know that the TV was tuned into the news.  It may have just been the commercials leading up to the next hourly broadcast.  "Tune in to the news at noon to learn more about Colin Powell and his possible run for the presidency."

colon polyp
I grasped that the doctor had removed a polyp from my colon.  It was being sent out for biopsies, but it didn't appear to be cancerous.  If you've ever recovered from a procedure where you are put under with general anesthesia, then you might recall recovering during a sleepy, groggy, blurry day.  My blurry day was continually punctuated with the television reciting 'Colin Powell, Colin Powell, Colin Powell.'  I believe I asked my sister at one point why the TV kept talking about my colon polyp.  Have you ever noticed how much Colin Powell's name sounds like colon polyp?  If you are groggy enough and if you've had a tube inserted up your anus and thru your colon, you might just hear it.

I've never been able to hear the man's name mentioned without flashing back to the lumpy mattress in my sister's first house and remembering the confusion I felt about news of my colonoscopy being broadcast on the air.  The termination from my position out in Woodshire was certainly a blessing in disguise, but hearing the name of the town over the radio reminds me of the nonsense that I endured there and the similar feeling to my colonoscopy:  a real pain in the ass.  I'm grateful that Colin Powell isn't typically in the news any longer, and that Woodshire may as well be a million miles away.  I'm glad neither will likely be mentioned again on airwaves near my sensitive ears. 

June 6, 2015

Owning offensive B.O.

One minute my cluttered kitchen was a hub of after school chit chat complete with new stacks of artwork slightly wrinkled in the clutches of Reggie and Curly - evidence of the rapidly approaching end of school year.  These two attend the building with an earlier dismissal time and arrive home by bus before the junior high kids waltz in from their 3 block trek home.  Reggie's voice trailed off.  He was aware that sharing his proud accomplishments during field days couldn't compete with Curly's out-of-the-blue tooth loss.  Curly had taken one crunchy bite out of the bowl of Oat Squares that she had just poured herself and calmly announced that a tooth was loose.  (Times they are a changing:  these younger kids are a new breed.  Products of their circumstances.  They help themselves to their after school snacks after learning from experience that if they wait on my waitressing skills starvation might become their new reality).  Her relaxed state ramped up a bit when Reggie pointed out that she had blood dripping down her chin.  She hesitated, unsure if she wanted me to pull it.  Not much to discuss as it fell into my hand.  I tuned back into Reggie's 3rd grade running record at field days as I handed a now excited Curly a wet paper towel.  Eddie burst into the kitchen fresh from the 8th grade graduation pool party he attended all day.  I quizzed him on what his definition of 'reapply' meant as I pointed out that his bright pink skin had replaced the pale white skin he sported as he left the house that morning.  It was clear that he had blatantly ignored the warnings Coach and I had both offered.  Pretty sure our 'reapply' message was audible.  (It would be hours before I made contact with Laddie.  After completing one exam, I discovered that he chose to spend the sunny day at a friend's house in lieu of studying for the rest of his finals.)  A minute later Tentonka staggered in- sweaty from the short walk home from school with a mostly empty back pack.  Before I asked about his field trip experience, I questioned where Mini was.  He mumbled something about her not being able to keep up. 

That's when it hit me.  No exaggeration.  It HIT me.  B.O.  Not one to point fingers, I checked myself first.  I had enjoyed some quiet time soaking up the sun's rays on the deck.  Negative.  I grabbed Eddie as he was the next closest to me.  Negative.  Despite being across the room from me, I identified the source as Tetonka.  He knew the look but failed to recognize what he was guilty of.  His neon yellow, polyester shirt had absorbed the stench from the armpit area and redistributed it to every fiber of the garment.  The entire shirt wreaked.  It was offensive.  Although I already knew the answer, I asked him if he had used deodorant that morning.  I believe his response included 'recently'.  I'm fuzzy on which day he identified as a deodorant worthy day.  Perhaps the fumes interfered with my memory function.

As a substitute teacher in another district across town from my kids' school, I tend to accept the jobs in the junior high building.  I prefer to distance myself from the lower grade students and their issues:  incessant whining, chilly recess duty, running noses, and widespread tattling.  Other circumstances go hand in hand with junior high assignments.  Wardrobe malfunctions, attitudes, yoga pants, attitudes, laziness, attitudes, vulgarity, and body odor.  I walk the room trying to pinpoint who the B.O. culprit is.  A tricky practice because there is often more than one offender.  Some assignments are boring, so playing locate the smelly kid can pass the time.  First of all, why do they insist on wearing hooded sweatshirts in the sweltering days of May and June?  In a school with no air conditioning?!  Not much to do once you know which desk to steer clear of except watch the clock and anxiously await the bell to ring.

I explained to Tetonka that I never wanted 'that kid' to be MY kid.  He swore no one noticed.  No one said anything.  Not commenting on your body odor (shocking for a group of preteen 6th graders who specialize in being cruel) and not catching a whiff are two different things.  Unless the bus ride to the field trip delivered some kind of exhaust-fume numbing that killed their olfactory abilities for the remainder of the day, people noticed.  I itched to draft an email apologizing for my son's hygiene (or lack thereof) to some of his teachers.  I settled for correcting the situation and educating my 12 year old on the basics of self-care.  Really, it was more of a review, because he owns deodorant, has been instructed on how and when to use it, and has heard gentle reminders.  Consider the gentle days a thing of the past.

In his haste to escape the family's nose holding, Tetonka disappeared to change his shirt.  He failed to shower first, and he reappeared in the kitchen still smelling.  He claimed to have utilized deodorant before he donned the clean shirt.  Same smell, different shirt.  New problem.  Smelly shirt number two would just add to my laundry pile.  I pointed out that he needed to wash out his pits before he put on deodorant.  He disagreed.  This was not counting as a teachable moment.  I took the younger three kids to the pool for an hour.  I took it as an opportunity for fresh air and a chance to escape his refusal to handle things correctly.  When I arrived home, Tetonka promised that he had showered while I was gone.  Shirt number three.  Then he cut the grass.  He stunk to high heaven when he came inside.  Apparently he believed that since he had put on several layers of deodorant prior to his shower, he was covered.  Coach shook his head.  We explained that a swipe of the deodorant doesn't offer a week's worth of protection.  A lesson a lobster-like  Eddie needed to learn about sunscreen.

That night as he gathered his things to bring to the bathroom for his shower, he shared with me that he was bringing his deodorant with him, and he planned to use it.  His voice was muffled.  I strained to hear his message as I lay under the laundry pile that had toppled over on me.  I noted that there were several ripe shirts that were suffocating me.