July 27, 2015

Phone privileges, trunk stowaways, spilled milk, finger pointing, and smeared lipstick

Orthodontist appointments for all six kids was the only item on the enormous, dry erase kitchen / command center calendar for today.  Should've been a no brainer.

The youngest four spent the weekend at our friends, the McDaniels, lake house.  Most of our younger kids and the McDaniel's kids line up in age, so their bunch were happy to host our younger guys.  On the other hand, Coach and I were happy to have less kids at home.  To top it off, Laddie spent the weekend with friends in Wisconsin.  He recently met the group on a parish mission trip, and begged to go up for their youth minister's wedding.  I agreed to the weekend if he would agree to look at one college within our budget in the vicinity of his friend's house.  Two birds, one stone.  As a result, Eddie ended up testing the waters as a temporary only child for the entire weekend.

Needless to say when Tetanka, Mini, Reggie, and Curly arrived home at 7am they were dangerously bordering on being classified as a train wreck.  I suspected as much.  Lots of late nights, long days of tubing, and endless tasty treats took a toll on this crew.  Mr. Mc was able to drop them at our house on his way to work.  They could've stayed another day at the lake, but I hated to move the long-scheduled ortho appointments -besides three and a half days of freebasing pure fun would  most likely prove more than their accustomed-to-regimented-bed-time bodies could handle.  After encountering their attitudes and melt downs today while they maneuvered in exhaustion mode, I'm glad they landed on my doorstep just prior to coming unglued.  I hate to think of how close we came to having our friends witness our kids at their absolute worst.

I welcomed them home and instructed them to read quietly while I completed my morning run.  (I had rerouted my 5 mile jog so that I would be near the driveway when they showed up, and intended to squeeze the rest of my draining workout in).  My hope was that they wouldn't wake the two teenagers.  Caddies who sleep in on the one day the course is closed should not be roused for any reason . . . except ortho appointments.  8:45 appointments are no comparison for their frequent 5:40 alarm.   The weary travelers flopped around in the PJ's they wore home and humored me with a book in their lap.  I'm no dummy.  Once I bolted, they played quietly with a magnet house still standing since prior to their weekend - or they stared unblinking at nothing.

Sweaty but satisfied that the run was done, I whipped up a batch of pancakes, cooked some bacon, and sent a few off to the tub or shower in shifts so they would be ready for the ortho.  Lots of great stories were shared about the weekend.  Tetanka was relieved to learn that pancakes aren't considered a salty food, since he had injured his mouth in a knee boarding incident.  When the board popped out of the water and hit his lip, he bit it from both sides.  Blown up to the size of a deflated balloon and crusted with red scabs, it wasn't pretty but he would survive . . . especially if I managed to help him avoid salty foods like pancakes!

It was a great morning to start fresh.  Fluffy pancakes, weekend stories, hearty laughs, necessary showers.  I tried to keep the positive mood uncluttered with too many motherly demands, but that reality was as short lived as my abundant pancake supply.  My typical, routine frustration resurfaced as Laddie commented on Tetanka's weight in an unflattering way.  Just yesterday on our drive home from Wisconsin, I requested that he pretend his new friends were in our home listening to how he treats his siblings.  Assuming they would be unimpressed with his constant need to interfere and antagonize the younger set, I begged him to knock off the nonsense.  He reminded me that he had been putting forth more of an effort since returning from his mission trip a few weeks ago.  This may be true, but I felt a gentle reminder was important.  My point was that if I'm going to encourage new friendships in another state and drive out of my way to make it all happen, I am also going to demand that he act his age.

In the ortho waiting room, where we arrived a bit late (so much for fresh starts), Laddie swatted at Mini because he felt like she was mumbling to herself as she 'silently' read her book.  I nodded to the plethora of empty chairs and invited him to plant it wherever he wanted, but insisted he keep his hands to himself.  I made him leave his addiction - aka his phone -in the car, so he now felt it was unacceptable that I utilize my phone while we sat and waited.  Of course I was texting Coach who was checking on a  potential scheduling conflict for me.  It amazes me that Laddie confuses his phone entanglement with my reliance on a device that I utilize as a useful communication tool as I manage the schedules of our entire family.  Even if I was texting friends for kicks, I certainly don't need to explain myself to a teenager who suddenly can't take his eyes off his screen.  Unreal.

A tutor I had been trying to get in touch with called me while I was consulting with the Orthodontist.  Curly, who was perched next to my purse in the waiting room,  felt the call was urgent enough to bring my phone back to the patient area.  I told her I would call whoever it was back and then finished showing the doc Tetanka's messed up lip.  On the drive home, I described the details I gathered from the tutor whose call I returned from the hallway while I waited for the last few mouths to be checked.  At a pricey $130/hr fee, Laddie and I weren't sure if this was the route to take in attempts to bring up his ACT score another point or two.  We stopped at Coach's clinic on our way home, so I could run the pricey possibility past him.

During the tense ride over to the clinic, Laddie had floored me with some of his notions and mindsets about his hopes of playing college football.  He snapped at one of the kids again, and I reminded him that he was not entitled to talk to them that way.  I have adopted a zero tolerance policy, and I plan to strictly enforce it.  I expressed my uncertainty that Lad would be able to attend an impromptu football workout that he casually mentioned.  With no official football on the schedule for the next few weeks, this should be his chance to catch up on the required summer reading for his AP English class and study for the upcoming ACT.  By the time we were in Coach's parking lot, Laddie yelled at me.  I snatched his phone from his lap and growled that we would be leaving the phone at Daddy's work for the rest of the day.  He pawed at me in a desperate attempt to get a grip on his phone -aka his constant companion.  I bolted from the car and raced to the building.  Using the clicker, I tried to lock the car over my shoulder as I retreated.

Inside the office, I instructed Coach to hang on to Lad's phone for the remainder of the day.  Laddie stormed inside and insisted he get the phone back.  He claimed it had been taken for no reason.  Oh, there were reasons.  I chatted with Coach for a minute about tutor costs, and Eddie's need for a ride to the high school in a little bit.  Since the high school is down the street from the clinic we discussed leaving Eddie behind with Coach so he could walk to the school later.  Of course Laddie kept insisting that he would be attending a football workout and would be able to deliver Ed to the school then.  Laddie and I butted heads again, and I told him he could walk home.  He exited the office towards the parking lot.  Eddie agreed to stay and shoot hoops in the adjacent gym before heading to his lifting appointment at the high school.  I gathered the gang and headed to the car.

I expected to find Laddie hanging out by the car, but he was no where in sight.  As we started to pull away Eddie bolted from the building and flagged me down.  He no longer wanted to hang out at Daddy's work because the basketball court was being used for a workout class.  I told him to hop in and we drove home. We never spotted Laddie on our way home.  Maybe he took another route home.  I assumed we would pick him up when we passed him.  I vented to the rest of the passengers that relying so heavily on a phone was a mistake and Daddy and I wouldn't tolerate it.  I hoped they would file that away under 'lessons I learned from my older brother.'

Arriving home I phoned the clinic to let Coach know that Eddie wasn't on the basketball court as initially planned.  I also wondered if Lad had wandered in.  As I was on the phone, Laddie burst into the kitchen from the garage.  "Thanks for the ride home.  Come on Eddie, I'll drive you to the high school," he called as he grabbed the keys to the used Mazda Tribute that we own and we allow him to drive.  (This is in lieu of referring to the car as his, because it really belongs to all of them - he just happens to be the only one of our offspring who is currently old enough to drive it).  Turns out my remote key locking maneuver when I was confiscating his phone had failed.  He was able to climb into the trunk of the minivan and stowaway in the trunk.

As he sat locked in the front seat of the Tribute, he expressed disgust that I was 'making fun of him' thru the closed window.  Apparently he overheard my lecture about not overusing a phone as a teenager from his trunk hideout and was disgruntled about my attitude towards the likelihood of securing potential football scholarships.  My attempts to remind him to keep an open mind are always taken as a negative assault on his athletic ability.  I was ordering him to get out of the car.  I was honestly relieved that he wasn't walking home but the standoff in the driveway was causing my blood to boil.  I threatened to keep his phone on lock down an additional day if he didn't get out of the car.

Since I began to speak his language, he came inside where he insisted I was unjustified in taking his phone.  I made him list three reasons I took the phone in order to be able to attend this spontaneous group football workout.  This should have been an easy exercise.  In the span of one hour, he taunted his siblings multiple times and yelled at me - all unacceptable forms of behavior.   He struggled to list them.  After he named the sibling infractions, I tipped him off that hollering in my face was a big no-no.  He admitted to feeling upset that when I took the phone the other kids cheered as I ran into the building with it.  He fails to grasp that he isolates himself by teasing them instead of creating allies.  It's a vicious cycle that is hard to know how to fix.

While the four younger kids ate lunch and prepared to go to the pool, I got busy with one more tutor contact.  This couple charged $25 hour and held tutoring sessions in their home about 20 minutes away.  I had no way of contacting Lad to let him know that I was setting this up.  I hate it when punishments come back to interfere with my life as a parent.  Not exactly a win-win.  I hoped he would be home in time.  I raced to the car to enter the address in the GPS, so he would be able to get there without the use of his phone.  The address would not register.

As I sat in the car reentering the info over and over again, Reggie burst out of the house to alert me that milk had indeed been spilled.  Of course it had.  He pointed fingers, described the incident, and tried to get me to 'handle' it.  I no longer have the energy for this kind of crap - especially when I am stressed out about a bigger issue.  I keep telling the kids to stop telling me who did what, who ate what, and who said what.  I don't care.  I want them to handle some things.  (Although I must admit that while I say I don't care, there are times when I tune in and start to take action.  This kind of inconsistency tends to send the wrong message - so they continue to run to me when they think it is worth crying over spilled milk).

Wielding a stubborn GPS in one hand, I marched into the house where I half reacted and half ordered someone to clean up the white puddle.  Someone threw a grape, someone thought a grape was in Reggie's milk, someone saw Tetanka pour his milk into Reggie's cup, someone thinks Mini bumped someone.  Enough already!  Curly felt Tetanka was to blame.  She reprimanded me for not directing my yelling solely in his direction.  I sent her to a timeout for insubordination.  Laddie came home while kids were mopping up milk and Curly was sobbing about the meanness of her mother.  I sent the four finger pointers all to the car ready to go to the pool, and I called the tutor back.  Turns out I had jotted the address down incorrectly.  I gave Laddie lots of instructions, and bolted for the pool.

I got in the minivan and found Reggie's face streaked with red.  I thought someone had slapped him.  His skin tends to react to touch by leaving a puffy red mark as evidence for several minutes after contact.  (There is a medical term for it, Dermatogrpahic urticaria).  I asked him what happened.  There were giggles.  Not a typical reaction to a slapping incident.  I apologized to everyone for losing my cool about the milk, and reminded them that they need to clean up after themselves and leave me out of it.  Reggie was still red.  Tetanka quietly outed him for wearing lipstick.  Sure enough the tube I keep in the car was mangled beyond repair and Reggie was smirking at me in the rear view mirror.  He apologized as he spit on his hands and started massaging the red marks off his cheeks.  Ah, more fun.  And the day was only half over. 

July 26, 2015

Summer sports camps, lessons learned, and birth order

I'm so glad the sports camp portion of the summer is behind us.  My reasoning is more logistical than anything else.  Our kids were enrolled in four different basketball camps.  Some overlapped for a week.  Others butted up against each other from a timing stand point . . . as one age group was released the next bunch of kids began warming up, which made drop off/pick ups a bit more tolerable.  That's basketball.  In addition to hoops, Eddie, Mini, and Curly did soccer or volleyball at either the high school or the local junior high.  Laddie drove himself to football camp and an evening water polo league.  Of course all six kids swam on the swim team, which includes morning practices divided by level.  Our kids were spread out over the three morning practice times, but the caddies rarely attended their practices as they liked to arrive at the course early to get a loop.  The girls were mercifully able to attend the same basketball camp at the high school, but it interfered with many swim practices.  There were a few late morning or early afternoon Irish dancing classes tossed into the mix and one Friday when several of them attended an Irish music workshop.  It was enough to make my head spin. 

Back when Laddie was about 6 or 7, he was my only camper.  Basketball camp began at 8 am.  Too early!  I remember vividly organizing breakfast bars and dry cereal to-go along with activities for the younger siblings to do while Laddie participated in camp.  The baby who needed nursing would whimper as I hauled the stroller and the handful of kids into the gym.  Here I would finally change last night's heavy diaper, get out the snacks, and conceal the baby for a sweaty, under-the-blanket nursing session. 

Other moms stayed in the stuffy field house and observed, but most dropped off their son and drove away after sticking around for the first couple of days.  I chose not to leave Laddie.  We got comfy on the bleachers.  Eddie enjoyed watching the 'big' boys.  In hindsight, I recognize that Laddie's level of sensitivity was off the chart, but I also realize that kids are mean.  Call me a crazy embellishing mom if you must, but if there was a mean kid within a 10 mile radius - he found his way to the camp, and took some satisfaction in dishing out a serving of crap to Laddie.  I used to wonder if Coach and I were too nice to our first born.  Should we have picked on him a bit at home?  Called him names?  We certainly weren't the kind of parents who overly praised his sports abilities.  There was no 'Rah-rah you missed again, but golly gee you were so darn close.'  We encouraged practice, correct form, and friendly competition.  Of course without older brothers to show him the ropes, progress was slow.  Damn birth order.

There was a kid who constantly told Lad he was doing the drill wrong.  Threatened to tell the coach that he was dribbling with the wrong hand.  During the barely supervised scrimmages, his teammates refused to rotate out leaving him sitting on the sidelines for most of the game.  Watching.  Aggressiveness was not his strong suit.  Perhaps I should have left the building.  Let him figure it out.  Grow up a little.  I believe I pushed the stroller around the outdoor track one morning, but mostly I stayed.

Just before camp ended each day, the coach set up a giant game of shooting knockout.  The kids were broken out into small groups at several hoops.  The first player had to make his shot before the kid behind him could make his shot.  If the second kid swished one before the first player, the first player was out.  Eventually the last kid at each basket would compete against the other 'still standing' players.  All the campers would get excited to participate and would be encouraged to cheer for one kid in the finals.  Camp lasted for two grueling weeks.  One of the last days of camp, Laddie was the last guy at his station for shooting knockout.  I'm not sure who was more surprised, me or Lad.  He lasted thru the semi final.  Eventually he and one other kid named Ryan were the last two remaining players. 

The coach called everyone over.  He instructed the campers who planned to cheer for Ryan, the star of the camp who had made it to the finals every day, to line up on one side of the lane.  Then he pointed to Laddie and announced that anyone who planned to cheer for Laddie to head to the other side of the lane.  Not one camper raced to join the cheering section for my young son.  It was tortuous, defeating, and pointless.  I quickly grabbed Eddie by the arm and ordered him to stand next to his brother.  "But Mommy, I don't think that guy will let me.  I'm not one of the big kids."  When he heard my voice choke with tears as I said, "I don't care.  That is your brother and you will cheer for him!" -he didn't hesitate. 

Of course Laddie didn't win the final round, but Eddie was by his side and I was clapping wildly with the peanut gallery from the bleachers.  I shared a few choice words with the coach on my way out.  He claimed the exercise was a team building opportunity, and it taught the kids to handle the pressure of the game.  I basically told him he wouldn't know how to build someone up if the ability bit him on the ass.  I was also quick to point out that I had clearly just witnessed a popularity contest. 

Eventually I stopped tagging along to all of Laddie's camps.  We tried to teach him quick comebacks and strategies to ignore the idiots of the world. His sensitivity and his lack of aggressiveness continued to make it difficult for him.  Reggie on the other hand enjoys all the advantages offered by being the youngest of four brothers.  He's athletic and ultra competitive.  I now have to worry that he will behave like a toad and sneer at some kid who is giving it his all and coming up short.  With too many places to drop off and pick up, I don't sit and observe his sports camps.  Instead I give him pep talks that include how to be a good sport and a good friend.  I have witnessed plenty of his passes to weaker players during his basketball season, so I continue to cross my fingers and hope my instructions sink in. 

One of the final basketball camp days in June, I dropped off Tetanka for warm ups and told him to let Reggie know that he might have to sit and wait for me for a few minutes because I needed to run to Target quickly.  Reggie typically got out 10 minutes late, so I thought I had enough time for this quick errand.   Reg was perched on a bench outside the gym entrance when I returned.  I was late.  He rolled his eyes, slumped over, and threw up his arms at me in disbelief.  Just as he got close to the car, I sped away.  That wiped the look off of his face.  I parked across the lot and waited.  He spotted me and started walking towards the car.  First he looked around to see if anyone noticed.  I jumped out of the car and told him to sit back down.  I would pick him up when I thought his attitude adjustment was complete.

Turns out Tetanka failed to deliver the message.  Regardless, this basketball camper needed to learn a lesson off the court.  Show Mommy respect or you will get slam dunked!  Damn birth order. 

July 24, 2015

Running on empty in more ways than one

Since being diagnosed with Celiac disease and eliminating gluten from my diet, I've noticed that I don't feel pooped by midday as often as I used to back when I was enjoying my food.  My nap requirement is practically non existent now.  There are days when I run out of steam, but I struggle to understand if my lack of energy is due to my body recovering from the original damage done by gluten, or if I am just tuckered out from keeping up with the clan.  Yesterday was a first.  It marks the first time my energy level outlasted my minivan's. 

It hadn't happened to me in years.  I gas up the car when it's on empty, but I'll be the first to admit I err on the side of 'Oh, I'll stop for gas after this next stop' or 'I should have enough to wait until tomorrow morning when I'm not so busy.'  In retrospect, I wonder how often I teetered on the edge of puttering to a halt on an expressway as I raced to get back from somewhere, dropped off a kid someplace, or hoped not to be late for something.  Was I too overconfident those times, or was I just consistently lucky at just making it on fumes?  From now on, my urge to 'fill 'er up' will overpower my willingness to wait.

I swear the needle didn't hover over the 'E' until yesterday morning.  Usually that means I have until the end of the day to make a pit stop.  Perhaps my initial calculations of where I would travel after witnessing the 'E' were a bit stingy.  I dropped the three youngest kids off at a three hour long Irish dancing class and ran a bunch of errands.  I needed to return birthday gifts that didn't fit Laddie and Mini to two different stores.  One of which was Nordstroms.  Since I'm not a Nordstroms shopper, I was unaware that they were celebrating the first day of their anniversary sale.  I was equally unaware
 of the crowds of designer-dressed, bedazzled-toddler-toting, can-afford-to-buy-without-the-discount-but-came-to-see-the-inventory shoppers this sale would draw.  I circled the parking lot for ages before finding a spot - thus squandering precious gas and time on a 2 minute return.  Scouring discount racks for an additional bathing suit for slim-jim Reggie added a few extra stops.  (Being the fourth son, the suits churned up for him from the depths of the bathing suit bin either lack elastic or were worn by the thicker Tetanka.  The puckered effect that results from pulling the drawstring tightly around his 9 year old 22 inch waist is an abomination).

After picking up the dancers a few minutes late, we ran to the high school with documentation to prove residency.  In the spring when I registered Eddie for high school, I shared paperwork that served as evidence that we in fact live at our current address.  I fear the district has mistaken me for someone with the energy to sell a house, pack our belongings, and move to another house in a few short months.  En-route home we circled a nearby neighborhood until we tracked down Reggie's buddy and invited him over to play.  When his babysitting grandpa didn't answer the home phone, we drove back to his house to be sure Gramps gave Jerry permission to hang out at our house for a few hours.  I promised to bring him back before dinner.  Looking back, my tank was most likely screaming for additional petrol by the time we had secured Reggie's play date.  Glad to be home at last, I focused on handling a few things that required my attention before the evening's home swim meet.  Translation:  I forgot about the gas tank.

I fed my starving dancers a not so timely lunch -seeing as it was 2:30 in the afternoon.  I whipped up a batch of cookies, since the unseasonably cool temperatures would soon end and I wanted to take advantage of the one benefit offered by this crazy weather.  Between cookie sheets, I downloaded the 4th of July photos from our weekend in Wisconsin with my whole family, uploaded them to an online site, and ordered the large group pics that my parents were anxious to see -hoping that one would work for their Christmas card.  As usual, time slipped away from me and I found myself racing the clock to prepare the swimmers for the home meet.  I became aware that the caddies would most likely call for a ride home from the course just as the meet was starting.  Laddie was away on a mission trip, so Eddie and Tetanka relied on me for transportation.  I threw pulled chicken sandwiches on the table, grabbed Jerry from the baseball game in the yard, and instructed the kids to eat and be dressed in suits with swim gear loaded by the time I got back from running Jerry home.  No time for a fill up now.

Eddie called to let me know his loop was done and that Tetanka was about an hour behind him.  I dumped the kids on the path to the pool and hollered after them that I would be back as soon as possible.  Coach works late on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  He misses all meets and I am the designated parent to cover volunteer assignments, cheer on swimmers, and gather up wet towels, tuckered swimmers, and the empty cooler before heading home.  We cut a handful of meets too close this season and didn't allow enough time for the caddies to get off the course in time to participate in the meet.  I was thankful that this wouldn't be one of those nights.  The big boys had begged me not to register them for the meet since they were caddying in a tournament.  They weren't convinced they would be done looping in time.  Dodged that bullet.  But now it was as if that same bullet had pierced my tank and drained it of gasoline.  (OK, not really.  It was more like I flaked out on filling the car).

Armed with tin foil wrapped pulled chicken sandwiches, juice boxes, and even a few of my coveted cookies, I darted to the golf course.  Eddie met me in the lot.  While he ate, he explained that he was worried that Tetanka may have been carrying double bags. Laddie and Eddie rarely double bag, so I grimaced imagining my 12 year old rookie caddie successfully lugging 2 bags around the course.  We thought we spotted him with his caddie bucket hat on limping with only one bag on his shoulder.  Eddie groaned and muttered something about being embarrassed that Tetanka had required a golfer to grab a cart since he wasn't up to the task.  A while later another caddy donning a bucket hat appeared.  Through the tall grass of the parking lot we were able to positively I.D. this kid as our Tetanka.  No limp.  Two bags.  Wow!

Once both caddies and their distinct odors were securely in my car, I headed out.  Anxious to attend the meet and supervise the three youngest, I groaned about the fact that I still needed gas.  As I exited the lot, I realized that there was a gas station right across the street.  I felt silly for waiting for Tetanka instead of filling up while he finished his round.  Imagine my surprise when the pump wouldn't work.  I tried the next pump.  That's when I glared at the office wondering why the attendant wasn't offering any assistance.  Aha.  There was a 'CLOSED' sign in the window.  I guess small town gas stations close early in this swanky part of town.

I raced off towards the meet - planning to fill up on the way.  Suddenly I struggled to steer the car.  It lurched forward a bit but stopped responding to my rage.  I veered off the road onto the shoulder in disbelief.  What a powerless, not to mention stupid, feeling.  Eddie and Tetanka exchanged a look, shortly after T instructed me on where to locate my hazards.  (The boy likes to tinker with the buttons in the car).  "Sergio", they said in unison.  They nodded.  They chuckled.  They informed me that they were going to run to another caddy's house for help.

Sergio is infamous at our dinner table and a frequent topic on drives home from the course.  This caddy is notorious for arriving at the caddy shack gulping jolt and munching on donuts.  His reign over the other caddies knows no bounds.  He is the leader of the pack.  He is a Hispanic version of Jack Black, and his humor is on par with his Hollywod counter part.  My boys crack up whenever they describe his antics.  They have also mentioned that they are fortunate to be in good favor with him.  Now I felt fortunate that the boys were in good favor with hin too.

I sat in the car hoping that Sergio was home.  The boys jogged back to the car about 10 minutes later. A heavy gas can slowed their progress.   My embarrassment was no rival for Eddie and Tetanka's bliss.  An additional Sergio encounter was the perfect ending to their caddy day.  Our hero refused to accept cash for the gas, but I stuffed a gallon size zip loc bag full of my cookies when we got home for the boys to deliver to Sergio the next day at the caddy shack.  Fortunatley the three young swimmers had no issues at the meet.  I suppose at this point in the season they could participate in a  meet blind folded.

I guess in retrospect, eating gluten wasn't the only issue that impacted my energy level.  All my running around is enough to slow down anyone, or at the very least their car.  My only regret is that I didn't snap a photo of the caddy legend standing just outside the course gates filling my tank with his antique looking gas can.  Laddie would not believe he missed the whole ordeal.

July 7, 2015

Few and Far Between

My first time was just before my sister's wedding.  I was a college student.  While there is nothing like your first time, there were a handful of others over the next few years.   Each time was equal in awesomeness and some were more colorful than others that were equally special, but after a handful of times it was hard to choose a favorite.  Typically I associate the memory with the celebrating of a special occasion.  The experience always succeeded in leaving me with a feeling of importance and classiness.  It was not something I indulged in regularly enough to consider it a habit.  The euphoric feeling and the glow wore off eventually.  The natural high came at a cost though.  Everything has its price, right?

Once I was married and financially strapped putting Coach through graduate school, paying for manicures and pedicures was no longer an option.  After all, I was busy shopping for day old bread and second hand clothes.  Making adjustments to afford the necessities made splurging on the extras seem wasteful.  I wasn't above the day old bread scene.  Frugal was my middle name.  Since I had been surviving on the measly income I was raking in before we were married, I was hardly accustomed to living on easy street to begin with, thus the nail appointments that were reserved for special occasions.  The kids started arriving in rapid succession a few months shy of our second anniversary.  With each new addition, the budget grew tighter, my nails looked crappier, and I cared less and less.

I learned that I was expecting Reggie on Mother's Day just after Mini turned 1.  Baby #5.  Laddie was just wrapping up his year as a first grader.  A few weeks later while I was still adjusting to waves of nauseousness, we were invited by the owner of Coach's company to attend a weekend with a few other couples in Kohler Wisconsin.  The men would enjoy a few rounds of golf while the ladies would be pampered during some luxurious spa time.  An outstanding dinner was part of the package.  I was thrilled!  I scheduled a pedicure in advance of the weekend fearing that I would be banned from such a fancy place if anyone witnessed the terrible, untamed appearance of my mangy feet.

It had been years.  Maybe 9 or 10?  I was shocked at the abrupt verbal assault I experienced when I walked in.  "Pick colr.  Pick colr."  The dropped second vowel confused me and I froze momentarily before I grasped what these nail natzis were ordering me to do.  My previous appointments had been in a hair salon where casual chatter and trendy music served as the tranquil back ground sound.  This entire studio dedicated to nails was a first for me.  The foreign personnel demanding 'cash, no credit' and jumping all over me to select a color was unnerving.  No relaxed atmosphere at this nail focused factory.  The results were pretty, but it became obvious later that these principals of polish had damaged the big toenail on my right foot.  Did they clean their instruments properly between their fast paced appointments?  I had my doubts. Gross.  For ages long after the nail polish had been removed, my toe nail would split down the middle and each side would gradually crumble away.  Uncomfortable and ugly.

 In January, the day before my labor to deliver Reggie was induced, I waddled into Mario Tricoci for a scheduled pedicure.  An out of town friend had discovered a gift certificate that was about to expire.  How sad that she wasn't able to use it, but how thrilled I was that she chose to share it with me!  My toes would sparkle in the stirrups the next day when the bowling ball I was carrying would be born.  Afterwards, I remember vividly shuffling thru the slush in the parking lot wearing the disposable, makeshift flip flops and struggling to lower myself into the sedan.  Coach was driving the gang in the easier-to-enter minivan, so we could meet up at a breakfast place across the street.  This would be our last hurrah before feeling overwhelmed and sleepy for what would seem like an eternity.  Making my way over to the table where Coach sat with our gaggle of squirming youngsters, I was aware of the relentless stares.  I pretended they were all admiring my toes, while in reality they were most likely in awe of my size.  I sat at an awkward angle, unable to fit my belly under the table.  I leaned across my tent-like, velour, leopard print, shirt that covered my shelf of a belly and shoveled the food into my eating-for-two pie hole.  Reggie arrived the next day a week early weighing in at 9 lbs 5 oz.

Last summer when Reggie was eight, I dipped my toe back in the proverbial pedicure waters (hoping they weren't dirty and infested) and braved the scene once again.  The color choices were endless.  Call me old fashioned but I can't wrap my brain around the peculiar shade possibly made popular by the bride of Frankenstein.  Black?  I fail to see how that can be a fitting color unless you are attending a funeral.  In addition to a wide range of socially acceptable 'freak' colors, there were high end developments since I had spent years 'unpolished'.  Nail art and acrylic nail extensions reinvented the additional ways clients could spend the money at their fingertips (and toes!).  A checker at my grocery store wears two inch long nails with fancy, bedazzled nail art on each nail.  Talk about an occupational hazard.  I avoid her line when I'm in a hurry and plan to pay with cash.  Those talons make it tough to make change or gingerly load items into a plastic bag.  Nutty.

Last week I decided to get a manicure and a pedicure before we went away for the long 4th of July weekend.  Of course I didn't have time to do both at one time.  The toes that might frighten people from the pool were a priority.  The next day I squeezed in a quick manicure in the midst of all my packing.  It had been so long, I struggled to follow simple manicure protocol.  I didn't know that I was expected to hold my hand under the fan while she worked on the next hand.  Partially because I was self conscious of my lack of manicure etiquette, I became consumed with the employees' foreign tongued conversations.  Was my rookie presence causing a chuckle?  The tones they spoke in seemed angry.  Were they ticked off at me because thanks to the language barrier I didn't understand initially the need to pay in advance so my wet nails wouldn't be marred when I fumbled for my wallet?  There was a lot of shrugging, nodding in different directions, and knowing glances followed by quick, abrupt, untranslatable phrases.  It seemed they were focused on a woman covered in tattoos.  What did she do (besides take the pressure off of me)?  Demand each toe be painted a different color?  It seems that would have gone along with her unique body aesthetics.  At one point a client walked out after her completed pedicure, and in plain view of the rest of us the employee marveled at the tip she was handed.  Hard to tell is she was pleased or disgusted.  I longed for the knowledge to translate 'bad manners' in her native tongue.  I wondered if anyone else felt curious about whether or not they were the center of the secretive yet public chatter. 

I assume that these nail nazis have seen it all, but do they scoff at my slightly webbed second and third toes that make sliding into the provided flimsy flip flops difficult?  I guess I will never know unless someone invents an app to translate the assault like lingo that takes place during a mani/pedi.  Because I don't frequent these places for years at a time, perhaps that app will be available by my next nail appointment.