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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. 

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