December 30, 2016

Fa, la, la, la, la . . . keeping Christmas gifts a secret

Christmas was fast approaching.  Crossing chores off of my list gave me a sense of satisfaction.  At times it seemed like the more I accomplished, the more that I added to the list.  With about a week to go, I at last felt like I had moved out of the 'overwhelmed' phase of Christmas.  I was nowhere near ready, but I had a somewhat firm idea of what I was planning to order and purchase for major gifts.  In years past, I typically consulted Coach on most of the 'biggies', but this year I chose to keep purchases to myself.  

It hadn't started out that way.  Tank (aka Tetanka), who mows lawns and shovels driveways when he isn't caddying, wanted a snow blower.  I ran the idea of a used blower past Coach.  When he shook his head and failed to cough up any other suggestions, I decided to forge ahead unassisted.  This year he would be as surprised as the kids come Christmas morning.  Besides, it seemed like any discussions I introduced about my quest to keep to a budget, score good deals, and identify ideal gifts were largely ignored.  In addition to tuning out of the gift purchases, there were other indicators that proved that Coach and I prepared for Christmas in different ways.

Around mid-December Tank required a physical for basketball tryouts  . . . by the next day.  These damn physicals sneak up on me.  I swear I have everyone up to date for school or sports and then another one pops up that somehow fell off of my radar.  With no available appointments at our pediatrician, we were limited to a nearby minute clinic.  I assumed Coach would handle the physical while I dropped the girls at Irish dancing class 25 minutes away.  Then he informed me that he had hoped to attend a confession service at Church that night and the physical would interfere.  

 I dropped the girls off at dancing and raced back to relieve him from the waiting room at the doc in a box.  He drove to church a few minutes before I arrived, but told the disenchanted receptionist that I would arrive shortly to take over.   I wondered what it would be like if I was able to share the Christmas responsibilities and focus on what mattered.  How lovely that he had time to attend an extra church service while I only had time to shop, wrap, address cards, lick envelopes, run to the post office, order online, bake, decorate, dig out Christmas outfits for the crew, create excellent gift hiding spots, and check it all off of my list. I prayed that God would forgive me.

One evening Mini entered the study unannounced and begged me to take the available, non-driving kids to Target where they could shop for their secret Santa sibling.  I quickly closed out of the Craigslist window where I was searching for used American Girl Dolls, and agreed that this night would be our last opportunity.  With other things to accomplish I urged the youngest four to grab their funds, zip on a coat, and hop in the car.  Three kids scattered like salt on ice when we entered the store.  Curly was glued to my side whispering to me that she was always stuck shopping for someone 'bad.'  

 I easily translated her 'bad' terminology to describe a difficult kid to shop for, not necessarily a kid with a behavior problem.  Last year she ended up shopping for Laddie and this year she had picked Eddie's name from the hat.  I tried to instill some confidence in her that I could help her select a gift for him, but I had few ideas myself.  On the drive over we had elected to increase the spending amount from $10 to $15.  Still, there wasn't much at Target in that price range that Eddie would get excited about.  
As she and I tossed out ideas, we rounded the corner just in time to spot Tank shoving a small sized basketball inside his coat.  With his eyes darting back and forth suspiciously, he was a dead ringer for a shop lifter.  Worried that he was about to be snagged by store security, I called out to him.  'Hey, Tank, you can't do that!  There's no need to end up in juvie just to keep your secret Santa gift on the down low!'  An elderly couple pushing a cart next to mine chuckled as they listened to me explain to him my valid concerns regarding concealing an un-purchased gift from a lurking sibling.  That was a close call.  

Now that Christmas has passed, I can share that every kid was excited about his or her sibling gift, except Eddie.  Laddie didn't even seem to mind the somewhat insulting Hulk shirt that Eddie got him in addition to the awesome pair of compression shorts for his workouts.  Ed couldn't resist the Hulk tee since the muscular green hero is pushing thru a brick wall with the caption, 'I'm kind of a big deal.'  Laddie picked out a knock-off American Girl doll outfit at Target for Mini.  The fact that Lad managed to shop this year is a big improvement from last year when he wrapped up a recycled gift for Curly (See: A Memory Making Christmas Re-Gift from December 2015 for those fun details).  Reggie received a Bulls baseball hat that he now only removes from his head long enough to wash his hair.  Reggie still got the small basketball that was hidden momentarily under Tank's coat, but I gave it to him so that T could give him the hat.  Mini stumbled upon a perfect 'Lego Friends' item for Curly, and T was excited to open Star Wars action figures from Reggie.  Eddie secretly wishes he could return the Chicago Bears slippers that Curly hoped he'd be excited about.  One flopped gift out of six ain't bad!

December 28, 2016

Fa, la, la, la, la . . . #%@!&*%#! . . . Laddie

Once I wrapped things up at the mall - or to be more specific, once the little worker bees at my favorite department store wrapped up my things at the mall - I headed home.  Phone calls from my offspring, who had arrived home from school, had begun to hit the airwaves in rapid succession. 

As I struggled to my car with multiple shopping bags, I fielded questions like, 'I'm taking the car to my game, right?  Can you tell Lad that, because he thinks he has the car?' and 'Why did we have to walk home?' and the garden variety:  'When are you coming home?'  I later learned that Laddie didn't make it back to pick up the younger kids from junior high, because it took Eddie too long to track down the teachers who needed their pizza breads.  I hadn't factored pizza delivery into the equation when I instructed Laddie to pick up three kids after he had gotten Eddie.

Thanks to a heavy snowfall, I progressed homeward at a snail's pace.  Eddie's sophomore basketball game was a home game, so I called home and instructed Coach what leftover options he could heat up for dinner.  I knew that by the time I got home we would be pressed for time. 

We were late for Eddie's game.  As we watched him play I reminded Coach that one of us was assigned concession duty during the varsity competition following Ed's game.  I crossed my fingers that Coach would volunteer to handle our shift.  My body hadn't recovered from being on my feet all day the day before when I mass produced 33 dozen cookies. 

When Ed's game ended, neither of us had budged on our position to avoid working the concession stand.  Deep down I felt that it was Coach's turn, because I had manned our concession duty the year before.  Coach was still experiencing discomfort after a long, painful dental procedure a few days prior to replace a bridge destroyed when he missed a pitch from Reggie back in May.  That information, coupled with the fact that I could rely on my former Burger King experience, led me to accept the concession challenge.  Coach shuttled the younger kids home, and I assumed the on-my-feet-for-a-couple-of-hours position at the table outside the gym doors.

The next morning I crossed my fingers that Laddie would be successful in attending his 8 am interview as I drove to my workout class.  After the class I noticed a text message from Lad.  He needed to return to the interview site at 11 am.  In order to accept the job, he would need to show up with several forms of ID.  He wanted his social security number, his passport, and his birth certificate. 

I was momentarily confused, and couldn't help but wonder if I had mixed up my acronyms.  Had he interviewed with the FBI instead of UPS?  On my way to my car, I literally bumped into him.  'What's the deal?' I asked him.  I wondered if I could drive his 50 forms of ID and perhaps a blood sample to the UPS location in his place, because I reminded him that he had a very important doctor appointment at 11 am.

It turns out that I wasn't given all of the information.  Shock.  He was going to squeeze in a quick workout before the orientation session that he was required to attend.  So, no - I couldn't just drop off his information.  Of course I realized that had he brought the required documents with him to the interview, he could've completed the orientation directly afterwards.  Now he would miss a doctor's appointment that was difficult to schedule and necessary for him to attend in order to get his ADD medication refilled before returning to school.  His carefree attitude got under my skin as I drove home.

I called Coach at work and revealed my suspicions that Laddie had received an email detailing what he needed to bring to the interview, but that he had most likely glossed over that important bit of information.  I also shared my disbelief that I had to go all the way home to retrieve the key for the safety deposit box at the bank, race over to the bank, snatch his birth certificate, and run it home before he left for orientation.

Coach told me that he would call Laddie and get a handle on the ID situation.  When Coach called me back, I was thrilled to know that Mr. I-screwed-everything-up-by-not-attending-the-original-interview-scheduled-for-the-day-before only needed a passport OR his birth certificate.  Not both.

Ah ha, I love it when the truth makes sense.  His passport was still at home from our summer travels, and I could easily write down his SS#.  An extra trip to the vault was avoided.  Incredible that it took an additional conversation with his father for the actual information to leak out.  I hoped that the doctor's office would squeeze him in during the week, and that they wouldn't charge us for the missed appointment.

When I arrived home I practically tripped over an enormous box in the front hall.  The kids pointed out that the box had been delivered the day before.  Daddy had pulled it off of the front porch that morning.  On closer inspection, I realized that it was my new Kitchen Aid mixer.

This awesome new small appliance had been ordered Wed evening - by me, because remember - I do all my own shopping.  I was told it would take 5-7 days to arrive.  On Thursday, I plowed thru the dough of 33 dozen cookies because my other mixer was out of commission.  Now on Saturday the kids tell me that on Friday the mixer had arrived after all.  I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry. 

December 27, 2016

Fa, la, la, la, la . . . shopping for myself

After organizing recent purchases at home, I hauled a few shopping bags of boxes back into my favorite department store to cash in on the complimentary gift wrap.  While I waited for the store's elves to wrap my gifts, I continued shopping -mentally checking names off of my lengthy 'to buy for' list.  Feeling slightly indecisive, I chose three different items of clothing for my Mom and decided to let Mini and Curly help me narrow down which one to give her.

With Mom's potential gift options tucked under my arm, I wandered into a section of my favorite department store where I often find clothing for myself.  In no time at all, I was waiting in line to buy a couple of things for me.  After years of suffering through the disappointment of allowing Coach to shop for me, I removed that chore from his list of holiday responsibilities.  The Christmas experience is so much more pleasant minus my need to feign excitement over a gift made in poor choice.  Before you rush to judge me as a demanding woman with impossibly high standards, allow me to share a few of the 'gifts' that my husband once bestowed on me.

There was the year he carefully selected a potato peeler.  Just for me.  The cushy handle sealed the deal.  He had heard me complain that the metal one I typically used hurt my hand after prolonged use.  Nothing says love like a comfortable potato peeler handle that aids a spouse in slaving away in the kitchen.  Ah, the gift that keeps on giving.

One year I opened a pair of flannel pajama bottoms with the word 'Irish' sewn in large letters on one leg.  Again - Coach's attention to my comfort was impressive.  The one-size-fits-most label assured him that it would fit my size 6 frame.  Safe bet.

The flannel bottoms came from an Irish Imports store where he gravitated year after year.  There was a pair of socks that are still in my drawer with the tags on them.  A Belleek frame was a beautiful gift.  He even had my sister snap a photo of he and the handful of children we had at the time, so as an added surprise the picture inserted included our family . . . without me.  After receiving several frames as baby gifts and baptismal gifts, there wasn't much room on our end tables for another frame, but the gift was definitely more precious that the flannel bottoms.  One year for either Christmas or my December 30th birthday, he gifted me a pretty Irish charm for my necklace.  It was a sweet gift even though I already had a few other Irish type charms available in my jewelry box.  Eventually, I suggested that he abandon the Irish Imports store.  Been there, done that.

I give him points for the Huffy bike he bought me from K-Mart one year and managed to keep hidden until Christmas morning.  While I rode the bike a handful of times, we were blessed with too many small children to make family bike rides a manageable activity.  Besides, I was frequently pregnant and balancing my oversized self on two wheels was out of the question.  The child's bike seat I gave Coach one year for Father's day ended up being sold at our garage sale years later for a similar reason.  With more than one kid unable to ride a bike, who would we buckle into the seat and who would we leave at home?  These bike related gifts seemed practical at the time, but we were more inclined to keep both feet on the ground and push a stroller or two.

A few times he bought me music CD's that he knew I loved.  He probably should've kept to that equation, since he knew it worked.

When 2005 rolled around, Coach made a critical shopping error.  He allowed his patients' suggestions to dictate what he purchased for me.  A busy father of 4 with number 5 due to arrive shortly after Christmas meant that he needed all of the help that he could get.  He worked long hours, and he grabbed a chance to run to a store while he and the three boys were visiting his parents in Florida for a long weekend.  Mini stayed home with me, because I was too pregnant to travel. 

Unfortunately on December 10th, my cousin, a young mother of three, was tragically killed in a car accident a few days before Coach and the boys departed for Florida.  Mini, not quite two years old, hugged me tightly that weekend at the wake and funeral as I sobbed uncontrollably.  Part of me couldn't believe that Coach still got on that plane knowing I would be burrying my cousin while he chilled out in Florida with his folks and our three boys. 

Imagine my shock that emotionally charged Christmas when I opened a book titled:

Happy Housewives: I Was a Whining, Miserable, Desperate Housewife--But I Finally Snapped Out of It...You Can, Too!

A few smaller books were wrapped separately.  These pocket self-help books included tips on how to pull yourself up and dust yourself off when the going gets tough.  I wasn't amused that he misunderstood my exhaustion and frustrations with our busy household which were complicated by his long hours. 

After a few minutes paging through the horrible housewife book, I knew that Coach hadn't even cracked the cover.  I shared a few of this woman's tips with him from across the living room strewn with wrapping paper, new toys, and excited toddlers.  I could barely catch my breath as I angrily read aloud from the paragraphs offering suggestions on how to assure that you have an orgasm.  I threatened to copy those descriptive pages and drop them in the mail to his mother, so she would know how thoughtful his purchase was. 

Coach shrugged sheepishly and explained the role his patient had played in eliminating the lengthy search for the perfect gift.  'He said it was hilarious,' Coach insisted.  I wasn't laughing.  The book disappeared from my desk a few days later, because he wisely chose to return it.

So now, I buy, I wrap, I label, and I act surprised when I rip off the wrapping paper to my gift.  It may sound anti-climatic, but in the end it keeps Coach out of seriously hot water!

December 22, 2016

Fa, la, la, la, la . . . LADDIE!!!

Driving home from my workout, I called Laddie to see if he was done with the job interview.  Although I asked him several times the day before where he needed to go, I never got a definitive answer- so I wasn't convinced that he would be home.

He was home.  'Guess what happened to me!?' he shouted into the phone in an irritated tone as if he had been wronged.  Before I could make an educated guess, he offered an answer that made me breathe a heavy sigh. 'My phone died on the way there, so I couldn't go because I didn't know where I was going.'

He assured me that his phone was at 100% when he left the house after I asked the obvious question:  'Why is your phone always out of battery?'  Damn, how I wish his college offered a class in honesty, perhaps with a 'you-can-fool-some-of-the-people-some-of-the-time . . .' or 'who-do-you-think-you-are-fooling' theme.  In a more calm voice, he shared that he had already rescheduled the interview for the next morning at 8:00 am.  At a loss for words, I told him I'd be home in a few minutes.
xbox controllers and food, who can focus on time with these distractions?
It was no great surprise that he had assumed the position:  reclined on the basement couch playing Xbox.  I realized that if I intended to take a shower before Tank's throat culture, then we were going to be a bit late.  'Do me a favor Lad, drive up to school in about 8 minutes and pick up Tank for me while I'm in the shower.  I'm running late to get him to the doctor,' I called down the stairs.  'Sure,' he agreed.

A fun fact about me, I can typically be showered, dressed, and ready to go somewhere in 12 minutes or less.  Wearing very little make up and sporting a no fuss hairdo eliminates excess prep time.  With six kids to keep up with, a leisurely bathroom routine is a luxury I can't afford.  Besides, I wouldn't know what to do with most makeup available on the market today.  Oh how I long for beautiful, long, thick, shiny hair that would keep me chained to a hair dryer and additional hair care products, but my follicles are beauty-impaired.  Sad, but true.

Racing down the stairs less than 12 minutes later with damp hair and fresh socks in my hand, I began calling for the two sons that I believed should be home by now.  After a slight pause, Lad hollered up from the basement, 'Oh, I didn't get him yet.  I didn't know when it was 8 minutes.'

Made perfect sense.  Why would a college kid with a video controller jammed into his hands and a phone connected to a charger be able to surmise when 8 minutes had passed.  Perfect.

I stomped out of the house to pick up Tank myself.  While I waited for him in the school office, I explained to the confused office staff that while I had taken the time to call and alert them that Lad would be the one to pick up Tank - he was unable to decipher when 8 minutes had ticked away while he was glued to the Xbox.  When Tank showed up, they were still chuckling.  If I was ever going to hit the stand-up comedy circuit, I would just have to convince myself that the audience was a doctor's office or a school's front office.  It's where my over-sharing about our family nonsense scores the most laughs.

I apologized profusely to the receptionist at the doctor's office for our tardiness once again describing an 18 year old with no concept of time thanks in part to a video game.  Again, all available staff members tuned in to my spiel, and shook with laughter until Tank and I were led back to an exam room.

While Mr. Sore Throat and I sat waiting 5 minutes for the test to be complete, it dawned on me that driving Ed to school that hectic morning wasn't necessary after all.  Laddie didn't need a car if he was going to just sit and perfect his gaming capabilities.  My blood was boiling because I had called over my shoulder down the basement stairs, 'Go ahead and fold the laundry in the basket in the laundry room.'  My directive was met with a simple, 'I don't do laundry.'

On top of that, Laddie admitted that he hadn't actually called the company trying to interview him and explained his failed phone battery and subsequent lack of GPS issue.  He had simply gone online and set himself up with a whole new interview the next morning.  I questioned how impressed they would be when they realized that he had ditched an interview the day before.  My suggestion that he get in touch with someone was met with an eye roll.

So much to ponder in this lengthy 5 minutes exam room wait.  The nurse appeared and announced that T was positive for strep.  Awesome.  I had never sent a kid to school if I suspected that there was a legitimate illness.  I had also never been told by the doctor's office that they couldn't squeeze a kid in for a throat culture in the morning before school.  Now I called the school to let them know that Tank wouldn't be returning and that he did actually have strep.

Like any bad material that flops, my bad news was met with a groan instead of my usual chuckles.  Thankfully, I wasn't appearing live in their office where I could be heckled.

The doctor's office phone lines weren't working, so they handed me a paper script instead of calling it in to the pharmacy themselves.  Tank and I drove to the pharmacy and dropped it off.  We got home and I informed Lad that he would need to pick up T's prescription in 25 minutes.  I planned to move forward with my shopping agenda, which meant that he needed to pick up Eddie from high school at 3:00 and the junior high kids at 3:30.  Before he headed to the high school, he needed to grab the three thorn-in-my-side pizza breads that Eddie needed to deliver to teachers after school.

I didn't bother to ask for help adhering stamps to my stack of 215 Christmas cards.  I would bolt to the mall, drop the cards off at the post office on my way, and not look back.  From his perch on the basement couch, Lad heard me walking across the kitchen floor as I organized myself to leave for the mall.  'I know, I know- I'm going to the pharmacy now,' he called.  I hadn't even noticed the time as I was absorbed in my one-woman assembly line of card stuffing and stamping.  When he returned with the prescription, I reminded him that if he intended to workout he had to time himself so that he could collect Ed at 3:00 lugging along the all-important pizza breads.

I'm not sure why I expected Laddie to be able to manage his time, if he couldn't even tell when 8 minutes had passed.  With a quick glance to the clock, Laddie slipped into freak-out mode.  'No way, I can't do this.  Eddie has to get his own ride home!  I won't have time to workout now,' he ranted at me as if this was the first time he had learned that he was responsible to chauffeur siblings around.

I stood dumbfounded in my kitchen, but managed not to lose my cool.  'You ARE picking up Eddie.  You ARE his ride.  He doesn't have a car because you needed it for the interview you failed to attend. He NEEDS to have the pizzas to deliver to the three teachers who ordered from him.  You knew all this, yet you elected to sit and play video games all day.  If you don't have enough time to workout, that is your problem.'

Although I had carefully written on a neon colored post-it note which three flavors of pizza bread he needed to take to school, his panic-mode status caused him to grab randomly at a plethora of pizza bread boxes in the freezer.  Boxes tumbled on the floor as he attempted to carry a dozen or more of them.  'You only need the three flavors that I already wrote out for you,' I reminded him.

Grabbing my box full of stamped cards, I headed for the door.  I always love a trip to the mall, but today's venture had become a do-or-die-trying mission.  I refused to stand around and witness anymore of my oldest kid's crazy antics.  'Take your antibiotic,' I called back to Tank as I marched out the door.   

December 19, 2016

Fa, la, la, la, la . . . *@#!*#%@!!!- part 2

When I woke up on Friday, I anticipated my aching body to be my only issue.  Although I've never run a marathon, I suspect that the resulting soreness after baking 33 dozen cookies in one day produced a similar effect.   

I crept downstairs on what should be a glorious day for me.  Friday is the only weekday that I do not babysit.  With a long list of tasks I hoped to accomplish poised on the counter-top where I could easily consult it or add to it, I prepared lunches for most of the kids.  The night before Eddie had visited me in my prison, I mean my kitchen.  He complained that he was staying up too late to study for upcoming finals because he had to drive around and deliver the pizza bread for his basketball team's fundraiser.  Making his lunch the night before seemed to make sense, but he really just wanted to go to bed.  Glancing around at the counter-tops covered in baking sheets, ingredients, and stacks of cookies, I waved him off to bed agreeing to help him with his lunch the next morning.

Tank shuffled into the room as I sliced up apples.  'My throat hurts so much,' he moaned.  Refusing to accept that my well planned day of important holiday chores could already falter, I made my tall 14 year old kneel down in the light so I could look into his throat.  It was red.  No visible white bumps.  'OK, I'll call and schedule a throat culture with the nurses this morning.'  I wrapped up the lunches, pulled Curly out of bed, and rushed her thru breakfast.  A moment later I reminded Reggie to finish his lunch and empty the silverware tray in the dishwasher while I drove Eddie to school.

In the middle of my baking frenzy the day before, Laddie arrived home from college.  In order for him to drive to his winter break job interview Friday at 11am, I offered to drive Eddie to school to free up an available car.  Before Ed and I could hustle out to the car, I ordered him to heat up the iron in the upstairs laundry room.

Since today was his first home game, he needed to wear a shirt and tie to school.  Knee deep in a cloud of flour the night before, I offered Eddie an early Christmas present shirt that hadn't been wrapped yet.  It didn't look great with the tie he selected, so in the morning I reached back into the pile of unwrapped gifts 'hidden' in my closet.  Yes, this shirt would be better - Eddie agreed.

Once it was pressed, I traded it for his pair of pants that needed to be pressed.  This 'perfect' pair of khaki-like jeans had just discovered by Ed on Laddie's closet floor.  They were now Eddie's size.  There was a bit of food caked on them and they were rolled up in a ball, so they needed some attention.

Note to self:  make the kids actually go thru their closets and pull out the items that don't fit them before I invest in new clothes!  I tried to make mental notes without physically mumbling to myself, because one morning last week as I reminded myself what I needed to do - Tank stared at me from across the kitchen.  'Please stop talking to yourself.  You're scaring me.'

I was midway thru the first pant leg - ironing, then pausing to moisten the dried food before I  scraped at it, and then finally ironing some more - when I kicked myself for promising to iron his damn clothes.

Note to self:  make this second son more accountable for his own stuff.  Eddie reached for the tie that matched the better shirt.  'Nope, I can't wear that.  I don't know how to tie a tie.'  Oh for God's sake.  Have a male teacher tie it at school.  Nope.  Deal breaker.  Eddie said he wouldn't have time to beg a favor off a teacher.  As a stream of foul words escaped my mouth, I reached for the original shirt and quickly pressed it so that Eddie could go to school wearing the lame, already-knotted tie.

With Reggie eating another round of breakfast, Curly on the bus, Tank refusing to eat because of his throat pain, Laddie still in bed, I yelled up the stairs to wake up Mini before I called brief instructions to Reg.  'Get in the car, Ed!' I hollered over my shoulder.

I pointed angrily at the clock in the minivan.  Eddie would never make it to school on time.  Note to self:  my speeding days are behind me - not worth getting another ticket.  I wouldn't be making up an excuse and calling the attendance office.  Everyone needs to grow up at some point.

On our way to the school, I called the doctor's office and requested a throat culture.  I felt strongly it would be negative, but decided we better rule it out.  The receptionist told me to expect a call from the nurses.

Back home, I directed the remaining kids to get in the car so that I could drop them at school.  The junior high kids normally walk the 5 blocks to school, but the temperatures were dangerously low.  That's when I noticed that Tank wasn't the least bit prepared to go to school.  He heard 'throat culture' and translated it into:  no need to dress or pack a lunch or wear socks or brush teeth or ANYTHING!  I started to come unglued.  'GET READY FOR SCHOOL!' I screamed.

The two things I planned to knock off of my growing 'to do' list that morning included a scheduled, annual mammogram and a workout.  Not an overly exciting morning off, but I kept looking at the clock knowing that I needed to stay on track if I wanted to get to the mall that afternoon.

I phoned the school and let them know that Tank would arrive late assuming his throat culture was negative.  Mini and Reg hopped out of the car, and Mini admitted that she forgot the important paperwork that she needed to turn into the school office for me to register Tank for high school.  I groaned.

With Tank still in the car, I drove home from the school parking lot.  I dialed the doctor's office again.  A nurse got on the phone and informed me that they couldn't see Tank until around noon.  With six kids, I've been down the throat culture path before.  Being put off until midday was a first.  Foiled!  I told my 8th grader, whose only symptom was a sore throat, to run into the house and get the envelope for school.  He came out with the envelope, Molly's forgotten lunch, and some negative descriptive words about his sister.  Takes a forgetful sibling to know one.  I sighed.  'I'm dropping you off at school until they can do a throat culture later,' I shared before I drove BACK to school AGAIN!

With school age kids all dropped off at the appropriate building, the house seemed quiet.  Disturbingly destroyed, but quiet.  Laddie was still in bed.  I had a few spare minutes before I needed to leave for my mammogram.  I started to load the dishwasher.  Eddie texted me.  He wanted me to check on the remaining pizza breads that he hadn't yet delivered.  They were in the backseat of my minivan.

I expected to see a few small boxes.  Instead there were over a dozen pizza bread boxes that I now needed to deal with.  The temperatures promised to warm up slightly and I didn't know if the pizzas would thaw in the car.  I raced inside and rearranged things in my kitchen freezer.  This fun chore included relocating the remaining cookies I had baked the night before into the garage.  Planting cookies in the garage made me nervous because of our mouse issue. 

I reassured myself that the mice couldn't scamper up to this shelf before Eddie came home from school and distributed his wares thus freeing up the coveted space in my freezer.  Besides the mice were busy making themselves comfortable inside the house - specifically in the cabinet over the microwave.  Wait, was I really counting that fact as a positive?

I shoved as many of the boxes into the freezer as possible before I lugged the remaining boxes to the basement freezer.  I knew the clock was ticking and my chances of arriving on time for my appointment were slipping away.  I sent Eddie a photo of the rescued pizza boxes with an angry message.  He texted back that he didn't deliver the rest of the pizzas the night before because he really needed to study.

Note to self:  email the basketball coach and suggest a thousand other fundraising ideas.  Who asks high school students to sell large quantities of pizza bread, expects them to be stored in the student's freezer just prior to the holidays, and requires the players to deliver their product a few days before final exams?

I woke Lad up before I bolted out the door.  'Get up!  I don't want you to miss your interview,' I called into his room.  Laddie's interview wasn't for a few hours, but college kids have been known to sleep half of a day away.  Not on my watch!

Mammogram, check.  Cookie delivery to a friend's doorstep with a Merry Christmas wish, check.  Three pizza breads dropped off at Coach's work place and stored in the freezer for the employees who ordered them, check.  Only slightly late for my workout class, check.

Tank's throat culture, next . . .  

December 17, 2016

Fa, la, la, la, la . . . *@#!*#%@!!!

If only I could decide what part of yesterday's chaos irritated me the most, perhaps I could launch into this holiday-hiccups post with a committed focus . . . I suppose I should back up the story to include what took place prior to Friday.

Part one:  baking cookies on Thursday

Knowing my Kitchen-aid mixer wasn't up to the task of blending the ingredients necessary to create  dozens of my infamous-in-my-part-of-the-world chocolate chip cookies didn't deter me from taking on the challenge.  On Thursday, a day before Friday's craziness almost unglued me, I lined up three large mixing bowls.  While I babysat for my three young charges, and continuing long after they had been collected, I begged my mixer to chug along to no avail.

For about a year, this appliance I rely on heavily has smoked whenever I whip up a batch of cookies.  Typically after allowing a short rest, this precious device kicks back in at full steam . . . until last week.  When I needed cookies for a party, the beater suddenly stalled while uttering a disturbing grinding noise.  Thru trial and error (and  a few select words under my breath, because I was babysitting that day as well) I figured out that if I manually dragged the beater thru one half of it's rotation, it would happily spin thru the remaining half of the bowl.  Eventually I abandoned the failing machine and chose to mix the rest of the thick dough by hand.

With Christmas break approaching and my baked goods in high demand, I decided that night to order the next size up in the Kitchen-aid mixer.  A delightful woman with a southern accent located somewhere near Chattanooga, Tennessee, assisted me Wednesday evening.  Her pleasant tone made it that much easier to drop some serious coin on my order.  When she informed me that my new mixer wouldn't arrive for 5 to 7 business days, I knew I would need to tackle my looming baking project with the limited help of my burned out machine.

Once the first three batches were complete, I lined up the bowls all over again.  With a grimace on my face, pain radiating from my low back, and throbbing limbs, I repeated the process.  After distributing the ingredients, I hitched the bowl up to the semi-lame appliance, and eventually dove in with my own two hands until the cookie batter was ready to be slapped onto the baking sheets.

I kept three ovens heated and dashed up and down the basement stairs at 12 minute intervals to switch out the basement batch pausing long enough to rotate sheets in and out of the two kitchen ovens.  Between removing cookies from the hot sheets, I changed diapers, read books, and in the evening cooked a 'real' dinner.

During nap time, I decided that the cookie production was under control and I thought I could manage one phone call.  I got caught up with my good friend while I removed the most recent batch from the oven.  When I warmed up the ovens again a few hours later, I wondered what the source of the unexpected burning smell was.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the oven to shove more dough in and discovered a sheet of very dark cookies that I had forgotten to remove when I was chatting on the phone.  Multitasking flunkie.

Laddie had arrived home from college for Christmas break, and I couldn't justify tossing chicken patties in the oven to welcome him home . . . oh, how I wish I had known how the next 24 hours with Laddie's nonsense would unfold.  (see:  Fa, la, la, la . . . Laddie!!! and Fa, la, la, la, la . . . #%@!&*%#! Laddie for more details).   Had I been privy to a crystal ball, I would have gladly brought on those trusty and effortless frozen hockey pucks.

While our incredibly late dinner was in the oven I made a quick dash to the post office to mail a few packages, and buy Christmas stamps.  It never felt so good to sit down in a car, but I hopped right out again on my way home to purchase gift bags and tissue paper. 

Just before the kids went to bed, I introduced them to the assembly line on the kitchen table.  They labeled bags for the teachers they wished to give gifts to, and dropped a dozen cookies in each bag.  Laddie's delivery of a plate of warm cookies to his ride home from college in addition to the kids' teacher gifts added up to the disappearance of about 21 dozen cookies from my holiday stash of 33 dozen.
cookie assembly line
Coach consumed his dinner, retrieved one baking sheet from the basement oven, and studied how to set up his newly purchased mouse traps.  After his traps were in place, he reclined in the family room, watched part of a movie, and called good night to me as he tipped toed up the stairs to our room.

Meanwhile back on the mouse-infested-kitchen ranch, I glanced around -dizzy with exhaustion - and grasped the lengthy clean up job that stared back at me.  I would not be responsible for a single crumb inviting a mouse to scurry onto my counter-top.  After blindly counting out the remaining cookies into large freezer bags, I wiped down counters, and carefully calculated my dishwasher loading operation in order to optimize space in my other cherished-but-often-unreliable appliance.

My knees creaked audibly and my muscles rejoiced with the momentary stretch when I squatted in front of my horribly designed, spatially challenged freezer.  After a few minutes of rearranging, I created enough space to gently shove the bags of cookies that would soon be allocated for Curly's birthday treat, Mini's basketball party, and Christmas gifts to our close friends.

I collapsed next to my physical therapist husband, who needed to wake up around 4:30 the next morning for work.  Unfortunately I didn't have the energy required to wake him up and beg him for a deep tissue massage.  Oh, how I wished I had the nerve.  

December 11, 2016

Tis the season . . . for sisters to suck

Coach and I sat at a table on Thanksgiving surrounded by my siblings, their spouses, and my parents.  This was the first year that our turkey dinner was consumed in a restaurant.  Most of my parents 22 grand-kids filled the chairs at the surrounding tables in the party room my folks had reserved for the occasion. 

After dinner my sister, Marie, grabbed two sandwich baggies from her purse.  One of the bags was filled with slips of paper with the the cousins' names on them, while the other contained scraps of paper with the names of the 9 adult family members - excluding my folks.  From my perch at the opposite end of the long table, I asked a simple question.  Looking back I had no idea the firestorm that my innocent inquiry would set in motion.  'Hang on a minute, Marie.  Does anyone else want to simplify things a bit this year?  I'm just wondering if everyone still thinks it makes sense for the adults to draw names?  Anyone interested in just have the kids exchange this year.' 

Directly across from me sat my divorced, incredibly bitter sister, Ann.  She hissed at me thru clenched teeth, 'It's Christmas!  It's Christmas!'  I turned to her and pointed out that I was well aware of what holiday was approaching.  My brothers and their wives tossed the thought around for less than a minute.  Ultimately they shrugged, glanced at one another, and then nodded in agreement.  It probably made sense to skip the adults gift exchange this year.  When that consensus was reached, Marie dropped the baggies like they were hot and stomped off to an empty table.  There she sat and folded her arms with her back to the rest of the adults.  At that point, I thought it would've been appropriate if she sat with the rest of the children, since she was behaving like one.

'Thanks for exchanging gift cards!'
I was confused that the concept had been met with such contempt from my two older, controlling sisters.  'Who has time to buy extra gifts?' I asked.  Ann barked at me from across the table, 'I do.  I don't have any kids!'  Ann does in fact have four children, but three of them avoid her like spoiled eggnog.  They moved in with their father years ago when his wickedly undermining tactics left her struggling to accept her lack of control.  For example, her constant harping on her teens to seek summer employment that he had deemed unnecessary left her broken-record imitation painfully irritating.  Hell, it irritated me and I only heard about it every time I communicated with her, which wasn't often . . . my choice.  I can only imagine how grating it was for the teens caught in the middle of a narcissistic father and a control freak mother.  Of course this mess was frustrating and disgusting to say the least, but Ann's response to her ex-husband's transparently evil maneuvers caused the situation to evolve from bad to impossible. 

Over the years, my folks have attempted to compensate for Ann's unfortunate marital issues.  Nine years ago, about a after Ann filed for divorce from her abusive husband, my folks invited my sisters and I out to dinner.  When I asked what the occasion was, my Mom pointed out that Ann no longer enjoyed the privilege of eating in nice restaurants.  She had grown accustomed to this eating-at-expensive-joints perk when she was married to her wealthy sad-excuse-for-a-husband.  So my sisters and I were treated to a delicious steak dinner, and afterwards I pondered how it was that no one ever felt compelled to host a pity party dinner in my honor.  After all, Coach and I rarely ate fast food let alone food from a fine establishment with cloth napkins.  No one felt sorry for our lousy financial situation.  As newly weds, we scraped every penny because Coach was attending graduate school.  I prepared cheap meals at home during those years.  After he graduated, we rarely went out to enjoy a mediocre dinner at an average restaurant, because we were still on a tight budget, not to mention we kept busy purchasing diapers and trying to catch up on lost sleep.

I will be the first to admit that I responded too quickly to Ann's short rant about her lack of offspring to shop for.  Perhaps I should've chosen a more diplomatic approach.  I could've asked her if she expected us to continue to buy things for the adults of the family, who are all capable of shopping for themselves, just to satisfy her need to shop.  On the drive home, it occurred to me that if she was just itching to hit the mall, then perhaps she could sponsor a needy family thru her church's giving tree program.  Surely she could recognize how appreciative that family would be of her generous support.  Instead I blurted back at her, 'Well, that isn't my problem.'  While it is true that I have nothing to do with the growing distance between her and her children, I normally wouldn't have thrown that in her face.  Why in the world she would chose that as an excuse to maintain the adult gift exchange boggles my mind!

Unable to handle my abrupt and truthful response, Ann (who suffers from what I refer to as the 'just-so' syndrome, because type A cannot begin to accurately describe her need to have everything in life be exactly the way she expects it to be) turned to our mother and asked her loudly, 'Why is she such a bitch?'  Incredible, but not unexpected.  After all, no one in the family holds Ann accountable . . .  for anything.  They tip toe around her so as not to tread on any of the surrounding, imaginary eggshells.  The majority of the family population enables Ann's constant state of being distraught and unhappy.

I unleashed on her after this name-calling incident, and asked her if she expected the rest of us to continue to buy additional gifts just to keep poor-Ann happy.  With the addition of a few whiny 'poor Ann' comments, consider those metaphorical eggshells pulverized.

While Marie still sat pouting, my Dad hopped up and circled the kids tables inviting them to draw a cousin's name from the baggie.  Ann had eliminated the names of her three older kids from the baggie, so she would only be responsible to purchase a gift exchange present for her youngest daughter, Clare.  Once the names had been selected, our sister-in-law, Lynn, awkwardly stepped in to record the results during Marie's temper tantrum.  Ann called down to Lynn and asked who Clare had picked.  'Clare buys for Maggie,' Lynn responded.  My Mom leaned towards Ann, 'Well, that's good then, huh?'  I wondered if I had accidentally worn my invisibility cloak that morning.  Did Mom not see me sitting there - fully aware that she was implying that if Ann's kid had chosen one of my offspring the whole exchange would've sucked for Ann?  It made me cringe to watch Mom attempt to soothe Ann with the wonderful news that Clare would be purchasing a gift for one of Marie's daughters.  What a relief!  Shopping for an approved cousin - not a lesser valued cousin - had to soften the blow that we had voted to cross siblings and spouses off of our shopping lists.  Ann managed a half sniffle in acknowledgment of my Mom's comment.

In the weeks since Thanksgiving, my sisters have succeeded in avoiding me.  They have made it clear in passive aggressive ways that they are not speaking to me.  Nothing left to do (besides shop) but look forward to the next chapter of family drama set to be written on Christmas day.  I can't wait to offer my next suggested update to the family gift exchange for next year.  I plan to propose that we divide the 22 cousins into older and younger groups.  Each older cousin chooses the name of a younger cousin, and the pair agree on an activity to do together.  How fun would it be for the cousins to create memories while ice skating, watching a movie, serving at a soup kitchen, sledding, or eating ice cream?  I think that concept sure beats having the kids get more unnecessary 'stuff''.  This time my proposal will be sent out in the form on an email. 

November 20, 2016

'kids are kids'

I just returned from a long visit to a local park with the three little boys that I babysit for.  Although it is November 17th, the forecast called for a high of 70 degrees today.  I struggled to decide between a trip to the zoo and a more efficient adventure at a park.  Since our outing yesterday included a lengthy stay at the park, I decided that we would test out a different park location today.

Years ago I brought my kids to this park from time to time.  While my memory of its offerings had faded, I remembered that it had always been a big hit with my offspring.  The awesome layout and incredible equipment did not disappoint.  I chased the toddlers around for over an hour.  Two of them were thrilled with the zip line while the youngest guy preferred to stomp his feet in piles of leaves.   At noon I gathered them up, washed their hands, and served them lunch at a nearby picnic table.

With nap time (ahhhhh!)  approaching rapidly, I intended to head straight home after lunch.  When two of the boys hopped down from the table and made a bee line for the playground, I decided to give them a few more minutes to play.  Who can enforce a specific nap deadline on such an unseasonably beautiful day?

I mopped the stickiness off of their pudgy hands and smiley faces and parked the strolled near the toddler-geared equipment.  I appreciated that the older-kid playground structure was a bit off the beaten path, so I could keep the three of them corralled in one area.  There was a sandy area that I had eliminated from our possible play space the moment we arrived.  Since tots have a tendency to roam, I kept the sand pit in the corner of my eye just in case one of my guys started feeling brave.  Dealing with sand in the summer bites.  I felt no need to introduce those pesky little granules into my kitchen in November despite the fact that I plan to wash the kitchen floor tomorrow.  Even with the well defined boundary approach to the layout, I still felt like I was swiveling my head back and forth as I monitored all three of my little constantly-in-motion charges.

J.J. shot out of a tunnel slide with a huge grin on his face.  A kid who exited the slide a moment later sauntered up behind J.J. and gave him a little shove.  There were a couple of moms chatting on a park bench adjacent to the park equipment when we walked up.  I recognized the little guy as belonging to one of them.  Now only one mom was perched on the bench.  She said nothing, so I told 'Lil Bully not to push.  Ignoring my instructions, the kid pushed J.J. a few more times before coming up behind him and shoving him off of the hill-like climbing apparatus.  I picked J.J. up off the ground.  He had only been on the bottom ladder rung, so he hadn't fallen very far.  Not the point though.

'Hey,' I hollered, 'Don't push him down.  Play nice.'  Glancing over my shoulder, I called to Ms. Passive on the bench, 'Is this your kid?'  No, she informed me that it wasn't.  She did know him and she called out to him, but she didn't move off of the bench to speak to him more directly or remove him from the playground for a minute. 

'Lil Bully was about the same size as J.J., but based on his speech and his behavior he was probably three or four years old.  J.J., who is a tall, solid beast of a kid for his age, is only 18 months.  Ms. Passive must have alerted 'Lil bully's mom, Ms. Inattentive, that I had pointed out that her kid was pushing J.J. around.  They exchanged words in their foreign language before Ms. Inattentive uttered very loudly, 'Kids are kids.' 

What a mind blowing statement!  Just when I had convinced myself that kids were aliens.

Moments like this remind me that I might be too old to be working as a babysitter.  Physically I can handle it.  In fact I'm quite sure that if I challenged Ms. Inattentive to a brisk jog around the recycled tire flooring of the playground, she would have collapsed before she passed the brick public restroom building a stone's throw away from where we stood. 

The real problem is that I'm too aged to give a damn what anyone thinks.  Besides, my additional years and experience give me a bit of a leg up on clueless, young parents that I encounter as an occupational hazard.

I spun around to face her.  Did she think that tossing a generalized blanket statement out about juveniles would excuse her kid's bad behavior?  'Kids are kids, but that's why you have to watch them,' I enlightened her.  That's when she shared with me that she was running after another one of her kids.  I completely understand how that happens, but her kid had pushed J.J. down several times in the span of several minutes.  If she couldn't be watching him for that long, then she should've dragged him with her to chase her other rugrat.  Since she was fortunate to be at the park with back up in the ill equipped form of Ms. Passive, she could've asked her to keep an eye on 'Lil Bully.  'I get that.  I'm watching three right now myself and I have six more at home,' I quipped.  'That doesn't make you better than anyone,' she barked.  'Of course not,' I chuckled, 'It just means that I know what it's like to handle crowd control.'

Please note that the entire time this short discussion occurred, two things happened. 
     1.  I never lost sight of the three boys I was watching, helping them up and down slides and up and down ladders. 
     2.  Ms. Inattentive never stopped reciting her mantra 'kids are kids'.  One thing that didn't happen was that Ms. Inattentive never reprimanded or disciplined her 'Lil Bully. 

When I announced to my little tow heads that we were going to head out in two more minutes for nap time, 'Lil Bully attempted to rub it in J.J.'s face.  He failed to understand that supersized J.J. was too young to understand his little taunt as he sat down to go down the slide.  Revealing his age and his understanding of the situation, 'Lil Bully called up to him, 'You have to go home for your nap time in 2 minutes.'

Each time Ms. Inattentive repeated her favorite phrase, I responded in some way.  She rounded up her little brat and moved her stroller to another area of the park where I'm assuming she continued to let him act unacceptably with no consequences.  A few minutes later I steered my gang towards the car. 

If I didn't love nap time so much, I would've skipped it so that I could follow her to the other side of the park and educate her with a little additional comment:  'Kids are kids, but parents who let kids be kids end up with kids who behave badly.'

November 14, 2016

shopping tips

 As we approach the busiest shopping days of the calendar year, I recently considered the many stages of my shopping life.  Back when I was single and living at home after college, my Mom and I hit the mall on a regular basis.  Two factors impacted my abundant free time:  an out of town boyfriend, and no kids to care for.  Decades later I find myself weaving my visits to the mall around my husband and six kids.  While so much has changed, one shopping habit that remains constant includes a strong focus on the discount racks. 

When we were newlyweds, Coach's full-time student status translated into years of forbidden mall visits.  Once kids began to arrive on the scene, I became an avid garage sale shopper.  This bleak situation was a far cry from my shopping preference, but I adjusted quickly to accepting the rush of a good deal regardless of whether or not it occurred in some stranger's dirty garage.  After studying the local ads, promising sales dictated which route I would take as I mapped locations based on sought after items.  I quickly learned which subdivisions boasted the best financial deals.  By diverting Laddie's attention I could sneak future Christmas and birthday gifts into the trunk saving our tight budget a bundle. 

Gradually I gravitated towards second hand stores.  Consignment shops, I discovered, offered great deals.  Many a good find was stumbled upon during my carefully planned trips to area stores where I shopped their inventory of winter coats, clothes with plenty of wear left in them, and fancy maternity dresses for weddings.  For years I wore a soft velvety name brand skiing pullover with a bedazzled zipper that I purchased for a steal at a consignment shop.  I received several compliments on the shirt, but always cringed hoping no one would ask me where I bought it. 

I am not ashamed to admit that I constantly returned gifted items in order to utilize the funds for outstanding deals for purchases that I felt served more of a purpose.  When Eddie was born, a woman I babysat for years earlier presented me with an incredibly generous baby gift.  In addition to an outfit for Eddie worth more than anything I owned in my closet, she chose a Kate Spade diaper bag for me.  While the diaper bag was beautiful, I cared little about parading around with a pricey bag loaded down with diapers, wipes, and storage for soiled clothes.  I was shocked at the amount of cash the Neiman Markus saleswoman counted out the day that I returned the status symbol diaper bag.  I felt guilty about not keeping the gift, but I fell in love with a beautiful, warm winter coat and I used the cash to buy it at Neiman Markus.  In my tight budget world, I decided that it made more sense to exchange the gift for something that I really needed.  The number on the coat's price tag still made my eyes pop out a bit, but knowing that I would use it for years to come helped me justify the indulgence. 

For years I shopped in spurts at various department stores.  While I still maintained my strong tendency to inspect the sales racks, my opportunities to shop were dwindling thanks to our busy household.  Running to close locations with good deals became my shopping spree focus.  I refused to commit too much time to searching racks for clothes so I narrowed my radius to places where I was sure to make a few quick purchases. 

I don't remember when my first visit occurred to my current favorite store.  It reminds me of a friendship that has been relied on for so long that it is now hard to recall what life was like without it.  My appreciation for the store has developed into a weekly visit that I rarely miss.  I'm confident no other store can replace its priority in my shopping agenda.  After repeated trips, I discovered that further reductions on already reduced items are scheduled to be marked down on the same day each week.  If I crave an item on the sale rack, but I still can't afford it - I simply wait until the next week in hopes that it gets marked down again. 

In addition to learning to be patient, I have devised a few other strategies to secure the best possible price for my selections.  This department store requests sizes from other locations and shipping is complimentary.  If I suspect an item might be reduced the following week, I can request it from another store if my local store doesn't have my size in inventory.  Once my request arrives at thee nearby mall, I have five days to get to the store to pick it up.  I cross my fingers in hopes that by the time I get to the mall to collect my item, it has been reduced since the previous week.  I hesitate to wear my new clothes as I wait to see if the price becomes more acceptable.  Sadly, at times I return a beautiful sweater that hasn't become the low price item that I had hoped it would be. 

Sales ticket for a reduced item.

Price adjustments might be my favorite aspect of this awesome store.  Once I have purchased something on sale, the store will adjust my receipt and credit me the difference if the price is reduced again in the next two weeks.  Needless to say my wallet and purse overflow with saved receipts that I keep on hand in case the purchase price I paid is reduced on the weekly reduction day.  By requesting a sales item from another store that I have already purchased from my location, I buy myself more time for the price to drop.  If the requested item is reduced from the time I made my request, then I simply return the original, pricier version. 

It can be embarrassing to ask a sales person to review a receipt in order to check whether or not a prior purchase has been further reduced.  Recently a sales woman in the juniors department refused to conduct a price adjustment for me.  Apparently she could see on her computer that I had already received my sanctioned eight adjustments for the year.  I almost fell over.  Eight?  Since when were price adjustments limited to a specific number?  No one warned me about this.  Although I admit to perspiring a bit more than anticipated, I simply walked my receipt down to one of my favorite and more familiar salesmen in the young men's section.  I help my breath as he agreed to adjust my receipts not paying any attention to the fact that I had benefited from eight adjustments that week, let alone the year. 

Please don't be confused and imagine me as a sharply dressed woman.  Despite my successful bargain hunting, my constant shopping routine, and my price adjustment rituals, I typically resemble a frazzled mom wearing a thrown together ensemble chosen more for comfort than for style.  A few weeks ago, I tried on a very cute sweater at my favorite store.  I asked the sales woman if the brand tended to run large as the sleeves seemed excessively lengthy.  She shrugged and informed me that I should definitely consider myself a size small.  The extra length in the sleeves was due to the new trend to hide hands

Just when I think I have mastered the art of shopping, I realize that it isn't enough to be an expert deal-achiever.  I now have to worry about understanding trends.  Who has time to read fashion magazines and watch trendy TV programs with a fashion focus?  I cannot be expected to make weekly visits to the mall, sneak limitless price adjustments from favorite sales people, and stalk desirable sales items in addition to carving out time for that kind of nonsense.  Now I learn that I have to attempt to hide my hands? 

I turned to this informed sales woman, who was working in the hip-clothing section that I had ventured into, perhaps erroneously.  She had certainly celebrated more birthdays than me.  I rolled my eyes.  'Yes, hands.  Those nasty appendages.  I rarely use mine and I definitely think it would be best if they were hidden away.'  She and I shared a chuckle about how absurd it is to wear something that would hide your hands.  Then I met her at the counter where I fumbled around for my MasterCard in my purse overflowing with receipts waiting to possibly be adjusted, . . . and I bought the sweater.