January 28, 2017

Just blame the laundry lady

Yesterday was Friday.  Yippee!  The only week day when I don't typically babysit.  Babysitting is a fine way to work from home.  I usually manage to accomplish a few things.  Additionally I have an excuse to hang outside in nice weather, squeeze in a nap during baby nap-time, be in charge again (my kids are too old and too wise to believe that I'm in charge), and GET PAID.  But, still -it's always great to have a day when I don't have to change diapers, attend library story-time, wipe noses, and prepare additional food for small mouths.

Today I was dead-set on getting a long-overdue project underway.  A project that is so enormous, I'd rather hide from it.  As a middle child -have I mentioned that here before? - I'm committed to preserving memories for ALL of my kids.  In 2010 our camcorder broke a few days before we left for an epic trip to Yellowstone.  I ran out and purchased a new one, so we could record our vacation.

My abused hard drive.
Since late May of 2010, hundreds of digital home video files have been accumulating on the hard drive of our desktop computer.  I take A LOT of video of the kids, particularly on vacation.  My hard drive practically wheezes each time I ask it to open a file.  It's over loaded, busting at the seams, and I fear in jeopardy of crashing.  I'm determined to save the videos to DVDs and delete them from the hard drive.

So yesterday morning, I urged the kids to get themselves ready for school utilizing as little of my energy as possible.  This turned out to be quite the challenge!

Two kids, who didn't have an early practice, a high school schedule, or a primary school bus to catch, ran late.  They usually walk the 4 blocks to school.  They begged me to drive them.  I shook my head.  That is when Reggie called me lazy.  ME!?  The nerve.  I told him he better watch his smart mouth.

You'd think that since this is my 4th son to hit the 11 year old 'I know more than you' phase, I'd be prepared.  My blood boiled.  Since I would do anything to not have to listen to them whine about possibly being late for school, I finally told them to chill out.  I would drive them.  Besides, Mini was having wardrobe issues.

The wardrobe issue hit me smack in the face when I was still skipping around the kitchen unloading the dishwasher and cutting up apple for lunches - enjoying a day off.  I hadn't been called lazy yet.  Mini, who requires more sleep than a newborn baby and we're not sure why, jogged into the kitchen looking panicked.  She was mumbling about her hair sticking out.

Note: old sweats 2 inches smaller in waistband!
Her hair was refusing to lay flat.  Dare I make another comparison to a newborn baby?  We arrive home around 9:30 pm a few nights a week after Irish dancing class.  Mini showers and goes to bed with wet hair.  I've been suggesting that perhaps she should just dive into bed and wake up a few minutes earlier to shower.  Then she would have to walk to school in the cold weather with dripping wet hair.  She owns a hair dryer, but her hair is so thick it takes forever to dry.  Can't sacrifice recious sleeping time.  Since I am practically balding, I have serious envy of both of my girls' hair.  Ugh!

Momentarily this floor was clear!
Anyway her incredibly tight sweatpants totally distracted me from her hair issues.  The girl is a twig, seriously.  Still, there are some articles of clothes that no longer fit no matter how skinny you are.  'Um, there is no way you are wearing those pants to school.  Please tell me you understand that.  Those need to be handed down to Curly!'

She shouted that she couldn't find her new gray Under Armour workout pants:  'I put them in the laundry, and you never washed them!'  She pounded into the bathroom with a squirt bottle to tame her mop.  I pointed out to her that I had washed a million loads of laundry that week.  Never saw her gray track pants.  I bet her that they were buried on the floor of her closet.  She insisted they weren't.

Mini's locker and her buried overnight bag
While she was huffing and puffing around the house, I pondered where the missing pants could be.  Occasionally something gets put in the wrong pile and lands in the wrong kid's closet.  I doubted this happened.  I scooted quickly into the mudroom.  There in her locker was her flowered overnight bag.

Last weekend, she slept over at her cousin's house.  Almost an entire week has passed, and her pants were hiding out in the bag that she tossed in her mudroom locker.  Aha!  I wondered if she bothered to dig her toothbrush out of her bag before she abandoned it in her locker.

That's when I offered to drive them to school . . . I needed more time to gloat.   


January 26, 2017

Do you know where your toothbrush is?

Coach and I both have two older sisters and two younger brothers.  Weird, but true.  My middle child placement impacted me . . . big time.  Coach - not so much.  He was the first born son.  I was the third daughter to arrive before my folks' first born son (aka the second coming).

I just wanted to throw the birth order tidbit out there, but really it's irrelevant to this story.  The point is that my husband and I both grew up in a house surrounded by a small army of siblings who shared one 'kid' bathroom.  Neither Coach or myself ever recall experiencing a disgusting issue with toothbrushes.  Ever. 

In my childhood house, we utilized a ceramic toothbrush holder.  If memory serves, and it usually does, we owned a coordinating ceramic cup.  These stylish fixtures were the same pastel blue shade as the fluffy bathroom rugs that were positioned in front of the toilet and the sink.  I'm assuming Coach's family used a similar, mainstream apparatus to hold their teeth cleaning utensils. 

My children haven't been deprived of this little luxury.  I bought a toothbrush holder and placed it on their counter-top years ago.  I carefully chose one that held 6 brushes.  The build up of hardened toothpaste serves as evidence that the children have utilized it over the years.  Recently it has come to my attention that some of my offspring avoid storing their toothbrush in it.  (This picture of my kids holder features two brushes - one loaded with toothpaste - I don't think I even want to know . . . did someone forget to use it?  Note there are several brushes not stored here!) 

Last year, I cleaned out the bottom drawer in the bathroom and tossed out a toothbrush that I assumed was an old forgotten one.  It appeared to be misplaced when I discovered it wedged between new rolls of toilet paper.  That night I heard Eddie yelling at his siblings accusing them of moving his toothbrush. 

That's when it became clear that Eddie refused to leave his toothbrush on the counter-top unprotected.  Holder be damned.  It wasn't safe enough.  Instead he kept it out of sight and hidden in the bottom drawer of the bathroom vanity where the spare rolls of toilet paper are stocked.  He insisted that this tactic was born after he suspected that another sibling occasionally used his toothbrush.  Gross.  I assumed his theory was unfounded.  Had to be.  Who would use someone's toothbrush? 

I called Eddie out for being a germ-a-phob and opened a new toothbrush for him.

Recently Reggie was invited to sleepover at his friend's house.  That night when Curly went to bed, she couldn't find her toothbrush.  I'm no detective, but I quickly surmised that Reggie brought Curly's toothbrush in his overnight bag.  Unbeknown to either of them, they had been sharing a toothbrush.  Do they brush their teeth in the dark? 

There have been a few other issues.  Mini was concerned once that Tetanka was using her toothbrush.  Honestly, I didn't care that T might have borrowed someone's oral hygiene tool.  I was simply relieved that T was brushing his teeth AT ALL.  Self care is not his strong suit.  OK, OK, it's still . . . gross!

As my father used to say when we were kids, 'This kid may not be as dumb as he looks.'  Perhaps Eddie's intelligence was revealed in this toothbrush hiding habit.

But why?  Why do our offspring struggle to know which toothbrush belongs to them?  Is it because they come home from the dentist with similarly colored brushes?  Not enough colors in the rainbow?  I used to pay more attention to these things - assign a kid a toothbrush.  Now the kids are older, so I assumed they could handle differentiating their stuff.  I tend to leave micromanaging to neurotic moms.  I'm guessing that kids living with neurotic moms manage to contain their germs better.

This is not a joke.  It's a real drawer in my home.
I've made attempts to get kids to ditch old brushes.  Somehow they skip the all important step of tossing out the old.  Maybe in their excitement to begin using a new one, they fail to identify the old one.  I have drawers of abandoned, barely used toothbrushes to prove it.

I honestly don't know where they come from.  Sleepovers - when their 'oops, I forgot to pack my toothbrush even though my mom called upstairs ten times and told me to bring it' approach scores them a  new one from their friend's house?  I am certainly not purchasing a new supply at the store each week. 

The concept of opening a fresh toothbrush, but leaving the old one stuffed in a bathroom drawer is foreign to me.  Perhaps it is my fault for not standing guard when kids rotate from old to new.  I don't remember my mom conducting an official farewell ceremony or checking each of us off for giving the ancient, toothpaste-caked, worn-down-bristle brush the heave-ho.  Her house definitely had more order.

I'm not sure why my house is more disorganized than the house I grew up in.  Maybe we can blame it on birth order.  My mom and Coach's mom delivered girls before their sons.  Little, devoted, neat freak daughters.  I'm referring to my sisters here.  I believe that the neat-freak gene became watered down in our DNA with every subsequent birth.  On more than one occasion, my Mom has noticed the disorder in my home.  She has commented on this discrepancy in comparison to my childhood home.  I shared my theory with her once.  I birthed boys in rapid succession.  Those boys have set the tone for our home.  Filth, clutter, and dirty socks. 

Just last week Coach had a mini panic attack after it became clear to him that someone used his toothbrush.  Curly usually brushes her teeth in the first floor bathroom.  Her chances of making it to the bus on time multiply dramatically if we eliminate her need to race upstairs to clean her teeth.  Because Coach leaves the house before 5 am, he also keeps a toothbrush in a bathroom drawer on the first floor.  I can't complain about the toothpaste smears in the first floor bathroom sink for a few reasons.  Not only do I dread a missed bus, but I appreciate that Coach's mission is to scoot out of the house without re-entering our room to attend to his oral health and risk waking me up needlessly. 

All family members have learned the hard way that waking me up prematurely is detrimental to their health. 

Coach's discovery that he was generously - yet blindly- sharing his toothbrush, came immediately after he recovered from a 24 hour stomach bug.  Having just experienced the discomfort of vomiting and the inconvenience of rolling into a ball in bed all day left him envisioning our kids falling ill one after another.  Once again, I assumed he was incorrect.  'There are only two of you using that bathroom.  How could Mini forget which toothbrush was hers?'
Don't even get me started on the several bars of soap requirement in their shower. 
Isn't it great that after all of the years of witnessing wacky kid shit, I still have every confidence in them that they aren't as clueless as we fear.  When will I learn?  Coach and Curly opened new toothbrushes and squared off on where in that bathroom they will store them. 

While the kids continue to box one another out using the popular basketball defensive move as they attempt to hide their toothbrushes from one another, I just breathe a sigh of relief that no one else caught Coach's puke bug. 

January 20, 2017

babysitting weirdness

 After years of struggling as a middle child, I discovered an escape route . . . that actually paid me money. 


That's me on the bottom of the pile in 1988 . . .  It may look like I was outnumbered, but I was in complete control!
When I wasn't being picked on, excluded, or sneered at by my siblings during my formative preteen years, I could be found babysitting.  At long last, a group of people who not only accepted me - they often worshiped me.  My willingness to hang out at someone's house for hours on end proved to be quite lucrative.  Add to that my sense of responsibility, my playfulness, my dedication, my loyalty: and I was quite the babysitting commodity. 

Over the years, I encountered many different types of people and situations thru my sitting services.  There were folks who paid me well, and some who didn't.  Some abodes were clean, and some were NOT.  Well stocked pantries satisfied my carefree ability to binge eat without even realizing it.  Ah, the metabolism of a 12 year old girl!  Other cupboards were so bare that I called home begging someone to ride a bike over with a paper plate heaped with dinner. 

Once I reached high school and college age, I often connected with the young parents whose kids I cared for.  They'd stagger in from a late evening, and we'd continue chatting until the wee hours of the night.  I trusted them, bounced ideas off them, and sought their advice.  Most of all, I enjoyed them.  Looking back, I may have had a hand in raising their youngsters, but these parents were helping me learn to think for myself, be confident, and develop a strong sense of self. 

There are exceptions to every rule.  As a junior high student, one woman tended to pay me in loose change.  I'd look at her blankly and wait for it to dawn on her that it might be a struggle for me to get home on my BIKE if I was weighed down with ten bucks in coins.  Had she not noticed that I arrived wearing shorts and a t-shirt minus deep pockets?  Duh.  I was a kid. 

Perhaps I'm being too generous considering that she probably never actually paid me more the six big ones (in coins she collected from between her couch cushions).  My mother finally took it upon herself to call Gail up and inform her that the going rate for a sitter had increased since my sisters had launched their sitting careers a few short years before.  It was no longer socially acceptable to dole out a buck for each hour wasted, I mean spent, caring for her two, small, smelly children. 

Mom shared the news with her without making her feel like the cheapskate that she was.  Mom had a knack for that kind of thing.  A solid chit-chatter, Mom chuckled here and there between a few quick anecdotes as she played with the long, curly phone cord.  As the point of her phone call approached, she gave me a quick wave of her hand from her comfy position on her bed.  With one leg bent across the bright yellow spread, the other foot tapped at the blue carpeted floor.  Her face flashed a fierce 'don't even think about distracting me here -I'm going to lay it on the line' glance.  I crouched on the carpet next to her bed.  No eye contact.  No busting out in that explosive, senseless laughter that always happens at church when you're supposed to be quiet.  Who can control themselves when a brother surprises you mid-prayer with a weird expression on his face?  It never failed.  Once I snorted a loud chortle out my nose, the laughs kept coming.  I dug my fingers into the thick carpet creating a temporary design as I listened to her launch into the, 'So, completely not your fault, but times they have changed.  My daughters are now earning more from other moms in the hood, so I figured you would want to stay competitive.'  Smooth, like baby butt cream. 

Gail cornered me once.  Just as she was about to pay me.  She dangled the sandwich baggie chock full of coins in one hand.  This was part of the unfortunate pre ziplock era.  She leaned in a bit.  Creepy close.  My bike was right outside.  She was acting odd.  I should've just made a run for it.  'So,' she breathed with a smiley smirk on her face.  'Have you gotten your period yet?'  Weird!  To put in mildly.  Crossing a line.  Awkward.  I'm guessing that she was attempting to create a 'friendship' bond like those that blossomed naturally with some of the dynamic women that I sat for during my later high school and college years.  Maybe I would've gravitated towards her as a confidant or a buddy if her pantry had been stocked, or if her kids hadn't smelled bad, or if she hadn't sent me home struggling to keep my balance on my bike with the clunky bag of currency that left me leaning to one side.  I sped home that day at lightening speed - anxious to put some space between us.  I didn't want to talk about my period with my friends at school, my sisters, or my mom and certainly NOT Gail.  What was her deal?

Fortunately, I survived that embarrassing ordeal and stayed the course.  My ability to overlook the weirdest of people led me to accept countless sitting jobs and I earned a strong reputation and stacks of dollars . . . typically in the form of paper money!

January 14, 2017

occupatoinal hazards: germs

The thing about hand, foot, mouth disease is that by the time a roly-poly toddler has nonchalantly dripped, wiped, and licked his infested saliva all over most structures in your home, you don't even realize that he is sick.  Who can read the mood swings of those little runts, who sporadically grow teeth, develop ornery personalities, and suffer from sleep deprivation?  Their 'issues' make it hard to pinpoint if they are actually ill or just dealing with the frustrations that accompany life as a non-communicative poop-machine desperately wishing for his needs to be met. 


So that's how Christmas break began at our house.  Said tot deposited germs arbitrarily around our happy abode prior to his diagnosis.   The unwelcome, relentless virus added a whole new dimension to our extended time with our children over the holidays this year.

My big kids interact with the babysitting kids all the time.
Tetanka was a triple threat when it came to contracting the bothersome and clingy hand foot virus thing.  First, he can't keep his mitts off the tykes.  He relates to them.  The little fellas may not 'use their words', but Tetanka is well versed in baby-speak.  I suspect that he's secretly starring in a remake of the movie 'Big' that I swear is being filmed in my home daily via hidden cameras.  Small child trapped inside a soon-to-be-man with size 14 steppers.  If the hidden camera thing is a reality, then most of the flick will be bleeped out because of Tetanka's unsuspecting mother's potty mouth. 

Secondly, Tetanka is the least likely of my offspring to practice proper hygiene.  Hand washing, tooth brushing, showering:  all activities he practices less frequently than most of society would deem acceptable.  Wearing the clothes one slept in, avoiding fruit, inhaling food meant to be consumed in small quantities:  these typical Tetanka tendencies welcome germs of all shapes and sizes.

Thirdly, Tetanka's immune system starts off somewhat compromised from the word 'go' because the kid is in a constant battle with sleep.  His standoff with acquiring decent sleep patterns is the opposite of my life's mission to catch more z's.  Despite our best efforts to send him to bed and encourage a good night's rest, he can be found lurking behind corners, stalling, or eating.  There is no end to the tactics he enlists while begging to watch additional television.  Rest, sleep - who needs that?

After Christmas, Tetanka developed a sore throat that initially threw me off.  I assumed his recently completed strep medicine hadn't been potent enough.  Although his throat culture was negative, when his little brother, Reggie's, throat culture was positive a few days later I asked the doctor to take a second look at T.  Aha.  He identified the little blisters in the back of Tetanka's throat as the hand foot thing.  Curly presented with a fever a few days later.  While wiping handles, doorknobs, and light switches with Lysol wipes, we waited to see if she would have the curable strep or the lengthy hand foot.  Not long after we realized that hers was hand foot, Reg admitted his throat hurt as well.  Double whammy for this kid.  Strep and hand foot mouth.  Good times.

During one of our days of quarantine, I decided to take the four youngest kids to the movies.  Unable to invite friends over, visit a  museum, or other public place, I pondered an activity we could partake in where our germs wouldn't be easily spread.  The contagious kids agreed not to spit on anyone - simple.  Coughing and sneezing weren't issues, so armed with the winter gloves they planned to don at the theater along with the knowledge that they wouldn't spread the virus by accidentally licking someone, we set out to see a matinee.

The remaining days of this seemingly endless break were spent checking the healthy kids for any sign of the dreaded illness and watching movies.  We rented oldies but goodies, like 'Mr. Mom', from the library.  Other days I served as referee as we tried to get a consensus on which taped movies to watch.  Twice we took a small break from the boob tube to play a family game.  In my spare time, I prepared vats of jello and dedicated myself to stocking the freezer with popsicles.  Not only did I encourage constant hand washing, but I urged anyone with a sore throat to not pester me for a cold treat . . . just serve yourselves!  Mayhem ensued. 

Healthy Mini shared her disgust with me that her siblings were feasting on popsicles undetected all morning in the basement.  I suspect she was a bit jealous that her pain-free throat left her with no reason to indulge in frozen treats.  Aside from this one moment, I don't think anyone else was envious of our Christmas break germ fest

January 10, 2017

occupational hazzards: basic and forseeable

Turns out a few inconveniences crop up when a mom of six active kids opts to babysit for three additional buggers during the school day.

Sip cups make it challenging to reach in and grab a 'real' cup.
One basic issue is stuff.  Gear.  Crap.  Equipment.  As if my kids' trail of belongings didn't offer enough of an obstacle to my sanity, I have reintroduced diapers, wipes, bibs, portable cribs, diaper bags, sip cups, two clumsy high chairs, and piles of toys to the mix.  This was not an unforeseen surprise.  I vividly recalled all of the 'extra' junk that accompanies small people when I chose to offer our home as babysitting central.  No big deal.  What's a little extra clutter in a house where dirty socks litter every hallway, important papers disappear in the black hole of the kitchen counter, and evidence of unapproved snacks lurk behind every piece of furniture?

Since I've begun to welcome other people's little ones into our home, my stress level on Sunday nights has reached a new dimension.  Knowing that I am about to trade my 'mom' hat in for a 'caregiver' hat, I begin to feverishly search the family room and kitchen for choking hazards, writing implements, and the relentless supply of dirty socks.  I holler at my kids to grab anything they care about and stash it in a place where curious hands won't grab it.

My kids customary lack of thoroughness in this endeavor leaves me little choice but to personally survey the few rooms where the 'wild things' will soon roam.  On careful inspection (translation:  by standing in the doorway of the room and giving it a quick glance), my eagle eye spies the obvious:   computer chargers, Lego pieces, books with real pages, mislaid homework, laptops, books on loan from the library that levies fines for ripped real pages, food remnants or wrappers (even though food is not allowed in the family room - EVER), basketball uniforms, favorite American girl dolls (with momentarily flawless hair), and abandoned piles of clean laundry.  With the exception of the crusty food and the laundry pile, my kids don't want these items touched.  Perhaps they'd feel personally vested if they had fought their own desperately heavy eyelids in order to stay awake long enough to sort the entire mound of laundry.  Instead I'm the only soul disturbed when ignored stacks of clean clothes are toppled arbitrarily when the youngsters run pell-mell through the room.

Bottom drawer tough to open minus handles!
Run down end table serves as  Thomas storage.
When the tykes get dropped off, the family room in particular is their domain.  Thanks to clever storage solutions- like pretty baskets and a book case cabinet- most of the tot toys stay concealed when everything is tucked away.  The deep drawers of my ancient end tables house miles of wooden train tracks, Dr. Seuss books, and fake food.  Years ago the drawer pulls broke off of the drawer that is now stocked with choo-choo pieces.  I grimace each time I glance at this embarrassing excuse for furniture with its broken drawer handles, deep scratches, and chipped edges.  What a relief that only I know how to open the cherished train track drawer.  By wedging the very tips of my fingers between the minute space under the heavy drawer, I can gradually-and painfully- tug it open.  Of equal importance is my powerful ability to heave it shut after a good clean up job.

Coach detests tripping over the two eye-soar high chairs that I drag into the kitchen from the dining room and back again for every toddler meal I offer.  My kids cringe each time I hand them a dirty diaper to toss in the garage's smelly garbage can.  Laddie melted down, not unlike a tot, when he came home from college and discovered his mudroom locker had been re-purposed as a spare diaper storage unit.  If the toys don't get put away at the end of a day, my we-didn't-make-this-mess crew end up being recruited to pitch in.  With toddlers camped out napping in my kids' bedrooms each afternoon, I've fielded the occasional moan about not having access to their rooms right after school.  Inconveniences aside, my kids can't get enough of the three entertaining shorties I sit for.  The financial benefits help Coach and I overlook the added clutter, or perhaps the presence of baby gear makes us remember the good ole days . . when our kids still liked us, listened to us, and napped.

There have been a few unforeseeable issues caused by my offspring, and may prove hazardous to my children if I catch the culprits the next time they mess with my daycare equipment.  One weekend the toddler potty collected a mysterious urine sample from someone.  Perhaps one of my sons didn't think I would notice that he was experimenting with a little target practice.  Since I had already washed out the potty for the weekend, the fresh pee was difficult to explain.  (no photo- use your imagination)  I have strong suspicions about who would stoop to this level.  Recently, my pleased-with-myself feeling after I remembered to snag some animal crackers at Target over Christmas break crumbled into frustration when my children ate almost all of the bland odd-shaped snacks.  Nothing is sacred!
The march of the high chairs from the dining room into the kitchen
Huge animal cracker supply I purchased over Christmas break was eaten almost entirely by MY children!

January 5, 2017

no resolutions, just a clean slate

While there is nothing like sledding into January on a clean slate, I'm not big on New Year's resolutions.  The clean slate approach offers more wiggle room and less rigidity.

Never quite sure what I'll find in our pantry.
I typically start the new year with a more dedicated focus on regular house work.  My vow not to let annoying tasks slip off the list of priorities has a shelf life slightly longer than half of the ignored, overlooked, expired food items in the back of the pantry.  Yes, you guessed it.  This is the disorganized pantry housing so much of our kitchen mayhem that I can never quite bring myself to empty EVERY shelf in order to conduct a proper cleaning.  Maybe in 2017.  Maybe

Aiming high at transforming myself into the kind of mom who doesn't cuss and holler at the top of my lungs in a desperate attempt to get the natives to listen to me and take me seriously is suffering from a delayed start this year.  I'm assuming my patience and more acceptable parenting techniques will blossom anew after the kids return to school.  Ah, here is where my wiggle room clause kicks in and protects me from a major guilt trip.  So I didn't clean up my Irish tempered, potty mouthed, no-where-near-mother-of-the-year habit by January one?  I have my reasons.  Namely:  my kids celebratory 'woo-hoo it's Christmas break!' preceded them through the garage door entrance two weeks ago.  And it's not over.  By the time Monday rolls around and the grade school variety drag their unaccustomed-to-waking-before-9:00 am asses out of bed, they will have completed an astounding 18 days off of school.  The college kid will continue to bask in unemployment, supplied home cooked meals, sleep marathons, and no actual responsibilities for another week.  For the next  few days-and in some cases for over a week, I will bark reminders that dart guns belong in the basement, inhaling food is a kitchen activity, sleeping in clothes isn't acceptable, Xbox obsessions are unhealthy, tiny Lego landmines are painful, tossing still-folded clean clothes in the laundry room when too lazy to put them away is rude, and leaving a trail of belongings through the house is grounds for an ass kicking.

Since I don't outline a definitive list of resolutions, I arbitrarily add new adjustments to current systems as I go.  One such issue that needed a desperate update struck me when I returned home one afternoon.  Imagine mounds of dirty dishes - not organized neatly in the sink, but on every available surface, layered with discarded oatmeal packet and granola bar wrappers, partially eaten food, tipped over boxes of cereal, and a loaf of bread left open to encourage staleness.  Earlier that morning - well who are we kidding, it was late morning but with the kids on a sleep-late schedule it was early for us- I compiled a grocery list and darted to the store.

In order to shuttle the youngest four to a 1:05 movie, I called home from the store repeatedly.  I ordered the movie-going kids to eat a quick lunch and be dressed in coats and shoes.  Next I instructed them to meet me on the driveway to help unload the groceries.  Laddie was just waking up.  He and Eddie didn't want to see a movie.  Translation:  they planned to enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted video games.  Shoving in a few bites of lunch myself, I stuffed a few snacks in my purse to pass to the kids during the movie.  I asked Eddie and Laddie to decide who would unload the cold groceries and who would deal with the dirty dishes.  Eddie snagged the grocery detail and Laddie made a barely audible grunt signaling his acceptance of loading the dishwasher.

Start of a kitchen mess, but this is no where near as bad as it gets.
Hours later.  Hours.  I returned home to discover the dishes hadn't been touched.  Added to, perhaps, but not dealt with.   Ed was glued to the Xbox in the basement.  'Quit screaming,' he insisted, 'I put away the cold things like you asked.  Laddie didn't do anything and he left right after you did to go workout.'  At last a new approach was introduced . . .

I informed my offspring that they should be waiting for me when I return from the grocery store.  Most of what I buy I can't eat thanks to Celiac disease.  Eating is one of their favorite past times.  So . . . stand at the door and offer to help in any possible way.  I scolded Eddie for not taking it upon himself to unpack more groceries than just the assigned 'cold things.'  'It's time for you to all do things without being told,' I announced.  Go the extra mile.  Make your mother smile.  This attention to the MANY household tasks that take just a few moments when tackled by the small army that coexist in our home might alleviate the blue streak swearing issue I have adopted.

Ahh, clean dishes . . . I won't unload.
For the remainder of break I vow not to touch the dishwasher.  These sleepy heads can unload it when they decide to wake up and embrace the day.  I will ignore the kitchen disaster until they bother to address it.  Once unloaded, another sibling must take it upon him or herself to PUT THE DIRTY DISHES IN IT.  Novel concept, I know.  Since I prepare unbelievably delicious meals that are quickly devoured (last week I cooked 4 lbs of chicken in a honey mustard dish and ended up with almost NO LEFTOVERS!), the children - who have no sport or dancing practices in the evenings at the moment- will be responsible to handle the kitchen clean up.  If my terms aren't met, I will take myself out to dinner and refuse to feed them.  When Coach was home last night, I heard the clink of dishes being loaded into the washer.  Since these kitchen noises weren't accompanied by sibling disputes over who was working harder and who did what the night before, I knew right away that Coach was actually cleaning the kitchen.  'Stop!' I shouted.  'The kids need to do this or they won't be fed tomorrow.'

Coach scoffed at me, as if my new plan would falter and end up down the drain like a half eaten bowl of soggy cereal.  Ha, but changing things up isn't like a resolution!  My clean slate approach allows me the flexibility to install revisions wherever I see fit.

Now what the _uck happened in the laundry room?  It looks like a department store exploded in here.  Remember, I'm only going to attempt to clean up my four letter word addiction once the kids are back in school. 

January 1, 2017

Fa, la, la, la, la . . . Adding Craigslist-finds to an already complete shopping agenda

While I realize that this post is 'so last year', I insist on sharing more of my Christmas tales - this one featuring one of my shopping pitfalls.  Perhaps I will re-read this just
before next Christmas and vow not to head down a similar, slippery slope.  

American Girl dolls as Christmas gifts hadn't cropped up on my radar this year, because the gifts I had already purchased for my young daughters were perfectly acceptable.  Curly longed for Lego Friends.  I even jogged back to the store to exchange the small sets I had already purchased for a larger box after overhearing her tell Laddie her specific wish for Santa to deliver the Tree House Lego Friend Set.  Mini would be overjoyed to receive her first pair of Uggs.  This pricey purchase was made possible by the return of a few articles of clothing with return labels in tact.  While the returns were ancient, the store thrilled me by accepting them back and producing gift cards that I used to offset the hefty Ugg price tag.

The girls and their best friends joined me for brunch at the American Girl restaurant a week before Christmas to celebrate Curly's birthday.  Now as a last minute and unnecessary gift idea, I investigated whether or not there were any used and reasonably priced American Girl dolls for sale on Craigslist.  I emailed a few sellers about potential dolls that I knew the girls would be excited about and waited for them to respond.  It was hard to find a few spare minutes without a kid bursting into the study where I was conducting my online search.

In order to kill two birds with one stone, I called a woman back from Craigslist while I stood in line to collect a small Lego item I ordered for in-store pick-up.  Very few people had returned my email inquiries.  If I couldn't secure two dolls from the girls' favorites list, then the plan would stall.  With poor phone reception, I struggled to hear the woman.  Her raspy voice forced me to question whether or not her doll was coming from a smoke free environment.  She insisted it was.  I felt her price was a bit high, but I only managed to get her to lower it by 10 bucks.  Had time been on my side, I would've called her bluff when she hinted that she had two other people interested in the doll.  I pretended that I needed to speak to my sin-free husband, who managed to attend a confession service at Church while I raced around like a crazy person securing gifts for EVERYONE on our list.  I told her I'd shoot her an email later that night to confirm whether or not I would drive out to her house and pick it up.

On December 22nd I put the three tots I was sitting for down for naps, and bolted for Tinley Park to an address that was about 33 minutes from my house.  My older kids, who had already started winter break, assumed the babysitting role for my young charges.  I told no one where I was headed and realized later if this American Doll seller was a serial killer who was plotting to slit my throat, then my whereabouts would be tough to trace.  During the entire drive I reminded myself not to buy the doll if it smelled bad.  

I found the house with no problem.  The woman who opened the door was somewhat hunched over and appeared slightly deformed.  One of her eyes was angled out of the side of her head as if she were a direct descendant of Nemo's.  This misplaced eye was positioned higher on her head than her regular eye.  Since I was already focusing on trying not to stare, it took added concentration not to inhale the foul smell that permeated the home.   The doll looked fine.  I raised it up to my face to smell it, but realized it was impossible to pick up a scent in a house with such a strong, disgusting odor.  I wasn't convinced that the smell was a result of smoking.  Perhaps she dissected animals and stored their parts in formaldehyde.  It was THAT bad.

Moments later I found myself driving home with the undoubtedly smelly doll in my trunk under an old sweatshirt.  I scolded myself for not following my own do-not-buy-if-it-smells directions.  I tried to move forward.  I mentally checked 'doll pickup' off of my list, but felt my shoulders slump a bit as I added 'deodorize doll' to said list.  I hoped that Febreeze would be the answer.  

The next morning at 6:20 am I drove even farther - practically to Indiana - to collect the other doll.  This one was in great shape with a more reasonable price tag.  Go figure.  Coach's family Christmas get together was that evening, so when I got home I grabbed the Febreeze and bathed Ms. Smelly Nelly doll in my bathroom.  Throwing an old towel in the corner of my closet, I laid Smelly on the towel to dry.  I busied myself with food preparations for the celebration that evening, but every time I ended up back in my bathroom I noted the awful smell lingering from the perfumed Febreeze. 

We arrived late to the party, which was technically my fault.  I hadn't allowed enough time for me to handle every single step in departing from the house.  Silly me.  Instead the instructions and delegations I barked at other family members failed.  Mini loves to wrap presents, but when I asked her to wrap the gifts for Coach's side, she couldn't locate the tape.  I needed to stop cooking long enough to unearth the tape.  The frustrated search party that consisted of Coach and Mini were unable to find tape in the three locations that I had suggested, even though I discovered tape in all three places.   

Decorative dish with a few seasonal charms.

No one, translation:  me, had done a load of laundry in days.  The older boys failed to recognize that they had no clean clothes, not counting workout attire.  My dryer rarely completes a cycle by producing dry clothing.  At my command, Eddie ran upstairs at regular intervals to check for dampness, clean out the lint filter, and restart the dryer.   

The Rocky Road Fudge bars that I made in advance managed to fall off my radar.  They were done, but just before we left I realized that I hadn't cut them into squares.  I wasn't bringing the entire batch.  Since they were gluten free, I planned to leave a few bars at home for me to bring to my parents' house for my eating pleasure on Christmas.  Coach couldn't find the Christmas charm that I laid out on the dining room table to adorn the coordinating plate that I was bringing the dessert on.  After I spent more time than I care to admit cutting the mushy bars and placing them on the plate, I dug around on the dining room table to find the ceramic Christmas tree.  

Curly couldn't find her tights.  Whose belt could Eddie borrow?  He was banking on Santa bringing him a new one.  With half of the crew wearing damp pants, we finally filed into the car lugging the pretty dessert tray, a bag of wrapped gifts, and a huge pot of mashed potatoes buried in a beach towel in an attempt to keep them warm for the 45 minute drive.  Our tardy departure produced lots of grumbling aimed in my direction.  Seriously!

We got home at midnight.  Everyone dove into bed, except Laddie and I.  Laddie, who hates missing an opportunity to hang out with friends, grabbed his car keys.  I snuck Miss Smelly downstairs and perched in front of the computer to conduct a search on how to deal with a smelly American Girl Doll.  'Don't Febreeze it.'  Damn.  Wish I had read this post first.  There were different opinions.  Recognizing my time constraints, I chose the shampoo and conditioner option.  

Laddie arrived home at about 12:45 am and stood staring at me as I was squeezing excess water from Miss Smelly's hair.  Her clothes received a scrubbing with Ivory dish soap.  I rubbed a baking soda mixture on her cloth body and then wiped it clean with a damp cloth.  I scrubbed her hard plastic arms, legs, and face with baby wipes.   Finally, I laid her out on the towel under my handing clothes in my closet to dry.  I arranged the two Pac 'n Play portable cribs in front of her, so if anyone dared to enter my closet, they wouldn't notice her.  

The next morning was Christmas Eve.  I occasionally checked on Miss Smelly while I popped in and out of my closet organizing other hidden gifts to be wrapped.  A nap became an essential part of my pre-Christmas agenda.  Late that night after the kids were in bed, I dressed the mostly-dry doll in her freshly smelling outfit, fixed her wavy hair, and arranged her in a large white box with a big red ribbon just like her less smelly counterpart.  The girls were overjoyed.  

While the girls enjoy American Girl dolls, I have maintained a limited awareness of the dolls, their cost, and their availability.  After I shared my used doll adventure with a friend, she asked me how much the doll would have cost new.  I stuttered out that I was under the impression that the doll was retired, but I had never bothered to investigate it.  I believed American Girl Dolls were simply over-priced.  This morning I checked online to see how much the doll that cost me so much time and energy would've cost if I had purchased it at the store.  My chin dropped open when I saw that for only another $25 I could've bought the damn doll new.  Ouch.  New Year's resolution:  after working to stick to a budget, don't panic and add extras to an already complete shopping list.  I have to wonder if I had included my spouse in my master plan, if his perspective would've steered me from this frustrating debacle.