March 31, 2017

spring break - tight squeeze in one room

After hanging out in the warm indoor pool in Lake Geneva during our overnight stay, we retired to our room for the night.  That's right, 'room' as in singular.  We operate under the 'what they don't know will save us a bundle' philosophy.  The kids have grown accustomed to our ability to cram extra bodies into a hotel room.  They complain loud and long, but we usually make it work.

With sleeping bags and an air mattress in tow and a request to the front desk for a roll-away bed, we squeeze into the tight space ordering the kids to keep their complaints to a minimum.

Of course we tick the kids off even more by bringing our own food.  Filling a cooler with breakfast and lunch fixings cuts down on the potentially huge expense of feeding the crew at restaurants.  In addition I packed one huge bag with bread, cereal, granola bars, and other munchies.

Without the ability to lurk around undetected in extra rooms like he is accustomed to at home, Tank suffered.  He  was unable to sneak and ingest an entire huge package of anything in our close hotel quarters.

Transporting dinner to the hotel is a no-brainer for this seasoned cheapo.  Sunday morning before we left I plugged in a crock pot of leftover Chicken Tortilla Soup.  Despite the fact that my favorite small appliance was still toasty, I drove with it nestled between my calves on the ride up.  After we checked into the room, I plugged it in and a few hours later I served dinner in the comfort of our overcrowded hotel room.

Home sweet hotel room.  Our trusty crock pot and other food related debris.  You can barely see the tops of Mini and Curly's heads as they watch Happy Gilmore. 
As they inhaled their dinner, they draped their long bodies across the beds and the floor.  We tried to find something suitable for the entire family to watch.  What a chore!  Different ages and various interests translate to loud voices voting and begging for their movie pick.

Unfortunately, I held the remote.  If I clicked past something 'awesome', I heard moans.  When I failed to select something questionable, there were heavy sighs.  At last in order to gain more choices, we joined a free, month-long trial of Netflix offered by our hotel smart TV.

Turns out lots of choices is also a slippery slope.  After eternity passed, we settled on 'The Jungle Book.'  When it was finished we watched a few minutes of Adam Sandler in 'Happy Gilmore' as we assigned beds and encouraged everyone to go to sleep.
Tank shared space on my bed to watch TV.  He was given a sleeping bag on the floor for the night since he had the good fortune of going to Hilton Head for most of break.  Curly's knee is visible on her roll-away bed.  I hoped no one would need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night since walking space was non-existent. 

Curly announced that she couldn't find Baby Bear.  'Baby Bear' has been her sleeping companion since birth.  Her exhausted mother assured her that her tattered lovey was probably in the car.  This didn't thrill her.  The fact that she still cuddles up to a stuffed toy is grounds for serious sibling teasing, so she didn't make a fuss

She made a sad face and planted her head on the pillow on her roll-away bed that was wedged between the TV and the foot of my bed. 

I tried to remember why we thought it would be relaxing to all sleep in the same room.  Talk about family bonding.  I was drifting off to sleep but was jolted awake each time Coach scolded a kid for talking, or making the air mattress squeak, or some other infraction.

In the middle of the night, Coach and I awoke to Reggie's sobs.  Actual sobs.  So uncharacteristic.  He was cold.  Eddie had yanked all of the blankets from him.  Eddie woke up and covered Reg so we could continue enjoying sleeping in close proximity to one another.
This is Reggie's small body under the covers hours before his older brother Eddie pulled them from him accidentally in his sleep.  If Laddie had been with us, it would have been a bigger struggle to squeeze everyone in. 

I tend to think all of the effort that goes into hauling the family somewhere should mandate a lengthier stay.  At the same time, I must admit that I was relieved to think that we wouldn't be 'sleeping' (and I use the term loosely) in the same room again the next night.  

March 29, 2017

spring break - day trips to please the masses

Since we wanted to do something as a family before Tank took off for his own exciting spring break, I devised a plan.  Coach's weekend class and my desire not to leave Laddie out of anything major limited the choices.   Not to mention the always present budget. 
The golden dome, Notre Dame.

the grotto, Notre Dame
Thanks to the promise of beautiful weather, the kids' Friday half day schedule, and two cousins at college at ND and Saint Mary's, we elected to make tracks for South Bend for the day.  Construction traffic extended our time in the car, but eventually we arrived, met up with cousins, walked around the campuses, and enjoyed a tasty pizza dinner out at a popular hot-spot.

Our next adventure included an overnight stay at a hotel in Lake Geneva.  When the girls and I stayed there a few weeks ago for an Irish dancing competition, the hotel offered a discounted rate for a return visit.  Did someone say discount?  Bingo!  Coach agreed to leave his course a bit early on Sunday and take Monday off in order to accommodate the getaway. 

Eddie- no fragile finger syndrome!
The hotel has a great indoor fitness center.  We found the b-ball court empty so all 7 of us participated in a scrappy basketball scrimmage.   It wasn't easy accommodating our family's wide age range and ability level.  None of the injuries incurred were completely devastating, but I will say that Coach's backward pass intended for a teammate but instead hitting me directly in the face at close range was rather unexpected and painful.  Curly sniffled over a bloody lip thanks to Tank.  Perhaps because she is my mini-me, Mini copied her mother catching a pass with her nose.   
I'm not sure if there is a name for my condition, but if I had to guess I'd call it 'fragile fingers syndrome'.  My fingers tend to take a beating in basketball.  They jam, bend backwards, or just ache in general.  I can't even claim that this is due to my somewhat 'advanced age'.  When I actually played on a team back in 7th grade, I broke a finger during one of our practices.

As you can imagine, my younger brothers found this mishap hilarious.  For years if I bumped into something, they'd feign concern and rush to my side asking me if I thought I had broken a finger.  

Anytime Curly or Mini rubbed a complaining body part during our game, Tank released a heavy sigh and reminded everyone that this was not Irish dancing.  Fortunately we left all grudges back on the court as we made our way to relax in the pool. 
water polo - I didn't participate this time.
Ping pong table near the pool - bonus for family members who can't get enough of competition.
swimmers checking out ping pong competition

Before we headed home the next day, we enjoyed some more basketball drills and pool time.  On our drive home, Eddie shared that the highlight of the stay was watching his mother attempt to play basketball.  I think it's a real gift that I am able to entertain my children without even trying. 

March 28, 2017

spring break - the budget and logistics angle

Ah, spring break.  That time of year when most people head to a warmer climate leaving our budget conscious family to chill out in town.  Operative word being 'chill'.
With few friends around to invite to our house and no one requiring my babysitting services, I had visions of tackling some closet/mudroom/study/basement-toy-area reorganization tasks.  Bottom line - eliminate!  

Right off the bat, I knew that the slobs I live with, a.k.a. my children, weren't all that focused on overhauling a single corner of our home.  In order to keep the troops happy, I agreed to schedule some fun into our week off of school and sitting.  Besides, if Tank was hopping on a plane, I felt it was only fair that the rest of us kick back a bit.  I'm getting ahead of myself . . .
A few months ago, Tank was fortunate enough to be invited to Hilton Head with his best friend's family.  When they asked him, it was all I could do not to whisper subliminally into the phone, 'take me, take me!'
Thankfully the males of the family take on the tent set up duty.  I try to keep true family identity a secret, but I couldn't help post this one despite Reg's photo bomb from in the tent!  
Before he accepted the invite, Tank asked me if our family would be traveling anywhere at the same time.  That almost made me laugh.  Although we did travel to the DC/Virginia area for spring break a few years ago, that trip was an uncommon event for us.  (This is link to a lengthy post that I still need to edit  about a very scary part of that trip!)  We usually roll with the:  'hey-let's-camp-in-a-national-park-this-summer-since-it's-cheap' annual travel agenda.
This from our trip to Glacier.  June 2017.  Hours before the coldest and longest night of my life.  Next night unwilling to brave the scary wind gusts - we moved to a cozy, rustic cabin . . . a.k.a. heaven on earth!
Tank claimed he didn't want to miss out on any of our family activities, so I made an effort to figure out something to do before he went out of town on Tuesday.  Since Coach planned to attend a local course for his fellowship on Saturday and Sunday before working all week, our options were limited.  

As usual Coach and I wondered how families can afford to jet somewhere over spring break, and most likely head out of town again in the summer.  Perhaps their grocery bills don't top $400 bucks on a weekly basis allowing them the wiggle room necessary to invest in travel.  
Setting the cost factor aside, I can't wrap my brain around the logistics.  IF Coach was to take time off of work, we'd still need to deal with the fact that college-kid Laddie is now on a different schedule than the rest of our gang. How do families manage that issue?  While Eddie might not be penalized for missing varsity water polo practice at high school (our water polo program isn't overflowing with extra players waiting to fill an empty position - unlike Ed's more mainstream h.s. winter sport of basketball), he still prefers to attend practice with his teammates. 

While I tossed around a few ideal spring break day trips for the family, I reminded myself that soon friends, classmates, acquaintances, strangers, and even my own son Tank will pop up in the grocery store, the school, the health club, and the library after basking in the sun during their relaxing holidays. 

Their skin will be a few shades darker, and their exotic cornrows will boast of their adventures.  My pale face will smile.  I'll politely inquire through gritted teeth where they were lucky enough to visit. 

This is why I MUST accomplish some organization project on the home front.  I need to be able to  secretly bask in the knowledge that my closets are more organized than theirs. (That satisfaction will only make me feel marginally better).

Tune in to find out what we decided to squeeze in over spring break with our limited time, money, and family members . . .
I'm just noting that Tank is mysteriously missing from these tent set up pictures.  How did he escape tent duty?  I wonder if this is when he was flagging down a ranger to give me instructions on how to deal with a tick in my scalp.  One of the few benefits of having thin hair.  That bugger didn't stand a chance.  Ah, sweet camping.  Note to self:  still lots of unbelievable camping stories to blog about from Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, and Glacier!

March 25, 2017

big-hearted benchwarmer

I got an email from Tank's (short for Tetanka) basketball coach/gym teacher today.  Mr. Un (as in I'm unimpressed with this man on an ongoing basis) sent this alert out to all of the parents of the 8th grade boys' basketball team.  He wanted to make us aware that the 8th grade boys were goofing around during lunch.

When their lunch period ends, this group of teenage boys roll into their gym class still in goof-ball mode reliving the precious glory 'minutes' of how funny they were during lunch.  In other words, they are still bragging about the shit they pulled in lunch and seem to be feeling that they are above the law.  There was a reference to a boy spitting water at another boy, who ducked.  Another kid got nailed with spewed water.  

First of all, let me just say as a mother to a handful of teenage boys, nothing would surprise me.  Furthermore, I survived a three year stint as a substitute teacher.  Most of my assignments landed me in a somewhat undesirable junior high because most subs refused to go there.  I've seen it all.  

I arrived at Tank's away basketball game after school and sat near a few of the other moms.  I don't gravitate towards any mom here in particular.  Instead, I try to be friendly while leaving a few rows between us.  There's a reason for the obligatory few rows . . .

There is one couple who verbally dispute EVERY call.  We've all seen our fair share of bad calls but seriously.  'He traveled!'  'That was a foul'. 'Are they going to let him do that?' 'He was out of bounds.'  It's irritating.  To top it off, their kid thinks his shit don't stink.  Since Thanksgiving break, the mom, Carolyn, has been harping on the school's extreme discipline policies.  I don't suppose it has occurred to her that her kid IS acting like a disruptive pain in the watoosie at school.  Her older son plays on the high school team with Eddie.  Let's just say it's been a long basketball season.

I casually asked the other moms if they had seen Mr. Un's email. They had.  Carolyn informed me that Tank eats lunch during a different period, so he wasn't lumped in with the naughty kids.  

I know Tank usually eats with one of his closest friends, so I suspected that he wasn't involved in the lunch table shenanigans of the other players.  I didn't realize that he wasn't even in the same lunch as those other boys. Leave it to Carolyn to know who eats in which lunch period.  I guess I'm just fortunate to have enough other things to deal with in life that breaking down who is in what lunch isn't a priority for me. 

Mr. Un invited the parents to get involved and encourage their kids to clean up their acts.  He sort of suggested/threatened to limit kids' playing time if they didn't correct their issues.  

Tank is not perfect.  Far from it.  In fact, he's quite impulsive and goofy.  He's also very tall, but not necessarily seasoned at the game of basketball.  A late bloomer.  As much as we despise travel sports, Coach arranged for him to tryout for travel basketball once a few years ago.  He didn't make it.  Ouch.  The catch 22 here is that he doesn't see much playing time on the school team, and finding his way to make a team outside of school that will help him develop is a struggle.

After the game, I confirmed with Mr. Un that Tank was not one of the boys showcasing bad behavior during this debacle detailed in his email.  Mr. Un assured me that Tank wasn't at fault.  What happened next actually elevated Mr. Un's standings by a few points.  Just before he led the boys out to the waiting bus, he turned and shared a positive tidbit about my kid.  I was impressed that he appreciated what he told me . . .

'Tank has been doing a great job in gym class with this other kid.  Well, Tank - you can tell her about it,' he directed before he disappeared out the door.  Turns out there is an autistic 8th grade boy who is new to the school this year.  Tank makes a daily effort to chat with the kid to make him feel welcome during gym class.  Score one for the big hearted bench warmer!

At the risk of playing the helicopter parent, I am planning to respond to Mr. Un's email and flat out request that he does limit the hooligans' playing time.  As Tank pointed out to me on the drive home, he feels like he is the hardest working kid at practice and it bums him out to be one of the last kids off the bench.   

A little history. . . my beefs with Mr. Un, in no particular order:  #1.  Last year he yelled at a kid on Tank's 7th grade basketball team with the damaging:  'You suck at basketball!'  Regardless of the fact that this negative comment wasn't directed at my kid, I still wanted to alert the school.  I may be a self proclaimed old-school mom, but crushing a kid's self esteem at this age is wrong.  Tank begged me not to make a fuss about it.  I kept my mouth shut - against my will.

#2.  Mr. Un hesitates to put his second string players in until we are leading the other team by more than 14 points.  By the time the bench hops in the game cold, the buzzer is about to ring.  Trust me here, I don't get overly steamed about it.  It is just junior high basketball - but that's just it . . . IT'S JUST JUNIOR HIGH BASKETBALL!  Let's give kids more of a chance to gain some experience.  

Eddie played for this same coach back when he was in junior high.  He was an outstanding player, and usually saw a ton of playing time.  Despite my love of watching my kid play, I cringed to see the kids who weren't given a chance.  Their body language said it all.  They drooped and slouched from their positions at the end of the bench.  I swear - it made my blood boil back then, not just now when it's my kid's turn to warm the bench.  Swear.

The school's motto is 'Character Counts'.  I included this reminder in my email when I asked that the coach consider this when he decides who is going to monopolize the majority of the minutes in the game.  I gently asked him to give a kid like Tank, who makes an effort to help a struggling classmate settle in, a leg up in the playing time department.  For what it's worth.

So, share your thoughts with me - would you email the coach or leave it alone?

March 23, 2017

Prince's memorable performance (part 2)

(continued from Prince's memorable performance) . . . I don't recall that the fuzzy, black and white show was all that interesting probably because I either hadn't seen any of the movies being praised or heard of any of the bands being awarded.

Prince was seated at the piano playing and singing between award presentations.  Just as he began to holler freakishly authentic bird-type noises while simultaneously ripping open his white shirt featuring a fluffy white pirate-like tie, Mom entered the room.

I felt dirty.

The show had of course been harmless up until that exact moment.  Mom's timing was impeccable.  My brothers and I had no explanation.  We were at a loss for words.  Not that Mom waited around for us to defend our position of innocence.

I swear time stood still but Prince's goofy antics became more and more unpalatable.  There was an owl on the set.  It may have even been perched on Prince's arm or shoulder.  It was such a jarring experience that I'm surprised that I don't remember it more clearly.
Prince appeared to be making love to his grand piano.  Frozen and frightened, my brothers and I just watched as Mom lost it.

'What!' she exclaimed.  The word wasn't being used in conjunction with a question.  I suppose the question was implied.  The instant she snapped out of the 5 second trance she had been in while her face tightened and reconfigured, she marched forward while waving her arms above her head.

'Turn this CRAP off!' she insisted.  Again, none of us moved -probably because she had struck the power button with enough force to turn the television off herself and push the whole damn set back a few inches on Mike's dresser.   An inch of dust typically hidden under the antique TV revealed itself.

Although Pat was younger than me, he was the epicenter of my parents' universe.  That alone ticked me off to no end.  Moments like these, however, when our mother glared at him because she expected better of him- I felt overcome with a sense of relief and joy.

As the older sister without a television in my bedroom, I was tempted to point out to her that perhaps my younger brothers shouldn't have a TV in their bedroom in the first place.

It had been ages since Mom had decided the boob-tube belonged in the boys' room.  My sisters were a few years older than me.  They didn't seem impacted by this kind of inequity.  I was less than a year older than Pat, so this kind of thing hit me right between the eyes.  I struggled with these gender-biased issues despite how commonplace they were in our Irish Catholic family.  Besides - I knew from past experience, the more I objected the more I would be forced to cope with unending gloating from my favored brothers.

Instead of pointing out the obvious, I decided to let the trauma Mom had endured work its magic as I quietly slunk back to my quiet and TV-less bedroom.

March 21, 2017

my childhood wardrobe limitations

My kids give me an eye-roll when I suggest they wear something to school that doesn't look like they slept in it.  (In Tank's case, he usually has slept in it).  I recall the days when they once attended Catholic school.  They were required to wear uniforms.  Back then, they looked, well . . . uniform.

After my recent struggle to get them to wear something presentable to school because we had an event at 3:30, I wondered how they would've handled my childhood wardrobe limitations. 

I held the distinction in my family of 5 siblings of being the middle child AND the youngest sister.  Freakishly, I was also the tallest sister.  My budget conscious folks believed strongly in hand-me-downs.  With five kids, who could blame them?  My life might have been a bit more pleasant, however, if they had recognized that the tallest sister shouldn't be expected to wear the clothes that were too small for the shorter, older sisters.  Dare I say, 'Duh!'

In 1982 when I was in 6th grade, knickers were introduced as the latest fad.  I was elated.  At last, clothes that wouldn't be considered too short for me.  Fashionable knickers buttoning at the knee were this tall girl's dream.  So long as that trend lasted, I didn't stand out.
Attending a Catholic grammar school should've been a blessing because of our school uniform requirement.  Unfortunately, my classmates mostly consisted of wealthy, entitled children.  I was  sneered at for merely existing.  My white, uniform blouse with the pathetic Peter Pan collar, and lack of Izod label didn't compare with the sturdy cotton, button-down collar blouses embellished with a polo horse or an alligator that most of the other girls wore.  many of the 'preppy girls' as we called them, wore their collar up.  Not an option with a flimsy Peter Pan collar.  My appearance didn't help my social standings.

My family was financially comfortable, but sensible.  Dad was an accountant.  He tracked all expenditures.  There was no wiggle room for non-essentials.  A wealthy aunt from Texas sent my sister a bright colored, striped Izod polo shirt for her birthday one year.  My siblings and I leaned in  and let out a communal 'oohhh' when she opened the box.

Mom asked for one of us to get her ripper from her sewing box.  We watched as she carefully ripped off the little alligator emblem . . . much to our shock.  'If they can't be friends with you when you don't wear the right clothes, then they aren't good enough to be your friends anyway.'

Glasses with curvy arm.
I hated school because I often felt like an outcast.  When I wasn't yanking at my winter uniform corduroy floods, I was pushing up my 'upside-down-styled' glasses or trying to fluff my boy-styled short hair-do compliments of Mom's razor blade and obsession with short hair.

Glasses with arms attached at the base of the frames and curving up to the ear were the latest look.  Mom helped me choose a pair when I needed to replace my glasses in 6th grade.  The craze was short lived, but so long as my prescription didn't change I was stuck wearing the outdated, silly looking frames.  My two, younger, wise-ass brothers enjoyed flipping their glasses upside down in order to imitate me.  I so preferred the knickers phase to the upside down glasses one.

Since all good things must come to an end, I was the last nerd our family produced.  My two younger brothers had it made in the shade.  For one, my pair of cost-conscious grandmothers who willingly sewed clothes for their grandchildren, neglected to create clothes for boys.  Enough said?  My brothers' wardrobe freedom was coupled with the fortunate fact that they were both athletic.

While neither of my older sisters ever exhibited any athleticism, my mediocre athletic ability developed slowly.  My involvement on any team was so unexpected that it offered more of a humor component to our family's focus, than let's say an element of pride.  My folks dwelled heavily on my bros and their tendency to be jocks.

Jocks who weren't wearing matching, polyester print garments sewn with love by devoted grandmothers. Jocks with gender acceptable short hair cuts.  Jocks who weren't expected to wear older sisters' floods.  Jocks whose eyeglasses always looked right-side up.  Jocks who were accepted because even if they weren't fashionable they contributed something to the team.  Jocks who didn't rely on knickers to escape embarrassing short pants.

My personal history with floods, short-lived fads, and hand me downs means I am incredibly sensitive to the importance having decent clothing options.  My kids are so lucky. They have no idea that their occasional 'church clothes' dress code is nothing compared to the embarrassing ensembles I once sported. 

March 19, 2017

school wardrobe

Yesterday I needed to pick up my junior high kids from school early.  My dad heard a holocaust survivor speak about her experience at our parish last year.  My family wasn't able to attend, and my history-buff father was hoping for a do-over ever since.  He heard that she would be in the area on Friday, so I agreed to take the kids out of school a bit early in order to get to her location on time.  

I insisted that my kids wear something presentable to school.  We wouldn't have time for changing clothes.  I define 'presentable' as clothing that matches, that is not typically worn in a basketball game, that is appropriate for the weather, and that fits properly.  I wasn't asking for a sport coat and tie, or tights and patent leather shoes.

The girls had no issue dressing in something 'normal'.  The boys were another story.

It seems almost physically impossible for Reggie to dress in something other than a Bulls jersey or workout shirt and athletic shorts.  No matter what the weather - he wears shorts under his workout pants and stuffs the pants in his locker when he gets to school.  The current 5th grade trend is that 'cool' boys wear shorts during the school day despite the frigid Chicago winters.
typical winter wear for Reggie!

Since I don't give a shit if Reg is cool, I informed him that he was to reserve shorts for PE class during the winter months.  I may not be able to see him during his school day, but I have my sources. 

I recently bought Reggie a pair of jeans.  They fit him perfectly, and I told him that I would require him to wear them.  With three older brothers, you would expect Reg to be thrilled to own new clothes minus holes, stains, or worn out waistbands.  Nope.

Since Coach and I are 'old-school', we insist that the kids refrain from wearing jeans or workout pants to Church each week.  Because of this rule, Reggie refers to anything that doesn't resemble a rag as 'church clothes.'  Tank owns two pairs of pants that are essentially colored jeans:  khaki and green.  These pass the family-instituted church wardrobe requirement.

Tanks' closet with clothes shoved under hanging clothes.
When I discovered these typically pricey Mavi jeans at my favorite department store, I began to stalk the sales rack for them.  I snag the 32/34 or 33/34 or 34/34 sizes whenever they get marked down in order to outfit my tall teens in these awesome duds.  These guys grow like weeds, so the minute one pair looks too short for one brother we toss them to the next shortest male sibling.

Friday morning, Tank claimed he couldn't find the casual jean-like pants.  Have no fear - smart mama was there!  I peeked in his drawers.  How silly that I thought clean clothes might have been stored there.  A moment later I was dragging wadded up, mostly-clean laundry from under the hanging clothes in Tank and Reggie's closet.

There in the middle of the mess was the tan jeans and new shirt that Tank recently wore to church.

Just before Tank could celebrate the fact that these clothes were too wrinkled to wear, I announced that I would iron the outfit for him.  I don't iron.  Tank got the message.  He was not off the 'dressing decent' hook just because he was a slob.

Notice the rugby collar he tried to hide under the bulls zip up.  He has a special hatred for corduroys. 
Before we walked out the door to school, I wrestled with Reggie and won.  My hip 5th grader had forced a Bulls zip-up over his worn-against-his-will, bulky, striped rugby shirt.  The thought of wearing a collared shirt to school had him coming unglued.

As a result of Reggie's 'I'm-too-cool-to-wear-that-to-school' approach to dressing himself, I agreed to lay out his clothing for the upcoming school week . . . whether he liked it or not.

One outfit I dressed him in.  Looks painful, right?  I wonder if he will try to contact DCFS on me. 
After that eventful morning, I couldn't help but imagine my kids experiencing my wardrobe issues as a child . . . check out 'my childhood wardrobe limitations' post tomorrow!

March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day - just another day!

I wanted to write something for St. Patrick's Day.  As usual the things I hope to get done are a low priority compared to the things that MUST get done.  Today was no exception.

I began the day (after I raced around getting my sleepy kids ready for school - note to self:  make them go to bed earlier) by jotting down what I was going to accomplish. 

All that was left of Irish soda bread tonight, but I'll be baking more tomorrow.
Bake Irish soda bread, deliver warm soda bread to Coach's work, attend a workout class wearing awesome shamrock workout pants, pay a mountain of bills, throw in at least one load of laundry, run up to Curly's school with Irish dancing gear so she could perform for her 3rd grade classmates, drop off tax paperwork to our accountant, watch Eddie's water polo game, arrange carpools for two birthday parties tomorrow because Coach is working and I will be at Eddie's water polo tournament for a chunk of the day, pick Mini up from a birthday party, and create a hilarious St. Patrick's Day post.  

Guess what got done?  Everything . . . except writing for my blog.
Shamrocks appeared smaller at the store . . . then I put them on!

I don't babysit for the munchkins on Friday.  It was slightly inconvenient that St. Pat's fell on my catch-all day.  Regular everyday stuff collided with being-Irish activities.  I admit that it was nice to not add 'dinner' to my list.  Coach wanted to make dinner.  I don't eat fish.  He planned to make salmon.  I don't enjoy the smell of fish.  At least he grilled it.  Still, I should've added to my list:  remove the fish smell from my house.

Coach and I have plans to go to a party tomorrow night, but the kids scoffed at me for not racing to  an Irish bar tonight.  I reminded them that we are Irish everyday.  Driving to Irish dancing practice three nights a week in addition to shuffling to Irish music lessons another night fulfills my quota for celebrating my Irish-ness. I am surrounded regularly by Irish tunes, Irish dance steps, and our offspring's Irish faces.  I consider that box checked. 

Now that it's after 9 pm, I'm finally sitting in front of my computer.  My creative juices might not cooperate.  I was grappling all day with which Irish angle I would approach - when I finally found the time.  Hard to know where to start . . .

There's my Irish upbringing.  I hated that my folks made me take Irish dance lessons for 8 years.  I danced like a newborn colt.  Being tall, my lack of control over my floppy legs interfered with my ability to rake in many medals.  I once asked my mom if I could quit.  She explained that I was the bonus kid. 

My folks paid $3 a piece for my sisters to dance each week.  The third dancer was a buck.  If I quit, our family would lose out on that incredible deal of a lifetime.  Somehow this made sense to me, and I accepted my role as the 'one-buck-bonus' dancer.  

My brother, Pat, was always hailed for his wonderful tin whistle playing.  I asked if I could take whistle lessons too.  I felt that I had a better chance of discovering my hidden talent if judges weren't concerned that I might kick them in the face. 

My parents explained that they were already paying for Pat to take lessons.  They suggested that I arrange for Pat to teach me.  Again with the bargain mentality.  After swallowing my older-sister pride, I attend a few scheduled lessons.  There was barely enough room in Pat's bedroom for me and his ego. 

Curly got a lot of mileage out of this t-shirt.
Those few afternoons ended with a heightened dislike of my brother and a few dents in my brand new tin whistle.  Being Irish wasn't as easy as it looked.

Years later I spent my junior year in Ireland.  What an experience . . . and the stories!  Endless.

Now, I have Irish dancers, who love it!  They wear leg tanner, wigs, and pricey dresses - which none of us love.  I had a t-shirt made for Curly when she was a toddler.  She wore the shirt to her older sibling's competitions.  Her pile of blond curls inspired me.  The t-shirt read:  'Reel dancers don't wear wigs.' 

Oh, how I miss the days of $1 lessons, real hair, and natural skin color.  I now pay my brother and his wife to teach my kids Irish music.  Dealing with his ego is still a struggle

So you see, lots of Irish angles.  Not enough time to tell them all tonight.  Stay tuned . . .  

March 14, 2017

big boy chapstick

I've lied to my kids.  I think we can all agree, they don't need to know everything.  'How much money does Daddy get paid at his job?' - that might be a bad example, because rather than lie I just refuse to answer that one.  My little white lies about none of their business shit can't compare to the untruths I've witnessed young parents today spew at their children.  

A few weeks ago, Theodore's mom Gretta, whose kids I sit for, texted me after she dropped off her two boys at my house.  'I put a tube of vaseline in diaper bag for Theodore's 'saliva red face issues'.  Could you put in on once or twice?  We call it Big Boy Chapstick to soften his hate of it.'  

Gretta and Simon, Theodore's dad, are experts at sugar coating, sweet talking, and choices.

For example, Simon showed up one day in the fall to drop Theodore and his little brother Gilbert off.  Theodore was hesitant at drop off.  Who could blame him for wanting to hang with parents who cushion his world with high pitched accolades and an agree-to-everything attitude?  I admit that I have a tendency to shake things up in Theodore's world a bit in order to counter his parents' approach.  I like to think of it as balance.

So on this hesitant morning a few months ago shortly after Theodore turned 3, Dad tried to coax Theodore into his 'happy place' by asking me what we were going to do that day.  'I was leaning towards the zoo, but now that it's raining I might decide to go to the library.'

'Did you hear that Theodore?  It sounds like you are going to have CHOICES,' clueless-dad-of-the-year Simon announced accentuating the word 'choices.'  I couldn't withhold my shock.  I'm not paid enough to play along.  'Well, I'm going to decide where we go.  No choices for the tots.  Where we go just depends on the weather,' I breathed as I forced a smile across my intolerant-of-idiot-parents face. 

So, I had no problem smearing greasy vaseline all over Theodore's raw skin.  I just couldn't call it 'big boy chapstick.'  My kids swallowed bad tasting medicine when they were little.  They hated it.  It's a necessary evil.  Life is full of them.  

Theodore tried to correct me, 'In my family we call it big boy chapstick.'  It seemed like he knew that this goofy label wasn't the legitimate name for it.   

When Gretta picked up that day, Theodore outed me.  'Ernie calls my big boy chapstick submarine.'  

'No,' I chuckled, 'I call it vaseline.'  Note to Gretta:  save lies for bank account balances, why Aunt Suzie talks to herself, and the affair that lead to your neighbor's divorce.  

March 12, 2017

coughing fit interrupted

Coach and I recently visited Mesa, Arizona while he was taking a course.  We were there last year for a long weekend when he attended another seminar.  Last year we followed a recommendation and ate at a restaurant on Gilbert.  We ended up eating most of our meals at this hot spot on a lively, little stretch in town that was home to many great eateries and bars.  This year with our limited time, we returned to the area each night.  We were never disappointed. 

We chose to revisit a Mexican restaurant called Joy Ride.  Last year, Coach ordered something that he raved about.  Although it wasn't marked as gluten free, once he had devoured every morsel (and had nothing left to share) we discovered from our waitress that it lacked gluten.  Although I had eaten something delicious, I wished I had realized that Coach's food didn't pose a threat to my health.   

This time we both looked forward to feasting on the savory entree that I had missed out on.  After checking in to request a table, we ventured out to the patio where a waitress could take our drink order.  Our anticipated wait time was 15 minutes.  Grabbing a menu, we began to look it over in search of Coach's yummy entree from our previous visit.  

I had managed to muffle my cough for most of the day.  Once while I relaxed at the pool, I had a momentary outburst.  I'm confident the older women surrounding my lounge chair wondered why I hadn't been quarantined.   

Now with no warning I began to gasp for air between my deep, painful coughs.  Fortunately there was a breakfast restaurant next-door that was closed until morning.  In order to move away from the patrons at the Joy Ride, I staggered over to the empty outdoor seating area and leaned up against the wall.  Bent at the waist, I reached into my purse for my wad of kleenex to deal with my 'productive' cough.

I assumed Coach would follow me over to where my cough had banished me.  After a few minutes, I felt someone's presence next to me.  I turned slightly and saw a young man standing next to me.  I assumed he had approached me to ask me if I was OK.  

Instead, he introduced himself to me.  'Hi, I'm Brad and this is Charity,' he motioned to a young woman next to him.  I waved a hand at him in an attempt to dismiss him.  I assumed he would understand my intended unspoken message:  'I'm fine, thanks.'  After all, spitting phlegm in a kleenex while struggling to move air outside a trendy restaurant wasn't exactly the most opportune time to make acquaintances.   

The couple stayed put.  'This might not be the best timing since you are coughing so much,' he continued undeterred.  'But we are from the church down the street.  We are concerned with the state of our nation and we are walking around tonight offering to pray with various individuals.'  

Where the hell was Coach?

I continued to focus on the task at hand:  breathing.  I attempted to wave them off again with a flick of my wrist.  No luck.  They remained.  Could there be a hidden camera embedded in one of the nearby portable heaters?  

'I'm sorry I didn't understand that,' he acted as if he had missed my response.  There was no responding, since words took a backseat to coughing.  A few more minutes ticked by as I was ogled by these two do-gooders on a mission to pray with people in a popular dining area on a Saturday night.  Who does that?  I was trapped in a public area making a spectacle of myself wishing for a bit of privacy.  

'Um, do you want some water?' Brad asked at last.  I shook my head and tried once again to wave them away.  A minute later- they FINALLY wandered off.  Coach walked up with the menu still in hand.  'Where were you?' I hissed between coughs.  'I was over there reading the menu.  What did those people want?' he wondered. 

I whipped off my jean jacket to deal with my accumulating perspiration and assumed my position doubled over using the wall for support.  I fumbled around in my purse for my last few kleenexes.

Just then we were alerted that our table was ready.  My coughing fit had lingered for 15 minutes.  I took a few short breaths hoping to control my coughing fit so that I could sit down at the table.  

Coach and I managed to enjoy our individual orders of the infamous chicken burrito bowl and a few good chuckles about the odd approach of Brad and Charity.  This evening would definitely fall under the category of 'I just can't make this stuff up.'

March 10, 2017

Not a bag lady

I am not a 'pursey' type.  I own one purse at a time.  There is no stash of great bag options stowed away in a corner of my closet.  For me time is too precious to rotate purses in and out of use based on seasons, sizes, and occasions.  As a result my bag gets dragged through all situations that a busy mom endures.  Before long my purse boasts a well-loved life evidenced with scratches, pen smudges, dried milk drips, and other undesirable stains.  

I don't remember how long my current purse fulfilled its role as my catch-all, but if I had to guess I'd say it was going on three or four years.  The purse was red.  Red purses are not meant to transition through years of fads and phases.  This handbag      should've been put out to pasture long ago.

I'm particular.  I have specific requirements in a purse.  There must be an outside pocket.  Outside pockets are key to my mom survival.  I like to toss stuff in their so that I don't have to dig through the entire purse to locate my must-haves.  Size is huge - I mean size is important.  I don't want an enormous purse and I can't fit what I need inside a tiny purse.  I prefer soft leather to stiff, stand-on-its-own leather.  Well, there's another requirement . . . leather.  No tassels or other fad-like embellishments.  A light color can quickly become a canvas for all of the spills and stains I'd rather not showcase.  

Done with red.  An awesome orange number proceeded the red one - until a pen exploded in it while on a whirlwind trip to Gettysburg with my Dad and ten kids.  (I think we are all lucky that the pen is the only thing that exploded on that trip).  Short straps that land my leather companion tucked just under my armpit work best for me.  Big cumbersome buckles to open the purse slow me down too much.  Avoid!  Finally, I like a sturdy, name-brand bag (particularly if I need it to last for years), but I try to steer clear of the crazy pricey variety.  

I've been looking casually for a new purse for over a year.  Since I'm not a purse fanatic, I can't say my search was constant and committed.  I looked at the sale racks at my favorite department store from time to time.  Too big, too pricey, too ugly.  Knowing my red deal was growing into quite the embarrassing, eye-soar led me to concentrate a bit more lately on honing in on a purchase.   

One day a few weeks ago, I was at the mall with the squirrels I sit for.  As I made my way back from the play area, which is the treat the kids are entitled to after I handle a few returns or quick browsing of the sale racks in my favorite department store, I steered the stroller towards the purse section.  

Theodore was busting at the seams to pee.  Just before we tore off in the direction of the restrooms, I saw it.  A beautiful brown Marc Jacobs bag.  The price was reduced from $550 to a more palpable $137. Seriously!  Oh, how I love an adrenaline rush from a great deal.  Who would pay $550 for a purse?  That's about as much as two weeks of groceries for our family of 8.  I can't do it.  

Fortunately the saleslady wasn't busy.  She noticed how busy I was.  I tossed the bag on the counter as I barely slowed the stroller down.  I called my name and number over my shoulder.  'Can you please hold this for me?  I'll call when I got home and have a minute to give you my credit card info.  This guy's about to wet his pants.'  She chuckled and set the purse aside for me.  Free shipping.  Have I mentioned that I love this department store?  

It arrived a few days later.  While I waited for it to be delivered, I hoped that I liked it as much as I recalled from my brief encounter with it.  Was it too big?  Was the leather soft enough?

We were reunited a few days later.  The Marc Jacobs is a bit bigger than I prefer, but close enough.  I don't mind being able to stuff my iPad in it.  The slightly firmer leather has already grown on me.  I love it.  

My best friend, Fozzy, has instructed me to use the cheap le sac bag as a 'mom purse'.  I picked up the black purse for less than $25 on clearance out of desperation just after Christmas.  'Beat up on that one, and save the nice purse for times when you are a grown up going out!' Foz ordered me.  

My trip to Arizona in early February was my first opportunity to be a grown up and utilize my new beautiful bag!

March 8, 2017


Theodore is a kid I babysit for.  My older kids frequently shake their head when they observe this kid and groan, 'He's gonna get beat up . . .  regularly, when he's older.'  

A bit of background on Theodore:  he's a sweet, petite blond boy with ears that are overly proportioned to his head.  Theodore is three.  His parents are well intentioned people who speak to him in unnatural, sickeningly sweet voices.  I suspect their mission in life is to prevent him from ever being slightly unhappy.  So realistic.  They rarely utilize the word 'no.'  Instead they explain situations - ultimately talking him to death.  Puke.

Theodore is a very good boy.  He's wound tighter than a first born's car seat buckles on the drive home from the hospital.  His self-policing tendencies are mind-blowing.  He MUST tell me (thru tears) that he pushed his little brother down.  Leaving out his motivation for doing so wouldn't even cross his self-conscious mind.  

When Theodore started getting dropped off in late August of 2015 when he was 22 months old, he eagerly raced into our house.  Eventually he went through a little phase where he clung to his mom and begged for one more hug, one more kiss, etc.  Mom obliged each time.  She failed to grasp the advantages of the quick-drop approach.

During Mom's maternity leave a few months later, Dad started to drop off Theodore once a week to give Mom a break.  Imagine the energy required to speak in a fake, 'put-on' tone all day?  More exhausting than caring for a newborn.  Theodore, over the hump of turning on the tears at drop-off, raced into the family room and looked for his favorite toys.  

Dad lingered.  He bid the kid good-bye multiple times.  'OK, I'm really going to go now.  Did you want another hug?  Are you going to have a good day?  What are you going to play today?  OK, bye Theodore.'  Honestly, despite my love of embellishing to improve a story - this is NO EXAGGERATION.

The transparency of Dad's neediness was even noted by my junior high kids.  Dear old Dad didn't really want to leave with Theodore instantly happy to engage in his surroundings.  Undoubtedly, he had heard about the 'don't go Mommy' moments.  He longed for a bit of that ego-building, emotionally-gratifying 'I-like-Daddy-just-as-much-as-Mommy' satisfaction.  He longed to see his toddler breakdown and beg for more Dad time.  Nauseating.

The silver lining here is that my kids have witnessed how not to parent . . . and for once the example isn't from one of my mess-ups.  

March 6, 2017

the un-researched ask of the 80's

(This is the conclusion of the 'Homecoming date' post - if you haven't read the first part, click here to read it first so you know what kind of humiliation I survived).

Over the weekend, my mother - forever the matchmaker - urged me to ask a boy to the upcoming homecoming dance.  I laughed at the suggestion.  Who would I invite to the dance?  Mom flattered me with compliments.  Wouldn't any boy be thrilled to go to the dance with me?  I remember it too well.  I was sunbathing in my bikini in our backyard.  'What about that boy that you just worked with on the retreat?  You said he was such a nice guy.  Why don't you ask him?  I'm sure he'd be happy to go to the dance with you.'

My mom, who was never without a date back in the day, was working off of her teenage experience.  I got sucked in. 

I consider the differences in my world and the world Mom was familiar with similar to the discrepancies between the universes my teenagers and I have experienced.

If my high schoolers want to get in touch with a friend, they are crippled without the other kid's cell number.  If I suggest that they pick up our landline and call the kid's home number listed in the school directory, they bristle and scoff at me.  How could I suggest such a thing?  I struggle to wrap my mind around this mentality, but that represents our generation gap.  I suppose this is where I chime in with:  'Kid's today!'  I was unaware of such a phenomenon back when my mom was pushing me to attend a dance despite my status as a social leper. 

Eventually I decided to follow Mom's suggestion.  I crept up into my parent's bedroom taking the school phone directory and the persistent butterflies in my gut with me.  I closed the door and paced a little bit rehearsing what I would say.  Outside their master bathroom was a wall covered in a mirror.  It makes me chuckle to think that I stood in full view of my bikini-clad self and I didn't lose my nerve to call John Throb-heart.

Ah, the good ole days when bikinis fit and phone calls were made from land lines. 

He was home.  It was my lucky day.  Or was it?  After stumbling around my question a bit, I finally asked him if he wanted to go to the homecoming dance with me.  He hesitated for just a moment.  'Oh, thanks but Sara Earlybird already asked me.  Sorry.'

I assured him it was no big deal, I just thought we'd have fun.  I ended with 'see you around,' even though I knew I would dive under a cafeteria table, into shrubbery, or inside a locker if I saw him coming.  I was mortified.

Sara Earlybird was a fun, outgoing, popular girl.  Extremely friendly.  Even though I knew they were attending the dance as friends, the two of them seemed like a perfect fit.  How could I have thought that he would still be available at this stage of the game?  Why hadn't I done my homework?  Probably because I hadn't texted everyone I knew to ask them whether or not John already had a date.

I worried all weekend that word would get out that I had stepped outside the boundaries of my limited social circle and invited a highly sought after guy to the dance.  Fortunately, John Throb-heart kept my faux-pas under raps.  Thank goodness cell phones weren't available yet or he could've sent a group text to humiliate me further.  I still doubt that he would've done that.  He just wasn't that kind of guy.

Come to think of it, I'm happy to embrace my teenage years of the 80's.  At least embarrassing moments (and there were plenty) didn't become a widespread 'share'.

March 5, 2017

learning to deal with an outspoken father-in-law

(Click the link below to read the beginning of this story 
from Nov 11, 2016  . . . and yes, I still decided to marry Coach despite his father's temper tantrums).

Unclear on protocol for the uncomfortable situation created by my future father-in-law, I froze.  I was two steps behind Coach.  Bypassing a farewell in front of his steamed father, I spun on my heel and rushed out of the airport to find my car.  Since Coach's family lived down the street from mine, the entire drive home I worried that Senior's car would pull up alongside of me.  I envisioned him shaking his fist at me from the next lane, ready to blame me for Coach's 'hidden' presence at the gate.

I nervously glanced at each passing car as I raced to my house.  Although our private time was spent harmlessly kissing, I worried that Senior had witnessed our somewhat public make-out.  Never prone to exhibiting public displays of affection in general, Coach and I steered clear of such activity even more so around our families -not wanting to embarrass them as they had been friends for years.

Now I began to grasp some of the stories I had heard over the years about Senior . . .

As high schoolers, Coach and both my younger brothers caddied at a nearby classy golf course.  To celebrate the end of the caddy season, the club annually hosted a small banquet.  Not only did they recognize hard working caddies verbally, but they also offered various prizes distributed according to the number of loops carried by each kid.

One year my younger brother, Pat, was invited to the prize table before Coach.  Although he wasn't an avid golfer, he chose a golf bag and returned to the table.  Senior, my future father-in-law, leaned towards him after he sat down and informed him that Coach, a more serious golfer, had planned to select the golf bag when his name was called.  AWKWARD!

I never attended a caddy banquet, but when Pat described the event I grasped the awkward tone Senior's comment set for the rest of the evening.  The next morning, Pat walked down to Coach's house and rang the bell.  He told Senior that after some careful thought he was more interested in swapping the prize Coach had selected for his golf bag.  Senior stumbled over his words a bit before locating Coach's prize and completing the trade.   

After 20 years of marriage, I've encountered countless unbelievable episodes with a stubborn, controlling father-in-law, who likes to bark his opinion and share his extreme right-wing politics.  A few of his finer moments include shouting in my face over our plans to marry while Coach was still in graduate school, stating his dislike of our newborn's name, and scolding Coach for not revealing what outpatient procedure I once required.

I have learned not to fear his wrath as I did that day at the airport.  While I feel more prepared to cope with his outbursts with each passing year, even early on in our marriage I managed to brace for one of his stunts.

When I met with our wedding photographer before our 1996 wedding, I described my father-in-law.  'Take a few group photos with him.  If he storms off in the middle of a photo shoot, you have my permission to tell him we aren't really that interested in his mug being in the pictures anyway.'