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April 30, 2017

2008 House hunt that hit (almost) all of the marks

While house hunting in spring of 2008, I first toured our current house while Coach was at work.  My folks, who live in the same town, met me on the driveway.  My Dad agreed to monitor the 5 older monsters, while my Mom and I lugged Curly in her carrier thru the perspective house.

The realtor walked my mom and I upstairs first.  The bedrooms were spacious.  One of them was 15 x 17 with vaulted ceilings.  Mom nudged me.  Since Curly had joined the family at this point, I knew that each of the three kid bedrooms would need to sleep two kids each.  In the back of my mind, I considered the fact that if need be we could toss three kids in this extra large room. 

Curly's room boasts chachkies galore!
The master bedroom was stupidly big - in my opinion most masters are.  I might be in the minority here, but I feel like I need less bedroom space than my kiddos require.  After all, each kid in (Or there are visionaries like our Reggie, who insists on converting bedroom space into a full court basketball space every chance he gets).  I might sort laundry in my room, but mostly my master bedroom is utilized for sleep.
our family shares a room with a sibling, shoves toys and chachkies in all available corners, and entertains friends in his/her bedroom space. 


A huge closet - I can wrap my brain around that bonus feature!  Fortunately this master came equipped with an awesome, walk-in closet, and a separate albeit smaller closet for Coach.  Even better!

The hall bath, what we refer to as 'the kids' bathroom', was huge.  That night I noted that there was enough room to leave an infant tub on the floor near the regular tub.  I could haul three older kids (relatively speaking 'older': as in older than a 6 month old) out of the real tub without fearing that they would trip over the plastic baby tub or fall over it.  Thus risking a slippery-kid pile-up.  I imagined tots wrapped in towels wandering around the room while an even older kid might be brushing his teeth - without incident.  Bliss.

The living and dining rooms were also large.  A full bath on the first floor - definitely a plus.  The enormous family room opened to the kitchen.

That's when reality sunk in.  The kitchen left much to be desired.  The space for a table WAS very generous, so I decided to cope with the u-shaped work area, lack of island, ugliest granite ever, and refaced by Home Depot (not replaced) kitchen cabinets.  It was definitely a step up from the kitchen I was accustomed to - just not in line with the spacious-type rooms in the rest of the house.  I nodded at the realtor as we turned to descend the basement stairs to check out what that space was like.

My former kitchen really only had this one countertop.  It was wall to wall people in the sitting area.
The basement was fixed up, if you count 'fixed-up' to include work done so long ago that it now appeared gross and dingy.  Coach had just completed a brand-new, handy-man project basement on our current house.  The result of his work was a perfect play room.

As much as 6 kids make me tired, it exhausted me to ponder starting over in a great house WITH  ANOTHER looming basement project.  The addition of an actual study and a three car garage were inevitably the icing on the cake.

Coach had planned to go out after work that night to watch March Madness
basketball.  I called him at work and described my find.  Big bedrooms, spacious kid bath, a real study (not that shoving a computer on an old rickety desk in a closet near the backdoor of our current house wasn't ideal), a first floor full bath, and a three car garage.

I bathed the kids that night in my usual fashion.  I leaned across the pink toilet and reached thru the clumsy glass shower door into the pink tub.  I wedged a few towel clad kids in front of the sink, perched on the toilet while I dried them, and then chased them down the hall to dress in their room.

 
This slightly graphic pic of the bathroom in our first house (a bathroom I don't miss!) showcases the toilet that left me with limited access to the tub in addition to the annoying shower door that made it tough to fish kids out once they were clean, or splashing a sibling too much. 
   
With kids tucked into bed, I walked down the stairs prepared to plop on the couch.  There at the bottom of the stairs were Coach's shoes.  He had skipped March Madness to discuss this house.  Bingo!



April 28, 2017

slave for a day

To deal with my no-fun-Monday issue, the last few weeks I've raced off to the grocery store solo if I wake up before 6:30 am.

Imagine the guilt I feel for slowing down the ONLY checker with my large order when most other early morning shoppers are grabbing a few donuts or a gallon of milk.  I try to cope with the grumpy faces in line behind me and the fact that I have to make a second trip to visit the currently closed meat counter.  Constantly checking the time, I brace for the hectic pace of getting kids to school once I arrive home.  All worth it knowing that this pesky task is complete.

This week I rolled out of bed at 6:30 - not before.  Those extra few minutes cost me, even though I bought less than I usually do.  I called home to alert someone to wake up Curly.  No one answered.  Both Tank and Reg were eating breakfast when I darted out the door donning my sweats, glasses, and bed-head hair.  Where were they?!  'I HAVE DONUTS IN MY CART . . . PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE!'  Nothing.

On the street en-route to my neighborhood I drove up behind a school bus.  Perfect.  After stopping every 25 feet, I pulled onto my street.  Gretta's car sat in my driveway.  Yippee.  After standing in my empty kitchen for an indefinite amount of time, she left her offspring and headed for her car.  When she spotted my 12-seater white Chevy Express van round the corner on two wheels at top speed, she gave a quick wave and headed to work.

'Hello boys!' I called over my shoulder as I darted upstairs to wake Curly.  THEN I called Reggie up from the basement.  Just as expected - he missed the phone ringing, the boys being dropped off, and the chance to stay on my good side by doing SOMETHING to contribute.  He fell victim to the lure of the Xbox and an absent mother.  Grrrr!!!!

And then there were three . . . supposedly we have 5 landline handsets.                                Haven't seen the other two for years. 
There should be a landline handset posted on the receiver in the basement.  With more than one handset missing, we rarely have a spare for the basement.  Not that the children care, but long ago I mandated that they 'bring a phone to the video game cave' on their way down there.  Never happens.

Tank wasn't home to answer the phone.  Apparently, he freakishly prepared himself for early morning band practice and walked to school ON TIME.  Turning over a new leaf?  Time will tell.  (Dare I dream?  I've lost my voice on multiple occasions screaming at him to get out the door so he's not tardy for his band commitment.  He's a pro at meandering around aimlessly and waiting till the last minute to locate a pair of clean socks, etc.)  

I almost lost my voice again as I explained the ramifications to Reggie of his Xbox distraction.  Curly missed the bus.  Gretta had to hang out waiting for me to arrive (she would normally be totally fine with the boys chilling with Reg for a few minutes).  As suspected- he hadn't even unloaded the silverware from the dishwasher.  The horror!  This job was assigned to him because of his early-riser mode.  I assume this will be less likely when he becomes a sleep-till-noon teenager.  Then I will need to assume the role of silverware tray myself. 
Silverware unloading job awarded to Reggie - our early riser!
Reggie stood frozen in the kitchen until I dubbed him my slave for the day.  I rattled off all what I expected him to accomplish:  Bring up the Xbox unit from the basement, and put it on the front seat of my car.  (something I've done before, but clearly not often enough.  Ages ago when it was only a few months old, I confiscated the stupid game system for over a year).  Unload the silverware tray (obviously).  Bring in the groceries.  Strip beds (another no-fun-Monday chore).  Haul certain groceries downstairs to the second fridge/freezer.  Wash the table after everyone eats.  Load the dishwasher.  Gather snacks for lunches.

Note the lonely controllers on table, empty shelf below TV, and useless wires abandoned on the floor.  This is what used to be considered the basement fun-zone
Typically when I ask a kid to do something they moan and rattle off the 'jobs' they've done in the last 48 hours.  As if that matters.  'But I just emptied the bathroom garbage yesterday' or  'I swept the kitchen after school.'  Now I was astounded to see how much one kid, who was in hot water, could accomplish in such a short amount of time.

His butt was in danger of being kicked by his siblings when they realize he's responsible for the disappearance of the Xbox.  He needed to please me in hopes of scoring the Xbox back.  (Not going to happen!)

'Should I start scrubbing the toilets?'  He was serious, because he's been in deep doo-doo before and he knows I usually start with toilets.  It just so happened that this morning I had more pressing chores that required his assistance. 

I decided then and there that 'slave for a day' is a punishment I need to utilize more often!


April 27, 2017

no-fun-Mondays

A week before the school year started my sitting schedule changed to include Mondays.  It took me a few days to grasp a Mon-Thursday commitment during the school year instead of just Tu, Wed, Th.

I informed Gretta, when she requested my services for an additional day (in the eleventh hour), that her two boys would be dragged to the health club followed by grocery shopping every Monday.  I call it 'no-fun-Mondays'.  Gretta accepted this arrangement.

Initially I figured the tots would detest our Monday rat race.  One-year-old Gilbert dared to take up precious real estate in the overflowing cart where I strapped him in the seat each week.  I tucked groceries around him -careful that his chubby fists couldn't reach my squish-able purchases.  Steering the two ton load with one hand, I adapted to using my free hand to rescue wandering Theo.  He often risked being flattened by another shopper's cart.
Best eaten outside of packaging!

Just before Easter, I stocked up on Easter basket goodies.  I lost my focus for a minute while searching for regular jelly beans instead of the new-wave, fancy-flavor variety.  When I turned back to the cart, I discovered Gilbert was attempting to eat bright yellow peeps thru the package. 

This is my grocery cart on a non-sitting day.  Use your imagination to figure out where I would squeeze a baby. 
Even though I complete a rigorous workout Monday mornings, I get sweaty all over again once home:  unloading a $375 mountain of bags, whipping up the boys' lunch, and searching for pantry and fridge space to stow my soon-to-be-devoured loot.

With two broken door shelves, excess food gets stacked on the bottom outside the drawer of apples.  It's always fun searching for something I know is in there SOMEWHERE!
Our grocery store jaunts included spying escaped Mylar balloons, spontaneous 'rain' in the produce department, friendly elderly people, and the occasional piece of cheese shared by the meat-counter personnel.  This AFTER a ball pit, non-stop TV, and a train table in the health club daycare.  As it turns out, errand day was the bomb for my two young charges. 

In no time, it was clear that I was the only one ready for a toddler-style melt-down by noon on Mondays.  Something had to give . . .

April 24, 2017

Just say no!

It's an epidemic.  Parents can't say 'no' to their kids - particularly toddlers.  The 9 year old baby of our family, Curly, might possess a special power that causes me to cave sooner than I ever did with her siblings when they were her age.

I refuse to take credit for being a wimpy parent though .. . .  after years of sticking to my guns.  I blame my occasional caving on birth order.  Or perhaps my advanced age.  Or my lack of time.  Since I'm driven to distraction chasing in different directions to get kids to their 'stuff' AND cook an awesome dinner, I'm too exhausted to continue to take the old-school-parent high road all of the time.  Despite my occasional weakness, I still consider myself lumped in with the near extinct old-school-parent club.

Exhibit A:  I refuse to ever bend on the cell phone issue.  No child of ours will ever possess a cell phone prior to the summer when they start high school.  Ages ago, Eddie's best friend's mom assured him he would be texting long before high school.  She believed that if Laddie got his phone hours before high school started, then Eddie would naturally receive his when he was in 7th grade.  She went on to predict that caboose-Curly would be part of the family cell phone plan by 3rd grade.  Wrong.

I know I haven't veered too far from my old-school-parent manifesto because my kids are able to recognize new-age parental pitfalls.  They raise a wise eyebrow in public at a tot melting down until he gets what he wants.  Mini finds it alarming to witness younger cousins whose parents jump thru hoops to keep smiles on their sweet faces rather than deal with discord.

A few months ago I told another woman's kid to quit screaming in the grocery store.  Since he was about 6, he was clearly too old for a 2 year old fit.  Instead of ignoring him, she was offering to buy him something.  'Knock it off!' I hollered.  'Quit screaming!'  A grocery store employee thanked me.

Theodore, who I sit for, is 3 1/2 years old.  He prefers to open the door to our house from the garage each morning.  His parents, Gretta and Simon, tend to feed into his demands rather than curb them with the occasional curve ball. 

Last week, Theo melted down in my garage because his mother beat him to the door.  She was carrying his younger brother and the diaper bag.  Maybe he was taking his sweet time and she couldn't hold wriggly, 17 mo old Gilbert a moment more?  Not one of my kids was still fixated on taking sole responsibility for something by the age of three and a half.  They had long since accepted that they couldn't always turn off the TV, flush the toilet, hit the elevator button, or push the automatic door-open switch at the library.  It no longer mattered to them, because Coach and I trained them not to care.

When Theo got picked up that afternoon, I explained to Gretta that he and I had talked about the door thing.  I informed her that Theo now understood that Gilbert might open the door the next time, because it really didn't matter.  (you're welcome)

The next day, Theo opened the door.  Himself.  Again.  After Gretta left, he told me that his mom agreed that if he hustled to the door he could still open it -instead of Gilbert.  The perfect re-programming opportunity I had presented her with was foiled.  The good news is I will only have to deal with her enabling ways so long as I babysit for her kids.  She will have to cope with the aftermath for years to come.

Theo is currently enrolled in a preschool at Eddie's high school that is offered as part of the child development curriculum.  I raced in to pick Theo up on Thursday.  A young grandma was ahead of me in line to claim her grandson.  The child pickup procedures include a clipboard signing routine.

The grandson was hopping up and down trying to grab the clipboard from grandma.   'Let me write my name!' he was demanding.  'Just a minute,' she assured him.  Even though it was clear that I was waiting to sign the clipboard she handed it to her little monster first.  'Sorry,' she apologized to me - which just proved that she recognized that she was being rude.

I bit my tongue before the words 'just say no' could spring out.  Perhaps I needed a new age parent to  urge me to 'use my words.'

April 21, 2017

Memory overload

If my hard drive could talk, it would beg me to stop screwing with its memory.  'Save me!' it would plead thru a series of beeps and digitized sounds.  'Stop storing all of your family videos and photos here, you bleep-bleep!'

I would hate to have my memory messed with, so I can hardly blame my computer for its frustrations.  My memory is my greatest asset.  Being gifted with an uncanny ability to recall things doesn't exactly serve me as well as, let's say, an awesome talent might. 

A fabulous singing voice leads to endless lucrative possibilities.  How about all-star athleticism?  Cha-ching.  Off the chart brain power easily translates into dollar signs.  There's no question my ability to recall things is outstanding, but what does it really do for me besides make me look thoughtful?

My friend at the gym was tickled last week when I remembered that her daughter's birthday was the same day as my daughter's.  Unfortunately, I can't 'cash in' on that kind of talent.  In fact some people might take my ability to zero in on unimportant details as creepy. 

Speaking of details, I missed very few back when the kids were tots.  I rarely put down my camcorder.  I'm desperately trying to find the time to burn to DVD the hours and hours of video footage currently stored on my desktop's hard drive.  This time consuming hobby makes me wish I had a special secret power.  Time travel.

If I could visit the year 2011, I would whisper into my own ear:  'Not necessary to video the ENTIRE 7th grade B team basketball game' featuring Laddie as forward and Coach as - you guessed it:  the coach.  Can you say:  turnovers, hot dog shots, and horrible passes?  Not only can I say those things, but I can relive them . . . repeatedly.  In fact, I have.

Yesterday I was working on January of 2011.  Not one, but two of Lad's games are recorded back to back.  I even managed to capture the minutes of the game when my son wasn't in the game.  Why?  I can remember lots of things, but I have no idea why I felt compelled to save lengthy minutes minus Laddie.  I watched and re-watched some clips as part of my editing process.  In order to whittle away at this endless recording, I replayed moments until I was sure I had a fair mix of good and bad plays involving Laddie.  Because, hey, there's no sense in trying to recreate reality.  Right?

Before I fell asleep last night, I asked Coach if he thought we had any idea of how darn cute Reggie was back then?  Maybe it's just the age, and maybe I'll discover the same cute factor when I reach the other kids' preserved 4 and 5 year old antics.  

I can't help but wonder though . . . maybe my ability to record all of these memories (even though I should technically be able to remember all of them - and I don't), is my jackpot after-all.  I'm now convinced I need to start a you tube channel featuring the kids as tots (right now it would be Reggie in the lead role).  Thanks to my video taping addiction, I have an unlimited supply of family out-takes and highlights.  

video
(I'm generally opposed to revealing my kids' identity, but I'm assuming you wouldn't recognize them on the street based on images of them as tiny tykes.) This is a clip of Reggie on his 5th birthday waiting for his pancakes.  He reminds me that Curly is 3 and he is now 5.  When I ask if he thinks it's cool to say that he's five, he informs me that it's not as cool as 10! (in case you don't translate Reggie-speak)
Once I sift thru the hours of mundane home movies to identify the funniest parts and post them to a you tube channel, I bet the money will pour in.  Who needs real talent when you are gifted with a great memory . . . or at the very least a passion for recording memories? 


April 18, 2017

Mysterious disappearance of sibling stuff

Laddie left yesterday to head back to college after being home for Easter.  I stacked some of my popular chocolate chip cookies on a plate and shuffled out to the driveway to thank the guys who picked him up.  Laddie also gave them cash for gas. 

Getting rides to school in Iowa is a no-brainer, thank goodness.  Not sure we are ready for the transportation hassles and added expense when Laddie transfers to a school on the east coast next year.  I suspect that Lad will not be able to come home for short weekends like Easter and Thanksgiving.  His siblings might take comfort in the fact that they don't have to hide their stuff as frequently. 

Eddie texted me from high school yesterday a few hours before Laddie was due to be picked up.  'I left my moisture cream in the kids' bathroom can you put it in your bathroom so Laddie doesn't take it?  last time he took my acne cream.'  

I found the moisturizer cream on the kids' bathroom counter top and hid it in my bathroom.  I just bought this cream for Eddie .  His face is suffering thanks to the combined effects of chlorine from water polo practice his prescribed acne medicine.  The day he and I stopped at the drug store, he was talking like a ventriloquist without a puppet because it hurt his face to speak. 

His text made me think of socks.  Odd, but true.  When I was in high school, my sisters would come home from college and deplete my sock inventory.  It sucked.  What might be more ridiculous is that I matched colored socks to my shirts back in the day.  

At the Catholic high school I attended, we were required to wear a plaid uniform skirt.  A polyester blazer was necessary to be worn in the hallways between classes, but once the bell rang that ugly garment got tossed in the school locker.  No one wore them around the school except during the academic day.

Most of my photos from high school don't include socks - but this is the background of a picture where a girl is sporting her blazer, orange shirt, orange socks, and gray plaid skirt.  This was during an assembly so the music stand kind of got in the way. 
My sister - Marie, who transferred as a senior from a different Catholic school when we relocated for our Dad's job, found it strange that the uniform code allowed girls to wear any color shirt.  The only shirt restrictions that existed included:  1. must have a collar and 2. must be a solid color.  I started at the school as a freshman, so I had nothing but my Catholic grade school to compare with this high school dress code.  I felt like only dealing with a skirt was fairly lenient.  

After wearing a white blouse FOREVER in grade school, it felt freeing to wear any color shirt of my own choosing.  Within this Catholic high school culture, Marie and I soon discovered that girls coordinated their socks to their shirt color.  I thought we all looked ridiculous as we ignored the fact that we were decked out in a hideous skirt and focused instead on brightly color-coordinated shirts and socks.  

Needless to say when Ann and Marie breezed into town and snagged my colored socks, my high school fashion foundation felt compromised.  

Deodorant overload. Considering some keep a stick in their room!
My kids find it troubling that growing up my sisters and I shared one communal drawer for our underwear and another for our socks.  Three of us dipped into the same available stash each time we got dressed.  

I don't think they could cope with the fact that we used the same deodorant for years.  My kids are like wild animals who abandon their young if they pick up another animal's scent . . . they CAN'T touch a deodorant if they sense that a sibling has 'borrowed' it.  Boggles my mind.  I am quick to point out:  it's an armpit - not a butt.  

Perhaps a single family deodorant is the way to go!
Even before Eddie's text yesterday afternoon, Tank made an announcement.  Most of the kids were eating breakfast.  Laddie was still sleeping (obviously): 'Laddie goes back to school today.  Hide all of your stuff - especially your cash.'  

Nothing is sacred.  Not even socks.  I heard a few complaints about missing socks when Lad  packed up after spring break.  My boys own a few pairs of coveted high-end sport socks - nothing like the bright colored socks of my youth. 






April 16, 2017

an Easter candy flashback: to hide or inhale

I don't recall Easter candy being that hot of a commodity when I was a kid.  My brothers and sisters and I always enjoyed our stash, but I don't recollect any disputes over our candy.  Each year the Easter bunny generously delivered marshmallow eggs, jelly beans, and peeps buried in a knot of fake grass.   

Of course I do have a vivid memory of devouring all of my loot before the holiday was complete.  This memory is seared into my mind only because one of my four siblings ratted me out to my parents.  (Yes, I know who it was . . . it was Ann my oldest sister - I haven't forgotten).  My folks were not impressed with my ability to ingest so much sugar in such a short amount of time. 
A few years ago we celebrated Easter in our two bedroom hotel room in Williamsburg, VA.  Before we left for our vacation, Curly drafted a letter to the infamous bunny detailing our whereabouts on the big day.  I had hoped to avoid traveling with baskets and treats, but Curly's disappointment that we wouldn't be home when the big drop off happened played on my heart strings.  

Receiving the upgrade to a bigger hotel room aided the basket sorting and hiding the night before.  The Easter bunny scored big points for 'finding' us.  Who doesn't want their kids snacking on piles of candy during a long day and a half car ride?  I remember listening to the favorite jelly bean flavor comparisons and reflecting on an Easter issue that arose years ago . . .  
Easter 2011
In the Shenanigan home, tattling on Easter candy eating is kid stuff.  Easter candy stealing, however, has elevated into some nasty warfare:  "give me back my Reese's or I'll eat all of your candy while you sleep."   

To protect their stash, there is an ongoing ceremony of hiding and re-hiding the Easter baskets.    If you discover a basket that you weren't supposed to see, sharing this top secret information can be considered a huge breech.  

My clever older kids have even perfected the art of bluffing a sibling into revealing a hiding place.  Laddie teased a younger brother that he had uncovered his hoard of goodies sending him into a low blood sugar rage as he raced to his 'hidden' basket.  His candy was safe, but his basket's cover was blown.  This prank cost Laddie.  He was ordered to forfeit one Reese's peanut butter cup.  Ouch!   

Eventually I confiscated the baskets and guarded them on top of the fridge.  Mini proudly produced her basket, explaining that she had only eaten one jelly bean.  Her strategy of saving the candy as long as possible backfired when someone retrieved her basket from the fridge and left it in the open.  I take some blame in this, because I had abandoned my post.   

Upon discovering the basket on the floor, Mini conducted a quick inventory.  Uh oh.  Her peeps were missing.  Tears.  Inquiries followed.  Eventually her three year old sister, Curly, admitted to indulging on the sugary chicks:  "I didn't know I was doing that."  Not her most convincing defense.
I struggled to enjoy the Easter aftermath myself.  The arguing about "I know I still had two red jelly beans" is only the tip of the iceberg.  My home became a field of little foil wrappers discarded willy-nilly all over the house.  Not only did it infuriate me to pick them up all day long, but it also served as a slap in the face that my children clearly inhaled candy before the sun was up, and did so in rooms where melted chocolate was strictly forbidden.   

I appreciated the Bunny's sense in not lining the baskets with annoying plastic grass, because that pesky stuff seemed to multiply and turn up months after the baskets had been tucked into storage.  The plastic eggs on the other hand were strewn across every surface of the house.  One of the younger kids even filled a bowl with water, submerged three water filled plastic eggs in it, and hid it behind my toilet.  The objective on this maneuver still remains as mysterious as the belief that a big bunny hops from house to house on Easter eve.
Getting the kids to school the day after Easter break proved interesting.  It wasn't so much the weird way that seven year old Mini was walking, as it was the look on her sweet, innocent face that drew my attention.   

She was flitting around in her gym uniform, with her sweat pants pulled up higher than normal and her shirt tucked into her pants.  There was also a little swishing noise when she scooted past me . . . her eyes locked on my face nervously waiting to see if I would catch it.  In the hustle and bustle of the morning, I hesitated just long enough to ask her what was happening.  "Nothing."  

Unconvinced, I resorted to administering a pat down.  There, tucked into her pants, where her hands kept awkwardly resting, was a Ziploc bag of jelly beans.  Being the child that normally steers clear of trouble, tears were quick to form.  "I didn't want the boys to eat them," she admitted.  I whispered two words to her while I shook my head disapprovingly.  

 "Underwear drawer."  It took a minute before she realized that this was not the name of a new punishment, but consent to hide her snack in a place her brothers would never look.
Eater 2017:  All baskets were ordered to this corner in the dining room.  How odd that only half of the baskets are currently there.  Foul play?  Basket stashing?  Potential melted chocolate in forbidden rooms?  yes, yes, and yes
My parenting style has evolved from that of my folks, because I now encourage all of our kids to take a page out of their mother's play book and devour all of their candy before the day's end . . . or risk having an unscrupulous sibling beat you to it.  

April 14, 2017

superfan

Last night Eddie played in a varsity water polo game against our cross town rival.  I was sitting next to another player's mom, Betsy, when we stumbled across a Bossy Superfan.

The district we live in is split into two schools.  While our cross town rival boasts an overall incredibly wealthy student body, diversity is much more widespread at our high school.  Students at 'Diverse High' range across the board.  There are those who are very wealthy, those who are comfortable, those who get by, and those who live in government subsidized housing.  

Needless to say sparks fly when boundary change discussions crop up.  These proposed plans threaten to impact real estate prices and dictate what high school kids will attend.  Most people at 'Entitled High' fear losing their firm grip on their perfect-world school where their children are sheltered from 'undesirable' peers.  
 
In general, I dislike the Entitled crowd, but I do have a few friends whose kids go to school there.  Proof that there are exceptions to every rule. 

Another parent, whose kids live in our neck of the woods, jokes that the only difference between Entitled High and Diverse High is that Entitled High has more expensive drugs.  Couple that theory with the fact that most of those kids drive high end vehicles and you have an idea of what their school is like.

Sporting events when the two schools face off are typically intense.  Currently Entitled High is pushing full capacity, while Diverse High's enrollment reflects the downward demographic trend that our area is experiencing.  Their superior sports teams typically earn more accolades thanks in large part to the school's size.  

A few years ago when Laddie was a sophomore, our varsity water polo team was winning at half time - in their pool.  Coach and I were sitting in the first row of the balcony - in close proximity to the opposing team's bench.  Coach overhead the EHS  Coach tell his team, 'Come on, this is just Diverse High.'  He and I both groaned.  Needless to say I was extremely disappointed when we ended up losing that game. 

Last year our amazing water polo team beat EHS more than once.  The games were very exciting.  The last time we met, EHS fans reacted to their loss by screaming at our coach and the refs.  They struggled to accept their loss.  

Last night during the second half of the game, a woman came and sat on the other side of Betsy.  I assumed that she knew Betsy because she started talking to her.  I realized something was amiss when Betsy waved her hand and said, 'I'm just going to ignore you.'  All I caught was that the woman wrapped up her comment with 'it's not that big a deal.'  

I asked Betsy what the woman had said.  'Something about the fact that we were cheering too loudly.'  I was dumbfounded by this dummy.  Superfan Bossy Pants didn't let up.  She continued to correct us on our cheering approach siting us for taking it too seriously and forgetting that this was just sports.  

What?  I guess I missed the memo that stated cheering loudly for your team was an unwelcome concept at a sporting event.  Reminder:  this isn't chess.  

She went on to inform us that this was 'her school.'  I shared with her that I was cheering for my school.  Newsflash:  I cheer this energetically and enthusiastically regardless of what building is hosting the sporting event.  Duh.

Curly cheering at one of Eddie's games.  Too bad I don't have a sound byte so you can hear how loud we cheer. Maybe I'll add one later.
Last week our district voted on a proposed tax hike to support $76 million dollar addition and improvents at EHS.  It failed.  A new pool was included in the plans.  In addition to the new pool, this proposal was necessary to try to accommodate space concerns at EHS due to the growing population.  Of course it makes more sense to adjust the boundaries, but that would send the community into a tailspin.  

I have no idea whether or not Bossy Pants supported the tax increase, but when she told us that 'the game was no big deal' I leaned across Betsy and quipped, 'Neither is getting a new pool, thank God.'  

A Diverse High mom with a daughter on the women's team spun around and got in Bossy's face.  'Were you at the first game?'  (our varsity women played the EHS women's team before the men hopped in the pool for their game).  She went on to bark at Bossy that this match up was a big deal because her school (aka EHS) ran up the score during the first game 19-3.  We get it, your women's team dominated ours - but don't sit here and tell us not to cheer loudly when our boys' team ends the third quarter with two more goals than your men's team.  Too bad we couldn't hold onto the lead.  

I guess if you're affiliated with EHS, then you are entitled to also decide how loudly opposing fans can cheer.  

April 12, 2017

Turning 13

Thirteen years ago today Mini entered our world.  A world that had previously been overrun by toy trains, dinosaurs, and digging in the dirt.  Coach and I never learned our baby's gender until the doctor held our squirming new arrival up in the air.

I remember in that moment looking for that extra appendage on Mini that I assumed would naturally show up on this  baby too.  After three boys, I expected that we'd have another.  The thought of an additional brother didn't disappoint me, BUT I was overjoyed that this one was a girl.  I was surprised by how much.

Even at my 6 week check up at the OB, the doc commented on how much Mini looked like me.  I vividly remember he followed that remark up with 'minus the chubby cheeks, of course.'  Thus her chosen name for my blog.  She is my mini-me.  No denying it.

Preparing to celebrate her 13th birthday has caused me to reflect back on the day I turned 13 - in late December 1983.

In 7th grade since my b-day landed over break, my friends decorated my locker the day school let out for Christmas.  As much as I hated having a birthday so close to Christmas, I knew I would never have to spend my birthday at school.  A small victory for the queen receiver of the combo-gift.

I scooped up the candy loot from my locker celebration and stuffed it in my brown paper lunch bag.  At home I stuck it under the upholstered chair in the corner of the family room.  My fingers were crossed that my siblings wouldn't discover my treats.  With 4 siblings, it's hard to get away without sharing everything.

I dreaded becoming a teenager for one reason. . .  the advent of getting a period was imminent   Such a hassle.  I witnessed two older sisters deal with mood swings, painful cramps, the purse necessity, and discreetly storing the products.  The worst part though was our mom's approach.

Mom felt my sisters (and I) were too uptight about periods.  She thought talking openly about it would help us cope with this unpleasant reality.  So not the case.

By openly, I mean that she spoke in code about it but she expected us not to bristle when the topic was raised.  Her code language irritated the hell out of me.  I remember vividly standing in the kitchen surrounded by Ann, Marie, and Mom.  Mom sighed and told one of my sisters, 'Did you get your little red headed friend yet?  You've been very grumpy lately.'  

I wanted to run from the room screaming.

Of course as luck would have it my first period arrived ON MY 13TH BIRTHDAY.  Talk about imminent.  Mom wasn't home, but she had already shown me where she kept the pads.  I felt lousy.  It was hard to walk upright because my abdomen felt like I had just completed a thousand sit-ups and then been punched in the gut.

I hoped no one could tell.  I intended to share the news with no one other than Mom when she came home from the store.  We had Irish dancing class that afternoon so I carefully chose somewhat baggy shorts to keep my secret 'my secret'.  There would be no celebrating.  No 'congratulations, you're a woman now'.  No thanks.  The less fanfare the better.

A while before we headed out to the south side for dancing class, my oldest sister Ann approached me in my room with a smug look on her face.  "I saw what your little friends gave you," she sneered.  Oh, no.  My sister knew.  Who else knew?

Mini's bunny b-day cake!
My head spun around and I hurled every insult in the book at her.  Ann's face transformed quickly from know-it-all to afraid-for-her-life.  Crying and screaming, I pushed her out of my room and anxiously awaited Mom's return.  My mom laid into Ann when she got home.

Turns out my sis had simply uncovered my ill-hidden brown bag in the family room.  She was completely baffled as to why I over-reacted about her candy discovery.  I mistook the 'friend' jargon for the period slang so often used by my mom and my sisters.  One more opportunity for the great sisterly divide to grow even larger.

Although Mini has inherited most of my traits, I hope that her 13th birthday isn't marred by the same dreaded teenage reality that landed unceremoniously on mine.

Did you survive a horrid teenage birthday?  Do tell - share your story in the comments.

video
Clip of Mini shopping for a fiddle last night.  Buying your first fiddle (after years of renting one) beats becoming a woman on your 13th b-day!

April 9, 2017

spring break - Baby Bear lost and found

I realize spring break has been over for a week, but I am not quite done sharing our adventures.  Imagine the tales I could relate if we actually traveled somewhere awesome.  Better if you imagine it, it's too sad for me to dwell on thoughts of warm beaches and relaxing pool-side afternoons. 

As I mentioned previously, Curly couldn't find her Baby Bear when we were in the Lake Geneva hotel.  This little tidbit failed to raise any red flags for me.  I assumed it had been left behind in the car.  Because our room was a disaster with so many bodies, duffel bags, sleeping bags, and snacks strewn everywhere, I assumed it would turn up.  I was too tired to put forth any energy to organize a Baby Bear search party.  

Before we headed home the next day, we stopped in the popular little downtown area of Lake Geneva.  We bought everyone ice-cream in a cute little shop.  I was slightly disappointed that this place didn't have a list of ice-cream that was gluten free.  What is this, 1980?  I'm quick enough to know that since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease two years ago, I need to skip on flavors like cookies and cream.  The praline and cream bucket called out to me though.  The staff couldn't guarantee if the nuts had been dusted with a gluten based coating.  Ouch.  I settled for mint chocolate chip. 

Perhaps the thrill of ordering non-McDonald's ice-cream distracted Curly from checking under seats for her Baby Bear.  The topic didn't come up again until that night when she was going to bed. 

Before bed, we managed to watch a movie that everyone enjoyed.  I rented a stack of movies from the library during break.  Renting movies from the library was once a very regular routine for me.  A few years ago when we didn't have direct TV, the library was a cheap solution for finding something the kids could watch for 'movie night.' 

Recently I started with my library movie-habit again because it saves time when the kids are begging for something to watch.  If I rent stuff that is acceptable, I cross my fingers that it cuts down on arguments or lengthy searches.   Besides, what's worse than finding the perfect flick only to realize that it is half way over?

We watched Undefeated.  It's a documentary about a football team with many challenges.  My kids were able to watch it because their mother swears like a sailor, so the occasional cussing didn't scar them.  (See how I did that?  I turned my bad habit into a positive). 

Anyway, after the movie Curly went to bed.  She appeared a minute later to remind me that Baby Bear hadn't surfaced.  Ugh!  It was late.  I asked her if she had bothered to look in the car.  She claimed she didn't see it in there on the way home.  That didn't sound to me like a legitimate search.  I sent her to bed and promised we'd look in the morning. 

When she was out of sight, I told Coach I was surprised that Baby Bear hadn't turned up yet.  He went out to look in the minivan.  No luck. 

I questioned the older brothers who were still awake.  One in particular enjoys tormenting her.  Both swore they had nothing to do with the unexplained disappearance of Baby Bear. 

I called the hotel and was transferred to security or something.  The man took down all of my information.  I described Curly's lovey, but managed not to reveal that she is 9 years old.  I'm guessing he assumed she was a toddler.  I ended with, 'We call it Baby Bear, but you can call it whatever you want.'  I didn't even remember which animal head was attached to the blanket body.  Turns out Curly's Baby Bear is actually a lamb.  Because it was almost 10:00, he agreed to have the room checked in the morning and let me know.

Reunited!
I felt like a horrible mother.  We had never lost a Baby Bear before - anywhere!  I didn't take her lost Baby Bear seriously.  Or maybe I was terrible for still allowing her to keep a Baby Bear?  Whatever the case - I felt lousy.

Curly ripping open the plastic Baby Bear was wrapped in while Coach supplied a desperate-sounding, 'I can't breathe' fake voice.
When I drove the minivan to my very early workout class the next day, I climbed in the backseat to conduct my own thorough search.  Let's just say I've had tons of experience with a husband and children who are incapable of finding something that is exactly where I tell them it is.  Even my expert search skills didn't uncover Baby Bear.  I did however, discover how desperately the car needs to be cleaned. 

The next morning the hotel called to say that housekeeping found it.  Coach and I both felt deprived when the hotel didn't tell us where specifically in the room it was discovered.  They agreed to ship it to us using the same credit card that we had just used during our stay.

Baby Bear arrived the next day in a box on our doorstep.  Curly was thrilled.  When we prepared to go to Iowa for the night later in the week to visit Laddie at school, I instructed Curly to leave Baby Bear at home.  Baby steps.  

April 7, 2017

spring break - packing Baby Bear

The morning before we left to go to Lake Geneva for an overnight stay on the Sunday of spring break frustrated me.  I organized a stack of stuff I intended to pack, plugged in the crock pot, dealt with some laundry, and gathered up food for the trip.  Of course I scribbled out a list, so I wouldn't forget stuff.  Then I raced off to the health club to workout.

Coach thought he'd be able to leave the fellowship course he was attending in time to arrive home at  1:00.  I planned to get the rest of the stuff packed up after I worked out, so we could be ready to leave as soon as he got home.  Before I left the house, I instructed the kids to pack a bag.  'Include a bathing suit, clothes to play basketball in, clean underwear, your toothbrush, pajamas, something to wear tomorrow, and a book to read in the car.'

An hour later I walked in to find that very little had been accomplished - unless you count time wasted on Xbox games.  I don't.

The day before I had managed to get Tank mostly packed up for his Tuesday vacation to Hilton Head with his best friend.  This was no small task, because:  1.  he has laundry issues.  2.  his growth rate is hard to keep up with  3.  he doesn't care what gets packed.  

The kid never knows where his dirty laundry ends and his clean laundry begins.  This issue stems from his repeated habit of littering his floor with dirty clothes and dropping his fresh laundry piles in the middle of the room.  After a few days of kicking it all around, he convinces himself that it is all dirty and it lands back on the laundry room floor. 

No matter how many pairs of socks I purchase for this guy, he never has socks to wear.  EVER.  It's a mystery I have yet to solve, but I suspect that his pattern of peeling off dirty socks and dropping them in whatever room he lounges in adds to the problem.  Coach becomes annoyed regularly when he spies Tank sporting a pair of his socks.

After my workout, I dragged Tank upstairs to add a few items to his Hilton Head bag.  While I brought him up to speed, I called out to the other kids to pack their bags.  There is rarely a landline handset upstairs, and I left my cell in the kitchen.  No one heard (or no one bothered to answer the phone) Coach call to say he would be home much earlier than anticipated.  

Tank, who enjoys fiddling with my phone, noticed the message about 5 minutes before Coach walked in the door.  I ordered kids, who still hadn't even bothered to pack, to load their bags in the car.  I focused on organizing the groceries needed to sustain us for 24 hours in order to avoid hefty eating-out bills.  Mayhem ensued.  
Curly's tattered Baby Bear getting packed. 

Curly appeared in the kitchen and announced that she had almost forgotten her Baby Bear.  I think a moment later she wished she hadn't made that realization so public.  Older siblings sneered at her for still requiring a Baby Bear.  Then they berated me for not removing it from her grip years ago. 

Tank appeared wearing two different socks.  One black, one white.  Whatever. 

April 5, 2017

The history of the Baby Bear

I blame my middle child syndrome for my parental-consistency craving (and many other things, but that's a whole bunch of other posts).  I don't know what happened with the baby bear thing.  It just got away from me . . . 

In our family 'Baby Bear' is a term used to describe a kid's lovey.  Their security blanket.  My sister gave Laddie a Puffalump  - a small teddy bear made of satin with a tiny rattle inside of it when he was born.  This teddy became his sleeping companion.

My older, wiser sister suggested that babies should have something to soothe them.  She believed if was important to help them sleep in a strange place like a hotel or grandma's house.  She pointed out with a bit of a scoff that as children we weren't allowed such indulgences.  She clearly felt our parents paid us a disservice by eliminating our attachment to something soft.

I come from a very controlling family, so I chose my sister's Puffalump gift to be Laddie's lovey.  I purposefully left it in his crib solo - giving him no say in the matter.  It was small enough to pack easily, and it was washable.  Done.

Newborn Laddie in the Bulls uniform with his Baby Bear Puffalump and his cousins (Ann's boys) with their matching Baby Bears. 
Baby Bear rarely left Lad's crib except for the times I would tuck it into the diaper bag for away-from-home naps or shots at the doctor's office, etc.  I was not the carry-your-Baby-Bear-around-with-you-wherever-you-go kind of mom. 

Somewhere along the way Lad christened his teddy 'Baby Bear' and after that no matter what his younger siblings became attached to, we referred to it as a 'Baby Bear'. 

Much to Ann's chagrin, Fisher Price discontinued manufacturing Puffalumps shortly before Eddie arrived.  Ann, control freak extraordinaire, was very upset.  All of her kids had matching Puffalumps, as did all of the nieces and nephews that she had given one to up until then.  Because she's a survivor, she overcame this challenging anti-type A obstacle and opted to order personalized stuffed animal heads with blanket bodies for all subsequent newborn relatives.

It is clear that by our second child I began to lose my tight grip.  Ed never cared much for his pale blue bear head with the blanket body.  Instead he insisted on taking a beanie baby to bed and sucking on the tag.  (Much to the horror of my mother-in-law, I outlawed pacifiers and even put socks over infant hands to discourage thumb sucking.  I know . . .  my offspring will be in therapy for years).  Eddie rebelled against my insanity by sucking on that damn crusty tag. 

Please note that for all of my efforts I ended up with four thumb suckers.  Mini quit her thumb inexplicably at the ripe old age of 8 months.  I suspected that it was teething pain . . . or more likely - it was because she already wanted to please me. 

Tank and Mini loved their Baby Bear gifts from Aunt Ann.  Reggie, who is freakishly like Ed in almost every way making it believable to our friends that we actually cloned him from this older brother, was more taken with an insanely soft, itty-bitty sized blanket.  Curly took after the majority of our kids.  She adored her pink Baby Bear. 

Tank, an avid thumb sucker, was unsuccessful at sucking his thumb unless his hand was interwoven in his Baby Bear blanket's edge.  Once when he was overcome with an incredibly annoying crying fit in the car, I encouraged him to suck his thumb.  He was about 18 months old but he couldn't figure out how to self soothe with just a thumb in the absence of his Baby Bear.  He held up his favored digit and just stared at me in disbelief as if to say, 'Lady, I don't suck on this - ever.' 

As a toddler Tank used to escape to his room and reach between the slats of the crib to grab hold of Baby Bear when he needed a thumb sucking fix.  Translation:  he was in trouble or scared or maybe both.  The head of his Baby Bear was actually a dog that Tank decapitated more than once trying to yank it thru the crib slats.  I sewed that head back on quicker than you could say 'Tank wouldn't nap today.' 

Tank's Dog-like Baby Bear being stored in my closet drawer with a partially attached head.
Either I was starting to slip or the last few kids were demonstrating their clever side, but Baby Bears started to make an appearance outside of bedtime. 

Sesame Street was my one-hour opportunity to clean up the kitchen from breakfast, shower, and maybe start a load of laundry.  When the older kids were at school, Reg would sneak into his crib and then into Curly's.  He'd snatch up her Baby Bear and his blankie. 

It was too damn cute to correct.  Reggie would shuffle thru the kitchen sideways so that I couldn't see what was behind his back.  As if!  He'd lock his clear blue eyes with mine and repeat the word 'nothing.'  It sounded like, 'Nuffing, nuffiing, nuffing'  . . . as in 'nothing to see here'.  I wasn't fooled for an instant, but I preferred a clean kitchen and a shower to a battle in those days. 

Eventually Coach and I took the liberty of retiring multiple Baby Bears, a beanie baby with the discolored tag, and a blankie when each kid got to a certain age - around 3 but definitely by age 4.    Except Curly's.  I can't explain what happened.  Her Baby Bear never joined my collection of well-loved items in the secret drawer in my closet.           

3 Baby Bears and a blankie hanging together in my closet drawer.  Laddie's Puffalump must be stored in a different but equally secret (so secret I'm not convinced I know how to find it) bin in the basement.
The kids, who were robbed of their favorite bedtime buddy at an early age, dispute Curly's 9 year bedtime companion allowance.  I have no defense.  It just sort of happened. 

So, I explain the Baby Bear history so that you understand what went down last week.  With very few Baby Bears circulating thru the house, we dodged the lost Baby Bear incident for years . . . until spring break . . . 


April 2, 2017

spring break - replacing my lost sweatshirt

Much to my children's chagrin, while we were in South Bend I squeezed in a quick visit to the Saint Mary's bookstore.  My 'quick' translates to 'forever' for my offspring.

Several months ago I managed to lose my favorite (and only) SMC sweatshirt.  Supposedly.  (I still believe one of my kids did something to it, or abandoned it on the bottom of their closet floor when it got mixed in with their laundry).

I planned to finally replace it, even though I firmly believe that the sweatshirt is still somewhere in our home.  I believe this because I have no idea where I could have lost it.

Could I really not have noticed that it fell off of the stroller?  I occasionally would drape it over the stroller when I treat the kids I sit for to a day at the zoo or the arboretum or the park.

For the longest time I refused to admit that I had lost it, because I find it so difficult to fathom.  I'm a grown up.  Damn it.  Lost sweatshirts are for sweaty kids at recess, or irresponsible kids at baseball games, or kids with so many hand-me-downs they just don't care.  How could I lose an article of clothing?
My Saint Mary's College sweatshirt was my go-to as an added layer for almost four years.  Here it kept me cozy on our trip to Glacier National Park in June '16. 

I kept telling myself that I had left it in the car.  On a sunny fall day, I would often peel off this extra layer for the drive home.  It is a chore to haul in three tots, diaper bags, cooler bags, etc. and hustle everyone up for naps after one of our outings.  After a good search of the car before Christmas, reality began to set in.

What the heck?

I bought the sweatshirt when I returned to SMC for my reunion back in 2013.  I struggled with the decision to buy something that wasn't on the sale rack - as I am typically prone.  I went back and forth between other options with half zippers and no hood.

In the end I splurged, and it has been my constant companion ever since.  Unlike the variety of articles of clothing in my closet like multiple pairs of jeans, several similarly colored shirts, and tons of dressy options, I only had one sweatshirt. Never saw the need for extras.

It had a hood and it zipped all the way down the front.  I am always cold, so a layer that I could easily put on and take off without doing damage to my typically magnificent looking hair style (OK, this is far from accurate) was preferred. 

So I decided to shop for a new version.  Although I secretly hoped they would still have the same exact version, I knew that was not likely. 

Of course the bookstore no longer carries my fave, so I wandered around trying to find something equally awesome.  The longer I hesitated, the more heckled I was by my offspring.  A few kids (basically the younger ones who still care about my happiness) tried to sell me an item they thought I would like.  The others just rolled their eyes and poked fun at my disappointment and indecisiveness. 

New sweatshirt.  Less fabulous than my fave.
I finally settled on a dark gray sweatshirt.  No where near as wonderful.  The fit is odd.  I usually wear a medium in sweatshirts because I like to leave room for added layers.  This deal-io is somewhat short wasted.  I required an XL.  I haven't been able to cut the tags off of it yet.  Still just bummed.

This shopping ordeal has oddly fueled my search for my original.  I called the zoo yesterday and asked if it was in their lost and found.  They only keep items



for 30 days.  I kicked myself for a moment after I hung up for not realizing it was officially missing right away.  Balancing on my belly on the washer, I peeked behind it.  I found a soft blue throw blanket, but no sweatshirt.  I asked Eddie if he could look around the teenage car in case it found its way in there. 

When and if I uncover my original in the bottom of one of my kids' closets, they better run like the wind!  (although I will probably be so elated, that I'll be incredibly forgiving).