May 29, 2017

earning another detention . . . Ferris Bueller style

For most of my high school experience boy students didn't know that I existed.  Bound and determined to enjoy a more social senior year, I reinvented myself.  I grew my hair long, despite my mother's obsessive comments about how desperately I needed a haircut.  Mom loves short hair.  I, on the other hand, DO NOT.  An even bigger accomplishment included managing to train myself not to pass out when I inserted brand new contact lenses.  Good-bye glasses and boy hair!

My transformation confused my best friend, Fozzy.  Prior to senior year we were friends, but we didn't see each other outside of school regularly.  We hadn't gotten together much that summer - probably in part because I babysat so much.   Our friendship blossomed as seniors.  Anyway, Fozzy walked into homeroom the first day of senior year and turned to a mutual friend.  She whispered, 'Who's the new girl?'  Our friend chuckled, 'That's Ernie!'

The boys who attended the Catholic boys school on the other side of our building weren't exactly falling all over each other to date me.  It wasn't that kind of transformation.  My self confidence had grown tremendously though, and I wasn't afraid to speak to them.  Ah, progress.  They soon saw that I had a personality.  The new me acquired acquaintances and friends from the boy side of school.  Life was looking up.

On the bus trip to the Mu Alpha Theta field trip that spring day, I chatted with two of these 'guy' friends.  When we entered the Board of Trade, my two buddies and I went thru the turnstile.  Completely.  We did a 180 and marched right back out the door.  It was just so simple.

Ferris and friends actually made it into the 
Art Institute! 
(photo credit:
Our adventure began with a stop at the Art Institute of Chicago.  It was 1989 and there were protesters standing on the steps near the huge lion statues.  (click here to read about the flag protest!)  Inside the museum, an 'artist' had draped the American flag on the floor in front of his or her art.  In order to view the art properly, visitors were expected to step on the flag.  This issue raised all kinds of red flags (pun intended!) and angry Americans were demonstrating on the steps.  We stood there for a few minutes, so we could be part of history.

Where's Waldo Ernie?
(photo credit:  F Newsmagazine by Dread Scott-Tyler)
Bloomingdale's had just opened a downtown location, so naturally we checked it out.  We wanted to buy something to commemorate our visit.  The guy chose a pair of underwear that said 'bloomies' on the butt.  It was a gift for me.  We weren't dating or at all romantically linked.  I swear.  It was just for fun.  There was no modeling or anything goofy.  Promise.

We enjoyed deep dish pizza at Gino's East.  Over lunch we talked about pressing issues that were weighing on our teenage minds.  I believe potential prom dates was one of the hot topics.  Although we entered the John Hancock building, we didn't bother to spend the funds to go up to the observation deck.

As Mrs. Math requested, we were careful to venture back to the bus pick up spot at 2:00 sharp.  Now that I am the mother of teenagers, I recognize that teen brains are not firing on all cylinders.  Looking back, I realize that my brain suffered from the same underdeveloped issue.

Mrs. Math was unfamiliar with the male students.  She only taught on the girl's side.  As we lined up for the bus, she approached me and my buddies.  In the same even tone that she used to instruct us to return to the bus, she muttered words that left me dumbfounded.  'Ernie and company, you can either see the dean when we return to school or you can let me talk to her first and then get called to her office.  Your choice.'  Ouch.

The ride back to our suburban school felt like eternity.  A few fellow students helped the guys and I piece together the kind of trouble we were facing.  Ditching a field trip was a serious offense.  Three levels were going to be added to my initial level.  Crap.

I now had reason to fear that my folks would be made aware that I was at level 4.  In other words they were going to figure out that I had a level from a previous offense - an offense that I had managed to hide from them.

It ended so much better for Ferris.

May 27, 2017

headed for more trouble

What was the big deal about getting in trouble in high school?  Once I intercepted the notice to my folks alerting them that I had been busted for cheating in keyboarding class, I felt accomplished.  Like a genius.  A sneaky genius.  A sneaky genius with poor typing skills.  

Of course my path to being busted was anything but crafty and clever.  I'm guessing my friends who had gotten into a few tangles chuckled to themselves with a little 'don't-quit-your-day-job' mentality when considering how dopey my ordeal was.  Translation: 'stick to steering clear of trouble, Ernie.  You suck at this.'  

It was interesting to see how the other half lived.  Living on the edge was invigorating - an automatic adrenaline rush.  I enjoyed having a rebel-without-a cause-story to share with my hand-full of friends who dabbled in trouble from time to time.  Now I could relate a bit to their cause- instead of being cast exclusively as a goody-goody.   

Up until that little incident, I had a squeaky clean image - with the exception of making a few wise ass comments during classes where wise ass comments were welcome.  I was pretty confident that I would graduate without any other issues.  After all, I was a class officer on student council.  I had been chosen as the assistant director on a senior retreat.  (that same retreat when I missed a few typing assignments!)  My grades were good.  I even dressed like a pirate at home football games demonstrating my school spirit.  Embarrassment never phased me.  

After complaining that our school didn't have a mascot, my student council moderator challenged me to go for it.  I accepted.  I invested in a mis-matched assortment of items at the grocery store after Halloween.  It resulted in my family disowning me at home football games AND in me being voted 'most spirited' by my fellow classmates.  There are worse fates.  
I swear it's not like I got a taste of being naughty and decided to switch gears entirely.  One thing just led to another.  
I have searched high and low for a picture of me wearing my pirate costume for your enjoyment.  I cannot find one!  Honest.  Perhaps I should be celebrating.  This is part of the photo that appears in my high school year book.  It features the guy and girl (me!) students who were voted most spirited.  I'm holding up the pirate mask I wore when I was the somewhat self-appointed school mascot.  It was only a partial mask - it didn't cover my entire face, which was a bummer because as brave as I was anonymity would have been a perk.  In my other hand I'm holding the fake hook.  This is what you get when you decide not to care what anyone thinks AND when you are shopping with a limited mascot costume budget.

I was coasting through spring of my senior year without issue until I signed up for a field trip through the math group, Mu Alpha Theta.  I believe I had attended the one obligatory meeting that allowed me to jump on the field trip band wagon.  The group took a bus downtown annually to the Board of Trade.  

After the stunt I pulled on the field trip, I'm surprised my face wasn't cropped out of the Mu Alpha Theta club yearbook picture.
To complicate things, my good friend's mom taught math at the school.  She was the head of the math group, and was the staff member who organized and chaperoned the field trip.  Ironically, I considered her presence on the school field trip completely uncomplicated.  She was 'cool.'
Once I began my 'eat, drink and be merry - for tomorrow you too may be grounded' campaign, Mrs. Math's house was the house we crashed at when we had a few drinks.  To this day I'm unclear about whether or not she knew we had been out drinking, or if she just turned a blind eye, or maybe she just went to bed really early.  Her laid back approach to her kids inviting countless friends over to crash in the basement on the weekends sealed the deal.  In all honesty, I barely ingested more than half a beer on any high school occasion.  It was the beginning of my long, lifetime devotion to being a light-weight.  

When we pulled up to the Board of Trade building, Mrs. Math announced to all of us (boy students and girl students were welcome to join this club, so it was a rare co-ed field trip for my all-girls Catholic high school):  'If you get lost, meet us back here at the bus by 2:00.'

I turned to my guy friends that I was sitting with on the bus.  'I told you.  She's cool.  She totally doesn't expect us to stay on the field trip.'  The two guys looked at each other and then back at me.  I nodded.  It was on.  

May 24, 2017

retro detention

In my blog, my daughter Mini earns her name for being my 'mini-me'.  The list of similarities between she and I are endless.  Like me, she requires lots of sleep.  She has an artistic flare.  She loves babysitting.  She has a tendency to be long winded and chatty.  She works hard in school and gets good grades.  Thanks to her strong resemblance to me, there is no denying her.  She once watched a home movie of me at age 3 and hollered, 'I remember when I did that.'

My baby picture (on the left - in case you can't tell from the coloring of the photo!) and Min's.  I remind her often that she's lucky that she gets to be cute because her mom doesn't insist on cutting her hair the same length as her brothers'.  (scarred for life!)  Only time will tell if Mini follows in her mother's footsteps and is required to serve more dreaded detentions.  
Like Mini, I managed to stay out of trouble in grade school.  I was very quiet - on the shy side even.  Basically, friends that know me now would not have recognized the younger version of myself.  Mini crumbled last week when she was assigned a detention.  I suppose I might have reacted similarly if I had to face the music of breaking a rule in grade school.  By high school though, I embraced my rebellious side and occasionally had to deal with the consequences.

My parents were quite strict.  For the first two and a half years of high school, I didn't give them cause for concern.  For the most part, my girlfriends and I considered a night with a rented movie, snacks, and the good company of each other a fun time.  We didn't break rules, didn't date (not for lack of interest), and didn't get bad grades.  I babysat so frequently, that my social life was barely existent anyway.

Things shifted a bit by the time I was a senior.  I began to rebel a bit against my folks.  I was a good-girl after all.  The grounding I endured for attending a party when I didn't drink, essentially drove me to drink.

Once I got a taste of how the other half lived, I began to throw caution to the wind.  My first infraction at school seemed silly to me.  I was required to makeup keyboarding assignments because I had missed a few days of class while I was leading a school organized retreat.  My fellow retreat leaders and I hated to miss our lunch period to practice our typing skills.  It was the only social time of our day!  The exercises couldn't be made up at home.  It had to be done at school.  I felt like maybe the administration could have asked the typing teacher to excuse our typing homework, since we were away on a school sponsored retreat.

Despite just returning from retreat, we didn't have a prayer of getting away with the plan that we hatched.  We were clueless.  We met during lunch and decided that by splitting up the work we would only have to sacrifice that one lunch period.  Each of us chose a typing assignment.  By printing out multiple copies of each typed paragraph, we could complete the assignments in a fraction of the time.
Since we failed to take into account the fact that we were still learning to type, we got busted.  Our teacher called us to her classroom the next day.  The three of us had turned in our assignments with exactly the same typos.  Oops.

Cheating.  They called our sharing of typing exercises cheating.  We each received an automatic level.  The level came with a detention, or jug.  Jug stood for 'justice under God.'  There was a numeric equation for the number of jugs that would equal a level.  If you reached a certain number of levels, you would be expelled from school.

I had managed to bypass ever serving a detention and jumped right up to level 1.  I knew that with 10 available levels, reaching my first level in the fall of my senior year was not a big deal.  I was a far cry from a trouble maker.  I didn't expect to get another level for the rest of my senior year.

The only problem was that a letter would be sent home in conjunction with receiving a level.  For the next few weeks, I drove home during my lunch period to intercept the mail.  My mom was a school teacher.  She would typically beat me home and get to the mailbox after school.  Seniors had permission to leave campus for lunch.  I drove the most conspicuous car in town.  A 1976 red Chevy Impala station wagon.  My dad had tried to patch the rust spots, but that only made it more of an eye soar.  I still can't believe that a neighbor didn't rat on me and tell my folks that I kept showing up at home during lunch.

I didn't take any chances.  I lit a match and burned that letter when it finally arrived.  It didn't end there . . . (tune in soon to be filled in on my next infraction).

I can't be the only goody-goody turned naughty kid out there.  Do you have any high school detentions that were earned in an interesting way?  Please share in my comments!

May 22, 2017


Mini served her first detention yesterday.  This girl cannot get to school on time.  The other day I called the school to alert them that she would be late - yet again.  She wanted me to drive her.  I refused to load three toddlers into car seats to drop her at school four blocks away.

Apparently, I don't wake her up early enough.  Her mother makes her lunch and her breakfast.  It sounds like I am enabling her.  This might be true, but I will do ANYTHING in order that she gets a few more minutes sleep.  She often goes to bed later than ideal because of Irish dancing class and homework.  My assistance in prepping her breakfast and packing her lunch leave her with only a few things to accomplish each morning.

Mini is solely responsible to shower, get dressed, and eat.  I believe that 45 minutes is ample time to prepare for the day, particularly because Mini does not spend any time styling her hair.  She brushes it after her shower and leaves the house with it wet.  Often it's in a pony tail.  And, she doesn't wear makeup yet.  (I shudder to think of the morning routine once she enters high school - not to mention . . .  high school starts earlier than junior high).

I would agree to wake her up earlier, but this 7th grader NEVER gets enough sleep.  I know all too well how her lack of sleep impacts her disposition.  I once called the school to let them know that I was bringing her late because I decided to let her sleep in.  The secretary chuckled when I said, 'The world is a happier place when my daughter has caught up on sleep.  You're welcome.'

I hung up with this same secretary the other morning and shared with Mini that the woman apologized, but wanted me to know that the gig was up.  Mini would now need to serve a detention.  The school had already shown her a great deal of leniency.  I almost doubled over laughing when she explained that each student is only supposed to receive three tardies.

'Missing cleat' right in the middle of her mess of shoes.
I had no problem with my kid serving a detention.  Mini, on the other hand, burst into tears.  She sobbed how this was my fault for not waking her up earlier.  I reminded her that her missing soccer cleat had slowed her down - big time.  When she panicked because she couldn't find it, I dug around in the mudroom to unearth it.

I assumed the cleat sitting on top of the pile of shoes was the one that she already counted in her possession.  Nope- that was the missing shoe.  She had already packed the other shoe in her drawstring bag.  She was mystified that I had found it.  IT WAS ON TOP OF ALL OF HER OTHER SHOES IN FRONT OF HER LOCKER IN THE MUDROOM.  The five plus minutes she spent searching for that shoe cost her.

The next morning Coach was still home when the kids were preparing for school.  I am usually too busy when I fly solo packing lunches, feeding faces, waking kids, settling disputes, and handling toddlers to police the length of the showers.  With an extra adult on hand, I begged Coach to order Mini to bathe in a timely fashion.

Magic.  Mini appeared ready for breakfast in record time.  Her dripping hair was wrapped up in the customary towel.  It was a teaching moment.

Mini CAN take a shower in under 25 minutes.  Wonders never cease.  Not sure if I need to thank the secretary for administering the long overdue detention or Coach for taking an active role in conserving our water supply . . .  and my sanity.

Back in the day, my own personal detention experience was awarded for true bad behavior . . . so being punished for tardy hardly seemed worth getting upset about.  Stay tuned for me to share my rebellious streak in high school.

May 20, 2017

Lost phone? just check with Laddie across the street

As promised, here is another true tale about my neighbor, Mary Ann.  Of course you might read this and assume that her heart was in the right place.  Maybe she was just trying to be helpful to this total stranger - instead of being loyal to a neighbor.  If you are current on my Mary Ann experiences, then you might suspect that she thought the worst of my kid and acted accordingly.  (If you want to read up on Mary Ann's background as a dreadful neighbor, check out this post, and this post, and this post).

When Laddie was starting his freshman year of high school, he attended football camp at the high school all summer.  Coach and I weren't thrilled with his choice to play football in high school, but we figured it made no sense to deny a kid his size.  We hated that camp monopolized most weeks of his summer.  We preferred that the boys work in the summer to save money for college.  No matter what size any of our kids were, we knew that the NFL wouldn't be scouting, drafting, or funding them.  College tuition needed to be earned and saved.

I was anxious for Lad to have a fresh start in high school.  He graduated from a small Catholic grade school.  We pondered yanking him from that school from time to time.  Unfortunately the majority of the boys in his grade were either mean, intimidating, rude, sneaky, pompous, aggressive, or all of the above.  I knew decent kids were enrolled in the school, because Eddie's class was full of kind, friendly, polite, well-mannered kids.  Lad just got the short end of the stick.

There were triplet boys in Lad's class, who ran the show.  With only about 22 boys in the entire grade, if you weren't accepted by them, then you were a social leper.  These triplets disliked Lad.  I worried about sending Lad to high school with these same characters.  Other seasoned parents assured me that high school was big enough to click with a group and avoid the one jerk who tormented you in grammar school.  Of course none of them had sent a kid off to high school to deal with a set of triplet jerks.

One summer day a woman called the house and introduced herself as Carol.  She explained that her son was also playing football at the high school.  For a split second I was foolish enough to think that this woman was organizing a barbecue of incoming freshmen parents or some other social function.  Silly me.

Her son brought his new iPhone to practice in his backpack.  That day after practice his phone wasn't in his bag.  She was kind enough not to accuse Laddie of stealing the missing phone.  She wondered if the phone could've been placed in the wrong backpack, and if perhaps Laddie could check his bag to see if it ended up there by mistake.

Football gear - just be glad you can't smell it.
As my heart began to race a bit and my stomach felt like I had been kicked, she went on to explain that they had opted to invest in a tracking system for this new phone.  This handy tracking service pointed them to our neighbor Mary Ann's house.  Mary Ann's kids attended Catholic high school, so they weren't anywhere near the public school football practice field.  Our neighborhood is about 5 miles away from the high school.  It's hardly a popular pass-thru route.

Carol explained that she reached out to Mary Ann already.  Mary Ann suggested that Carol, who she didn't know from Adam, call me.  Laddie Shenanigan was a freshman on the football team.  He probably knew something about this missing phone.

I believe I failed to drop Mary Ann a thank you note for making that connection for this woman.  Our neighbor had known us for years.  Did it not occur to her to contact me with Carol's information after their initial conversation?  Instead I felt like she had tainted this woman's opinion of our kid when she didn't hesitate to throw him under the 'he-probably-stole-your-kid's-cell-phone' bus.

Laddie didn't have the phone.  He knew nothing about it.  Coach and I watched as he emptied his bag looking for it.  School hadn't even started yet.  I was concerned that despite Lad's lack of involvement with his teammate's lost phone, he would be considered a sneaky thief.  So much for a clean slate.

May 19, 2017

stress fracture could lead to other broken bones

Curly came home from Irish dancing class last Wednesday night and informed Coach and I that her foot hurt.  She struggles with tendinitis from time to time, but this was different.  

Since Coach is a physical therapist, I defer these kinds of complaints to him.  I stared at his facial expression from behind the mountain of laundry I was folding.  He looked upset.  'She needs to take a break,' he announced.  

The pain was on the top of her foot.  It hurt when she put weight on the ball of her foot.  'Stress fracture?' I asked.  He gave me a concerned look, 'Possibly.' She iced her foot before she went to bed.  Instead of celebrating that I had sorted and folded several loads of laundry, I felt sick.

Coach insisted it was not an emergency.  No need to get Curly to the doctor the next day.  He suggested that she not dance or play basketball or participate in gym class at school until after she was seen by a doctor.  
Curly thumping around in a boot until she sees the doctor.  

I preferred an immediate doctor visit.  I wanted answers.  If she was going to be stuck in a boot for 6 weeks, I wanted the countdown to begin right away.  Coach reassured me that the boot sentence could start immediately since she wasn't doing anything to aggravate the injury.

Certain times of the year are intense for an Irish dancer.  Back at the Midwest championships over Thanksgiving weekend, Curly placed in the top ten out of around 100 dancers in her age group.  That placement qualified her to dance at the National championships.  National championships are held annually over fourth of July weekend.  This summer they are being held in New Orleans.  

Curly is a natural Irish dancer.  She loves Irish dancing and rarely stands still.  Her dancing teacher gives her steps that are typically reserved for the teenage dancers.  Curly, 'the rock-star', can handle the difficult steps.  When she goes upstairs to take her bath at night, we often yell to her to stop dancing.  I often wonder if this will be the day that her non-stop pounding feet will break through the drywall.   

Last weekend I drove to Milwaukee with the two girls for two days of competitions.  Curly placed first both days.  Mini placed 5th and 2nd in her two competitions, which include three times the number of competitors that Curly's age group does.  Translation:  both girls were smiling on the drive home, which made their mother very happy.  Their trophy collection is begging for us to add another wing onto the house.  

If Curly spends 6 weeks in a boot, she will only be left with two weeks to train for Nationals.  Mini isn't competing in New Orleans, because she didn't qualify at Midwest championships.  Confident Curly assured me that she already knows her steps and she can get ready for Nationals in two weeks.  I'm sure she will do her best, but she will most likely not place as high as she would have if she was focusing for the next 8 weeks on fine tuning her steps.

In the meantime, my friend invited us to their lake house for July 4th if we opt to not travel to New Orleans that week.  I wisely have chosen not to tell my kids about this enticing backup plan.  I fear that one of Curly's siblings will break Curly's good leg as insurance that she won't stand a chance of dancing at Nationals.  

May 17, 2017

Mostly true poem penned by Eddie about me

Years ago Eddie wrote a poem about me.  We think he was in 4th grade - 11 or 12 years old.  I honestly don't remember if it was part of a Mother's Day thing at school, or if it was just a random assignment.  It's been hanging in the inside of my baking cabinet ever since.  It has become one of those things that becomes kind of invisible because it's been there so long.

Tank just burst out laughing the other day reading it, and suggested I highlight it on my blog.  (I'm assuming Tank was scrounging around looking for where I stashed the Oreos, because why else would he be in my baking cabinet?)

Here is a photo of Eddie's poem.  The discolored streak along the side is from the time a few years ago when I dropped a bottle of vanilla and it splashed . . . everywhere.
My favorite lines?  Easy:  'She often eats'
                                           'She has a big footprint'  Both true statements.  I love his observations.

Not sure how valid a few of his thoughts are.  Like . . . 'She never fought.'

Um, I know a few people who might dispute this statement.  My siblings.  Hey, I was a middle child.  No one had my back.  I had to stick up for myself.

Then there is the time I tried to break up a fight at my little brother's basketball game . . . when we were in college.  It was an outdoor tournament and my hood was up because it was cold.  One of the butt-heads from the other team who was talking trash and pushing my brother around thought I was a guy.  He almost took a swing at me when I jumped in the middle of these big nutty guys.  Yes, I have an Irish temper.  Yes, I'm flat chested.  No, my brother was not the LEAST bit impressed.

Also, I don't recall ever jumping across a lake.  Eddie no longer has any idea what he was referring to, so I now wish I had made a few footnotes when he first gave me the poem.

We did see a wolf in Yellowstone -from a distance.  Maybe his jump across a lake reference is also from something I managed to do in Yellowstone - a creek maybe, not a lake.  Ah, the perspective of a young boy.

I did buy him a bike at a garage sale once.  He was thrilled.  It was a great bike!  The saucer I bought him, hmm. . . a sled?  That's my best guess.

I hate insects.  I am tall.  I make cookies.  All true.  I try to 'always be loving', but since it's been about 6 years since Ed wrote that - he might want to update that line if given the chance.  Not sure if his teenage self appreciates 'tough love', so he might not distinguish my discipline tactics as deep down examples of love.

I often pulled a wagon.  It was usually full of kids, and I sometimes pushed a stroller with the other hand while pulling the wagon.  Once I pulled the wagon down the sidewalk and my sister and her kids drove by.  They waved to us.  As I waved back, I saw them burst out laughing.  The wagon was suddenly lighter.  I turned my focus away from the chuckling people and back to my wagon.  One of the tots had rolled out of the wagon while I was waving frantically to my sister's minivan.  Oops.

I cringe to think what Curly would write if she was assigned this kind of poem in the next few years.  Thanks to birth order, it would probably include lines like, 'Mommy can't eat gluten.
                                                                                                She swears a lot.'

Hopefully she would still consider me 'always loving.'

May 15, 2017

It's always mother's day at our house: pan-licking goodness, a sign of thoughtfulness?

It's always Mother's Day at my house.  My kids leave me interesting gifts on a daily basis.  I never quite know what to expect.  Just Friday I opened the fridge and discovered that someone had polished off the remaining piece of a delicious dessert that I made last week for Tank's Confirmation dinner.  

Ah, Cherry dessert.  Yummy!  It didn't take long after my Celiac disease diagnosis (2 years and 9 days ago - but who's counting) to realize that I could use gluten free graham crackers for the crust on this crowd pleasing favorite.  Once the crust was altered - the other ingredients were acceptable.  Trust me, this epiphany came to me only after I spent oodles of time wallowing in my sorrow over my new sheet-cake-less life.  Now Cherry dessert remains at the top of my list, if I want to enjoy a celebration.  Of course the other option is to suffer thru an event watching everyone else indulge in tasty treats that are off limits to me.  

After eating the last piece of Cherry dessert, one of my offspring chose to leave the empty glass Pyrex container in the fridge.  I gasped out loud when I saw the dirty yet dessert-less glass dish taking up precious real estate on the second shelf.  

Nothing like a glass Pyrex dish smeared with graham cracker crumbs, hardened cherry topping, and dried-up creamy filling residue to tempt me to lick away to my heart's desire.  
The list of suspects was short.  I stumbled across Laddie first.  He feigned disgust that I would accuse him of such a crime.  I chuckled.  Perhaps he forgot that I raised him.  I'm no dummy.  Eating all the chips, or cereal, or bread, or ANYTHING and not bothering to toss out the container/wrapper/box - well, he perfected that maneuver.  He scoffed at my silliness because he is not eating dessert right now anyway.  He pointed out to me that he hasn't eaten any junk since he got home from college . . . less than 48 hours before the abandonment of the dirty casserole dish.  He's right.  I am crazy.

Once Lad was eliminated, I simply asked Tank why he left the dish in the fridge after eating the last piece.  He didn't bother to deny his involvement in the Cherry dessert caper.  His answer was simple.  He thought I might be interested in the crumbs.  What can I say?  Proud doesn't really cover it.  I was touched that he chose to consider my pan-licking needs.  

Am I the only one with thoughtful kids?  Tell me how your kids show that they are always 'thinking.'

May 13, 2017

guardian of the family memories

I'm not sure why I have devoted myself to recording countless hours of our family in video footage, but I am guessing that I have more memories recorded than the average parent.  I suppose I could blame my middle-child status, since I am good at blaming most of my shortcomings on being raised a middle child.  I must admit though that my parents were rock stars for their era at recording my siblings and I on what we referred to as a 'movie camera' back in the late 60's, 70's, and early 80's.  So maybe my habit of filming my offspring is just learned behavior. (I'd say that the hours of footage I record is the equivalent of my Dad's to recording our generation).

A year and a half ago I used footage that my folks recorded to create an awesome video that we played during their 50th anniversary celebration.  This summer Coach's siblings are gathering to celebrate his parents' 50th anniversary.  I offered to put together a video for them.  That's when I learned that his parents never took any video footage of their kids.  Ever.  My chest tightened up and I gasped for air.  I struggled to believe it.
This is a snippet of the video footage I used from my childhood when I made the anniversary movie for my folks.  Note the background music I chose was nothing short of awesome - not the least bit eerie.

Coach's oldest sister collected photos from all of us that she is going to insert in an album.  After I sent her my pictures, she emailed me another request.  Coach's other sister doesn't typically snap photos of her kids.  She doesn't record video either.  (Did you hear that?  It was my insides gasping and groaning a little at the thought).

Organizing oldest sister asked me to look thru my pictures and select any additional photos with the non-photo-focused sister's family in them.  Although it took time, I was happy to oblige.  I felt it was my duty as a devoted memory capture-er to spread the love.

Those clips from my childhood are so fun to watch even though there is no sound to accompany it.  My dad once opted to put the 8 mm film (not even sure that is what the original reels consisted of, but it sounds cool to say) on VHS tapes.  The man he hired for the project chose to set our home movies to outlandish background music.

When we watched the tapes, we ended up muting the sound - otherwise we were on the edge of our seats watching our wordless selves.  The music selected by Mr. VHS-man led the viewer to believe an ax murderer would jump out from behind the twinkling Christmas tree and bludgeon the sweet, pudgy, rosy-cheeked tots.  Obviously we knew the outcome was far from that of a horror movie, but still.  I can't help but wonder if Mr. VHS-man was dared by a lunatic friend to screw with us.

Years later Dad took the tapes to another guy (a guy minus an obsession with creepy music) and had them transferred to DVD's.  He had additional copies made.  Now my siblings and I all have a complete collection of our home movies and there is no nutty soundtrack to make us wonder who might be eliminated in the next scene.

May 12, 2017

2011 video footage

I'm going to take a break from describing the many infractions of my neighbor Mary Ann.  If you have enjoyed reading about her clueless, rude ways - rest assured she has been supplying me with material for 9 years now.  Since I have only recently decided to share my Mary Ann stories, I have a few other tidbits up my sleeve to write about next week.  Promise.

The youngest four (they call themselves 'the Fabulous Four') building sand castles. Aug. 2011
Back in the summer of 2011 Coach and I were invited to vacation at our friends' summer house.  To call this house a summer home doesn't do it justice.  It was built for their large family and was located right on Lake Michigan.  The countless bedrooms and bathrooms are decorated beautifully.  They developed the land and created this picturesque little neighborhood complete with a wonderful pool and private beach.  We were thrilled!
Me - taking a break from filming - getting a kiss from my girls!

We spent two and a half weeks there while work was being done on our house.  I captured tons of photos and video of the kids playing on the beach, jumping in the waves, and relaxing.

Cool picture of brothers chasing each other - use your imagination to guess how funny the video version was.  
Imagine my disgust when I recently discovered that I had deleted the footage of this vacation along with several other months of family movies from 2011.  The issue began with the best of intentions.  I was trying to preserve our video memories.

Unlike the home movies my father took decades ago, I have no reels of 8 mm film to deal with.  The first video camera Coach and I bought years ago saved images on little cassette tapes. When that camera broke, we invested in a digital video camera.  Since that purchase back in 2010, all home movies are uploaded to our home computer.  It has been gnawing at me that our home computer could crash and we could lose all of our movies.  In order to avoid that scary scenario, I began editing and burning those movies to DVDs.

My movie making software required more space on my hard drive than what I had available, so the first step in my project was to create space on the hard drive.  In hindsight I wish I would've reached out to Best Buy and asked for suggestions.  Non - technological me decided to back up my photos on flash drives, check that they were deposited at Snapfish, and purge those files.  I thought I was being careful.

A few weeks ago I realized that through that process I had inadvertently deleted all of our home movies from May 2011- Jan 2012.  Let's just say it was an emotional weekend.  I've tried to keep the whole disaster in perspective, but as an admitted home movie addict - it bums me out.

My hard drive has been sent away by Best Buy in order to try to recover the files.  I have heard it is a costly process.  Perhaps I suffer from some unnamed diagnosis - like 'this does not compute' syndrome.  I simply can't put a price on getting those movies back.

I'm guessing that I deleted them in February, but I really have no idea.  Fortunately, I have a million photos of those months.  I'm guessing that I could create a flip book of the pictures to recreate the action I've lost.

Riding the waves on a big tube - Aug 2011.
I know that in the grand scheme, not seeing the cute retro footage of the kids playing on the beach at our friends' amazing house for that awesome August 2011 vacation is not the end of the world . . . especially when you consider that I have countless hours recorded of the crew from every other time-frame.

I'm still crossing my fingers that Best Buy works some magic for me.  Each day that goes by with no contact from Best Buy makes me wonder:  is no news good, or bad?  And with just the thought of it -there's the pit in my stomach again!

In the meantime as Mother's Day approaches, I am NOT feeling like mother of the year.  As the protector of our family memories, I failed.

Too bad we can't just dress the kids in similar looking bathing suits and try to recreate the lost scenes.  Families recreate still photos of siblings all the time on Facebook or in funny Christmas cards.  We'd have to try to get invited back to this same beach house, and I suspect that we broke too many things for that to be possible.

May 10, 2017

Mary Ann's transparency in Irish dancing carpool

When Mini was in kindergarten, I enrolled her in an Irish dancing class.  This class was offered my a more mainstream school than the school where Eddie had been taking lessons.  This new school the 'McMoney School of Irish dance' offered free classes for boys, and the opportunity to join competitions.  Continuing at the low key school where Eddie began Irish dancing meant that my kids could never attend a competition because the teacher didn’t hold the official qualifications.  Tank wanted to take lessons with Mini, and the free boy class would be a huge savings.  

Mary Ann (my notoriously self-involved neighbor across the street) has a daughter, Ria, who had been dancing at the same studio for a year of two before we joined.  When it came time for team classes, where the dancers prepare to perform in a ceili for upcoming competitions, my kids and Ria were scheduled for classes that overlapped.  As usual, car pooling to a studio 15 minutes away with a neighbor across the street made no sense to Mary Ann.  Her parents typically arrived from across town each day in separate cars so that they could drive Mary Ann’s kids in different directions.  Their assistance lowered Mary Ann's stress level - I guess, but she still managed to act as if life was next to impossible.  

Mary Ann greeted me from her driveway one day.  She wanted to commiserate over how difficult it was to shuttle kids in so many directions.  I neglected to point out to her that she had four kids, while I had 6.  Not to mention the extra two drivers (in the shape of her parents) at her disposal daily.  Coach worked late four nights a week.  I was left to navigate the after school activities on my own.  The common ground conversation was short.

 A few years after joining the dancing school, Tank was invited to attend an additional Irish dancing class, that would require me to make an extra round trip to the studio.  I decided enough was enough.  I told the teachers that I couldn’t pull it off.  

The next day Mary Ann called me.  She was offering to drive Tank to the extra ceili class.  I almost fell over.  Initially, I was pleased.  What luck. Since the teachers offered boy lessons for free, I hated to refuse to participate in one of the teams where boys were required.  Eventually Mary Ann's ulterior motive became clear. 

Her sudden willingness to carpool was due to the fact that without Tank, the team would not be able to compete.  The teachers needed one more boy in the under 9 age group to partner with a girl -or the team would not exist.  Seven other dancers would be able to compete in this dance so long as Tank danced.  Translation:  Mary Ann's carpool willingness switched into high gear so that Ria could rake in another medal. 

While ceili teams with all girls were a dime a dozen, competing in a 'mixed ceili' competition was more rare.  It was only possible to enter a team in the mixed category if the teachers could scrape up enough boys to assume the traditional 'boy' role as partners with the girls.  Ria was already dancing on the all-girl team (where girls were permitted in the 'boy' role in order to create a couple).  If Tank could attend the practices, then the team could compete at Nationals in the less popular and easier to dominate 'mixed ceili' competition.  Ironically, Tank was partnered with Ria.  
An example of a mixed ceili team practicing - note all hands are connected.  I have no photos of the look of terror on my son's face as he searches for Ria's hand.  You will have to use your imagination.  While you are at it, imagine the gut wrenching feeling his uncool maneuver gave me.  Then, if you can stand it - imagine how another mother can deliver the silent treatment to this young dancer's family.  Nuts, I know.  As crazy as the world of Irish dancing may be, Mary Ann's behavior takes the cake.

Months later at the National competition in Nashville, Tank and Ria failed to grab hands during one of the partner switches.  (To make this issue easier to understand for my non-Irish dancing readers:  it would be similar to an Olympic ice skater failing to land properly after a jump).  Panic stricken my eight year old son, whose nerves often get the best of him, turned to face Ria.  He fumbled around until at last he grabbed her hand.  His little freak-out made the small error more conspicuous and exaggerated.  The team didn’t win, and Mary Ann ceased all conversation with us while in Nashville.

After living in our house for 9 years, I am grateful for the added space and the education offered at our school district.  However, we miss the elderly couple that lived across the street from our old house.  

They are sweet, generous, kind, and friendly.  A wise friend once told me:  'If you see crazy coming, cross the street'.  Unfortunately for us, crazy resides across the street.  We live in a 'no cross' zone.  

May 8, 2017

more neighborly carpool refusals

I vowed never to ask for a ride from Mary Ann again, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  Certainly this time would be different.  

During the school basketball season, Laddie's 5th grade team practiced a few nights a week.  One of the nights was when Coach worked late.  Practice took place right in the middle of dinner.  Load everyone up, drop Laddie off, back at home feed the other 5 kids, race through baths, load them all up again, and return to pick him up.  It was exhausting.
This is what our table looked like frequently as I raced off to get Lad to practice.
Laddie pointed out to me that while his team played on half court, the other half of the court was utilized by the 6th grade boys' team.  Mary Ann’s 6th grader, Ryan, practiced at the same time.  I took a deep breath and called her to see if we could work something out.  

Ryan's rides were organized already.  His coach, Mr. Smith -another school dad, drove Ryan home after practice.  No offer to find out if there was room for Laddie.  I didn’t know the Smith family well, because they weren’t in Laddie’s grade.  I now realize that at a small Catholic school there were very few people who would not offer to drop a kid off across the street from one of the other riders.  

Mary Ann was quick to explain that for the other practices when she dropped her son off, he liked to arrive early.  Of course Laddie could have been dropped off early as well, but apparently she needed an out and this was it.  I hung up and thought of all of the things I’d like to say into her answering machine if I called it again and heard the outgoing message, ‘Have a blessed day!’
Imagine having a neighbor like Mary Ann and hearing her voice wish you a blessed day from her answering machine.  
Fortunately, I soon met a few women in the neighborhood across the street, whose memory of the importance of nap-time and the hassle of buckling into car seats hadn’t faded.  They insisted on driving my boys home if I ever needed their help.  Just when I was beginning to doubt that there were supportive people in the world.  I called them sparingly, but was very relieved to have a back up option if Curly really needed a long nap or something else came up.  

A few times Mary Ann pulled into her driveway and watched my kids hop out of one of these cooperative cars.  Laddie and Eddie emerged overjoyed.  Their eyes bugging out as they proudly showed me the smoothie or shake treat that their ‘chauffeur’ had picked up at a drive thru on the way home.  I beamed and loudly thanked them repeatedly from the driveway.

Do you have a wacky neighbor story you'd like to share?  Please don't let me think I am the only one with this issue,  Share your awful neighbor story in my comments.  I admit it is tempting to print Mary Ann's land line phone number here, so you can all dial it and hope to hear her bless your day!

May 5, 2017

Easter grass presence and constant driving loop

I have been missing the simplicity of my life as it was a few weeks ago.  Ah, life before pesky pieces of fake Easter basket grass started popping up EVERYWHERE.  Some years I avoid the grass all-together, but the jelly beans look so lonely (and unappetizing - not that this would deter my bunch) floating around in the bottom of an old dusty Easter basket.  This year I caved.

The price I pay for filling Easter baskets with annoying plastic grass- it continues to be a constant presence in our lives.  Although I'm guessing I'm the only one bothered by it.
Now I'm spying lone grass strands stuck in the bottom of the broom or in plain sight in the middle of the living room floor.  It's as if each strand is sending me a message:  'Ha!  Still here.  Catch me, catch me, if you can.'  But the grass knows, I can't.  I swear the damn stuff multiplies.  

But with the arrival of the month of May, a new challenge makes Easter grass stragglers look as uninteresting as plain flavored jelly beans (please leave me a comment if you have to search high and low at the store for the traditional jelly beans vs the jazzy flavored variety).  We signed four kids up for a basketball clinic about 20 minutes away.  Now when I'm not collecting renegade grass strands, I'm driving to basketball clinics - or plotting our next driving route.

The clinic is scheduled for Monday and Wednesday nights.  Irish dancing classes are also Monday and Wednesday nights.  Conveniently, basketball is located en-route to the Irish dancing studio.  It also helps that two kids attend one clinic.  Then the other two buddy up for the clinic immediately following the first session.  

Envelope.  I even gave Curly a symbolic bow.
Regardless of how sensible that sounds, my brain hurt Sunday night.  Before I went to bed I tried to map out who was going to leave the house when on Monday afternoon for the first basketball practice.  

Who needed to have dinner packed in a thermos?  Who would be stuck sitting waiting at dancing or in the car while we looped up to dancing class before returning home for the next run?  How many trips would this night involve?  Maybe I shouldn't have tried to figure it out at the end of the day.  I wasn't at my freshest.  (Let's blame Easter grass for making me so frazzled).

It's the first time ever that I felt it was necessary to draw a picture.  I grabbed a junk mail envelope off the counter and drew Curly and Reggie.  Below them, I sketched jotted down Tank and Mini's initials.  Then with a series of arrows I tried to decide who would be heading to dancing straight from basketball.  

Monday morning I remembered to text the piano teacher, who literally sends me a text each week ten minutes before Curly's lesson to let me know she is running late.  Why bother?  Anyway, I wanted her to  know that Curly was going to need to leave right at 4:00.  A tardy teacher wouldn't work this week.

Reggie's buddy is also doing the basketball drill thing, so his mom offered to drive Reg and Curly to basketball with her son at 4:00.  That was huge, since Coach and I were planning three round trips in addition to what would've been the initial drop off trip.  I love a mom who doesn't shy away from a carpool, unlike my nutty neighbor Mary Ann.  

Despite all of my stick figure drawing and head scratching, I ended up sticking around at Tank and Mini's basketball after darting out for a bit to drop Curly at dancing.  Choosing to wait for the second group at basketball eliminated one round trip.  My epiphany meant an easier night for Coach.  

A hungry Reggie lost out because he was stranded at the gym with me, and I hadn't packed him a thermos for dinner.  Fortunately, the kid can never get enough basketball - observing or participating.  Plus, I sweetened the deal by treating him to a McDonald's sundae.  

As confusing as it was, I would rather configure driving routes as opposed to chasing down those damn sneaky pieces of plastic grass.  If my kids really want to see me come unglued, they could horde the grass at Easter and plant it around the house in random places.

Let me know in my comments if you are you still finding this shit in your house, or is it just me?

May 2, 2017

innovative kids and available space, nevermind off limits

 I feel it appropriate to share this post from August of 2015 as we consider another interior house project.  If nothing else, I assure you that these kids are innovative as they work to make whatever space they stumble upon their own . . .

January 2013.  Over 20 months ago.  Coach began fixing up the basement that long ago.  When one of the boys recently explained to a friend that Coach was 'finishing' the basement, Tank
corrected him, "Well, I wouldn't exactly call it 'finishing'."  With six active kids living under our roof, being without a basement is difficult.  We have officially surpassed the difficult stage.  Unbearable would be more appropriate.

It'll be great when it's done.  Until then . . . our belongings are mostly crammed into the garage and every open space in the rest of the house.  There are bins of toys in all four corners of the spacious dining room.  My walk in closet houses Pokey and Gumby, the giant Halloween costumes I created for Coach and I last fall.  All legos are gathered in another corner of my closet, and I shuffle around a huge box of dart guns and bow and arrows conveniently located in the center of the space that used to strictly hold my clothes.  Now I have the added ability to get dressed in the morning and come out armed and dangerous.

In lieu of the basement space, the kids' rooms began serving as a play area for their friends.  The dolls and their clothes litter the floor of the girls' room, which is typically layered with the clean laundry they haven't put away.  Coloring papers, markers, rubber bands to construct bracelets, and the occasional book clutter up whatever space remains in there.

The younger boys room is a sea of toys, books, and laundry that may or may not be clean.  Since it is a smaller room, the effect is more drastic.  It can be downright frightening.
Basketball hoop now is fittingly located in the basement, but Reg still prefers the higher ceilings of my room and occasionally relocates the hoop to my door until I blow a gasket.  Weird how my kids think I will suddenly accept defeat on these issues.

Reggie handles the whole situation by branching out.  Several months ago, he relocated the basketball hoop from the back of the big boys' bedroom door to MY bedroom door.  At first Laddie and Eddie objected until they realized that removing it from their door meant no more energy wasted chasing their pesky little brother out of their room each time he sneaked in to shoot hoops.

Complete with a realistic plexi glass backboard, the hoop allows Reg to play b-ball indoors and keep his skills sharp.  Just when I was nervous he might lose his edge over the long Chicago winter.  Creating a makeshift court in my room may have the added perk of polishing his game, but it has an additional side effect . . . any sense of order I strive for in my room has fallen victim to Reggie's favorite past time.

I frequently sort laundry on my bed.  I quickly separate articles of clean clothes into piles for each kid and stack them along one bare wall in my room.  While kids are supposed to claim their pile and deliver it back to their dresser, they typically locate the one item they were searching for and yank it out from the bottom of the pile.

I find laundry piles and a makeshift basketball court do not mix well.
Throw Reggie in the mix and piles that may have escaped toppled mode from impatient hands stand no chance of remaining intact now that Mr. Basketball and his pals attack the boards.  Yes, boards.  Plural.

I failed to mention that another hoop was gifted to one of the boys last Christmas.  I ditched it in my closet while I contemplated what to do with an additional b-ball net.  Silly me, I thought we had no place for a full court.  I guess Reggie is a visionary.  He recognized the possibilities in my room.  So he freed hoop #2 from its box and hooked it onto my closet door.  Full court press, anyone?