July 29, 2017

would the redo be awarded?

My little trooper marched - literally marched just as her private lesson teacher had showed her - commanded the judges' attention, threw her shoulders back, aimed her chin up, plastered a big smile across her face, and pointed her toe.  I think I held my breath.  

She danced steps that were unpracticed.  They weren't reviewed in the many private lessons Curly took leading up to Nationals.  My suspicions that these steps were more remedial than her original White Blanket set were confirmed when Reggie mumbled, 'Oh, this is what I danced at the Oireachtas (midwest championships in November).'  Reggie couldn't be bothered to learn a set in addition to his hard shoe dance, so he did the same hard shoe steps to the set music when he got a recall.  Swell.   

Reggie actually qualified to compete at Nationals just like Curly, but unlike his little sister, his heart wasn't in it.  His heart was in basketball - big time.  He opted to retire his dance shoes at the young age of 11.  Nuts, because what a waste of his awesome birthday - January 9th!

When Curly bowed, I exhaled.  NOW she was done.  She had been the only dancer required to redo her set.  She pulled it off - AMAZING!  This re-do round may have been more basic, but it looked incredible.  There was no hesitation, no deer-in-the-headlights look, and no timing to the music issues.  I stood up from my chair and cheered like the water polo mom that I am.  Um, yeah . . . I go nuts at water polo games.  Very verbal, over-the-top, loud.  That kind of cheering isn't common at Irish dancing events.  Still, it felt totally appropriate.

Curly got off stage and the smiley-face persona disappeared.  She wilted.  Her posture slumped.  Her face just spoke volumes:  damn, why did that happen?  I loved my White Blanket set. (click on those words to go to an earlier post with a video clip of Curly dancing the set . . .  in case you missed it).

Cara hugged her.  She apologized profusely for the oversight on the new rule.  She also built Curly back up by pointing out a few things.  1.  The judges cannot un-see what they had already seen.  2.  The judges were given the option of having Curly dance again, or simply disqualifying her.  They knew she was a good dancer, and they asked to see her dance again.  They wanted her dance to count.  3.  It showed real maturity on Curly's part to be able to get up and dance something that she hadn't prepared.  She probably impressed the judges with her recall, and her poise.  

NOW we waited for results.  Despite all of Cara's encouraging words, I worried that this set mix-up would count against her.  The awards are announced in reverse order.  They started with 38th place and worked their way up.  

My brain hurt.  I just didn't want Curly's name to be called first.  It wasn't.  As each dancer was called to come up and collect her award, my heart beat a bit faster.  Curly wasn't announced in the 30's or the 20's.  Mini and I exchanged a glance when they asked for applause for the top 20.  Curly came in 19th place.  She was thrilled!  She hadn't shared with me that her goal was to be in the top 20, but that had been her goal all along.  And there she was.  Beaming on stage!  My brave Curly, who spent three weeks in a boot, and who held up under incredible pressure, accepted her award on stage like a champ!  

We celebrated with hugs and pictures.  Finally, I looked forward to getting caught up on my sleep.  (Below are the two awards Curly received:  a Waterford Crystal Fleur De Lys ornament and a medal.  Only the top 20 got the ornament)

July 27, 2017

the nightmare of the white blanket

Curly stepped on the Nationals stage for her final round with confidence and a huge smile.  Her set was incredible.  Mini, who attends the same class as Curly, beamed.  'That's the best I've ever seen her do it!'  Phew.  I texted my sister, who was acting as communication liaison with my folks during the competition.  'Her set was amazing!  So glad she's done.  Now we just need to wait until awards.'

Coach headed up to the hotel room.  Tank and Reggie were still lingering.  I had promised them an ice cream treat on the way back up to our room, since being brothers at these all-day dancing events leaves a lot to be desired.  

I unzipped my sweaty, breathless kid from her dress and folded it into her bag.  She wanted to take her hard shoes off.  Putting hard shoes on is a process.  'Can't you just keep them on until awards?' I begged.  She shrugged, agreeing to keep them on.

We were just about to leave the ball room to go up to our hotel room when Cara approached.  'Stay here, stay here,' she mumbled.  I had a few bags on my shoulders, but I stood there.  'Do you know Emily's set?' she asked Curly.  'She can't do that set,' she stuttered.  Mini was standing behind me.  She leaned forward and whispered, 'Oh, poor Emily.'  

But it wasn't Emily whose set was in question.  It was Curly's set.  Someone had called to alert the officials that Curly wasn't allowed to do a hornpipe based set.  She was supposed to do a treble jig based set.  Long story, but it was a new rule, and Cara hadn't realized that it applied to this competition.  The other teachers from other schools who she was sitting with were also unaware of the new rule.  Their dancers had just happened to learn a treble jig based set, so they were in the clear.

I was dumbfounded.  My hands shook as I zipped Curly back into her dress.  Thankfully her hard shoes were still on her feet.  Cara kept grilling her.  'Think, think.'  I actually believe that she was saying this more to herself than to Curly.  'Do you remember this step?'  Cara used her hands to 'dance' the step out on her abdomen.  Curly groaned, 'Um, just the beginning part.'  Once Curly admitted that she still remembered her trouble jig steps that she hadn't practiced since November, Cara steered her to the back stage area.

I followed.  I assured Curly on our short walk, 'It's going to be fine.  Just do your best.' Curly was still crying.  Her hands shook as she wiped away her tears.  I entered the black curtained area.  Cara turned to me and looked surprised that I was still following them, 'No parents allowed back here.'  'I'm going to stick around until she's done crying,' I insisted.  

Curly has one of the worst possible birthdays in the world of Irish dancing.  December 19th.  The cut off is January 1.  Had Curly arrived a few weeks later, she would dance as one of the oldest in her competition.  Instead, she is one of the youngest.  Performing a dance for 7 judges even though it hasn't been practiced in 7 months would be tough for any dancer.   But this whip-up-a-dance-on-the-spot was being required of one of the youngest competitors in the under 10 competition.

My 9 1/2 year old was not going to stand behind a black curtain and sob without her mother.  I grabbed Curly's face.  'Take a deep breath.  No more crying.  Do whatever Cara tells you.  You'll do great.'  Then I walked back to my seat where I used my very shaky hands to text Coach, 'OMG she's dancing again in a few minutes.  Her set wasn't allowed.'  Then I texted something similar to my sister.  
Text to Coach while I was FREAKING OUT!

I sat nervously next to Mini wondering how this was going to go.  A few minutes later, Coach surfaced from our room on the 24th floor.  His face was contorted to say 'What the heck?'  Just when I think I've explained the process to him, a loophole like this crops up.  A major setback for his Irish dancing comprehension.  Cara appeared from back stage.  'She's going to do fine,' she assured me.  

Then it happened . . .I promise the last post about this epic dance competition is heading your way next. 

July 25, 2017

at last, the set

I wasn't surprised that Curly's number was called as a recalled dancer.  Having said that, it's never a sure thing.  My gut filled with butterflies as the woman read thru the numbers, just in case this was going to be one of those surprise fail-to-recall days.  We celebrated her success with a big hug.  A few minutes later her teacher brought her into the hall to review the step she would dance in the last round of Irish Dancing National Championships.

This next round would include a hard shoe dance, called a set dance.  In the first two rounds the dancers shared the stage with other dancers.  This time thru, they wouldn't share the spotlight.  Knowing that this last performance would be a huge focus for the judges, Curly's teacher, Cara Truly, gave Curly a very advanced, complicated set dance.  It was called 'the White Blanket.'  

So . . . like I stated in a previous post, I rarely write about Irish dancing because there is just so much 'splaining to do.  Here's a bit more background on our dancing experience . . .

Our dancing teacher's real name is not Cara Truly.  The word 'Cara' in Gaelic means 'friend'.  I adjusted her name for my blog, because I felt that it was a good fit.

Some or most of my kids have Irish danced for 8 years.  There was a time when I had 5 dancers.  Laddie is our only kid who never Irish danced.  Although switching dancing schools is frowned upon and a difficult road to navigate, we are on our third school.  I have nicknamed our dancing teacher Cara for my blog, because she is a woman who:
     doesn't play favorites,
     doesn't beat around the bush,
     doesn't belittle children,
     doesn't resort to verbal abuse,
     and doesn't cater strictly to parents with deep pockets.
Unfortunately, the other two schools we danced for prior to our current school utilized every one of these awful tactics.  So I will refer to our current, wonderful teacher with the blog name of Cara Truly.  
Yes, this ACTUALLY happened.  A teacher said this exact thing to my three young dancers.  Curly was only 7.  My kids find mean spirited losers far from motivating.  Thus, the new dance school. 

Back in January when Curly began preparing for Nationals, I remember her coming home from a dance class brimming with excitement.  She was getting an awesome set dance. When I came to pick the girls up after the next class, Cara invited me into the studio.  She asked if I had a minute to watch Curly show off her new set.  Another classmate, Emily, who is Curly's age, was pouting because she wanted to be given permission to do the same set as Curly.  Cara knew that Emily couldn't handle it - it was too complicated.  I watched as Curly danced the White Blanket alongside a senior in high school . . . one of the school's most amazing dancers.  When the music stopped, everyone congratulated Curly on how well she was catching on to the new step.

This is a video of Curly dancing part of her White Blanket set just hours before we boarded the plane for New Orleans.  I happened to capture this video of her practice session, because video during competition is not allowed for fear idiot people would video other schools' steps and adapt them to their own school version.   I'm telling you, I've opened Pandora's box sharing some of the Irish dancing nonsense with you.  Just when you thought the world was a normal, rainbow-filled, well-adjusted place to co-exist with other people and teach children about their cultural heritage.  Don't get me started on leg tanning, make-up, and wigs . . . because Irish people are so well known for their deep tans. 

Now that Curly had earned a recall in her under 10 competition, she would get the opportunity to dance her amazing set.  Entire private lessons were dedicated to fine-tuning this set.  I tried to breathe as I forced my young, focused dancer to take a swig of water.  I stood by as Mini taped her shoes in preparations for the stage.  The end was in sight.  I looked forward to reclaiming my nervous system.  With any luck, my sleep patterns would return to normal.  

July 23, 2017

awaiting the recall list

I asked Curly bright and early that morning how she felt.  She shared that she was just a bit nervous, but mostly excited to dance in National Championships.  It was the morning of July 9th.  The day we had been waiting for.  She was ready.  Lots of classes, private lessons, and at home practicing.  Most nights we had to yell up the stairs and ask her to take her bath and STOP dancing in the bathroom.  We assumed it was just a matter of time before she broke thru the dry walled ceiling and danced right down into the kitchen.  

I was also ready - ready for this day to be done.  Here you can read about a few of my past frustrating experiences, which explain why Irish dancing competitions make me jittery.  OK, so that's a HUGE understatement.  Since I had woken up at 2:30 am unable to fall back to sleep significantly, I was ready too.  I just hoped that Curly would dance her best.  I knew that if she made a mistake or let nerves get the best of her, she'd be disappointed.  She'd been preparing for this competition for months . . . mostly.

Boot.  Bummer.
In early May, Curly ended up in a boot after a possible stress fracture.  Coach explained that stress fractures don't often show up on x-rays.  One night she complained of pain in the top of her foot.  The doc saw nothing on the films, so she put Curly in a boot for three weeks.  She called it a possible stress-reaction.  We were relieved that her boot sentence wasn't longer.  By the end of May she was back at class, and back at pounding away in the privacy of the bathroom before her bath.  We hoped that the three week hiatus from training had healed her and wouldn't interfere with her Nationals performance.  

I keep busy at these big competitions by giving pep talks, forcing bathroom visits, offering smart snacks, suggesting water swigs, making supplies available (like sock glue, tape, scissors, bobby pins), changing shoe laces as necessary, designating warm up time, and keeping the dress clean and ready to zip into just before stage time.  If Coach is present, then I dedicate some of my time outlining the dancing day for him.  Despite the fact that we've been involved with Irish dancing for about 8 years, the aspects of big competitions elude him.  Sigh. 

My bag of tricks:  sock glue, leg tanner, bobby pins, tape, scissors, band aids, tiara, Kleenex, etc. 
Curly danced beautifully in the first two rounds of competition.  Hard shoes.  Done.  Soft shoes.  Done.  Then we waited for hours for the recalled dancers to be announced.  Of the 76 dancers in her competition, the top half would recall.  That meant they would be invited back to dance one more time for the 7 judges.  All recalled dancers would place.  Those not recalled would go home empty handed.

July 21, 2017

to wig or not to wig?

I woke up at 2:30 in the morning the day Curly was scheduled to Irish dance at National Championships in New Orleans a few weeks ago.  I think part of my problem was that I hadn't eaten my 'regular' stuff.  I'm like an old lady when it comes to my food intake.  I require oatmeal, a salad, a grapefruit, an apple, meat and potatoes, and umpteen glasses of water each day.  Traveling has a nasty habit of interfering with my meal plan.  This boring regiment began when I was diagnosed with Celiac disease.  I have a somewhat realistic fear of surviving hunger pains with no gluten free possibilities available.

I tried to catch up on my dehydration status by drinking water from the sink in the hotel room.  I assume it has something to do with the climate in New Orleans, but the water from the tap was HOT.  No joke.  Making a run to the ice machine in my PJ's wasn't happening.  There were sleeping bodies -that I hoped to keep sleeping - everywhere.  Our system of checking into a hotel room secretly breaking fire code hasn't changed since I wrote about it in:  'Can I be a real kid?'.

Eventually I did snooze for another 30 minutes just before my alarm was set to go off at 5:30 am.  That helped to take the edge off, but I knew the day would be a bit fuzzy for me.

Curly had to be downstairs in the hotel ballroom at the stage by 7 am.  Mini didn't have to be there, but she wanted to help tape Curly's shoes, get her warmed up, and be there for moral support. 

Taped shoes.  This was not even a thing when my kids started dancing.  Who knows what trend they will think of next!
This dancer put sparkles on her eyelids.  Yikes!  Her wig also looked like a Marge Simpson impersonation.  It was SO high!
I got the two of them up once I was ready to go.  We crowded in the bathroom trying not to disturb the sleeping family members strewn across the floor.  Mini showered, both girls ate breakfast, and I attached Curly's wig.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Curly, who looks like she is wearing an Irish dancing wig on any given day thanks to her beautiful head of naturally curly hair, was donning a wig for the competition.
Curly and I agree, her curls are better than fake curls.  Still hard to predict what those damn judges prefer.

Not a great picture, but this is a profile of Curly in a wig and a sparkle dress since she's under 10 now.  Her teacher is holding her face in her hands to congratulate her.
The wigs that these dancers wear are just SO ridiculous looking.  The fake curls are clearly part of a costume.  They can't compare with natural hair.  We feared that Curly would be overlooked by the judges because she looked so different (better- but still different) in her everyday curls.  Like I've said in an earlier post, I avoid blogging much about Irish dancing because it's a lot to explain to everyday people (translation:  mainstream folks who have avoided enrolling their kids in Irish dancing classes), who appreciate everyday curls.
Curly wearing a no-sparkle dress and her own hair!

Last year Curly wore a dress void of any sparkles to Nationals.  In our Midwest region, sparkles are banned until a dancer reaches the under 10 age group.  I'm fine with this restriction, because the dancing dresses can become so over-the-top.  This rule does make it complicated to sell a dress with no sparkles, because it limits who can wear it. Since it is not a national rule, the other dancers in Curly's category at last year's Nationals were able to wear sparkles.  I didn't bother to add bling to Curly's bling-less costume.  I didn't borrow a dress with bling.  I thought she looked great, and I rolled with it.

I must admit that I realized during the competition last year that my eye was naturally drawn to the flashy dresses.  I suppose it is just human nature.  I had to wonder if the judges focused less on Curly because she wasn't 'shiny'.  As much as it goes against my personal beliefs, I convinced Curly that she ought to wear the wig this year to Nationals to be sure she wasn't being overlooked.

Guess how much fun it was to separate her tight curls in order to create several little pony tails under the wig?  The wig gets attached with bobby pins to the little ponies that jut out all over the girl's head.  Poor Curly.  Poor Mommy.

To think, I'm the mom that created this t-shirt for my curly-haired toddler back when her older siblings danced, and she didn't.  Well, not officially.  Curly showed up at every competition sporting this my-mom-hates-wigs original t-shirt.  She hopped around to the music near the stage while her siblings competed. 

Ah, the good 'ole days. 

So reader, do you think I am crazy for covering my kid's gorgeous hair with a wig?

July 19, 2017

where are my clothes?

I interrupt this stream of consciousness about Irish dancing to share evidence that Tank's laundry issues are officially the worst.  Ever.  

July has been a blur.  We spent the 4th of July at a friend's lake house.  A few days after we came home, we boarded the plane for New Orleans.  Just as I began to catch up on my sleep from that whirlwind trip, I began to pack for our most complicated weekend yet.

Mini and I headed to Milwaukee on Friday night, July 14th.  Mini was scheduled to dance in competitions both Saturday and Sunday.   Coach stayed home, and handled the final conference swim meet duty with Reg and Curly.  That swim meet is an all day event that makes Irish dancing competitions look painless.  Conference IS only once a swim season.  Dancing is constant.  That makes swim team more tolerable.  By a landslide.   

My niece is in a play in Milwaukee every year the same weekend as this Milwaukee Irish dancing competition.  It's an eventful weekend, but we pack it all in.  A swim meet, a dancing competition with a play sandwiched in the middle somewhere.  I let Curly off the hook for dancing, since she JUST competed in Nationals.  She spent Saturday focused on her swim strokes.  My sister, Ann, is driving up to see the play Sunday, and she will deliver Maeve to the play.  

I'm telling you . . . lots of moving parts. 

There's more.  On Monday when we are done dancing, swimming, and play spectating, Coach's siblings, their families, and his parents are all meeting at a resort at a lake in Wisconsin to celebrate his parents' 50th anniversary.  The girls and I will stay over in Milwaukee Sunday night and drive the hour to the resort Monday morning.  

In order for all of this to happen, I had to plan, pack, and prepare.  Sleep at night, and then plan, pack, and prepare some more before I could leave for WI.  There was food that needed to be made, laundry to be done, clothes to be sorted, and stuff that needed to be gathered.  Games, snacks, sunscreen, beach towels, cameras, camera chargers.  The only way I survived the preparations was list making.  

In the midst of my adding items to my list, I reminded the kids of things to pack in their bags.  It was overwhelming for me to get everyone ready to be somewhere when I wouldn't be home for two and a half days before their departure.  I could only hope that Coach would make Reggie add the necessary underwear and socks to his bag.

Oh, the food.  I cleared off two shelves in the fridge and loaded them up with the cold food that Coach needs to pack in our two coolers.  I'm hoping that my post-it notes and large bold faced reminder pages spread across the kitchen table will mean that he doesn't forget anything.  

In the midst of all of this, Tank walks into the kitchen on Friday shortly before he left for the caddy shack.  'Um, do I have clothes somewhere?'  

What!  Like, what?!  The kids will say something like this to me, if there is a laundry basket of clothes tucked away somewhere (like the middle of the family room.  But, hey why would they think to dig thru a basket of clean clothes?).  I will direct them to which basket they might want to start looking in, if they have a missing jersey or pair of jeans.  Sometimes the answer is 'it's in the dryer.'  

This time, though, not the case.  I have been nothing but on top of laundry in hopes that everyone has something decent to pack for the resort.  I wanted all available options - clean and available.  How would it be if the kids had no clean clothes to pack and Coach spent the day in a sweaty gym doing swim team duty, and no one bothered to wash the clothes?  So, Tank's question made smoke come out of my ears.

Photo evidence.  The room Tank shares with Reggie.  Please note that 90% of the items on the floor belong to Tank.  DO YOU HAVE CLOTHES SOMEWHERE?!  The answer is YES, ON THE FLOOR OF YOUR ROOM!!!!  PICK UP YOUR CLEAN LAUNDRY AND PUT THEM AWAY.  


July 17, 2017

Irish dancing gets on my last nerve, especially when . . .

Although I Irish danced for 8 years growing up, I never dreamt that my kids would become so involved in what was once something I dreaded.  I hated being reminded to practice.  I wasn't a very accomplished dancer, so it was not a huge self esteem booster.  Now I often dread it for different reasons:

Forgotten uniform pants - back when my boys danced I left their two pairs of black pants at home.  Oops.  We were in Milwaukee at my sister's house, so the boys wore borrowed black pants belonging to their girl cousins.  Moments before Tank walked onto the stage, I was safety pinning the flare out of the pants at the ankles.  

Reggie developed the worst cold known to man at Midwest Championships when he was 7 years old.  Since sleep eludes me for days leading up to big competitions, I was overjoyed to get almost no shut eye that night as I passed the time listening to him sniffle . . . especially since I had to drive 5 hours home solo late the next night.  I stood side-stage and when the kids on Reggie's ceili team were done with their team dance I spritzed them with a generous helping of complimentary hand sanitizer.  Their competition involved lots of hand holding, so I decided that was the least I could do.  Well, that and muttering my apologies to each tiny team member.  'Sorry, hope you don't get Reggie's cold.'

In May of this year - when I should've known better, I misplaced the girls' competitor numbers between the time I picked up the numbers at registration and the time when it came to zip them into their dresses.  I had to race back to registration and pay to have a duplicate set of numbers printed.
It helps to have your competitor number in clear view on your dress before you hop on the stage.

Since I continue to lack the ability to be in more than one place at the same time, I struggle at these pesky events when my dancers are so often scheduled to compete at the same time on different stages.  I have learned to wear comfortable shoes!

The inevitable and unpredictable length of competitions regularly leads to frustration and exhaustion  . . . especially when a long drive home lays in wait for me.

Back when Eddie danced, the teachers decided one year that the boys on the ceili teams would be outfitted in kilts.  A crowd formed in front of the stage as his competition was starting.  Since I was jogging back and forth between stages, I hadn't arrived in time to jockey for a good position.  I could only see the dancers from the waist up.  Typically in a dancing competition the legs are the focal point.  Damn.  The dancing teacher was positioned in front of me.  I wasn't sure what went wrong, but her shoulders slumped and she shook her head repeatedly.  Apparently, Ed's kilt had come undone and flapped open mid dance.  Irish dancers are notorious for keeping their arms glued to their sides, but during a ceili team competition arms are raised and hands clasped.  Eventually Ed reached down and closed his dysfunctional kilt.  As necessary as Ed felt this motion was, it was still considered unapproved.  As a side-note, I had his kilt pinned perfectly.  The teachers were concerned that the back flap of the kilt was dangling below the front layer of the kilt.  They kept messing with it.  Seriously, I doubt any judge cared about seeing a half centimeter of black fabric below the front pleats.  Ed said another mom tried to adjust it, but ran out of pins.  She promised to come back to fix his attire, but never did.  I guess this was a case of too many dance moms in the practice room.
As a person who enjoys the sun, I never thought I would own multiple bottles of leg tanner. 

The night before last year's nationals in Orlando, I intended to stick to my early-to-bed plan.  When I tanned Curly's legs (oh, don't get me started on the ill will I feel towards wigs, leg tanning, and make-up) with the lotion that I packed from home, it turned her legs an unattractive shade of green.  When the green tint formed and caused me to swear a blue streak, the girls nodded nonchalantly, 'Oh yeah, the teachers told us that we should all get new leg tanner because if it is old it will turn your legs green.'  Thanks for the heads up.  Honestly, I think they were just tickled pink to be able to stay up a bit later watching TV as I rubbed offensively dark tanner cream into Curly's legs.  Since judges would most likely not award points for the best Hulk impersonator, I ended up giving her another shower.  Then I raced across the street in my pajamas and bought a new bottle of leg tanner.  So much for an early bed time.

We've encountered regular run-of-the-mill setbacks like forgotten steps, false starts to the music, broken shoelaces, tears, and last minute jitters.  What happened this year in New Orleans was a new obstacle to a stressful event.

Still, they dance.  AND they love it.  

July 15, 2017

Irish dancing Nationals

Curly qualified to dance in Irish Dancing National Championships back in November.  Nationals are always held the week of July 4th.  This year the annual competition is held in New Orleans.  Curly was scheduled to dance on July 9th.  

Our original plan included taking the entire family to New Orleans . . . in our big 12 -seater, Chevy express van.  Fun.  As the date approached, Coach informed me that it would be almost impossible for him to be away from his clinic for very long.  We had hoped to do a little sight seeing, since we have no plans to return to New Orleans any time soon.  I did some checking, and realized that a few days of touring in addition to the one day devoted to dancing would be sufficient.  

Next we gave the two oldest boys the option of joining us or staying home.  They both opted to remain home.  I suspect the thought of being stuck in a hotel ballroom for an entire day watching Irish dancing sealed the deal there.  

So, we bagged our road-trip idea, and booked flights for the youngest 4 kids and Coach and I.  

Flying sure beats driving!!!
Kids checking out the view from our hotel room in New Orleans.  Fortunately, we did have time to leave the hotel and explore a little. 
It's hard for me to post anything about Irish dancing for a few reasons.  I have lots to say on the subject, so it's difficult to limit myself.  If I assume that my readers know very little about Irish dancing, then where to begin?  There's just lots involved here.  There are many things I like about this expensive past time, but  . . . and I dropped a clue there with 'expensive' -but you probably caught that. . .  then there are loads of reasons why it drives me nuts.  

I love the friendships the kids have developed.  They've certainly learned to be resilient, to be good losers, and on the happy occasion - to be a gracious winner.  Ah, but time and money are always in short supply and Irish dancing gobbles up both (rarely leaving a surplus of either in its wake).  

The big competitions, like Nationals - well, really most competitions in general, gnaw away at my nerves.  I've been a 'dance mom' for so long, you'd think that I would be more relaxed by now.  Nope.  I've been around the block enough to know just how much can go wrong. 

Our experience in New Orleans was no different.  Coach shook his head at me when I groaned about how little sleep I got the night before the dancing.  I'm envious of his ability to relax thru this whole stressful process.   

Like I said, writing about Irish dancing can get lengthy, so I will explain the events in New Orleans in a later post.

July 13, 2017

beware the mudroom

Coach cleaned up the house for Mother's day.  I had been in St. Louis with three kids for an Irish music competition, and I completely appreciated the cleared counter tops, swept floor, and uncluttered mudroom when I returned that day.  A few weeks later I tackled the mudroom full force.

Coach's approach to the mudroom is to tell the kids to get in there and clean out their lockers.  Of course the kids can tell you that they've handled it.  As parents, it is our job NOT to believe them.  The floor of the mudroom might even be clear of huge heaps of shoes and backpacks after the kids have 'organized' their stuff.  It's a smoke screen though.

Shortly after Mother's Day the library alerted me that a book Mini had checked out months prior had yet to be returned.  I urged my avid reader to search the house before I ended up having to buy the book.  She swore up and down that she had never seen the book.

It was in her locker.  So, riddle me this . . . how does a book you've never seen appear in your locker if you have recently cleaned out said locker per your father's request?

The hours I spent in our mudroom in early June when I chose to adopt organizing this space as my sole mission in life yielded some interesting finds.  I uncovered rotting food in abandoned lunch boxes.  I discovered missing shoes presumed lost forever.  I matched gloves and stored them away till next winter.  I sifted thru piles of winter layers - donating unnecessary sizes and stuffing the rest in our cedar chest . . . since it was now JUNE!!!  I filled a laundry basket with forgotten workout clothes - some still jammed into drawstring bags.

Small room  makes it hard to get a photo of all 6 lockers. This is the finished product. Sadly, it's temporary.
Oh, the basketball shoes and sneakers.  I begged my male teenage offspring to fess up.  What shoes do they not wear anymore?  I redistributed and eliminated a few pairs.  Thanks to my Sasquatch-like children, their shoes take up an incredible amount of real estate.   When we designed the space, I specifically insisted that the lockers NOT include any kind of drawer or cabinet door associated with shoe storage.  I knew that any additional step to storing their shoes would only end in piles of shoes in the middle of the room.  Even with an open cubbie under each locker, they struggle to kick their steppers into the proper place.

The mudroom is only about 5 feet by 7 feet.  It's easy to lose things in this space - like library books, non-existent swim diapers, and my sanity.

In hopes of maintaining some level of order - for at least the next few weeks, I posted a warning.  I doubt it will help, but they've been warned!
The full message - it's been weeks and no one has ripped it down. 

A closer view of the first half.

A closer look - bottom half of the message.

July 11, 2017

appeasing the boy with the cast

Two weeks after surgery the big cast came off.
The pins.  Gross.  Sorry. 
Well one of this summer's biggest annoyances is becoming more manageable.  The full size cast Eddie was stuck with after his wrist surgery was downsized a few weeks ago to a forearm cast.  

At long last, he could attempt to attend water polo practice, assuming the rubber flipper-like cover I bought functioned as well as the testimonials claimed it would.  Of course he was excited to get back to caddying as well.  That college fund isn't going to fill itself!  I was elated that he no longer required my chauffeuring services.  Moments after we arrived home with the new cast, I tossed him the keys and asked him to take the car for a spin around the block.  'See if you feel like driving is doable.'  I crossed my fingers until he came back and gave me a confident nod.
Ed taking a photo of the pins sticking out of his wrist. 

This pricey water polo camp probably would've refunded me my 260 bucks when Eddie broke his wrist the first day of summer playing basketball.  This was a few days before water polo even began.  Ah, but Ed needed something to hope for.  Determined to make the most of a lousy situation, I researched a rubber 'flipper' and ordered it online for 40 bucks.  We knew he couldn't be involved with any contact, but participating in drills could strengthen his game.  Again - that's what he was hoping for.

Along the way we've dealt with some expected frustrations.  There have been bad itches, bathing challenges, boredom, and aggravation at missing both his various sports camps and the inability to workout beyond legs and riding a stationary bike.   

One issue that I couldn't have predicted was his NEED to ride on his ripstik.  This skateboard like equipment consists of two wheels and a board.  It involves lots of balance.  He got the ripstik when he was about 11 years old.  He suddenly remembered that it existed and demanded that we retrieve it from the attic.

Don't ask me how he knew it was up there.  When Coach shoves things in the attic or the crawlspace, he generally loses all memory that such an event ever happened.  There is no inventory.  It just disappears.  Oh the things I've stumbled upon in our home's remote storage areas.  Things that I thought were long gone.  

So the ripstik registered on Ed's radar and then it became his mission to ride it.  With a broken wrist.  This idea didn't thrill me, but when Tank finally agreed to poke his head into the attic above the garage Ed was overjoyed.  The kid just wasn't that excited about much.  So, he started riding around on his ripstik.  

Ed (when he was still in the full cast) leaning to one side to demonstrate to Tank how to use balance to ride the ripstik.  The picture cracks me up, because it wasn't planned that their faces don't appear in it.  Just happened that way - no cropping necessary. 

Ed taking off down the sidewalk and Tank no doubt begging for a turn.  His elbows are not yet bloody.  Something I also failed to photograph.  Probably OK, since the picture of the pins was probably graphic enough. 
Tank begged for a turn.  After he scabbed up both elbows significantly, I intervened and banned Tank from borrowing Ed's long lost toy.  One kid in a cast this summer was all I could handle.  

Reg on the other hand, who is Eddie's mini-me, took to it right away (and I have no pictures of him on it).  Honestly, the cloning that seems to have transpired when we created our offspring is freakish.  Scientifically unfounded - but freakish. 

July 9, 2017

a devoted little sister, confused - but devoted

I sat in the dentist office, wishing I was home napping - or even better laying on a lounge chair at our local pool napping.  It was a 90 degree day at 1:15 in the afternoon and Mini and I were 30 minutes early for our dentist appointments.  Boo.  Following protocol and making dentist appointments well in advance sucks because there is always some conflict that arises by the time the appointment pops up on the calendar.  

Today it was a hot day - perfect for a trip to the pool.  Since Lad had puked in my car on the way to traffic court earlier that morning, I felt like I needed a break from life in general - including the dentist.  The pool was calling to me.

Life with 4 drivers and 3 cars leads to people being late, early, ticked off, or a combination.  My cell phone rang as I sat there waiting for my appointment.  I was early.  Ticked off too, but that had nothing to do with being early.

I snapped this pic in a rare moment when all 3 cars were home, because we had just arrived home from our friend's lake house where we were for July 4th.  Sadly our garbage cans hosted hundreds of maggots while we were away and are thus in a time out on the driveway.  You can see our minivan - pretty standard, Mazda tribute- for the teen drivers, and Chevy Express 12 seater -looks like a painter's van except ours has windows.
Curly had just arrived home after the earlier block of dentist appointments.  She wanted to alert me to the fact that she didn't thing that Laddie should drive back to the doctor's office right around the corner from the dentist for his college sports physical.  He was throwing up again.  She felt his ability to drive was unsafe.  I assured her that he could figure it out and said good-bye.  

She called back 10 minutes later.  We repeated our conversation.  This 9 year old was full of empathy for her oldest brother.  I was not.  

Just before the dental hygienist got started on me, I called home.  I knew that Lad needed to leave for the physical right away if he had any hope of making it there on time.  Curly answered.  Nope, he hadn't left yet.  I told her to give him the phone.  'He's in bed,' she informed me.  I assured her that it didn't matter.

'Get your ass out of bed, and get to your appointment NOW!  Hand Curly the phone.  She is going to tell me what you are doing until you have left the house,' I growled into the phone.  I pointed out to him that I never would've allowed him to drive home from the dentist if I thought his hungover self
wasn't going to return to town for his physical.  

Curly gave me the blow by blow.  'He's getting a snack.  He's getting a bottle of water. He's walking out to the car.  He's going down the driveway.  He's driving away.  There.  He's gone.  PRAY FOR HIM!'  

My youngest kid was displeased that Lad was driving, citing once again that she felt it was unsafe.  Later I grilled her about whether or not she had seen him puke.  Nope.  Had she heard him puke?  Nope.  That's when she caved and admitted that Lad had told her to call me to try to get him out of having to go to the doctor.  

I told her to NEVER lie for him again.  This kid had crossed a line making his baby sister lie for him.  Yes, he would definitely require prayers after I was done with him.  

July 7, 2017


I dropped my reluctant (ahem, hungover) passenger at the dentist and then high-tailed it over to the high school to collect Mini from her last day of basketball camp.  She and I got home and I told her that we needed to leave for our dentist appointments in an hour.  Eddie was heading straight from basketball camp at the high school to the dentist with Reggie, a b-ball camp participant.  Eddie was driving the teenage car. 

Ed's coaching abilities were limited by his broken wrist.   He mostly escorted youngsters to the restroom and instructed them on where to to line up for the next drill.  At least now that his full cast was replaced with a smaller cast, he could drive.  The fact that he could finally drive Reggie to camp and back thrilled me.

I wasn't home fifteen minutes before the dentist office called to say that the three kids were ready to be picked up.  Damn.  I forgot that minor detail.  They didn't have a car there.  I rushed Mini out of the shower and told her that we had to race back to the dentist earlier than I realized.  Lad could drive them home in my car, and she and I could hitch a ride home in the kid car that Eddie was driving.  

So much thinking.  My brain hurt. 

My children staggered out of the dentist office with looks of horror on their faces.  This wasn't what you think.  Their faces weren't all contorted due to a bad reaction to a fluoride treatment or even due to bad news about necessary fillings.  They were appalled that they had been sitting there waiting for a ride home.   

I don't think anyone cared that Mini and I were now going to sit at the dentist office for 30 minutes prior to our appointment time.  Were people that fuzzy on the concept of 'bring a book'?  Until science uncovers some amazing discoveries and advances, there is only one of me. 

And this one of me had been to traffic court, missed a workout class, logged countless miles on the car in my adventures so far that day, and dealt with a hungover kid, who threw up on himself on the way to flipping traffic court.  CAN SOMEONE PLEASE CUT ME A BREAK?

AND until we win the lottery, we only own the three cars. Duh!

Why is my life void of comments like, thanks for scheduling my teeth cleaning (OK, I doubt any kid is grateful for this, but it beats having a mother who allows rotten teeth), and I'm glad you reminded me to bring a book so that I wouldn't be bored to tears, and I now understand drinking in excess is stupid (so only one kid could potentially make this statement)?   

Now that our dentist appointments are complete, can someone please toss out an old toothbrush, or point out which one they legitimately use so I can toss out the old ones?  Sigh.  
This picture includes 9 toothbrushes.  This is in the kids' bathroom.  There should be 6, but 3 of our kids are visiting our friends' lake house.  They brought their toothbrushes with them.  If my math is correct, then we are housing 12 toothbrushes when everyone is in town - FOR 6 PEOPLE!

July 5, 2017

this kid might need more than supervision

Before we left for court, I reminded Lad to bring whatever caddy money he had laying around.  He still looked a bit green from his puking, but now he also looked bewildered.  'Oh, let me clarify.  I'm not paying for your ticket.'  I'm not sure whatever would've given him the impression that his father and I would be picking up the tab on his ticket.

The judge gave him supervision.  In order to keep the ticket off his record he needs to not get another ticket in the next 6 months.  In addition he needs to complete an online class.  The judge glanced at me (not because he recognized me, fortunately).  'Is this your mother?  If she is helping you pay for the ticket, then you better pay her back.'  Amen, judge.  This debacle set Lad back $300.  I feel his pain, and hope he learns his lesson while he's young.

Once his online course is complete, he needs to appear back in court with the printed certificate proving that he took the course.  The assigned date is December 21st.  If he is still away at college, I am allowed to go to court in his place and produce this document.  Yippee.  Just what I want to do, visit traffic court again!

On the way home, I finally asked Laddie how he got home the night before, because Eddie informed us that he had in fact never gone to collect Laddie.  When Ed texted him at midnight encouraging him to get home soon, Lad texted back that Ed could go to bed.  He'd get a ride home.  Lad informed me that he had gotten in an uber car.  He either didn't remember what time he arrived home, or he chose to withhold that information.  

He mumbled something about needing to find his phone.  That would be the phone he was looking in the couch cushions for just before we left for court.  That would also be the phone that was just recently purchased a few weeks ago, because his other phone just quit working. 
His phone is so new, we still have the box.
Once home Lad went straight to bed.  Having missed my workout class, I decided to go to the fitness club and use the equipment.  I dragged Tank and Curly with me.  They were grouped in the first cluster of dental appointments with Lad.  The dentist was near the gym, so I dropped them off early for their appointments and raced home to wake up the ailing Lad.  'Tell the dentist that Lad is coming, but he'll just be a bit late.  They can start on you two,' I called out to the first two kiddos walking in the office to get clean teeth. 
After lots of coaxing and hollering, Lad was in my car with his teeth brushed.  (Oh, that poor dental hygienist and dentist.)


July 3, 2017

Lad's jam packed hangover day

I instructed Lad to grab some plastic shopping bags before we left for traffic court, because once his name was called there would be no leaving the courtroom (to puke) - that was implied, but in case you didn't read my last post -I figured I better not assume you knew about the added drama to our traffic court morning.

About half way to our destination, he started to roll down his window.  I glanced over at him.  'Are you going to be sick again?' I asked.  Affirmative.  I pulled onto a side street.  My college kid proceeded to roll down the window.  'No - just open the door!' I ordered.  I knew that if he didn't exit the car his puke would be plastered on the side of the minivan.

He ended up tossing his cookies as he opened the door.  It was an epic fail.  Half of the puke landed in his lap and the other half ran down the inside of the car door.  No time to race home for a wardrobe change.  I reached into the back of the car.

Newsflash for all of you neat freaks out there:  here's when it is a blessing to drive a disgustingly filthy car.  Sometimes I hate not knowing what I am going to find back there, but on this disturbing morning- I embraced the heaps of junk in the backseat and rolled with it.  I handed him a thin strip of a towel that Eddie uses to wrap his cast when we slide the waterproof flipper over it.  

This is Eddie wearing his 'flipper' over his cast.  I thought this pic might me more acceptable as compared to a photo of puke or of my messy car. 
I reminded Lad in the few minutes remaining of our drive that he had a dentist appointment and a sports physical later that afternoon.  Knowing that he couldn't work due to his traffic court appearance, I chose to set up as many appointments as possible for that day.  He begged me to cancel.  No chance.  I wondered if I called in advance if the dentist could fire up his drill for some unnecessary, unpleasant work.

Laddie was apologetic.  I just wanted to put this ordeal behind us.  Despite my regular appearances in traffic court, my comfort level in that building is still non-existent.

I suppose a court date, a trip to the dentist followed by a physical for college was punishment enough.  Fingers crossed that this lesson was learned.

So, readers - have you spent a hangover in a worse way?  Do tell.