September 29, 2017

calling Jane Smith

In mid-May shortly after Lad returned from college, I finally raced up to Walmart and purchased a new phone for Lad and one for Ed.  Ed had been complaining for a while about his phone.  He claimed that he couldn't access data.  Since Lad's phone was not making or receiving calls, his phone - or lack thereof- won the prize for sucking more, but I agreed to replace both of their phones.

Of course a few weeks later Lad was once again without a phone.  Thanks to a night of drinking, he came home with only the back of the phone.  All things considered, I think he was lucky that his phone was the only thing he lost.

Weeks went by after the night of drinking and carelessness and my oldest son pestered the shit out of me to replace his phone.  I was in no hurry.  But as much as I wanted to make him feel the consequences of being irresponsible, it was starting to inconvenience me.  I could not get in touch with him.  Text messages like, 'Pick up your brother on your way home.'  Or, 'What time will you be home?'  Or, 'Where are you!?'  Were impossible to send to him.

Not only was I furious with him for losing a brand new phone, but I also do not enjoy spending time in our local Walmart.  The hit-or-miss luck I have experienced at the phone counter alone is enough to make me tense up when I just drive by the place.  Never-mind, the place always seems dirty and crawling with questionable characters.  (I sincerely hope you have a Walmart that you love, just not the case with me).

A few short years back when we decided to do away with our flip phones and join the 21st century by purchasing smart phones, Coach did some research and decided Walmart had the best deal.  Apparently aggravation is offered at no additional charge. 

Anyway, I finally agreed to hustle back to my least favorite store.  In order to have Lad on our plan, I had to be present to add him and to purchase his phone.  I informed him that he would be paying me back.  We get the kids a phone when they start high school, so Tank kept reminding me ever so subtly that it was time for his phone to be purchased, too.  I was in a hurry, so I drove separate from Lad and Tank.  We picked out phones for them, and I made sure the employee didn't need me anymore so that I could bolt.

My last three phones.
As much as I hate changing phones, I cannot understand how to use my current phone.  It constantly tells me I'm low on storage space.  Not possible!  I store photos on google photos (because someone else set that up for me, obviously) and I wouldn't know what to do with extra apps anyway, so I rarely install a new app.  I hope I can figure it out soon, because I can't check email on it.  Totally inconvenient. 
She said I could go.  She had all the info that she needed.  It irked me though that getting a new phone was on MY list of things to do, but I was dealing with time constraints.  I cringed to think I would need to go thru this painful process for myself again SOON.  I hesitated.  The next thing I knew, the girl was holding up two phones and asking which one I wanted.  I had no time to do any research.  I asked her what she thought.  My current phone was an old, malfunctioning Samsung.  I assumed I'd get another Samsung.  She steered me towards the LG.

Oh, brother.  I never knew how much I detested change until I had to change my damn phone.  This wasn't the first time, so I knew what a pain it was.  Almost 4 years ago, I shattered the screen of my first smart phone just a few weeks after I got it.  Coach and I were still new to the 21st century at that point.  No one told us that in addition to shelling out dough for smart phones, we needed to invest in phone cases.  As a result I dealt with my shattered smart phone screen for a year and a half before getting my Samsung.  I couldn't take the cracked phone out of my pocket in public without someone asking me what in the world had happened to it.  

My current Samsung, that I needed to replace, was starting to turn off ALL THE TIME . . . like every time I set it down or it got bumped.  This is a very inconvenient feature in a phone.  The battery wouldn't stay charged for long either.  Um, I am not a teenager.  I have plenty to keep me busy besides constantly surfing the web on my phone, so there really was no reason why the battery was dying.

The Bluetooth feature in the car was no longer functioning properly.  That made me nuts.  What good is Bluetooth is you have to dial the phone in the car every time you want to make a call?  Sort of defeats the purpose.  Each time I suggested that it call a name in my phone, it misunderstood and attempted to call the same name from my contacts, like Jane Smith.  Repeatedly.

It would say Jane Smith each time, even when the name I requested was Elvira Bukolt.  Then when I would suggest a different name it would say 'misrecognition.'  Misrecognition my ass.  Recognize this you damn smart-ass smart phone.  At first I showed off the malfuncutioning Bluetooth feature to the kids.  We chuckled at the number of times it would go back to the Jane Smith name.  Then it just got old.  The more aggravated I got, the calmer the Bluetooth computer voice seemed to be.  I wanted that damn voice to snap back at me, but it just continued to offer to call Jane Smith. 

It was time for a new phone.  That doesn't mean it was easy.  Then I ended up with a different brand, so the buttons are all weird and stuff.  Gosh, do I sound old?  Or what?  Do people really get excited to replace their phones?  Is there anyone out there who held out getting a smart phone longer than me (like later than 2013)?

I bet Jane Smith did.

September 25, 2017

Fast paced dorm drop off

No sure if I mentioned the thought process behind our Boston itinerary, so I'm backing up the bus a bit on our end-of-summer travel log.  This might help you wrap your brain around our race against the clock trip.  

Our initial plan was to visit Boston before we dropped Laddie at college in New York.  The kids were excited.  It would be a long road trip, but we've survived long road trips before.  

Around spring break, Lad was told he needed to arrive at his new school Aug 7th for water polo.  We used that date as a set-in-stone guide.  We built our itinerary around it.  Early summer, Lad learned that only the returning water polo teammates were arriving Aug 7th.  I suspect the confusion grew from the fact that he is technically a sophomore, but is also a transfer student who hadn't played water polo at the college level yet.  At this time, the school informed him that he should arrive Aug 15th. 

Yikes.  Eight days made a big difference.  The high school boys were set to begin school BEFORE Aug 15th.  Translation:  no trip to Boston!

Our local high school announced in early June that it would meet to decide whether or not the start date for high school would be adjusted.  Our Boston trip hung in the balance.

When the vote was published that school would not start for our high schoolers until the 16th of August, I yanked the calendar off the wall and examined our options.  If we drove Lad out there, then Tank would have to miss freshman orientation.  This would be no big deal for most of my offspring, but Tank's anxiety levels tend to max out on the first day of school.  I wondered how he would function if he skipped this introductory half-day. 

I don't even think orientation existed back when Laddie launched his high school career in 2012.  Nowadays with freshman only in attendance, these newbies walk thru their schedule navigating the new hallways without any upperclassmen around to intimidate them.  

I explained to Tank that the only way our trip out east would work is if he was comfortable missing orientation.  I promised to walk thru the halls with him to map out where his classroom were located on the day we picked up his schedule.  He is my biggest history buff.  He wanted to see Boston, so he agreed. 

The trip was back on.

Coach introduced my next challenge.  He informed me that he couldn't possibly be away from work for a week or more.  Back to the drawing board.  Eventually I agreed to cut down our tour of Lexington and Boston to a short 3 days.  Add a day of driving there and back and a day to visit Boston College and travel to New York to drop Laddie off in New York and our itinerary was complete.  We opted to leave on a Thursday morning and race back on Tuesday, so the boys could start school on Wednesday.   

I questioned Lad multiple times about any information he might have concerning when he could get into his dorm.  Because his arrival was scheduled thru the athletic department and was slated to be earlier than the rest of the student body, I wasn't in the loop.  Instead the coach provided him with information.  

Remember the initial confusion over his arrive-on campus date?  Clear as mud.  I feared that we would get out there and discover that there was some kind of mix-up.  My heart always raced a bit when I opened the emails from his college directed to the parent community in general.  The dates in those emails weren't the same as the water polo team arrival dates.  Lad just kept telling me his information was good.  I believe he used the term 'relax.'  He could get in his dorm on the 15th.  'At 8 am?' I asked.  His 'yep' wasn't convincing. 

In the middle of our Boston College tour, Laddie got a text from a fellow teammate.  The team wasn't allowed in the dorm until 10:30 the next day - not 8 am.  Eddie groaned loudly when he heard this news.  Neither high school kid wanted to arrive home at midnight and jump out of bed for school the next morning.  

We arrived on campus minutes before the bookstore closed.  I shopped a bit, but Coach reminded me that Lad's siblings all still owned football t-shirts from his former college.  AND those t-shirts still fit.  I held off on filling a basket with sibling wear.

Our next stop was the dorm.  We poked our heads in and asked to speak to the man in charge of the dorm.  He was very friendly and welcoming.  Was it possible for us to take a peek at Lad's room?  I explained that he was planning on moving in the next day per his coach.  I held my breath to see if the dorm dude flashed any alarming facial expressions.  None.  

He didn't mind showing us the room at all.  People, I saw my opening and I made my move. 

'So do you think there is any wiggle room on what time Lad brings his stuff in tomorrow morning?'  I went on to explain our long drive home and the imminent start of high school.  'Well, how early would you like to get in?' he asked.  'How about 8 am?' I suggested.  He said he saw no problem with it.  

Then I took it a step further.  'Well, we have the van parked out front with all of his stuff in it and all of these available hands . . . we would LOVE to move him in right now, if that would be at all possible.'  I received a few looks:

        Lad gave me a look that shot daggers out of his eyes.  I translated it to say:  'Don't embarrass me!'

        Eddie looked as if he might bow down and kiss my feet.

        Coach looked like he had just remembered why he had married me.  I handle shit.  I ask the questions.  And if necessary, I push the envelope.  I inherited this super power from my mother.

The resident hall dude said he would check with his supervisor.  He stepped out in the hall to make the call while we checked out Lad's room.  A moment later he was back.  'No problem!'

Tossing stuff in Lad's room.  Possibly the quickest college drop off in history!
Reggie had chosen this moment to step into Lad's bathroom and, well, christen it.  I began handing out orders.  I told Curly to wait in the room so that when Reg surfaced, he wouldn't freak out thinking that we had left him behind.  Coach ran to pull the van as close to the door as possible.  It was all hands on deck.  We bolted for the elevator and positioned ourselves where Coach had agreed to park.  Mini, Tank, Ed, Lad, and I grabbed armfuls of stuff and darted back inside for the elevator. 

It was huge to unload the van when the halls were empty!
Lad wanted to attend a non-mandatory swim practice with his team that was happening in less than 10 minutes.  He dug into his stuff and pulled out a speedo.  Coach raced him over to the aquatic center while we dragged the last load up and locked his room.  He was going to sleep at the hotel with us, but our new plan for the morning was to simply drop off Lad and head for Chicago.  

After about three trips and a mere 25 minutes Lad's college crap was parked unceremoniously in his room.  Physically the white van was lighter.  When Lad returned to the hotel after practice and shared that he thought his teammates were all really cool, emotionally the weight on his shoulders seemed lighter.  Knowing we could bolt first thing in the morning, the air seemed clearer.  

We arrived home at 8:20 pm the night before school started.  It was a world wind of a trip that I hope to never replicate.

September 22, 2017

cram-the-fam hotel room that left a mark

Turns out our hotel room in Boston was one of those places where I begged the kids not to drop their toothbrush on the floor.  The carpet was scary.  I avoided the bathroom until it was absolutely necessary.  There was an enormous moldy area on the bathroom ceiling.  The hallways had an unidentifiable, unpleasant odor.  The room layout was so strange that the only possibly way to set up the two air mattresses was to shove them on either side of the pullout bed.

All our bags are on the pullout, but can you see how the two beds were around a set of half walls?  The bathroom (and I use the term loosely) was over to the right just before you got to the pullout.  We did required maintenance to come up and plunge the toilet at one point.  Embarrassing!  Don't stare at the carpet too long - cooties might jump thru your computer screen and land on you.  You've been warned!
In the middle of the night when I needed to use the bathroom, I did my best imitation of a kid in a bouncy house.  I was forced to step on an air mattress, do a partial cartwheel across the pullout, and take one last step on the other air mattress before sticking my landing on the questionable carpet near the bathroom door.

For our entire stay, Coach remained paranoid that we were going to be busted for housing too many family members in one room.  I assured him that the staff had already realized we had ignored fire code.  If they hadn't demanded that we buy a second room that first night, then they weren't going to bother.

We had been called out for doing the family-cram in a hotel room once.  We flew into Orlando for a visit to Disney World years ago.  We opted to stay at a hotel near the airport, since our flight was so late.  Why pay Disney rates to just sleep part of a night in a pricey hotel?  We hadn't considered the fact that the hotel employees would notice how many there were in our group when we utilized the free shuttle service from the hotel.  Oops.  At 11:30 at night, we were the only family in the shuttle.  Our cover was blown, and so was our budget.  The hotel manager informed us we would need two hotel rooms for our brief stay.  

I wished I was back in Disney, but alas - here we were in Boston.  The second night I awoke to Mini growling at Laddie to leave her alone.  His focus the entire trip was to torment her, so this was not a surprise.  He was on his phone and aiming the lit up screen at her sleeping face.  He was on the pullout with Reggie and she was on an air mattress.  Yes, you are not mistaken.  Lad is the oldest - the college kid.  Don't get me started!

After being awoken by Mini's cries for peace, I noticed how stuffy the room felt.  Then I realized I was sleeping in a pool of sweat.  The room had transformed into our own private sauna once we had fallen asleep.  I got up, messed with the AC, and told Mini to switch places with me.  I gave up my spot in the bed, because I knew there was no way I was going to go back to sleep anyway.  A bit later, Lad opted to take a shower and leave the sauna room to hang out in the hotel lobby.  The room was insufferable.

The next morning, we packed up our stuff.  I celebrated my last march across the carpet.  While the worker bee children hauled our bags downstairs with Coach, I approached the desk.  They agreed to take $100 off of our room charge for the second night because of the issue with the AC.  I learned that it wasn't just our room.  The entire hotel had lost AC.

Picturesque Boston College
While we had enjoyed the city of Boston, we had suffered thru Laddie's disruptive behavior and survived one of the top 10 worst hotel stays ever.  I was ready to wrap up this road trip.  We bid the city good-bye and headed to Boston College, where we had scheduled a tour. 

The 'Great White' - you can see the paint chip above the passenger door.
Boston College was very impressive.  After the tour as we stood next to the car in the parking garage eating the lunch that I whipped up from our coolers, I made an announcement.  'Unless one of you plans to get a sports scholarship here, none of you will ever attend this pricey place.'  I did appreciate the fact that the tour launched the college search process for Eddie.  They touched on important points in general about the application process for high school students.   

Serving lunch next to the car was easier than distributing food inside the car.  As anxious as we were to get to New York where we would drop Lad of at college, we didn't mind taking a few extra minutes before leaving.  That's when my tall husband noticed that the hotel valets had given us a lasting gift.  There near the roof above the passenger doors of the great white van was a substantial paint chip.  Perfect. 
This is a closeup of the paint chip.  It almost looks like Ferdinand from the children's book about the bull.  Bummer because otherwise our former-airport shuttle van is a real gem. 

September 20, 2017

getting what you pay for/overcharged for?

Freedom Trail - some kids wanted to break free from it!
Originally I planned for us to stay in Boston for three nights.  It was so expensive, that Coach suggested that we stay out in the suburbs and take a train in each day.  I hated that idea, so I agreed to reserve a room in Lexington for our first night.  With a one night stay in Lexington, we only needed to sleep in Boston for two nights.  Shortening our Boston hotel reservation ended up being a Godsend.

Our agenda for our first day in Boston was simple - walk the freedom trail.  We dropped the car off at our hotel before we set out on foot to explore the trail.  Our room wasn't ready yet, but we were going to pay an additional $40 bucks a night to park the car at the hotel, so we figured it made sense to drop it there instead of paying for another parking garage.  

I actually captured Eddie holding hands with Curly and Reg.
Since it is a family tradition to cram extra bodies into our hotel rooms, it is a little dicey to show up with everyone in the car and act like they don't all belong to us.  We can usually avoid raising hotel staff suspicions by entering the hotel in shifts.  The layout of this hotel failed to cooperate with our usual disown-half-the-kids plan.  

The Holiday Inn was very near the Garden where the Celtics play.  It was an old building.  Tiny.  The lobby was minuscule.  There was no parking lot where we could park far from the building while we re-grouped and mapped out our entry. 

The valet guy was super friendly.  He didn't seem to be taking a head count as we filed out of the Great White.  Still, Coach and I encouraged the kids to disperse a bit on the sidewalk so as not to draw attention as we fumbled around for a few essentials before the car was valeted.  

Beautiful day for a walk thru Boston Commons. 
The weather was perfect for a lengthy hike along the freedom trail.  It was sunny, but breezy.  Despite the fact that we weren't suffering from heat stroke, a few of the kids began moaning about how much longer we needed to follow this annoying little brick sidewalk.  They were officially on history overload.  

When we got back to the hotel, we asked for them to bring the car to us so we could unpack it now that our room was ready.  After waiting for over an hour for our car, we gave up.  We ended up going out to dinner before our car was brought around.  I had hoped to change clothes and fix my hair, but that wasn't happening.

When we returned from dinner, I shared my ID and credit card with the hotel clerk.  She asked me to initial in a few places on a payment form.  I noticed that by initialing I was agreeing to pay $324 the first night and $244 the second night.  This was a surprise to me.  

I spent a considerable amount of time shopping for a hotel in Boston.  I compared rates, location, and complimentary breakfast.  Before I even got that far, I identified hotels that offered two beds plus a pullout.  This would only require us to use two air mattresses.  When I called the hotel, I was given a rate of $244 a night.  There was no mention of $324.  Ever.  

I told the hotel lady this.  She told me that if I pulled up my confirmation and it reflected the rate I was given, then she would honor it.  Well, I should have learned my lesson before now - but I am not a fast learner, apparently.  I do not typically read confirmation emails.  Shock.  Call me crazy, but I tend to expect that what they tell me over the phone is accurate.  The woman said she could adjust my rate for the first night to $284.  I accepted this, although I was still annoyed.  I signed the paper and helped unload the car.    

The kids who had been up to the room with the first load of bags reappeared in the lobby with weird looks on their faces.  They described the room as 'interesting'.  'Small'.  'Odd'.  Uh oh.

September 17, 2017

humming a hymn adds to carpool awesomeness

Because my day had already gotten away from me, the rest of this makes perfect sense . . . .

Kyle showed up just as I sat down to help Mom complete the last few details of the mass booklet for my Uncle's memorial mass.  Kyle is Curly's friend's brother.  He is on Curly's soccer team, and his sister, who doesn't play soccer, cheers from the sidelines.  Coach is - you guessed it - their soccer coach.

Kyle gets dropped off at our house on practice days by his grandpa because his mom works.  Coach drives him to practice with Curly.  The kid is supposedly very active and a bit mischievous.  His mother has described him as a handful.  She laughed out loud when I revealed his timid and quiet demeanor when he gets dropped off at our place for his ride to soccer.

I told Mini to wave him inside.  He entered the house and stood in my front hall.  He looked frightened despite the hip sunglasses he wore.  He's 8 years old.  I swear none of us have threatened to do him bodily harm or tried to bite him, but he is clearly uncomfortable and tense in our constant-motion home.

Mom greeted him from her position at my elbow at the computer.  I half wondered if he thought the sunglasses served as an invisibility cloak, because he didn't respond.  I assured him Mr. Coach would arrive shortly, but then I became slightly panicked that this wasn't the case at all.

I texted Coach.  'Do you remember soccer practice today?  Kyle is here and Curly is getting ready.'

I turned my attention back to Mom but occasionally called out into the great abyss, 'Curly are you getting ready for soccer?  Bring a sweatshirt.  Grab a water bottle.'  Mom was pointing to her official copy of the prayer booklet.  She managed to tape a dozen pieces of paper together and write in little chicken scratch all over it, so she must sit and interpret the mass booklet for me instead of leaving it with me to decipher.

If I struggled to cut and paste something into a spot just the way I wanted it, Mom would hear me groan.  Then she would look from the screen to my face and ask, 'It's saved though, right?  I mean it's in there and you can still print it out, right?'

Oh, how I wished I had gotten my nap!

'OK, Aunt Nora wants us to use the song:  'Here I am Lord.'  It's right here.'  Then Mom began to read it to me, so I could type it into the book.  This reading evolved into singing.  I think she thought her choir imitation was helping me type.  It wasn't.  Kyle was still standing about 5 feet from us wearing shades and most likely begging the good Lord to make him invisible as Mom broke into:  'Here I am Lord.  Is it I Lord?  I have heard you calling in the night . . . '

Ah, that awkward moment when a kid gets dropped off for soccer practice, your husband forgets about running soccer practice, and your mom starts belting out church hymns!
I am pretty certain that Kyle will instruct his mom to let him skip soccer practices going forward unless she arranges another carpool.

After typing one stanza, I realized that Coach never texted me back.  Not unusual as he is typically with patients.  I called the main number.  When the office manager answered, I simply said several times, 'Please, tell me Coach already left.  Did he leave?  He's not still there, right?'  I flashed Kyle a grin from my spot by the computer to assure him that Coach was definitely coming.  There was no way I could coach a soccer practice.

The call was transferred to wherever Coach was in the office.  'What?  Soccer practice?!  For who?  Shit!  Can you drive them to the field.  Bring me a sweatshirt.  I'm leaving now.'


'I'll be right back', I called to my hymn-singing Mom as I directed Curly and Kyle to hop in the car. 

September 15, 2017

life with a mom who is MORE technoligically challenged than me

My Mom's oldest brother passed away in Portland on July 17th.  We live in Chicago.  My Mom and her sister decided to have a memorial mass here since none of us attended the funeral out there.  The two sisters had recently visited their ailing brother back in June. 

A little background:  my Mother spent some time in the convent before she decided to marry Dad.  My folks are regulars at daily mass at their parish, and Mom attends more than her share of funerals.  She has told us that she has made notes (which she keeps in her nightstand drawer) to help us plan her funeral mass when the time comes.  She's prepared - both spiritually and organizationally.

My favorite photo of Mom's family.  Used in mass booklet.
I have assisted her over the years in preparing mass booklets for funerals when a family member passes away.  I know how to create a document, adjust the font size, select the correct paper size, use boldface, and scan photos to be utilized on the front and back cover.  I am capable of emailing said document to a printer and giving detailed instructions for the type of paper, staples, and folding we require.  These 'skills', as simple as they are, elevate me to some sort of super-hero computer user in Mom's eyes.

Mom showed up at my house unannounced.  It later became clear that she had TRIED to call.  My landline had no dial tone, which made her think I was napping.  No nap in the cards for me, and for the record- I don't ever mess with a dial tone in order to nap.  I might close a door, or turn on a fan.  I was unaware that my landline wasn't working because a wire that connected the main handset had recently come lose during construction. 

Mom was incredibly impressed that I could add a Celtic cross to one of the pages in the booklet.  My uncle graduated from Notre Dame, thus the 'ND Our Mother' song.
Mom, the least likely person to embrace technology in the universe, doesn't own a cell phone.  She DOES however, know the phone number for mine.  I don't understand why she hesitated to call it when my land line wasn't functioning.  Ah, how handy it would've been if Mom had called my cell number to gauge whether or not I had time to help with the mass booklet.  

So, there she was ready to put the finishing touches on our latest project despite the chaos factor that ramps up at 3:00 in my house.  I began to rearrange my afternoon from my position in front of the computer.  I was struggling to re-position my afternoon in my head though.  I had JUST started to work on my blog.  I saved what I was working on before opening the mass booklet document.  Mom leaned in closer:  'What's that?'  Me:  My blog.  Mom:  'Oh, I don't know what that is.'  Me:  (to myself) 'No kidding?'

Kids filed in from school.  'Curly, once the junior high kids have had their snack they can play a rousing game of memory with you and Theo, since I can't now.'  Curly was bummed.  She is one of my few remaining offspring who enjoys my presence during things like Memory, snacks, and well . . . just about everything. 

When Ed walked in, I shared a look with him and he knew.  'I know my room is gross.  I will handle it.'  I had texted him my disgust while vacuuming.

Lad texted to share that his latest tonsillitis symptom included a fever. 

I typed a few of the changes Mom requested before Mini called out, 'Kyle is here!'

Mom was sitting next to me witnessing what our after school routine is like.  Mayhem.  Pure mayhem.  She was dealing with the interruptions and probably wishing she had come earlier during nap time when the house was quiet.

That made two of us.

September 13, 2017

vacuuming STILL, homework in the shrubs, and questionable computer skills

The lengthy conversation with my kitchen contractor interrupted my plan to vacuum BEFORE I had to put the tykes down for naps.  I tossed some more food their way (these guys can always eat), and raced back upstairs.  Eventually I brought them up to where the beds were piled high with stuff - but hey, we could see the carpet and walk across a room without twisting an ankle, causing other bodily harm, or risk losing a tot in a stack of God-knows-what.

I laid them down, and continued on my vacuuming mission in the rooms void of nappers.  Laddie called from college to let me know that he has Tonsillitis.  Awesome.  I finished my vacuuming and enjoyed the look of clean rooms, so long as I trained my eye to avoid the beds piled dangerously high with shit.
Tanks' clean clothes landed back on his floor shortly after he entered his room.

I changed the laundry loads and jogged downstairs to the makeshift kitchen area to whip up my salad.  I tired to do a few things on the computer.  OK, I am going to come clean here and admit that I was wasting time.  Not intentionally, but in a zoned out kind of way.  I kept trying to decide what local Irish dancing competition we would attend next, so I was clicking on MapQuest to determine how long a drive might be from my house, etc.

My chronic afternoon-nap-requirement started to creep up on me.  The minute I shuffled some hoodies (I had started to stockpile them when I stumbled upon them upstairs, so that I could demand that kids lay claim to a few and stop whining that they didn't have any) around on the couch to lay down, the plumbers started drilling.  LOUDLY.  I let out a heavy sigh, realizing that my nap opportunity was now non-existent. 

I decided to power full speed ahead, well with a desperate-for-a-nap energy level - and began to blog about our next phase of the Boston trip.  Before I knew it, I saw Curly's bus come around the bend.  I continued typing.  After a few minutes, I became concerned.  With construction happening, I expected to see her bound through the front door instead of the garage door.  The front door is just steps away from the study where I was yawning typing.  Nothing.

I stood up and saw her fluffy hair in front of the shrubs that line our walkway.  When I called out the front door to ask her if she was OK, she explained herself.  My 4th grader had escaped homework in her first few weeks of school.  Now she had an assignment to complete, but she felt that if she finished it before she walked into the house she could maintain her 'no homework' record.  With that mystery solved, I went back to my blog.

Theodore was awake now.  He was playing in the basement, but he likes to pop up from time to time to tell me completely inconsequential things.  Like, 'I found this.'  (holds up a paperclip or a small lego or a piece of lint).  When Curly came in from her non-homework moment on the front lawn, I asked her to read him a book.  I promised to play memory with them when the book was done.

My Mom poked her head thru the heavy plastic sheets that separate the construction zone from the rest of the house.  The day before Mom had been over to borrow my savvy computer skills.  OK, I use the word savvy sarcastically, but if you can grasp that my 75 year old mother has never sent an email or typed and saved a document on a computer, then you understand how my 'skills' would seem stellar.

I hadn't expected her, and I blinked for a minute as I once again readjusted my hopes for accomplishing anything on my agenda that day.

September 11, 2017

my 'we have a probelm' contractor moment

I piled the boys' plates with food so I could run up and vacuum a room or two while they ate.  Just before I darted upstairs, the contractor called me into the construction zone.  He wanted to review a few things.  Which way did I want my fridge to open?  Where did we want the grill to be installed on the deck?  Then came the moment that I am all to familiar with after viewing various HGTV home improvement shows.

It's the moment I refer to as the 'we have a problem' moment.  It seems no one ever manages to escape this segment of the taped programs, so why did I think we were going to be able to avoid it?  On the TV shows, the homeowner is told to brace for bad news.  It typically comes in the form of something like:  'Did you know that whoever built your house failed to pour a foundation?  They apparently just dug a hole in the mud and built on that.  You are honestly lucky that the house didn't collapse on you.'

Kitchen with the bump out.  Lots of work to be done!
Our scenario is not quite that drastic.  Still, it's a problem.  About 6 or 7 years ago, we renovated our two second floor bathrooms.  Our master bathroom was insanely large and monopolized by the world's more enormous whirlpool tub- surrounded by wall to wall mirrors where my self esteem was lowered a bit every day as I saw everything each time I took a shower.  I often bathed all 6 kids or at least 5 of them in that tub, but otherwise it served no purpose.  We decided to install a second floor laundry room in the space created by reworking the two bathrooms.

Have you ever seen an un-vented pipe? 
Turns out the guy who did the work (um, he's my brother's friend thru Irish music.  This guy, who I will refer to as Mr. O'Cut Corners, is from Ireland.  He builds homes in an affluent Chicago suburb) didn't bother to do any of the plumbing to code.  None of the pipes have been vented.  The current crew can fix it, but not for free.  They informed me that the inspectors might or might not require it to be fixed.  I feel like it would be dumb not to fix it since the ceiling to the kitchen is open at the moment.  Of course, it would mean that walls in the bathrooms would need to be ripped open.

Lots of pipes are exposed now with the kitchen is ripped open.
Good thing there were no cameras here for my 'we have a problem' moment.  I didn't cry.  Or swear (which if you spend any amount of time with me, you will find amazing).  I just held my hands up to my face.  Massaged my temple.  Tried to imagine telling Coach this one.  While also trying to imagine being without a bathroom, or two, or a laundry room if the construction zone widened to include those areas upstairs.

I'm not a big Facebook user.  Ironically my phone sent me a little notice yesterday morning.  It wanted to suggest that I become friends with Mr. O'Cut Corners.

I will tell you what I didn't add to my joke-of-an-agenda:  friending Mr. O'Cut Corners.  

September 8, 2017


While I'm sure you are on the edge of your seat waiting to read about the next chapter of our east coast road trip, I am interrupting these details of our survival techniques to describe yesterday's events.  I had an agenda yesterday . . . AGENDA:  VACUUM THE UPSTAIRS AND WRITE.  This short list morphed into a never-ending agenda.  I promise to fill you in on the remaining nonsense of our Boston/college drop off adventure very soon.  Seriously, I was just getting to the good bits.

I babysit on Thursdays.  Yesterday I had two boys.  The other guy I usually watch didn't come  because his mom started her maternity leave.  After I worked out, I treated the boys to some time at the park down the street.  The park wasn't on my original agenda for the day, but I decided to squeeze it in.

Carter is just beginning to utilize the English language.  I announced in the car driving home from the gym, 'Who wants to go to the park?'  After much celebrating, Carter hissed at me:  'That's not fair.'  I'm guessing he's heard older brother Theodore toss that phrase around willie-nillie and decided to see if he could get any mileage out of it.

After calculating in a little outdoor fun, I believed that I would still have enough time to get something done at home. 

There was so much to do at home.  MUCH.  After spending the summer focused on staging food prep/eating areas in obscure places around the house to compensate for our kitchen construction, drastic oversights had taken place in other rooms of the house.  The upstairs was a free-for-all.  The lack of organization was most obvious when all Hell broke loose yesterday morning due to a Hoodie shortage.

How could the kids not locate a hoodie?  I could open a used hoodie store.  My stock in this wardrobe area is plentiful.  If my kids couldn't locate a hoodie, then someone needed to tear the house apart.  My growing agenda:  park with the tots, hoodie hunting, vacuum/organize the upstairs, blog writing during nap time.

This is a pile of 20 hooies that I gathered yesterday - and that isn't including the 5 that the kids wore to school today.  Hoodie shortage my ass!
After the park, the boys played in the basement while I dedicated an hour to unearthing the carpet on the 2nd floor.  I moved mountains . . . mountains of clothes, books, toys, and in Lad and Eddie's room - a mountain of garbage.  I texted Eddie from where I stood in his room.  I was disgusted!  'Don't make ANY plans this weekend until you clean up this room!'

Confession time:  my room, good will.
The truth is that a good deal of stuff was abandoned by Laddie in his whirlwind to pack for college.  Since I am not completely clueless, I easily identified LOTS of stuff that landed in that room because of Ed.  Ahem, Ed isn't alone . . . there is a substantial stack of stuff in my room that I have been collecting for good will.  Tank refuses to put clothes in drawers or his closet rendering his floor often impassable.  I heaved all of this stuff onto of beds to clear the carpet.
Laddie's bed.  Yes a drum is part of this mess.  He hasn't touched it for years.

In Eddie's room I dug up some hoodies.  I snapped photos and texted those to Eddie.  Done?  Yes, he had either outgrown or become uninterested.  Score. . .  a hoodie for Tank.  Tank hates hand-me-downs, so I would hear about it.  Beggars can't be choosie, particularly when beggars are in need of hoodies because they don't put their own stuff away and as a result can't find the sweatshirts that fit them.

Tank and Reggie's room - laundry I placed on Tank's bed landed right back on the floor today.
I was about to get the vacuum started but decided I better throw some lunch at the two tots dumping bins of toys out in the basement while I busied myself organizing the upstairs.  Housework is after all, a vicious cycle. 

The plumbers showed up to work on the kitchen just as I was spreading the PB&J.  They kindly threatened to turn off my water for a bit.  (kindly - because any work done here is progress.  I refuse to stand in the way of progress to get a functioning kitchen.  It's only been 2.5 weeks since it was gutted, but I still recognize progress as an end-in-sight kind of thing.  By all means - turn off the water).

I did hesitate for just a moment before I asked them when and for how long the water would be off.  My laundry piles might topple over and smother someone - thus the short guys being relegated to play in the basement.  No water shut off until Saturday.  I abandoned my PB&J project for a moment and raced upstairs to start a load. I mentally added 'completing laundry' to my pesky agenda. 

Damn agenda just kept growing.  I felt like coining a phrase from Carter:  'That's not fair.'

Oh, it doesn't end here.  Tune in next time for:  plumbing news, hymn singing, typing for Mom, the reluctant carpooler, searching for books, forgotten practice, breakfast sandwiches, and undeniable exhaustion.  Yep, all in a day.

September 4, 2017

Boston memories - Lexington

The complimentary breakfast at our stop in Middleton, New York was top notch.   After what seemed like a short drive compared to the long stretch the day before, we were jogging into the Minute Man visitor center to watch a highly-rated introductory film about the first shot of the Revolutionary War.  Jogging - yes, not because we needed to stretch, but because I had prepared a schedule and I wanted to stick to it. 

I had arranged for a private tour of the village green, where the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired, and it was important that we arrive on time.  My dad, the history buff who once made a group of grade school grandchildren research both a battalion and a general in order to prepare a presentation to share with their cousins during our forced-march visit to Gettysburg, was jealous of my per-arranged tour.  The guide was informative, and while our incoming college freshman offered a few interesting side notes here and there I couldn't help but wonder if we were actually hearing much additional detail compared to the free tours offered of the same village green.

I insisted that we purchase all three tickets to check out the three houses available to tour in town, because I am my father's daughter.  We began with the house where John Adams stayed when he learned of the first shot fired.  Our guide here was on a mission to bore us to death with details about the economy, the family connections, and all political implications making me long for the college kid who offered a few funny asides minus information overload.

Coach kept motioning/begging for us to exit/retreat and save ourselves from the tour early.  He used his subtle jerk-of-the-head signal (if you factor in his 6 foot 4 inch height you grasp how difficult this is to ignore) followed by mouthing the words 'Come on!'  Our entire tour group consisted of our family of 8 plus one older woman from California.  I wasn't confident that we were allowed to wander thru the house unaccompanied by a historical society employee- they tend to guard these relics with strict rules and eagle eyes; nevermind, there was no discreet way for us to abandon ship.

Once the kids caught wind of Daddy's lack of interest, I became a villain in the eyes of my offspring.  When we were set free to the outside world, I was the target of a verbal lashing.  What was I trying to prove?  Did I follow that boring woman's monologue at all?  Coach and I both wondered if she could have tailored her spiel a bit considering her audience was mostly kids.  She had exceeded the hour long schedule and in the process had clearly lost most of us at least half way thru.  Knowing that my dad would have been disgusted at our lack of interest, this wasn't the first time in my life I considered that maybe I was indeed adopted.

After an abbreviated self-guided tour (definitely more our speed) of the old pub off the village green, we skipped the third house completely despite our pre-purchased ticket.  The information was beginning to feel repetitive.  The house we skipped was supposed to offer a glimpse of the Redcoats perspective.  Who the Hell cares what they thought of the battle that started the war?  They were charging the colonists tax on their tea to finance their debt from the French and Indian War.  Rude!  See, I was paying attention.  I decided it wasn't unamerican to bypass their viewpoint.  The fam was fading fast.  I made a note to myself to ask my folks for a copy of my adoption records after our trip.
Note the unused (unpunched) portion of our ticket that allowed us entry into all three houses.  We skipped out on the Munroe Tavern.  My folks don't read my blog, so it is OK.  They won't disown me, because they will never know.  Oh, the emails I was getting from my Dad the night before we walked the Freedom Trail in Boston.  It almost put me over the edge. 
A visit to the former home of Louisa May Alcott wrapped up our time in Lexington.  The older boys were uninterested in this house, so they became ticked off when I celebrated that we had made it in time for the final tour of the day.

There was a woman on our crowded group tour who insisted on firing off a ton of questions at our guide before we left one room to view the next.  I became convinced that this woman was unaware that there was anyone else on the tour.  You know the type, she took great pleasure in grilling the guide but then she stood there nodding as if she already knew the answer but had only wanted to quiz the guide to see if she was on her A game.  She chuckled at each little anecdote the guide shared and nodded at her companion as if they had been old friends of the Alcott family and they were merely reminiscing about the good ole days.  I was honestly surprised she wasn't dressed in period attire claiming to have borrowed a dress form her buddy Louisa at one point.

To amuse themselves and to torture those around us, the older boys managed to silently pass some awful smelling gas each time we were ushered into the next room.  They would vacate quickly but look back over their shoulder to see if anyone had been impacted.  Embarrassing.

Knowing that we were staying at an Embassy Suites, the excitement in our former airport shuttle was palpable.  We drove to our nearby hotel just as the place was scheduled to launch the free appetizer hour.  I can't call it a free happy hour, because most of the snacks are riddled with gluten, which doesn't make me happy.  Additionally, we learned the hard way that in the state of Massachusetts, the Embassy Suites doesn't serve free alcohol.  I had been looking forward to a glass of wine after our history infused day.

The staff did agree to bring me out a small side salad since I couldn't enjoy the other snacks.  I think that makes it official . . . the fact that I celebrated eating a salad over a glass of wine makes me an old lady. Let me know where you stand on that - it's OK, I can handle it, assuming I've had my nap for the day.

September 1, 2017

Boston memories - the start

I considered titling this post 'Boston highlights'.  Some of our road trip experiences do NOT count as highlights, but can best be described as moments that we will certainly REMEMBER, so I adjusted the title accordingly. 

The drive out east from Chicago was lengthy.  It was August 10th - our 21st wedding anniversary.  I slept a bit during Coach's first leg of driving.  When it was my turn to take the wheel, I feared I would be too sleepy despite my short nap.  Honestly, I struggle to keep my eyes open on short treks to Irish dancing class, so I stand little hope of being useful on a long drive . . . especially when I start out sleep deprived from late night packing.  To remedy the situation, I slammed a bottle of Coke.

We then hit an hour of bumper to bumper traffic as we encountered terrible construction zones.  I was behind the wheel, AND I had to pee.  Thanks, Coke!  Damn, double-edged sword.  Our approach to lengthy drives includes eliminating as many stops as possible.  I pondered the situation while we were stuck in traffic, and it made sense to me that I try to empty my bladder while we were practically stopped anyway.  Two birds, one stone - right?

As we sat there making no progress, I began to point out clusters of bushes or generous cement blockades along the side of the road that I felt would offer me enough 'coverage' if I just jumped out and took a quick pee.  Coach looked as if perhaps I was NOT the woman he meant to marry 21 years ago.  In my desperation, I even suggested that the kids climb out and hoist up a beach towel from the back seat like a little privacy shield.  This time he couldn't even look in my direction.  He chose not to acknowledge me with a glance or a reply.  A full bottle of Coke can do that to a person - I think it's called DESPERATION!  Ultimately we were forced to stop at a gas station - right after the road work ended.  Of course.

This 3 quart thermos rocks - I bought two!
In the middle of my packing, I prepared a huge batch of chili.
When our captives, I mean passengers started to beg for dinner, I simply whipped out the two enormous thermoses that I bought on Amazon before our trip.  I had created a batch of chili, and left it cooking in the crockpot at home over night the night before we hit the road.  When we left the house at 5:30 am, I dumped chili into the thermoses and took them on the road.  Those bad boys kept our dinner warm for 12 hours.  This is the latest addition in my quest to save money by not eating out when we travel.  I'm pleased to say that it was a big success.

Chili is typically a recipe I dig out when temperatures drop in Chicago and we are cozy in front of the TV watching football.  Chili in August was unexpected and welcome by my crew - who I'm assuming is like any other crew:  they tire of the same recipe rotation.  I hear about it all the time.  It helped that I thought to pack sour cream, shredded cheese, and a batch of corn muffins.  Nothing like the whole package!

OK, this might be overkill on the chili pictures.  This is my lap begging Coach not to hit a bump as I served up the chili. 
Beats fast food!
We decided to stop for the night just a few hours short of our final destination, which was Lexington, Massachusetts.  Coach surprised me by reserving two rooms instead of just one.  The hotel clerk gave him a deal he couldn't pass up.  It was a Home2 Suites hotel by Hilton.  I had never heard of it, but I do highly recommend it.  There might be more romantic places to celebrate your 21st anniversary then a mid-tier, extended-stay style hotel in Middleton, New York, but a room separate from the kids was a gift.

I wasn't kidding - this fridge was big!
We normally cram all family members into one room, so this was a treat . .. . especially since I realized that I forgot to pack ANY sleeping bags.  Zip.  Zilch.  Zero.  Ugh!  We only had air mattresses for the bodies that would not be lucky enough to be awarded a bed and would thus break fire code.  So one less night where I had to inconspicuously beg extra bedding off the hotel staff was huge.  Regardless of my spouse's not-so-hidden 'hey-I-got-two-rooms' agenda, I of course, loved the fact that we had a decent size refrigerator in our room - and since we had two rooms, we enjoyed access to a second fridge.  Score!  And, yes - they were both plugged in.  Happy anniversary to me!

I was a little leery about sleeping in a room next to our offspring . . . with no adjoining door.  This crew is old enough to be unsupervised, but it's often the times when they don't require supervision that they need it the most.  Exhibit A happened while kids were putting on bathing suits to unwind in the pool and I was unloading the coolers full of food into the large fridges. 

Tank managed to lock Reggie in a cabinet with a wooden coat hanger.  And that's when I was standing a few feet away.
True story . . . my 11 year old was in this cabinet - compliments of Tank.