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September 19, 2018

(method/madness, last part) and then there were 10

 With my babysitting jobs beginning to take shape, I ignored Eddie's mockery of me - despite his accurateness.  Hey, I worried about bills to pay, affording finishing touches on the kitchen, etc.  The worst part was that I was kicking myself for not being more tolerant of the nutty family.  Should I have tried to make that work?  I needed to find a way to let it go and get back to my happy place.

Then . . .

8.  Another family interviewed me mid June.  They have one 6 mo old baby girl named Jillie and they needed care 5 days a week.  Really, Jillie?  That made us chuckle since I already had a Billy.  Jillie's folks live nearby and the mom teaches in a local district.  I was really hoping to build a relationship with families like this one with ties to nearby schools, because word of mouth is definitely easier than fliers, care.com, and stress.

9.  Coach insisted that I was being crazy considering taking on ANOTHER baby.  I told him I could handle it.  My kids were rolling eyes and moaning.  They feared that I would be grouchy because so many kids on the babysitting docket would make me nuts.  I cleared up the confusion.  'Clean up your own crap.  Make your own lunches.  Don't walk thru the family room dumping pen caps, loose change, and other choking hazards out of your pockets.  If you don't make extra work for me, then I won't be ultra grumpy.'  Why isn't this obvious to them yet?

Curly aka my temporary right-hand
 man holding Jillie at a local
forest preserve - preschoolers are in
 front of her looking at turtles.
Jillie's folks texted me July 6th to say that they were going to look into cheaper options.  Knowing there isn't anything cheaper than me (aside from an actual daycare in a strip mall), I thought:  'You'll be back.'  (Um, look whose confidence is returning?)  Later that morning I saw that they were shopping for a nanny to come to their house on care.com.  (Stop rolling your eyes.  It WAS them- they included a photo in their profile).  Um, a nanny is much pricier than what I offer, but whatever.

Four weeks later, Jillie's folks texted me back.  I was what they wanted all along.  Did I still have space for Jillie?  I joked with Mini that I was going to text back and say that my rates went up in August.  Hee hee.

I started babysitting Aug 13th.  It is busy.  Very busy.  It is going quite well.  Curly and Reggie were still home to help me for about a week before they started school.  I teased Curly that I was going to have her drop out of school.  I would attempt to home school her between diaper changes.  OK, I am not THAT crazy.  I have hired a friend, Andie, to help me two or three mornings a week, if she is available. 

Some of the older guys checking
out a koi pond across from our neighborhood. 
10.  After about two weeks, Jillie's mom asked me one day if I might have space to sit for one of her co-worker's kids.  HELLO, WORD OF MOUTH!!  It's happening!  I told her that I had already turned away two families because I was full (This is true and I didn't hesitate to share this tidbit with her, because she narrowly missed not getting Jillie on my schedule when she looked into other options).  Her friend only needed two days of care . . . Monday and Friday.  Those just happened to be the only two days I could do, because Joey and baby sister only come Tues, Wed, Thurs.

The mom came over the next day.  We hit it off.  Her kids were freakishly the same gender, age, shape, and personality types as Joey and baby sister.  They started the next day.  My family members threw up their arms in disbelief that I had added ANOTHER family.  I had two words for them:  college and tuition.  Besides, who loves chaos more than me?

I started out sketching larger heads on Monday - don't worry, the kids show up with normal size heads everyday.  I shrunk their heads only to make their noggins fit on the remaining days of this schedule:
Jillie (6 mos), Billy (14 mos) come 5 days a week.  Maddy (13 mos) and Jimmy (4 yrs) (who I forgot to draw initially on Monday, but don't think for a moment that I love him any less.  He is a riot.  Keeps calling me Aunt Kathy.  I plan to ask his Mom next time he comes if his Aunt Kathy is very pretty or something) - these two swap places with Joey (3 yrs)  and Harriet (11 mos).  Joey and Harriet are here Tues, Wed, Thurs, but grandma grabs them on Wed at noon to take Joey to preschool.  Then there is Zack, Suzie, and Lila.  They are 4 yr old triplets.  Very sweet.  Lila has autism and attends a special full day preschool program.  She comes here after school when the bus drops her off at 3:20.  The other two triplets leave at 11:45 each morning to go to preschool on a bus.  They return at the end of the day with their kindergarten brother Matt (almost 6) at 3:10.
Usually everyone is picked up by 4:00.  Oh, and the 'ten' is the total number of kids I sit for, but not all at once and some are here or less than an hour after school.
SO, now you understand my madness, . . . as for my method:  sometimes I just have a really long story to tell.  Breaking the lengthy stories up helps me stay one step ahead.  So, if I am juggling 10 kids during the day (never at the same time - 8 is the most, usually), does it irritate you to read a story broken up into shorter stories?

September 17, 2018

(method/madness part 2) reasons #3-7 my school year is a tad busy

I continued my efforts to fill my childcare spots . . .

3.  I made up fliers and distributed them like crazy to area schools.  I got a couple of calls.  Interviewed with a few people.  One lady really wanted her toddler son to hang with me for the school year, but the logistics of her commute wouldn't work.  Bummer.

4.  In mid June I met a family on care.com.  They ended up living in my district and need me to watch 2 of their kids at my house before the bus picks them up for the district preschool at noon (plus 2 other kids after school).  We clicked.  Hired.

5.  Tank's algebra teacher hired me because Tank raved about how good I am at babysitting and she wasn't happy with the place she had been leaaving her guy, Billy.  (Woo hoo, Tank.  This guy can DEFINITELY make me crazy, but he is excellent at marketing).

By mid-summer I hauled all my baby
 equipment out of the basement and garage.
  The kids helped me clean it.  The last several
weeks of summer would soon be
 a blur of travel, so I knew
I had to get organized!
6.  Then Joey's mom was hired for a job closer to home, so her kids would be back in my care 3 days a week.  Hooray!  Joey always makes me laugh.

7.  Since things were starting to fill up, I decided to text Self-Taught's best friend.  While she hired me BEFORE the contractor craziness, this text inquirt was taking place AFTER the nonsense.  Follow?  I wondered if she would still want me watching her kid since I fired her best friend's dad.  Part of me was like, 'Well, if the suckie contractor operates suckie all of the time, then maybe it wouldn't even come up in conversation between best friend and Self Taught.  Business as usual, ya know?
 
     Best friend texted me back to say that she should've let me know that she had changed plans for the fall.  (yes, she should've!  Manners?!)  She claimed to have accepted a part time job and was going to use family to watch her baby.

     I was ticked.  Everything would be fine though- I was returning to my happy place.  I was, however, REALLY curious to know if my firing of suckie contractor influenced her childcare switch.

Now that my available babysitting spots were filling up, Eddie started making fun of me for the drama and emotions that became an ongoing theme all spring.  Just what I need, a 17 year old wise ass mocking me:  'What am I going to do, if I don't find another family to sit for?'  (imagine this in a high-pitched, male voice complete with exaggerated arm motions).


September 15, 2018

method or madness or both?

There is a method to my madness.  I know, I know.  I told you a ton of stories about the trials and tribulations of my babysitting situation in the shape of one super long story broken into a bunch of little snippets to make it readable.  Be honest, did that drive you crazy?  Were you like, 'Hey, I vote for a new topic?'

Same with all the cluster of Irish dancing stuff.  Ditto?  Were you in suspense or just OVER IT?

I am curious what you thought of my write-a-ton and break-it-up approach to blogging.  Please share your thought in my comments.  You can be brief.  You can be anonymous.  You can say 'boo-hiss'.

So, the method (or reasoning) to my madness?  And by madness I mean stories drawn out over several posts . . .

First I wanted to share how stressed out I was in the spring about babysitting.  I hadn't told you about all the babysitting nonsense (just a few little bits) as it accumulated, so I didn't know where to begin.  Now that you are all filled in, here is the story that was too hard to explain without first sharing the background:

1.  I was NOT going to sit for the nutty family this school year.  (Yippee!).  Joey's family, who I sit for three days a week, was possibly going to take a year off.  The mom wanted to find a teaching job that wasn't so far away.  I am crazy about these folks.  Joey is all personality, the baby is a fave, and most importantly, their parents are great.  We are on the same page.  Totally.  I was so worried that I would have no nutty family AND no awesome family, and therefore no additional in come.  My mind was working on overdrive.

2.  In April, my friend suggested that I check out a website called 'next-door' for local neighbors.  Sometimes people post babysitting needs.  Turns out you can also learn about anything from 'unique bird' sightings to 'what day is garbage day' questions and everything in between.  The very day that she suggested I sign up for it, someone posted that they needed a school year sitter for their one year old in the fall.  I responded to her post.
There it is . . . the ever important hummingbird advice!

      Within seconds - no exaggeration, SECONDS- my phone rang.  It was this teacher from this 'next-door' website looking for a sitter.  Her first name is the same as my first name.  Self-Taught, my kitchen designer.  She remembered Self-Taught talking about my family.  My name sounded familiar.  A few weeks later, she and her husband and their cute baby came to meet me.  They were all in.  Hired me for 3 or 4 days for the fall on the spot.
She asked me if I was having work done to my house.  I was like 'yeah.'  Ready for this .  . . turns out she is best friends with
   
     Phew.  I was like, 'OK, one customer.'  I hoped to find more teachers in need of school year daycare.  There is an awful lot of college tuition on our horizon!

September 13, 2018

at a loss, contractor style

We hired a new contractor July 15th.  He came highly recommended by my appliance saleswoman.  I mean, come on - we had totally learned our lesson, right? 

During the whole suckie contractor situation, the appliance lady kept insisting that she wished we had gone with this guy who does so much work in our town.  His storefront is not far from our home.  Oh, believe me my rear end was sore from all the imaginary kicking of myself I was doing.

Now I am not so sure that I needed to kick myself so hard.  Perhaps I should have geared my kicking elsewhere.  Insert:  heaviest sigh imaginable. 

The new contractor, who I will now refer to as Mr. Italy or just Italy because that is where he is from, seemed to know his stuff.  He pointed out things that suckie had messed up - stuff that we hadn't even caught. 

Remember the two cabinets that couldn't open at the same time, because suckie hadn't utilized a spacer?  Mr. Italy agreed to take the cabinets down, insert a spacer, and put the cabinets back up.  I was excited. 

I made a list of all of the stuff that still needed to be handled.  Most of it was itty bitty stuff.  Put a dimmer switch in the kitchen so we can stop getting a sunburn when the light fixture over the table is on.  I emailed Italy this list per his request and he came over to have me sign a contract.  Of course, he wanted money.  Oh, how I wish these contractors could just be paid when the work was complete.

Italy and his people have done a few things.  Literally.  A few.  There are a few plate covers on the outlets that hd no plate covers.  The cabinet spacer thing has been fixed.  Both cabinets can open now. 

Most of the time, I just wait.  I text Mr. Italy.  'Anyone coming today?'  He is all smiles and jokes and assurances in his thick accent.  I was hosting two parties over the weekend.  He assured me that the work would be done before the main party.  Guess what?  Not even close. 

Note the light fixture in the background.
  It is typically off, because we would
 need to don sunglasses until they put
 in a damn dimmer switch.  Coach could
do this, but the man doesn't have
 time to put his laundry away.
The biggest issues remain:  no hood and no barn doors. 

Remember the leaking ceiling?  The damn ice dam?  Then the kids' bathroom that started to leak into the kitchen?  (Did I ever tell you about this?  Can't find a post to share).

Italy checked out the kids' bathroom.  He told Coach that the floor of the shower needed to be replaced.  This is a shower that was just done about 6 years ago.  By a professional.  Not sure if I should laugh or cry here.  Coach wanted to continue to attempt to seal the bathroom shower floor.  His re-grout or re-seal job had kept the ceiling from leaking into the kitchen for about 5 weeks.  I wanted it to be fixed properly.  I believe that Italy does things correctly.  It just takes a long time for he and his people to show up.  Sound familiar?  So for $2,500 we are getting a new shower floor.

Best to not blow this photo up to see
any of the detail.  I took this after
 they poured the cement threshold.
  They say that the original guy
 should have used cement and he only
used wood, and that was the problem.
 If you look closely you will see a small
 sand timer on the shower ledge.  It makes
 me laugh to think that my kids
 pretend to time their showers.  AS IF. 
I know my little job is not a priority.  I begged him to get the kitchen done for the party.  Instead they came and ripped up the shower.  Italy insisted that the shower would only be out of commission for 3 days.  While components of the shower work needed to dry, the workers would finish the small kitchen stuff.  Not so much. 

The shower was torn up on Labor Day.  Weird, I know.  The workers were shocked at what they saw.  I think we are lucky that the shower didn't crash into the kitchen at some point.  There was mold.  There were worms.  Gross doesn't begin to cover it.  I assume that Coach and I have the same issue in our shower, because the same guy did that.  The only difference:  2 showers a day vs. 6 kid showers a day.  So the shower started on Sept 3rd.  The kids are scoring showers in other available bathrooms.    Yes, that is just as crazy convenient as you are imagining it to be.  So much for 3 days.

Nothing was done in the kitchen while a bathroom floor dried.  NOTHING.  I texted Mr. Italy yesterday.  'I really did not expect to text every day and beg for the work to be completed in my house.'  He texted back that he was coming later in the day.  No show.  This morning I texted, 'Today?'  He texted back 'yes'.  He was here for 5 minutes at 4:00.  I was busy handing off a baby to a mom, so I didn't speak to him.  Besides my vocab is limited in situations like this to 4 letter words.  . 

At a loss.  In more ways than one. 



September 11, 2018

Can Curly interest you in some swamp land in Florida?

While we waited on pins and needles for the results to be announced for Mini's competition, we walked over to check on the used dresses.

Mini's first dress.  Shortly after this purchase
 ( bought used at a feis) they outlawed bling
on young dancers. 
Translation:  I couldn't sell this.  EVER.
Every time we attend a feis (term for a dancing competition if you don't know that by now!), I drop off our used dresses at the used sale rack.  Then, when no one buys them, I haul the same dresses home with me.  I have tried the power of suggestion approach in the past.  'Has your daughter tried on this one?  I think this looks like her size.'  Still no success.

We were walking back to the awards area when we saw a family looking at an absolute eye-soar of a dress that was marked $100.  I have a couple of dresses that fall into that same category, but I leave them home.  They are from ions ago.  Worn before rules changed about who could wear bling, etc.  This dress that they were ogling had no business being on the rack.  Why were these people looking at it?

My friend walked by and noticed the look of horror on my face.  'You should have them look at  Curly's old dress - that one they are looking at is gross!' she whispered.

I did it.  Shameless as it was, I pulled Curly's old dress off the rack and approached the family.  Why not?  The dress was a true classic.  Mini had worn it too.  It had no bling (suiting younger dancers who can't wear bling), but the no-bling jacket could Velcro off and be replaced with a blinged-out jacket.  Bonus.  I assured them that it was a stunner on stage.  If they were interested, I would give them a good deal.

Our first Irish dance school (we are on our
 third - unheard of, but I won't 
play the games some of these
 schools force you to play) tried to get me
 to buy a used dress for $650.  

And that was the budget dress! It
was filthy.  Embroidery was falling
 out of it.  I knew I would never be able
 to resell it.  Consider that this was
 about 8 years ago.  That price for a
 used dress in that condition was nuts!
 The other dress they had in 
mind for Mini was $1600
  USED.  Gasp. They controlled all
 dress sales and were FURIOUS
 about the mint green number I
bought initially without their permission.
 I opted to make this dress for Mini.  I do
think it is quite cute.  The bubble skirt
look is no longer an acceptable style.
  I never planned to sell it.  I didn't
 use a pattern and if you look at it
 closely it is quite obvious. 
It resides in my closet.
I left them to ponder the dress as we went back to the awards area.   Then I sent Curly back to see if the people were still trying on our used dress.

Curly returned a bit later.  'Um, these people are clueless.  They don't even know who can wear bling and who can't.  I am filling them in on everything.  The dress is a bit big for the girl, but I told her it looks great and that she can grow into it.'  Curly, future used car salesman extraordinaire, marched back to them.  Less than 10 min later she returned with the family in tow.  Her face was a glow.  'I think they want to buy it!' she hissed at me when they were not yet in earshot.

The dress was marked at $550.  I knew that I would accept a much lower price.  Maybe $175?  I was tired of lugging it to feis after feis.  The dad pulled out his checkbook.  'This is the dress that my daughter likes.  Um, you said you would give me a deal?'

'OK, what were you thinking?' I asked him.  'How about $500?' he asked.  I bit my lower lip.  I had to try hard not to bite so hard that I would make it bleed.  $500!!??  It was hard to hide my joy.  'Sure,' I said, 'I can do that.'  He wrote me a check for $500 and I handed him the dress that we truly loved.

The dress is really great.  Promise.  Nothing wrong with it.  It is just that I have been trying to sell it for a year and a half, so I was ready to be VERY flexible with the price.  These dancing dresses don't have a very long shelf life.

Curly leaned over to me a minute later and whispered, 'See, I told you they didn't know anything about Irish dancing!'

These are the two dresses I have been
dragging around trying to sell forever!
 The black and green one on the right is
 the one that Curly sold that day.
 Still looking for a buyer for the coral/black one.  

The styles change so fast that people often
 get stuck with a dress that no one wants 
because it is outdated.  Just one 
of the joys of Irish dancing.
There was much rejoicing on the way home from this feis.  So rare.

     1.  Mini won a first.
     2.  I sold a dress for an outstanding price.
     3.  I had gotten a job.  Early on in the day while we were still busy with makeup and wigs, a woman had texted me.  She and her husband had come over the day before with their triplets (almost 4 yrs old) and son (almost 6 yrs old).  They live in my school district.  She was looking for someone to watch her kids during the school day while she taught at a nearby school.  The preschool/kindergarten bus would pick her kids up at my door.  We clicked.  Her text read that she didn't really want to wait to check my references.  She really liked me and wanted to secure a place in my house for the school year.  Yippee!!!

Mini and Curly and I agreed.  BEST FEIS EVER!

September 9, 2018

Hooray or not at Mini's last hurrah

Mini's last feis had arrived.  She was ready.  I begged her not to be nervous.  Easier said than done.  Regardless of the outcome, she had a wonderful dancing career that she should be proud of.  I told her so.  Mom is always right!

I had toyed with the idea of secretly registering her for the feis the next day - Father's Day.  Mini didn't want to dance that day, and I certainly didn't want to attend another feis unnecessarily.  If Mini didn't place 1st, I wondered if I should be poised and ready to say, 'Hey, if you want to compete tomorrow and try for a first, I did register you.  Your call.'   I opted NOT to go that route.

It was once again a fairly large group of competitors.  About 20.  This competition was set up differently in order to get dancers ready for National Championships.  The dancers did each dance on a separate stage.  Instead of dancing for the same 3 judges for each round, they would show their stuff at three different stages.  Three judges sat fixed at each stage.  Confused?

Translation:  I had to bop from one stage to another in order to follow my two girls as they danced each of their 3 rounds.  It was exhausting.  My mom showed up to cheer the girls on.  I pointed out who would be dancing on which stage next and whispered words of encouragement to the girls as they lined up.

Curly got teary eyed just as she was supposed to dance her first round.  This seems to be her new system.  Cry a bit before dancing.  Dance one round.  Move on to the the next round nerve free.  Then dance the next two rounds phenomenally.  I miss the good ole days when Curly got excited to get on stage and raced off to do her thing without batting an eye.

Curly competes at the highest level possible.  There is no advancing.  The only reason she attends these feises is to get in front of judges to see what comments they might have before heading to a major competition like National Championships.  No brainer.

This is the first year Curly is expected to wear makeup, so I stood there blowing on her face begging her to stop crying.  'Remember, this is what you love to do.  No tears.  Just go have fun!'  Sigh.

Both girls danced great.  I watched Mini's competition and felt that she belonged at the top.  I hoped that the judges saw it that way too.  Nine judges.  Nine.  One screwy judge wouldn't necessarily throw off the entire outcome.  Right?

Curly's awards happened while Mini was on stage.  I wished her luck but stuck at Mini's stage to watch her dance.  Curly returned a few minutes later with a huge trophy and a sash.  2nd place.  Big smiles.  I felt bad that I missed her awards, but she shrugged it off.  Happy to have won.

While we waited ENDLESSLY for Mini's competition to be announced, I tried to convince my mom to go home.  She doesn't go to these things very often.  It makes for a long day.  She wanted to stick around and see Mini's results.  I dug around in my food bag and gave her a few granola bars and a water bottle.
Mini with her back turned as she
 accepts her platter
 (trophy's aren't always given) and
hops up on the podium.

Trying to sell used dancing dresses acted as a distraction while we waited.  I found my mom a spare folding chair.  We waited longer. 

At last they announced the top 10 winners in Mini's competition.  It was down to first and second place.  I knew that Mini danced better than the other girl who was most likely Mini's only real competition remaining.  I held my breath when they announced that the other girl (not Smiley, who took 6th this time) came in 2nd place.  I exhaled and began to shake when they announced Mini as the 1st place winner.


A montage of smiles:  Curly, Mini, and Nana.
 Not sure why this feis
handed out teddy bears too. 
My girls aren't really into that, but when
 you are handed a teddy bear on the
 podium you hold it for your pictures.



That was it.  At long last.  Mini came in first at her last feis!  She had officially advanced to Open Championship-meeting her goal.  It was a day to remember.  My mom was there to see it.  We all wept a bit.  Except for Curly, who just jumped around a ton and hugged everyone within an arm's reach.   There were pictures.  More hugs.  More tears. More pictures.  Record breaking smiles. 

The judges:  the 9 of them had ranked Mini first almost unanimously!
 

September 7, 2018

If at first, you don't succeed . . .

Mini danced great on Friday.  After the competition, we enjoyed the meal I packed from home.  I was in bed early - at last unable to keep my eyes open.  The gluten-fuzzy-head finally subsided.

Saturday involved a bit more prep because both girls were dancing and costumes/wigs were part of the deal.  There were wigs and makeup and leg tanner and fancy dresses.  We arrived at the venue in plenty of time.  Both girls danced at the same stage, which is always a bonus.  Gone are the days when I jogged back and forth between multiple stages when I had 5 young dancers.  I would be changing shoes for one kid, checking another kid in side stage, and eyeing a third stage to see if my lined up kid was about to actually compete.  Don't miss those days.

At least back then makeup wasn't allowed and my girls didn't wear wigs yet.  

Curly’s Indianapolis competition was combined with an older group of girls.  She didn’t expect to place, but she was overjoyed when she came in 5th out of about 20 - beating many of the older girls in the competition.  There was only one girl her age that placed higher than her.

Mini danced even better Saturday than she had on Friday night.  She had a babysitting job to get home to and I had a party to prepare for.  I hoped they would announce Min’s results sooner than later.

Mini in orange.  Hugging Smiley. 
I couldn't argue with these judges.
  Both girls danced great.
 Mini missed 1st by one point. 
I braced myself when they began to announce.  Once again the last two places remained between Smiley and Mini.  Mini took 2nd again.  Of course Smiley was smiling.  Mini kept a smile fixed on her face as she congratulated her friend, Smiley.  She was a good sport.  I snapped a pic of Mini and Smiley hugging it out on the podium.  

I wanted to scream.  No time for drama.  We needed to get back home so Mini could babysit on time. Tank was positioned to fill in for Mini if we didn't make it back in time.  I told him that if he needed to start the job, that Mini would be dropped off as soon as we got back in town.  He was not having it.  If he started the job, he would finish it and he would be paid for it.  I hoped to avoid that battle by making it back to Chicago on time.

So . . .  that was a lot of posts to describe two hectic days.  I must admit when that party was cancelled and we made it to Indianapolis on time, I thought for sure Mini would end up with a first place.  That would've been a great wrap up to the story.

Stay tuned.  The girls were registered for one more competition near home (thank goodness no time zone difference) the following weekend.  
   

September 5, 2018

Timing is everything

Mini had ample time to warm up.  Get her shoes on.  Breathe.  Hooray!

After watching the competition, I thought Mini had a chance of winning a 1st place.  It would be close.  There were a few other girls that I assumed would be in the top 5.  There are 3 judges.  All it takes to mess up the results, is for one judge to suck.  One sucky judge can skew everyone’s results.  Been there, experienced that.  Don't get me started.  

With about 25 competitors, my gut was doing flips as they began announcing the placements. They announce the lowest places first.  They were about to announce first and second place.  The only two reasonable competitors remaining:  Mini and a girl that Mini has become friends with thru competitions.  Before we knew her name, we referred to her as ‘Smiley’.  The obvious nickname choice for her, since she never stops smiling.  

After attending these competitions for years and years, Mini looks forward to seeing girls that she has met thru dancing.  If these girls are from another dancing school (Chicago has many schools), then competitions are the only place she runs into them 

Some girls are nicer than others.  Of course, some girls are just not nice.  At all.  Smiley is a great girl, and Mini always celebrates when Smiley does well.  They often chat before a competition, or when they are lining up to go on stage, or while they are waiting (this part can be excruciatingly lengthy) for awards to be announced.

Smiley and Mini were in the same boat.  They both needed 2 first places in order to advance from Preliminary Championships to Open Championship.  At the Midwest championships when Mini qualified for National Championships, Smiley beat Mini by one place.  

Smiley is a great dancer.  She dances with lots of power and energy.  Then there is her smile.  Mini is known for making goofy faces while concentrating on her dancing.  Grinning and dancing at the same time doesn’t come naturally for everyone.  

Remember the dancers were allowed to wear
 all black or black and white.  Mini for some
 reason failed to put her dance shoes back on
for the awards.  That is my kid in sneakers-
 in 2nd place.  A great accomplishment. 
Just not what she was hoping for. 
We have been working with Mini to strengthen her core and keep her arms from flapping around while dancing.  This is no easy feat.  Tall dancers struggle to keep their arms at their sides.  The more advanced the moves, the tougher it is.  Short dancers with a low center of gravity have it easier when it comes to arm control. 

Smiley danced great that day, but her arms were moving a lot.  Mini had great arms, but not as much energy as Smiley.  I hoped that these judges were focused on arms, because Mini finally seemed to have that under control.  

They called Mini’s number for 2nd place.  It seemed silly to be disappointed, but I wanted to kick my chair.  Damn.  So close.  

There was still the competition the next day.

September 3, 2018

to stop, or not to stop?

I had Mini use my phone to text Coach to let him know that the party was cancelled and we were on our way to Indianapolis.  He knew we were planning to drive to Indy Friday night AFTER the grad party, because the girls danced on Saturday.  Later he admitted that the text message we sent from the frantic car didn’t communicate (to him - anyone else probably would have understood it.  Just saying) that we were racing to get to the competition.  He didn’t understand our urgency or the fact that Mini was going to compete after all.  

The closer we got to Indy the more I recognized a couple of immediate needs.  The car needed gas.  I needed to use the bathroom.  My first goal was to arrive to the competition in time for Mini to dance.  Pit stops might jeopardize our ultimate goal.   

So this has nothing to do with my full tank or my car's empty tank.  I am not feeling inspired to come up with a photo for either situation.  This is my new Addidas bag.  I love it, and I am thrilled that I got it on sale.  In fact it was marked down so low, that I got one for Mini too.  In all the craziness, I THOUGHT that I had packed this bag.  I meant to.  When we unloaded our car at the hotel we looked all thru the car for this bag.  I kept insisting that I had packed it.  Really I had no idea what I packed and what I didn't.  I was quite happy when I got home and my bag was still there.  
We sent another text to Coach.  I informed him how long the low fuel light had been on and how many more miles we had to drive.  He texted back that it made sense to get gas.  That was not the answer I was hoping for.  We were almost there.  Was it my imagination or was the car starting to shake?  I was overly tuned in to every creak and rattle.  Were we about to run out of gas?

We pulled into a gas station where I quickly pumped a whopping $4 of gas into the tank.  I started longingly at the building, but I didn’t dare search out the public restroom.  The clock was ticking.

The dancing venue ended up being about 3 blocks from the gas station.  We devised a plan as we pulled up.  I would drop the girls off at the main door before I parked.  Curly would stop at registration and get Mini’s number.  Mini would run to her stage to see how soon her group would dance.  

There was a little pandemonium because the competitions had moved to different stages.  Literally unheard of, but why not have that happen today?  Mini was flustered when I got in the door.  Once I helped her find her actual stage, we saw that she was not too late to dance.  Her competition wouldn’t be dancing for at least 20 minutes.  I hurried off to the bathroom.  

We made it- in more ways than one. I must mention that another dance mom friend of mine was out front when we pulled up.  ‘I just got a ticket on my way here,.’  Ouch.  Been there, done that.  Ticket I mean - never on the way to a dancing competition.  Strange but true.  


September 1, 2018

thank you google maps!

I continued to drive.  Using my phone I looked up the stage assignment schedule.  Mini’s competition was not the first group to dance.  She had about 5 groups ahead of her.  Some of them had over 15 competitors.  It would take time for all of those competitors to dance 2 rounds a piece.  
This is what the original
 mapquest looked like -
until a little box popped up offering to
 'show me the way'!  I admit to being
 technologically challenged.  Sometimes
my google maps talk to me,
and sometimes they don't.
  If I had blinked, I would have
missed the alternate route because
 google was in shy mode.

I happened to glance at my phone.  I was getting a message from google maps.  Would I like to save 25 minutes and go an alternate route?  WOULD I?  HELL, YES!  I have never experienced a google map re-route before.  It was like divine intervention.  

Game on.  We were going to press onward.  I was banking on the other competitions taking close to an hour, and I was begging google maps not to fail me. 

Mini was nervous as all Hell.  I kept trying to reassure her.  Remember how fuzzy I felt in my head because I believe I should not have eaten gluten free pizza a few nights before the Indianapolis road trip?  I was now driving very tired - but not the kind of sleepy tired, just too-tired-to-think tired.  Thank goodness for small favors.

It makes me wonder - what do other moms use as an excuse when everything hits the fan, if they don't have the gluten-contamination as a go-to?

I think the adrenaline of wondering whether or not we were going to arrive in time for Mini to dance was providing me with the energy I needed to get there.  

Once it got to be 4:00 in Indianapolis I texted a mom that I knew was already there and asked her to keep me up to date on how the stages were moving.  I glanced at our estimated arrival every few minutes and announced periodically that I had successfully shaved off another minute.  We were now looking at a 4:45 arrival time.

Yes, there was some lead foot action happening.  (so many posts about my speeding days, have you read this one?)  I knew if I got pulled over, it would possibly blow our chances of getting there on time.  

My kids have competed at these dancing competitions for almost 10 years.  You could call me seasoned.  Well, seasoned or crazy.  Back in the day when I had 5 dancers, I really struggled to arrive to even local venues on time.  I was known to order kids to put their dance shoes on in the car so that they would be prepared to run up and dance an instant after arriving.  It took years for me to realize, racing to a stage at the last minute was not ideal for my dancers.  They need time to warm up and become mentally prepared.  Or maybe it just helped that the crowd thinned, and it took less time to get fewer dancers ready.  

Having said all of that, I have NEVER had a kid miss a competition.  I wasn’t about to screw up my track record now.  


August 30, 2018

I'll take 'know your time zones' for $100!

The Friday feis was a black and white feis.  That is our favorite kind of competition.  It means that dancers can wear black or white shirts, shorts, or skirts.  No fancy costumes, no makeup, no wigs.  It is a streamlined system that we welcome whenever possible.

Trying to leave the house in a moment's notice, Mini was scrambling to find the black clothes we reserve for these competitions.  Maeve’s level of competition wasn’t offered on Friday, so she would only dance on Saturday in her dress.  

Our Irish dancing cabinet. 
Tape, socks, leg tanner.  Note the curly wig
on the bottom shelf.  Our of style for several
years, but still comes in handy for Halloween
last minute costume ideas. Reason #264 that will
 make me excited when the girls are both
 done dancing.  I can reclaim this cabinet.
I called to a frantic Mini:  ‘I keep your black skirt in the dancing cabinet in the laundry room.’ (Doesn't everyone have a dancing cabinet full of retired wigs and extra sock glue in their laundry room?).  Her black shirt was in the laundry.  I grabbed one of mine.  

I told the girls to load their stuff in the car and I raced up the stairs to throw my clothes and toiletries in a bag.  I waddled out to the car dragging my bag, the dancing dresses - because the girls needed them for the Saturday competition, and the dancing dresses that we are currently trying to sell.  I took one more look around the kitchen and bolted out the door.  

I put the location of the competition in my google maps before we were even on the expressway. Now, I know the basic direction to Indianapolis, so the GPS wasn’t necessary just yet.  The fact that I did this on autopilot was instrumental.

My phone estimated our arrival time as 5:15 pm.  My heart stopped.  What the what?!  
Then it hit me.  There was a time change.  Duh!  I had just attended my 25th college reunion in Indiana.  I KNEW there was a time change.  I had totally blanked on it.  

I shared the bad news with the girls.  Mini freaked out.  I hesitated as much as is possible in Chicago traffic on a Friday afternoon.  I was hosting a party for Mini’s graduation on Sunday.  I had PLENTY to do.  Should I bail on this crazy road trip?



August 28, 2018

not without a car!

I tried to busy myself preparing for Sunday’s party.  I wanted to take a nap since I woke  up crazy early with gluten issues.  Eddie wanted to know who was going to drive him to basketball camp.  I gave up on the pool party being postponed or cancelled.  I told him to just take the car, and then I went up to bed.  

I was in my bed still unable to sleep despite being crazy tired.  Damn gluten.  After I laid there for about 15 minutes, I heard the garage door go up.  I was only wearing a huge t-shirt, but I jogged down the stairs and opened the garage door.  I got Eddie’s attention just as he was backing out of the driveway.  He stopped and looked upset.

I told him to hop out of the driver seat, so I could drive him to basketball.  I was not about to get out of the car in just a t-shirt to switch seats at the high school.  I explained while we drove that since I was still awake, I thought I may as well just drive him.

Eddie hates being driven somewhere.  He likes to know he can walk out of the building and drive away.  Heaven forbid that he have to wait for someone to come get him.

I mumbled about the fact that I realized I should have a car to drive Mini to this party anyway.  I knew she could get a ride from a friend, but both ways?  That was pushing it.  I just couldn’t get my brain to clear.  

I dropped Ed off at basketball practice and headed home.  I put the garage door up and there was Mini standing in the door.   Her mouth was moving but I didn’t know what she was shouting at me.  I rolled down the window:  ‘The party is cancelled.  We are going to Indianapolis!’  What?!  

In my rush to stop Eddie from driving away in the car, I had forgotten my phone at home.  Mini told me that one of the moms hosting the pool party had called my cell to let me know they were cancelling the grad pool party.  With the party cancelled, we could try to make it to Indianapolis for Mini to compete in the Friday Irish dancing competition (feis).

This photo is a recreation. 
I absolutely did not take the time
to snap a photo of
me loading my cooler.  Had I done that,
 this picture would look a bit more like a
grocery cart being dumped on its side
in my kitchen as I tossed food into
 piles on the floor in front of the fridge.  
It usually takes me a few hours to pack up the car to leave for a feis (Irish dancing competition).  Now it was almost noon.  The competition started at 4. It was 3 hours away.  I had no time to think about how crazy this was.

I started to call out orders.  ‘Girls pack your bags.  Grab a cami (worn under dancing dress).  PJs.  Toothbrushes.  Clothes to wear when you aren’t dancing.  A book for the car.  Run!’

I opened the fridge and ordered Reg to get me the cooler on wheels. I planned a meal for later that night and breakfast for the next morning and lunch and snacks for the drive home (let’s hope we would be driving home by lunch the next day).  Bringing our own food.  Tradition.    

I headed in one direction to grab something before I stopped myself and remembered something else I needed to get in the other direction.  The kitchen was a flurry of me shoving food in the cooler and barking at people:  ‘Dance shoe bags!  Remind me to get the dresses we are selling out of the front hall closet.  Reg grab my running shoes from the front hall closet.  Unplug my phone charger and throw it in my purse.’  

We rallied.  I kept telling Mini it was all going to be fine.  The competition didn’t start for another 4 hours and it was a 3 hour drive.  We had this!  Right?

August 26, 2018

deviating from the original plan

The ORIGINAL plan was for us to drive to Indianapolis very early Friday morning.  I was done babysitting for the school year on Thursday.  Hooray.  We planned to take Eddie with us.  We would tour Butler in Indianapolis.  Drop Eddie off at a bus station so he could take a bus back home.  He was registered to take the ACT Saturday morning.  Not that he wouldn’t totally love to hang out at a feis like the good ole days and watch his sisters compete.

After getting Eddie on a bus home, I would take the girls to the Friday night feis.  Only Mini would dance, because Curly’s level didn’t compete at a Friday night feis.  Dance again Saturday, and return home to prepare to host Min’s graduation party.  Sound hectic?  I do have a habit of trying to do a bit more than what seems humanly possible.  Why would this weekend be any different?

Now we came up with a new plan, because of the pool party on Friday.  No Eddie.  No Butler.  Just dancing on Saturday.  And fingers crossed, we would come home with a first place!  Fingers crossed even more that the mostly family party we were hosting would be a cinch.  

I have tried and tried to insert the weather forecast here
for Friday, June 8th.  This is all that will copy. 
But it pretty much sums it up. 
As Friday the 8th approached, I noticed that the weather didn’t look promising for a pool party.  The evite didn’t mention anything about a rain date.  I waited.  

In my spare time I drove the girls to the mall to get a new bathing suit for Mini.  I tried to stay on top of the housework.  I paced myself.  What could I clean and organize far in advance that wouldn’t require a redo before the party?  

Wednesday night I met Coach and his staff out at a pizza place.  We had a celebration to commemorate his office manager’s last day.  She worked for Coach for 12 years.  WE were so sad that she had accepted another job.  It made sense, because upper management refused to pay her what she was worth.  

I arrived at the party hungry. Big mistake for a person with celiac disease.  Coach had promised that he would order a tossed salad.  The tossed salad offered at this pizza place included a head of iceberg lettuce barely separated.  A few tomatoes and cucumber chunks.  The end.  That wasn’t the kind of salad I considered a meal.  I ordered a gluten free pizza.  

I should have known better.  Never order gluten free pizza from a regular pizza place.  Imagine how much flour gets tossed around in their kitchen!  I didn’t sleep well that night.  I started to feel like I was in a fog.  By Friday I still wasn’t 100%.

I continued to watch the weather.  It was like 90% chance of rain.  I checked my email.  
No evite updates.  Crap.


August 24, 2018

choosing a party

Mini wanted to register for three more competitions before her 4th of July finale at National Championships in Orlando.  Three more attempts to hopefully bring home her next first place - one one necessary for Mini to retire at the highest level of competition.  Open Championship.

The first two competitions were held the second weekend in June in Indianapolis.  Curly’s foot had healed.  She was ready to compete.  

There were two more competitions the following weekend in Chicago.  Only 20 minutes from home.  Mini only wanted to sign up for the Saturday one.  The Sunday feis landed on Father’s Day.  She preferred to skip that one.  I didn’t blame her.  It was a new competition.  I had noticed a recent trend.  Irish dancing competitions being scheduled on Father’s Day.  This was the first one to land near our house.  Pass.

The new trend must be in response to the nutty, competition-crazed people over involved in Irish dancing.  Where would they draw the line?   (Yes, this might be a bit of the pot calling the kettle, but honestly, my kids were the last to wear wigs, etc.  Promise.  I fought the good fight.  And lost).

A few weeks after I registered the girls for competitions in Indianapolis, I opened an evite sent to my email address for Mini.  It was an 8th grade graduation pool party invitation.  Guess when the date was?  That’s right.  The party was on Friday, June 8th. 

The other new trend in Irish dancing is for a group to host a competition Friday night and then follow it up with another competition the next morning.  A Friday/Saturday competition was even better than a Saturday/Sunday competition.  If you could make the Friday work, then Sunday was left untouched.  A whole day on a weekend unaffected by an Irish dancing competition.  Beautiful.
You know in cartoons, when the character's eyes bug out . . .
imagine me doing this when I saw this invite. 
Summer kick off/ graduation party -
 a mom-who-has-paid-dancing-competition-fees
worst  nightmare!

Anyway, I gasped when I saw the date of the party.  I shared it with Mini.  She gasped too.  In an effort to not be labeled ‘dance mom’ by Mini’s brothers, I gulped and then told her that it was up to her.  If she wanted to attend the party, then I was fine with it.  We would drive to Indianapolis Friday night after the party and she could dance on Saturday only.

I admit it.  I hoped she would choose dancing.  Because 1.  I hated to toss the registration money out the window.  2.  And the other part was the true dance-mom part who is somewhat addicted to these silly subjective competitions..

Mini chose the party.  Duh.  That was fine.  Really.  I couldn’t blame her.  It stunk that I had already paid.  It also stunk that by skipping this competition, she would only have two chances left to win a first.


August 22, 2018

19th?

This was May and only Mini’s second weekend of competitions for the year.  Mini's results after the competitions back in early March were less than impressive.  Since then, Mini had worked hard to correct the issues those judges had pointed out.

Knowing she had qualified for National Championships and knowing that she was going to retire before high school, Mini had chosen not to race around to a million competitions on weekends in 2018.  Time to secure two first places was running out.

So, a 2nd place was definitely worth getting excited about.  So close though.  Again.

Before we left the party I looked up the competition results on my phone.  When the results were posted to the website, they included individual judges' comments and points.  Three judges adjudicated the contest.  
     Of the 27 dancers, one judge gave Mini a 1st overall.  
     Another judge gave Mini a 2nd overall.  
     The next judge gave Mini 19th place.  19th. What?

Had that judge removed his head from his ass, then he would have known that Mini did NOT deserve 19th place.  I watched every dancer.  I knew she was no where near 19th place.  Even if the suckie judge had given her a 3rd, there was a good chance that she would have landed in 1st overall.   This one guy skewed the results enough to keep Mini out of 1st.  Mind blowing.

Curly opted to hop in Coach’s car after the party.  She was headed home.  Mini and I settled into the hotel room in Milwaukee and prepared for the next morning.  Curly called my cell.  She was stuck watching basketball with her brothers.  She was not happy.  She was wishing that she had chosen to stick with us - even though that meant sitting around watching dancing competitions unable to compete because of her injury.  

The next day we woke up and repeated the routine of wig, makeup, leg tanner, and nerves.  Mini once again appeared to dominate the competition.  She danced phenomenally.  We waited an excruciating amount of time for the results to be announced.  

They started with 14th place and worked their way up.  As they announced the placements, I nodded.  These three judges (different from the day before, thankfully) seemed to have gotten the placements right this time - so far
Unclear picture of the top 14 of 28 dancers.
I think I was clutching my phone so tightly
that the camera got fogged up.
 Mini in orange.


.  I held my breath as they announced 3rd.  2nd. And at long last Mini Shenanigan, 1st place

I’m not going to lie.  There were tears.  

My sister, Marie, lives in the Milwaukee suburbs.  She was in the city for her daughter’s piano recital.  Her daughter is Mini’s age.  As much as I enjoy bolting for home after a back to back weekend feis, I agreed to meet them for a celebratory ice cream outing.  
Don't get me wrong, we've treated ourselves to ice
 cream as a consolation prize when the
 points didn't fall our way MANY TIMES
This time the ice cream tasted much sweeter!

It was a long time coming.  

August 20, 2018

unpredictable in more ways than one

The biggest bummer about Irish dancing competitions is that the timing is COMPLETELY unpredictable.  Oh, the stories I could tell.  Stories when we thought for sure, based on the stage assignment schedule (um, yes there IS a schedule - laughable), that we would be done by such-and-such a time, but alas we would end up being the last people left in the building.

When Curly had struggled to decide if she should join us in Milwaukee, she had tried the ‘can-I-have-a-friend-over’ angle.  The usual.  Curly’s thought process always includes:  ‘Hmm, if Daddy is working and we aren’t leaving until after lunch, then will I have time to have my BFF over?’  I pointed out that without either parent home, and the older brothers caddying, she wouldn’t be hosting any friends.  

She also hated to miss Mini possibly win a first.  Again, no guarantee.  

Fearing that Daddy would be later than me to the party, she opted to hop on the heading-to-Milwaukee band wagon - aka the great white van.  

Guess what happened?

Mini danced later than we thought she would.  Of course.  With the competition wrapped up, we gathered our stuff and headed to the awards area.  I looked at my watch.  If we left right away, we could get to the 1st communion party fashionably late.  We waited a bit.  The dry erase board listing when a group's award would be announced posted that Mini’s under 14 group would be at 1:30.  
Posing during the 1st communion
party:  a tall Reggie with a younger
cousin wearing matching
cool b-ball t-shirts
that I bought them. 
Oh, yeah. 
Coach beat us to the family party. 
Ouch.

Mini shrugged.  'Let’s go to the party and ask someone else to text us if I won anything.'  Well this was unchartered territory.
     A.  I don’t want to inconvenience anyone else who doesn’t have a kid in the same competition.  No one wants to stand around unnecarily at an Irish dancing competition.
     B.  I also don’t want to ask a mom with a kid in the competition to deliver Mini an award if that mom’s particular dancer doesn’t end up placing.  Awkward.  Imagine the non-winning-trophy-delivering dancer exiting the building and having to contend with:  ‘Oh, look at your trophy!’  Forced smile:  'No, it is Mini’s trophy.  I just picked it up for her.'  

Despite my hesitations, I asked a mom of one of Mini’s competitors, if she would mind collecting a trophy for Mini if she ended up placing.  I explained our 1st communion party dilemma and the fact that Curly had used the Milwaukee Feis as her ‘fastest’ ticket to her little cousin’s 1st communion party.   The mom took pity on me.  She said, no problem and we bolted.

I was desperate to beat Coach to the party, or deal with Curly's wrath. 

We were a mile away from the party when I got a text from a friend who was still at the feis.  My stomach did a flip.  2nd.  Again.  Mini was excited.  I was too.  Later when I looked at the results online my frustration overshadowed my excitement.  


August 18, 2018

win a first, or bust

Who says you can't look
stylish in a boot?
In early May we headed to Milwaukee for a full weekend of Irish dancing competitions (called 'feis' - pronounced 'fesh').  Both girls were supposed to dance.  Curly was registered to dance in her open championship competition, but for the second consecutive spring Curly landed in a boot with a stress ‘reaction’.  Translation:  almost a stress fracture, but not quite.  It was her body’s way of telling her to slow down.  Really?  Asking Curly NOT to dance is like asking a leprechaun not to look for gold.  

Because Irish dancing is so economical, eating Curly's competition fees was no big deal.  Sigh.  

There were two days of competitions in Milwaukee (which is less than an hour and a half from our house):  one Saturday and one Sunday.  The competitions were unrelated to one another.  Organizers often piggy back on one another in order to split the set up/take down energy.  I suspect that they get a break on the venue rental space, but I can’t confirm.  

I always like to sign the girls up for back to back competitions when we don’t have a conflict, because it makes me feel like we are getting more bang for our buck.  With 2 sets of registration fees PLUS the often added hotel cost, I guess the ‘bang/buck’ theory is a pretty bad analogy.  To put it another way:  as long as I pack up all the stuff and put forth the energy, I am all about the two birds one stone concept.  

Honestly the best thing about back to back feises:  being done on Sunday with back to back feises.  

Mini, non-dancing Curly, and I left early on Saturday morning for round one. Curly had been on the fence about whether or not to tag along to Milwaukee.  Should she attend the Milwaukee feis in her boot, or should she stay home with Coach?  She wanted to sleep in and chill out at home instead of coming to the feis on Saturday morning.

To complicate the weekend, we hoped to attend my nephew's 1st communion party after Saturday's dancing.  His fam lives in a northern suburb of Chicago, so I figured I would drive to his house - halfway to our house from Milwaukee -and then head back up to the hotel in order to dance on Sunday.  Sound fun?

Curly didn’t want to arrive late to the first communion party.  I was happy to haul one less body out of bed early Saturday, but I had to point out a few things to Curly.

1.  What if Mini finally won first?  Would Curly be OK if she missed it?
2.  Daddy had to work on Saturday, so there was a chance that Curly’s fastest route to the 1st Communion party might be via Milwaukee.

Curly opted to wake up early and sit and watch dancing.  What's a dancer to do if she can't dance?  Watch dancing, I guess.

Mini danced beautifully on Saturday.  I have learned not to get my hopes up for that illusive first place, so I hoped for the best but tried to keep my expectations low.