May 30, 2018

a visit from the police - no speeding involved

Peek a boo!
This is the view outside my
kitchen window.
Just in case all you thought I have done the last week is fixate on Curly's last school program, rest assured - there has been lots more going on round here.  It is going to take multiple posts to share our latest adventure.  You won't believe the ending though, so hang in there.

One evening last week I was standing at my kitchen sink when an ENORMOUS raccoon crawled out from under the gazebo part of our deck.  It was right below the kitchen window.  It was still very sunny out.  Why wasn’t this guy following his natural nocturnal instincts?

Laddie made some noise and it ducked right back under the gazebo.  Moments later it reappeared.  

The next night was a beautiful night.  I dropped Curly off at dancing and called Reggie, who was the only one home.  Coach was at work.  Mini was in DC with her class.  Tank was at the high school graduation playing with the band.  Eddie, who is a junior, went to the graduation because so many of his friends were graduating.  Lad had a late loop and wasn’t home from caddying yet.  

I asked Reg if he wanted to invite a couple kids over to shoot hoops.  He jumped at that offer, but was bummed when no one could come.  I asked him if he wanted to go mini-golfing with me instead.  There were a dozen things on my never-ending agenda that I could have accomplished that night.  My evening was pretty open - the plan was for Coach to drive up to dancing to pick up Curly after work (dancing is closer to work than home, but still in the wrong direction).

I feel like Reg slips thru the cracks at times.  He isn’t one of the ‘big boys’ and doesn't go to the health club to workout with them.  I have noticed that he clams up when he is around high school-ers.  I have decided this is because he can't make a move without being knit-picked by his older brothers.  He no longer travels with the girls and I to dancing competitions.  He has a blast with Curly, but he prefers to have a buddy over 24/7.  His face lit up when I gave him an opportunity to beat me at mini-golf.  It is rare that the kids get one on one time with Coach or I.  

In true Reg fashion, he got 3 hole-in-ones and easily beat me.  I would bet that the highlight was the first hole when I hit my ball too hard.  It went into the water and I had to buy another ball for 75 cents.  Later, Reg was quick to share this fun fact with his siblings.  I am just glad my antics prove so entertaining for my offspring.  Reg ended up tying the low score of the day and was allowed to wipe the other low scorer’s name off of the white board and add his own.
Reg gets his win or die trying approach to all things from his father's side.  I think that wold be a hard way to live, said the mom who hit her ball in the water on hole one.

I am glad we went, but Coach ended up texting me that he would prefer that I pick up at dancing.  We still had plenty of time to finish our round.  I assumed Coach was swamped at work, but later realized his need to race home had more to do with the NBA playoffs.  The rat.  Honestly, I didn't mind.  He works such long hours, I hate to add to his day by demanding that he drive one leg of the dancing driving.

As Reg and I approached the house after our put-put round, I noticed a police car in the middle of the street.  It looked like the officer was staring at something in our backyard.  Our house is on the corner, so you can see into my yard from the street.  I pulled into the driveway and held my breath as the police cruiser pulled up at the end of the driveway.  

‘Oh no.  What did Lad do now?’ I whispered over and over to Reggie as I got out of the car.  

The officer pointed at my deck, ‘There is a huge raccoon on your deck.’  Ah, relief that the raccoon was the pest and not one of my teenagers.  This relief was short lived . . . 

May 27, 2018

warning: don't sit near us

Midweek the minivan (our small car) broke down.  Well, technically it kept moving but it wouldn’t shift out of first gear while Coach tried to drive it to work.  Better him than me.  This transmission issue set us back a piddly $1,200.  Life with 4 drivers and 2 cars was challenging.  It was going to take 3 excruciating days to be fixed.  Our chaos ramped up a notch.  

After orchestrating who was getting who where and picked up when with limited wheels, I raced off to drop Mini at dancing class at 5:35.  In case you have lost track - it was Thursday, the night of Curly's 4th grade program.

Curly skipped her music program last year in order to attend dancing class.  This year the school gave her one of the main parts in the program, so she opted to miss her pricey, pre-paid Irish dancing class to perform with her class.  This all-I-wanna-do-is-dance kid spent a few weeks in a boot with a hurt foot several weeks ago.  Too bad her school performance didn't land a few weeks ago when she couldn't' dance anyway?  Sigh.

As I left with Mini, I reminded everyone that when Lad returned from picking up Reg from basketball practice, he or Eddie had to run Curly over to the school by 6:30.  Curly had showered and was eating dinner when I left.  Showtime was 7.  I would stop home after dancing and pick up anyone who wanted to go to the show.   

Traffic was unbearable.  There was a four car rear ending type accident in the far right lane ADJACENT TO US.  I thanked my lucky starts that I had gone to the left when I passed a slow truck in the center lane.  Oh how I hate the sound of cars crashing and splitting metal.

When I got home, the entire kitchen smelled BAD.  Really bad.  Eddie was eating and yelling at Reg between bites.  ‘Tell him he has to shower before he goes to the show!’ Ed begged.  It was Reggie’s feet.  Reg wasn’t convinced his presence was necessary at the show.  I informed him that playing games on his school-issued lap top at home wasn’t an option.  ‘TAKE A SHOWER NOW!  Ed and I are leaving soon.  You come in a few minutes with Lad.

I wanted as many live bodies to attend this shin-dig as possible.  Curly was bummed that Coach couldn’t go.  Not many classmates have college and high school aged brothers, so I figured if she was surrounded by several 6 foot plus guys she would feel like a big deal.  'Lad, don’t be late! (I yelled that part upstairs)’ and Ed and I shuffled to the car.  

I literally bumped into Tank in the garage.  He had just cut someone’s lawn.  ‘Hop in!  You can come to Curly’s show,’ I ordered.  Ed winced.  He wanted Tank to stay home and shower.  Tank was sweaty from mowing.  Tank home alone is never a productive thing.  It ends in additional trips to the grocery store to replace whatever entire packages he has eaten.  Plus, he couldn't smell as bad as Reggie’s feet.  

Ed, Tank, and I spread out in the last empty row in the gym and texted Lad where to find us.  I said hello to Andrea (who greeted me in her typical creepy fashion), but I quickly pretended to be absorbed in the text I was sending Lad.  Earth shattering stuff.  

Lad and Reg walked in and I motioned them to our seats.  Before they even sat down, Ed noticed it.  ‘REGGIE IS WEARING THE SAME SOCKS . . . AND THE SAME CLOTHES!’

As only a 12 year old boy who is obsessed with cool sweat socks could do, Reg opted to put the same God-awful smelling socks back on his clean feet AFTER his mandated shower.  This was a new low for our fam.  I ordered him to take off the socks.  IMMEDIATELY.  ‘Ball them up and stick them under an empty chair.  Who does this?  What were you thinking?’  He didn’t really have a response.  We were lucky that we had already banished ourselves unwittingly to the back corner - where we could only irritate Andrea and her people.  I don't think it is possible to offend her.
Reggie's feet.  You should be grateful that you cannot get
a whiff of them thru the picture.  It was agony. 

Recently another 'cool' red and black basketball sock went thru the laundry with a hole in the toe.  To deal with the unfortunate hole-in-toe ordeal, Reg wore another sock under the damaged one.  I know this because that is how it came thru the laundry.  Anything to prolong the life of a beloved sock.  I guess.  No one gets as excited about socks in his Christmas stocking as Reggie. 

The show was unique/cute.  Curly did a great job as the emcee to this fake music game show.  Famous composers decked out in white wigs competed against an unstoppable contestant.  They had to name music that, as chance would have it, they had composed.  The 4th grade band kids, who have recently begun to participate in band, 'played' (and I use the term loosely) snippets of famous tunes that needed to be identified.  The hesitations between pieces were so long that I thought perhaps they were struggling with technical difficulties.  

I was anxious for the show to end so we could escape the room with our smelly socks before being asked to leave.  The four brothers laughed thru the entire production - not all of it was meant to be funny.  My mom showed up just before show time.  I strategically sat her on the side of me -opposite Mr. Smelly Feet.  

Afterward my mom snuck out, and I begged the boys to make a quick appearance in the classroom.  Ed admitted to me that when Curly found out he was coming to the show she told him, ‘Oh no.  The show isn’t that good and you are probably going to make fun of me afterwards.’  I suspect that was her mindset when we all filed into her classroom and she saw Tank was present and accounted for.  ‘Why’d you bring Tank?’ She groaned.  The life of the youngest.

That is Tank's hand grabbing around Reggie's waist (Reg is wearing the b-ball shirt - shock).
I got a great picture of all of the boys with Curly in her classroom.  I am not sure yet if you can make out Reggie’s stinky wad of socks shoved in the waistband of his shorts.  

May 25, 2018

Hello gorgeous!

 I digress . . . OK, this is a slight offshoot from Curly's show - that I have to share separately.  I promise to soon wrap up the highlight/unforgettable moment of the night and how it involved Reggie.

There was a discussion about trying to get to Curly's show a few minutes early to get seats, but we all agreed that standing in the back was perfectly acceptable.  When we arrived, there was an entire row of empty metal chairs in the back of the gym.  As we approached I heard a familiar voice.  ‘Well hello, Gorgeous!’  Oh, brother.  Andrea.

Andrea rubs me the wrong way.  Her kids used to attend Catholic school with mine.  She abruptly pulled her kids out of that school the day after Halloween.  She was working at the Catholic school as a technology teacher/aid/something minus impressive credentials.  The school opted to release her from this duty in the fall.
Mini, a friend, and Reggie as Tigger
while watching the big kids
parade around the gym at
our former Catholic school.

In both this photo where Curly is a cookie
 and the one below where she is Goldilocks
she is posed with Andrea's son at the
popular Halloween parade.
Since Halloween is a big deal at our former Catholic school, she waited until the next morning and then instructed her kids not to put on their uniforms.  They would not be returning to Catholic school.

I didn’t initially believe the ‘yanking-kids-from-school-with-no-warning’ story that another mom whose kids still attend the Catholic school shared with me.  Andrea’s middle daughter landed in Mini’s gym class and she confirmed to Mini how she learned about her school transfer as a 7th grader.  Cray-cray.

My four oldest as Jawa, Yoda, Princess Leah, and Chewy.  This was our Christmas card.  Verbage:  'May the force be with you this Christams and all thru the New Year'
My star wars crew watching Laddie in the parade.
They have been at our public school since November 1st, and Andrea's son is in Curly’s grade.  This explains Andrea and her family's attendance at the 4th grade show.  The fact that Andrea's kids are enrolled in our school is still something I haven't completely adjusted to.  Fortunately, I don't cross paths with them much, which is why I froze briefly when I heard Andrea's canned, nauseating greeting.

This costume that we dubbed 'knight
riding on the horse' is completely
irrelevant here, but I saw it
 when I was looking for photos from
the Halloween parade at our former
 Catholic school and I thought
 it was worth sharing.  All four of my
 boys proudly wore this, and had people
doing double takes all up
 and down the street!

While Andrea definitely knows my name, she only ever greets me as ‘Gorgeous.’  Cringe factor:  off the charts.

But, the show must go on . . .

May 23, 2018

Show time - a final curtain

Last night was Curly’s 4th grade music performance.  Each grade level up to 4th grade creates a show at some point during the school year.  The music themed shows include singing, dancing, and some limited acting.  While usually cute, these performances are only tolerable because they wrap up in 40 minutes.  I can survive most things in a 40 minute time span.  

Next year Curly moves to the 'big kid' building for 5th-8th graders.  I CANNOT wait for her to attend a school she can walk to.  Mini and Reggie walk the 4 blocks to and from school currently.  Next year it will be Reggie and Curly walking.  Mini moves to high school.  (God help us all as we are forced to create a routine that includes getting Mini out of bed earlier).

One bonus to graduating from the K-4th grade building is that we will no longer pay $200 each year (per kid!) for the bus.  Technically we should be paying more than the other bus riders for receiving special treatment.  If Curly doesn't make it to the stop that is a few doors before our house, then the bus driver waits at our driveway for her.  Bless that woman!  She loves Curly, which is honestly not an uncommon Curly provoking emotion.  As grateful as I am for the patient bus driver love, I am happy not to be hollering at someone to post up at the front door to see if the bus is coming 'round the bend.  

The other bonus in leaving the little kid school behind is that those short 40 minute shows will be history.  Hey, I know I said a 40 minute program won’t kill me, but why push it?  We’ve had kids in that school (after switching from Catholic school) for 6 years.  That means some years I had multiple music programs scattered throughout the year.  These productions are always on a Thursday evening.  Without fail.  Guess who works late on Thursday nights?  That’s right.  My professional, bullet-dodging husband.  
This was sent to me along with 9 others . . . yes, NINE.  I received 9 photos similar to this gem via text message.  I thought there was some emergency when my phone exploded with text alerts.  Curly's friend's mom got there early and secured a front row seat.  How else could she have captured this keeper (and so many others almost identical to it?
Last night was my last night of music programs.  No more kids dressed in piecemeal costumes (or Sunday best depending on their role).  No more awkward pauses in the darkened gym as kids and teachers scramble to keep the flow going when someone forgets their part.  No more kids dragging their family members back to classrooms to check out school work samples and to say howdy to smiley teachers.  No more cringing at high pitched solos.  No more ear piercing moments when a kid screams his part into the microphone.

But with last night's show, we encountered a family first.  It was both unreal and almost 'normal' as far as our family standards go.  We can thank Reggie for making the evening one that we will not soon forget . . . 

May 21, 2018

Knows no boundaries

Ages ago I promised to explain why I allowed some distance to grow between this woman named Andrea and myself.  This is the woman who called me to let me know that my Dad’s car was in a ditch.  Remember?

So, since I know you have been sitting on the edge of your seat ever since, I will share.  

I met Andrea when we were both involved in organizing the marketing efforts for our local Catholic school.  It was a new committee.  I was excited to be connected with something that had nothing to do with diapers and laundry.  I think I was just happy to be working with a warm body.  (Ironic because fast forward to present day and my life is basically:  diapers and laundry.  Thank goodness I now have blogging).  This particular warm body laughed at my jokes and had kids the same ages as my kids.  To be fair, she was/is a very nice person.  I can’t deny that.  Heart is in the right place, etc.  Our meetings worked out great - the kids were thrilled to have playmates and we brainstormed about how to encourage other families to consider our ‘great’ Catholic school.  

The quotes around the world ‘great’ denote more irony.  In case you are new to these parts you might not realize -Coach and I ended up pulling our kids out of Catholic school.  Budget issues.  A bit sad when you consider how hard I had worked AS AN UNPAID VOLUNTEER FOR YEARS to promote the school and build enrollment.  When we needed financial assistance, they declined. Talk about a slap in the face.  

That was 6 years ago.  It was tough at first.  A big change.  Thanks to hindsight though, I can now appreciate that we are better off in the public school.      

OK, more about the marketing committee where I met Andrea and where I began to feel like I was utilizing my college degree . . . eventually I figured out a few things about Andrea.  She had a habit of arbitrarily shirking responsibilities and then acting like it wasn’t her commitment anyway.  That was irritating.  

On a few occasions she managed to use her ‘inside scoop’ as leverage.  Long story short, I suffered a miscarriage and Andrea offered to take my little guys for most of the day when I had to go to the hospital.  This was very generous of her.  

A few months later she failed to show up for her time slot at our sign-up-to-volunteer table during the school ice cream social.  Later, someone asked her what happened.  She claimed something came up.  While I don’t recall the specifics, she preceded to somehow infer to the group that she had covered for me when I had a medical emergency.  This totally irrelevant remark created a few sideways glances at me- followed by a few uninvited, 'Oh, what happened?' questions.  I wanted to scream.  

Andrea had a way of digging for information.  Another mom volunteer had one son.  Andrea managed to work an open ended question or comment into the conversation that left mom-to-an-only-child no choice but to explain whether or not having an only child was a choice or the result of infertility.  Awkward, and in such poor taste.  Andrea played the ‘hey, we’re all friends here, do tell' card.  It made me cringe.  

Gradually I learned that the longer Andrea knew you, the more overly comfortable she became with you.  Not always in a good way.  She didn’t recognize boundaries.

Towards the end of my involvement on the marketing team, our family was headed somewhere.  I don’t remember where.  I do remember that everyone was in the car waiting for me.  I raced upstairs to get ready.  The next thing I know Andrea saunters into my upstairs bedroom.  Unannounced.  

She threw a stack of dry cleaning bagged clothes on the bed with a huff after such exertion.  ‘These were my mom’s clothes.  She is tall like you.  She doesn’t want them anymore. I thought you might be interested.’  Her mom was alive and well.  She just didn’t want the clothes anymore.  

I froze.  First and foremost, what the Hell was she doing barging into my bedroom while I was dressing?  Secondly, what gave her the impression I would want her elderly mother’s castoffs?  

That was the last straw for me.  

She walked ahead of me as we exited the house thru the garage.  She was nonchalantly bounding out to her car completely unaware that the expression on my face behind her was one that screamed ‘there was just a looney in my room and she deposited her mom’s discarded wardrobe on my bed.’  
I only wish I had such good hair like I drew for myself here.  Is this not like a scene from a sitcom?  And the clothes were horrible.  They went straight to goodwill.  I guess a 'thanks for thinking of me' was in order, but SO WEIRD!!!  Couldn't make sense of it.  Other than being dealt a crappy head of hair, I try to keep up with fashion (other than the cold shoulder look).  Come on - your mother's old clothes?

Oh, believe me - I glared at Coach sitting behind the wheel of the great white when I emerged from the house to join the rest of the fam in the car.  He shrugged at me sheepishly.  ‘I don’t know what the Hell just happened?  She walked into the garage and saw us sitting in the car.  Then she asked where you were.  I told her you were getting ready to go, but I didn’t suggest that she go into the house and certainly not into our room.’

If that isn’t enough to end a blossoming friendship and suggest that I steer the Hell away from her, then give me an idea of what your friend would have to do to make you walk away.

May 19, 2018

Have we met - or lived thru an allergy season together before?

Not at ALL helpful.
I may have blogged about this last year.  It seems so familiar.  Forgive me if I am repeating myself.  My sleep has been interrupted by my allergy issues lately.  I need a nap and I don't have the energy to look back at my posts to see if this topic has been covered.

Every spring and again in late summer, allergy season hits me like a ton of bricks coated in pollen.  It is the worst.  Oh, how I wish there was some sort of relief available for me.  BUT THERE ISN'T.

Coach made a comment the other morning about the funny noises I make when my allergies are at their worst.  This is nothing new to me.  I realize that the sounds I create in my quest to itch the back of my throat, the roof of my mouth, and the tubes between my ears are nothing short of grotesque, startling, and offensive.  At times I have a hard time remembering not to make these sounds in front of non family members.  Yes, I have managed to frighten innocent bystanders in public.  There is very little I can say to explain myself.  I think it is clear that I am dealing with my own personal Hell, so judge away.

Oh, how I miss this
scratch-assisting cereal!
Oh how I long to stick the white, cheap, bendable coat hangers down into the back of my throat and into my ears.  Damage?  Perhaps, but relief - definitely.  Back when I could eat my favorite cereal, Quacker Oat Squares, I would pop some in my mouth and scrape them along the roof of my mouth with my tongue.  Even without the crunchy cereal as a tool, my constant throat-scratching, weird-noise-producing antics leave sores in my mouth and throat.  If I half yodel, half snort, half growl (I know that is 1 too many halves), I can create a satisfying vibration in my inner ear that I pray doesn't destroy my hearing some day.

My 3rd grade teacher was alarmed at how difficult it was for me to read aloud when she called on me one day in spring.  I couldn't see the page because my eyes were red puffy slits with tears running down my face.  My eye itching still occurs but it now pales in comparison to the more tortuous throat itching.  3rd grade teach suggested to my mom that I see a doctor for allergies.  That never happened.

Will you become frustrated with the 'middle child' under tones (or over-the-top tones) on my blog, if I mention that my brother Pat received allergy shots weekly as a toddler?  Now, Pat did have serious issues.  His allergies coupled with severe asthma were worse than my seasonal shit, but do you have to be near death to be treated?  When does insanely miserable become a thing worthy of attention?

There is nothing over the counter to help.  NOTHING.  When I was in college I made an appointment for myself with an allergist.  I reacted to everything they tested me for save a few things.  I think they tested me for close to 100 allergens.  They poked on my back with little needles dipped in allergens, and then waited to see if I would respond.  I looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame when the nurse came in to check on me.  She gasped loudly and asked if I was OK.  My folks thought the shot/medicine regiment that this doc suggested was too intense.  So instead we opted to do nothing.

In the spring my itchy-where-you-can't-reach symptoms last till maybe mid or end of June.  In August it starts and I know it will subside after the first frost.  I get that turning on the air conditioning and keeping the windows closed helps, but I do step outside here and there.  Besides, we are not hip on paying huge AC bills.

My point (I know I've circled around it - I'm sleepy, 'member?) was that I think Coach's obliviousness to my lifelong struggle - a life that he has been part of for like 25 years if you count dating plus the marital bliss years - is startling.  I was dumbfounded when I heard his:  'Can't you take something for that?' loud and clear despite any ear drum damage I have withstood for constantly rhythmically thumping the palm of my hand quickly against the opening of my ear.  Like a plunger for the ear.  Trust me, it ain't pretty.  I'd add a video or a soundbite here, but I try to only subject close friends and family to my allergy antics.

How does a spouse not recognize that this is an ongoing (seasonal) nightmare?  Perhaps he has memory issues that are more emergent than my itchiness.

May 17, 2018

Hitting all the boxes

Mother's Day hit all of the boxes for me:

     1.  Already Mother's Day took on a different feel, since I wasn't waking up in hotel room instructing everyone to carry something to the car for the long drive home.  Not only did I enjoy waking up in my own bed, but I also somehow managed to sleep until 8 am.  This never happens.  I heard the older boys leave to caddy around 6:30 am, but then I snoozed some more.  Bliss!

     2.  We attended mass as a family - minus Eddie, who was the only caddy to score a loop.

     3.  We stopped by my folks' house and I gave Mom her cards after mass.  I had already delivered a couple of huge planters of flowers from Costco for her patio.  It's a tradition now.  I seek out the arrangements with the most blue in them - her favorite color.

     4.  I was served breakfast in bed.  This was a bit amusing (when isn't it?  I feel weird eating in my bed with kids staring at me while they eat nothing.  My kids are always eating something!).  Reg made my oatmeal all by himself.  He followed the directions on the gluten free bag.  Where I use a 1/3 cup, he used a whole cup.  My cup runneth over - seriously.  I asked Coach to bring me a Pyrex bowl to divide it into two portions.  Coach made me an omelet, too.  He didn't include any cheese, because several weeks ago the dietitian suggested that I try no dairy in my diet.  We were experimenting because of some new developments and we were trying to pinpoint the culprit.  Tossing out dairy for a bit made sense.  Um, that was weeks ago.  Dairy and I are friends again.  Coach did toss some veggies in the omelet.  It was fine, just exhibit A in my belief that no one listens to me EVER.

     5.  Laddie got home Sat. night.  I mumbled 'Come and give me a hug' from where I was asleep on the couch.  Coach totally called my couch sleeping position when he left to get Lad at 9:30 pm.  I wanted to spend some time with him organizing his room.  Because it was Mother's Day, he had to oblige.  Ed's stuff was everywhere.  That kid is knee deep in AP exams followed by finals.  He had stacks of paper everywhere.  His days are numbered though.
Lad usually leaves for school in a whirlwind.  After he leaves, I get frustrated looking at all his heaps of clothes and crap that he leaves behind.  I insisted that he stand there and tell me what he was done with and what he wanted to keep.  (Also because he had only been home a few hours -he was still in the honeymoon phase of being home.  Very agreeable).  Oh how I love to organize a room - even if it was only partially.

     6.  A nap.  No explanation here.  I crawled back in bed for 20 minutes.

My salad servers while in freak mode.
     7.  More food.  The girls slept late.  They were ticked they missed the breakfast festivities, so Coach instructed them to make me a salad for lunch while he was working out.  Tank joined in, which means my salad became comedy.  There was babbling brook music and formal speaking, and awkward hand gestures.  I struggled to eat with them standing at attention and made them go back to normal and rid the room of the white noise music.
There are always MORE pictures!
These are sitting on my dining room
table waiting to be
plugged into a frame.

 I call this one 'Funny pictures' -like the time the boys
 stuck over ball we owned inside of Min's footie PJ's.
 She came upstairs looking like an umpa lumpa.
     7.  I spent the afternoon and evening hours organizing yet another enormous frame of photos for the basement while

watching Fixer Upper episodes followed by Blindside.  The kids joined me in the TV viewing.  They only poked fun of me a bit for watching Blindside for the 100th time.  I wonder how many of these arrangements it will take for Coach to lose his cool and demand that some walls remain blank.  I am definitely pushing the envelope and running out of space, but I have stacks and stacks of photos at the ready.

    8.  Our deck still hasn't been rebuilt, so our grill isn't connected.  We have the cheap grill that the construction people bought for us, but it only worked a few times.  Coach thought it was out of gas, so he decided to surprise me and grill steaks for dinner.  He bought a new tank.  Before he mowed the lawn, he tested the grill and it lit.  When it was time to grill the steaks, it wouldn't turn on.  Coach was fit to be tied.  We never eat steak and the kids were upset.  I sensed something was up when he put the shades down that face the deck.  Finally Coach shared the dilemma with me.  I suggested he just use the oven.  He wasn't happy, but he cooked the steaks in the oven and they were delicious.
Our deck.  They haven't reattached
 the boards to the deck. 
Our grill is laying on its side
over by the red riding toy car.

     9.  Gifts.  I told Coach no gifts.  Hello, kitchen?!  No gifts necessary.  I usually get some homemade cards from the kids.  This year the cards were a step up from usual.  Coach must have told them all to write me a poem.  They were hilarious.  Two of the kids incorporated my tendency to cuss in their poems.  They also hit on my sleepy nature.  Ed called me a baby whisperer.  Lad admitted that he has grown fond of coming home after being away at college.  Coach had them read them to me in age order while he videoed.  They were sweet, funny, and honest.  It showed that despite my constant harping to get things done, they actually notice things about me and enjoy having me around.  I don't think there is a better gift than that.

If you read the post prior to this one, then you know that reality hit hard when Mother's Day ended.  We should definitely extend the celebration of mothers to a week.  I don't think my kids could hack it though.

May 15, 2018

Why just one day?

Ah, Mother's Day.  Sometimes the day is mediocre.  Sometimes it is memorable.

Thirteen years ago, I learned that I was expecting on Mother's Day.  That day was memorable to say the least.  I was hosting Coach's family for brunch and he and I buzzed around the kitchen with the secret and not-quite-sunk-in knowledge that I was pregnant with baby #5.

Often I am driving home from St. Louis on Mother's Day.  Typically we have a kid or two competing in the Midwest championships of Irish music Mother's Day weekend.  Usually the competition is held in St. Louis, but we have gone to Cincinnati a few times.  Why the Chicago Irish musicians aren't organized or aggressive enough to offer to host the weekend in Chicago is beyond me.

This year only Mini was considering competing, but she was nervous that she wouldn't be prepared.  Part of the issue is that my brother, Pat, and his wife, Aunt Fiddle,  stopped teaching lessons this year.  Aunt Fiddle insisted that she continue to teach Mini only- for social reasons.  Mini and her daughter were getting lessons together.  That plan fizzled as Aunt Fiddle only gave Mini lessons 2 or 3 times the entire school year.  This was what I would consider a building year musically.  The kids have new teachers, but finding teachers and working out a schedule was a process.  Inconsistent lessons made for ill prepared musicians.

Mini would have had to skip her 8th grade dance Friday night in order to make the trip to St. Louis. Tank was disappointed that she wouldn't be part of a duet with him, but I did not object to skipping the weekend in St. Louis.
Mini and her friends took pictures at her friend's house right next to the clubhouse where the dance was held.  Then they walked over.  Too bad they had freezing weather.  Afterwards Mini said she was really glad she skipped music in St. Louis to attend her dance.  Last year Tank skipped the dance and played a duet with Mini in St. Louis.  He still stands by his decision.  He claims all of his buddies said the dance was boring.  Coach and I think if Tank had been there it wouldn't have been boring.  

Before I share what worked for me this Mother's Day (in my next post), I want to ask you WHY?

Why can we not celebrate mothers more?  Why are offspring so willing to jump up and wipe down a counter top or put shoes away ONE DAY A YEAR?  It isn't really THAT taxing, right?  Why not do those little things more often?  Why can they not be more helpful, more tuned in, more appreciative the other 364 days?  I vote that we retrain the kiddos (and young adults) in our lives to pitch in on the regular.  To be grateful - daily.  How about considerate, and neat, and thoughtful? 

I know.  I know.  I need to be overjoyed with the joy this one day brought me.  I suppose Mother's Day wouldn't seem so special, if the kids acted perfect the rest of the year.

By the way, I literally had to vacate my spot at my desktop at least three times while drafting this post.  The three older boys locked Mini out of the house when she ran out in the yard to greet her friends who walked down our street unannounced - or maybe the 3 phone calls from the one girl's new cell phones to our landline was warning enough?  Why do we still have a landline if calls to the landline make us all crazy?  (Or at least the teenage girl variety).  As an aside, Mini still doesn't have a cell phone.  8th grade graduation is in a few weeks - her phone ownership is happening soon enough, people.

Piece of frame broke off at the top. 
Never fails.
Tank threw open the sliding glass door to let her in eventually and broke the frame I just put together  yesterday.  It is just a crack in the top of the poster frame.  Lad was screaming at Tank for it.  The frame will be mounted in the basement with the others, so I know they are going to get knocked around.  Still - it hasn't even been hung up yet.

Then Eddie was upset because he thought Tank opened a brand new bag of trail mix when there was one open already.  Lad suggested a place for Ed to hide the mix from Tank, so Ed ran outside and Tank was losing it.  'Stay out of my business!'

Between the times I jumped up to see what the Hell was going in, I was screaming from my computer for everyone to knock it off.  I thought Lad was the one who locked Mini out, so I yelled at him.  One of Lad's favorite things to say is:  'Stop assuming!'

I may have done damage to my vocal chords when I shouted:  'I don't assume anything.  I know everything!  I am a  mother, damn it.  If I think you were involved, then tough shit!  If you don't want me to think you were involved, then stay the Hell away from the nonsense.  Say 'assuming' to me again and I will make your life miserable!!!'

Glad Sunday was so delightful.  Sweet, sweet memories.  And the countdown to another relaxing day begins.  363.

May 13, 2018

Buy, bake, & burn

Forgotten cowboy caviar.
Delicious when fresh,
not so much at this point.
At times I feel like my family would starve without me.  Last week confirmed my suspicions.

I was in Milwaukee last weekend for 2 back to back Irish dancing competitions.  I know, I know.  You are jealous.  I made an effort to go to the grocery store on Friday morning before my early Sat. departure.  I stocked up on staples plus lots of extras.  I neglected to buy Tostitos.

Eddie texted me from school Monday morning.  'If you go to the store, can you get some Tostitos Scoops chips?  We have some dip left, but no chips.'  Well, there you have it.  The other members of the family are incapable of running into the local grocery store to secure a bag of chips.  I was NOT going to the grocery on Monday.  The dips that were left over from my Girls Night Out a week and a half ago got gross waiting around for someone to purchase more chips. 

Lest you thought I was kidding.
My mission of trying to get Tank to eat more fruit has morphed into me making fruit smoothies every morning.  What, you didn't read about my mandarin orange debacle a few weeks ago?  This is your chance to check it out.  Anyway, my huge vats of fruit smoothies require a hefty inventory of fresh fruit.  Everyone gets a sizable serving.  Once he has finished his allotted portion, Reggie waits to see if he can have whatever is left in the Ninja blender.  So when we ran out of fruit, I loaded the tots up and took them to Costco.  Joey sat in the back of the cart surrounded by fruit.  'Ernie, this is a lot of fruit.'  I won't retype it, but Joey likes to repeat himself and he did not disappoint.  I texted my health-nut Eddie a photo of the kids and the surplus of fruit.  'You're welcome.'

Removing black tops from the
 under-cooked doughy rolls underneath.
One morning I didn't have time to make fruit smoothies.  I decided to make a package of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.  Not a substitute, just a treat.  As I dashed upstairs to take my shower, I told Reg to put the pan in the oven when it reached the right temp.  Ed called upstairs to me to tell me exactly what time Reg put them in, so I knew what time to take them out.  (My new oven timer is too high tech for the kids.  OK, I admit it.  Even I have inadvertently changed the oven temperature when trying to turn on the timer).  Imagine my surprise when I descended the stairs and I smelled something burning in the kitchen.  Reg put the rolls on the top shelf in the oven.  Oops.  It was a bummer, but I realized that my hurried instructions weren't clear.

All was not lost.  I scraped off the tops of the rolls and spread the icing on the salvaged remains.  I think my tone went something like, 'You will still eat them, damn it.'  Mini whined that the cinnamon part was gone.  I sprinkled cinnamon generously on top.  I am a miracle worker, if nothing else.

A new edible item.
 If you ask Tank,
the phenomenon is
a rarity in our house. 
Hardly worth the fuss though.
This morning Tank looked confused.  He stood with knotted eyebrows (yes, it seems to be growing back) motioning to a loaf of cinnamon swirl bread that I bought at the grocery store.  It was buy one get one free.  Apparently, I had failed him by not alerting all family members at the same moment that there was a  new food item available in our home.  Mini had just toasted a few pieces.  Her review:  'Weak, but not bad'.  What do you expect from BOGO?   Tank's chief complaint, besides the fact that I don't serve donuts daily, is that I always buy the same food.  Something new was big news.

When Mini was confirmed a few weeks ago, I went all out and made lasagna.  My lasagna recipe is an all day affair.  I managed to make some other less involved dinners that week and last week, but I hadn't baked anything.  People were beginning to feel unloved.  Reggie was most verbal about it.  I decided to whip up some blueberry oat bread on Monday.  I haven't made this recipe in forever - like years.  We still had a ton of blueberries in the fridge, so why not.
Blueberry oat bread.  An oldie but goodie. 
Can't keep it around for long.

Tank looked at me confused after he sampled a piece after school.  'Why are you bothering with cookies, pumpkin bread, and Irish soda bread when you can make this?  Just make this blueberry bread from now on.  Forget that other stuff.'  Mr. Appetite has spoken.

I got a lot of grief for only making one loaf.  I rarely make one of anything.  Yesterday, I caved.  I made two loaves of blueberry oat bread.  That's 3 loaves in as many days, in case anyone is counting.

An entire drawer stocked with Hostess 
crumb cakes.  How do they
all decide to instantly dislike a food
 that they loved (and complained
when we ran low)
a few short weeks ago?
Do you think a delicious baked-from-scratch treat means they will put away their clean laundry?  Store their shoes in the mudroom?  Keep their dirty clothes off the bathroom floor?   Eat the many boxes of Hostess coffee cakes that I bought because they loved them, and now they all find them repulsive?  Of course not.

As a mom, I feel it is my duty to continue to keep my family from starving:  buy, bake, & burn (although burning is fortunately NOT a typical outcome for me).  Of course I cook dinner too, but I couldn't come up with a 'B' word to flow with the other 'B' words.  Butcher?

Happy Mother's Day to those of you who find yourself constantly baking, buying, burning (hopefully not), butchering, and all the rest!

I am so on the ball, I am even sharing the recipe with you.

May 11, 2018

thanks Whatsapp - a lack of communication would have been a real drag

I  never really shared the highlights of my Scotland trip.  Remember?  Back in March I traveled there with the girls and my Dad (who turns 78 today).  Um.  Highlights.  In addition to missing our connecting flight and spending another 7 hours in Heathrow- well, almost all of the food was laced with gluten.  The weather was COLD.  As predicted, navigating a foreign country without a cell phone was a bit more adventurous than what I had the energy for.  
Scotland trip survival guide.  Plus gluten
 free protein bars, not pictured here.
I'd like to point out that I have no
idea how to take a screen shot with my phone.
 I take them all of the time BY ACCIDENT.
  When I need to take one, I have no
 idea what combination of buttons
I am supposed to hit.  I had
to take a photo with my ipad and
email it to myself.

Thanks to my lack of smart phone service, I used an app called: WhatsApp for texting . . . only available on the rare occasion when I stumbled into a WiFi zone.  With WiFi, I was also able to access the internet.  I looked up restaurant menus, which really did us no good.  We couldn't walk far with Dad, and we were trying to stay under a non-ridiculous price point.  So, pub grub it was.   

All of the above I anticipated.  I braced myself for it.  There was just one factor I hadn't considered.

It never occurred to me that my sister, Marie, would manage to drive me batty from across the ocean.  What did I expect?  I was, after all, traveling with her Dad.  Don't get me wrong.  He is my Dad, too.  It is obvious that she believes that this is 'her' Dad and the rest of us are just well-intentioned family members taking up space in the universe.  Puke.  

During the trip, Dad had a tendency to request that I text my sister, Marie, for various information.  ‘Text Marie and ask her who won the election (for various offices) in Illinois.’  I quickly pointed out to Dad that I could easily google the information that he needed.  Thanks, WiFi in the airbnb.  ‘No need to text Marie for that.’  The last thing I wanted to do was feed my sister’s ‘I’m Dad’s #1’ persona.  

Don't worry- I am not so disillusioned to ignore the fact that I am most likely a tad jealous.  After all, I am only useful to dad as a chauffeur for treks to Gettysburg.  (His topic of his quest to bring the younger grandkids to Gettysburg this summer surfaced while in Scotland).  I do delight in the fact that I lead a productive life despite my severed umbilical cord.  So, I have that going for me.  

The sun shines out of Marie’s ass, as far as Dad is concerned anyway.  It is increasingly important to Marie that everyone acknowledge the strength and brightness of these shining-out-of-her-ass beams.  They light up Dad’s world- even if this light only benefits Dad.  It is nauseating.

I googled election results, and shared the news with Dad.  Simple.  

The day before we flew home from Scotland, Marie texted me.  ‘Please let Dad know that Dee Dee got into College A and College B.  College A will give her a $28,000 scholarship.  She will hear from College C tomorrow.’  Dee Dee had already been accepted into College U (U here stands for ultimate).  Dad is an alum of College U.  

That night I was trying to get everything packed up for our late morning departure.  Dad (the accountant) asked me to text Marie and ask her what the net cost would be of each of Dee Dee’s college options.  People, we were headed home in the morning.  It didn’t seem totally necessary for me to text her about something that didn’t involve me.  Something that she and Dad could easily converse about in another 24 hours or so - without my involvement.  

I tried to convince Dad that ‘net cost of college’ was a conversation that he could initiate with Marie once he was home.  I envisioned them sharing a pitcher of Kool Aid as she shared every last detail.  

He demanded that I text her.  I drafted a snarky text to her.  A nanosecond before I hit send, I reached out to Coach in Florida via my WhatsApp.  I admitted to him that I wanted to tell Marie that it might be time to cut the cord.  I was begging him to talk me down.  Coach has been around long enough to know the nutty dynamics of my family.  Sometimes he can see clearer than I can.

Coach texted back that Dad was being crazy.  He blamed Dad for being so demanding.  Ultimately, we decided that I would indeed text Marie.  I would make it pretty obvious that this was kind of a bad time since I was trying to get our bags organized for the trip.

Marie can’t take a hint.  After forwarding her texts to Coach in Florida, it became clear to him that Marie is just as much a part of the problem as Dad.  They feed off each other.

‘Don’t really see why this is important to text about now while I am trying to pack, but Dad is demanding that I ask you the net cost of each of the colleges Dee Dee has been accepted to.’  Marie ignored my ‘bad timing’ text and texted back a lengthy list of details about what each school was offering.  One school offered a renewable scholarship.  One offered financial aid that wasn’t guaranteed year after year.  This was info I was supposed to relay to Dad.  By now I thought Dad was asleep.  
I am guessing he would be much more relaxed
if he wasn't involved and informed up to his eyeballs.
Is this just a weird dynamic in my family,
or have you experienced it too? 
Maybe it is just an Irish thing.
Do tell.

I tried not to gag when I read the texts from Marie.  They included snipets like:  ‘Tell him that we have to support her decision.  Remind him that the engineering professor at U College told the applicants ‘We want you to love it here, but if you don’t love it here, we want you to love it somewhere else.’  Also:  ‘Dad has a big day tomorrow.’  Oh, so condescending.  

I wanted to text back, 'Thanks for reminding me, Sis.'  I’m the one that has to maneuver thru the airport with him and try not to miss another flight.   

The night before as Dad stewed over Dee Dee's decision during our pub grub dinner take 6, I pointed out to him that all of these colleges were great options.  She couldn't go wrong.  He wanted her to go to College U.  One of his reasons, 'So we can visit her.  It is closer to home.'

I pulled a fast one on him.  'Oh.  Well, Laddie went to a college only 2 ours away last year to play football (he has since transferred out east to play water polo).  You didn't go visit him.'  

Mini stifled a chuckle as Dad 'hrumffed'.  

May 9, 2018

Drinking the Kool aid - it's a family thing

Dad asked me during our Scotland trip what Eddie’s score was on the ACT test.  ‘Eddie did well, but I am not going to share his score with you.’  

We were at dinner.  I was trying to enjoy a dry chicken breast, because I couldn't have the bun and they had no other suitable sides.  I was already almost choking, when Mini made an interesting remark to dad.  

'I think it is odd that Marie would tell you her kids’ test scores.'  I nudged Mini, ‘They drink the same Kool Aid.’  For some reason, my sisters and my brother Pat, feel that my parents are entitled to know EVERYTHING.  I suspect that my brother Mike keeps our folks on a need to know basis.  I am not 100% sure.  Leaving the folks in the dark for some stuff is the philosophy I try to follow.  

I admit that when I was first married, I tended to overshare.  It was instilled in us (my siblings and I) that sharing information, regardless of whether or not it was relevant, was necessary because we were one heck of a close family.  This is how my folks define ‘close knit family’.  Translation:  we know no boundaries.  Eventually, I saw that this wasn’t a healthy mindset.  I honestly don't recall when I experienced that revelation.

Over valuing my parents' opinion seems to go hand in hand with the entitled-to-all-information mindset.  This is a particular struggle for my sisters.  Interested in an example?  Pour yourself some Kool Aid and kick back . . .

Ann (my oldest and very controlling sister) named for first born son, Wallaby, a name that I planned to also use someday.  It was our maiden name.  (OK, I'm kidding.  That wasn't our maiden name, but she did name him our maiden name, which also happens to double as a boys' first name).  She caught wind of my interest in using Wallaby after her son was born, and she forbid me to ever use the name.  Um, but . . .  it was my maiden name, too!  Anyway, she's like that. 

When she was expecting her daughter she wanted to name the baby Clare.  My mom wrinkled up her nose and told her that she didn't like that name.  Ann switched gears - naming the baby Bridget.  This was the name that had been my favorite since I was a little girl.  And everyone knew it!  I had 3 boys in a row.  She knew I planned to use Bridget if I had a girl.  She forbid me from using it, too.  Right along with Wallaby. 

This is the original Bridget. 
My doll.  No idea why I kept her,
because now she is so old
no child would play with her. 
She is just way too creepy looking.
Fun fact, (I feel a fun fact is necessary to spice up a story that shines the light on my weird family.  Trying to keep it light, people - so you don't sense any bitterness here.  Is it working?).  I secretly played with dolls in my room thru 8th grade.  I loved babies and I couldn't wait to become a mother.  You might not have realized this if you ever laid eyes on me, because I spent my youth sporting that atrocious short hair cut that my mom fashioned with a straight edge razor blade.  It was supposed to be a Dorothy Hamel twin thing, but oh -it so wasn't.  Anyway, I looked like a not-cute boy not a sweet, doll-playing girl.  My main doll's name was, you guessed it, Bridget.  I was furious that Ann didn't go with a name that she loved - just to please our mom.  I know I use code names here to protect my offspring, who are already facing years of therapy - why add to it.  Trust me here, neither of my girls are names Bridget.  Sad, but true.

Marie runs everything past mom, too.  It is mind blowing. 

I have noticed that my folks are almost insulted when I don't cave and give them the details that they desire.  They feel entitled to know test scores and what colleges my boys want to apply to, etc.  

I admit that I can flap my gums a bit.  Not about ACT scores, but about other stories.  Things that might seem funny or alarming.  I realize afterwards that perhaps I shouldn't have shared these anecdotes with them.  I don't intend to tell them everything, and I don't.  Really.  Sometimes though they learn things when I am relaying a nutty story.  Or I will slip up and make an off the cuff remark about something that I forgot they didn't know about.  

I don't know how I ended up being the sister capable of forming original thoughts.  Really.  No idea.  When I ordered the table for my new kitchen, I told my mom that the woman who was making it was going to put a monogram on it.  
This is the monogram. 
And you thought I was
kidding that our last name was Shenanigan. 
Silly you!

Mom, 'Oh, I don't like monograms.'  

Me:  'Oh, I do!'  

Either sister would have cancelled the monogram detail on the table.  

Me (to my sisters and my mom):  'Thanks for coming to see my new kitchen.  Try not to spill that Kool Aid that you all drink on my new table.'