September 29, 2018

Exhibit A, if only it ended there

I fished the thermometer out of the heap of crap that I had dumped on the bed while I was on the phone with the hotel/convention center asking if anyone had turned in my credit card.
All the important items necessary for a dance mom to carry, minus a credit card!

I figured out that I had probably dropped my credit card in the pitch-black-early-morning hours as I was trying to pay my cab driver.  Reason number two million and seven why Irish dancers and their families should not be expected to get out of bed at insane hours.  I DO NOT FUNCTION WELL ON DIMINISHED SLEEP.  The dropped credit card is only exhibit A.

Wow, had that taxi ride really been earlier that morning?  It felt like a lifetime ago.  I shoved the thermometer in Curly’s mouth and answered a few questions that the hotel staff was asking me on the phone.  Could I describe the card.  Gold.  What name was on the card?  Ernie Shenanigan.  Bingo.  They had my flipping card!  Awesome!!!  Some kind soul turned in my card instead of going shopping with it.  The luck of the Irish!

I am trying to blog on my iPad - and it is arguing with me about adding captions.  I am losing.  This bottom pic:  Curly’s awesome curls!  Sigh.  The pic above it - her wig.  Grrr.  The top picture is the aftermath of wearing a wig.  There are two donuts attached to her pony tails with the help of a zillion bobby pins.  Guess how much fun that is to remove after a long day of dnacing? 

Curly’s temperature registered at 101.  Shit.  I told the hotel peeps (that had my credit card in their possession) that I would be back the next day, would they hold it until then?  I wouldn’t need it before Curly danced.  Yes, they would put the card in the vault.  I could get it at the front desk the next morning. 

I texted Curly’s teacher and shared the bummer news about Curly’s fever.  Then I dosed her with Motrin and put her to bed.  Mini left to walk back to the other hotel to watch the awards ceremony for her age group.  I had a ferocious headache and I struggled to sleep.  

The next morning we were at it again.  I prepared breakfast for Curly and I as quietly as possible behind the goofy sliding wall.  I showered and dragged a sleeping kiddo out of bed.  Since Mini was sleeping in a bit and planning to come later, I took on the role of the Irish dancing mom/sherpa.  I asked Curly to carry a few of the lighter bags and then I gathered up the rest and we were off.  

Curly and I hopped in a cab.  The bags were like a tangled mess and acted like an extension of my body.  I slid them across the seat in the cab and then I followed.  Curly got in after me with her one little food bag.  It was the same cab driver as the day before.

We were running a few minutes late, so I told Curly to run into the lobby where the junior teacher was waiting to start with her makeup.  I dragged the bags out of the taxi and paid the driver.  In a Herculean effort, I managed to carry everything into the lobby of the hotel.  With a big sigh, I released the dress bag, the food bag, my purse, and another bag of miscellaneous items in a stack right where Curly was getting her makeup started.  

I glanced around.  Panic set it.  I reassured myself that I had to be wrong.  It was HERE! Right?  RIGHT??!!  I shoved things aside.  I stared in disbelief.  Turned around in a complete cInclement.  The most important bag was not there.  The black bag (remember the fun I had with this bag in Montreal?) that held Curly’s dance shoes, wig, head piece, and all the bobby pins and accessories necessary to attach a wig to an already incredibly curly head of hair.  GONE.  NOOOOOO!!!!!!

September 27, 2018

three 'oh-shit' moments

The next morning we pulled it off.  Up early.  I actually felt well rested.  Arrived on time to the convention center to meet the helper-teacher who was doing Mini's wig and makeup.  We had taken a super short cab ride.  (Not walking in the dark- not to mention wasn't interested in sweating like a banshee).

When the cab pulled up to the convention center, the girls jumped out carrying designated bags and I pulled out my credit card.  My driver asked in a thick accent if I had cash.  I did have cash.  I always bring cash when I travel, but I tend to use my credit card whenever possible JUST IN CASE.  Is this just me?  It was pitch black outside.  I fumbled around for my cash. 

Mini danced.  Wasn't her best day.  The competition was crazy good.  She needed to be in the top half to get a recall.  If she got a recall then she knew that she would place.  Her Irish dancing BFF was competing in the next room.  BFF had come off the stage crying after her first round.  (We weren't there to see it, because Mini was dancing at the same time).  BFF is in the same competition as Mini, but they randomly split the competition in half because it is so big.  These two buddies ended up in opposite splits.

Just before Mini's stage announced the dancers who recalled, Mini got a text from BFF.  (Yes, it finally happened.  Mini graduated from grade school, so now she has a phone).  BFF had gotten a recall!!!  Mini was very excited for her.

Mini had NOT expected that she would get a recall (Oh, shit #1).  She was chill about it.  Happy to be able to say she competed at the National level once before she retired.  After she saw that text, her mind began to whirl.  'Well, if BFF recalled after she thought she did so poorly that she CRIED when she got off stage, then MAYBE there is a chance for me.'

Mini did not recall.  I had hoped that she would, but really it is hard to know which end is up after watching over 150 girls dance.  She shed a few tears.  Mumbled a confession to me that she had begun to think ANYTHING was possible after the text from BFF.  I reminded her that she had just advanced to the highest level at her last feis!  I feat we were all super excited about and proud of.  She nodded.  Yep, her goal was to make it to Nationals.  Check it off the list and move on.

She wiped away her tears and hopped up - ready to go hug BFF and congratulate her in person!  Proud moment for this Mama.

We opted to walk back to the hotel.  Mini made plans to return to the dancing arena later that night to watch the awards for her age group and cheer for BFF and her other friends.  I left the girls dripping in sweat on the sidewalk and jogged into a quick-mart to buy some milk for breakfast.  I surprised the girls with a couple of Dove bars.  Is there anything that ice cream can't fix?

Contents of my purse minus my credit card. 
This is just the beginning of how a
short cab ride would haunt me
Imagine my surprise when I tried to pay with my credit card, and it wasn't there?  Oh shit.  I used cash and assured myself that my card was just in the bottom of my purse.

The girls were thrilled with the ice cream.  I told them we were celebrating!  We got back to the hotel and I dumped my purse on the bed.  No credit card (Oh shit #2).  Not enough ice cream to make this bummer go away.

Curly sat on the bed and watched me pace while I called the convention center hotel to see if anyone turned in a lost credit card.  'Why is it so cold in here?' she mumbled.

Mini and I looked at each other.  It was roasting in our room.  Curly had the f-ing fever - THE NIGHT BEFORE SHE WAS GOING TO DANCE! (oh shit #3)


September 25, 2018

Feverish budgeteers

We dosed Mini with Motrin.  It was July 1st- the day of our flight.  She was feeling a bit better.  Not
 100%.  July 2nd would be our get acclimated day.  Mini was scheduled to dance in Championships on the 3rd.  Curly would dance on the 4th.   Our flight home was at 5 am on the 5th.  Short and sweet and exhausting.

This picture tells it all.  Check out all
 of our crap necessary for 2 days of
dancing and no fun at the theme parks.
Hotel strike 1:  Our hotel room had this funky sliding wall with slats.  Not sure what Chip and Joanne Gaines would say about it.  The door slid back and forth to divide the bathroom area from the rest of the room.  The actual bathroom was toilet and shower only.  I prefer a bathroom to have a door that separates the entire area from the living space.  Give me a toilet, sink. mirror, shower - the whole shebang in one room.  I was not a fan of this set up.

Hotel strike 2:  I thought a walkway connected our Double Tree Hotel to the convention center where the dancing took place.  I asked about that specifically when I made my reservation.  Of course I preferred to stay at the hotel that was in the convention center.  So did thousands of other visitors.  The rooms reserved in the hotel at the convention center were gone in seconds once they opened the block of rooms.  We ended up at the Double Tree.  Recalling my conversation with the reservation guy, I should have asked if there was a 'skywalk' instead of a walk way.  Wrong terminology.  My fault.

We arrived to Orlando in the early evening.  Went to bed.  The next day we went to the convention center to get the lay of the land and buy our program.  It was 9 in the morning.  The convention center was less than 3/4 of a mile walk from the Double Tree.  I wanted to see if we could walk it and bypass paying for a taxi.  There would, after all, be several back and forth trips necessary.  I was TRYING  to do Irish dancing on a budget, remember?  Unheard of, but try I would.

We, the budgeteers (not to be confused with Mouseketeers), arrived soaked in our own sweat.  It was THAT humid so early in the morning!  CRAZY!  I missed the non-existent skywalk.

You can barely make out the black and red
t-shirts that the boys were wearing as
 they worked their way through
 the overgrowth back in 2016.
A quick memory from our 2016 visit to Orlando.  We stayed at a hotel called the Royal Caribe.  Or something.  On our 'get the lay of the land day' I suggested that the four of us walk to the convention center.  The boys were not interested in coming to the dancing early, so I wanted to see if walking between our hotel and the convention center was doable.

Um, there were no sidewalks, walkways, or dare-to-dream skywalks.  We were walking on the shoulder of like a highway.  On our return walk back to the hotel, (because I was not willing to call uncle just yet), the boys tried to avoid walking too close to the road.  They veered off behind some tall grass became thicker.  Eventually that tall grass divided where the girls and I were walking and where the boys were SINKING.  The little bit of grass that they were walking on gradually transformed into a swamp.  They had to wade thru the tall grass and reeds by following our voices in order to pop out on the more civilized side near the road where cars were buzzing by us at 70 miles an hour.
My prep area.  Next to the sink there was a
microwave and fridge area (to the right in
this picture, off camera. Just too tight to
 get all the angles).  I hoped the non-aesthetic
 sliding door would work its magic.

This was weeks after the little boy was attacked and killed at a Disney resort by an alligator.  Let's just say we opted for the pricey cab ride from there on out!

Back in present day, I asked one of the assistant teachers to handle hair and makeup for both girls.  I had asked many times what time she would want them to meet with her.  The day before she texted to say she wanted Mini to be at the convention center at 4 am.  The insanity never ends.  4 am?  How could they dance if they woke up in the middle of the night?

She adjusted the time slightly.  I rushed the girls to bed early so we could pretend to be rested the next day when Mini danced.  I slid the goofy slatted door into place so that I could wake up early (understatement) and prepare breakfast and shower pretending not to wake them.

September 23, 2018

when in Rome? (the Mickey version)

Irish Dancing National Championships are always schedule over July 4th.  They were held in Orlando two short years ago.  For 2018 we were headed back to Orlando!  Why would they schedule  at the same place so soon?  I couldn't justify the cost of visiting the parks in Orlando this time around, but of course I toyed with it.

I don't think I was trying to avoid their faces
 - just a misfire
2016 Splash Mountain. 
Mini's ear, Reggie's shoulder, Curly's curls,
 and that might be my knee or my elbow
blocking Tank's arm.
Back in 2016, I brought the four youngest to Nationals.  Curly was my only dancer eligible to compete that year.  I brought all 4 kids to the parks for two days after Curly danced.  It was a blast.  Exhausting, but fun!

Our former sitter is NOT
wearing a dress.
  He is in the tux.  Curly
was so crazy about
 him (when she was 3)
that he joked with
 me on the dance
 floor at the reception
 that he told his bride
  he suspected Curly wore
 a white dress to the
 wedding mass (she
didn't come to the
 reception) out of protest
 of their wedding.  Ha!
Our former babysitter was getting married this summer on July 7th.  I planned to be back from Orlando for the wedding.  Visiting a theme park during the days leading up to a big competition was out of the question.  I considered squeezing in the Magic Kingdom after the dancing wrapped up on July 4th, but there wasn't much time to pull it off and make the wedding back home. 

I would have felt compelled to bring Reggie along if I added Mickey Mouse to our agenda.  The added cost of another plane ticket plus the added aggravation of having a former Irish dancing brother tag along and be forced to sit thru two days of competition made my head spin.

See -look how much fun we were
 having in 2016!  Awesome smiles in
front of the magic
 carpet ride.  Oh, how I wanted
to go back.  Damn budget.
To cope with my indecisiveness, I lined up the three youngest.  (Sorry, Tank.  He was not being considered for this trip).  I rattled off various scenarios. 

Reggie agreed.  Sitting thru dancing for two days to attend Disney for one day wasn't worth it.  Mini voted loud and clear.  No parks.  She reasoned aloud:  1.  It was too much money.  2.  We had just done Disney.  3.  It would only make me crazy.  (Who me?).  Curly agreed with the other two, but she sort of shot Mini a look that said, 'Hey, are we really turning down Disney here?'

That was it.  Orlando would be limited to a dancing focus only.  Reggie would stay home.  It was Mini's swan song.  She had just made it into Open Championship.  Now this would be her last big competition.  She had never qualified for Nationals until this year.

I packed with my usual budget sense.  Meals and snacks were stored in soft sided coolers inside my checked luggage.  The hotel room had a microwave and a fridge.  Irish dancing was expensive enough -especially when you retire from sewing your kid's Irish dancing dress.  The food part I could control.

Everything was ready to go.  The day before we were leaving Mini sat in our toasty kitchen shivering in a sweatshirt in JULY.  WHAT??!!  She had a fever.  Damn it.  Why is nothing ever simple?

September 21, 2018

humor card, repetitive maybe, but still the only option

My two older sisters both celebrated birthdays last week.  Their birthdays are 5 days apart.  I may have mentioned in the past that these two are BFFs  . . . to one another.  They communicate constantly and get together regularly without inviting me. 

My Mom knows when they are getting together without me.  She is often WITH them for their outings.  I have picked up on an annoying fake yawn that Mom subconsciously slips into conversation just when she casually mentions something they did without me. 

It took me awhile to get over being left out.  Well, I guess you can say I am still not 'over' it. 

My folks threw Ann a surprise party about 6 years ago when she earned an advanced nursing degree.  The plan was for Marie to come in town from Milwaukee and take her to a movie.  They would then show up at a restaurant after the movie thinking that they were going to dinner together.  Surprise!  We would all be at the restaurant. 

My older boys were invited to the party.  Laddie asked me, 'Wait a minute - isn't Ann going to think it is weird that you aren't going to the movie and dinner with them?'  I tried to explain:  'Nope.  They do this kind of thing all the time.  Ann would think it was weird if I DID show up to go to a movie and dinner with them.'

Of course it hurts when I am excluded from their outings.  What helps is remembering that I don't typically enjoy their company. 

My sisters don't make a move unless my Mom approves what they are contemplating.  Remember how my Mom was opposed to my monogrammed table?  Same link describes Ann stealing my favorite baby name.

My sisters don't think outside the box.  They are close minded and judgmental.  They tend to be on the same boring page.  They are the kind of women who talk one way when they are at home, but their tone changes dramatically when they chat on the phone with a friend, or encounter someone they know in public.  I call that 'fake'. 

I wonder what either of them would have
 done if I gave them a card
that said this on the front?
With me what you see is what you get.  I don't put on airs.  I speak up for myself.  I manage to form my own opinions.  I tell stories with emotion and drama.  Ann likes to roll her eyes when I get going, 'OK, stop it.  You're so weird.' 

My point?  I suspect that I gave the same birthday card to my sister two years in a row.  I can't remember which sister I gave it to last time.  I tried to guess at which one got it and then I wrote the other sister's name on the envelope this year.  I always go with the humorous cards for them.  None of that mushy, sentimental stuff.  It just doesn't apply. 

Second year in a row card:  'I couldn't ask for a better sister . . . . (open card), well, I could - but I think mom is too old now!  (Ha!  I love it).  The other sister got a card that read:  I almost got you a membership to a wine of the month club.  Then I realized one bottle of wine to last a whole month.  (Ha!)

funny texts, I'm here for you - puke!
Last year I gave them gift cards to the Cheesecake Factory - thinking they could go eat there together.  This year I went with gift cards to see a movie.  Together?  Probably.  I am just that thoughtful. 

Ironically they like to tell people how prideful they are that they come from a close knit family.  Sure.  If our family was any closer, I would strangle one of them with a loose knit scarf. 

Are you one of those people who gush about how tight you are with your sister on Facebook?  Or are you the third-wheel (definitely cooler), often left out sister?

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,, 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  (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  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.