October 31, 2018

thanks google photos, lest I forgot

My google photos have once again served as a memory jogger also known as a writing prompt.  I am well aware that it is October, and that I am writing about our July vacation.  Still thinking it is worth sharing.

Thank you google photos for this memory: 
Curly sleeping on her makeshift
bed next to Reggie's pull out.
The Shenanigan family managed to carve out 4 days in late July.  Four whopping days when we aligned all of our schedules in order to go on a mini-vacation.   We had to factor in the forced march to Gettysburg with my dad (more on that later), the completion of Lad’s summer school classes, Tank and Ed’s return from their mission trip, the championship golf tournament at the club where the kids caddie, and of course the 4th of July dancing competition.

Chilling out at the bonfire area at the
 Stay-bridge -playing a rousing
 game of Balderdash.  A game
 that is impossible for Tank
 to be successful at, because he
 must write down the MOST
 preposterous definitions -
always a dead giveaway.  His
 secret mission is to make the
reader crack completely
up while reading his card.  
After everything was booked and scheduled, I (I almost typed ‘we’ as if Coach would ever open an email from the high school band director) realized that Tank had mandatory band camp the same week when we were planning to be out of town.  Tank didn’t care if he missed it.  I shot an email to the band director and let him know the difficulty in scheduling a few days away for the fam.  He gave Tank a pass.  

Fast forward:  The day of the first home football game, Tank dropped out of band.  He could no longer tolerate watching his friends enjoy the game while he performed with the band.  None of his friends were on band.  Also they have weekend competitions throughout the year.  Turns out he HATED those.  Play for 5 minutes, sit all day.  Not his thing.  Glad we didn’t bother to adjust our mini-trip to incorporate band camp into the mix.  

We chose a small town in Michigan for our 4 day July getaway.  Coach chose a hotel not far from the beach.  We considered doing an Airbnb, but the older boys were banking on a workout facility AND an awesome, included breakfast.  Coach factored it all in and booked us at a Staybridge.  One bedroom, one kitchen, one bathroom, one living area with a pullout.  

These guys slept on air mattresses, but grabbed
some time on a bed whenever possible -
 so they could better concentrate on their phones.
Jealous?  I bet.  So relaxing to do the fam-cram on vacation.  I begged for an additional bedroom.  Coach argued that it was only a few nights, it would be fine.  Our 3 oldest sons are over 6’1”.  Mini is 5’10”.  After having 6 kids, I need a direct path to the bathroom every night.  The bladder ain't what it once was.  Navigating footing around those bodies sprawled on squeaky air mattresses in the dark of night . . . equivalent of living on the edge, I guess.  

Another small hitch cropped up when Coach realized after we checked in that the pullout was only a twin.  A twin?  He had banked on Curly and Reg sharing the pullout.  Instead Coach channeled his inner MacGyver and created a bed for our 10 yr old by pushing the ottoman up to the end of the couch.  She managed to sleep there and not roll onto the floor.  A true blessing, because there would have been Hell to pay if she landed on one of her air mattress giant brothers flanking her sleeping spot.

Never, I mean never, mess with a sleeping teenage boy.

October 29, 2018

ACT, FAFSA, CVS, wait, what? (part 2)

I left the dad to deal with Lila's poop.  I raced into the study to see what was up with Ed's distress call.

Ed had gone back into his full ride scholarship application to look for the email address for the scholarship committee.  He needed to send an email to update them about being chosen as a leader for a thing at school.  While he was in his application, he noticed that he only had one community activity listed.  Where were the other activities?  There were no mission trips, no religious education teaching, no basketball little kid coaching.  What the Hell?!!

While Ed was sharing this ordeal with me, I heard Coach on the phone in the family room.  Coach is never home on a Monday, but since he taught for 3 weekends in a row he opted out of working late on Monday night.  He was on the phone with Lad .  . .

'Well, how often do you look at your email?  This letter is dated Oct. 3rd.  It says I only have ten days to respond.  Ten days was a few days ago.  You have to be more on top of this stuff.  You are getting the emails, not me!'

By now all my babysitting charges had been picked up.  Hallelujah.  Yikes, why was Coach's hair on fire in the family room?  I went to investigate leaving Ed to start jotting down all of his missing community activities.

Turns out Lad's FAFSA needed some updated paperwork.  Fun.  I delegate FAFSA stuff to Coach, but let's not kid ourselves I make myself and my knowledge of our accounts readily available to him.  I help when I can.  Lad got an email apparently asking for info.  The letter that was sent to us arrived after the supposed deadline for when they required the info.

Coach hung up with Lad and started trying to figure out what was needed.  This is the first year that we have used a FAFSA.  Uncharted territory.  He called Lad right back - 'I need your drivers' license number.'  Lad informed him that he couldn't find his drivers' license.

Oh brother.  It was going to be one of those nights.

I called the car insurance company to ask if they had a copy of Lad's license.  I left a message.  Then I started to rifle around on my computer desk.  I was back in the study where Ed was moaning and groaning over his messed up application.

A more impressive picture would have been
 the pile of junk that I sifted thru in order to find this
letter from the sec of state, but I feared we wouldn't
 be friends anymore if you saw that!
On my computer desk I eventually found what I needed.  A letter alerting us that Lad had gotten a speeding ticked over the summer.  Yes, this was a ticket that he chose to pay rather than request supervision.  Why, oh, why would he do that?  Because then he figured he didn't have to tell us.  Oops.  Then we got the letter and we were ticked, and now he has the ticket on his record.  Dumb.

Lad doesn't drive the entire time he is away at school, so naturally I would've encouraged him to request supervision, if he had consulted us.  Um, yes, I do tend to be an expert on speeding tickets, now that you bring it up.  Well, his drivers' license number was on this letter.  So, when I found it there was much to celebrate.

I reviewed the email that Ed had drafted to the scholarship board.  Gave him a few suggestions, like:  'I hope that this information isn't repetitive, but when I open my application I cannot see these activities that I saved in my application.  Perhaps you can see them on your end.'  STRESS!

On Wednesday Coach had to sit down and fill out a CSS.  I was like, 'What are you filling out now?  A CVS?'  Yeah, no - that's a pharmacy.  The CSS was ANOTHER financial document that the scholarship committee needed.  I later heard it referred to as the FAFSA on steroids.  The email said you should expect to spend 45 minutes on it.  Several hours later, Coach was wrapping it up and in a rather delightful mood about the whole thing.  As I am sure you can imagine.

Ed has opted to take the ACT again on Oct. 27th.  His current score is solid, but hoping to raise it a point or two.  Oh, how I long for that to be wrapped up.

So basically the A,B,C's of college are causing us a great deal of discomfort and I will be happy when we are done with all of this BS.

October 27, 2018

ACT, FAFSA, CVS, wait, what?

A very random sample of the college brochures
 that clutter our new mail slots
in my (wait for it) STILL unfinished kitchen.
I have developed an eye twitch.  It's no mystery.  It is stress related.  Ed's college search is stressing me out.  I mean, it is stressing him out, too - but there is much at stake here.

He is applying for a scholarship - the kind that equates to a full ride.  If he gets that scholarship, he can only attend a pre-determined list of schools.  There are good options - some fall in the 'reach' category, and then there are other schools where he knows he can get in and is confident he will be happy to attend.  In the meantime, his college search also includes other non-full-ride schools in case he doesn't get the full ride deal.  Again, lots of good options.  To consider two different sets of schools, though, is time consuming.

He completed his full-ride scholarship application weeks ago.  On Friday, he got called to the office at school.  He was one of 3 seniors selected to lead a group of kids at a leadership conference.  He attended the conference last year as a junior, and now was being asked to participate as a leader.  Great news!

Once his full-ride scholarship application was submitted he couldn't edit it, so he needed to email the scholarship committee and let them know about this leadership role at the high school so that they could update his application.  He did this on Monday after school.

While Ed was in the study drafting the email, the triplets' dad walked in to collect his 4 kids.  My phone was in the study.  I was in the kitchen positioned at the 'revolving door' of moms entering the house to pick up babies/kids.  'He napped good.'  'She loved eating her peaches today.'  I didn't see the text message from triplet dad that said, 'Be there i
n 5 minutes.'

As an aside, I haven't understood the '5 minute' warning text message from the triplets dad all school year.  Does he want the kids waiting at the door dressed in coats with toy clean up complete before he walks in to get them?  That isn't always possible.  On the days when I was racing to get to Mini's tennis matches, I tried to have them ready so I could bolt.  In nice weather, there is less to clean up because they were usually playing on the swing-set.  Or, is it just a courtesy? 

On this day, I was chatting with moms.  His kids were still playing with toys.  My phone wasn't within reach.  Clean up still needed to happen.

While he waited for his kids to put the toys away in the family room, he started to get his daughter, Lila, in her coat.  Lila gets dropped off on a bus about 30 minutes before he arrives.  Lila is autistic and isn't potty trained yet.  The dad turned to me and asked where I kept her pull-ups.  She needed to be changed.  I hadn't caught a whiff of her from my spot in the kitchen.  It had to have just happened.  Still, it was awkward because I got the feeling that he felt like I should've been aware of it.  Groan.

That is the exact moment when Ed started calling me to the study.  He was panicked . . .  

October 25, 2018

but who needs sleep?

 Mini’s tennis season was supposed to end last Tuesday.  After her match, I thanked TC (tennis coach) for a great season.  Later, Mini shared that TC had asked her on the bus ride home to play up a level on JV1 for the end of the JV1 season.  Mini was excited!  That is why she was playing on Thursday - it was a JV1 match.  So moments before Mini forgot her backpack on Thursday, I once again thanked TC for a great season.  I thought the season was over.

He looked at me confused.  'She is playing in JV1 conference on Saturday, right?  She knows about it.'  Of course SHE did, but she just hadn't thought to share with me.  No big deal.  Coach would be out of town (2nd of his 3rd weekend out of town teaching).  I had nothing else going on, because basketball season hadn't started yet.

Trust me, I will soon try in vain to remember what my life was like BEFORE basketball season.  If Tank ('I-mean,-I-shoot-around,-but-I am-not-the-most-devoted-off-season-player') makes the sophomore team, then I will have:
This is Reggie's concertina.  I know
when he has practiced, because the
super expensive instrument is no
longer in it's case and might even be
 left on the family room floor.  Exhibit A.
  I remind Mini and Curly to practice the fiddle,
which I could totally share a photo of
because they aren't put away in
 their cases either.  What the heck?

     1.  Ed on varsity.
     2.  Tank on sophomore,
     3.  Mini on freshmen,
     4.  Reg on travel and
     5.  Reg on 7th grade school team (crazy short season),
     6.  Curly on travel and
     7.  Curly on girls' 7th grade school team (we anticipate she will make this team - very few girls try out - not competitive and Curly is a decent player.  Also crazy short season).

So, yes last Saturday I didn't have any big plans, because who needs to vacuum the house, clean bathrooms, do laundry, remind kids to clean their room, encourage people to practice the fiddle, or make meals?  All tasks that can easily be skipped.  I told Mini to let me know where she was going to play when she figured it out.  (Because of course she was not sure which of the two host schools she was headed to that day -Can you hear that?  It is me, screaming inside my head)

So, they don't look so great,
but trust me these are the bomb!
Friday night after making awesome gluten-free snacks I stayed up until 12:38 am.  Um, I don't do that.  Ed was working on college essays, and I was proofreading and offering feedback.  I felt one of his essays needed more personal examples.  He was frustrated and I was trying to keep him on the right track.

When Mini had come home from BFF’s house, she was
     #1 loving her haircut, and
     #2 informing me that she needed to be at the high school at 6:30 am.  That meant leaving our house at 6:20 am.

She wanted me to get up at 6:00 am to help her pack her lunch.  I preferred to roll out of bed at 6:18 and stagger to the garage to drive the car.  I pointed out to her that perhaps she should have come home from BFF’s house earlier in order to start packing a decent supply of conference day food.

I did begrudgingly agree to get up at 6:00 am - what’s another 20 minutes of sleep at that point?

The small cooler was loaded, and I was busy hating myself for choosing to stay up so damn late. Mini’s phone got a text.  It was 6:14 am.  It was too bad that I was so tired, because with the heavy downpour happening, I was pretty damn sure I was going to be asked to build an ark soon.  Mini’s text:  ‘match postponed an hour.  Meet at school at 7:15.’
‘Setting my alarm for 7,’ I mumbled to Mini over my shoulder as I shuffled back to my glorious bed.

At 7:00 am when I dragged myself out of bed, I told Mini I would drive her just as soon as I checked the basement for water.  Obsessing over the sumppump is typically Coach’s role.  I was walking back up the basement stairs, relieved that it was dry, when Mini called down the stairs:  ‘Just got a text.  They cancelled the match.’

I crawled BACK into my bed.  I set my alarm for 8:00 am, so I could go to my 8:15 workout class.  Oh how I wanted to ignore my alarm.  But I went to the health club, where my bleary-eyed self discovered that the class I attend every Saturday was CANCELLED.  The usual instructor was out of town, and they were unable to find a sub.

I hit a workout class 30 minutes later, tempted as I was to go home and go back to bed.  JV1 tennis conference was not rescheduled.  That was a bummer, but I was too exhausted to mind.  The weather the day of conference was expected to be horrible.  Why, oh, why could they not have cancelled it in advance - or at the very least why not cancel at 6:15 instead of postponing?

October 23, 2018

girl caddies, Heath lookalikes, & 'move or be moved'

Both Mini and Reggie learned to caddy this summer.  As a 14 year old, Mini is off to a late start by our family's standards.  Both my dad and Coach's dad caddied back in their day.  Coach and his two younger brothers caddied at the same course where my two younger brothers caddied.  It is in our blood.  But a girl caddy?  A first. 

Mini's late-bloomer-caddy status is due to the fact that Coach and I didn’t think she could handle it.  In addition to the physical demands of carrying a bag full of golf clubs around on a roasting summer day, there were other considerations.
Lad knew I was trying
to snap a caddy photo
 back in May - thus the flex. 
Reg is in the background
getting in the caddy mobile.  

Golfers can be rude.  They don’t always hesitate to pee on trees.  They are known for using foul language and telling offensive jokes.  From what I have heard, they aren’t always able to control their tendencies to drink in excess.  Of course there are plenty of gentlemen who golf, so excuse me for the generalizations.  

There are also loads of caddies who don’t practice the best manners.  With 4 brothers caddying, I worry little about a caddy offending Mini.  He would have to be a pea brain or a caddy with a secret death wish, because who would dare to offend the girl caddy who shows up each morning with four brother caddies . . . Three of whom are older, twice as muscular, and more seasoned than she is?

The boys scoffed at the idea of Mini caddying last year, and they still raised an eyebrow or more at the suggestion this year.  Mini has grown to be taller than me now.  She is 5’10”.  She insisted that she was going to attend the training and give it a try.  

Reg was technically younger than the approved start age of 13 when he started training alongside Mini in the spring.  Reg turns 13 in January.  His brothers started early too, except for Laddie because we missed the training dates.  Silly, rookie-parent-of-future-caddies mistake.

To her credit, Mini survived her first round, and THEN SOME.  She caddied consistently all summer.  She regularly:
     1.  woke up before the sun (another reason I never thought she would make it - this girl is like her mother:  ‘I need my sleep or else'),
     2.  waited in the caddy shack for hours, 
     3.  texted me to let me know how hungry she was,
     4.  lugged around heavy bags,
     5.  dealt with interesting personalities,
     6.  accepted the ridiculous tan lines that come with the territory,
     7.  listened to her brothers’ feedback (this had to be challenging!),
     8.  survived Lad’s grouchy, early morning outbursts
     9.  Fought the good fight to hold on to the caddy towel she brought, despite Lad's or other brother's attempts to steal it
     10.  And eventually got hooked!  

Ed on his way to join the caddies. 
Asking them to pose for a caddy
 photo would exploit their coolness somehow.
One day after returning from a day of caddying, the caddies were all hovered around the kitchen
table scarfing down anything that closely resembled food.  Eddie, who has a tendency to pick on Mini, groaned about her appearance.

This is not the most accurate photo
of Mini's 'Heath' look.  Snatching
 a photo of her in full Heath mode
 fresh from the golf course would
 have pushed the envelope.  Big time.
  This was after tennis.
 A weak replica at best.
‘I will not allow her to return to the golf course until she gets her hair under control.  You are giving the family a bad name.  Put on a caddy hat or a hair band or something. You look ridiculous.’

I had to agree with him.  Her whispy hairs that escaped her loose, low pony tail were flailing out to the sides like Medusa.  As much as I hate to encourage Eddie’s knit-picking of Mini, I couldn’t help it:  ‘It does look like you are doing a decent imitation of Heath Ledger when he was in the movie ‘The Patriot.’

The nickname stuck.  Whenever the messy bun pops up - let’s face it, that’s a daily occurrence,  I remind Mini of her Heath Ledger resemblance.

My favorite parts of being the mother of 5 caddies: 
     1.  Curly waking up hours after they have left and looking lost and confused, 
     2.  the sharing and comparing of hilarious stories at the end of the day,
     3.  the caddy master quote that I just learned about - when he sees my kids approach each morning, he calls out:  'Here come the Shenanigans.  Move or be moved.'

October 21, 2018

frustration, messy bun affliction, forgotten flowers, & gluten free heaven

My frustration level was off-the-charts last Friday.

Kids I sit for had a half day, which meant Zach and Susie had no preschool.  Matt would be at my house before lunch instead of after school only.  He's bossy - to put it mildly.  Baby Billy was visiting his grandma, so he wasn't there.  Still, it made for a full house and a busy day.  It rained most of the day, so it was going to be an indoor play day.  Swell.

Coach left for his 2nd of 3 weekends out of town.  He is new to the teaching program, and by way of trying to make  himself available whenever possible inadvertently signed up for a class that was sandwiched between two others.

I was fed up (not really appropriate to use past tense here - it is an ongoing emotion that I cannot shake) that the bathroom AND kitchen were not being worked on in a timely manner.  Bathroom was supposed to take 3 days - as I write this we are getting dangerously close to 6 weeks.  I texted the cell number for the Italian Stallion (oh, he is like 67 years old, so just a nickname because he is from Italy - don't read into it) to Coach.  Coach was sitting at an airport waiting to take off.  I suggested that he call Stallion.

30 minutes later, after I served breakfast to the masses, and cleaned up a kitchen, and changed countless poop diapers, I called Coach.  'Have you called Stallion yet?'  Coach seemed offended that I even asked.  'I am about to board my flight!'  Me:  'Oh yeah, well what have you been doing for the last 30 minutes?  You don't want to know what I've been doing!'

I fumed about my Stallion issues for the remainder of the day.  I typically call his cell over and over - like maybe 18 times- until he finally texts me that he will call me later.  Sometimes he calls, sometimes he doesn't.  I have told him refund us and we will find someone else to do the work.  I mean, COME ON!

The bright part of my morning was that Mini woke up and announced that she was ready for a haircut.  Since she could no longer get a brush thru her hair, she figured it was time.  No comment.  I played it cool, but the instant she was out the door I texted my hairdresser for her availability.

When the babysitting kids got picked up at 4:00, I went for a run.  15 minutes into my run, Mini texted for a ride home from tennis practice.  30 minutes early?!!  I ordered her to walk across the street to the library and wait for me.  I would not end my run early.  I NEEDED TO LET OFF SOME STEAM.

When I got to the library,  my 14 yr old daughter was incredibly hungry which makes her floppy.  The hair was flipping around.  This is a thing she does on the rare occasion that her mop ISN'T in a messy bun and she wants it out of her face.  I always say things like:  'what about just a small clip?'  She scoffs at me.  Her remove-hair-from-face maneuver involves an entire upper body sway and swoosh.   I wondered if she had any bones in her 5'10" frame.  That's a tall structure to not have much control over.  That candy-bar commercial says it best.  She was 'hangry' with me when I checked out a couple of movies.  'Did you get some homework done?' I asked her.  'I slept,' she mumbled.  'I need to eat.'  Really?

She was not pleased that I snapped this
after she retrieved the flowers from the
 library.  She probably suspected it would
land in my blog.  Hey, you supply me
with material - then you pay the price.
Halfway home, she let out a moan/cry.  'I forgot my flowers in the library.  Girls going to conference for tennis got flowers.  They were in a vase and everything.  I left them on the table.'  In high school, we used to say 'toe cheese' instead of 'oh, geez.'  This was a toe-cheese moment for sure.  Seriously.  The back pack incident was still an open, oozing wound.  I said nothing.  U-turn.

I called Reg at home.  'Heat up some of the leftover pizza casserole for Mini right now.  We have to leave in a minute for her haircut.'  We grabbed her dinner and raced away to relieve her 'messy-bun' affliction.

One of the chocolate quinoa balls
 is missing because I figured
 I would sample one before
sticking them in the fridge.
  Great news:  they are delicious
chilled or recently created!
After her hair ceased to have that chic stone-age look, she asked me to drop her at her friend's house.  Now I was hangry.  I stopped at the grocery store and snatched up obscure items that I don't normally buy, like dates and sunflower seeds and quinoa and coconut.  This was it - I was going to try to make a gluten free, somewhat healthy snack TONIGHT or die trying.  Nothing like a frustrating Friday to mandate a good snack to munch on.

And people, I FOUND it.  Heaven.  At last.

October 19, 2018

a sure fire way to kill free time ('kill' operative word here)

On Tuesday, Mini was invited to play on the JV1 team for the remainder of the season when her JV2 season wrapped up. 

She was all excited.  I asked the obvious:  'What does this mean?'  She said it meant she would play on Thursday.  Initially she thought her match was away near my brother's houseWednesday, I picked her up after her JV 1 practice.  'So where do you play tomorrow?'
.  On

She did not know, but she jumped out of the car to go ask.  I have been BEGGING her to pay a bit more attention ever since I mistakenly drove to Jesus Sandals Central HS. 

I was excited when she learned that she was playing at home.  Easy.  Thursday, I requested that any parent who couldn't pick their kids up from me by 4 pm meet me at the high school tennis courts.  That trick worked, and I was at her match on time.

We drove home at the same time after the team chatted with the coach- no return trip to wait for an away match bus.  I was super excited to have the rest of my night chauffeur-free.  With Curly at outdoor education with her 5th grade class for a few days, I did NOT need to drive to Irish dancing class.

I realized when we were half way home that Tank had been floating around the high school grounds hanging out with friends after serving his detention for too many tardies.  (Riddle me this:  how is Tank late for school religiously, when the other two siblings who drive in the same car with him have far less tardy instances?)  Now I feared pulling into the driveway only to get a text from him:  'Come get me.'

I guess lugging this monster team-issued tennis
 equipment bag around threw her off.  This
 thing can hold two racquets (Mini got
one used racquet just after the
season started) and SO MUCH MORE!
Oh, but that ISN'T what happened.  Instead we walked in the house and Mini moaned.  She left her backpack on the bleachers by the tennis courts. 

I hesitated to race back to get the backpack.  I wanted to hear back from Tank first so I knew if I needed to get him and where.  I also was toying with the idea of getting some ingredients at the store to make some gluten free snacks that I had researched online.  I fumbled around for a few minutes with the recipes and sent Tank a few unanswered text messages.  Then we left for our forgotten backpack quest.

We pulled up to the bleachers and there was NO backpack there.  Another girl from tennis was still in the parking lot.  Parking lot girl told Mini that Tennis Coach (TC) put it in the storage shed.  I told Mini to call TC.  She swears that she had already pointed this out to me, but I did not realize that her phone was in her backpack.  I used my phone to call Mini's BFF and get TC's number.  Meanwhile Mini hopped out at my direction to seek out someone who could unlock the storage locker.

TC told me he had the backpack with him.  He had just arrived at the tennis facility where he works.  NOT DOWN THE STREET.  I saw Mini cross the parking lot with a guy from the athletic department spinning a big ring of keys on his finger.  I rolled down my window and informed her the backpack wasn't in there after all.  That would have been way too easy. 

We drove to TC's work.  Got the backpack.  Sat in traffic.  All the while my Irish temper was exploding and my 'free night' was slipping away from me as our mission took up about an hour and a half. 

I did not stop at the store to get ingredients.  I did not hear from Tank until he showed up at the house.  I did not handle myself with poise and positive vibes. 

Mini and I both recovered.  Eventually.  Maybe misplacing bags is a family trait? 

October 17, 2018

driving to Jesus Sandals Central HS

Mini, as it turns out, is not great at communicating much about her high school tennis team.  After school she tends to show up and go where she is expected.  That might mean she is getting on a bus for an away match, or heading out to the school's tennis courts.

I admit that I opted to NOT sign up for the tennis team's 'text remind'.  I figured, 'hey - I have a paper schedule.  I know how to look up the schedule on the school's website.  Why get more annoying text messages?'  

I am particularly sensitive to unnecessary text messages because I am part of a group text thru Lad's college water polo team.  A parent, who is present at the game, typically sends out countless texts to update the rest of the parents on the progress of the games.  The non-present parents OFTEN respond with 'great job, Johnny!'  'Woo-hoo!'  'Let's go, men!'  No joke this leads to approximately 95-125 texts during a one hour game.   On the weekends, the team sometimes plays more than one game a day.  Folks, that is a lot of texts. 

If I am driving in the car, my Bluetooth can hardly keep up.  My Bluetooth voice alerts me every few seconds of a message with the monotone:  'text message from Lad's water poLO' - the 'LO' at the end of 'polo' is a prominent syllable for some reason. 

Without a tennis remind on my own phone, I relied on info from Mini and my old fashioned paper schedule/school website.  A few weeks ago, I drove to a high school that was about 30 minutes away.  I made sure that the kids I sit for were all going to be picked up by 4:00, so I could make it all that way to see some of the tennis. 

When I arrived at the school where Jesus lost his sandals, I saw a few girls practicing tennis on the courts.  This campus was beyond big, so I just assumed there were more courts somewhere else.  I texted Mini and her BFF.  BFF generally responds quicker than Mini and is also on the tennis team. 

My big rig takes 30 gallons of gas. 
I filled up 29.29 gallons that day.  Yikes.
  Oh, don't be alarmed at that $89.31. 
The price of driving around
 aimlessly is not cheap, you know.
'I just got to Jesus Sandals Central.  I don't see you guys.  Are there other courts in the back of the school?'  BFF texted back in a flash:  'Oh, Mrs. Shenanigan - we are playing at home today.' 

I am not going to lie.  The 30 minute ride back to the school was peppered with foul language.  I managed to see the last 30 minutes of Mini's match, because it went really long.  It all worked out, I guess. 

I arrived home hours later after I drove Curly to dancing (straight from tennis because Ed dropped her off there for me) and stopped in to check out the uniform sizes for Curly's upcoming travel basketball team.  Curly wasn't with me, so I became the creepy stranger who stared at other people's kids who seemed like the same size as Curly.  I watched these fake Curly's try on uniforms.  Then I jotted down sizes that I thought I should order for her.  I crossed my fingers that I wouldn't run out of gas on the way home and I didn't!  I managed to enjoy this sunset while I drove, and drove, and drove.

Ah, driving is SO relaxing!
Once home, I ate dinner and then cleaned up after dinner.  My kids would secretly love to surprise me and clean up after a meal without being asked, but they are afraid that it would surprise me so much that I might suffer some sort of health trauma like a heart issue or loss of oxygen as I hyperventilate. 

It wasn't until I was about to go to bed that I decided to pull the paper schedule out of the drawer where I keep it.  There it was.  'Away @ Jesus Sandals Central'.  Website:  same.  Believe it or not, I felt joyful.  I didn't mess this up!  I was just misled.

Of course I questioned Mini.  Why, oh why had she not told me about the schedule change?  When she gets texts about the games, it doesn't necessarily start out with:  'We are home today.  This is a change from the paper schedule.'  Mini was off the hook . . . for now. 

October 15, 2018


Under 'talk to Daddy' mid page
(is it weird that I don't use
 Coach's name in my
 notebook of things to-do?),
the second thing I crossed out was:
 'Boston/Wed? Th? or Fri?'
I felt so happy when I crossed it out.
I booked flights to take Tank and Mini to Boston to watch Laddie play water polo the end of October.  I obsessed over who to take, which games to go see, what flights to book, frequent flyer vs. not frequent flyer . . . for a few weeks.  Every day it would land back on my to-do list.

I preferred to do a 'girls' weekend'.  Tank had a Southwest ticket that he had to use, because he ended up meeting up with a friend in Florida over spring break.  When Coach headed home, Tank hooked up with his friend and we had to book him a different flight so he could fly home with his buddy's family.  Tank leads the life, people.

Tank was looking forward to seeing this friend in Boston that he met on a mission trip over the summer.  I was not sure how much 'friend-time' I could count on.  What if I brought one of my friends along to Boston and Tank ended up hanging out with us the majority of the time?  I didn't know the kid in Boston well enough to email his mom and say, 'So, were you planning on having Tank hang out with you the entire weekend or just like 2 hours?'

Eventually I opted to surprise Mini and bring her to Boston.  Mini was super excited.  If Tank hung with his friend, then she and I could shop or sight-see between water polo games.  We wouldn't bat an eye if Tank ended up spending more time with us than with his Boston friend, because we are accustomed to his antics at our home base already.

36 hours after I booked the flight, I got a text from Lad.  It read simply, 'Cancel your trip.  Messed up my shoulder.  Out for season.'

Nooooo!!!!  I wanted to cry, but instead I sat down- doubled over for a bit.  I felt horrible for Lad who worked so hard over the summer to go back to school in tip top shape.  I also dreaded telling Tank and Mini that our trip was cancelled.

Lad wouldn't even travel with the team since he was injured, so it wasn't like it made sense to go to Boston and sit with him in the stands during the game, etc.

Coach has never seen Lad play in college.  He teaches on the weekends sometimes, so he had plans to fly to New York on Wednesday (just 4 days after the bad news text arrived), watch a game, spend some time with Lad, and then fly to DC to teach for the weekend.

What's better than having your dad come to watch you play?  Having your dad come and evaluate your messed up shoulder.  Sigh.

Coach flew out there and checked out the injury.  He called it an unstable shoulder.  The doctor that Lad saw the next day also called in an unstable shoulder.  This impressed Coach, because often he disagrees with a doctor's assessment of his patients.  (Not to brag or anything, but my husband is a miracle worker.  Many, many patients are astounded at how he is able to cure them when all hope was lost.  I should have a t-shirt made that says, 'I put him thru PT school, you're welcome').  Basically a bunch of ligaments and muscles are working too hard to stabilize Lad's shoulder.

Coach gave him some exercises to do and they met with the trainers to make sure everyone was on the same page.

I am now trying to decide what to do with our frequent flyer miles.  The flights I booked out there was with Southwest - which Tank, Mini, and I can use as a voucher in the next year.  The way home was frequent flyer miles.  American Airlines said I can pay $200 to put the miles back, or I can use them like a voucher.  Each of the three passengers would have a voucher to use for the same amount of miles to go wherever we wanted within a year from the date I booked - NOT the date of travel.  If they could bend a bit on the travel date vs the booked date, I could try to re-book the trip same time next year. 

Just one more thing to write down in my list of things 'to-do' so I remember to figure it out.

October 13, 2018

in-laws from Hell, ironically

It has been 22 years, or technically more if you count the few years Coach and I spent dating and engaged.  When Coach asked me to marry him, his parents were upset.  It was something I was not supposed to take personally.  Easier said than done.  His parents and my parents were (note:  the use of past tense) friends.  Our families had known each other for years.  Their reaction to our engagement was ludicrous.

I am not sharing our (my folks, Coach and I, and  my in-laws) expressions, but trust me - there was a bit of a strained look here.  My in-laws threatened to refuse to invite any of their friends to our wedding, because we planned our wedding in the city of Chicago.  We live in the suburbs.  They felt it was too much to ask people to drive into the city.  These people were in their 50's not their 90's. My closest sister in law just ignores our in-laws' emails and their nonsense.  She wonders why I can't.  I don't think she realizes how much I went thru when I joined the family.  I paved the way and I believe I made it less stressful for those who followed in my footsteps. 
According to my religious zealot in-laws, marrying without intending to procreate from day 1 was a sin.  Coach was a full time student.  His parents assumed that we would not be welcoming children immediately.  Let’s pretend for a MINUTE that this was ANY of their business. 
Aug. 10, 1996

Even after all these years, it is hard to find the words to describe the hurt and the frustration they caused.

Of all the hurdles a bride might need to jump when finding footing with future in-laws, who would have anticipated this one?  (FYI:  Lad was born when Coach was still a student.  His folks knew nothing of my financial situation.  I put Coach thru PT school and had a baby while he was in school.  Plus I owned a one bedroom condo that we lived in.  We took out zero loans.)

We were SO young!
My parents are Catholic.  My mom spent time in the convent before deciding to marry my dad.  I was raised with a strong faith.  We were not slackers when it came to religion.  But Coach’s parents and their over-the-top interpretation of Catholicism is downright barbaric.  

When we were dating, Coach felt compelled to tell his parents that we saw the animated movie ‘The Lion King’ repeatedly.  This was to avoid their disapproval.  Spending time in a bar or being alone was classified as an ‘Occasion of sin.’  

They have a singular focus.  Well, maybe two focuses, but they relate back to one another.  They can talk ultra-conservative politics (because they find so many candidates immoral or Satan like) or they can offer guidance on Catholicism - whether it is welcome or not.  

Over the years we have received countless emails instructing us on how to vote or how to pray.  Imagine their disgust when we yanked our children from Catholic Schools?  

Their latest email sums it all up.  I am just flat out done.  I am too old to be instructed on a faith that I take seriously and that I work on daily.  Coach and I teach religious education.  We attend mass.  We pray.

Email from Coach's folks:

The problem I have with this latest installment of ‘We must save all Catholics who aren’t REALLY following the by-laws’ that arrived in my email in-box last week:  it has pushed me to my breaking point for several reasons.

1.  There is a reference in their email to people who felt that they were doing everything right, ie:  they sent their kids to Catholic schools.  This implies that those of us who DO NOT send our kids to Catholic schools are in the wrong.  My in-laws are constantly jobber jabbering about the Catholic school system and how it is the only acceptable option.  

2.  I have kept my mouth shut for years.  Coach is comfortable ignoring them.  I can’t do it any more.  Part of the problem might be that I CANNOT TOLERATE self-righteous people.  Remember my brother was raised to believe that he is always right.
     Or perhaps my middle child status is to blame for my need to be heard, since I have always had to fight for what I want and speak up when I was wronged.  I WILL NOT have these people BELIEVE that their emails have impacted me in the way that they want them to impact me.  I need to just call a spade a spade and tell them that I have chosen to unsubscribe.  My goal is to inform them that I have a spiritual adviser . . . and it ain’t them.  

3.  The audacity of these ‘Christian’ people to try to offer ME unwarranted instruction!  My in-laws are in a word ‘judgmental.’  While they get all worked up trying to convince the world to study the Catholic faith seriously, they struggle to relate to people on a personal level.  My father-in-law is a jerk.  He has an explosive temper and is incredibly inpatient.  He is overbearing.  He doesn’t listen when other people talk unless they are conversing about golf or God.  Translation:  any time I have ever tried to talk to him, he interrupts me, or changes the subject.  My mother in law is passive aggressive.  She is a worry wart who doesn’t live in the same world as the rest of us.  Twice this summer they ticked me off because of their social transgressions.  

So, I see my therapist on Friday to discuss why I cannot ignore all of this.  Until then, any suggestions from the peanut gallery?

October 11, 2018

Falling down on the job? HARDLY

Imagine feeling like you are knocking your faith out of the park - I mean, who doesn’t have room for improvement? but overall - bang up job in the religion department.  But instead you are left to CONSTANTLY feel like you are failing, not meeting expectations, not doing enough?  Let me tell you from experience.  It sucks.  

I am an adult- I am dangerously close to the age that young children might even consider ‘old’.  As far as my in-laws are concerned, I am a child.  A child in need of training.  A child with no hope of making the grade.  A child they keep hoping they can 'save'.  They have managed to make me feel inadequate for over 22 years.  Always undermining.  Always handing out unsolicited religious books.  Always subscribing our children to Catholic children magazines, even when asked to stop.  

When Lad was around 5, Coach made plans to drive out to visit his sister.  One of her kids was going to make his First Holy Communion.  Coach’s mom was not going to go because it was an 8 hour drive.  His parents are wealthy.  Do not ask me to explain why they didn’t fork over the dough for airfare to fly from Chicago to Kansas City.  The best explanation I can give:  it has something to do with the fact that religious celebrations should never be too over the top.  The focus should be more about prayer than party.  Whether she is there or not, she would be praying.  That should be enough.  (I still don’t get this, but they have skipped many baptisms, etc. because of travel expenses.  No comprendo).  

My mother-in-law, who we will call Sainty, was going to drive with Coach to Kansas City, so she could be there for the Communion.  I was staying home with a new baby or a big pregnant belly or some other welcome excuse.  I was happy to miss a chance to hang out with a sister-in-law who likes to give people instruction.  

When our kids were tiny, she once visited our home and laughed at the three different kinds of milk in the fridge. She made the following statement out loud.  I find it strange because it might be one of those things that you think, but don’t say.  I wanted to inform her:  ‘Oops, did you know we can hear you?’  OK, it wasn’t really that offensive, but it gives you an idea of her authority on most things.  

Who would buy three different varieties of milk?
 I must be crazy.
I’ve built it up too much, but she said with a chuckle:  ‘You really only need skim milk (can’t remember which variety she felt we should stick with - either skim or 2%), but you’ll figure it out.’  Funny, we already did figure it out - which is why we had skim, 2%, and whole milk in our fridge.  If I am buying 6 gallons of milk, why wouldn’t I buy vitamin D for a one year old’s growing noggin?  Super strange.  She is a physician assistant, so medically she can make that statement.  I guess.  I am not a physician assistant, but I know a few things and I don’t really give a shit if the things I do align with are the things she thinks I should do.  I wish I could go back to 2006 and shake my younger. more 'let's-just-get-along' self and whisper:  just tell her that you already have figured it out!!!

She is following in her mom’s footsteps sending out occasional ‘faith focused’ emails or Facebook posts.  If you didn’t know that she is better than you are, not to worry.  She comes dangerously close to telling you that she is.  She is also the only person who regularly tries to figure out how much moo-la I pull in as a babysitter.  Totally odd.  She and her husband have so much money they aren’t sure what far away religious shrine they should visit next, so why the fixation on how much I earn?  My guess:  since she thinks she knows everything, she has a hard time with information being ‘out there’ that she doesn't have a handle on.

Anyway, Sainty came to sleep over at our house the night before the road trip like 14 years ago, because Coach was going to leave crazy early in the morning.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  My little boys were going with Coach to Kansas City to hang out with their cousins.  I called Laddie over and handed him a book.  ‘I got you this book to look at in the car.  I think you can read some of the words in it.  It has your name in it.  It is called ‘Laddie the Lizard’. (OK that isn’t the name of the book, but you get the idea).  

Sainty literally boxed me out and leaned closer to Laddie’s face.  ‘Oh Laddie, I want you to know that there is ANOTHER book with your name in it.’  Laddie got very excited.  ‘It is the Bible,’ she breathed the words like she had just spoken magic.

Laddie just looked at her deadpan and said, ‘Oh, I already knew that.’  Then he turned back to me and expressed more excitement about his new, non-denominational book. (Obviously there is not a character in the Bible named Laddie, but Laddie’s real name IS found in the Bible).  

Never did I want to squeeze my kid more than I did at that moment.  His stock rose a bit that day and I intend to leave more to him in my will (despite his college years infractions) for that ‘Duh-my-parents-already-taught-me-that’ moment.  You tell her, Lad.  You let her know that despite what she thinks your mom and dad ‘got this.’ 
Damn it.  (Couldn't resist)

October 9, 2018

Give me a golf club, I dare you

I don’t golf.  When we were newly weds, Coach took me golfing with his family.  His dad remarked that I had a natural swing, and that I should give golf a try.  NEVER GONNA HAPPEN.  

My reason at the time:  ‘Oh yeah,  just what I need -one more opportunity for him (my father-in-law) to critique me.’  After 22 years of marriage, I have adjusted my reason.  No one should hand me a big stick within striking distance of my father-in-law and expect it to end well.  

Example B.  (B as in bastard). In late July, Coach arranged for he and his dad to golf with our three older sons before the start of school.  Lad ended up having a summer school final exam scheduled that same day, so he had to miss golf.  

Since the grandpa golf date was going to take place in the afternoon, Eddie decided to caddy that morning.  Not sleep late and lay around like so many teenagers in the world would opt to do - he chose to squeeze in a caddy opportunity.  Coach agreed that he would have plenty of time.  The round should have taken around 4 hours.  Freakishly it took over 6.  HOURS.  There wasn’t a thunder storm delay or anything.  

Ed was beside himself and actually wept a little when he finally got in Coach’s car.  He was so frustrated.  He hated that he had screwed up the golf with grandpa day.  From time-to-time in order to keep his father in the loop, Coach had texted him with info like:  'Ed is on hole 16 still'.  Coach asked Mr. Patience repeatedly to see if he could go back into the pro shop and push back their tee time.  

Coach told Ed that he was NOT going to call his dad again.  As they drove to the course to FINALLY meet his dad, Coach made Eddie call Grandpa.  ‘Sorry it was such a long round, Ed.  I cannot call my dad again.  You call him and tell him what time we are going to get there.’  (The golf meeting spot was an hour away, because grandpa lives practically in Wisconsin).  Eventually Coach, Ed, and Tank arrived and met Grandpa for golf.  

The following week, Lad contacted Grandpa and they set up a different time to golf together.  Lad was about to go back out east for school.  He forgot that he needed a physical.  Shock.  He reached out to grandpa and asked if they could push their tee time back because it conflicted with the only appointment time he could get with his doctor.  Grandpa texted back and said, ‘Well, since you never know how long a doctor appointment might take, I am going to just cancel the tee time.  I seem to recall having to change a tee time several times recently.’  

What?!  Like, WHAT THE HELL?!!!  Who does that?  The doctor Lad sees is the same family practitioner that I see.  I have never waited for more than 5 minutes to see him.  As anticipated, Lad’s doctor appointment took about 15 minutes.  Laddie would have had ample time to drive up north to golf with his grandpa.  

A little fun fact about Laddie:  he thrives on one-on-one time.  Thanks to parental hindsight, Coach and I feel terrible that Lad didn’t get the attention that he so desperately needed from us when he was younger.   

Lad with Coach and
Mr. Patience back in the day
on a golf course
before life became so
Coach felt horrible, but wouldn’t correct his father or give him a piece of his mind.  (Another fun fact:  Coach claims that I am the only person he has ever seen stand up to his dad).  Instead, Coach took Lad golfing.  They had a nice time, but Lad doesn’t see Coach’s parents very often.  He would have enjoyed sharing an afternoon with an unfamiliar audience.  

Not as much fun for a guy like Lad to golf with his dad, who knows how much hot water he can get himself into.  Compare that round of golf with one with a grandpa, who doesn’t know much about a particular grandson’s shortcomings, and you might just get lots more opportunities to shine without any built in Mulligans.

So with the help of Example A & B, you might be able to grasp how the latest email from my in-laws sent me over the edge.

October 7, 2018

More than a missed RSVP

A little background on why my in-laws made me flip my lid this week.  (This is a doozie that I will share with you after I have brought you up to speed on the essence of my in-laws.  Brace yourselves).  I find Example B (set to post after the 'example A' below) more offensive, but this will ease you into what they are like . . .

Example A.  (A as in ass holes).  Coach’s parents chose to drive to North Carolina in early June to help Coach’s brother, Matt, enclose a loft area in his new house to create an additional bedroom.  Matt lived minutes away from their parents here in Northern Illinois, but Matt and his wife (who was expecting her 8th baby in early July) relocated to North Carolina suddenly.  The company Matt worked for was moving some jobs there.  It wasn’t mandatory for Matt to relocate (especially weeks before a baby was due), but he and his wife jumped at the chance.  

Coach’s siblings, spouses, and I found the interest in moving out of state surprising considering that they lived a few minutes away from Coach’s parents.  Coach’s parents did A LOT for them.  Like A HELL OF A LOT.  We were all unsure how they would get by without the regular support from Coach’s parents.  

One of the reasons given for moving was that they heard there were lots of big families living in that area.  'The church parking lots are full of big vans like ours!'  OK.  Sure.  That makes sense.  Interesting because my sis-in-law constantly harps on the 'we-have-a-big-family' mentality.  Now she was suddenly claiming that it was hard to be so different from everyone else (in their Illinois town), because (you guessed it) 'we-have-a-big-family.'  

The bottom line is that my in-laws RSVP’d to Mini’s graduation party
with this:  

When Matt mentioned the possible construction project, the in-laws decided to spend a few weeks in North Carolina.  They left town a few days before Mini’s party rather than wait a few days to make the trip.  Strange, but true.  Trust me when I say that they don’t add much to a gathering.  That isn’t the point.  

My in-laws do not bother to drive to where we live very often.  (About an hour away- I mean I can do the drive in less than that, but that goes without saying).  They once had plans to come and see Lad play high school water polo.  They didn’t show up, because there was a threat of rain.  Not even like a bad storm or a monsoon - just a threat of rain.  They were in their early 70’s -not their 90’s (and let’s remember that they are now in their mid 70’s but a drive to North Carolina doesn’t phase them.  Ya' follow?).  They had NEVER seen Lad play water polo.  There wasn’t a single drop of rain that night.  Lad was crushed.  

Another fun fact:  my in-laws drive to where Coach's sister lives in Saint Louis for her kids' graduations, because those kids attend Catholic Schools.  Not only do they NOT attend my kids' public school graduation ceremonies, now they were blowing off the family party to celebrate Mini's graduation.  

Yes, they are very, very Catholic.  Did you pick up on that?  When I suffered a miscarriage back when Ed was one, I called my mother-in-law, 'Sainty' to tell her about our loss.  I was sobbing.  Sainty said this exact thing to me:  'Can you believe that some people choose this?'  

What?  Right to Life is her passion.  Who does that, though?  She was so wrapped up in her cause that she felt compelled to compare my loss to an abortion?  As usual, I bit my lip.  I am surprised that I have not done permanent damage to my lips after over 22 years of lip biting.  I was much younger back then.  Maybe even 'nicer' in general.  I do not feel compelled to be nice anymore. 

A few years ago, Coach and I were in Florida (where my in-laws live half of the year) visiting his folks.  We related a story from when we were spending time at our friends' lake house.  My father in law asked us if our friends were Catholic.  When we said, 'No', he jumped in with:  'Well then, this is an opportunity.'  I think I would rather be invited back to the lake house than compromise our friendship by attempting to recruit them to join the
Lake house fun!  Wow, we enjoy these people
despite their lack of commitment to Catholicism
Catholic army.  

Oh, and to update the overall concern about how Matt and family will get by in North Carolina without Coach's parent . . . his folks bought a condo a few minutes away from them in 'big-family' territory.  They plan to sell their place in Florida.

Just the tip of the ice burg.