January 31, 2019

sing for your supper, or your pancakes

I interrupt this Narcey update to share how we are surviving the Midwest weather. . .

'Oh the weather outside is frightful' - well, that's an understatement.  Thanks to crazy 50-something below windchill temps, school has been cancelled today (Jan 30th) and tomorrow.  It's like a weekend just sprouted right in the middle of the week - a week that didn't feel like much of a week to begin with because we already had a snow day on Monday.
Rare to see the floor in Tank and Reg's room!

Really this is better than a weekend, because there is NOTHING to drive to.  No practices.  No games.  No religious ed.  NOTHING!!!

I am not babysitting, so I have the day off, too.  My 5 living-at-home kids are home.  Translation:  I get just as excited about a day off as they do.  Bring the snow days!

When Tank finally rolled out of bed, he asked me to make pancakes or to show him how to make pancakes.  Understand- if I show him how to make pancakes, then he will be making them at the most inopportune time.  This is the 16 year old who cannot be ready for school each morning because 1.  he can never find socks (he doesn't put his laundry away),
2.  he can't stop playing with the babies I sit for, and
Wait, what's this?  Tank's b-ball jersey
off the beaten path in the living
 room next to the piano.  This
 is what it is like to live with Tank!
3.  his idea of making a lunch for school is to shove a few granola bars and a fruit cup and a rice krispie treat in a plastic bag.  He will only bring a sandwich if I make it.  He requires way more nutrition than this, and he has basketball practice right after school.  It infuriates me.

So, he has NO time to whip up pancakes in the morning.  He recently learned to make mac and cheese.  This is dangerous.  He decided to make some on Monday (snow day), but he only made one box.  Ate it all himself, never asked anyone else if they wanted any in advance so he didn't have enough for them.  RUDE!

Anyway, I read my book for awhile.  I am not enjoying it.  I will explain that in a later post.  Then I remembered why I work out every morning BEFORE I do anything else.  It was hard to get motivated to workout after being cozy on the couch with a (horrible) book.

I agreed to make pancakes for lunch, but I told the kids that the only offspring who would get to eat the pancakes were those that accomplished something off of the list that I made.  The job list was easy.  Vacuum the family room.  Clean a bathroom sink.  Wipe out the microwave.  Dust mop under the dining room table.  Those were the jobs for the 4 contributing members of the family.  Tank, the leave-a-trail-kid:  PUT AWAY EVERYTHING THAT BELONGED TO HIM IN THE HOUSE.

Well lookie there - a crockpot for dinner
 and a pile of pancakes for lunch.  Thank
goodness I went to Costco
 Monday evening when the snow 

was plowed and spent $525.
He was frustrated that he couldn't eat when everyone else was eating.  He also asked me not to use 'that voice'.  Oh, yeah - there is definitely a voice.  I tried to help him understand that the voice happens when I have told him a hundred times to put his stuff away and he doesn't.  Imagine how much sooner he could have eaten pancakes if he had gradually put stuff away each day?

Unfortunately the smell of pancake batter sizzling on the griddle most likely interfered with his ability to grasp this concept.  If only I had time to employ the 'sing for your supper' mentality on a regular basis.

See his pile of stuff on the closet floor? 

1/31/19 afternoon UPDATE:  I just opened the closet in the study.  There I discovered the stuff that Tank had gathered up from the first floor in order to ingest pancakes.  It is hard to see in the picture, but it is a red book, his slippers, a backpack, and a travel shower kit bag.  What in the world? 

He ended up getting sick last night around 8:00 pm.  Puked about 25 times into the wee hours of the morning.  Of course he is unable to show any self restraint.  He admitted to chugging a bottle of water mid-puking.  He knows NOT to do that.  Sigh!

January 29, 2019

Door slam aftermath

Sorry for the delay in wrapping up this story, but I was waiting for my blood to stop boiling.  I would say my blood is now just simmering.  Still.  This was unreal.  Hope you have not been on the edge of your seat waiting to hear what happened next.  If you missed the dramatic and VERY unexpected beginning, click here to read the first installment, and here, herehere, and here.  Now back to the nightmare non-door slam story.  

While I assumed that Narcey would show up and apologize at pickup time for losing her shit that morning when she dropped off her kids to be babysat, that is not what happened.

She texted me about my cluttered entryway.  I ended up emailing her later that evening and once again apologized for the confusion in the morning.  I offered to make a sticker chart to motivate her kids to arrive at my house without giving her problems.  

She emailed me back and spewed some more craziness.  Like:  'I would want you to treat my kids the same as yours.'  No one I read that email to could translate what the F that meant.  Mini thought it meant that my kids were in the house safe and warm, and hers were not.  This translation was based on a few other comments in the email.
So after I snapped this photo I realized
that the red bucket almost in front of the
 door doesn't belong there.  That was left by
 kitchen workers who ACTUALLY showed
up today to do some painting. 
Otherwise, what
 do you see that is dangerous?  Ice skates on
 a shelf to the left?  A big empty gas can
 also on the shelves to the left?  A cooler?  

Did you catch how she referred to her 4 year old who was moving away from her into the garage as the ‘unsafe’ child?  (I can't remember anymore if that was in the text from her or the followup email.  It's all a blur).  Coach was alarmed that our garage would be considered unsafe.  We don’t live on a busy street.  We live on a culdesac.  Her kid backed away from the door because she was upset that she didn’t get to open the door . . . still within an arms reach of her mother.  Her kid was not in danger of starting the lawnmower or juggling the garden tools.  Like what the Hell?

She was also upset that I hadn’t set up a specific time for us to chat about 'the door slam' on the phone.  What?  If you feel the need to talk to me, dial the phone.  I didn’t think it was necessary to talk about whether or not I slammed the door.  I mean if you think about it, why on earth would I intentionally slam the door in her face?  I am not an aggressive person - just a busy mom without a lot of leisure time in the morning, who happened to have chilly kids the morning she left the door to my house open.  

Keep in mind that just before Thanksgiving Narcey asked me one day at drop off what I thought about the preschool schedule for next year.  Would I prefer it if her kids be enrolled in am or pm preschool for the next school year?  I told her I would think about it, but I thought the current schedule was working fine.

Riddle me this:  how do you go from being that content to being, well - to being what Narcey turned into?  More on that to follow.  

January 27, 2019

what would you do?

Scene out my front door as I type this -
it was so crazy cold today there was
 talk about closing the schools.
 But then they realized that
it is going to be colder next week.
Recently I started thinking about summer.  I mean, shit, it is crazy cold here in the Windy City and it snows every damn chance it gets - but it usually only starts when I have places to be, so that's cool.  Come on summer, get here . . . but first, I need to devise a final travel plan.

There are just so many damn layers to this travel/vacation/who-should-I-please/who-will-I-upset plan.  My mind keeps tossing the various options around.  Help!  Please!

When I called Yellowstone on May 1st 2018 to reserve cabins for July of 2019, the guy that answered the phone was enjoying his first day on the job.  I was in a hurry.  I didn't want the best cabins to be snatched out from under me and almost lost my mind as the guy was fumbling around and asking his co-workers to help him with my reservation.

I don't remember all of the specifics.  I just know that I grabbed like 3 cabins for one week at Roosevelt and 2 cabins for a week at Canyon.  Then, life as we know it resumed for the next 9 mos.

Last week, I started to try to map out who is going to Yellowstone and when.  My mapping began with the basic FACTS: 

Vancouver look s amazing!
1.  Curly dances in National Championships in Vancouver this year on July 3rd.  (last year that competition was in Orlando - you remember the awesomeness of me leaving a bag in a cab, right?). At one point we considered Curly and I heading to Yellowstone right from Vancouver to meet up with the rest of the family members who would drive there, but that won't work with the dance schedule.  Plus, hello!  MapQuest it - these locations are not close enough to piggyback on each other.  How was this ever a thought?

2.  When the Yellowstone topic arose, Coach told me that he needed to check on his work schedule to see if any of his employees needed the same days off.  Huh?  Apparently he forgot that he swore off this trip. Shhh!  Don't remind him.  I am happy not to have to recruit another driver.

3.   The parish mission trip is July 7-11th.  Unfortunate, but this can be missed.  My kids attend the years that it works.

4.  The dates I was begging for all week finally came in a text from Eddie.  The club invitational where the kids caddy was scheduled for July 11-13th.  This was very, VERY bad news.  The kids not only make bank here, but Coach thinks that the caddy master relies on his caddies and to have 3 of them out of town would not be a good thing (this is assuming that Lad and Ed would stay back and  caddy and Tank, Mini, and Reg would do Yellowstone - Curly would too, but she isn't a caddy.  Yet).

5.  The week we would like to be in Yellowstone is July 10-17th.  Yikes.

6.  Mr. New Kid on the Block who set up my reservation has me staying a week in one place and a week in the other, but July 17th - we stay NO WHERE.  Camping on that one night to bridge the gap would not work because the only campground near Roosevelt does not take reservations.  Wait in line at the campground at 5 am and there are no guarantees.

7.  Laddie is going to be in Yellowstone over spring break as he is going to see his best friend from high school who goes to Montana State.  Lad texted me this week to say that he isn't interested in going back to Yellowstone, why couldn't we just pick another place that we all want to go to?  I texted back and asked him not to think of it as a family vacation.  That was never the plan.  It was a 'who-wants-to-go-can-hop-in-the-great-white-when-it-leaves-on-such-and-such-date' trip.

8.  My dad doesn't want to go if we stay at Canyon.  Staying at Roosevelt is the best spot to stay at if you want to the best hopes of seeing wildlife.


1.  Cancel Yellowstone and take all of the kids to Vancouver, July 3rd - 9th.  Call it a family vacation.  I am already buying flights for the girls and I (Mini doesn't dance, but is a fine cheerleader and has proven helpful).  I just checked out some books at the library on things to do/hikes, etc near Vancouver.  This would be more expensive as it is too far too drive, and cabins at Yellowstone are quite reasonable.  Flights are around $386.  Not a place we are likely to travel again.

2.  Have 3 younger kids skip the caddy tournament and go to Yellowstone and stay in Roosevelt.

3.  Go to Yellowstone July 18-24th and just stay in Canyon.  Travel dates would work for the caddies.  Dad might decide not to come.

4.  Reschedule Yellowstone AGAIN.  Hope to get good dates, a good employee reservation-ist, and cabins at Roosevelt.

I have to admit that as much as my father has hurt my feelings lately (oh, this has not even made it to a blog post, but maybe it will at some point), I don't want to disappoint him.  It is an old habit kind of thing.  No matter  how many times I get kicked, I guess I subconsciously keep thinking - this will be the time that we connect, that I do something right, etc.

On the flip side of that, I wonder if I cancel Yellowstone - am I doing it because my dad ticks me off so regularly.  Hard to know what the motivator would be here.

If I wait to do Yellowstone until next year, will Dad be healthy enough to travel.  (He is 78 and he has chronic leukemia).  Will Dad be alive?  Will I be able to get reservations that don't totally suck - worse than the ones we have now?

HELP!!!  PLEASE.  OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS.  (Including places to see in Vancouver if you have been there - looking more for outdoorsy stuff vs. museums.  One of the books mentioned whale watching.  How cool would that me?)

January 26, 2019

buzz kill from forever ago, and reservations out the wazoo

This is a long story, but I will try to summarize.  In 2010 Coach and I took the kids to Yellowstone.  Curly was 2.5 years old.  While we were planning that trip, I asked my dad for some tips- like, what part of the park should we stay in, etc.  He had taken my brother Mike and I to Yellowstone when we were in high school.  Our brother, Pat, had gone to Ireland (I think more than once) to compete for music, so this was our 'boobie-prize' trip.  Our high school aged cousin, Denny, also came to Yellowstone with us.

I know, I know, I just used this photo recently -
but it is just a perfect example of why my
dad would have suffered irreversible damage
 if he had tried to join in on this, our
 inaugural national park trip
 to Yellowstone in 2010.
While planning my '10 trip, Dad emailed me and asked me if I thought I might need an official tour guide.  Because nothing gets by me, I understood by reading between the lines that he wanted to come with us.  I emailed back and said, 'Why do you know of a good tour guide?' - but let's be clear:  I NEVER INVITED HIM.  He never mentioned it again.  Neither did I.  I guess I didn't really take him seriously.  My dad is not a very patient man, and he never would have survived traveling with Coach and I and our 6 'active' children on this long, road-trip.

At Christmas that year, my brother Mike gave my dad an insulated water jug - like the kind you take on a hike.  Someone called out, 'That'll be great for your trip.'  Clueless me asked, 'Oh, where are you going?'  My siblings looked at me with great confusion.  (like, different than the normal looks of confusion they give me).

I can never get enough
of showing off
 this amazing baby
moose picture,
Glacier 2016.
Well, it turns out that Dad thought he was going to Yellowstone with Coach and I.  Talk about a Christmas buzz kill.  (Not as bad as Dad's Christmas buzz kill two years ago, mind you).  My siblings thought I was awful.  There was not really an easy way of explaining my point of view.  The remainder of the day consisted of 'poor dad' sentiments and long stares in my general direction.  What the heck?

Anyway, I felt I more than made up for it by bringing dad to Glacier National Park in '16 where we saw several moose and grizzlies, etc.

Then Mini told my dad a year or two ago that we hoped to return to Yellowstone.  It has been our favorite national park to date.  Dad reached out to me and asked if he could tag along to Yellowstone, if and when I went.

Coach was poo-pooing the Yellowstone plan.  'We've already been there,' he argued.  I told him he didn't have to go, although how in the world would I manage to drive the great white or even the minivan in the mountains without him?

This time I was not planning
on camping in Yellowstone
 - that is an activity strictly reserved
for times when Coach is on hand.
Typically one reserves a place to stay in Yellowstone a year in advance.  I tried to get reservations, but ended up with crappy accommodations,  A few reservations I grabbed included 'rough riders' - which meant that the cabin was equipped with a couple of double beds but the bathroom was shared.  The guest would need to leave the cabin and walk down a path to a bathroom utilized by other guests from neighboring cabins - similar to the setup for campers.  Dad was not on board.

Then we ended up traveling to Scotland.  We cancelled our '18 Yellowstone reservations and agreed to call the day the bookings opened on the first day of the season for summer '19.  I believe it was May 1st.

I was able to reserve two different weeks in July of '19.  One week at Roosevelt, which is our preferred lodging.  One week at Canyon.  Then a few things happened.  Like Coach's amnesia, my kids' schedules, and Irish dancing.  So, read on (posting the next part tomorrow!) and then be prepared to give me direction.  Come on people, I need you!

January 24, 2019

wait, isn't that a story for the general public?

There is my cooler.  Propped 
up against the railing
 in the room where we 
moved to after the movie 
was complete. Security was 
distressed about where
 I would place my 
tagged bag.  I just wanted 
to scream to the people in our party,
The security guards once again struggled when I dragged my contraband cooler to the circular room.  I snapped this photo of my lonely cooler in the room that rotated so that everyone could see the battlefields.  (If you feel lost reading this, back up a few posts and get caught up.  Or don't and continue to be confused).

The trip was almost complete.  The kids stood in line and were awarded their junior ranger badges by the very impressed ranger.  These kids knew a lot.  True.  Their chauffeur had a pounding headache though and managed to tune most of the battlefield lingo out while concentrating on capturing the whole thing for posterity.  

The next day we headed home.  Pat drove and Dad asked me if he could sit in the front seat with Pat.  Well.  Um.  Sure.  If you have ever ridden in an airport shuttle, then you know that the seats in the back are not crazy comfortable.  They are benches.  No head rest.  I really wanted to try to sleep while I wasn't behind the wheel.  Sleep was the only thing that seemed to combat the headache pain.  

Dad wouldn't hear of it, so off to the backseat I went.  No chance of snoozing.  

Pat and Dad chatted endlessly about the White Sox.  Trades.  Stats.  Hopes for next season.  You can only imagine the shit they dreamt of to obsess over.  
We hiked up this lookout tower to get a better
view of one of the battlefields. There is nothing
 I fancy more than an empty field that

 has formerly served as a battlefield. 

When it was my turn to take the wheel, Pat offered to sit in the back seat so that Dad could remain in the more comfortable bucket seat opposite me.  Dad shook his head.  No, he would be fine in the back.  My take:  he had filled up on conversation with Pat and undoubtedly had very little left to chat about with me, so the back seat would work just fine.  (that is my middle child version of events, and I dare say it is most likely not that far off of the truth).

As I drove, Dad leaned forward slightly in his seat.  'Hey, Pat, did I ever tell you about the time when I was working at the big accounting firm?'  Pat, by the way, is not an accountant.  Neither am I.  Dad is a retired accountant.  

We happened to be driving under one of those overpass restaurants that you see on the expressway.  Apparently it jogged this story that Dad decided to share . . . with Pat.  I was sitting there, but I assumed the story would be one that I wouldn't be able to grasp because of my limited knowledge in whatever the heck he was going to share.
The last night in the hotel.  My 'girl' room
hosted the boy cousins who wanted
 to watch TV or play cards with the girls. 
The end was in sight, people.

Dad talked about a guy who took his place after he left the big accounting firm.  The guy's job was to audit restaurants.  He misunderstood the directions and when he stopped to collect receipts, he also collected the cash from the restaurants.  He kept all of the cash in his car as he drove to the next stop.  The restaurants started calling the accounting place in a panic because the newby hadn't deposited any of the cash.  He was just driving around with the money in his car.  

Dad chuckled hard as he told it.  I was so glad that I hadn't bothered to listen.  How could I have EVER tried to wrap my brain around the accounting concepts represented here?  NOT.  (um, I was a business major in college,  I can talk FIFO and the like all day, but this little anecdote didn't every require the most rudimentary knowledge of accounting or business).  

The moral of the story:  I am only good for my big-ass van and my video skills (although that is purely voluntary)  - after that, forget about it.  Dad can converse with Pat and not even give me the time of day.  How do you like that?  

Gettysburg tour 2 complete.  No one was happier than me to get home.  

January 22, 2019

which came first Gettysburg or the headache?

No idea why Dad owns a hat that makes him look
 like he belongs in the rice fields
 of Cambodia.  We are pretty confident
 that the hat is a woman's hat to boot.
Gettysburg itself was hot.  Like, I-might-melt-why-are-we-here-in-August hot.  Thankfully period wear was not incorporated into the agenda.  This was the kind of weather that I could only embrace from the side of a pool.  Sitting in itchy grass and weeds on the blankets we brought while Dad lectured the kids about the various battles, leaders’ personalities, and little-known facts was nothing like sitting next to a pool.  

The kids presented the material that Dad had asked them to prepare.  I assumed my other role - when not driving:  I was the videographer of this expedition.  I captured plenty of footage to share with generations to come.  In fact once, I had to race back to the hotel to recharge the battery.

The area really hadn’t changed much since our last visit.  There was still the peach orchard, the Irish bridage, and the mandatory participants’ march across the same field where Picket’s last charge took place.  As the videographer, I was sorry (not sorry) to skip out on the march.  Instead, I drove around and positioned myself at the other side and videoed the kids and Pat crossing the field from the air conditioned comfort of the great white.  

One update was the addition to the visitors’ center.  Now there was a movie theater and a round room with a painted, lighted pictorial of the battle.  Dad was all about it.  Remember when I mentioned that the trip was painful?  Well, to add torture, to . . .  well, torture, I had one of my crazy-bad headaches.  I threw some Motrin at it, some caffeine, and the damn thing just crawled right into my cranium and took hold.  

Dad bought tickets for all of us to see the movie after lunch on Saturday.  Honestly, this was the thing I was most interested in.  Because I travel with my own food (thanks in equal parts to celiac disease and my tight fisted existence), and lunch food for my offspring, my wheeled cooler bag was right there with us at the visitor center.  We ate lunch at a picnic table, while the other family members with deeper pockets ate in the canteen.  That went over like a led brick for Reg, who dared to sneer at the fact that everyone else was eating in a restraint while we dug around in our cooler for lunchmeat that was slightly past its prime.  I chewed him up and spit him out, and he quickly saw the error of his ways.  

This was the movie screen in the
wonderfully air-conditioned, dark
 paradise where we all sat to watch the
 movie.  The rest of my party found seats
 while I duked it out with security and finally
came stumbling in with my tagged cooler bag
 and my video camera bag when the lights had
already been lowered.  Remarkably I found an
 outlet and scurried over there without
 looking at all clumsy and frightening.  
Anyway I didn’t have time to haul my cooler companion back to the great white, so I pulled it into line with me at the entrance to the movie theater.  Well, this is not how it is done.  No matter how I swore I wasn’t planning on pulling out any munchies during the movie, security had to be called.  I was eventually allowed into the movie theater.  My bag was tagged.  I was flogged.  Just kidding.  Really, I was given a stern talking to.  They didn’t want to hear about my food allergies and my need to carry my own food with me.  

All through lunch, while Pat had been helping his kids shop for souvenirs in the gift shop and people were using the bathrooms and refilling water bottles, I, the videographer, had scrounged around the place looking for an outlet where I could charge my overused video camera.  I entered the auditorium with my tagged bag, my stern-talked-to-self, and my agonizing headache.  I opted not to sit with the rest of the gang, because there were seats over to the side and I spotted an outlet.  I hauled my cooler, and my camera to the side section of seats and plugged in.  The movie began and I rested my throbbing head on the back of my chair.  Then I fell asleep.  I missed 85% of the movie.  Damn it.

January 20, 2019

road trip code & family dynamics

OK, so this is the great white, but obviously not a
 photo from the road trip to Gettysburg.  This
 is the great white looking quite fetching in Glacier
National Park back in 2016.  Doesn't
everything look fetching in Glacier
 National Park?  I don't have great pics
of the great white on the Gettysburg trip. 
Plus this was more my kind of road trip.
(crazy short post, but loads of retro photos)  We packed everyone's stuff in the car for Gettysburg (in case you aren't following - I am just now writing about our July trip to Gettysburg with my Dad) and got the group situated.  Pat (my brother) climbed in and asked me when Coach and I had last had our van serviced. 

Again, borrowing from Glacier trip.  I don't have
many pictures of the activity going on inside
 the great white while
 road tripping, so this one
of the kids peering out at animals
 might be more pleasant.
Really?  Does anyone find the timing of that question odd?  Like, Bro, we are backing down the driveway - schedules have been arranged.  But, now is when you ask if Coach and I are boneheaded enough to never service our van?  Are you with me people?  This was going to be a long trip.

I drove the first 5 hour stretch -without stopping.  Operative words here 'without stopping'.  Pat drove the next stretch.  Pat pulled into a rest stop like an hour and a half after he took over the wheel.  He required a bathroom.  While he went inside, I texted Coach my disbelief.  Coach and Pat went to high school together, so they go way back.  Coach did not hesitate to text Pat and tease him about his lack of manliness in not being able to 'hold it' for a road trip.  Pat admitted that he shouldn’t have eaten Mexican food the night before.  
The great white 2010, Yellowstone or bust. 
This is what the van used to look like
 during road trips back in the day.  I got
 lazy here - this is not a sunroof on our
 van - I took a pic of the photo while it
was still in the album, so you can
 see the bottom of the other photo.

On the way home (don’t worry, I will back up), moments before we pulled into Mom’s driveway to unload all the peeps, I admitted that I had needed to pee for like the last 2 plus hours.  Pat’s daughter, who is Mini’s age, was confused.  ‘What?  Why didn’t you just stop then?’  Well, because, that goes against true-road-trip code.  You don’t make everyone else suffer because you can’t hold your bladder.  Pat agreed with his daughter's sentiments, which made me question whether or not we had actually been raised in the same family.  What happened to the brother I had been stuck in the way-back of the 1976 red Chevy Impala station wagon with for all of our family trips?

Totally unrelated -
but this is the baby
 moose we saw
 in Glacier, on the
preferred road trip.
I suppose now that he and his wife can easily afford to travel in style, they see no use for the torture that die-hard road trippers like myself are committed to.
Mama and baby moose.

Road Trip Code:

1.  Do not stop unless absolutely necessary.

2.  Pack sufficient food so you don’t have to stop.

3.  Leave the house crazy early to avoid traffic so as to not make your already torturous road trip longer

4.  Do not drink many beverages so that you don’t have to stop until absolutely necessary.

Note this goes along with #5. 
This is a photo from
our drive out to Yellowstone in 2010.
 The kids thought I was taking a picture of them,
 when really I was focusing on the junk under the
 seats.  Crayons and dropped food everywhere!
5.  Pack board games, decks of cards, toys and coloring items that will keep your kids busy.  Little to no screen time will be tolerated.  This is the stuff family memories are made of.  

6.  Pray that you don’t encounter much road construction.

7.  I guess I should add on Pat's behalf - refrain from ingesting Mexican food the night before departing.

8.  Don't make hotel reservations for the drive out to wherever you are going - you don't want to be locked in to a destination that is either too lofty or too easy to attain.  Find a hotel when you have run out of gas - figuratively speaking, of course!

9.  Only invite along passengers who you can tolerate spending umpteen hours with.
See #9.  This is a photo of my dad in Glacier
taking loads of pictures while Coach sits
in the great white and  patiently waits.

10.  Don't bang on the restroom door at a gas station and shout at your kid to get out of there
now unless you are 100% positive that it is your kid in said restroom.  (Coach can speak to the necessity of this rule.  I can only speak to the fact that this little incident when Coach overstepped provided me with HOURS of gut busting laughs while we drove home from Glacier in June of 2016)

January 18, 2019

oh, brother

I wanted to get the Gettysburg trip over and done with last summer before my summer kicked into relax mode. (Let’s pretend for a minute that my 4th of July trip to Orlando was relaxing).

I tried insisting when Dad and I were planning this trip that we travel to Gettysburg BEFORE July 4th.  Both of my brothers balked.  They each had a son or two who play baseball.  Playoffs, blah, blah.  Um, these kids are like 10-12 year range.  It was one weekend.  I wasn’t asking them to give up an entire season or cut off their throwing arm.  We were all making sacrifices to help Dad realize his goal.  Besides, it was my car and I had more kids committed to making the trip, so I should have dibs on when we were going, right?  

We finally narrowed it down to the weekend directly following the only 4 days all summer that my immediate family could get away.  Guess what?  My family COULD have gone away for more than 4 days, but our 4 days butted up against the schedule for the mandatory Gettysburg trip.  (OK, to be honest, I don’t think we would have survived another night crammed into one hotel room with or without a potato-peeler-drain-assistant).

Guess what?  My brother, Mike, decided that his kids just couldn’t go.  He said they were never going to go unless he was going to tag along.  Really?  News to me.  And Dad.  He just couldn’t get off of work to join us, so his baseball playing kids now could not go either.  I was really, REALLY elated that we had waited until August to schedule this trip BECAUSE Mike had two baseball players who were now NOT even joining us - and apparently never were.  Are you following this?  We skipped over the May and June dates, because Mike screamed foul.  His boys couldn’t get away and skip baseball.  Well, shit.  They didn’t go in August either.  Delightful. 

There was still sand in the van when we hit the road for Gettysburg.  Like literally- lots of sand, because my immediate family and I arrived home Thursday night and the history-buffs-only trip departed for Gettysburg THE NEXT MORNING.  How do I get myself into these messes?

Well, hey, this was a short and sweet post.  You like?  Give me feedback in my messages about post length, or just tell me whether or not you enjoy history-themed vacations, or maybe what trip you've been dragged on, or if you have frustrating family dynamics too.  Come on, give me some little tidbit in the way of a comment.  Lots of options here.  Maybe your new year's resolution is that you should comment more!

January 16, 2019

and the rest is history

Our Gettysburg trip was awhile ago, but other things keep popping up that distracted me from writing about this little adventure . . . and by 'little' I mean a long, painful car ride followed by the second opportunity to be force fed lots of historical facts by my should-have-been-a-history-professor father.  

Touring Gettysburg is not my idea of a good time, so if you are reading this in order to ascertain my take on the pivotal mistakes made in the battle - or in hopes of seeing if the lot of us dressed in period dress while we toured the battlefields, um, spoiler alert - this post is gonna disappoint.  
I love this photo in the circular room
with the mural that lights up while
voices depict the battle.  I love how you can
 only see the outline of Dad (in the wide brimmed hat,
that we are pretty sure is supposed to be for a woman)
and the kids (aka the participants, the students,
the pawns in Dad’s must-give-
them-more-info-about-civil-war mission).

First of all, let me point out a few frustrations with the trip.  Last time (2011) it was just Dad and I - plus the 10 grand-kids.  Three of whom were my sons.  Dad first shared with me that he wanted to repeat this memorable trip while we were in Scotland.  He wanted to bring as many grandchildren (there are 22 total) to Gettysburg (10 had already participated).  I was like, ‘Let me survive Scotland trip first.’

‘Survive’ a key word here.  We were eating in a pub, well, I was trying to eat.  Have I mentioned how much I struggled to find gluten free food over there?  I digress.

If there was to be another Gettysburg road trip, I would need another driver.  Seven years ago, Dad shared the driving duties.  That was light years ago.  No way was he going to get behind the wheel of my big-rig now.  I put my feelers out.  My best friend since 2nd grade is a history buff.  She travels a ton, so her summer weekends were booked.  Bummer.  Really, because she already knows Dad and grasps our family dynamics.  I tried Coach’s former office manager.  She has always begged Coach and I to put a live feed in the van when we travel to a national park with our brood.  OK, so this wasn’t my entire brood, but my youngest three were scheduled to partake, and an assortment of cousins.  Close enough.  She couldn’t go either though.  Ugh.

Dad recruited my brother, Pat (If you are not sure about what our relationship is like, just click the link to learn more), to help drive.  Two of his 4 kids were coming along.  Swell.

January 14, 2019

practically cursed

I think it started when Coach was a full time student and we were newlyweds.  I was footing the bill for his physical therapy graduate school tuition on the salary of a nanny.

Gifts were major to us.  In a nutshell, we were:  budget-conscious, scraping-by, penny-pinchers.  We drooled over gift cards and new clothes.  Luxuries.  I appreciated hand-me-down maternity clothes when I was expecting Laddie and Coach had another year of school to complete.  His parents regularly gave us boxes of frozen, boneless, skinless, Tyson chicken breasts.  His mom was a big supporter of the Market Day program at their church or something.  Chicken?  Perfect.  We could eat . . . something besides pasta and bread I bought at the Hostess outlet.

While being budget-conscious became a way-of-life that neither of us can shake (well, if I am being honest, I have more success at spending a bit on non-necessities than Coach does), we aren't in the same boat as we were back in the 1996-1999 era.  Happily.

Coach's family doesn't gift.  In the 22 years since we have been married, his parents bought me a pair of ice-skates and a pair of workout pants.  In 1995- the first Christmas we were engaged.  They send a check for birthdays and Christmas now.  This is very much appreciated - particularly when you consider the progress they have made.

Shortly after we were married in 1996, they bought a house in Florida.  Our 'gift' every year was a flight to visit them.  Stipulations.  We had to stay with them.  Under their roof.  For an acceptable amount of time, or pay for our own flights.  During our visit most television was not allowed because it was considered immoral.  The weather where they live in Florida is typically dicey at best.  These were some painful uses of Coach's coveted vacation days.

Eventually I said ENOUGH.  There were other parts of the country to see and enjoy.  Real vacations beckoned.  If we didn't like our strings-attached gift, then we didn't get anything.  Nada.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Zero.  No Christmas gift.  Not even a pair of PJs for the kiddos.    Years later, they have opted to give us a check with the word 'fun' scribbled in the memo.  I guess they finally realized that staying with them did not translate to:  FUN.
Cute top that my mom gave me for
Christmas.  Not really excited about it.
 My girls deemed it an old lady shirt and
 want it to go back to the store. 
Would you keep it?

I digress.  I am the first to admit that I am hard to shop for.  I am particular about my clothes.  My much shorter sister once bought me an outfit in a size large.  I was in my 20's- about 5' 9.5" and 125 lbs.  Large?  My height confused her. 

There have been a few Christmases that have caused me to be underwhelmed by the gift that my folks got me.  I couldn't put my finger on it.  This Christmas I think I figured out why my gifts are never the show-stopping variety.

My mom buys me clothes for Christmas from the store where I always shop.  I can buy these clothes for myself, because it is my go-to.  I suspect that my overly practical years of yesteryear have carried over into the present day.  When Coach was in school, and the years directly after he was in school when we were having babies, I was so overly practical that I hoped for essential gifts.  Necessities.

Meanwhile, several of my siblings earn big incomes.  Mini once admitted to my nephew that she didn't think she would ever go on a Disney cruise.  His family averages a Disney pilgrimage every other year.  He looked at Mini dumbfounded, 'Why?'  Mini was speechless.  Ahem.  We aren't all millionaires.
A sweet memento to hang in his basement.

This year my youngest brother, Mike, opened a large oblong frame from my parents.  In it was a portion of a caddy towel with the name of the golf course where my brothers (and Coach) used to caddy.  It was a cool gift.  Thoughtful.  Unusual.  Something he would never buy himself.

That's when it struck me.  I rarely receive gifts that I wouldn't or couldn't buy myself.  Hoping you all have a New Year's resolution to leave comments.  So?  Do you think I am cursed for being practical?

January 12, 2019

Happy Birthday: here's a whole lot of nothing

By the time we got around to celebrating Reggie's bday Wednesday night, it was late.  I plugged in a big vat of chili that morning knowing everyone would eat at different times.  Dinner done. 

After school was crazier than normal.  There were dentist appointments and b-ball practices and of course Irish dancing.  Three cars and four drivers was hardly enough to get us everywhere.  I finally asked Coach to stop asking me where he had to be and at what time.  How many times could I review the SAME information?!  I know it was complicated, but dear God - listen the first time!

Ed and Tank did the dentist at 2:30 and returned for b-ball practice.  Noodle arms, aka Mini, agreed to use the 3:30 dentist appointment and skip her b-ball practice.  The night before when we were mapping all of this out, I thought it was big of her to say:  'I can just go at 3:30 because it probably doesn't matter as much if I miss my practice.'  Her brothers whole heartily agreed.

I brought my iPad along when I drove Curly to dancing.  I planned to use Whole Foods' internet service to work on my book.  Besides, I was ticked off at the entire family.  Like, seriously ticked off.  Nevermind that if I return home with the intention of sitting at my desktop, I will most likely be interrupted a gazillion times.  Who do you suppose will end up cleaning the kitchen after dinner? 

No, I thought it best to stay away and send multiple, hostile group text messages to the fools who live in my house but do nothing to make the house livable.  Suffice to say, I attempted to vacuum my  upstairs yesterday.  I asked the kids a million times over break to clean up their rooms.   Oh, the laundry.  It isn't possible that they wear all of those clothes.  Define 'dirty' people!  I will spare you the details of my frustration.  I think we have all been there. 

I picked up a b-day card from Whole Foods for Reg.  Whole Foods might offer lots of organic food, but their card selection for 13 yr old boys sucked.  We decided to tell Reg that he could take a friend to a Bulls game.  With no gift from us to open, I couldn't very well skip the card.   

Um, college kid . . . this is a jar. 
I am looking for a can.  'Like pie filling'
were my instructions.
We sang Happy Birthday at 9:45 pm.  Followed by inhaling of everyone's favorite dessert:  Cherry Dessert.  I usually go with a boxed cake mix, but I had most of the ingredients on hand so I decided to get a little nuts and make this dessert.  I sent Lad to the store the day before to get me a couple of cans of cherries and a few other ingredients.  Exercise in frustration.  I should have gone myself vs. answer a ton of text messages about how to find pecans and cherries. 

Lad came home with two jars of maraschino cherries- not going to work.  Later Coach stopped and got a couple of cans of cherries at a tiny grocer.  They weren't the typical brand I get, so it was more like mushed up looking cherries.  It would look weird, but it would certainly taste the same. 

This is what was left after Reg's bday.  You don't
know what it is supposed to look like, but it
 isn't like this.  This was like cherry bits.  It
usually has actual cherries.  I swear every single
kid walked into the kitchen a minute after
 the kid before them and asked the same
damn question:  'What happened?  Where are
 the cherries?'  I finally made a general announcement.
  Still edible.  Great, in fact.  Just a different kind of cherry
because the regular kind I buy couldn't be located at the store.  
After 'cake' Reg opened some gifts.  My folks got him some amazing Bulls basketball gear.  Coach passed me the Whole Foods suckie card after he signed it.  He had written nothing in it about the Bulls game.  His company had sent out an email a week or two before about offering discounted Bulls tickets.  Coach emailed me the info and asked if we should buy tickets for Reg's bday.  I was on board.  The kid needs nothing - especially since the Letgo lady kindly gave me back the money for the iPod that didn't work.  We replaced it with an MP3 player. 

I motioned to Coach about the lack of ticket mentioning in the card.  He non-nonchalantly shrugged.  'Oh, those dates wouldn't work.  Her initial email had the wrong dates, so we will have to go with plan B.'  I guess that's what it is like to be married to me.  Always know I can bounce back to my plan B - think on my feet.  I guess it is a compliment, but I just felt exhausted.  This time, we had agreed on THIS gift.  I asked him to pick one of the games that he could attend and get the details. 

Again with the shrugging.  'I just found out today,' he said defensively.  (Don't get me started on why he didn't ask yesterday?  Or the day before that!)  Today, as in sometime before NOW, the time when we are giving our kid a gift?!  'Oh, were the phones at work dead?  Your cell phone dropped in a toilet?  You couldn't have communicated that to me before 10 pm.?  I just spent 3 hours at a Whole Foods near the mall - I could have figured something else out.  You SAID nothing until NOW?!'  I asked him if he was OK paying full price for Bulls tickets.  He wasn't. 

I told Reg how our plan had been foiled.  Bad dates in an email.  We would figure something else out.  The kid shrugged - a good kind of shrugging.  'I just got an MP3 player.  It's fine,' he said. 

Reggie cried a lot when he was an infant.  A lot!  Maybe he is just making up for it now. 

January 10, 2019

And then there was one . . .

The cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone . . . well, in this case Curly stands alone.  Reggie turned 13 yesterday, January 9th.  So now, Curly is the only kid at home who is NOT a teenager.

Mini thought it was mean that I begged
Curly not to ask for any more legos for
 Christmas.  Mean, or practical?  She
DOES enjoy them, but it isn't like she has
an abundance of free time being little
and how about some
 travel basketball thrown in there?!
Let me say that another way . . . Curly is the only one living under our roof who does not roll eyes.  She asks if it is OK if she opens a new package of food like chips or ice cream.  After opening said package, she refrains from eating the entire thing, or hiding it so that no one else can get any.  She would NEVER put an empty bag of chips back in the pantry.  She still helps up opponents who she accidentally knocks to the floor while playing basketball (this might just be a girl thing).  She does not take everything personally.  She rubs my back when she senses I am upset.  She pays attention to whether or not I am upset, and verbalizes that she hopes whatever is bothering me is quickly resolved.  She still likes to play legos.  She thinks what Coach or I say is important.  She does not take 35 minute showers.  She asks if she can use a towel that does not have her name embroidered on it (after her siblings have unceremoniously used her towels).  When she is upset she might cry, but her head will not spin around while she screams about irrelevant matters that have little to no bearing on why she is crying.  She says good-night to me at least three times before she actually goes to bed.  She really, really likes to spend time with me . . . for now.

She turned 11 on December 19th, so I have a solid 2 years to continue to enjoy the above behaviors. 

Last night as we were about to sing to Reggie, Coach commented on the fact that Reg showered in under 5 minutes.  So, his teenage tendencies still seem to be dormant.  I give him 6 weeks, 3 months tops before he begins to follow in the footsteps of the brave teens who have gone before him. 

Maybe 'brave' isn't the right term here.  'Dumb' seems more appropriate.  Let's take Lad for example.  He is technically no longer a teen, but his actions haven't matured at the natural rate.  We wait.  While we wait, we think about our water bill.  We ponder how long his showers last.  Speaking of waiting, no one wants to wait to take a shower after him.

Reggie at about 18 mos.  I took a
 pic of this photo that was hanging
 on the wall and it wasn't until
 just now that I realized that in
 order to avoid the glare I
 managed to take it at a weird angle
 that makes his hands look positively
disproportionate to the rest of his
 body.  Please don't worry, his hands
 are regular size.  He's a cutey, right?
A few weeks ago, he hopped in the shower in the kids' bathroom.  I had just gotten out of the shower in my master bathroom on the other side of the wall, so I was aware of the shower starting.  By the time I was done blowing my hair dry and dressing, he was STILL in the shower?  Why?  His hair is shorter than mine. 

I took action.  The kids' bathroom door handle is broken.  One of those home repairs that I am grateful has never been fixed.  If the door is locked, which it always is, then a firm jiggle from the outside will unlock the door.  Perhaps I should get a patent on this door handle and sell it to all parents of teens. 

Anyway I stuck my head in the sauna  bathroom and averted my eyes.  'YOU HAVE 3 MINUTES'.  Lad was like, 'What?  I just got in here!'  Define 'just', nevermind.  I don't want to know.  Needless to say I stood in the hall and timed the 3 minutes on my phone.  When 3 minutes was up, I went in.  Now who's brave? 

'WHAT ARE YOU DOING?'  Once you've seen a naked butt, you've seen all naked butts.  Besides, it was hard to see anything in there thru the steam.  Trust me, I was only focused on where the water handle was.  I threw open the shower door and shut off the water.  (which he promptly turned back on  - far cry from a victory, but I will not go down quietly).  I left the unlock-able door wide open on my way out.

Those who violate common sense water usage rules are not entitled to privacy in my book.  Tread lightly here, Reg.  This is not unfamiliar territory for your Dad and I. 

January 9, 2019

Why Coach is NEVER allowed to purchase a gift for me.

Let me set the scene:  Christmas 2005.  Reggie was due mid-January.  My cousin was killed in a car accident on Dec. 10th.  She was a month shy of celebrating her 36th birthday.  She had 3 young children and an ex-husband who was a lunatic.  Literally.  We were devastated. 

Coach had plans to take our three boys to Florida to visit his parents for a few days.  I was too pregnant to travel.  Darn.  OK, that part was by design.  Anything to avoid spending time with his folks.  Mini was about 20 months old and she was staying home with me. 

Coach's trip interfered with the wake and the funeral.  His getaway had been planned for a few months.  He still went.  Did I mention how enormously pregnant I was?  I thought he should cancel the trip.  My mom insisted that it might be easier for me with the three boys out of town.  It was going to be a rough weekend.  They were 3, 5, and 7.  Still.  It was a very emotional weekend.  I was pregnant and my husband was on vacation. 

To give you an idea of what my father-in-law is like.  I called the Florida house after the funeral.  This was before cell phones acted as life-savers helping to avoid contact with morons who were not the intended phone call recipients.  Coach's dad answered the phone.  'Oh, he tried to call you a little bit ago.  He wondered where you were.'  Wow.  Really? 

'I was burying my cousin,' I hissed into Mr. Sensitive's ear before I abruptly hung up.   Not even so much as a 'sorry for your loss,' just the standard:  'Just down here grilling.  Enjoying the boys.  Coach tried to call . . . '  PUKE!

Thank you Amazon for the image of the cover
of this book.  Of course he took the book back,
so I cannot snap a photo of my own personal copy.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks to a very emotional Christmas.  Coach handed me my gift.  It was a book:  'Happy Housewives:  I was a Whining, Miserable, Desperate Housewife - But I Changed and You Can Too!'   He sat there with a smirk on his face.  Then he acted like Lucy when she had lots of 'esplaining' to do.  'Oh, it's a funny book.  One of my patients thought you would like it.'

Oh.  Has your patient EVER met me?  Does he know that my cousin just died?  Suddenly?  Does he know that I am pregnant with your 5th child?  I tried to see the humor in the book.  I flipped thru a few repulsive pages.  This was not meant as a humor book.  This was a real-deal book.  She wrote about how to prepare dinner and hurry up and get some make-up on before the hubby walked in the door.  There was an entire chapter offering instructions on how to have an orgasm.  WHAT THE F???

I read a short excerpt from that book right there in front of the tree while our four little guys played with their toys.  'I am going to copy a few pages from this orgasm chapter and send it to your mother, so she knows what you got me for Christmas,' I whispered calmly.  Too calmly.  Coach's face fell.  Uh oh.  I was about to blow.  In more ways than one.  I had to put cold wash cloths on my face to hide the fact that I was crying before we went to my parent's house. 

The receipt gave me more ammo.  He had purchased the book while he was in Florida.  He could have left the boys with his mother and gone shopping, like FOR REAL.  Instead, he ran to the nearest book store and bought this piece of shit book.  He admitted that he had never even opened it up - never read one page of it to see if it was actually funny, or just plain RIDICULOUS!  All this 'gift-buying' while I was home grieving the loss of a dear cousin.  There are no words.  Well, maybe 'thoughtless.' 

And that, my friends, is why my husband is simply NOT ALLOWED to purchase gifts for me.  I buy myself a few things and wrap them up and slap a label on them.  The alternative is too risky!  Do you have a horrible gift that you were stunned to open?  Do tell. 

January 7, 2019

wait which 'eye' / 'i' are we talking about?

I cannot believe I never blogged about this . . . In October I came home frustrated at the monumental waste of time I had endured at one of Curly's local Irish dancing competitions.  I had hoped it would be a day when she danced, waited for awards to be announced, and we headed home.  A quickie.  Silly me.  We were there all day.

Once home I started kicking ass and taking names.  There was dinner to make, laundry to start, counter top clutter to clear.  The usual Sunday affair- but now it was jam packed into late Sunday.

I sent Tank and Reg up to their room to put away their laundry.  Reg came down a bit later blinking.  His eye was tearing up - big time.  Tank had whipped him in the face with his laundry and had poked him in the eye.  Keep blinking I ordered him from my dinner-making command post.

While we watched a family movie that night, I was unsure what Reg could see.  Hours had passed and his damn eye was driving him nuts.  I called my friend who works in an eye doctor's office.  Don't blink.  Oops.  Keep it closed.  The eye doc was at a conference for days.  Swell.

Drops.  Four times a day is a
lot for a school age kid.
  I was walking up to school with my giant stroller,
or stopping on my way home from the zoo or the
library with my babysitting tykes to administer
one drop on the front seat of the car.
The next morning, I called a different eye doctor when Reg came downstairs and the eye was no better.  Maybe worse.  We had hoped a night of sleep would help.  I hired my fearless assistant to watch the crew I babysit for and whisked Reg to this eye doc.  Tank had to reimburse me for my out of pocket assistant and prescription costs.  Deterrent? 

Corneal abrasion.  Drops would help speed up the healing process.  Four times a day.  Tank felt bad.  We made sure of that.  Why not just put laundry away?  Why must you always be a shit-head?

Eventually the eye healed.  When I write my annual Christmas poem, the stanza about the corneal abrasion was the only part Tank requested that I remove.   Now I wish I had left it in, because . . .

It happened AGAIN!  Tank shot Reg in the eye with a Nerf gun in the basement.  It was the last day that I was babysitting before break.  Reg and Curly had no school.  Tank was done with exams.  Tank showed Jimmy how to use the Nerf gun.  Tank insists that it was Jack who technically shot Reg.  We started up with the drops again.  Seriously!

On Christmas Eve the kid was still blinking and looking uncomfortable.  Then on Christmas he opened the iPod nano that he got from Santa.  This was one of my Letgo purchases.  Remember?  He was overjoyed.  When I bought the item the woman said, 'I have had it for a few years and NEVER used it.'  It looked brand new.
Seeing your son thrilled with a gift:  priceless. 
Finding out said gift will never work:  worthless.

Yesterday morning  (Dec. 26th) after my workout class, Coach approached me whispering.  Reg was in the next room and he didn't want him to hear.  Hell, I could barely hear him and I was right in front of him.  It sounded like he said, 'I am worried about the eye - it isn't working.'

WHAT?!  For an instant I thought my medical profession husband (OK, so he's a physical therapist but he knows shit) was telling me that Reg was going to lose his eye! 

No the other 'i'.  As in 'iPod'.  The battery was kaput.  I spent the afternoon on the phone with apple. 

Reg can work the iPod if it is plugged into the charger.  That's fun, right?  The apple lady had me restore the factory settings.  Still no good.  The iPod is so old that they consider it obsolete.  No way to replace the battery.  $40 bucks gone.  Not to mention that was Reg's 'big' gift.  I sent my Letgo BFF a message on Letgo.  She did give me her cell number - remember she was glad I was not a predator?  I haven't resorted to calling her.  Maybe this is a buyer beware issue, but I want my money back.

On the bright side, at least Reg isn't going to lose an eye or anything.  Reminds me a bit of the classic 'Christmas Story' movie:  'It'll take your eye out Ralphie!'