April 29, 2020

too embarrassing to go back to school anyway

On a walk last week, I passed our friends' home.  They had one of those huge storage units on the driveway and the husband explained from across the yard that they had just 'done' their garage.  The door was open to the garage and I swooned slightly at the sight of a garage that resembled a room that could easily be an inside-the-house room.  

The floor was done with that speckled finished look and the walls were dry walled without a mark on them.  I asked him if it would be OK if I moved into his garage.  Or better yet is a certain college kid moved into his garage.  He laughed.  

I was a little disappointed that he didn't take me seriously. 

SOPHIA LOREN LOOKALIKE AND THE MIRROR ADJUSTMENT:  Mini and I went driving yesterday as we do most days.  She is relaxing a bit.  Well, she is certainly relaxed about her driving-Miss-Daisy appearance.  I don't even think Driving Miss Daisy sported a turban, but it seems like she would've/should've.  I managed to snap a photo of her this time as she hopped in to drive shortly after her shower.  $8 twisty turban towel continues to be the best Christmas gift  Santa ever gave her.
I known I have shared this
already, but it just doesn't get old.

When I pulled the  minivan into the garage earlier that morning after I rode the stationary bike at Coach's clinic before patients arrived, the far mirror bumped the garage door frame ever so slightly.  Well, I feared that the mirror would ram into the door frame on the way out of the garage.  

When Mini hopped in the minivan to reverse it out of the garage, I told her to reach over and flip the mirror in.  Understand:  I cannot get into the passenger side of the car until she pulls it onto the driveway because it is a tight fit.  The 12 seater gets the double car space and the minivan barely fits in the single space.  (three car garage, but most of the garage is bikes and lawnmowers and balls and junk - not even close to having that 'done' look).

Mini nodded like she understood.  The windows were up on the car.  She crawled over the center console thing to sit in the passenger seat but she had yet to turn the car on.  She could not access the mirror she needed to fold in because the window was up.  I was trying to holler to her that she had to turn the car on first, but I was laughing so hard that I am not sure she could understand me.

Mini is 5'11" so watching her maneuver around in the car with her spindly limbs while sporting the turban on her head and looking at me blankly almost tied in the hysterical department with the funniest slow-motion fall that she took a few weeks ago.  

Reg came out to the garage to see what was up because of my laugh-yelling:  "Turn on the car so you can put the window down first."

Finally she understood and then half crawled back to get the key in the ignition.  She looked like a chuckling gazelle in a clown car with the all-important turban.  I don't know, maybe you had to be there.

CAN'T RETURN TO SCHOOL, TOO EMBARRASSING:  Curly tooted last night after dinner and then she laughed and admitted that she has NO IDEA how to hold in gas.  "The worst is when you are in class and it comes out.  It's so embarrassing."

Mini was not in the room during this emission (get it?), but Coach and Ed were chuckling - I was overhearing from the study.  When Mini asked Coach what was so funny, because privacy is not part of our pandemic - Coach shared Curly's woes.

See how we made fake letters out of paper?
 Then we decided that sucked so we tried
to use the travel Boggle.  Not sure if we are a
 bunch of cone-heads or something but we struggled
 to be able to see the letters in the orange Boggle. 
Our heads kept bumping into one another.
 We could not get a good angle to see the words.
We are a competitive tribe but the last
thing we need is Boggle with defense.
Of course neither timer would work.  I would
almost rather play Chinese Checkers with
Tank refusing to move his pawns.
Mini ALMOST died.  "What?  (storming into the study and staring at me) You need to address this.  She cannot be tooting in class.  Hey, Tank did you know that Mrs. Trent our old social studies teacher actually said to Curly 'It's Ok honey, it happens.'  OMG - this is not happening.  How embarrassing!"  Because nothing is sacred and no one can have secrets here.

During game night, which was Boggle with two missing letter cubes and no functioning timer so paramount to torture, Curly got mad at me for telling Mini about her public tooting.  I was like:  "I didn't say anything.  I was busy in the study writing about Uncle Pat's monkeyshines."  

We all have skeletons in our closets, or gas in our tanks, or twitchy faces in our retro selves.  People, what have you got?

April 27, 2020

I might never be late again, cleaning initiative, & short-shorts

Saturday I attended my third drive-by birthday while in quarantine.  When we returned, Reg asked if anyone got shot at this drive-by.  Maybe there should be a less violent sounding term to describe these new birthday celebrations.

Mini's good friend turned 16 a few weeks ago and I drove there, but made Mini 'the reluctant driver' switch with me and drive out of this girl's culdesac.  She fumbled with the window control and rolled down the wrong window as we passed her friend the 2nd time to wave good-bye.  Mini is the comedic relief for her group of friends, so the b-day girl was doubled over in her front yard.  Then Curly's friend from dancing had a b-day last week with the infamous turban-wearing driver aka Mini, and this afternoon I drove Curly to one of her good friend's houses 1 minute away.

I don't know why, but this time I got all choked up as I sat there blaring the horn and watching this little 12 yr old girl stand in the rain and wave to all the cars.  Maybe the dreary weather made the whole gathering that much more odd.  It just sorta got to me. 

At any rate, this was a surprise honk-fest.  It started at 3:00 after the 2:00 Zoom party complete with games and giggling.  The mom did a group text to be sure everyone was there before the honking commenced. 

That is when I decided that even when we go back to normal times, this is how birthday parties should be . .  . not the drive-by variety, but the 'let's not start till everyone is here variety'.  Um, I tend to NOT be on time for stuff, so this would be ideal for struggling-with-schedule parents like myself.  

The group text would announce:  "The Shenanigans just pulled up, so now we can start the party." - of course there would be NO sarcastic undertones.    

Exhibit A:  we were late for the zoom part because we were still fumbling around for the password, etc at go time. 

This is one side of Coach's recliner.  Do
not ask me how I manage to keep the
 tots I sit for out of this paperwork debacle.
In other news:  I asked Coach if he could get behind my need to clean the house.  He cares about my mental healthy, so he was all about it.  I made a list before I fell asleep on the couch Friday night and Saturday morning I slept in (I was up for awhile during the night) and I walked downstairs to Coach, Curly, and Reg working on the list and crossing shit off as they went.

I thought maybe I was still dreaming.  

Coach and I have been married for almost 24 years and he is just starting to figure out the way to my heart.  Just pitch in, damn it -and make these kids put a little elbow grease in the messes they make.  

And here lies the other pile of shit on the
 other side of the recliner.  I have causally
 mentioned to him that places
 do sell filing cabinets.  Sigh.
Dear friends - most of whom most likely have a cleaner house than I do, I am happy to report that even though there are a few jobs that have not been tackled - I can breathe again.  Showers were scrubbed, rooms dusted, toilets cleaned, cabinets wiped down, ceiling fans were dusted, mirrors Windexed, floors vacuumed, light fixtures cleaned, stuff put away.  And Coach organized his paperwork that stacks up next to his recliner - mark this date in history.

On the list was a suggestion that each person eliminate some stuff from their room/drawers.  Reg will only wear shorts now that it is not below zero and the other kids have been begging him to stop wearing 'short-shorts'.  I suggested that he take this opportunity to toss the small athletic shorts into the Good Will pile.  

Reg modeling Gettysburg short-shorts.
I do wonder if there just aren't any 'next-size-up' shorts ready and waiting for him in the dresser dedicated specifically to 'next-size-up' items in his room.  Sometimes well-loved clothing categories do not endure the wear and tear of three older brothers and therefore do not make it down to the 4th boy.  Workout shorts are well-loved here and worn CONSTANT, unlike wardrobe items that my kids lovingly refer to as 'Church clothes'.  

So, I might need to invest in some shorts that fit him and embrace filling an online shopping cart.  He wore a pair of shorts the other day that I bought at an outlet store when we were in Gettysburg almost 2 years ago.  There is quite a difference in size from a 12 year old boy to a 14 year old. 

On the other hand, no one is really able to see what we are wearing right now and other than siblings, no one cares. 

April 24, 2020

more pandemic quotes

Mini:  "Oh, hi Eugene - everyone Eugene is here!" - I missed Eugene's initial appearance.  I suspect I was hanging out in the study one night working on stuff for my class when introductions were first made.  

A few nights ago I was in the study and Mini was listening to me read my final paper aloud.  In walks Tank and Mini bust out laughing.  Eugene, I discovered, is Tank's alter-ego.  Eugene typically waddles into sight late in the evening with his t-shirt tucked firmly into his shorts.  His belly (one would never think that Tank has a belly, but he enhances it a bit as Eugene) intentionally protrudes over his waistband and he has a tendency to rub his gut while munching on some late night snack.  He is camera shy, so no photo just yet - but I will keep trying.  

Mini thinks Eugene might be the funniest person alive.  I have yet to get what he is all about because I usually try to snap a photo right off the bat and then Eugene untucks his shirt in disgust and the hilarity ends.  

A confused Ed:  “What?  Wait, what are we doing?  Haircuts?”  He heard Coach and I call Reg into the study and he was trying to figure out if there was an all-family thing happening.  It is often loud in the house especially if you are within an arm’s reach of Tank, so it can be hard to hear when someone is being summoned and my kids are constantly asking for clarification:  ‘Who are you calling, me? (please don’t let it be me)’ 

Since I just cut hair two weeks ago, that was not it.  We confiscated Reg’s phone last week and needed to have a pow wow with him in private (let’s pretend private is even a thing right now) about our parental phone concerns and necessary limits. 

Me:  “Are you OK?”  (Through snorting, crying laughter that I tried to hold in until I verified, of course, that my lovely daughter was indeed OK)  

Mini:  “Yes (also through red-faced, cannot-breathe, crying laughter - thankfully because otherwise I would have won a mom-of-the-year booby prize). 

Mini and I have been walking a 4.5 miles or so route almost daily.  She tripped last week and went down in one of those graceful falls that happens so gradually you are quite sure the klutzy person is going to recover.  Well, she did end up on the ground but managed to land in a low, elbow plank position AND then roll completely over till she was back in low plank mode.  The ground LOOKED wet and muddy in her off-roading escapade.  She didn’t want to scrape her knees and somehow managed not to scrape her knees or her hands or get muddy despite the fall. 

I think it was Kari who recently claimed people falling and farts always make her laugh.  Well, this was one for the books.  We were incapacitated with laughter for a good portion of the walk. 

As promised, and since I do not have cat like reflexes and I did not snap a photo of Mini's eventual fall, I am sharing this instead.  This is Mini at a stoplight (so that is why her wiggly hands are not on the wheel) sporting her beloved twisty turban because her showers happen midday which is when I am usually ready to take her on a practice drive.  The day we drove to Curly's friend's house for the b-day parade, Mini was also wearing one of those REALLY fluffy jackets giving her a more formal appearance- plus turban, which completed the look causing lots of double-takes from nearby cars.
"Can you hear me now?"  - Remember these commercials?  This was Coach, Lad, and I the other day trying to get set up with a zoom appointment.  Eventually we got it up and running but each time someone said, "Can you hear me now?"  - all I could think of was that Verizon commercial, or whatever brand, with the guy demonstrating the power of the network.  This repetitive annoyance was followed closely by: 

"Can you see me now?" After we were set up, the connection died and when we restarted it no one could see Coach and I.  They weren't missing much, so we left it alone and only contributed with our voices and obscene hand gestures as a ticked off parent who feels like a prisoner in her own house is apt to do.  

Me:  “Who is whistling?  Dear God, please let the whistling be replaced with ANYTHING?”  So, this is more internal dialogue because it is usually Lad who is doing the whistling and I must walk on egg shells with him, so that’s fun.  Seriously though, the whistling is going to make me lose my bloody mind.  It is not an actual tune, mind you, just random notes of torture.

Me at random intervals during the week:  “Curly is it time for your zoom Irish dancing class?” followed closely by:  “The ipad just died, can anyone help Curly get on a Zoom on my laptop, or her laptop, or your laptop?”

April 22, 2020

monkey shine and a SHORT book excerpt

Let's pretend that life is normal here in my feeling-like-a-prisoner state and chat about my writing, shall we . . . I'm just about done with my writing class.  

While I feel I've picked up some tips, I'd really hoped to get more direction or clarity in my need to organize my many anecdotes for what I hope will be my book.  Maybe that isn't really something that is taught, but just figured out.  

The final project is to write a 10 page paper.  Guess who emailed the teacher to ask:  10 pages before or after the double spacing?  Guess who was bummed that it was to be double spaced because she was really hoping to submit 10 pages single spaced?  Shock, right?  What can I say - I got lots to say.

I guess I am lucky because I have hundreds of pages written and I just had to choose which part to submit for this assignment.  Well, I want to send in the beginning of the story because that is what I want feedback on - if only I could decide where to start.  The actual beginning?  I know that won't work because the book would be too long.  (hey, I heard that sarcastic:  Oh, ya think?)  I have some hilarious childhood memory stories written out.  

Then I had an epiphany.  I decided to start at high school.  We were moving into a new house 45 minutes north of our suburban home.  Shit, we would practically be in Wisconsin (shout out to my reader in that neck of the woods currently!)  Many of my favorite stories start in high school and if I sent in 10 pages from there, I could be sure to get at least one of my favorite high school stories in:  Sea Monkeys.  I wrote a bit about it on this blog and you can read it with that link (it is surprisingly short for me).  I elaborate a lot more in the draft of my book.  

Below is the excerpt of a favorite part of the beginning (not the sea monkeys that comes at the end of the 10 pages).  We are getting ready to move and we are all bummed.  I am finishing up 8th grade and we move in the day before high school starts.  Leading up to this bit I mention how my folks collect antiques and how they ousted me from my bedroom when I was 9 in order to give Ann her own room because they had just purchased an antique set for that room and they didn't want me to mess it up.  That antique set will fit in the first floor guest room at the new, smaller house . . . 

Weeks before the moving van arrived, Mom and Dad contemplated how to arrange the remaining upstairs bedrooms   Because our folks found old, wooden beds highly fashionable, my brothers’ room also featured heirloom furniture.  Mom dished out dinner and nervously tightened the skin on her neck announcing,
Me on my first day of school.  I was not joking
 - we literally moved in the day before the 1st day
 and I am wearing Marie's dress because they
 misplaced my wardrobe box.  Her clothes
were cuter than mine anyway.

"So, Dad and I are thinking that the bedrooms might work best if you boys split up.  I don’t think all your furniture will fit in the large kids’ bedroom.”    

By default Mom’s divide-to-conquer-the-boys’-furniture dilemma designated the slightly larger room to Marie and I along with our matching canopy beds, frilly pink canopies, and coordinating bedspreads.  

While Marie and I cared little about sharing a room, my brothers vehemently insisted on continuing to bunk together.  Pat, who often held our folks’ attention with his unparalleled, junior-high, pompous poise and unending knowledge, cleared his throat after dinner the next  night.  His narrow face took on a serious expression; his eyebrows knit into a tight line across his high forehead and he twitched his nose to scoot his glasses up a bit higher.  Mom referred to this repetitive motion as his monkey shine and often encouraged him with a corrective, 

“Pat, stop the monkey shines.”  

Pat did little to irritate Mom and I secretly took great joy each time he absent mindedly fouled with this freaky, face flutter. 

“Mike and I decided last night that if we aren't sharing a room at the new house, then neither of us will move with the family,” Pat proclaimed this with all the bravado of a first-born son in an Irish-American family.  Mike, with his wiry, brillo-pad hair, nodded solemnly in agreement.  

Mom, who devoured this kind of drivel, hailed my brothers for their devotion to one another and gave Dad a knowing look.  With enough concentration, I translated her unspoken words as they drifted across the table from Mom’s subconscious towards Dad, Pat’s other biggest fan:

“Well, Pat, the demigod has spoken.  We can’t argue with that.”  

I closed my eyes, released a deep breath, and listened to her sing the praises of her boys.  My stomach lurched a little as my recently consumed dinner considered making an unexpected appearance.  While Pat’s sentiments sickened me, Mom lapped them up and repeated his blessed declaration for weeks on end to anyone who feigned interest in our upcoming relocation.

I cannot tell you how hard I laughed when I added the monkey shine bit to the previously written story last night (my kids love hearing about Pat's monkey shine I think because we don't ever hear anyone use that term nowadays) as I tinkered with my 10 page submission.   So, I thought maybe you all would enjoy it too.  I hope I was right.  I was cutting small side stories out left and right (like my folks measuring my room for the antique set late one night while I was trying to sleep), so the 10 pages could end with the Sea Monkey part, but I couldn't resist - I would cut something else in order to incorporate the monkey shine part.   

FYI - I did a lot of shit wrong growing up as far as my family is concerned, but I never monkey shined.  **Patting self on back. **  

Get excited:  I got a photo of Driving Ms. Daisy in her woman-about-town twisty turban and I will include that in my next post.  

April 20, 2020

this was initially a caption,plus: just say no

I initially typed this up as a very lengthy caption.  I know, you're shocked.  And the last part of the caption was:  Sheesh, I guess this could have been its own post.  Then I had a great idea . . . so in true long-winded, trying not to be format, I made it a post.

My sister Ann, the nurse, posted a photo in our family group chat of her wearing a mask -several weeks ago now.  "New protocol"  I responded that the girls and I are making 16 masks. (So far only one has turned out like it is made for a shrunken head).  It was meant to be a 'hey there nurse, we are doing what we can over here' kind of text.  After the responses, I reminded myself why I prefer friends over family . . . 

Aunt Leprechaun, my sister in law who is from Ireland and who is a doctor, 
texted:  "Ernie, are you using a pattern?"  Does anyone else find that passive aggressive? 

No Leprechaun, I just grabbed a few old, dirty socks from the backseat of my car (doesn't everyone have old, dirty socks in their car?), fastened a rubber band around them and figured this looked about right.  Hello? 

Joann's had video tutorials on their website.  Duh.  Then Ann texted:  
"Who will take them though?" I let her know that Joann's collects them and they distribute them.   (updating:  Joann's doesn't do that anymore but I did give some away to people in a Facebook page and then sent the rest to a doctor in California who I was matched with through a website called 'mask -match'.)

Like, huh?  Is it me?  Why are my family members trying to poo-poo my efforts here.  I am not off my rocker.  There is a demand for masks and I'm not the only person making them.  

I am thinking I either need a new family, or just a different group chat.  Right?
So, that 'caption' happened a few weeks ago.  Then a few days later, Ann, aka the most controlling person in the universe, emailed the family.

She decided that it would be a good idea to make a photo book for my dad's 80th b-day in May featuring all 22 grandchildren.  One kid to a page.  "All I need from each of you . . . "  She went on to list how she wanted us to each submit 6 photos of each of our kids.  1 with dad, 1 when they are little, 1 when they are, blah, blah.  No school photos, they must all be candids.  "I prefer the photo with the kid and dad to have no other kids in the photo.  Then each kid is to send me a note about why they love Da."  

Ann lives alone, because her kids all eventually moved in with their dad.  Long story.  She is a nurse, and is working in post op at a children's hospital but probably scaled down hours.  She admitted that she needed a project during the pandemic.  

Um, I have my own projects during the pandemic.  Thanks.

My brother, Pat, emailed back first stating that because he and Leprechaun don't have their photos all that organized he was not sure he would be able to gather what she needed.  Coach was like:  good, you are not alone.  Just say no.  (foreshadowing/double meaning for those of you who didn't score high in high school English)

I drafted a response.  Read it to Coach and hit send.  No other siblings ever commented.  The end.  Or so I thought.    

Oh, my response:  Nice idea. We are too busy to pull this together. Lots going on. Mom and dad's house is covered in photos of the kids anyway. I suggest each family just send their own notes and cards. Maybe we can do dinner to celebrate at a later date. 

A few days later Mini called out to me:  Aunt Ann is on our deck with her dog and she doesn't seem mad.  *If that is what your niece says about your arrival (which Ann did not hear because Mini is smarter than that), then something is wrong.  

We chatted from a distance for a few minutes.  She didn't mention the project.  

A week and a half ago my sewing machine broke.  Boo hiss.  The shop was not sure when they'd have time to fix it.  Mini got some time practicing her driving on Thursday and we picked up Ann's machine that she said we could borrow.  

I called to say that we were there and she placed it out on her porch and she said into the phone:  So, I have most of the pictures that I need.  I just need you to get the rest and then have the kids send me their notes.  

She was on Bluetooth and Mini looked like her eyes might bug-outta her head.  This made more sense.  My sister can't function unless she gets her way.  I said I would talk to her later.

I could've called this post when it rains it fucking monsoons, because I came home to a skunk ass smell in the basement and my son high as a kite.  Like what part of NOT IN OUR HOUSE is hard to understand?

Coach could not come home immediately because:  patients.  Plus the coworker with the fever was out and he was double booked.  

I was beside myself and then guess what . . . Ann started in with her text messages.  "I am doing all the work, you just have to . . . "

My text to her:  What part of 'we are not participating' is hard for you to understand?

I tried to call my brother Mike.  He is sane with an unobstructed view of things.  He texted that he was on a call and would get back to me.  

Ann continued to text.  She started a group chat with me and my kids and her demands.  I knew if I responded it was going to get ugly.  I looked at her messages between my calls to Coach, can you say TIMING?  I begged him to get home and address what we both fear is a cannabis addiction.  

I finally called her and calmly stated that I had lots going on at the moment (total understatement, because there is also the other thing I keep alluding to that is taking up a good bit of time, energy, and stress, plus I am taking a writing class and unlike her I have 6 kids living under my roof and I DON'T NEED HER SHIT RIGHT NOW).  

Here is the thing about Ann.  I decided.  She can only live in her own little world and cannot understand anyone else's.  I am not sharing stuff that is happening with me, not even the writing class.  None of her business.  I took a pass on her project that my dad would think was nice, but he will not care  about all that much.  

So, when I said to her over the phone:  lots going on at the moment, she pulled her usual scoff, sneering sound at me.  "Oh stop it, Ernie, just have the kids find the pictures then."  My whole life she has done that, not cared - accused me of being over-dramatic.  MY SHIT IS REAL!

Now I invited the principle-of-the-thing into my mindset (hey, the acronym for that is P.O.T.T., just saying) and that was that.  I will not cow tie to her and her passive aggressive shit.  

Mike called me back.  I told him in a voice shaking with emotion things like:  really full plate, I don't want to get into it.  I know she won't be happy if she isn't getting her way, but now I just refuse based on principle.  Really busy.  I will not be involved with this.  You're the only sibling I can call.  

He agreed.  I told him about the conversation I had with our niece and I told him I will no longer sit at family gatherings and stare at the floor with a knot in my stomach and listen to Ann badmouth and belittle her children.  She needs help.  He agreed, although he doesn't think she will change.  I don't think she will either, but God help her if she bitches about how her kids don't talk to her if she is not willing to TRY to get help.  
Feel like this post can use a little humor.
 Check out this Easter photo from years
 ago.  This is Curly, the victim of older brothers
who shoved plastic Easter eggs down her shirt.
  I laugh every time I see it and I came across
 it as I try to figure out albums and where
 I left off and what I still need to order.

I hung up with Mike and Tank tiptoed into the dining room where I was ironically organizing my picture albums.  That is one of my chosen projects, you see.  But I am not going to halt my project (that I barely have time for) to search for photos that she wants.  

Anyway, Tank alerted me:  crazy Ann had started ANOTHER group text,  just my kids and not me.  Instructing them on what they needed to do.  

Oh, no she di-in-t.  

Even Ed was like,  "I am not writing what I love about Da on a post-it note for her to put in a photo book.  I can write it in a card and hand it to him.  (OK, mail)  What am I 5 years old?"

I texted her back and pointed out that my kids speak to me, and they shared her secret group text and she better back off.  

Things escalated this morning (Sunday) with Lad.  Coach and I are done with the 'I made a mistake.  It won't happen again' BS.  It was very upsetting and we almost called the police.  Poor Curly was sobbing.  Things simmered down by dinner, but I am literally feeling like a prisoner in my own home.  So, if you invite me - I will gladly come over and hang out with you at your house, oh . . . wait.  

Mini and I went for our walk after the 'explosion'.  I see one particular  friend on my walk every once in a while but not once since the pandemic.  I kid you not, I thought it would be good to see her.  She would know what to say.  Three steps later, she came around the corner.  Divine intervention?  We chatted from a distance and she offered an air hug, some suggestions and let me know we are not alone in this.  

As Mini and I walked mostly in silence, because I was on the verge of tears, I told her:  if Ann texts me today and says ONE THING about pictures, I swear to God . . .   Mini couldn't help but giggle.  

April 17, 2020

issues: driving, ROTC, turd eating - it's a family thing

First off, thanks for your good wishes.  I slept better last night.  Sometimes things look better once the ordeal is out on paper - or in this case the blog. 

Another teacher from the high school emailed me.  His daughter is 3 years old and she might need childcare next school year.  I also met a mom on Facebook today who is looking for 2 days a week for her 15 month old.  We have a shared friend on Facebook, so I could reach out to 'shared' friend and do a little 'is she normal' digging before I accept a job.  Nothing set in stone, but this helped me to take a deep breath and look forward instead of backward. 

This morning Coach found out that his co-worker spiked a fever.  He is now covering her patients and his.  Fingers crossed that she doesn't have corona, but scary.  She is young.  Had to cancel her wedding last month.  (I refuse to share how long it took me to figure out what day/month it is).

In other news, a few weeks ago the transmission blew on the kids' car while Mini was out practice driving with Coach.  This extra time to drive has been just what the other drivers in our area ordered.  No one should share the road with this kid of mine.  Unlike her brothers, Mini hunches forward and rotates the wheel back and forth in a death grip in like a 2 inch back and forth frenzy.  It is most unpleasant.  

** Curly's friend from Irish dancing had a drive by surprise/honk birthday 'event' this afternoon.  Mini drove Curly and I there.  I wanted to take a photo of Mini behind the wheel, but I feared it would throw off her concentration and she would drive up on the lawn and pin the celebrating family members to the ground.  Mini was wearing her twisty turban because she was fresh out of the shower - no one ever knows what time of day this girl is going to shower.  We got some looks from other drivers as one does while driving with Mini, but they all did a double take with the turban thing happening.  It was a riot.

Anyway, I babysat for a family with 8 kids when I was a kid.  I feel like their parents kind of raised me right along with them.  They are like family, which is amazing .  They still look out for me and my car needs.  The sons, whose diapers I once changed, now own their own dealerships.  The one son, who I nicknamed Baby Face when I was a 7th grader, found us a great used car.  His brother was only turning up used cars with 149,000 miles.  Yikes.  So we said, yes.  Pick it up Saturday.  Friday night Baby Face called to apologize.  He failed to remind his guy at the dealership to hold 'our' car and they sold it to someone else.  Bum.MER.

Now the search continues for a decent car with decent miles with some elevation so the kids have a decent line of vision.  Fortunately, we are not in need of 3 cars right now.  We are getting by with 2 cars.  Wish I had a crystal ball so we would know if a used car with lots of miles will last.  Or better yet, if we could be confident Mini isn't destined to rear end someone.  Her actual problem is timing left turns and merging.  A car is 1/2 mile away and I say, OK turn left.  She freaks out and then hesitates and then I shout DON'T TURN NOW.  She might have tendencies like that Zoo-lander character.  What was his deal - he could only turn right on the runway or something?

Oh, back to my sleep issues.  Trying to determine if it is celiac disease related or stress related.  Both?  Most likely I will never know.  I had been sleeping late - unheard of for me.  I got fed up on Easter when everyone enjoyed my egg casserole and pumpkin bread and Coach's pancakes.  My sad little plate only had a helping of the gluten free version of the egg dish.  

Since I feed everyone most of the time (Coach grills), someday I want someone in the family to surprise me with a gluten free recipe just because they think I should eat something awesome like they all do.  ** not holding my breath**

Day after Easter when I was about to re-heat
 it in the microwave.  The pancake looks like
 a turd.  I cooked them in a cast iron skillet
because the griddle was all gluten-ed up with
Coach's delicious looking fluffy pancakes.
 Honestly they tasted better than they look. 
I quickly googled a recipe for gluten free pancakes made with bananas.  I made them early on after my celiac diagnosis.  They weren't great but I like a little sweet, OK a lot of sweet, at certain meals.  With syrup they were edible, isn't everything edible with syrup?  OMG, I sound like Tank.  I found a version with almond flour, which I had on hand.  Whipped up a batch.  I now wonder if the almond flour didn't agree with me.  

Have I told you that I am essentially a little old woman?  If I eat almost the same thing every day, I do just fine.  I change up dinner most nights, but it is just a rotation of approved meals. 

I also decided that it was OK for me to have a tablespoon, or three, OK four -at times, of Kirkland Trail Mix here and there over the last week.  I stopped eating that a few years ago because the dietitian suggested that cashews are tough to digest adn that might be what was throwing off my sleep (and by throwing off, I mean I really was NOT sleeping other than like 3 or 4 hours or less).  Plus this trail mix is from a place where they handle wheat.  Damn that wheat.  Or is it the cashews.  

Well, I am trying to eat healthy and I am working out a lot so I figure a bite of trail mix could hold me over between meals.  I should be smarter than this since I really value a good night sleep.  Add in there my fear of replacing Lurch's baby and ingesting leftover banana gluten free pancakes that are not part of my old lady diet and I have been a hot, not-sleeping mess. 

Last night, I slept better.  No trail mix.  No banana pancakes - sometimes I have to go off the rails to remember I have issues.  I chose to relax a bit about the babysitting deal because my blog friends told me everything would be fine.  And I took some melatonin.  Beautiful.

Just as I was about to climb into bed Tank came unglued.  He is fixated on getting into a ROTC program, but he is worried that his ADD will prevent him from being accepted.  I have tried to suggest that he come up with a backup plan he could live with.  Still:  fixated.  Last night he decided that they might look at EVERY medical appointment he had in his entire life.  What if they see that one ADD med made him develop OCD tendencies for like 2 weeks? 

Me:  You were 11.  I told them to get you off the medicine.  Then you were fine.  No one is going to dig that far back in your medical history.  You weren't diagnosed with OCD.  You just reacted badly to a medication.  Your ADD is not really an issue - you barely take your meds.  You have good grades and your teachers are going to write you amazing letter of recommendation.  SETTLE YOUR ASS DOWN, MOMMY NEEDS TO SLEEP!

So, I am not the only one with issues.  It's a family thing.

April 15, 2020

Your mission (as I sort of kick myself), should you choose to accept it

View out my front door. 
Mini's friends decorated
 our front porch Saturday night to
 surprise her.  She turned
16 on Easter Sunday

First and foremost:  shout out to Nicole - it's snowing here.  Like big fluffy, do-not-melt-upon-landing snow flakes.  We are under a winter advisory.  I wasn't planning to go anywhere, so not too worried.  But there is no green grass to be seen.  Still our chances of warming up are probably better than yours in Calgary, but for now we are stuck inside again today.  Sigh.  

Readers, I invite you to accept a role in this, my mental breakdown.  Your role is simple.  Have you seen the movie Notting Hill?  Well, remember when Hugh Grant gathers his friends at the end and informs them that he has turned down the recently resurfaced Anna Scott?  They sort of nod and agree and assure him that it was a great decision.  That is all I ask of you today.  

We will not go into the part where all of a sudden Hugh realizes his mistake.  If I did indeed make a mistake here, and I should mention this has nothing to do with romance- there is no going back.  As easy as it is to tell myself things like:  this is for the best and everything happens for a reason and it will work out, my mind keeps playing these cruel tricks on me.  Like:  'Dummy.'  This causes my heart to race and my head to spin and my sleep to be deprived.  Damn it.

Let me explain.  

This school year I sat for 3 families.  Two of the families are over the moon about me.  Very grateful for all that I do.  The one mom tells me weekly, or mentions it to Coach:  "We feel like we won the lottery when we found Ernie."  

At Christmas the two amazing families were quite generous.  Beyond that though, they wrote me heartfelt notes about how they so appreciate that I care for their little ones the way that I do.  The non-lottery comment mom wrote:  "We appreciate that you make our little guy a part of your family."

Very kind and touching statements that truly warmed my heart.  Turns out gratitude goes a long way.

The third family did not give me a card.  No kind statement of appreciation.  No nothing.  I watch their 2 children 3 days a week.  You might recall that the mom texted me and asked me to remind her preschooler to hand out all of the cards to his teachers and bus driver that day at school.  I am confident that she wasn't giving these teachers gift cards, but the point is she REMEMBERED them with a card.  Crazy.

Fast-forward to pandemic.  

The two amazing families have continued to pay me.  Before we officially went on lock-down but things started to take shape they both told me that they would continue to pay me through March.  Then they kept on paying me in April.  

Over the weekend, I felt guilty.  I reached out to the two of them and suggested we formulate a plan that they would be comfortable with.  I thanked them for their generosity.  Said I doubted any of us expected this to go on this long.  I told them I was open to suggestions.  Maybe pay me half my fees for a few more weeks and then I would give them each a one-week, full price credit for the fall.  Maybe I could make them dinner once a week since I couldn't babysit.  

The 'we-won-lottery' family said they would pay me (they use me 3x a week) full price for two more weeks followed by two more weeks of half price pay which would land us in mid-May.  They also paid me over spring break, which is not even a week I typically get paid.  She said they were both still getting paid and I was in the budget and they so appreciate the care I give the baby and the peace of mind I give them.  

When I read the other 'our-guy-part-of-your-family' text to Coach, I broke down a little.  Thanks for offering the half price deal, but you have been so great with our guy that we are happy to pay you full wages through the end of the school year.  (this guy has eating issues and sees a feeding therapist and for awhile I was the only one who could get him to eat.  Not an easy job to sit for him, and I was delighted that they noticed).

How great are these people?

The 3rd family/clueless people:  when the school shut down she texted me to say 'looks like we will be keeping the kids here with me.'  She is a teacher.  I texted back and reminded her of my absent policy.  They had just used up their last 'free' day (I give two weeks worth of days when they don't pay me if they don't need me.  After that, pay me for a day I am scheduled whether you need me or not).  She texted back asking for clarification of my policy.  She didn't remember it.  I described my policy and her husband who we call Lurch continued to pay me for about 3 weeks at full price.  

Lurch is a dope.  He refuses to knock on my door.  Just walks into the house.  It is unnerving.  I sincerely think he believes that because his kids are here he can just enter as he pleases.  He must have been busy learning to be a dope when they taught manners at school.  

She is still getting paid.  As far as I know Lurch is still working.  If they told me any different, then I would have been more lenient on my policy.  After the three weeks, her school cancelled the rest of her school year so Lurch texted me last week:  'Looks like she won't be going back to school this year so we won't be needing childcare.  Thanks for everything.'  

I felt that this situation warranted a phone call, not a 'hey, we're done' kiss-off text.  Like, 'hey this is a weird situation, not sure how to proceed.'

Funny how different families get different responses from me.  I told Coach that I don't think they value me.  I don't want to work for people who don't see the value in the care I give their kids.  Simple, right?  

I wrote up a response and I called the mom on Saturday and essentially read it to her.  I told her that I felt the situation warranted a 'So now what?' conversation not a text.  I told her that the other families were still paying me and that I felt those families valued the care I gave their kids. 

I was open to suggestions, but if they wanted me to hold a spot for their baby in the fall (older brother going to kindergarten) then perhaps they could pay me half price for the remaining weeks of school and then I would give them a full price credit for the first week in the fall.  I pointed out that her husband mistakenly paid me for spring break, so they had a credit.  If they wanted to skip paying me, that was fine too but then I would not guarantee a spot for their baby come fall.  I also would not guarantee the same rate.  She said she would talk to Lurch and get back to me.  

Monday Lurch called.  He apologized for texting and not calling when he cancelled me for the rest of the year.  I pointed out to him that it was an odd situation, but I felt it warranted a call.  Then he said that they thought it best to just part ways.  

**I don't think this guy liked me calling the shots, power tripping dude who thinks it is OK to just walk in my house was not going to have a 'babysitter' dictate whether or not they paid me during pandemic and when it is OK to send a text or make a call.**

This 'parting ways' took me by surprise, even though it was a chance I was taking.  But if I am honest and Coach is adamantly reminding me of this - I did not care for the way they behaved.  Walking in the house.  Not recognizing that caring for their kids was a big responsibility.  Not showing gratitude.  I do feel like I am too old and too busy to do what I do for people who take it for granted.

I told Lurch:  "That probably makes sense.  I have felt like there was a piece missing here for a while.  You are the first family I have ever babysat for that did not recognize my services with a card at Christmas to say thanks for all you do.  I do a great job and I go the extra mile and I really only want to work for people who appreciate that.  Good child care is hard to find.  So good luck."

I can't help but play the 'what if' game.  What if I had just waited till the fall and then increased their rate a bit?  What if I just told myself 2 great families out of 3 ain't so bad?  I think it is sad because I know the baby was really happy here.  The mom just told me that the baby squealed whenever they pulled in the driveway coming to my house.  If I knew right now that I could replace them with another appreciative family, then I could relax.  I had a good schedule and was able to have Fridays off.  What if I cannot find another part time family?  

Side note:  a teacher at the kids' high school is interested in having me sit for her twin babies in the fall.  We talked a few weeks ago and she said she is confident that she wants her babies here and just had to talk to her husband.  She will be part time and I will still have Fridays off.  I could possibly take her and the other two families and squish them into 3 days and have Thursdays and Fridays off even.  That means that I cannot take on any other babies, which complicates finding new families.  

On the other hand, I really want to have an 'in' at the kids' high school where the word could travel easily and OH HOW I PREFER WORD OF MOUTH referrals to taking chances on internet whack-a-doodles!  So even if I leave the spot for the slightly older kid open for this school year, I could hope for other high school teacher interest in the upcoming years. 

I might have a very busy fall due to a totally separate development that I will share as I get more information.  (I have mentioned this potentially life changing event before but I don't want to get ahead of myself. It is still in the 'maybe' stages - not an awesome writing gig or a paying gig and no one is ill and we aren't moving).  So working three days a week might be best.   

**Another side note - and I know this is incredibly long so thanks for sticking with me here, Coach and I are trying to give back where we can and appreciate the people who are losing out during the pandemic.  We have sent money to the people who teach classes at our gym.  We don't even pay for our membership because it is granted us through his work, but we feel bad that these trainers are out serious income.  My hair dresser JUST opened her first salon vs renting a chair somewhere else.  We sent money to her GoFundMe to support her efforts to stay open.  Coach has had two classes that he was scheduled to teach out of state cancelled.  That is a chunk of our income lost.  They have furloughed PTs at Coach's clinic - he has not been one of them but one never knows.  

So, I am Hugh Grant concerned that I just shot myself in the foot a little and I am looking at you:  Did I play this right?