Pages

September 27, 2021

I interrupt this recent string of posts to share SOMETHING ELSE

I have more to share on the two boys in Indiana who we met in January and started hauling butt (and toys, snacks, and books) to go visit every other weekend, but I'm interrupting the momentum to share something else. Hope you don't mind, and in case anyone is tired of reading about that adventure - well, this post is for you. Back to more of that potentially life-altering story next time. 

Last week the high school kids had a half day. I begged Mini to have her friends over here, so I could run out and leave the babies napping. She agreed. When she left that morning, she took a quick glance around the kitchen and spoke these words:

UM, HOPE YOU CAN CLEAN THIS PLACE UP A LITTLE BEFORE MY FRIENDS GET HERE.

Oh.My.Goodness. She didn't. The girl, whose room is literally shocking to those unfamiliar with her 'ways', TOLD ME to clean up. 

It just so happened to be a few days before we drove out to see Tank, so Mini and her friends got lucky. I baked myself silly that morning - while babysitting. Pumpkin bread AND cookies. I put some out on the table for her people . . . after I organized the kitchen:  ditching shoes, hoodies, and discarded plates and stowing away high chairs and sweeping and organizing paperwork clutter.

Later, Mini was sitting with her friends in the family room. I checked my email before I darted out the door. I got something unexpected. (insert drumroll). An email from a magazine. Back in April I submitted a stand alone chapter from my memoir project to a small online magazine. They initially rejected it. I guess they held on to it and reviewed it again, because they're publishing it in February in their memoir addition.

I cannot BEGIN to tell you how excited I am. Elated. Thrilled. Overjoyed. OK, so I guess I CAN tell you how excited I am. To say I needed this is an understatement. Now, to be clear, I'm not getting paid, but this might help in my quest to be published. 

"Hey there Ms. Agent-Lady, not sure if you've heard of me, but I was published in February." Or maybe I'll come up with something a tad more smooth. 

I care little that the link to the article will reveal my real-live name . . . I will share it here anyway - in February. In fact, I will share the link with everyone I know and some I don't. Not that you aren't all special, I mean I'll share it with you all first

That day in my kitchen, I didn't want to scream and yell and embarrass Mini. I let out a little *GASP* - then I forwarded the email to Mini and called to her:  HEY MINI, CHECK YOUR EMAIL.

My messy kid, who is also my biggest writing fan and reads all of my stuff and is CRAZY about this particular piece, let out a small squeal and looked at me WIDE-EYED from the family room. Like WE DID IT! 

A week later after a bit of thought, I decided to share with my folks that this is HAPPENING. First, I performed a dramatic reading in front of my desktop with Mini at my side. 

Me:  MINI, PRETEND YOU ARE NANA, AUNT ANN, AND AUNT MARIE. WE NEED TO DECIDE IF THIS STORY IS GOING TO, YA KNOW, UPSET THEM.

Mini:  WOW, THAT'S A LOT OF PERSPECTIVES TO TAKE ON. (waving hand motions as she donned 3 different personas)

My memoir is about my middle-child-ness and how regular family moments turned sort of nutty from my middle-child perspective, so we were gauging whether or not sharing the story might hurt feelings. Unlike the day the three of them ditched me to go to the mall when I was 12, this is more lighthearted. Mini gave me the go-ahead.

I didn't tell my folks that I'm writing an entire book about my upbringing. Baby steps, friends. Baby steps. I told them it's a funny story that I'll share in February. They were happy for me. 

I can't wait to share it with you. I'm curtseying here in my study in anticipation of your polite applause.  

Best news you've gotten lately?






September 23, 2021

The interview and helluva lot of driving

 THE INTERVIEW (if you're just joining, we were interviewed by Indiana people in regards to the possible adoption of sibling brothers ages 8.5 and 10)

Since so many team members had time off at the holidays, this couldn't be set up until  early January '21. There was a mental health 'situation' with one of our kids happening a few days before our zoom interview. I wasn't sleeping. Fortunately after everything with Laddie, I had my finger on the pulse of outstanding mental health providers and we were referred to the perfect person. The problem was resolved in a matter of about 6 weeks, thank God, but at the time one of our kid's was suffering and I was totally preoccupied and worried. 

I reminded Coach that morning that we had a zoom. It felt like a low priority/not on our radar. I was thinking it was more fact sharing, forgetting that they'd be grilling us. We'd done these things a number of other times. We had very low expectations. 

They asked us about our parenting style. What we liked to do as a family. How we disciplined our kids. I remember distinctly saying:  WHEN THE KIDS WERE YOUNGER THEY WERE SENT TO THE BROWN RUG IN THE FRONT HALL FOR A TIME OUT. WE JUST MADE TANK, WHO IS 18, SIT THERE THE OTHER NIGHT BECAUSE HE KEPT USING THE REMOTE TO PAUSE THE MOVIE THAT WE WERE ALL WATCHING IF SOMEONE SPOKE, SAYING 'ARE YOU DONE?' PROVING ONE IS NEVER TOO OLD FOR THE BROWN RUG. 

*It had literally been years since a kid was sent to the brown rug and the rest of the kids died laughing to the point that Tank didn't really miss much of the movie, because we couldn't play it while everyone was hooting and hollering.

Our worker texted us mid-zoom:  YOU'RE DOING A GREAT JOB. 

We were? Huh? I could barely see straight thanks to my lack-o-sleep fog. We weren't really 'trying' - just sharing stuff we did and how we DESPERARLY missed attending our kids' sporting events during shutdown, since cheering from the sidelines is all we know. We talked about how grateful we were for Santa's foresight to deliver a last minute, two-ton, need to lift with a forklift ping pong table and how family volleyball games were a nightly occurrence, well - I didn't play per say, but I did take tons of video and photos of the family fun. It's a better role for me. Our responses didn't feel like rocket science and we weren't painting a picture of ourselves as the world's greatest parents, just a couple of people with no social life who were raising a competitive crew. 

They told us they had one other couple to interview and they'd let us know in a few weeks. Afterwards, I told Coach. WELL, IF THE OTHER COUPLE IS FROM INDIANA, THEN THEY'LL GO IN THAT DIRECTION. IT'S WAY EASIER FOR THEM IF THEY FIND SOMEONE IN THEIR STATE RATHER THAN ACROSS STATE LINES. It was a Friday, I shrugged and continued on with the day, ready for the weekend and hoping for some sleep.

First thing Monday morning, my cell rang. An Indiana number. It was the brothers' worker. 

She said:  WE TALKED ABOUT IT, AND WE THINK YOU AND COACH WOULD BE THE PERFECT FIT FOR THESE BOYS. WE ARE MATCHING YOU. (I froze, HUH? I asked about the other couple they planned to interview). WE AREN'T INTERESTED IN TALKING WITH ANYONE ELSE. WE'D LIKE TO MOVE FORWARD WITH YOU. 

I asked her about the next step, and then I called Coach. We attended another zoom  with the team. We learned more about the boys and met their current foster mom. She assured us that the boys had come a long way in the 9 months since they'd come to her. 

They lived near Bloomington, Indiana (3 hrs 45 min away from us) which is where Ed goes to college. We drove to meet the boys the end of January. *Let's pause a moment and consider HOW VERY nice it would've been had they lived just across the border of Indiana in say, Merrillville. Less than an hour away.* 

We went to an indoor glow-in-the-dark mini golf place that someone set up in the mall. It was created inside a shuttered retail shop. I think Coach could've built something similar in our basement and had better results, but it was indoors and open during covid. Afterwards we watched the boys play basketball in a small rec league. 

On the drive home, we were like, I DON'T KNOW. It was hard to get to know them with the foster mom there. We weren't falling all over ourselves with excitement that these were THE ONES, but we agreed that we'd press forward.

I won't bore you with the details, but we ended up driving there every other weekend FOR MONTHS. So the fact that our poor little minivan is barely chugging along since we added A BAZILLION MILES to her is no real shock. The drive was almost 4 hours one way and we often drove there in the morning and raced home at night where our kids were home, and Tank was the responsible person 'in charge'. If you are thinking, OH, THE KID THAT WENT ON THE SKI TRIP WHILE FUDGING THE DETAILS, then you're getting what I'm laying down. 

                                             short video is exhibit A of our struggling minivan. 

                                                    This sound isn't irritating AT ALL.

Sometimes there were stretches when our visits weren't that regular, because we had other stuff going on. Eventually we stayed at a hotel with a pool and a hot breakfast and we brought Reg and Curly and half of the toys we owned in order to have something to do in the hotel suite. It was tough to find activities that were open during covid. They loved the pool. Couldn't swim, but they enjoyed flopping around. 

The number of calls I made to find an indoor pool with a hot tub that was open is staggering. Hello, time suck. Also on the list of wants: A hot breakfast. And a room with a separate room with a pullout so we didn't ALL have to go to bed at 8 pm. I had a page of notes. Curly cared about a hot tub and Reg wanted to be fed well. We all wanted the space of a suite.

When it was time to bring Tank and Mini there for their turn to spend time with the boys, we were literally about to leave the house when I realized that there would be no one home to supervise Reg and Curly (15 and 13 year olds). Oops. I had to phone-a-friend and farm them out. Curly was confused:  BUT WE DON'T EVER GET IN TROUBLE. WE'LL BE FINE. (she says as she flips her wrist at me, thinking of all the movies she and Reg could watch in our absence). Yeah, great idea but when that little slipup gets discovered we'd be thrown in the slammer. 

What, you don't know what this is a photo of? Mini practicing reading with the younger guy at the hotel- note she is flipping me off for taking the photo. 

I tire just writing of these back and forth trips and cringe when I think of the hoops we jumped through and the organizing it took to pull it off. I kept a huge canvas Lands End bag in the dining room loaded with books and games and snacks - ready to go at a moment's notice because sometimes how we rolled. A few of our close friends knew what we were working on, but that was it. Still hadn't told family.

The boys were growing on us. The haircuts, however, were not. I apologize for sounding shallow, but DEAR GOD, HAND ME A SCISSORS. The boys had long hair into their eyes on top of their heads and shaved hair all around their heads. Huh? Perhaps a Justin Bieber look run amuck? The foster mom eventually cut the bangs portion straight across their faces like it was 1975 and no one anticipated photos being important in the future.  She never tended to the grown-in nonsense on the sides and the back. 

End with favorite memory of this time period:  Every time we'd drive to Indiana, I'd text Ed to alert him. BRINGING COOKIES. or WANNA MEET US OUT FOR PIZZA? Remember he'd been home from mid Nov till Feb 1st because of covid. One time we were headed into town, he texted back I DON'T NEED TO SEE YOU. DON'T STOP HERE. DON'T NEED COOKIES. I'M SUPPOSED TO BE IN COLLEGE - YOU'VE SEEN PLENTY OF ME. 

Message received, loud and clear. 

More soon . . . 



September 22, 2021

Moving on to other possibilities, and more on the process

While we were waiting to hear about whether or not Max and Charlie would be an option for us, I continued to look at websites for a sibling pair. It became second nature. I wondered if we ever adopted, what I'd do with all the extra time on my hands since I'd no longer be scrolling through all the profiles. I saw some kids on the website for two years. It was heartbreaking. 

I started checking individual websites of the states neighboring Illinois. After searching for over a year, I started to gather that the main website I was checking seemed to be the last stop for kids who had the most complicated issues and who were the hardest to place. Seeing these kids and hearing their stories took a toll. 

HOW IT WORKS?

Kids' pictures are posted on the website. The initial intro is just fluff. For example:  THESE KIDS LOVE THE PARK AND EATING PIZZA. THEY DO WELL WITH PEERS AND HOPE TO ONE DAY TRAVEL TO (WHEREVER) OR JOIN (SPORT TEAMS/LEARN TO COOK). THEY ARE LOOKING FOR A FOREVER FAMILY WITH A DOG (or CATS, SIBLINGS, THEIR OWN ROOMS, ETC.)

If they required their own separate bedrooms, I bowed out. If I thought kids might be a good fit with our family, I inquired. Then their worker asked for our home study to read about us. 9 times out of 10, they'd never respond. Or they'd say, this isn't a good fit. They knew more about the kids' backgrounds than I did, so if we weren't open to kids who'd been sexually abused and they read that in our profile, they'd take a pass on us. A few times they'd reach out to me and give me the non-fluff info followed by:  STILL INTERESTED? 

A worker once asked me if we could take a sibling pair who'd witnessed their mother's boyfriend strangle their baby brother. We didn't feel equipped to handle that. Reading the non-fluff background and learning the MANY ways that people mess up their own children shook me to my core

WHO WOULD EVER TAKE THESE KIDS NOW THAT THE PEOPLE WHO SHOULD CARE FOR THEM THE MOST HAD DESTROYED THEIR FUTURES? 

There are ways to be matched with kids without the website. We registered with a local organization recommended by our worker. That's how we met Max and Charlie. Through that same organization, we'd also met a set of 11 year old boy/girl twins at the end of August 2020 (just before Max and Charlie). They spent the day with us. We knew right away that they wouldn't be a good fit. Curly was incredibly uncomfortable. Issues (like EXTREME boy-crazy, crush-talking, flirty behavior) that was apparently unclear to their worker (and could've been from watching crap TV while they lived with a grandma, or as a result of something far less innocent) cropped up on that visit and it was a hard no. Never easy to say no, but watching my kids bristle THAT much was a red flag. 

No photos that fit this post, but THESE photos fit any post?
I died laughing at the mall when I saw these gems.

One day in early December while the Charlie and Max thing was not resolved, I stumbled upon two brothers. In Indiana. Parental rights had just been terminated Dec. 1st. Their ages worked for us. 8.5 and 10. *adopting kids younger than our biological kids was a rule put in place by our agency because it typically lead to the best results.* These boys liked basketball. We reached out. The worker responded right away. We did a conference call with their team and our worker in mid December. They described the boys' issues. 

They were considered therapeutic. They hadn't been sexually abused (or hadn't disclosed that), but they'd been through a lot. Essentially they'd not attended school much (they were attending 1st/2nd grades as 8.5/10 yr olds), and their parents hadn't bothered to meet their essential needs. After hearing about the medications they took and why they took them and their diagnoses, I motioned NO WAY to Coach from across the room.

After the call, our worker said she thought these two had potential. I was like, YOU DO? THOSE ISSUES THOUGH. Some of what they had going on COULD be diagnosed as a result of their current traumatic situation and wasn't necessarily set in stone. They could make headway with therapy and stability can do a lot for a kid, so those diagnoses might not exist in their future. Hard to know. 

We agreed to move forward to gather more information and we set up a time to be interviewed by the team. 

In the meantime, I called Bethany. Refresher:  she's the woman who recently adopted and who was initially just an acquaintance because our kids went to high school together, but I reached out to her when we realized they were also adopting. We switched to her worker who she raved about. She's been a huge support ever since we sat behind her family at Christmas Eve mass 2019. 

I explained the latest with Max and Charlie vs the possibility of the Indiana boys. She felt strongly that we should steer clear of Max and Charlie since the parental rights hadn't been terminated. She felt like the Indiana boys sounded like they might be a good fit. The kids she adopted had some issues in their prior placement, but some of those issues hadn't been evident at her house. She said she'd follow our worker anywhere and she trusted her leadership. 

More tomorrow. 


September 20, 2021

A final decision, thanks to our own version of a classic

*Side note to our arm faliling conference call:  Jazmin was suddenly saying the parents might regain custody. The next court dates was in Feb (this was mid December-ish). "One just never knew." Prior to this she'd been 99% sure the judge wouldn't return the kids to them. The dad was in jail and the mom hadn't been caught yet. If she showed up to the boys' hearing, she'd be arrested and thrown in jail. 

My theory:  Jazmin had bonded with the foster family (the people who were upset about the pinprick of a red dot under Charlie's eye) who wanted to adopt Charlie ONLY and she was trying to get things to work in their favor. 

Coach and I told them we'd let them know if we wanted to do the extended visit. We sat in our kitchen and couldn't decide what to do. What if Max was THAT bad and disruptive? This made us uneasy. Parental rights hadn't been terminated. We went back and forth. It was impossible.

Coach:  OK, we've got to decide. Let's do rock, paper, scissors. 

Me:  Huh?

Coach:  Yeah, on the count of three we hold up our fingers based on what we want to do. 1 for we get them for the long visit and 2 we move on. On 3, ready?  1, 2, 3.

He held up 1 finger and I held up 2 fingers. 

Me:  Oh, you want to give them a try even though the parental rights aren't terminated and the supposed bad behavior? 

Coach:  Oh. No. I guess I got the numbers mixed up. I'm a 2. Let's just take a pass. 

When we stopped laughing at the game plan Coach created and then messed up and how goofy we were at our way of handling a serious matter such as this, we called Jazmin and put her on speaker phone. This was when things got nuts. She shared information that would've been REALLY interesting had she shared it during the staffing/ phone call that we'd JUST had with HER boss and our worker an hour earlier. 

I started to tell her that we were going to take a pass on the boys, but first . . .

Jazmin:  Yeah, Max is placed with a couple who have no experience with kids. This was their first placement. They keep going back and forth about whether or not they want to keep him. They have no toys. They're really into electronics that they won't let him touch. He's figured out their passwords. They get upset when he sneaks onto their computers. 

Me:  (after staring off into space for a moment in disbelief about the new info that was PARAMOUNT to the boys' future) Jazmin, he's not misbehaving - he's BORED. I hate to have these boys split up because Max is mischaracterized as bored.

Jazmin:  Yeah, the first emergency placement Max went to saw no behavior issues.  That placement said she'd take him back any time. Oh, the biological mom called recently. She said she can't go to the court date because she'll be arrested but she made me promise not to separate her boys. She wanted them to stay together. 

Me:  (more shock) We want to keep the boys over break and see how it goes. 

Coach, head swivels:  Wait, we do? 

Me: (nodding at Coach with an eyeroll) Yes, Coach we do. This isn't Max's fault. He's bored. 

Coach:  OK, then. 

Jazmin:  Let me reach out to the couple. I'll get back to you.

We wait in limbo for a few days. Am I shopping for Christmas gifts for them? What's happening? 

No photos that would
 make sense here,
but please enjoy this
 spontaneous egg
face that I snapped
 in my kitchen
months ago. It
is often how I
 felt during the process.

I'm in Costco. It's Jazmin's last day in this position. I'd left her messages and hadn't heard anything.

Jaz calls me while I'm in the cereal isle wearing a mask:  Hi. Yeah, so the couple want to see how things go. They hope to adopt Max and the other family wants Charlie. So, sorry. We're going to move in that direction. 

I bent over my cart in Costco, like the wind had been knocked out of me. I told Jazmin how lousy I thought this was and how it was a disservice to the boys. She essentially shrugged (but more of a verbal, OH WELL) over the phone.

Coach was at work. When I got home from Costco, five kids were there waiting to eat (because some things never change). Ed was still home for an extended covid break and Lad was still out in the world not communicating with us. I was throwing the boxes of cereal, and protein bars into the kitchen. Unable to speak. 

Kids:  WHOA, WHO PISSED YOU OFF AT COSTCO? WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?

When we sat down to eat, I finally explained the Jazmin phone call. My kids are never quiet. You could've heard a pin drop. They hung their heads. Pushed food around their plates. Mini wiped away tears.

Early on when we had a family meeting to discuss how everyone felt about us possibly taking the boys, 

Mini had said:  CAN YOU SEE IF SOMEONE ELSE WANTS THEM AND JUST TELL THEM THAT WE'LL TAKE THEM IF THEY ARE CONSIDERING SPLITTING THEM UP. I'M NOT SURE IF WE CAN HANDLE THEM, BUT I THINK IT WOULD BE AWFUL IF THEY SPLIT THEM UP. 

Me: IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY, MINI.

Whether we got the boys or not, our kids were crushed imagining the two of them not growing up together. We'd watched them roll around on the family room couch watching cartoons in the jammies Saturday morning. We'd been undecided and up and down and all over the place. Coach was like OUT OF OUR HANDS. I wanted to fight for them. 

At the same time, my friend Bethany who'd successfully adopted 2 kids just last year- the one whose worker we'd switched to after we sat behind her family at church on Christmas Eve, anyway - she told me that she'd stay far away from kids who hadn't had their rights terminated. Too risky.

Regardless of everything, I felt like this was the perfect example of the system failing. Jazmin allowing the 2 weeks to lapse and not giving accurate information in that conference call -well, it seemed she wanted to wash her hands of this and move to her next position. 

I still think of Max and Charlie and wonder what happened to them. Mini shared recently that she wonders about them too. Did rights get terminated? Did they get adopted? Do they see each other often? I have some incredibly cute video of them with Curly and Reggie. They built a train track with a ramp - rigged it up with some Legos underneath it. Then they raced Lego cars and trains down it to see how far they'd go once launched by the ramp. Max just sat and bounced on his butt and clapped and yipped and Charlie kept stopping cars to put his car on there. I couldn't remember the last time I saw Reg and Curly laugh so hard. 

See, this is why it took me so long to post. Heart breaking. I wanted this all written in case you were all on the edge of your seats and I couldn't find the time to write the next installment. The next part will pop up here in a few days, unless I can edit it and double check that it's ready to go earlier. Monday nights are busy for me though. And I babysit for 6 little ones during the day, one of whom is a brand new baby. So, no promises. Just drove home 6.5 hours after we all visited Tank and my house looks like a bomb went off - but I do hate to disappoint. 

September 16, 2021

The next misstep, not ours (& a great bumper sticker)

This next chapter of the saga is tough to write about. Partly because it's so frustrating and emotionally draining and partly because it's so involved. 

When I met Jazmin (the boys' worker) on the Monday before Thanksgiving at the halfway pickup spot to give her back the boys after our visit, she explained that Max couldn't go back to the same foster home where he'd been staying with Charlie. The family had given two weeks notice ON HIM ALONE, two weeks ago.

RED FLAG/PULL MY HAIR OUT MOMENT:  Why, if they'd given 2 weeks, had Jazmin waited 10 days to reach out to us? If we'd had a visit right when they gave notice, he could've returned to that house while they arranged the next place for him, or while we decided whether or not to move forward. This lack of response on her part impacted everything.

Max had to go hang out at her office while she looked for another emergency placement for him - after she dropped Charlie back off with the foster family who only wanted to keep him. I went home to talk everything over and make a decision. It was a few days before Thanksgiving. Remember, the girls and I were driving to Indianapolis for the Midwest championships of Irish dancing? It was a hectic week. 

On Tuesday (after Thanksgiving) I told Coach we HAVE to let Jaz know our plan. We reached out to her. 

COULD THE BOYS COME FOR AN EXTENDED VISIT OVER CHRISTMAS BREAK SO WE COULD SEE HOW THINGS WENT FOR A LONGER VISIT?

Jazmin:  OH, I DON'T KNOW. THE EMERGENCY PLACEMENT WHERE WE PUT MAX MIGHT WANT TO ADOPT HIM. 

Me:  HUH? BUT THEY STAYED WITH US? YOU ASKED US IF WE WANTED BOTH BOYS. WHY WOULD YOU SPLIT THEM UP WHEN OUR FAMILY WOULD TAKE THEM BOTH? 

Jazmin:  WELL THE OTHER FAMILY STILL REALLY WANTS CHARLIE. 

Me:  BULLY FOR THEM, THEY TOSSED OUT HIS BROTHER AND THEY GO TOGEHTER. WE SAW THEM TOGETHER. THEY ARE BONDED. WHY WOULD YOU SPLIT THEM UP?

Jazmin:  LET ME TALK TO MY SUPERVISOR. SHE'S NEW (or temporary because her boss just quit or something that screamed horrible situation). OH, AND MY LAST DAY IN THIS POSITION IS DECEMBER 20TH. I'LL BE MOVING TO ANOTHER DEPARTMENT.

Coach and I were using speaker phone. I grabbed his arm and made an alarmed face at him. I was like WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING? 

A few days or a week later (it all runs together), there was a conference phone call. Jaz, her new/temporary boss, our worker, Coach and I.

Jazmin:  I don't know now if the placement wants to adopt Max after all. They say his behavior is terrible. They are really struggling with him. The other family also said Max had terrible behavior. 

Me:  Interesting, because we didn't see ANY bad behavior while he was with us - granted it was just 3 and a half days. Still, what you're describing doesn't sound like the same kid. And Max didn't want to go back to the foster family's house and neither did Charlie. They both wanted to stay here, again I get the novelty factor and all that. They said the biological kid at the foster house wasn't nice to Charlie - wouldn't share and yelled at Max a lot. (Charlie expressed this to me by acting it out and it broke my heart). 

*as an aside, when Charlie went back to his foster family in Libertytown the mom texted Jazmin:  "Why did Charlie have a mark on his face?" When Jaz texted me this, I was outraged. I washed all of the kid's clothes before I sent him back - trying to do his foster mom a solid. He had a speck of a red dot under one eye - size of a pinprick. No idea from what, but he was in constant motion and never cried once. He's four, they get bumped and scratched. Even Jazmin admitted that she couldn't see anything in the photo that the mom texted to her. This woman - was she trying to make me look bad? Well, she was rubbing me the wrong way. 

The call started with the team wanting to separate the boys. We were shocked. It was a speaker phone call so Coach and I were facing each other while leaning over my phone. I promise you there were many arm swinging, hand motions flying around in our study as we tried to communicate with each other  - um, grateful for no video button here.

I swear that I happened to see this bumper sticker THE DAY AFTER Suz posted something about bumper stickers that mentioned poop or something. And here I am, having saved it up for just the right post. Well, I don't know that this is the right post - but I had no photos of our arm-flailing-speaker-call, so here you go. It says:  I'M ONLY SPEEDING BECAUSE I REALLY HAVE TO POOP.

By the end of the call, they agreed to give us the option of trying an extended visit for a few weeks over Christmas. The couple who now had Max was considering traveling to the east coast over break, and they weren't sure they wanted to take Max. 

The ball was in our court. Coach and I had to decide if we'd take them for this extended visit. (sorry, still a cliffhanger. The end is in sight. Promise.)



September 15, 2021

Curly's instant attachment and Max's honesty

(Please see previous post if you haven't read it, this is part of our adoption story)

Max was high functioning, but we have very little experience with autism. I reached out to a teacher at our high school who runs the special ed department. He suggested I call a parent he knew with an autistic son. She was happy to talk to me. I also read a bunch of stuff online. The teacher also explained that Max would most likely function best if he knew what to expect. He said most kids function well with a chart that gives them an idea of 'THIS' then 'THAT'. He based this on my description of how things had gone over the weekend. For example:  we were 1 minute late to leave for the zoo, Max let me know. 2 minutes late, he became more anxious about why we were running late. MOM, WE'RE 2 MINUTES LATE NOW. (yes, he called me mom after being in my house for a few days - I liken it to a generic term, like any teacher at a school is 'teacher.') 

Hard to see Charlie. See his little feet behind Reg? 2nd from left.

Charlie was a doll. He was so cute and instantly had Curly wrapped around his little finger. She loved tucking him into bed each night. After 3 days with him, I was worried about how the good-bye would go. I was backing out of the driveway to bring them back to their worker when the garage door went back up and Curly came running out. 

In my head:  OH SHIT, SHE'S GOING TO THROW HERSELF AT THE CAR AND BEG ME NOT TO TAKE THEM BACK. 

Curly:  MOMMY, YOU FORGOT THEIR TOOTHBRUSHES. (phew).

Charlie melted our hearts even though his lack of speech skills made it almost impossible to understand him. Max translated and we played lots of charades. Reg and Curly stepped up to the plate big time with both boys. We hadn't expected them to be so devoted to playing and entertaining. It was a weekend full of activity and laughs. 

After Charlie went to bed one night, the older kids, Coach and I played Memory with Max. He rocked back and forth and laughed hysterically THE ENTIRE GAME. Everything the older kids did cracked him up. The kids found him a bit annoying at times. I told them I understood and that if he was with us long term we'd adjust and we'd also have the tools we needed to make him comfortable so he wouldn't get anxious, full of questions about what's next, etc. 

The night before I had to drive them back, I was in my room saying my rosary. Tank came in.

Tank:  For what it's worth, I'm starting to get used to Max. Maybe I'd be able to tune him out. I don't know. I think I can adjust though. 

I was touched that Tank was being open minded and honest. It was so much to consider and the fact that the parental rights hadn't been terminated was frightening. The boys' parents could end up getting them back - even if they'd been living with us for months and thriving. Not a perfect system. 

***

Because things are never simple, Ed had a college buddy, Al, from California stay with us that weekend, too. He was supposed to room with Ed's friend Ryland (who skipped that semester while undergoing treatment for a brain tumor. In case you are unfamiliar or missed the update:  Ry is cancer free). Al stayed with us so he could visit Ry in our town before heading to California for the lengthy covid break from Thanksgiving till Feb 1

Al is incredibly short. Like maybe 5' 2". Ed gave him the 411 on us having a couple of kids visiting. 

Me to Al:  If we adopt these two, it might be confusing. They might assume you're  another brother. 

Ry, Ed, and Al hung out in our kitchen one day while the boys were visiting. Max sat on a stool and just absorbed it all. He was mesmerized by the college crew. Then he asked the question that was on all of our minds.

Max to Al:  WHY ARE YOU SO SHORT?

We all froze. Fortunately, Al has a sense of humor. 

Coming up:  the next step.  *wave your hand, or comment and let me know if you'd be interested in me posting the next bit tomorrow (Thursday) instead of waiting for Monday. It's written, but don't want to bombard people who need to pace themselves. 

September 13, 2021

Chapter 1- short part of the long story I've been hinting about . . . here it is: UP TO SPEED

This goes back a bit. Cliff notes:

Mid-September 2020, I drove Reg home from the dermatologist. I was a bit blue- frustrated by our adoption journey. I thought of the other family going through the adoption process. Kids who were 'the right fit' popped up so quickly for them that their licensing had to be rushed along. I said a little prayer(click the links in this paragraph to read about the start of all of this).

An hour later I was on the phone with the police. My therapist had suggested that we let the local police know that Lad was struggling (don't panic - remember this is a look back to last Sept). We wanted them to be aware of the situation in case we needed to call them, if he became disruptive, etc. He hadn't been staying with us for a few weeks, but the messages he was sending were unsettling. 

*these were some really dark days, and while we are still working on getting him on the right path, things are no where near where they were. So grateful to God for that.

My other phone line kept clicking. When I hung up with the po-po, I called the other number back. It was our social worker. There were two brothers in Illinois. They were most likely pre-adoptive. The parental rights hadn't been terminated, but they expected that they would be. Were we interested?

Details:  Max, 10 yrs., is autistic. Charlie, 4 yrs., has a serious speech delay. 

We agreed to meet them. Coach and I met them with their worker at a park in Libetytown, an hour north - just down the street from Lad's work (and the backyard of my childhood home). We drove through the dealership parking lot before we met the boys, wondering if we'd see Lad.

Max seemed fairly high functioning, doing whatever he could to keep Charlie happy - helping him to climb things, etc. Coach climbed a tower thing not made for a 6'4" man to help Charlie reach the top.

Note:  the boys were placed in two different foster homes at the time because their placement was emergent. They were overjoyed to be reunited at the park that day.

The next day their worker, Jazmin, called. Were we interested in setting up a weekend visit so our kids could spend time with them, etc. We said yes. 

She then asked me 'DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO ADOPT THEM?'

Me:  (stumped):  Isn't this the point of the weekend visit? Don't know yet. Why?

Jaz:  Charlie's foster mom wants to adopt him. She's willing to adopt Max too. They haven't met Max yet, but they want to get licensed to foster/adopt two instead of one. She has a 7 year old son. He and Charlie get along well.

I called Coach at work. We both felt like we were getting in the way of what might be a good match for these boys. Charlie was bonding with a possible close-to-his-age brother. The family was willing to take Max. We also factored in our situation with Lad. It was an unknown. 

I called Jazmin back:  We'll defer to this other family. *We were ahead of them because unlike us they weren't licensed for two kids. They were pre-adoptive, and felt he'd fit well with their family, but he came with a brother and DCFS doesn't split siblings unless necessary.*

That call was hard. I cried a little. Were we doing the right thing? I asked Jazmin to let us know if anything changed. I called Ed at college and he reassured me. More tears. This was the right thing. Stepping aside meant something would work out for us. Karma. 

Mid-November, Jaz called. The foster parents gave 2 weeks notice on Max. After less than 30 days, they didn't want him. They wanted to keep Charlie, but they couldn't do that if someone wanted both brothers. I said we were interested in the brothers. Together. But I first wanted to talk to Coach. Coach agreed. 

Max and Charlie visited the weekend before Thanksgiving. In all of this, no one gives you a script. When it was time to bring the boys back to Jazmin on Monday, I just said THIS WAS A GREAT VISIT. HOPE TO SEE YOU GUYS SOON. 

Reg and Curly reading books the Max and Charlie -
I'm perched above them on the basement stairs, thus the bird's eye view.

Max was confused. Why was I bringing them back? What had they done wrong? Dear God. It was hard. I told him, THIS WAS JUST A VISIT. Our weekend had been really good. Still, confusing:  Coach and I fluctuated between:  CAN WE HANDLE MAX'S NEEDS? and DO WE HAVE THE ENERGY FOR A 4 YEAR OLD? 

Was this the kind of direction you though this 'upcoming' story was headed in ? Were you thinking that our adoption plans had faded after last summer's challenges? There's much more to this story, but I've broken it into what I hoper are manageable parts. More on Wednesday.  



September 8, 2021

butt-sore newly defined & life with a shoe-shredder

After Tank and Ed arrived at their respective colleges, I took the 'less-shoe-wearers-in-the-house' opportunity to clean out the mudroom. I hadn't ordered the high school kids' books yet. What I'm saying is, I devoted limited time to the mudroom project. Rather than empty every locker, I opted to simply remove EVERY. SINGLE. SHOE. Trust me, that was enough. 

Each locker can hold about 4 pairs of shoes.
Um, I don't need a fancy math equation
 to say THIS ISN'T GONNA WORK.

As far as Tank only owning the one pair of shoes, . . . I call BS. I unearthed some of his older shoes. Perhaps he doesn't WANT them anymore, but let's not claim to be a deprived boy with limited access to shoe ware (Is it shoe wear or shoe ware?). 

Then there's Reggie with his Fred Flintstone tendencies. The way he shreds his shoes in less than 2 months is MIND BLOWING. Is he really a baby pterodactyl with pointy claws in place of toes? Most importantly, once the shredded variety have been replaced, why does he NOT dispose of the 'holy' pair? 

He was wearing these shoes to caddy. His
 golfer turned to his brother Ed when they were
 in the same group and was like DUDE,
USE YOUR TIP MONEY AND BUY YOUR
 BROTHER A PAIR OF SHOES.
How can this be? He tells me when he
 wants something from the grocery
store, but no mention of worn out shoes.


In other exciting news:  I've broken my butt. *There will be no photos.* 

Butt-sore has taken on a whole new meaning.

Oddly, I don't recall how I did it - the initial injury being forever ago. I used to run (like 2012ish). IOne butt cheek felt engaged and ALWAYS sore. I thought the other 'unengaged' cheek was somehow slacking off. Coach, my physical therapist who poses as my husband, never really had much to say about it. I stopped running about 5 years later when my sciatica kept complaining. I switched to walking and high intensity strength classes. 

I started running again last summer. Everything's been fine. One cheek tighter than the other as usual, but nothing that hobbled me. A few weeks ago, I moved weird. As in, I rotated but my leg didn't exactly move with my body. I wasn't on a run, I was doing something . . .  in the yard. (I almost wrote:  I WAS DOING SOMETHING ELSE, BUT THEN I FEARED YOU'D GET THE WRONG IDEA. It was less racy than what your imagination might run wild with. Promise).

I limped around for a few days. The disengaged side has recently been let off the hook since it's now clear that the SUPER TIGHT side has just been messed up and I shouldn't have been holding the it up as normal. I apologized to the 'slack' side for referring to it as lazy and untoned.

Coach diagnosed me with tendinopathy of the hamstring, or maybe even a partial tear in the glute. I thought for sure it was the glute because it's halfway up my  butt. 

Coach looked at me puzzled:  IF THIS IS A PARTIAL TEAR, IT'S THE KIND OF INJURY THAT USUALLY ONLY HAPPENS TO PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES. 

I thought he was teasing me, like implying I was being a wimp. Then he said NO SERIOUSLY, LIKE THIS HAPPENS TO PRO FOOTBALL PLAYERS, ETC. He's shocked that I don't remember how it happened. It should've been MEMORABLE. It started hurting SO long ago. I have no idea. It's been 'fine' for years, just feeling extra tight. Tweaking it -a major bummer. 

The bad news:  Coach told me that there really isn't a cure if it's a partial tear. I want surgery. Apparently that's not a thing. How is that possible? Aren't there lasers and shit that do all kinds of miracle work? What year is this? I'd  settle for a butt cheek transplant. I'm still alternating:  running one day, walking the next. Every step hurts. Being inactive doesn't improve the situation, so activity it is.

Coach gave me some exercises to do, assuming it is tendinopathy. *Full disclosure:  he gave me the exercises a week ago and it wasn't until about 5 days later that I tried them. My busy status of yesteryear has been outdone by my current busy status, so I throw my hands up and beg for some simplified fix that involves no exercises to remember. 

The night Coach examined my butt-ee-simo region Reggie had a group of friends over, a new group, no less. Coach worried they'd come inside from the deck and file past the family room on their way to the basement as he was, um, inspecting my injured area. Fortunately, they stayed outside and his exam failed to raise any eyebrows. 

Most fortunately of all, Reg's new group seemed to enjoy themselves. Mary Ann didn't complain about their noise. Reg has been in need of a new group. Fingers crossed (while butt cheeks refuse to unclench) that he's found his high school people.

Ever met anyone who wore out shoes in record time, AND continued to wear them? Anyone else ever have a butt injury? Ever been to PT? Done the exercises assigned to you?

ANNOUNCEMENT:  MY NEXT POST ON MONDAY WILL BE THE START OF THE SOMEWHAT LONG-ISH STORY THAT I'VE BEEN ALLUDING TO FOR A WHILE . . BROKEN INTO PARTS. THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE. 


September 7, 2021

HOME ALONE: only in my dreams

 I came downstairs bleary eyed (after sleeping till an almost unprecedented 7 am). 

 When Curly needed colored
pencils for school and I
 opted not to buy any because I felt like
we had a bunch. Hello, understatement.
 School supply
central a few weeks ago when I
wasn't sleeping late and I felt like
 I KNEW what everyone needed and I
 was on my A game.
Plus there was a school supply 
shortage in these parts, so look how lucky
my people are to have me organizing
our colored pencil inventory.
(In case you didn't read my last post - in the chaos that ensued I felt a little like the mom in Home Alone when they miss the flight and everyone is scrambling).

There were a few things that I would've done had I been awake earlier. When I asked Coach if he did the things he sort of snapped at me WELL, YOU WERE SLEEPING SO HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW? He had handled it, just not the way I would've. So whatever. Not a huge deal. I didn't know the world would stop if I wasn't downstairs by 6 am.

Mini:  (dressed in her tennis uniform for her after school match, she apparently forgot to set her alarm for school and was running late) I NEED NEW SHOES. TODAY. LIKE MY OTHER SHOES BROKE. I CAN'T WEAR THEM.

*I just bought her new running shoes but she told me to take them back, she didn't like them - she was fine with the shoes she was wearing, which were my OLD RUNNING SHOES. It then fell off my crowded radar. So now the back of the shoe sort of broke apart, not surprising. They'd dig into her heel if she tried to wear them. 

Mini:  JUST GIVE ME YOUR SHOES. YOU'RE DONE WITH YOUR RUN. YOU DON'T NEED THEM TODAY. 

Me: (while wearing my current running shoes) UM, NO I HAVEN'T GONE FOR MY RUN. I JUST WOKE UP. I HAVE MY SHOES ON BECAUSE I HAD TO GO OUTSIDE. I'M WEARING MY SHOES TODAY. I JUST HAVE WILHELM AND I WILL TAKE HIM FOR A WALK THEN DO MY STRENGTH CLASS. YOU CAN'T HAVE MY SHOES. (a moment later, as my brain started to wake up). OH, CURLY ALSO WEARS A NINE. SHE HAS TWO PAIRS. TAKE ONE OF HERS.

Reg:  (from across the room, as if on cue - Mini's problem solved, he was next) I JUST RAN OUT OF CONTACT LENSES. LIKE I ONLY HAVE ONE CONTACT FOR ONE EYE. I REALLY NEED MORE. CAN YOU GET THEM TODAY?

Not a great photo, but this
Yoda t-shirt says REAL
 THE STRUGGLE IS.
I was texting Tank to
 ask if he wanted me to
buy it for him. Maybe
 I should've bought it
for myself. More on
 Tank's college
drop off EVENTUALLY.
*he DID mention his need for contact lenses maybe a week ago, but if I don't add it to my list you may as well whisper it to me while I'm sleeping. Needs to be drilled into me while holding my undivided attention. 

When I'd gone outside to grab something, Lad pulled up. He hasn't been sleeping here much. He called something out to me. 

Me:  HUH?

Lad:  I SAID DON'T YOU EVER LOOK AT YOUR PHONE? I TEXTED YOU AT 5:30 AM. ANOTHER GUY IS GOING TO LOOK AT THE VAN AT TEN THIS MORNING SO YOU NEED TO FIGURE OUT IF YOU WANT IT. 

*Lad had called us last night to say that they found a van for us but in order to get it to their dealership the owner of the dealership where he works would have to buy it. The plan was for us to go test drive it first.

Me:  I have to attend an IEP meeting late this morning so I can't go at 10. Daddy's inside. Can you ask him what he thinks? 

This is when I realized that I'd left my phone charging in my bathroom, so confused was I to be waking up so late. Wilhelm's mom had texted too - deciding to keep W home for the day because of the hand foot mouth situation. So, I had a day off. There was no day-off happy dance - instead:  school meetings and a visit to a dealership, solo. 

Lad changed his tune: I didn't say another guy was looking at in at 10, I just want you to arrange a time to look at the car. 

I texted the Enterprise guy BE THERE AT 12:45. In the middle of the IEP meeting, the guy called. It was 10:23. He'd already sold the car. 

At least this spot isn't
as visible to neighbors.
Still. 
*backing up to when I was outside talking to Lad . . . he was attaching two kayaks to the top of his car. He recently bought them and decided to start storing them in the bushes at the sides of our house. Oh. Hmm.

Me:  WHOSE DOG IS THAT IN YOUR CAR? 

I noticed a dog sitting in the front seat of his car. I sincerely hope that he didn't get himself a dog. Hello, timing. He supposedly lives here (where his allergic mother resides), but we only see him lately when he's hungry or when he wants to store his kayaks or grab/dump some of his laundry. He claimed the dog is a friend's. 

No idea what's up with him. He tends to disappear consistently when we call him out on something though. And I did, recently, call him out on the fact that he wreaked of pot. He didn't like this - claimed it was because he'd cleaned out a customer's car at work - as if I'd buy that angle. Sometimes the truth hurts. 

Eye sore, anyone? Next to our
side-entry garage. Very visible.

Sometimes people need to get their acts together and not wait until their shoes, or contacts, or bad choices are sneaking up on them. I'd so prefer people not to have SO many demands or issues on THE.ONE.DAY.I.SLEEP.LATE. 

*The above all happened between 7 am and about 7:35 am. 

Really, maybe they could all go on vacation and I will hide out in the attic and be stuck here ALONE. Maybe my next video will be me recreating the Home Alone shaving cream scene. Don't hold your breath.


September 1, 2021

a hypochondriac's germy home, a scene setting for HOME ALONE

This morning felt a little like the opening scene (at least if my memory serves) of Home Alone. Don't worry, no one was left at home while the rest of us jetted off somewhere fabulous. I'm talking about the oversleeping. The sheer chaos. And me channeling my inner Catherine O'Hara.

Allow me to set the scene: 

Mini and Curly walking around the
 zoo with me and our little people.
I JUST started back to babysitting. A few of the families needed care 2 weeks ago, but Mini and Curly handled their babysitting needs, for the most part. The family with the 18 month old twins returned for the first time this school year on Friday, Aug 27. 

This year the twins are only coming Monday and Fridays. They are going to a 'school' aka daycare the other days. Last year they were here three days. The grandma took care of them the other two. I think the idea was to give grandma a break. The news made me cringe a tad. I've never had anyone pair my services with an actual daycare. Some families only work 3 days a week - so they only need a coverage those days, or those who work full time have grandparents take a day or two opposite me. 

I'm crazy about the twins. They are super cute and so.much.fun. Seriously. I also rank their mom as one of my favorites that I've ever worked for. She's great. 

The reason I cringed when I heard that they'd be attending an actual daycare - germs. I knew whatever they picked up at the other place would find its way here. To my home. 

Yesterday after they left here, the mom took one twin to the doctor. We thought she was getting a tooth. Kept saying CHEEK, CHEEK. And crying while eating. 

Turns out she (and of course now her twin sister) have the dreaded and highly contagious HAND, FOOT, MOUTH DISEASE. 

This happened once before - maybe 5 years ago. A kid (who was not attending a daycare - so clearly it can just happen . . . the daycare element just seems to increase the chances), anyway - that kid ended up with HFM and the other kids I sat for got it. Then the first kid got it back. Then a handful of my kids got it. My kids were in like 4th - 8th grades. It was Christmas break and they could not hang out with friends or do anything. Not to mention they were MISERABLE. I remember tossing boxes of popsicles down the basement stairs to my infirm offspring. "EAT AS MANY AS YOU WANT."

So, I'm worried. I do not want this thing to make my kids miss school and sports and the things big kids do. Typically it hits kids under the age of 5, so fingers crossed. 

Oh fun, a polar bear swimming.
Before I went to bed last night, I stared at my palms:  ARE MY HANDS ALWAYS THIS BLOTCHY? WHY IS MY ONE PALM SO DAMN ITCHY. 

Of course yesterday is the day I had all 6 kids. Three two year old boys and three baby girls 18 months to 13 months. My schedule doesn't usually include the whole crowd (typically it's 5 and one day it's 4), but one family asked to switch from Friday to Monday this week. One guy's mom had a baby over the summer (which brings my grand total up to 7), so he was here to see buddies as is the plan for him once a week while she is on maternity leave. Um, this was his FIRST time back. 

As of last night when I went to bed, Wilhelm's folks were still planning to send him. Of course they were. He doesn't get dropped off super early, so I set my alarm for 7 am KNOWING I WOULD NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS SLEEP THAT LONG. 

I woke up when my alarm went off at 7:00 am. 

Hello, what is going on? 

Eight hours of sleep? Could it be that I'm getting this damn toddler virus? Hoping it's just my body deciding to be kind and let me sleep. We didn't have to catch a flight, but holy heck I walked downstairs into a shit storm of neediness. Enter me as Catherine O'Hara - next time, which I'll post on Tuesday due to Labor Day on Monday. Have a great weekend.


August 30, 2021

my 1st-day-of-school happy dance (and in case that bores you or freaks you out - a movie I love)

Here we are. The first day of school. The story behind my slightly-more-excited-than-average excitement in this video will become clearer SOON, but suffice it to say . . . I NEEDED this day. It's a BEAUTIFUL DAY.

It just so happens that the first day of school landed on a Thursday this year  - when I also have no babysitting obligations. 

That's right. A day to myself. To dance in my kitchen, if I felt so inclined. This video is bound to register high on the cringeworthy scale, but sharing it anyway. What can I say? I'm feeling FREE. 

I went for a run. Ran into a friend and stopped halfway though my run to get caught up. WITHOUT A CARE for what time it was. I came home and did a 30 minute strength class in my family room minus any hecklers. In a bit, I'm meeting my good friend, Delilah, for lunch. And I'm writing. Look at me? 

Laundry and dinner prep be damned. *Well, if I'm being honest, I started a crockpot for chicken tacos early this morning and I did throw a load in when I was upstairs a few minutes ago. Still, I will sort nothing and I will unload nothing. NONE OF THE CHILDREN UNLOADED A SINGLE ITEM FROM THE DISHWASHER AND I REFUSE TO TOUCH IT. "Hi, hope your first day was great. Please empty the silverware." That's how I will handle the 3:00 conversation. 

The fun will continue later tonight when I attend my college book club. This marks the 3rd time we will meet in person since 'everything.' We read a book called MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO SOMEONE, by:  Lori Gottlieb. I give it two thumbs up, and I don't think it's just because I'm someone who should (and does) talk to someone. I really liked it.

Speaking of two thumbs up, while we were in Michigan we watched a movie that we REALLY enjoyed. It was a comical thriller. After watching it, I've decided that this is my new favorite movie category. It wasn't inappropriate, so the kids got the OK. 

Fun fact:  once Coach goes to bed - and he goes to bed early several nights because of his early morning work schedule, I tend to be much more lenient about what movies we watch. Swearing? Aw, who cares. I swear like a sailor and look how good you all turned out. Sex ? - well, this is why God created the fast forward button . . . I mean so long as I'm not holding the remote. The older boys have not yet recovered from the night when I unintentionally flubbed the remote and froze MEET THE MILLERS mid-scene when Jennifer Aniston was doing her pole dance. Oops. 

We started watching the movie in Michigan, but it was late and Coach and I were falling asleep. Shock. The kids and I finished watching it after we got home on one of the nights Coach was off to bed early. I look forward to viewing the 2nd half again with him, at some point. 

Choosing a movie when we are ALL together is possibly more of a chore than you might realize. I often scold the kids for not looking stuff up during the day and coming to the movie watching space with a prepared top 10 list. They have phones at their fingertips. Teens know more about how to conduct a search of top rated stuff better than anyone, am I right?

The process:  teens and Coach and I start scrolling. Titles get called out for approval. If no one objects, someone does a Rotten Tomatoes search. Inevitably someone groans. NO, THIS MOVIE SUCKS. Or, we decide on a movie and someone says I JUST WATCHED THAT LAST WEEK. I MEAN I'LL WATCH IT AGAIN IF YOU REALLY WANT TOO. So we sometimes waste a solid hour mulling over what to watch.  

This particular night, I scrolled and my search of BEST MOVIES ON NETFLIX ended with this movie title. The night before when the search went on forever I hadn't participated in the scrolling and now I hailed myself as a PRO MOIVE FINDER. ALL BOW TO ME. I'M IN CHARGE OF CHOOSING MOVIES FOREVER. These words may or may not have been spoken as I may or may not have gloated about my super powers. 

The movie (drum roll) is called: 

I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore.

Mini compared it to Napoleon Dynamite as far as quirky characters and being offbeat, but definitely more grown up than Napoleon's movie. 

Best movies you've seen lately? Even if it isn't a comedy thriller. What makes you do a happy dance in your kitchen?  And how do you and your people choose movies? 

August 25, 2021

working my fingers to the bone, almost literally

I'm on a mission. Curly has an Irish dancing school jacket with the school's name across the back. Every time she goes to a big competition she gets a patch. Organized dance moms promptly sew these patches (or hire someone to attach them) on the back of their kid's jacket. 

Me:  (stands to the side, hands behind back, whistling, looking towards the sky, tracing an arc with her toe . . . finally faces my readers who are glancing at me with a look of disbelief . . .) 'I was busy, damn it'.

The older kids didn't dance in as many 'big' competitions - typically one a year versus Curly's three a year. We have some patches from the older guys' dancing days. We often have 3 or more copies of the early-day patches, because I had several dancers at once. 

If you ever want to see a frazzled woman:  follow a dance mom of 5 dancers around a HUGE venue trying to get each kid to the appropriate stage by herself. Nightmare. I once put Curly's number on Reg. Oops. I could go on and on with my stage-side mishaps.

Anyway, I have a drawer in my laundry room that held the patches. I never sewed patches on a jacket . . . Ed started dancing in 2008. Maybe I was waiting for the kids to grow so I didn't have to move all of the patches from a small jacket to a big jacket following a growth spurt. Maybe I was waiting because I thought we might change schools (we are on our 3rd and final school). Maybe I just didn't bother.

Translation:  I wasn't the crazy dance mom that I am now. There, I said it. Happy?

So, I have a ton of patches from the early years. Curly was still in diapers. I asked her if she wanted me to sew the unused sibling patches on her jacket too. 

"It'd look as if you started competing as a prodigy at the age of 2 or 3." 

She declined. 

I may or may not  be considering sewing the extra patches, even those in triplicate, on a jacket for myself just to show off my 'been-doing-this-longer-than-most-of-you' status. Please feel free to weigh in on how ultra-cool you think that might be. And if we're going there, we may as well envision me cutting up the dancing dresses that hang in my closet. They cost a small fortune but I haven't been able to resell because of constant changing fads (blood pressure rising rapidly). What'd ya say I use the cut up pieces of now-outta-date-dresses to fashion a fancy long trench coat for myself. Can you see it "Ernie and her amazing Celtic technicolor coat"?

Anyway, I lined up Curly's patches. Pinned them in place. Re-pinned them if I didn't like the spacing. Allowed room for other patches from upcoming competitions that we aren't sure are going to happen - even though I hope that she retires soon, early retirement will now leave the patches all lopsided. Trying not to get obsessive, but this is a work of art. It's tough to plan for other patches when we just don't know how many patches she'll end up with due to pandemic AND as-of- yet unspecified retirement. 

Then I gave my brain a break and started sewing. 

You know what's fun? Trying to jam a needle through an embroidered patch. Yes, I'm using a thimble to complete the grandma persona I've previously painted for all of you. Still, not an easy thing. Then I try to reach under the jacket to find the needle stab myself with the needle as it comes back through. In this 'feeling-for-the-needle' mode, I inadvertently run my hand across the protruding pins from the other positioned patches. 

Have I told you about my incredibly low threshold for pain? It's a thing. Not sure if there is a label for my 'condition' other than wussy. 

If anyone needs to test that I am indeed O negative, come over. I'm leaking bloody droplets all over the place. 

But damn, isn't her jacket fabulous? 


I think Mini still has girl scout patches that I never sewed floating around her mudroom locker. Weird because I know how to sew. Yes, I suck. 

August 23, 2021

New phone, face recognition, and unwanted recognition

I hate getting a new phone.  Hate.  It.

My phone was acting up last summer.  It was probably 3 years old.  Come to think of it, it behaved a lot like me:  needed a charge mid-day, memory was full, covered in cracks, dull case, etc. 

So I guess I'm 3 years old in phone years.

As we all know, I hate Walmart - but that's where we get our cheap phone service so I FINALLY could take no more of the "Oops my battery died" scenarios and I dragged myself to the dreaded electronics counter at Walmart. 
 This is what our cheap ass phone
boxes look like when we
 pick one out at Walmart. 

Curly started babysitting last summer as a mother's helper.  I chose to race into Walmart on the way to her first day at Barb's house.  Barb has 6 kids (4 boys 2 girls - for real), and after covid she needed a break. Curly was going to take 5 of her kids to the park.  

I picked out a phone in record time.  Begged the young woman to help me set it up.  Am I exploiting ageism if I seek sympathy and feign (not really feigning though) a clueless nature while blaming my advanced age?  Well, it works for me. 

The clerk in the stylish blue bib, sort of set it up. "Your new phone will randomly start working sometime in the next hour, or so." 

Clean up a spill of ambiguity in isle 10.  

Like WHAT?  I need it to work now. I needed MapQuest.

My reliance on MapQuest is shameful. I used to figure out where I was going in advance, like a grown up. Now: I just use maps on my phone.  Am I alone?  

Anyway she assured me all would be dandy, which I recognize as code for "Move along clueless lady. This is Walmart. Customer Service isn't really our thing."  

I can't remember the details because a year has passed - remember, my memory is full. We got to the car and the new phone started to work, but I couldn't connect to the internet. How was I going to drive to this woman's house?  

I freaked out. Poor Curly. I accidentally have two gmail accounts. I never know which one is tied to my phone. It's silly. Probably something that can easily be fixed - by DELETING THE EXTRA ACCOUNT . . . but some things are tied to one account and some the other. Have you been here long enough to remember my freak out before we left for Scotland? My airbnb account was tied to a gmail account that I didn't even know I had. I thought my reservation was lost. Have I mentioned I have no business operating anything technological and while some of you wouldn't consider email all that complicated . . . hi, have we met?

I started driving in the general direction of where I thought the babysitting job was, and at last the phone agreed to open MapQuest. We arrived just in time.  
If I had to guess, I'd say I took this when
 I cleaned out Lad and Ed's room. Sent
it to them:  "Are you done with these phone cases?"
 This because I had no
photo to coordinate with this post.


Later, Mini squealed with delight:  "Your new phone has face recognition." She set it up so my phone can unlock itself when it sees my lovely face.

Guess what?  My face doesn't always look lovely. When I wake up well-rested and squishy, the phone refuses to trust this 'stranger.' Suspecting high treason, it makes me unlock it manually.  

I got a text message a few days later- no name attached. Just the number. I had to text back:  "Hi, who is this." Not all of my contacts transferred. Ugh.

What's your biggest issue with getting a new phone, or do you get excited about it (I assume all the people who know how to work a new phone and transfer stuff will be the excited types)? 


August 18, 2021

just an acquaintance, so what gives?

This happened a few months ago when I was still physically working out in the health club. It's still a riddle (the situation, not the club's 'must wear a mask' rule). More evidence that people are weird.

I ran into someone who was not in my phone contacts.  Translation:  we are acquaintances. That is all.  

I did a strenuous strength class at 5:45 am.  Then I hopped on a stationary bike.  I had time to get about 5 miles in before I needed to be home to welcome the babies/tots.

Every other bike was available, so the in between bikes had a 'DO NOT USE' sign on them due to the pandemic.  I love to socialize, but when I'm in a time crunch, sweaty, smelly, weary, and anxious to get home to my protein shake, I'm not chatty.  

I pulled my book, my readers, and my phone out of my bag. Adjusted the seat. Put my favorite news on the attached TV. Removed my mask and got started.  

There was a man on the bike to my left (as in TWO bikes to my left, social distancing and all).  As I rode along, I heard another member who was walking by greet the man on the bike.  Hearing his response, I realized that I recognized his voice. I knew him AS AN ACQUAINTANCE.  I glanced his way. He said, "Hello Ernie."  I said, "Hello Joe."  

When Joe was done a few minutes later, he called my name.  I was deep in my book so I jerked my head up and looked his way, my eyebrows raised in a "Are you talking to me?" kind of way.

Joe:  (gruffly) I think I've done something to upset you, and I'm sorry.  Have a great day.

Me:  (almost falling off of my bike, because had I heard him correctly?)  Excuse me?

He repeated himself.  I tried to defend myself, but with what?  And why?  

Me:  Um, just riding my bike here.  You didn't . . . um, huh?  (I don't even know what I said, I'm not good at speaking while working out.  How do fitness instructors manage? Plus what was he even talking about?).

Perhaps he assumed that I noticed him on the bike before I sat down. If that's the case, I suppose he found it rude of me to pass him and not greet him.  But I approached the bike from behind. One balding man's wide back looks the same as others (I'M NOT WRONG), so I didn't identify him as someone I sort of know.  

I met Joe in November 2019 at an away high school basketball game. Even though we didn't have a kid on the team, Coach and I and the kids went to cheer for the team. Joe sat near us and started talking to us. Turns out he is from the south side of Chicago.  There's a thing in these parts called 'South Side Irish.' There are lots of Irish on the south side, and they all know each other. Most are related to each other. 

Anyway, Joe told us that he went to the same south side high school as my south side cousins. He graduated with my older cousin, Tim AND he knew him. 

Sort of unrelated photo, but this popped
up in my photos when I did a search for 'work out'.
I don't think they sell this type of 80s workout
clothing anymore. This woman's attire stunned me.
 
Wild, especially since despite my Irish bloodlines I do not have a big extended family (8 cousins total). I only have 3 local cousins. THREE. And this guy knew one of them. If you aren't from these parts, believe me . . .  I live in the 'burbs. This was a total small world thing.   

Joe cantors at our parish, and he works out at the same health club as us. But I have NOT crossed paths with him all through the pandemic. He acted as if we had a standing coffee date that I'd blown off for months.  

Again, same woman.
I am careful to pretend
 I am checking my texts and then
 I snap a photo on the sly.
 The instructor (on the left)
 told me after
 class that she thought it was a
joke. She was waiting for
someone to
bust a gut laughing.
We've seen him singing at mass these last few months since church opened.  Did he expect me to approach him after mass and chat with him?  

Bottom line here is that this was weird. So weird.  

I shared the story later with my family.  Well, they had a field day AFTER they stopped chortling. 

"Oh, you definitely give off an unfriendly vibe."  

"This is how things started with Mary Ann."  

"You've got a reputation now."  

"Wow, what did you do to him?"

Coach sees Joe at a men's group at church. I told him to tell this guy that he didn't do anything to upset me and ask him what his ef-ing deal is. (I mean he can toss in a BLESS YOU, BROTHER if he wants to keep the church group vibe alive here). Can you believe Coach has not defended my honor? I'm friendly, DAMN IT. I make friends in the grocery check out line. 

Have you ticked someone off and never found out why? Do you know where one can buy workout attire from the Jane Fonda era? Are you a sneaky freak like me, taking photos of unsuspecting people? And if so, do you get away with it, or have you been caught?