January 29, 2021

Let the kids play

What movie is "LET THE KIDS PLAY!" from? I don't actually have the answer, because I'm being lazy and not looking it up but I feel like I've run across grown ups chanting this in the bleachers in various movies. The Bad News Bears, perhaps. 

Similar theme in Footloose . . . let the kids dance, but that charge was led by some really hip teens who were addressing the adults of the town. *Swoon (over the hip teens, not the adults)*

I don't have a good photo for this post, but check this out. The kids are given a lunch by the high school. Then they come home and eat it. Weird, I know. Reg poked the straw in this, took a sip, and went WHAT? Yes, a capri sun that actually says on the front 'We're sorry it's not juice.' It was just water.

I find myself in the middle of a pandemic chanting this phrase from the virtual stands. 


The high schools in the area bumped football and volleyball (and maybe others) from the fall to the spring when they were cancelled. So wait, what does that do to the sports that have historically taken place in the spring? 

I'm not a parent of a football player, so I'm in the minority here. Not sure if it is just our neck of the woods, but don't mess with people's football. The fans want to get out there in all kinds of weather and cheer like crazy. I was so happy when Lad graduated, because we banned the remainder of our offspring from football. It just so happened that the most of the other sports my kids play take place indoors. AC, heat, no rain. It's a beautiful thing. 

Then one day I realized "Oh shit, Tank is playing in the band." - Back to the bleachers in all kinds of weather we went. He quit after freshman year so he could be in the stands leading the spirit section. He now holds an official spot as spirit leader or something. 

Anyway, a few weeks ago Mini told me that badminton was starting up this week. It didn't really dawn on me that the timing was off. I was just happy that her sport was happening. 

Mini played tennis in the fall. Wore a mask. Wrote her name on her ball. No one could touch another player's ball. (why do I feel like Kari will have an inappropriate comment about this line?) The players flipped the balls to one another with their racquets. It added a new element to the game. I feel like they should've gotten extra points for being able to coral their balls within a certain amount of time, or after only so many flips.

In winter, Mini plays basketball. In the fall they had some open gyms for shooting around while masked. Then nothing. 

Till now.

On Wednesday the IHSA announced that basketball could happen. I won't bore you with details, in part because I really didn't pay much attention to them. Remember, Wednesdays:  I drown in tots over here. The TV volume cannot be put high enough for me to know what the hell is happening on a Wednesday without risking blowing out baby eardrums. 

I grasped that basketball was moving forward and I celebrated between diaper changes. Reg has been lost without basketball. 

Mini came home distressed. Basketball could start . . . NOW, at the same damn time as badminton. This was not on my radar. 

She has friends on each team. She is wildly crazy about each season. Very different experiences, but so much fun. She had to choose. She had to choose?!

Me:  Wait, what

I barely know what day it is, so I was kind of not focusing on the badminton-is-starting-and-it-is-not-in-season point. Now it was all clear. At first I couldn't figure out why, and then it dawned on me. In order for volleyball to move to the spring, badminton had to move out of its regular slot. Both sports need the field house. Most people in these parts count volleyball as life giving and badminton is more 'meh'. 

Mini assumes she'll do basketball, but if we don't move to tier 1 then there will be no actual games. She's wondering why play basketball if there are no games? Badminton can be done similar to tennis. Masks are enough because there really isn't body contact or breathing in your defender's face, etc. 

I've had it. It's against the rules to let kids register for two sports, but as Mini pointed out if there are no b-ball games, then she can attend badminton matches on the weekends. The practices don't always conflict. Both coaches want her to play. Both are willing to let her try both. 

She has a tough course load of classes, but half the time school gets out at noon. She can study and do two sports. 

Cue the 'let's hear it for the girl' music, right? (I know, in Footloose it's boy not girl, work with me).

Fingers crossed that the governing body allows kids to register for 2 sports. Why make them give up anymore than they already have? I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it is to see Curly play basketball and Tank play volleyball on their travel teams. Last weekend Curly played a team that had two or three players on the court at all times who wore their masks below their chin or at the very least below their nose. 

Yes, I called foul. 

When the ref started to hand the ball to the player to start the 2nd half directly in front of me (lest you thought I caused a scene), I asked him to watch the masks. 

"Some girls aren't wearing their masks." 

He heard me, and he TRIED to make the other players wear their masks. It got a little bit better. Still not 100%. Not a single girl on our team broke the mask rule. A player without a mask is at a total advantage to the ones wearing them properly. 

And there it is - the one thing I never dreamt I would call out to a referee. The question is, will I now draft an email begging someone to let Mini play both her sports? Keep you posted. 

January 27, 2021

TIMING, my new gig as lady of leisure, best laid plans, and a VOTE!

YELLOWSTONE SAGA CONTINUED:  You might remember Dad cancelled his participation in the Yellowstone trip. He wanted to go to London with my sister Marie. This was painful. You can read about how I confronted my folks about it here.

We worried that Yellowstone wouldn't let us use the ADA cabin without my gimp of a dad. I imagined a guy like John Candy in National Lampoon's Vacation:  SORRY FOLKS, BUT THE MOOSE SHOULDA TOLD YA OUT FRONT, THIS CABIN  IS ONLY FOR GIMPS. NO LIMP, NO CABIN.

THEN the pandemic struck and our reservations were cancelled by the park. SERIOUSLY?  AFTER ALL THE DRAMA WITH MY FOLKS?! . . . Well the talk with my folks was long overdue. 

Still, say it with me:  TIMING. 

And of course, the London to Paris trip Dad and Marie were going to do was cancelled. 

Video clip of  Curly in Yellowstone 2010 at age 2.5 yrs cheering me on after carrying her up a mountain. 

Yellowstone shouted out to people whose 2020 reservations were cancelled. We got first dibs on reservations for 2021 summer. The catch? They became available in the middle of the night.

Sleep is so over-rated (a thought process I DO NOT endorse). I woke up at 2:00 am or something ungodly. Yellowstone's server couldn't handle the response, so an hour or two later after my finger almost fell off from hitting refresh a ga-billion times I FINALLY got a reservation. I needed more than one cabin - so I pressed on. 

In the end, I reserved three cabins for a full 2 weeks. July 15-30th (loosely because I'm too lazy to go look at my calendar). One is a ROUGH RIDER with three full size beds. Can anyone say 'WELCOME TEENAGERS'? The other two cabins have beds and bathrooms. Score. We won't go for a full two weeks, but we can whittle away the dates once we know what the kids have on their schedules.

See that, I thought things out. I planned. I consulted a calendar. I considered EVERYTHING. Or did I?

Oh, and maybe this is obvious . . . but we aren't inviting Dad. Might bring a couple cousins though. We can pack people into those Rough Riders.

SO, GUESS WHAT? A few months ago, the people who rule my life aka the people who run Irish dancing decided to move the World Championships that ALWAYS happen Easter week to July 25-Aug 2.

Of course they fucking did. 

There is a chance that they will just end up canceling all together, because pandemic. They will decide in March. So, that's fun. I like to live on the edge. 

*lays on the floor, kicking and screaming, NO I REALLY DO NOT LIKE TO LIVE ON THE EDGE. I'M A PLANNER DAMN IT. I WANT TO KNOW SHIT. LIKE WHAT WE'RE DOING TRAVEL WISE IN UNDER 6 MONTHS. Gets up slowly, wipes faces with a damp cloth and tries to breathe. 

One of my favorite videos of Curly. While in Yellowstone, Curly's reaction after seeing a bear. 

The bonus is that we do have 2 weeks in Yellowstone reserved, so we can opt to use the earlier week of the reservation but that would mean we'd have to race back home so Curly and I could hop on a plane to Dublin. When would I do laundry? Groceries? When would Curly practice dancing? Duh. 

The reason I chose mid-July to the end of July for Yellowstone? Because National championships are scheduled every year over the 4th of July. This year it's in Arizona. Yes, AZ in July. Sound refreshing? (Last year's Nashville Nationals was cancelled). I wanted to give us time to do the AZ competition before getting geared up for Yellowstone. 

Silly me. 

So, my summer might look like this (NOTE: not one day in here to squeeze in time to lounge at the pool): 

1. JULY 1:  Curly and I fly to Arizona where she dances in National championships, flying home the minute she's done. No dates assigned to her age group yet, which is cool. Everything's fine. 

2. JULY 13th:  We drive to Yellowstone in time to check in on July 15th. Enjoy the outdoors. Take amazing photos. Bears wander by constantly, providing us with a plethora of photo opportunities that will turn Dad green with envy. 

3. JULY 21st:  We drive home like the wind.

4. JULY 23rd:  Curly and I fly to Dublin (tentative:  we have no idea yet what day she dances) 

5. AUGUST 5th:  We return from Dublin (tentative).

*No set dancing schedule yet, so Curly might dance in Dublin which will blow this plan out of the water or she might dance the last day, which will make things more manageable - but I'm absent longer. Her teacher says the older girls usually dance last, so not likely to be Curly.


NORMAL:  I do want things to return to normal, but careful what I wish for here. If things go back to normal, then Yellowstone. FINALLY. But if 'normal', then is World Champs happening too? I do hate for Curly to miss another year of competition. 


If you were a betting person, what would you bet on? Dublin World's being cancelled? Me being mauled by a bear? Curly quitting dancing before any of this becomes a reality? Me losing my mind before any of this becomes a reality? Arizona Nationals being cancelled? Yellowstone being cancelled? - this would equate to me losing my mind, in case that impacts your vote. 

You can only vote once. Please feel free to share your messed up schedule issues. I've been thinking about posting about this nightmare for weeks now, but I knew typing it would raise my blood pressure. Comments urged insisted upon. 

January 25, 2021

Yellowstone: timeline refresher

The Yellowstone saga continues. 

Timeline refresher:  We first visited Yellowstone in 2010. Curly was 2.5 years old. We've visited several other national parks, but Yellowstone was our favorite. 

Cue the HILLS ARE ALIVE music.

Reg in his coon-skin cap showing Mini the sights.

Mini - Curly - Tank

A few years ago, I made a reservations to go to Yellowstone with my dad. This plan took shape while I was in Scotland with Dad and my girls for Curly's first world championship for Irish dancing in 2018. I always thought we'd go back to Yellowstone, because some of the kids barely remember it. Dad has been several times, but he was anxious to go back. 

I learned the hard way that if you don't make a reservation the minute they open up in May a year BEFORE you want to go, then there is crap left. The reservation I got for July 2018 suckedWe would've been staying in what's called a ROUGH RIDER. A cabin with no bathroom or sink. Shared facilities down a path. 

Underwhelmed by the options, I still reserved the ROUGH RIDERS. As the dates approached, we decided to bale. The trip was too close to our trip to Orlando for Nationals for Irish dancing anyway. The thought of dealing with a shared bathroom down a path left me grouchy. 

May 1, 2018, I called and made reservations for July '19. They were decent reservations. Part of our stay was in our fav location of the park in frontier cabins with . . .  (drumroll) bathrooms. 

Then Coach and I realized Curly was dancing in Vancouver in July '19. It seemed crappy to take Mini for moral support and Curly to dance and leave everyone else home. We certainly couldn't do BOTH Vancouver AND Yellowstone. You might remember how I struggled with that decision. We once again cancelled our Yellowstone trip. 

So, on May 1, 2019 Dad and I manned the phone lines trying to get a top notch reservation for July '20. When we struggled to get a cabin at Tower Roosevelt, an employee admitted that the online reservations opened an hour before the phones. 


I was furious. I'd called in advance asking stuff like:  how many consecutive days can we reserve, how many cabins can I get - we have a big group, etc. No one ever said:  ONLINE OPENS FIRST.

On May 2, '19, I called up and shared my frustration. The lady took pity on me. I mentioned that the park ought to be giving Dad first dibs on a cabin since his trip in June of '16 ended badly. 

2016: Dad travelled to Yellowstone with my brother Pat and his four kids. He was bucked off of a horse when a chuck wagon drove into the corral too fast and spooked his horse. If Dad had just dismounted because the 1 hour ride that he agreed to take with my niece was over, he'd have been fine. But they make you wait until they help you dismount. He was sitting in the saddle. One foot out of the stirrup. The other in. When he was bucked, the side with the foot still in dislocated at the hip and the hip snapped. 

He suffered a brain bleed, 6 broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and a broken hip. He required hip surgery. The doctors admitted to him that this was not the first time they'd seen major injuries from that horse rental barn. We learned the specific horse he rode had a history. Dad hired a lawyer (months later) and seriously considered suing, but ultimately he didn't. 

Coach and I breathed a sigh of relief that this happened on Dad's trip to Yellowstone with Pat -

NOT during the trip he took with our family to Glacier exactly two weeks earlier. Pat was framed as a hero. Coach just shakes his head at that mystery KNOWING that I'd have been blamed for anything that happened on my watch.

On our trip, Coach scolded Dad when he crossed a street to take photos of a bear in an open field:  "GET BACK OVER HERE. I HAVE ONE MISSION ON THIS TRIP AND THAT IS TO GET YOU HOME IN ONE PIECE."


When we went white water rafting in Glacier, I made the reservation in advance. Told Dad to bring his book. Found him a comfy chair. After we all put wetsuits on, I couldn't find Dad. He walks up wearing a wet suit. "Oh, I decided to join you. The lady at the desk says it's safe." 

I begged him not to. "MOM WILL KILL ME." The man has a mind of his own. He was 76. Coach made Dad sit on the raft directly in front of him. I was to dive in after any of our offspring, but Coach was on Dad watch.

We all survived.

When the taking-pity-on-me woman heard that I'd be traveling with my elderly dad who walks all fucked up thanks to a Yellowstone horse, she offered an ADA cabin in the desirable part of the park where I had once again reserved ROUGH RIDERS. 

So, 2020 was all set. Dad had a cabin WITH a bathroom. I assured my children that they could all enjoy the shared facilities, but I planned to borrow Dad's bathroom. It wasn't the greatest, but we'd make due. 


January 22, 2021

sweet and seriously short - a recent, hilarious discovery

Google Photos is mad at me. I hoard photos. I don't mean to. It just happens. I take a ton of photos and videos while babysitting. then I post them to a FB group for my families. Of course, I also take  photos of my own children, or piles of laundry to share with all of you. It's riveting stuff, making it hard to part with . . .. or more accurately: the delete photos task is just not on my radar. This has gone on for years. Now the photos and videos are making my Google Photos bust at the seam. 

The other night, I was up way too late because I was begging Google Photos to upload a photo of me at the volleyball game in my cute outfit. I bit the bullet and promised Google I would delete stuff if it would please agree to upload one lousy photo. 

We shook on it. 

I started towards the beginning of my Google Photos relationship. Like 2012. I stumbled on some gems, my friends. Gems, I tell you. 

I discovered that my children enjoyed playing with my phone when I was out for a walk, or in the shower, or wherever. I was UNAWARE that they were playing with my video function. Back then, I barely understood how to use my phone so I never noticed these video treasures. My current phone has a better camera, meaning these are grainy at best, but take a gander if you have a minute. We found it incredibly entertaining, but maybe that's because we recognize the goofballs featured. This might only apply to someone who has 'a mother's love' for them. Have I ever mentioned that the youngest four used to call themselves the Fabulous Four? They held meetings and made plans, etc. 

Note Mini scolding Curly because her girl always had to be perfect. Not sure what the Humane Society thing is, but they enjoyed pretending. Reg's sneeze gives the spying boys away. The girls don't seem to mind. Hello, who doesn't mind being the center of attention?

The fun continues with Reg as Max. Still not his real name. Tank shows himself here for a split second. None of us remember his cheeks being quite that chubby. 

This makes me wonder if this was the beginning of the sock obsession that Reg has? I don't remember him trying to pay me back, or being aware of how much they cost. My dad took us to a special dinner for alums after the game. A meal out? You know my children will be impressed with that. Note the cooler in the kitchen when Reg pans the room in his shaky way. Guessing we got back late from the game. Or, that was just how we lived back then, because now we are just as neat and tidy as they come.                                                                                                                                 

If this bores you, take a pass and just know that we were howling as we tried to piece together what was going on. It looks like my kids raised themselves. That explains a lot.             

January 20, 2021

re-framing normal, words weren't his and sanity was ours

A few of you commented that you might miss the drama if all of my families are normal this year. Rest assured, the families are generous with me, appreciative, and I like them . . . most of the time. Allow me to re-frame 'normal' and assure you that there will be plenty of head scratching this year. 

I believe I once referred to the absent-since-early-November guy as World's Worst Baby. Well, he turned 2 in October. I will call him William in place of World's Worst, not because he deserves to ditch that label. It's easier to type. 

As a baby, he didn't like his formula's taste. He had allergies. I was the only one who could get him to drink it. The dad came here for a lesson. 


The dad is a goof. A few months later he asked me if I had an iPhone. When I said no, he was like OH THAT'S TOO BAD, BECAUSE I SHOW HIM VIDEOS ON MY PHONE IN ORDER TO GET HIM TO EAT. 

My thoughts:

A) you need to stop doing that

B) my android is a smartphone, moron. It plays videos just as easily as yours. (This man is a device/video game junkie- how did he not know about an android? His older son had two phones that were HIS as a kindergartner. Don't get me started.)

C) William developed a hatred for food, they say this stems from a bad eating experience i.e.: disliking his formula. He'd scream constantly. I got death stares from people last fall when we went to places because it appeared that I was torturing him. I finally told his parents that he was hungry. Um, I was right. But he had to go to therapy to learn how to eat. In case you didn't know, this is a thing. 

So this family is still here, and while they are very generous- paying me during the pandemic (when we were locked down and they couldn't bring him) and grateful in recognizing that I've helped William a lot, they aren't mainstream types, in my humble opinion. Not deal-breaking issues, but sometimes irritating: 

A) They rarely show up at the designated drop off time OF THEIR CHOOSING, which makes my life a little hard. They are often over 40 minutes late. I hesitate to lay the twins down for naps, because while it doesn't take long, I prefer to be in the kitchen when a kid arrives. Same goes with sitting on the couch feeding a baby a bottle. Should I start the bottle NOW? Or are they going to drop off in 2 minutes and interrupt the bottle in order for me to welcome Mr. Tears?

B) They're almost ALWAYS late to pick up. She's not a teacher, so she picks up later, around 4:30.  She asks often if her kid can stay later than he's supposed to stay - like beyond 4:30 or 5. *editing to add, at the risk of lengthening this:  she texted me this afternoon - "Can William stay till 5:00 or do you want his dad to come get him?" Like why is that even a question - if the dad could get him on time, why wouldn't you just send him over (they work from home, a 2 min drive from my house) rather than ask me a favor?  

C) They can't say no to him. And they wonder why he cries when they drop him off here in the land of WHAT ERNIE SAYS GOES. (this is why Coach often says, YOU'RE THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO THESE KIDS)

EXHIBIT A:  This morning, William's mom told me that he had a toy from home in his hand (I don't allow toys from home because I don't want to keep track of them - most families tend to forget this and I honestly haven't done a reminder message in a while). It wasn't just a no-brainer matchbox car but a part of a set he had at home. She said:   I COULND'T GET IT AWAY FROM HIM. She wanted me to snatch it as soon as he put it down.  

I'm sorry, but . . .  WHAT I JUST HEARD YOU SAY IS THAT YOUR 2 YEAR OLD IS STRONGER THAN YOU ARE AND THAT YOU'RE UNABLE TO PRY THAT TRAIN CAR FROM HIS GRIP. I do get the 'pick you battles' thing and that two year olds are tough, but lay. down. the. damn. law. Some parents just make things harder later (steps off soap box and kicks it out of the way).

So last week, William came back after a 2 month break/quarantine. We braced for his arrival, assuming he'd scream and throw a fit. Like all the other kids who cry when they arrive, they are fine in seconds- usually. William can linger with his tears, so I warned my kids who were still on break:  DON'T EXPECT TO SLEEP IN.

And then . . . he cried on the driveway, but he stopped when he came inside. Head on Mom's shoulder, acting like he was shy. Tank dragged the toy kitchen set out of storage in the basement in advance so there was something new and exciting in the family room. Diversions:  my secret weapon. 

Me:  (taking him from her) WE MISSED YOU. White lies are acceptable in my line of work, by the way. I put him on the floor in the family room. He instantly ran to his favorite drawer of trains. 

He picked up the Little People bus that was already on the floor. His mom said he'd been talking about this bus. Last time we saw him he had very few words. 

Slowly I turned. Step by step. I inched my way back to the kitchen. That's when I heard it  . . . 


William playing with the minivan AND the
YELLOW BUS back in August when words weren't his and sanity was ours.
Is it me, or does this phrase belong on a t-shirt?

I froze. Curly was eating breakfast at the island. Her eyebrows shot up. We were both like OMG! NOOOOO!

Young William must, and I mean MUST, show you the toy he might play with and repeat the name of it 1,000 times until you acknowledge said toy. He sort of did this with colors starting in the fall. 

Mini babysits for William and his brother on weekends. These two boys are 100% screen addicts. Once the folks wheeled a big screen TV into the living room. Baby (keyword here) William was getting teeth, they told Mini. He was fussy, so they put his shows on in the family room. So that the older son wouldn't be stuck without HIS shows, they set up the other TV for him. Mind blown.

I assume that the dad 'taught' William his colors by playing the same video over and over again - on his prized iPhone, till he was like a robot, because in the fall he'd hold up a toy and repeat the color in not-so-clear speech but he'd NEVER play with it. 

The goof dad came to pick up last week and was like: SO DIFFERENT KID, HUH? HE'S REALLY TALKINKG A LOT.



*full disclosure:  not all of my kids had the poop in the potty mastered by 18 mos, but we were working on it and most were done, if not close. They call it TRAINING for a reason. 

*I know it's my hang-up, but parents rarely TRY to get a kid potty trained until they're almost flipping 3. WHY??? By that time, they can practically change their own damn diaper. You know when a perfect time to potty train is? During a pandemic when you aren't leaving the house. 

A week later, he's still on constant repeat. I know repetition might be a stage, but LAWDY it's the worst. The other 2 year old I sit for is younger than William, and he can respond to a YES/NO question without just repeating it. As in:  DO YOU WANT TO READ THE TRAIN BOOK? William repeats it back. 

It's exhausting. 

Reg finds the repeating a greeting thing so funny, that he greets William a million times. It never gets old, for Reg. Will the real 2 year old please step forward? 

Since this family has been so generous with me, I feel awkward correcting stuff like showing up late at pick up, forgetting to knock on the door (yes, they are falling into this habit too!), bringing their own toys, or not giving me a set drop off time. The mom IS very nice and if it gets super annoying, I guess I'll approach her.

This isn't horrible - no where near Narcey, but the drama DOES exist, maybe more frustration than actual drama. I hope you're happy. (I had another smallish story about another family who I ADORE, but going over my self-imposed word limit . . . more later).

Coming Friday . . . a memory capsule just discovered accidentally, I didn't even know it existed. Half the size of a normal post, perfect for your busy Friday. 

January 18, 2021

random pandemic musings you won't want to miss

Is it just  me, or are other people concerned about the future of breath mint companies? I am usually heavily reliant on breath mints. This stems from growing up in a house where I was constantly told that I had bad breath. (Do you hear that? It's my readers celebrating the fact that we are friends on the blogosphere where bad breath is not offensive. Well, I heard it).

Anyway, how are the breath mint companies getting by? Can someone check on them? I can't imagine there is much demand for their product right now, seeing as masks are shielding anyone in public from both stinky breath and delightfully minty breath. Just a thought. 

I have no good photos to go with this post, but this is what I wore Sunday when I made a meatloaf. Washed the sheets on all the beds including baby portable cribs. Attended Tank's travel volleyball games (seen here) with Coach. Ate dinner at home with everyone and then Coach and I attended Curly's travel basketball games. Then wrote this post. This was a busy day for a pandemic. I opted to wear my new long-ish sweater and leggings and my brown boots. Riveting, I know. But one doesn't leave the house much and isn't this sweater cute? I already had the leggings and what a great match.

Also, it has occurred to me that my position as head sniffer at my in-home daycare might become challenging if I test positive AND lose my sense of smell. How would I manage to identify poops without my nose to guide me? I'd be wrestling little people all day to physically peek inside their diapers. This could add to my sweat-a-rama factor. 

Curly shared a little e-learning secret with me recently. She admitted that when she doesn't know the answer to a question, she freezes. She doesn't move. This, she hopes, leads her teacher to believe that her screen is frozen. The message she hopes to send:  MOVE ON TO THE NEXT STUDENT, I'M FORZEN HERE. 

She also confided in me that Mini tried the same tactic, but was busted BECAUSE THE CEILING FAN IN THE BACKGROUND DIDN'T GET THE MEMO. IT CONTINUED TO SPIN. The teacher was like, UM, MINI YOU AREN'T FROZEN. GO AHEAD AND TRY TO ANSWER THE QUESTION.

As the proud Mama of my kids trying to beat the system in these trying times, I just gotta quote Wedding Crashers here:  I'M NOT  JUDGING  YOU CAUSE I THINK YOU'RE AN INNOVATOR.  (click the words to go to the link of that tiny bit of the movie, if you are so inclined)

In other pandemic notes, I will admit that I'm 'THAT' lady. You know the one, she scolds a punk-ass teenager at Costco. 

It happened just before Christmas. This 'I THINK I'M ALL THAT' teen wasn't wearing his mask. It was dangling below his chin, where it was doing no one any good. He walked around like he had a stick up his butt, like he was better than everyone he ever met. 

This made me want to ask him:  So, if you're as cool as you want everyone to think you are, then why are you shopping at Costco with your mom? 

In my brief time of observing him, I was confident that he wasn't a kid who struggled with some kind of developmental delay that might interfere with his ability to wear a mask. He was simply suffering from macho-man fa├žade shit. 

Don't get me wrong, I love when any of my kids accompany me to the store. I enjoy the 'split the list' strategy. But my kids don't carry themselves like they're superior beings. AND my kids follow the rules, like wearing masks. 

Do you know what's hard lately? Trying to open the plastic bags for raw meat packages at Costco. I can't lick my finger to help me in separating the two sides of the slippery bag. 

So, as I stood there struggling with the bag, I see Mr.Hot-shot walk by, mask not in place. I was still standing there struggling with the bag that refused to open (I've gotten better at this by the way - if I rub the bag back and forth crazy fast, friction usually saves the day. I'm sorry I don't have a video of me looking dumb doing this, but believe me, I look dumb) when he and his mom walked back from the opposite direction. 

He knew I was staring at him, trying to decide if I should say something. He turned to me and smiled. directly. in. my face. It was one of those: 

I-got-popcorn-at-the-movie-theater-and-you-didn't  little kid smiles.

No, I don't have issues from being deprived movie popcorn as a child. Why do you ask? 

Maybe it was the former substitute teacher in me. Or the part of me that had no problem correcting other people's punk-ass kids at the swimming pool when they invaded the baby pool because the big kid pool was closed for adult swim,  . . but I went ahead and got bossy: 


Mr. Hotshot:  WHAT?


Mr. Hotshot:  WHAT'D YOU WORK FOR COSTCO NOW? this implies that he knows me and that he knows where I work, which I found strange. 

Mr. Hotshot's mom:  (SNORT) ARE YOU SERIOUS?

They walked away. Since they didn't know me, they couldn't have understood that this was not over. I approached a maintenance man who worked at Costco. I told him that a teenager was refusing to wear his mask. He asked me WHERE? And I was more than happy to supply him with the info:  TALL KID, WHITE HOODIE.OVER THERE. I pointed Mr. Hot-shot's head bobbing above the crowd. Another shopper gave me a firm nod. Even though she was masked, I believe the nod was saying:  YOU GO GIRL! 

The next time I saw Mr. Hot-shot his mask was covering his not-so-smug face. Although I was tempted, I refrained from weaving through shoppers to catch up to he and his bitch mom and say something adult-ish like:  HA, LOOKS LIKE MR. MAINTENANCE MAN TOLD YOU. HOW'R YOU FEELING NOW, MR. HOT-SHOT?

I have my limits. *sometimes* 

Ernie for the win. 

You know what doesn't feel like a win . . . Tank missing his senior year. I still recall my silly self thinking that they'd cancel school for a few weeks in March and this would all be over. Quickly. Then I felt horrible for the seniors, who missed a few months of school, prom, etc. 

This year's seniors are missing EVERYTHING. Tank is so incredibly bummed. He's the leader of the spirit troop - the kids who scream crazy rants in the crowd during home football and basketball games follow his lead. He goes to school in person a few days a week, but lunch is kids sitting far apart, facing the same direction. Assigned seats. He's missing a year that should be chock full of fun memories. 

I'm not gonna lie, it's breaking my heart. His is breaking more. 

Who do you feel the most sorry for in your family or group of friends during the pandemic? And have you confronted a non-mask wearer, or am I the only nut job here? Or even, favorite breath mint? Have you faked being frozen or other tech difficulties to avoid a Zoom? 

I live for comments people, that and scolding teenage boys who tick me off. So please don't be shy, you're in good company. 

January 15, 2021

talent and I'd put that on a t-shirt

Ann, my sister, is an amazing artist. As a kid, I used to follow her around and try to draw the still life stuff she set up. I wanted to draw like her. Shit, I would've settled for her art supplies. The real deal. 

In high school, she took classes at the Chicago Art Institute. Dad told her he wouldn't pay for someone to draw pictures in college. She's a nurse. 

Even though Mom told Ann that imitation was the highest form of flattery, Ann sneered at me. Chased me away. Hollered for Mom if I tried to watch what she was doing. Shock. 

I can draw a little bit (Dad's aunt was an artist), but not as well as Ann. I sketched each of our kids when they were babies. Lad's sketch was done while he was sleeping, because eyes are easier to draw when closed. That's the kind of artist I am, "Excuse me Mona Lisa, can you just close those wide-set eyes of yours?"

I scanned my sketches onto the front of my baptismal invitations. It was like a postcard. The flipside had the invite details. My MIL hung the invitation on her fridge facing the sketch towards the fridge and the wording, that was no longer relevant because the baptism had come and gone like years earlier, faced out for people to 'admire'?  When we visited their house, I flipped the invitation over so my sketch was visible. God forbid we highlight someone's attempt at talent verses the word baptism. *sigh*

These little faces decorate the upstairs hallway. Ed's frame is the very light sketch. I think I was afraid to make a mistake.
Anyway, Mini has a gift. She's amazing. 

The other day, I went into the girls' room and I saw a sketch on Mini's desk. Over break, she should've done ACT prep work. It wasn't on my radar. I was a little annoyed that she was in her room so much. Then I saw this sketch. Oh. Wow. 

Timothee Chalamet

She also did the bird (below) with markers that the girls got for Christmas. You can blend them and stuff. They were really pricey, so they better do some blending and maybe clean the girls room too. She was ticked that she added the fish in the bird's beak, because well that fish didn't turn out so great and she felt it ruined the whole thing. 

Oh, if it weren't for that dang fish
that looks more like a dog's bone.

Ed just saw the sketch of the actor tonight. He was like:  MINI YOU SHOULD PUT THIS ON INSTAGRAM AND SELL YOUR STUFF. 


Tank's talent - not often seen on canvas. He has more comedic talent. This 'funny' that he made was somewhat unintentional, but I'm lumping it in here with Mini's art talent because it struck me as hilarious and I'm counting it as the same theme.

The kids have been sort of complaining about how Coach grills. The man has a phobia of germs. He should never be allowed near raw meat. He practically wears a hazmat suit when he encounters it. Translation:  he tends to overcook stuff. 

The kids were embarrassed because I sort of outed the issue. They've been telling me that he needs some new grilling techniques. I, ahem, mentioned their thoughts . . . in a round about way while covering true identities of the haters (of his grilling). They shot me daggers. But really, it ended up being a very good conversation where we all openly discussed our thoughts on Coach's grilling and because I'm always open game- my tendency to overuse certain recipes in my fabulous rotation of outstanding meals. 

YOU'RE WELCOME, YOU BUNCH OF INGRATES, I THOUGHT THIS WAS ABOUT DADDY? Kidding, I didn't say that/feel that way AT ALL. We all survived the critique session.

Coach and I have been under an incredible amount of stress this past week - and this silly 'dad dries stuff when he grills' topic was light and fluffy, to us. The kids feared hurting Daddy's feelings, but they didn't get that we were glad for the distraction. 

ANYWAY, afterwards Ed was beating me with a wet noodle for letting the cat out of the bag or in this case the chicken out from under the overused and misunderstood barbeque sauce. He also turned on Tank for being so honest and nit-picky. Tank famously said:


but it sounded more like:


I was in stitches. Of course. You saw it here first, but soon - I'm seeing this on t-shirts. Yes? Pre-orders?

January 13, 2021

Don't we have dinner in the oven? Chia seeds. Other red flags, and gratitude

After I commented recently on Suz's blog about how grateful I am for my babysitting families, I thought I'd share why . . . 

At last, all the pieces have fallen into place. This is my 6th year babysitting for families from my home . . . so, it's about damn time. 

This was me trying to get a photo for our
 ornament project. The 18 month old in the
middle looks like he is fed up with the twins.
 Really we were playing peek-a-boo.
Up close twin on the RIGHT-
I double checked that -
is the Bolt hamster one. 

I've had my fair share of nut jobs. Remember Narcey? Nightmare. Or the mom whose kid had chronic diarrhea? He was potty trained, but struggled to make it on time. I suggested she get him to a doc. Instead she listened to a podcast and asked me to sprinkle chia seeds on his food. Who could forget the Ungratefuls? 2019 Christmas: they didn't give me so much as a hand written note of thanks. The dopey dad refused to knock on my door, always just letting himself in. Ugh.

We parted ways in the spring, and part of me was worried. I was relieved to be rid of them, but they DID meet some of my criteria, minus the normal factor. Sometimes it's easier to dance with the devil you know. I was scared to take on someone else and get a newfangled nut job. 

My criteria: Part time. Teacher hours. Normal parents. A sense of humor (generally I get along with anyone if they have a sense of humor). Laid back types work well with me. The people who are grateful are clearly the best. New families want my references, but I'd also like THEIR'S. "Can you have three people email me to assure me that you're normal?"  - too much to ask? Stay tuned for a few examples of how I've learned a bit to gauge whether or not people are normal . . . 

At the start of the pandemic, I was hired by a teacher at my kids' high school to watch her twin babies this school year, so that limited who I could take. *Or so I thought. Hello, FB accidental hire* 

The other two families who are still on the docket from last year, are literally totally opposite from the Ungratefuls. They paid me for the rest of the semester last year even though we were locked down. The text messages they sent when I said "that's really not necessary" brought me to tears. So kind and gracious. 

New this year:  the baby twins, one twin continues to remind us of the hamster in Bolt. I knew the twins' mom because she taught Ed AP Caluc, and I thought we'd get along just fine. Understatement. We've totally clicked. She's abundantly grateful that I watch her girls. Even though she's a first time mom, she's very relaxed. One twin is really fussy, but I don't care. I do my best to make her feel well and the mom and I trouble shoot as needed.

So far, new FB family has been a good fit. The parents gave me a Christmas gift even though I'd actually only watched their kids twice before Christmas. The 2 year old cried the first few times he came. The 2nd day was the worst. He was seriously melting down. The mom started to tell him that she'd stay for a little bit. I picked him up and said:  NO YOU WON'T. HE'LL BE JUST FINE. (to the 2 yr old) COME ON, I WANT TO SHOW YOU SOME OF THE TOYS IN MY BASEMENT. And that, as they say, is how it's done. I texted her a few minutes later "He's fine!" 

* a short trip to the basement was my way of preserving my children's sleep. No one wants a grumpy 2 yr old AND a room full of grumpy teenagers on their hands. 

PART OF THE REASON I DECIDED TO TAKE THEM She's a teacher, she and her husband seemed nice. They only wanted part time. They hit all the marks. Even though it meant I'd need to switch to 5 days a week.

In total: 3 toddlers boys, 3 baby girls . . .  the more the merrier. I look forward to the nonstop entertainment they'll supply me as they grow up together. Yes, I'm easily entertained. 

The lessons:  

Wait, Ed - I liked eating breakfast
 with you. Come back!
Hard NO:  In July before I met the FB accidental fam, I interviewed another family. They wanted part time. They were teachers. It seemed like it might work. Their kids played in my family room and they told me that they preferred to drop their kids off on a set day, but if that day happened to be a day that a friend could watch them - then they'd end up not brining kids to my house. 

This would clearly save them money, but I pointed out that I don't do drop-in care. I give two weeks of freebie days for sickness or travel, etc. After those are used, you pay regardless of whether or not you use my services. Why would I hold a spot for a kid who comes as needed? 

Literally, after I explained my policy (which is pretty common), the dad looked at the mom. "Hey, we should go. Clean up kids. Don't we have dinner in the oven?" I tried not to die laughing, because I was like - 

Dude, mutual. Get out. I've had my share of your weird type. Ba-bye.

Steer Clear:  When Coach and I went for a walk in the summer, we introduced ourselves to a couple who had just moved in. They had two little kids. I told them: "We have a daughter who babysits. She helps me at my in home daycare, so she has experience."

This perked their ears up. "We have a nanny, but . . . " They'd had her for years, with a break in the middle while the dad was out of work. She was now back with them and bringing her own child. They said they trusted her and she took good care of their kids, BUT they weren't sure she was able to give enough attention to THEIR younger child who was close in age to the babysitter's child. 

Me:  I don't do full time, sorry. 

We walked away, and Coach was like - HEY, THAT SOUNDED PROMISING. 

Me:  They're not my type. (am I getting wiser with age, or what). Coach, they're considering ditching a woman who they claim to like because she does a great job, who was flexible (or maybe just available) to come back after the dad was employed again. Now they aren't sure their daughter is getting the attention she needs. PLEASE. They need to give it time. In a few months, this will no longer be an issue. Their kid has a built in playmate, same gender even. There is no pleasing these two. 

Coach:  Wow. 

Me:  I've sharpened my weirdo-sensing abilities. Remember the first time meeting Narcey? She told me that she figured I was Type A just like her. Huh? I'm NOT Type A. - Turned out neither was she - she was narcocsistic.  Red flag. 

My babysitting friend, Becky, laughs when I occasionally take out the ancient sandwich bag of chia seeds I keep in the back of a kitchen drawer. I shake it to remember, avoid the weirdness. 

Coming Friday:  short post. I'm highlighting some of my kids' talents. Wait, it sounds like my kids aren't talented if I'm referring to it as a short post. They are talented, damn it - and it is a short post. Come back. I'm not crazy. 

January 11, 2021

Back to the grind, circus style

I started babysitting again January 4th after two weeks off. There were a few things I had yet to accomplish on my 'to do' list before I welcomed back the little people. I told Mini, who is seriously focused on making money for college, she could be my paid assistant so I could try to get something done. My high schoolers didn't have classes until Thursday. She jumped at the chance. I told her I'd do the early morning bit. I mean why expect her to break her streak of sleeping till almost noon every day? She understood that she'd need to be up by at least 8:30 or 9. 

We should've shaken on it. 

Sunday evening she told me that she was going to meet with her group for BPA (business professionals of America) at 11:45 the next day. 

Me:  Um, that'll be tricky SINCE YOU'RE BABYSITTING.

Mini:  Oh, shoot. I forgot. I can't skip this meeting. 

Me:  Eye roll. You better plan to be super helpful before you go then. 

I was fine handling the sitting myself, but the thought of easing back into the routine had helped me mentally prepare. Believe it or not, I occasionally get the teenage:  THIS IS YOUR JOB - when I ask for help, or when Mini is left dealing with babies WHILE watching HGTV. I'm always happy to point out that I'm working in order to fund my kids' college tuition. TRANSLATION:  get up off your duff and give me a hand, minus the grief. 

Anyway, I'm back in the swing of things but I've decided that I must not wear sweaters on certain days. Explanation: 

Remember when my schedule switched from 3 days a week to 5 days a week? This was because I'm a FB flunkie. I'd accidentally friended a mom whose post for a sitter was one that I looked at, but ultimately decided NO, I CAN'T DO THAT. Well, she accepted my friend thing, met me, hired me, and I agreed to shuffle people around to accommodate them. Note:  I was extremely grateful to the other families who were willing to shuffle. 

All of my families need care 3 days a week. The 9 month old twins and the family-I-friended-on-FB-accidentally have a 5 month old, they overlap one day:  Wednesday. 

Due to multiple quarantine situations, the FB fam didn't start until just before  break- instead of the original Nov. 5th start date. Last week was my first ALL-HANDS-ON-DECK Wednesday. It's a day with 2 toddlers and all 3 babies. Thus my ban on sweaters on Wednesdays. Getting up and down off the floor to change diapers, clean up kids and high chair trays, and haul babies upstairs for naps - well, it ends with me swimming in sweat come naptime. (Because I needed someone to KNOW how physically demanding this was, I dipped my hand in my puddle where-most-people-have-cleavage and touched it to Curly's arm . . . she promptly decided to disown me).

This past week, Delilah asked if she and her baby-a-holic 14 year old daughter could stop by. 

Delilah:  Is there a day daughter and I could come visit when you have lots of babies?

Me: (without hesitating) WEDNESDAY.

Delilah texted me Wednesday morning to see if it was still OK for them to stop by.

I texted back, YES, BRING THE REINFORCEMENTS. The below photo was attached. 

One baby is hard to see in the light by the window.
I feel like we could play a 'can you see all 5 babies/tots' game with this photo. 

The babies bring their own food, and when I put the twins' waffles in the toaster Reg and Curly drifted into the kitchen:  WHAT SMELLS SO GOOD? DID YOU MAKE PANCAKES? 

It was the last day of break for them, and despite the circus atmosphere I told them I'D whip up some pancakes. Then I realized I was almost out of Bisquick, so I googled to see if I could just add a bit of flour. Instead, I found directions on how to make more Bisquick. Why not?

The tots are trained to stay in the family room,
so at least I don't trip over them when I decide to whip up breakfast.

Reg fed a baby part of a bottle. Have I mentioned, they'll do anything for food? I got the cakes going, and flipped them on the griddle while I burped the baby. Then I fed her the rest of her bottle while I buttered the pancakes. In here somewhere I changed 2 crap diapers, but that's implied. 

I sent Reg in the basement to hang with toddlers while I rode the bike for 35 minutes while three babies took morning naps. (Breathes on knuckles and brushes them against lapel, as in - yep, I'm a pro). 

Three diaper bags and three carseats add to the kitchen clutter.

When Mini woke, I called over my sweaty shoulder from the bike: "Clean up the kitchen from pancakes before you leave for ANOTHER BPA meeting." *Note to self, review with Mini what it means to ACTUALLY clean up a kitchen vs. putting 3 plates in a dishwasher.* Curly, remote learning, helped out between classes. I showered and was back downstairs 10 minutes later. *This is where my readers nod their heads, OH THIS IS WHY SHE DOESN'T SHARE HER BEAUTY SECRETS WITH US, THEY DON'T EXIST.* 

Then Delilah and daughter came. I'll never turn down extra hands on Wednesdays (that was a subliminal message intended for Delilah, the rest of you can ignore). I lost track of how many diapers I changed. The baby who never spits projectiled all over Curly just after she'd showered. 

Mini, home from her meeting, told Curly:  TOO BAD, THAT WAS A CUTE OUTFIT. Curly looked like she'd been dipped in green slime. She changed clothes in a huff.

In case you wonder why it takes me longer lately to comment on blog posts, now you know. 

One guy hasn't been here since Tank's quarantine. They wanted to be able to spend Christmas with grandparents, so decided to limit any possible exposure. Totally understandable. They've paid me my full rate this entire time. Very generous. He comes back this morning and for the next 2.5 weeks he'll be here 5 days a week, so Wednesdays will have another toddler. We're bracing. He's 2 and prefers to be at home where he ALWAYS gets his way. Pray for me.  

January 8, 2021

If your sister in law brings a cake, and you don't read the label . . .

This is embarrassing. Please don't judge. I do have a handle on my own kitchen, usually. It was an oversight. This is what happens when I don't pay attention. 

Let's throw my sister in law under the bus here. It's friendly fire, no need to skip this post fearing another installment of my middle child syndrome. This is Coach's side.  

I texted my sister in laws on Coach's side about our plans for December 26th. I figured 2:00. My sis in laws would want to know what to bring. I planned it out so everyone had time to make it to the grocery store. I shared with them that I was making sheet pan Cuban chicken rice bowl meal that is our latest favorite. So good! 

Is it bad manners to show a partially
eaten place of food as it would be if you
 showed a partially chewed moth of food? 

I suggested no one bring an appetizer with beans, etc. in consideration of our digestive systems. For example, I ALWAYS make 7 layer taco dip. ALWAYS. But, I told them I'd skip it in lieu of the fact that the dinner was chock full of beans and corn and onions and peppers. I ended with 'you're welcome.' I committed to making a cheese ball.

I invited them to bring an appetizer or kid drinks or maybe a mango salsa, since the Cuban thing suggested it. 

I also said: "I've got dessert covered." When we go to my folks' house for Christmas, my mom prepares an INSANE number of desserts. I decided to make a bunch of goodies knowing my kids would be excited to have something similar to what we usually do at Nana's. It wasn't insane, but close. I surprised them with a peppermint ice cream dessert and my mom hasn't made that in years. Big hit.

And I made all of these (or a smaller version) GF. Little bit of heaven.

Coach's sister Elle texted back: bringing mango salsa and a dessert. A few days later she texted: what time?

Someone is struggling with reading comprehension.

I told her 2:00. AGAIN, and I wasn't even a wiseass about it (small curtsey). I let the dessert thing slide because her high school daughter likes to bake. Maybe having daughter bake was easy for her. Her MIL has been in the hospital off and on since Thanksgiving. She isn't doing well. She was covid free but they put her on a covid floor and guess what? She got covid. Plus, Elle works full time. I figured she was running on fumes. 


If you send out a perfectly clear text, and your sis in law botches it, you're going to end up with a shit load of dessert. 

If you end up with a shit load of dessert, some of it is going to be uneaten. 

If you ask said sister in law if the store bought cakes (PLURARL) that she brought to your house need to be refrigerated, and she says NO, and you believe her, then the cakes will sit on your countertop.

If your college age son, Ed, decides to drive to a friend's MI lake house for New Year's Eve, and you tell him to go ahead and take the untouched cake (the one he's been suggesting all week that we give away, because no one is gonna eat it)- then he is going to pack it in his car. 

If you COULD eat gluten, then there would be nothing left of that cake to begin with because you have no self-control and there would be no issue. If you CANNOT have your cake and eat it too because of stupid celiac, and you are focused on other things, and no one is eating the cake then it will fall off of your radar. 

If you didn't like the WHEN YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE children's book, then this parody might drive you crazy.  

Somehow the cake in question did not make it in this photo. The oreo looking cake was one that she brought. Along with a cookies cake. And then the tres leches (just now googled the name of this cake and that has made the end result more clear) cake which I discuss here.

If your son, Ed, texts you from the lake house where he is staying for a few days to say that the cake was rancid because it was supposed to be refrigerated and it WAS NOT, then you will want to crawl in a hole. ESPEICALLY BECAUSE YOU HAVE A FREEZER FULL OF TOP NOTCH EFF-ING, WHAT-YOU'RE-KNOWN-FOR CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES that he could've brought. 

Exhibit A. Check out that Santa cookie, one of Mini's art projects. 
If you laugh it off and hope it wasn't a huge ordeal, and your son comes home the next day and describes his horrified college friends WHO WILL EAT ANYHING, BECAUSE COLLEGE and how they decided to leave it out and watch people's faces as they tried a bite BECAUSE COLLEGE and he tells you that rather than throw Aunt Elle under the bus, he has outed you as a clueless mother with no actual business in the kitchen - THEN YOU WILL BEG HIM TO TELL YOU THAT HE IS LYING.

You might also insist that he invite all his friends to your home SOON in order to fix them amazing food out the ass (oh, wait - that was the impact of the first food they associated with you) - or rather, amazing food that will impress them and restore your reputation . . . then you better get a good grocery run planned and START DIVING INTO YOUR MEAL PREP.

So, what are you doing this weekend as I hope to be able recapture my dignity?

*BTW at our gathering, Elle apologized for later noticing that I HAD assigned a time for the party. She admitted that she thought our other sis in law was offering to bring ANOTHER cheese ball, when really other sis in law said: "OK, I'll bring an appetizer that has no beans and is not a cheese ball." After she apologized for daughter using all the sugar prompting her to buy store bought cakes, Mike's Hard Lemonade helped me be comfortable jabbing her with:  Um, the text that you barely read also said I GOT DESSERTS COVERED. So there was much laughing on the 26th - and apparently much disgusted face making at the spoiled cake on the 31st. The videos above are a few moments of Ed sharing how the cake drama unfolded.

January 6, 2021

the not-exactly family Christmas drama

On Christmas the kids were surprised by their stickers. Well done, Santa. I told them I had additional stickers stashed away. Trades were possible. I also informed them that I ordered a bunch of stickers that we'd later deliver to my local siblings and their cousins. 

One of Curly's favorite stickers.
She hears this often, even when
she isn't wearing a wig.

Once everything was opened and wrapping paper still littered the floor, they were like LET'S SEE THE OTHER STICKERS. I patted myself on the back for this 'big hit' (and yes, SO economical) gift. 

I got the extras and we shuffled through them and allocated them: 'SACRACASM IS STRONG WITH THIS ONE' - Pat. Fiddle - Aunt Leprechaun. An abundance of Notre Dame ones and other Star Wars ones for the kids' cousins and my sibs. Ann - Ed Sheerin sticker. She's obsessed. 

Coach came to my folks' house to deliver their gifts, but we dropped him home before we headed to Ann, Mike, and Pat's houses. 

My Milwaukee sis, Marie, texted me to say that they enjoyed the stickers I mailed to Wisconsin. Remember, she got young Rob Lowe on a sticker? 

Marie:  How did you make them?

Me:  Huh? Have we met? I ordered them. 

Mike's wife wondered the same thing. If only I was that crafty and was posing a threat to Red Bubble. 

My dad liked the books that I got him - straight off of his list. 

My mom's response to the gel mat for her kitchen floor:  Oh, can this go next to my car? Ever since we did the epoxy on the garage floor this summer, I'm afraid that it will be slippery if it gets wet. 

*Note: my folks' garage floor was already spotless, ready-to-be licked if Reg felt so inclined. But they made it EVEN more spiffy with epoxy. 

Me:  Um, I'm not sure if it's made for outdoor use. If you want, we can return it and I can get you something from Weather Tech for your garage.

Coach asked her to try the mat for its intended purpose before she decided anything. In other words, he told my mom to get in the kitchen and start baking some damn cookies. (recently she admitted that she's worried that she or my dad will trip on it. I've gotta drag that thing back to the store).

Off I went with the youngest 4 to Ann's house. She didn't answer. We were about to leave. Hey, it was 20 degrees out so we weren't cold or anything.

Finally, she answered and was surprised to see us. Said she was busy on a zoom call doing trivia. 

Me:  Oh, are you doing trivia with your kids?

Ann:  No. The McIrish side. (my side)

Me:  Huh? We didn't know about it. 

Ann:  Marie's daughter set it up (shrug). Curly what did you do to your hair. (insert unflattering voice here)

Curly:  Oh, I just put it up in a clip today.

Ann:  But it's different. What did you DO to it?

Apparently Ann didn't pick up on my facial expressions that were screaming:  STOP! THIS IS WHAT HER HAIR IS LIKE. IT'S VERY FRIZZY AND FLUFFY. THANKS FOR NOTICING. Read the room, Ann - or in this case the front porch. 

Sheesh. Curly stood their patting her hair down as a self-confident reflex. 

On our way to Pat and Aunt Leprechaun's, we discussed this trivia Zoom that we weren't invited to. Seemed strange, but we thought maybe it was just Marie's family and Ann - who was alone because her kids opted to be with their dad. Marie and Ann:  practically Siamese.

Then Pat admitted that they were Zooming, too. They'd lost the trivia game.

Last stop:  Mike's house. They invited our masked selves inside to see their new pup. On their table:  a laptop Zooming with all of my other siblings. Marie's kids started hollering greetings to us. 

I leaned towards the laptop and said out loud:  Huh, we didn't know anything about this.

Then we finished our quick visit with Mike and family.

Later in the car:  Witnessing the Zoom made it harder. My kids expressed total disgust that we were clearly the only ones left off of it. Hurt me, fine - but upset my children? I started to cry. The kids were like:  WHO NEEDS THEM. (followed closely by) WHY WOULD THEY LEAVE US OUT?

Mini and I had the same thought. Ann really hasn't spoken to me since I opted not to participate in the gift she was organizing for my dad's birthday in May. Not surprising. A more controlling person doesn't exist. 

Maybe she agreed to Zoom so long as I was left off? Seemed like a stretch, but the rest of the siblings all tip-toe around her. She's never held accountable. I have no patience for that. 

At home, Coach and Ed were shocked but also believed it was possible. They felt bad. Ed was like, but none of their kids are as cool as your kids.

I sniffled my way through my hurt and we had a delicious meal. The girls and Reg made more Christmas cookies, which was more entertaining than I thought possible. Then we watched 'While You Were Sleeping' which wasn't completely embraced. Tank was like a ROMCOM? WHAT?!

Mini's were artistic and Reg joined late. His were hilarious.

The next day, Mini told me that a Milwaukee cousin put a picture of the Zoom on her snapchat. 

Mini:  Why were the Shenanigans not included?

Cousin:  What? No idea. My mom sent out a text.

Mini:  My mom never got it.

Cousin:  Oh NO!

Marie's kids are crazy about my gang. It seemed strange that we would've been left off if her kids were involved. The next day, Marie texted me to say that she felt awful that I never got the text. She pointed out that Mike got her text hours after she sent it. She invited me to Zoom the next day. I texted back and said I didn't get the text and that another Zoom wasn't necessary, but thanks.

I admit that I keep my responses to family group texts to a minimum because I HATE GROUP TEXTS, ESPEICALLY WHEN PEOPLE RESPOND WITH THEIR APPLE PHONE EMOTIONS. THOSE ARRIVE ON MY ANDROID PHONE LIKE A WHOLE NEW TEXT. In other words, group texts with my family cause my phone to ping CONSTATNLY. I wonder if they have nothing better to do than to 'love' or 'laugh at' texts. I usually respond in some way to the initial text though. 

This was the last cookie who looked a little rough around the edges when I discovered him in an otherwise empty bin in the fridge.

Would've been nice if someone explained the missing text message to me when I pointed out that we knew nothing about the Zoom. A trivia game on zoom with my siblings would NOT have enhanced my Christmas in the least. Trust me. 

Not the point though. 

I shared this not-quite drama with my therapist on my birthday. I was kind of like, WHY DIDN'T ANYONE REACH OUT WHEN THE SHENANIGANS DIDN'T SHOW UP ON THE ZOOM? Like not even a cousin reached out to the kids. 

She said that in a normal family that would've probably happened, but my family has too much dysfunction. This cracks me up, because my family firmly believes that our family is perfection. Really? 

Perhaps they should add the definition of dysfunction to their trivia game. On Dec. 26th, we enjoyed hosting Coach's sister's fam and brother's fam. Funny, when I used to drink the Kool-Aid I always preferred to hang with my family. I was still craving their affirmation, interest, etc.  Even though I've moved on, it hurts to be excluded - even though this time it looks accidental.