"If it weren't for bad luck, I would have nothing to talk about" - April

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Soccer, Panhandling, Shopping and Partying; It's how I do Saturdays.

Soccer Season

As the carefree days of summer* are slipping away, soccer season is beginning again for my little guy.  *Sidenote: when I say "carefree days of summer", surely you realize I mean sweltering hot days of excessive humidity, excessive mosquito bites and excessive rain accompanied by weekends jam-packed with birthday parties.  The little guy didnt play spring soccer because I wanted him to give T-Ball a chance so he hasn’t played on a soccer team since last year.  We haven’t really practiced much at all either, aside from him kicking the ball around the yard a bit here and there.  I only hope things will be improved from last year.  If you don't recall or are not familiar, the first practice last year resulted in an epic meltdown, followed by a fever and strep throat...and me making a scene and embarassing myself after spilling my purse, getting the stroller stuck in dirt and turning my ankle.  Anyway, that is behind us now. 

This past Saturday was their 2nd game.  The first game was exciting because he’s made such improvements from last year!  He is no longer that kid that is oblivious to the game whilst running laps around the perimeter of the field and getting caught in the net like a fly in a spider web.  My daughter has made great improvements as well.  She actually sits in her little seat now as opposed to running off into the woods, the stream, onto the field, etc.  She’s a big 3 year old now so those 2 year old antics are a thing of the past.  (ha!  yea right - but for this particular day, she was good at the game.)

For this game I had to fly solo.  The husband was at work so I was on my own.  I’ll be honest, I was concerned but I knew I had been through worse so I was sure we would be ok.  We pull up to the soccer field and I’ve never ever seen it like this before.  You might have thought it was a World Cup Game.  Cars were parked all over the place.  People were driving the wrong way, stopping in the road, passing quickly around eachother and all on gravel while small children were walking through.  The parents weren't paying attention to the kids, the kids weren't paying attention to the cars and the drivers weren't paying attention to ANYONE.  All traffic rules and courtesies were out the window.  There wasn't a free spot to be found.  People were even parking on the main road outside of the complex.  It was nuts.  I fortunately found a vehicle about to pull out of a spot.  I stopped and put my blinker on as they loaded into their car.  There was a line of traffic behind me that felt like it stretched 40 miles.  Come on guy, can’t you pull out of the spot already?  Clearly you see what's going on out here.  Nope.  The wife now decides to get out of the car and walk away.  People behind me are whipping around me and almost mowing down entire families.  They’ve now formed a line of traffic that prevents anyone from ever pulling out of any spot.  Smart move, morons.  After waiting what felt like years for this guy to pull out, I gave up.  The wife must have just left him and remarried, because I never did see her come back.  Instead, I pulled into the spot next to him after that person left.

I get both kids out of the car and instruct them repeatedly not to move from the side of the car, because there are too many cars moving around.  Neither listens.  I get the boy, the girl, his soccer bag, his soccer ball, her purse, her bag of snacks, my chair, her chair and my purse.  Somehow I managed to get us all to the field without being run over and without dropping anything.  It was a magical moment. 

The game starts, the weather is glorious, and my little guy is doing great.  I’m so proud of him.  Best of all, he’s smiling from ear to ear the whole time.  My daughter stayed in her little seat, ate her snacks and didn’t give me a hard time.  I actually got to watch his game for the first time.  It was incredible. 

Anyone Home?

At about 10 minutes before 12:00 I get a phone call from my Step-Mom asking if we are home.  I told her we are at the soccer game, but it’s ending in a few minutes.  She said they wanted to stop by and drop off a birthday present for my son.  I said we should be home in about 20 minutes if they want to meet me at my house.  Now I know full well that we have to be at the local KMart by 1pm so my son can panhandle - oops, I mean do “Tag Day” for the soccer team, but I also know that them stopping by usually only runs me about 15 minutes max.  

Itinerary for Every Time my Dad and Step-Mom Stop By:

  • they pull into the driveway just as I’m setting foot in the shower, getting changed, mixing ground meat with my bare hands, paining the den, etc.
  • honk the horn
  •  wait 4 seconds
  • honk the horn again aggressively (this is all my dad)
  • if everyone doesn’t burst out of the house immediately, start shouting and continue honking
  • the kids start trickling out of the house usually barefoot or unclothed and someone trips, pinches a finger in the door, falls down the steps, fights with the other, or takes off running oblivious to the fact that anyone is in the driveway waiting to say hello
  • I finally emerge and herd the kids back inside to get dressed or shoes on while I chat for a bit
  • the kids come back out, climb in the car and all over their grandparents
  • they let the kids honk the horn 30-40 times
  • I say i got to get back inside at the same time that my dad says he has to get going
  • we all go back in the house
  • the kids run back out of the house while i yell for them to get back in
  • they drive away.

Again, this whole process takes about 15 minutes start to finish, so if they meet me at my house in 20, I’ll make if for Tag Day no problem.  KMart is only 5 minutes away.

The game ends and I start to pack up.  Somehow, I can’t seem to hold all of the same stuff I had just carried onto the field but an hour earlier.  The chair is sliding from under my arm, I drop my phone and I just cant get it together.  I can’t hold either child’s hand because my hands are full and they cant hold on to me because they each have a juice box and a bag of pretzels.  I struggle to the car, kicking things the last 10 feet only to realize we forgot his soccer ball.  I load everything in and go back to the field.  Luckily, we found it with ease.  Back through the parking lot for the 4th time today and we load up and head out.  I’m trying to hurry now because I’ve lost so much time and I thought my dad would be in my driveway having a fit by this time.

Something's Fishy 

I pull up to my house and they aren’t there.  Let me call her cell back and see if they are on their way.  My father answers and the tone of his voice alone tells me he is in one of his moods.  The conversation went like this:

Him: HELLO!!?!
Me: Dad?  What’s wrong?
Me: Okay..um are you on your way here right now?
Me: Alright...well do you want to just stop by in a little while then?  Lorenzo has Tag Day Today at KMart and-(interrupted)
Me: *dumbfounded* 

Just like you, I had no CLUE what in the world that was supposed to mean.  I called back but now there’s no answer.  Alright, well clearly something is going on and I dont know what it is and I dont want to know right now because I am just going to head over to KMart and be somewhere early for once.

As I exit the neighborhood, my cell phone rings.  It’s my step-mom’s phone.  Should I even answer?  I debated and then answered anyway.  It was Joanne this time.  She sweetly says “Are you home?”  So I reply as nicely as I can, doing my very best to hide my frustration.  She doesn’t need any flack from me as I’m sure she has no idea what just transpired and the poor soul has to deal with him in that mood as it is.  I said “I just drove out of the neighborhood...what the heck is going on?  Dad just cursed something about fish and hung up on me.  I have no clue what’s happening right now and he has tag day at 1pm..”.  She apologetically said “Would you mind coming back?  We will only be 5 minutes.”  How could I say no?  I feel bad for her to have to deal with that mess today.  I turn the car around and go back home.  A few minutes later, my dad comes zooming up.  You might think he had a caravan of police chasing him down the way he whipped around the corner.  “What’s his problem?” I ask my clearly frazzled step-mom as she attempts to take things from the back seat of the car.  Her response is funny yet, totally accurate for the moment: “He’s an a**hole”.  Speaking of a**holes, here comes my friend the police officer.  He pulls up right behind my father (in his personal vehicle - there really was no police chase).  This seems to infuriate my dad and he shouts “WATCH OUT I HAVE TO PULL THE F**K UP NOW!” and guns it 15 feet while the back door is still open from poor Joanne still trying to get things out.  For the record, there’s no reason whatsoever that he would have had to pull up - it was just the bad mood talking.

The reason for all the hurry and “fish” talk is because for my son’s birthday, they bought him a fish tank with live fish.  He was delighted.  But now we have to run so the bag of fish have to be left home with the cats.  Hopefully they survive.  I bid a friendly farewell to all the friends and family that gathered on my lawn and hoped they weren’t offended that I had to leave so abruptly.


Off to KMart and the Tag Day portion of the trip was mildly successful.  We still managed to arrive on time, but the kids insisted on riding the coin operated ride out front first.  It was the longest ride in the history of rides.  Even the Disabled Vets (that they pit us against for collecting) commented on how long the ride was taking. 

Now that the hour has passed and they’ve gotten junk from the vending machines, climbed under benches and behind signs and have run out of the tiny amount of self-control they have, I have to go inside to shop for a couple things.  This turned into a 2 hour ordeal.

Of course my daughter had to pee, because that’s what she does EVERY SINGLE TIME WE EVER LEAVE THE HOUSE EVER.  They are both hungry and ornery and I am too.  After taking MUCH too long to pick up a few items and chasing them both in opposite directions, we finally make it to the register.  I have a talent of picking the slowest line 10 times out of 10.  This time the lady 3 people in front of me had a thousand questions, then there was a problem with her card, then the register broke and we were advised to disperse to other lines. 

By this time, my daughter who has had the hiccups for 10 minutes has progressed to dry heaving and crying that her belly hurts.  I see customer service doesn't seem to have a crowd for once so I ask if they could ring me up there since I’m afraid my daughter is going to be sick.  The lady says yes, come around this way and before I make it to the other side of the counter, some old lady has waddled over and now says “I was here first”. 

She only had a few items so I hoped she would be in and out.  NOPE.  She purchased something large and now she needed the guy from the stock room to not only go get it for her, but also go out to her car and check to see that it would fit.  Meanwhile, I’m holding my daughter with my hand covering her mouth while she cries “MY BELLY HURTS!!” and while my son crawls away on the floor under the line of shopping carts.

The other lady at the service desk says “I’ll take you over this side”.  My daughter is still moaning and now sliding down my side as I’m calling my son and trying to push the cart with my elbows.  I get to the other side of the service desk and she says “This is a return, right?” I said NO and she said “Oh I can’t help you then”.   I wanted to cry.  Back to the other side and a long line has formed, but I’m going right back to where I was initially.  Somebody just try and say something about it.  The old lady is now attempting to pay but I guess she doesn’t know how to work a credit card and needs help from the cashier.  Twenty-five minutes after her initial proclamation of being there first, the old lady FINALLY is moving along.  It’s my turn and I can’t get out of here fast enough.  The lady rings up my first item.  Then the phone rings and she answers it and stops ringing me up.  She spends the next 2 minutes on the phone helping that customer, transferring the call and who knows what else.  She rings up my second item.  The phone rings again and the same procedure repeats itself 4 times in a row.  I’m going to lose it. 

The Great Escape 

I finally get out of there and the disabled vets are shocked to see me.  “You’re still here!?”  Yup.  Over two hours later and I’m still here.  I dig through my purse to give them a donation while the kids grab everything on their table.  They love it and say they can have whatever they want.  However, I don’t particularly want them to have flags on toothpicks because I know my kids and someone will be bleeding or lose an eye in under a minute.  They’re too young for gum so I sell them on the blue flower.  This took convincing because they BOTH decided that after the flag and the gum, they would each rather have the rocks that they’ve taken off the table that the Vets were using to hold down the papers from the wind. 

I’m beat.  I made it home by 3:30 and we have a birthday party at 3.  We should really just go straight there, but these fish have been on the counter in a bag for pushing 3 hours now.  We will have to set up the fish tank first. 

We get to the party nearly 2 hours late but had a great time there.  I love my cousin and her family.  Always a good time and the kids talked for hours about how much fun they had.  All’s well that ends well is what they say, right?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Leisurely Strolls have been Forbidden in this House

You might have caught on to a trend around here.  Anything in my life, no matter how simple or innocent it should be, always finds a way to become a huge spectacle.  That's why I try my best to find casual, relaxing things to do with the kids to escape the high pressure environment everyday life is otherwise.

A nice way to get some exercise and fresh air is to take a nice walk around the neighborhood.  Now that the weather is warmer, its something I really want to do every night and the kids even want to as well.  Not often we all agree on something so when we do, I'm going for it.  I've been using my "Sit N' Stand" stroller so I can blast down the sidewalk as quickly as I like and the kids just go for the ride.

*This is not me, those are not my children and 
we don't have a backdrop like this anywhere in our lives.  
AKA I don't know these fools.

For the most part, this has worked well for all except when the dog gets mad that we've left him behind and then jumps the fence to catch up with us.  I won't even get into what is involved in trying to corrale a dog who is hard of hearing back into the yard while there are squirrels and people and other dogs all around to distract him.

Since I've been babysitting my infant niece some nights, the new arrangement was that my daughter's spot in the front would be replaced with the baby's car seat (as shown in the inset of the above photo).  As a result, my daughter then had to move to the "standing" section of the stroller, while my 5 year old has to walk.  The 5 year old is fine with this.  I'm fine with this.  The baby doesn't even know anything about anything anyway and my daughter, well, she's not so sure she likes this.  She's been having some major jealousy of the new baby as it is, so since the baby took her spot - even though she always wanted to stand in the back where her brother was anyway - it's now become a major issue for her.  She would rather just walk than have to sit or stand in the back.  It's just a matter of principle for her I'm sure.  She only wanted to be back there when she wasn't allowed.  Now that the baby "stole her seat" she is staging a protest about everything involving the stroller and the struggle and argument usually carries on throughout the entire duration of our walk.  It's really annoying.

That's when I had it easy. For whatever reason, we've left the Sit N' Stand out in the elements for a couple weeks.  Because of my intense fear of spiders, I'm now convinced that I can never touch that thing again.  When I want to go for a walk now, I ask my sister to leave her stroller with me.  

The good news about our first walk with the baby's stroller is that it's a really nice stroller that handles beautifully and it's all new and clean.  The baby managed to have a nice nap and the weather was just perfect.  The bad news was just about everything else that happened.  

Walking with the baby in her own stroller has played host to a whole new set of problems.  Now both kids have to walk.  I asked my husband to come along for the walk this time thinking it would be nice for us all to do something together.  (no clue where my teenager could have been through any of this BTW)  

ANYHOW, here we go down the road and my son is out in the front pretending he is a car and bouncing over the bumps of the sidewalk like he's got the suspension of a Cadillac.  He looks downright insane doing it, but he seems to enjoy it so we let him*.  (*by this I mean we totally give up telling him to walk right.)  

I'm pushing the stroller and my daughter running full speed. She's totally ignoring us as we both call for her to stop before she falls.  After telling her 597 times in 8 seconds to stop running, she fell and skinned her knee.  Here come the screams.  

I may have mentioned before that my daughter's cry is like no other.  He "normal cry" is the loudest most piercing, shrill screams you will ever hear in your life.  Anything from a dropped cookie to a severed toe conjures up the same deafening symphony of screams.  It's really unbelievable.  Needless to say, no matter where we are, if she starts crying, people from everywhere are staring at us wondering what horrible thing we did to this child to make her scream in such a way that makes your blood run cold. 

Her not listening and now screaming drives my husband to start yelling at her.  "We told you this was going to happen but you don't listen!!".  His yelling at her makes me get upset with him because to me "she's just a baby" and needs her boo-boos kissed.  He picks her up and carries her for the next few feet trying to get her to stop screaming, while he continues to yell at her.  Because all of this isn't enough of a scene, now I chime in and start whisper screaming at him to please stop yelling at her because it's embarrassing.  Meanwhile, my son who has grown immune to this sort of thing has happily run so far a head that he doesn't hear me calling for him to come back.  Now I have to start yelling for him to even hear me, while my daughter is still screaming her lungs out. My husband is now yelling "That's it! NO MORE WALKS EVER AGAIN!", to which I respond with more whisper-screaming to "please shut up".  We are both at our witt's end and look like raving lunatics and we've only been walking for 5 minutes and are only 4 or 5 houses down from our own.

I told her she needs to stay close to Daddy now.  This puts her behind me but infront of him and apparently the fall taught her nothing because she's running again.  I'm trying my best to look in front of me at the boy and behind me at my daughter at the same time while not crashing the stroller or running over other pedestrians.   

I told them since they aren't listening, they now both have to hold onto the stroller.  That lasted a full 30 seconds before the fighting started.  My daughter, being the little peanut she is, is trying her best to reach the stroller rail to hold on.  It didn't help that my son decided at that moment to imagine the stroller is now a race car.  She did her best to hang on while her tiny legs struggled to keep up with the speed.  Next they start a full-blown battle over who gets control of the steering.  They argue and scream as each of them is shoving the stroller, making it maneuver wildly.  Her little legs are again flailing as she tries to keep pace with the stroller's rapid and violent jerks as the three of us tussle over control.  

Some more yelling on my part and now they are both mad at eachother and me.  My husband has since given up on all of this and is 200 feet behind us playing on his phone and blissfully unaware of it all.  My son opts to walk ahead again and so my daughter takes this opportunty to once again claim ownership of stroller steering.  This time she is walking under me and pushing it by the cargo basket below with all of her might.  This makes me have to walk with my arms fully extended infront of me and bent over at the waist so I don't trample her.  She feels me resisting so I'm not speeding with the baby and this infuriates her.  She demands that I stop touching the stroller altogether.  That's not going to happen so "kindly" tell her it's enough already and I'm the only one allowed to push the stroller.  She is NOT happy. 

Next, she decides to run ahead of us and my son decides to drop back.  Since she won't listen to me when I tell her to stop running, I thought a good idea might be to make a game of "red light, green light" so I could get her to stop before the driveways when I yell red light.  Great idea right!?  I was proud of myself for coming up with that one on the fly.  It worked too!!  For like, 8 seconds until my son decided to start barking out all the wrong commands at all the wrong times.  He wouldn't stop even though I told him over and over that I was the only one allowed to make the calls. While we battle that out, my daughter is still running ahead and my husband is still miles behind.  

We pass a friends house and get a few minute reprieve from the non-stop drama while the kids played and we chatted.  A few friendly exchanges and a 5 minute battle with the kids to move along and we are on our way again.  Ahead, I see a man gardening with his lawnmower parked partially blocking the sidewalk.  My son is running ahead and talking relentlessly while not looking where he's going.  I'm yelling to him to watch out, but he doesn't hear me because he's still rambling on about something and getting increasingly irritated that I'm not listening to HIM!  Just at the last second he looks up and narrowly misses hitting his face on the lawnmower handles.  As my daughter and husband approach behind me, my son runs ahead toward the corner so I had to chose to tell him to stop before I could yell back to them to watch out for the lawnmower.  Sure enough <<BONG!>> she crashes right into it and starts screaming yet again.  Then she continues on to yell at the homeowner for leaving his lawnmower "in her way" on the sidewalk while SHE'S trying to walk there!!  Did I mention she's only 3??  

After surviving that, the next disaster in the making appears.  Theres a woman with a new puppy.  He's so cute and the kids want to pet him so bad, but the problem is that the woman is clearly insane and the puppy is deathly afraid of people.  As the woman is literally dragging the puppy towards the kids, you can see the whites of its eyes while it flails around wildly on the end of his leash.  The poor puppy then starts yelping and howling and the kids just plain ignore me as I keep saying "lets just go, the puppy is scared".  They want to run towards him and only terrify him more!  The woman is unrelenting in her efforts to have the kids pet him and at this point the poor little guy looked more like a kite on a short string on a windy day.  I finally got the kids to keep it moving when my daughter spots a bunny and chases after it onto someone's lawn.  As she's running around and around their tree, my son is up ahead trying to pick flowers out of someone's garden.  We make it around the corner when my daughter falls again and skins her knee.  Her usual screams are coupled with panic when she sees the blood.  She's now added "IT'S BLEEDING!" into her chorus of cries.   Not two minutes later it's my son's turn to fall.  He triped over the sidewalk and landed face down on the cement - and stayed laying there, face to the pavement while he wailed.  This of course had to happen right in someone's driveway at the very moment they happen to pull up and want to go in.  With one hand I'm pushing the stroller and with the other I'm trying to help him off the ground.  My husband is walking behind me carrying my daughter who is still screaming.  The man pulling into his driveway rolls down the window to see that everything is alright.  We assure him we are all fine even though both kids are bleeding and screaming at the top of their lungs.  Then I see the crazy lady with the puppy dragging her puppy straight for us again.  That was enough for me.  We turned off and headed home.  

Two skinned knees, two skinned hands, a bloody finger and a lump on the head and we are finally home from our "nice relaxing walk".  I think next time I'll just take the Sit N' Stand.  Spiders can't be as bad as that whole spectacle.  Or better yet, maybe I'll just go alone.  Maybe my husband was onto something when he forbade us from ever taking walks as a family again.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I Have a Drinking Problem...

I have a drinking problem.  The first step is admitting it right?  Well I fully admit it.  In fact, I've always had a drinking problem.  Even when I was a kid.  What's more disturbing is that all of my 3 young children seem to have drinking problems too.

Now it's not what you think.  ...Although truth be told, if you ask the right person...well you know what, let's not go there.  My problem is less about abusing the Nectar of the Gods and more about my inability to control and/or contain liquids in my possession.  This really could extend to solids as well if I think about it.  I'm just a clutz, there's no two ways about it.

As a "lady" (alright, settle down with the laughter) I would like to think of myself as classy and graceful.  Unfortunately for me, those are two things that I certainly am NOT.  Try as I might, there are forces, forces far beyond my control; cosmic forces if you will, that make it virtually impossible for me to not drop, spill, trip, break or mangle things.  This cosmic force only grows stronger with my awareness of its existence.  It's further amplified when there is more at stake, such as if there are expensive electronics nearby or if someone is looking at me (or if I'm at work or home or absolutely anywhere in the world at any time).

If I go about my life and am distracted enough to not pay attention to what I'm doing, as odd as it may seem, it actually is better.  It's when I am paying attention that things go haywire.  For instance, if I'm at work and carrying a hot coffee, as long as I'm engaged in conversation I might actually make it back to my desk without incident.  On the contrary, if I so much as even look at the coffee, remember that I have it or otherwise let the thought "don't spill it" enter my mind for a split-second, it's over.  My hand immediately begins shaking.  My walking seems to change to some crazy kind of "jump-stomp-running" - and that's not even a real thing, but the way the coffee starts splashing about, you would think it was!  Now maybe it's not so odd to merely have an unsteady hand with a hot cup of coffee.  Surely we've all been there.  But there's more.

If I'm in a car and attempt to take a sip out of a bottle of anything, it's as if the car knows and will hit a bump, jerk or accelerate in some fashion that results in much of my beverage going up my nose and down my shirt.  Yes, I'm in a moving vehicle at the time and sure, that might make it seem like a not-so-strange phenomenon but then answer me this....why then is it that if I am sitting completely still, on solid ground, the very same thing will happen?  Surely the Earth hasn't rapidly accelerated the very moment I attempted to wet my whistle.  Yet it happens.  And it happens a lot.  I'll say the odds are close to 70/30 in favor of spillage, choking or up the nose at any given time.  At least two or three times a week, iced tea finds its way into my  face via other avenues than my mouth.  The times it finds its way into my blouse is more than double that.  Thankfully, in the case of "down the wrong pipe" it's less frequent at maybe once or twice a week.

Now that you are familiar with my inability to carry and consume beverages, I'll let you in on a little secret.  ...I can't have anything near me either - not even if it's carefully and firmly placed on a flat level surface.  It will somehow manage to tip over, even if I'm not anywhere near it.  It's true.  And when it spills, you bet your sweet ass it's going to go everywhere.  Even if there's only one ounce spilling, it will rapidly expand to create widespread destruction.  You think I'm kidding don't you?  Well, I'm not.  There's no scientific explanation, but I can name quite a few witnesses who can attest to this fact.  Should I be lucky enough to not have the spill cover everything in a 15 foot radius, then I guarantee you whatever does get hit, is going to be the worst possible thing.  Whatever can NOT get wet or destroyed will absolutely take the brunt.  100% of the time.

But this is my life.  I expect nothing else.  I inherited this from my mother and all three of my kids inherited it as well.  And while my husband cannot conceive of how these things are even possible, he still sees it happen.  He sees it happen and he flips his lid.  I, on the other hand, see it coming a mile away and just prepare myself.  Yea, I flip out about it from time to time too, but I'm so used to it that I usually can handle it.  Years of experience has taught me though that no good EVER comes from saying to the kids "whatever you do, DON'T spill it."  I might as well just go right over and slap it right out of their hands, because saying "don't spill it" is a damn-near guarantee that it's going down.  So I stopped saying that and started buying more paper towels.  What else can I really do?

So if you see me coming your way with a hot cup of coffee, an unopened bottle of water or even an overturned thimble with a single rain drop in it, run.  Run far and run fast and take anything you hold valuable with you, because I promise you no matter how unlikely I will find a way to accidentally destroy it.  You won't believe your eyes, but the destruction will speak for itself.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

First Stab at Family Dinner

Well I went for it.  Recently, some of the family brought over a delicious lentil soup, a fresh salad and a cake so bursting with sugary treats and confections that it looked like an edible version of the board game “Candyland”.  Note to self: grandparents are no longer allowed to be in charge of my kids’ desserts.  As if all that wasn't enough, my husband made a tomato pie that you could just die for.  

While we ate, it was much of the same as any dinner with the family.  There was someone complaining about the salad dressing and whether or not it should be applied to all the salad in the bowl or just individual servings.  Someone was asking why it was so HOT in here.  Unsolicited questions and comments were flying from every direction: “what do we have spoons out for?”  “can you get me a knife that actually CUTS?”  “who serves soup in this kind of bowl?”  Meanwhile the moms were serving everyone while the kids were adding to the confusion in the air with their relentless demands.  This one needs this, that one needs that, the other needs more and they all don’t like something that they have been given.  I expected my five year old to protest the lentil soup and he did...”Mom, this is beans.  I don’t like beans”.  (The way he says “I don’t like beans” is in the exact same sound that Joe Pesci says “I don’t see no stars” in My Cousin Vinny.)  A simple explanation that they were actually just brown peas, accompanied by a reminder that he likes peas did seem to help a bit.  Then there was the obligatory dispute over who “deserves” the last seat at the table..

”Please, sit, I insist”
“Oh no, you can sit! I sit all day! Please”
“I just couldn't you’re a guest in my home, you simply must”
“Oh, stop, I’m FINE standing! Really!” 
“No, you made the salad, I can’t possibly”
“But you were kind enough to have us over.”

This went on long enough that one of the kids had long since taken over that last seat anyway.  At least that intolerable exchange of pleasantries was finally put to rest.  Felt like it lasted hours. 

The kids hardly ate a bite because they knew that my diabetic father had provided the cake of all cakes.  They were practically having the shakes just thinking about it.  Can’t wait to add sugar to them just before bed on a Sunday!  Out came the cake.  The way the kids eyes bulged out, I’m thinking they were seeing this all in slow motion and hearing Angels sing while the light of God shone down from Heaven and cast an angelic glow upon this treat.  I almost wished I had tripped and dropped it just so I could hear my own delusional “record scratch” sound as their little dream shattered.  Ok, I guess that’s mean.  I’ll take that back...kind of.  I still think it would have been pretty funny.

After dinner the women split from the men and children...totally unintentional, I swear.  I could hear the kids upstairs laughing their little hearts out.  It made me feel so warm and fuzzy inside.  That is, until I heard my father making a weird “I just got the wind knocked out of me” kind of sound.  Come to find out, my father was flat on his back on the living room floor (still not clear on how that came to be) and the kids were jumping on his belly like he was a bouncy house.  Then the warm and fuzzy feeling came back again.  When we were kids we used to do the same thing to him.  Granted, when my kids knock the wind out of him, he makes funny faces and they laugh harder.  When we used to do it, our lives would be threatened and tools would be thrown at our faces.

All in all, the test run went well!  I’m definitely going to try it again with other branches of the family.  No one got into a fight, there was hardly any lentil soup on the floor, the food was delicious and as far as I know, we are all still on speaking terms!  Plus, for probably the first time ever, nothing spilled.  The only issue was that the dog stole at least one slice of tomato pie.  The Jerk.  But if that was the worst of it, I’ll take it!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Resurrecting the Family Dinner

I’m a strong believer in the family unit. I think it instills a sense of community, safety and identity in children, and is just a nice way for us all to bond. A great way to reinforce this is to carry on the tradition of Sunday dinners with the family. I love a nice gathering of everyone on Sunday over a nice, big, fat, heavy meal of appetizers and salad and pasta and meat and bread followed by an unnecessarily decadent dessert, a swig or two of some after dinner liquor and then the completely uncalled for cup of coffee. ...The coffee that you have to offer because it’s tradition and is just good manners. The coffee that you really shouldn't be drinking because it’s a Sunday night and it’s already gotten late. The coffee that will do nothing to give you the energy to clean up that huge dinner party mess, but will keep your eyes sprung open the minute you finally make it to your bed hours past your bed time. The coffee that, against their better judgment everyone will accept even though at this point, part of you wishes that they would just start packing up - no matter how much you love them and enjoy their company.

Today it’s much harder to accomplish this gathering every weekend the way it was generations before. For my family and many others, it used to be that most of the family lived on the same street - or at least within a block or two of one another. Everyone could bring something and just walk down. No one had excuses or obligations that held them back. No one needed a ride or were worried about the drive home. No one said they didn't have the money this week. With much more meager means than we are used to, they could still feed a brood 30 deep and keep it coming like they were running a restaurant! And since the women generally stayed home and cared for the house and kids, they weren't overly concerned with the fact that it was a Sunday at all. The men surely didn't care because they were getting their faces fed, and waited on hand-and-foot.  No one cared about not having enough room in the house either. Have you seen the size of most living rooms in Trenton? They used to pack them in like there like a prize was being offered for the house that held the most without any windows accidentally busting out from the pressure. People had tons of kids. Tons of them. I have 3, and by today’s standards that’s kind of on the high side. They were all so close, and here I am not even sure of how many cousins we have, and for sure my kids don’t even know a fraction of them. I think I’m much to blame, as is the generation before me. The family unit thing has slacked off quite a bit in the last generation.

Not allowing modern times to trample on family values, it’s been decided that we will be resurrecting this tradition on a more regular basis; i.e. more frequently than 2 weekends in a row followed by a 7 year hiatus. It’s going to be tricky. No one lives down the street any more. Everyone works. People are divorced. There are step-parents and step-kids and split branches everywhere on this family tree. Everyone has a short temper. This one doesn't talk to that one, and if you talk to “that one” then that surely means you’re on “that one’s” side so now you have to deal with “this one”. Thinking about it, maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all - but I’ll be doing it anyway. Trust when I tell you, I rarely shy away from potentially disastrous plans. I always expect the best of everyone; high lofty hopes that THIS time everyone will just get along. I don’t know if that’s ever happened, but the odds say it’s bound to happen at least once. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hamilton, NJ: The Stevie B Capitol of the World (outside of Miami of course)

What the hell happened to this town Saturday night?  I'll tell you what happened, Stevie B came around and we all went bananas.  If you didn't already know, Local DJ John Rossi put together a show with Stevie B and Peter Fontaine at the Hamilton Manor in Yardville.  My friends and I went and we had a blast.  So much fun that we almost missed the part where Stevie B was performing.  Good times.

Weeks ago...actually months ago the announcement came through on Facebook that Stevie B would be performing in our own Hamilton and a mere mile from my house at that.  I was excited.  My friends were excited.  We were all abuzz talking about how much fun this will be and we should get this one to go, and tell that one about it....it was a big deal right from the start.  I mean, it was Stevie B after all and practically in our own back yards.  I was going to invite everyone and it was going to be awesome.

Much to my shock and horror, I began to realize that some people were...my gosh I can barely say this...some people were not familiar with Stevie B.  I know, I know, calm down.  I was shocked too.  My immediate reaction was to call that person names and demand they show some respect and culture themselves.  OK, so this guy was a couple years younger.. but still, a couple years younger should still know.  Then I came to realize as I spread the word to other non-locals that perhaps it was a matter of location.  Something about Stevie B gripped this area in the late 80s and early 90s in a way that I suppose didn't affect outlying areas quite as strongly.  I just don't get it.

I can't imagine going through life without the words "Spring Love" having a profound meaning and being associated with boat loads of memories.  I wouldn't want to live in a world without the Postman Song.  And to think that some people hear the words "In Your Eyes" and think I could be talking about the sun.  Excuse me for a moment as I bite my fist in heartbreak.

Let me attempt to school you for a minute if you won't mind.  Stevie B is the purported King of Freestyle. (And if you say "what's freestyle?" please just punch your own self in the face and save me the trouble.)  According to Wikipedia, his influence was most notably in the Miami area.  I was not even aware of that.  As far as I knew, the whole world knew and loved him.  I think I'm going to go make an edit to Wiki entry so that it reads to include the Trenton area as the other area influenced by this legend.  Seems odd that it was just us and Miami that embraced him, but that's the facts as I know them.  Wiki doesn't lie.

If you are one of these people that missed out on it, then it's too late.  You definitely already missed out.  If you Google it now and watch videos, no doubt you will piss your pants laughing and it will only further your disconnect to the whole thing.  It wasn't just about Stevie B, the man or the music.  It was about a time.  A feeling.  Something that's gone now and couldn't be recreated or understood by watching a grainy YouTube video of a dude with "Soul Glow" in his hair and mustache that today could only be rocked by the produce guy in a Spanish bodega.  (all due respect to produce guys and Spanish bodegas)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Good God, Don't Get Yourself the Flu

No one likes getting shots.  That is not a shocking revelation in the slightest, but it is something that I feel the need to bring to light for the moment.  Back in late fall when everyone was getting their flu shots, I was strutting through life thinking we didn't really need them.  After all, why go through the pain of making the kids get shots when there is no big swine flu fear swirling around like there was a couple years ago and no major media hype about how bad the flu is this year.  Perhaps the most convincing bit of fact is that the flu has been around forever, we've never regularly gotten the flu shot and we've always been just fine.  Not to mention the scary things you read and hear about these days in regards to kids getting shots.  This one became paralyzed  that one slipped into a coma and another one thinks she's a horse now.  No thanks, I'll pass.  I don't want horse-children.

Just when I had written the whole thing off, little by little I start hearing of people all around me getting the flu.  It started with just someone I know knows someone who has it and then in no time at all I knew of at least 3 individuals and families first hand that have it.  It got me to thinking that maybe for the children's sake at least, I should look into some flu shots.  I didn't think it would be a huge deal.  I'll make an appointment with their pediatrician and bring them in and the worst part will be that they'll cry when it happens.  Maybe I'll get my flu shot in front of them so they see me take it like a champ and it won't be so bad for them.  As for my husband, well he won't get a flu shot no matter what.

In preparation for all the flu shots, I let my job know I would be leaving work early on Friday to get it all taken care of.  I figured we all might have some sore arms and maybe a little fatigue so we will have the rest of Friday afternoon and all day Saturday to get back up to par.  I called the pediatrician to set up the appointments and was surprised to find that she's all out of flu shots and will not be getting any more in.  What I can do is go to the office, pick up a written prescription, bring it to a local pharmacy, get the flu shots filled there, bring them back to the office and have the doctor administer them to the kids.  Not exactly convenient, but I'll do it.  I was advised to just check with the pharmacy the day of to be sure they still have a supply, because many pharmacies have been running out.  I called and they confirmed they do have a supply, and it would "only" cost $15 per vaccine to have it filled.  I have three kids.  That's $45 right there.  Then we have to go back to the doctor's office and pay for our co-pays too?  That's another $20 each!  We are up to $105 now.  I don't have $105.  I don't even have $5 really.

As with everything, I turned to Facebook for help.  I found that I could go to several local pharmacies for free flu shots.  The only problem is that they really only administer them for adults.  I called all over town and no one had them for kids.  This was becoming a disaster.  Friends told me to try their doctors and I did, and they DID have the vaccines.  Plenty of them.  But I wasn't allowed to have any because we aren't patients there.  They didn't care that my doctor didn't have any.  I finally found ONE pharmacy that had children's doses, but it was about 30 minutes from my house.  Good thing I decided to leave work early.  As I left work I decided since I didn't have to run back and forth between the pharmacy and the pediatrician's office like I had originally expected to do, I may as well take this extra bit of time I have to get my long overdue oil change.  The "express service" ended up taking over an hour.  Just my luck.  By the time I got home, there was only a half hour of school left for my little guy so I just let him finish out the day instead of take him out early like I had planned.  By the time I picked him up from school, got everyone organized and fed a snack, it was after 4pm.  I may as well wait for my husband to get home now - it's only another 25 minutes.  Maybe I'll even guilt him into getting his flu shot too seeing as how the kids had to have it done.

By 4:30 we were finally on the road and headed to the flu shot clinic.  We called to be sure they still have flu shots available and they did.  Good news.  It was now getting dark, freezing cold and pouring rain.  I had not factored in one major setback; traffic.  I didn't realize there would be so much traffic so early and headed in this direction.  It was horrendous.  What would have been a 30 minute drive turned into an hour in wretched weather, traffic and with a car full of complaining children.  Neither I nor my husband were totally familiar with the area, so I tasked my husband to following the map on my iPhone and let me know exactly when I should turn.  It doesn't help that I have terrible night vision - and that he has terrible iPhone vision I suppose because he didn't tell me where to turn until after I passed it.  It went a little something like this...

Me: babe I can't drive and look at my phone at the same time, follow that little dot and tell me when it gets near the turn so I know when to get into the turn lane and turn.
Him: ok
Me: Um, I can't see anything is this our turn?
[long pause]
[pass the intersection]
Him: I don't know, I think that was it back there.
Me: well did the little dot go over the turn??
Him: what dot!?
Him: I don't know, I don't know how to read this stupid thing
Me: just forget it.  Give it to me.  Can you see that sign?  I'll turn here.
Him: no you can't turn there.
[pass the intersection]
Me: what do you mean I can't turn there, everyone else just turned there!
Him: I don't know!!! It looked like you can't turn there!!!  
Me: ok just help me figure out how to turn around!!
[4 miles out of our way we finally pull into a shopping center and swing around]
Me: please, I can't even see the lines on the road from all this rain, please pay close attention and just tell me where to turn
Me: WE JUST CAME THIS WAY!!  HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW!?  I'm just going to turn here.
Him: You can't turn here
[pass intersection where we absolutely could have turned there]
Me: this is ridiculous
Him: whatever

After 20 minutes of essentially driving up and down the street cursing at each other, we finally turn into the correct shopping center with the Pharmacy.  We were both miserable and the kids were sleeping.  We had to drag them out of their comfy warm car seats in the cold and the rain and carry them in to get their shots.  So glad this whole ordeal is just about over!!

As we walk up to the clinic frazzled, soaked and lugging sleepy children on our shoulders, a nice nurse came out snapping off her rubber gloves.  She ever so sweetly said "I'm sorry, we JUST ran out of vaccines."  Every fiber of my being wanted to punch her right in the face.  Fighting tears I said "but we just drove over an hour in traffic and in the pouring rain!!!"  as if this would somehow make more flu vaccines appear.  Defeated, upset and frustrated we turned and retreated from the store without any protection from the flu.

It's amazing how I went from not thinking we needed the vaccine to being convinced we should get it and then suddenly on an impossible mission to get them!  I was so upset about the whole thing that I didn't even want to talk for the rest of the drive home...which took well over an hour since we were now stuck in rush hour traffic going the opposite direction and not moving at all.  My only hope now is that we are just lucky enough to not get flu as we have managed to pull off in many years past.

Except that THIS one year, we wouldn't be so lucky....

...to be continued.