Let her cry

A couple of people have suggested that I try to write a “positive, uplifting” post. This one isn’t going to be it. I will, however, try to incorporate a little more positivity into my posts I guess. Even though that’s not really my thing.

The Girl is quickly becoming my most difficult child, a title Boy Two has proudly held since birth. Yesterday, we went shopping for school supplies and I was that parent with the screaming baby in Walmart. If you’ve been that parent before, you know how stressful it can be. I used to be one of those people that would think, “Geez, can’t you quiet that kid down?”  As punishment for all the times I had that thought, I have now been the Screaming-Baby-at-Walmart parent more times than I care to admit. I’m to the point now where I just tune it out and continue my shopping. Sometimes it’s best not to try to fix it, to just power through and get out as quickly as possible. I don’t care if it annoys the other shoppers. At least they get to go home. I have to take this thing home with me and listen to this all evening.

So anyway, we started off on the wrong foot because she had brought along a doll that she wanted to take inside. I stopped allowing kids to take toys into stores when Boy One was a toddler because he took it to the extreme by carrying 2-3 grocery bags of tractors with him wherever he went. He ruined it for everyone and I had to enact a blanket policy prohibiting toys in stores. I’ve fought this battle many times with more worthy adversaries than The Girl so she wasn’t going to win, particularly since the doll she brought had no clothes and was covered in some kind of brown substance which I pray was just dirt. So she was mad about the dirty doll and was already screaming when we entered Walmart.

Once we got started, she quieted down and started playing with one of the art boxes. This lasted about two minutes until she snapped it in half. Really, Walmart? You only had one art box option and it was so flimsy that a one-year-old broke it as soon as she laid her hands on it. Now, I’m not proud of this, but I put it back on the shelf and grabbed a different one. Is this stealing? Yes. Does Walmart make enough money off our family to come off of one $.97 piece of crap art box? Also, yes.

So anyway, the flimsy art box had been the only thing keeping The Girl sane and I, of course, couldn’t give her the new one because I didn’t want her to break another one so she went back to screaming. This time, I offered her a box of colored pencils. I thought she would just take them out of the box, look at them, hold them, whatever. We gathered the rest of our supplies and were just finishing when I looked down and realized she had completely shredded the box. I hate for my kid to be the one that doesn’t have his colored pencils in a nice, fresh box, but I had already put back a broken art box and I couldn’t, in good conscience, do the same thing with the colored pencils. At this point, I decided she could no longer be trusted in the cart so I removed her and tried holding her while haphazardly steering the cart with one hand. This wouldn’t have been so hard if she weren’t screaming, thrashing, and slapping my face.

We finally made it to the check-out and I sat her down to unload the cart. I placed the pile of shredded colored pencil box on the conveyor and began putting it together like a puzzle so the cashier could find the bar code. While I worked on that activity, The Girl went straight for the bottom shelf that contains all kinds of little toys and trinkets enticing to children. I know I’ve written about this before, but I’m going to touch on it one more time: I hate Walmart for screwing over all parents by putting those toys on that bottom shelf. I have never bought anything from that shelf, yet my children still beg for things from it every. single. time. At least 70% of the time, that shelf causes a meltdown from at least one of my children when I refuse to purchase anything from it. I understand it’s a marketing strategy, but I can’t imagine it’s making the store any money. How many kids have stealthily stashed a small item in their pocket and made it out of the store with it? More than the number of kids that are lucky enough to have a parent willing to buy something from it, I’m sure. Anyway, I hate that shelf, and I try to prevent my kids from even looking at it, let alone touching anything on it, but I was already stressed and I had to finish the box puzzle, so I let The Girl go to work on the shelf. Have at it, dear. Annihilate that stupid shelf.

So anyway, The Girl was distracted with rearranging the forbidden shelf as I finished up our purchase. Then I pried a bunch of tiny toys (that I had no intention of buying) out of her hands, kicked the rest of the tiny toys on the floor out of the way so no one would trip, and drug her out of the store the same way she came in: kicking and screaming.

She never did calm down as we headed home and that was when I realized that we had lost her pacifier. Yes, she is too old to still take a pacifier and I wish I had a better excuse than “I’m just to lazy to get serious about taking it yet” but I don’t. And it definitely isn’t going to happen today so, even though the last thing I want to do is go to another store, we have to stop at Dollar General. By the time we pulled in, she was in full-on tantrum mode: purple-faced, back-arching, sweating, shrieks. There’s no point in even trying to quiet her. I just scoop her up, hold on as tight as I can, and carry her in. Dollar General is a small store and there are rarely more than a couple people there at a time, but of course today is different. As soon as I walked in, I was met by a ridiculously long line of people waiting to check out and they all immediately looked my way to see what the problem was with this loud baby. I hurried by, clutching my psychotic baby, trying not to make eye contact. I basically sprinted back to the baby section, grabbed the first package of pacifiers I saw, savagely ripped it open, shoved it in her mouth, and she was instantly fixed. Who am I kidding? I don’t care if this kid takes a pacifier until kindergarten. That thing is magical.

So yeah, pretty much every part of this shopping trip was an absolute nightmare, but as per request, I will let you know that there was one positive part:

As I was standing in line to check-out (at a store that doesn’t have the forbidden shelf – thank you, Dollar General, that’s why you’re my favorite), a decent-looking guy in an American flag tank top (yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing either, but he was making it work) struck up a game of peek-a-boo with The Girl. He had witnessed our grand entrance and was impressed with her ability to recover so quickly and we had a brief conversation, comparing notes about our kids’ pacifier usage. When we went up to pay, he ended up buying her pacifiers. As he drove off in his truck which was, of course, outfitted with an American flag decal covering the entire back window, I thought, “What a nice guy…Wait – was he hitting on me?” As soon as I had the thought, I realized how far out of touch I am with the flirting game if I think that having a discussion about pacifiers then buying said pacifiers for a frazzled mom at Dollar General is some form of a come-on. Whatever happened to buying a girl a drink? Anyway, if I were a single mom, it might have worked, if the American flag tank top hadn’t already sealed the deal, but I’m pretty sure he was just a friendly stranger.

So thanks for the pacifiers, Captain America, and thanks for providing me the required positive element for this post.

 

We don’t need no education

Because we were irresponsible as teenagers/young adults, the first four years of our marriage were spent with one or both of us taking online college courses to catch up with the other grown-ups our age. The Husband finished his nursing program in July 2014 and I completed my bachelor’s degree in September 2015. After that, we both decided to take a break from classes.

It’s hard keeping up with coursework when you have a whole adult life, complete with kids, bills, and jobs, to attend to as well. Luckily, since we took a lot of our classes online, we could tag team them when needed:

If you want me to pick up this shift, you’re going to have to write this paper for me.

I have to clean the house, can you take this test for me real quick?

I’m not an advocate of cheating, but I’m also not an advocate of being forced to spend thousands and thousands of dollars and millions of hours on a degree with a curriculum that is made up of 90% miscellaneous crap and 10% information that is actually useful in your chosen profession. So sometimes we helped each other and I don’t feel bad about that. Between the two of us, we possess the knowledge. If The Husband is ever at work and needs to know the definition of “metacommunication,” he can call me and I will tell him it is “communicating about communication.”  We’ve got it covered. And I’m so glad I get to be the part of this partnership that is wasting my brain space with that ridiculous knowledge.

So anyway, our coursework was a team effort and, not to toot my own horn, but I was the MVP.  One semester, The Husband was short on electives so I suggested he take Spanish.  I had taken it a year before and it was easy since most of it was the same material covered in high school Spanish.

That doesn’t sound like an easy three credits. Because I don’t speak Spanish.

Neither do I, but it’s just the same things we learned in high school Spanish.  You’ll be fine.

Well apparently I had retained much more of high school Spanish than he had.  He needed a lot of assistance with this one. It worked out fine and he went into the last week with a high B. Then came the final exam. The final was a problem because it was a phone call with the instructor during which you were supposed to answer her Spanish questions. In Spanish. And I have a girl voice and The Husband is a boy so he was on his own for this part. This is how it went:

Instructor: Hola, gracias por llamar para el examen. ¿Cómo estás?

The Husband: Uh-oh

Instructor:  ¿Te preparaste para este examen?

The Husband: Umm…gracias?

Anyway, we somehow made it through. He got his nursing license and we are both enjoying our jobs and I think we are both pretty good at what we do despite the questionable integrity of our degree completion. However, we’re always looking for our next conquest, so this fall we’re putting our thinking caps back on and sending The Husband back for his bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration. He did the first round of paperwork last week and was expecting a call from the admissions counselor.  The call came while he was peeing and, of course, he didn’t want to miss such an important call so he reached for his phone to answer.  This is what the admissions counselor heard:

Hello, this is *splash*

as his phone landed in the urine-filled toilet.

Maybe if he knew more about communication and metacommunication, he wouldn’t have made the poor decision of answering his phone while peeing. Anyway, I may help him here and there with the classes and he won’t be able to put on his resume that he is bilingual, but I know he will make a great administrator for a long-term care facility. You wouldn’t expect it from his demeanor and personality, but he really cares about his residents and their families as a nurse and I think that will carry over to his job performance as an administrator.

So August is back-to-school for all of the men at our house. Here’s to a great year of learning!

Take the money and run

I don’t try to protect my kids from every little bad thing that may happen to them. Bad times build character and teach important life lessons. When something bad happens, my response is usually, “Yep, sometimes life’s like that.” Luckily, my kids have their own personal champion and defender: Grammy. When Boy One’s Pokemon cards were stolen in Kindergarten, she volunteered in his classroom just to get a moment alone with the boy that took them.

Teacher: Ok, lets split up into groups.

Grammy offered her sweetest grandmotherly smile to the thief boy and said: Here, honey, you can be in my group.

As soon as they hit the hallway, her face darkened, she leaned over and, using her best Wicked Witch of the West voice, she said, “You need to bring back his Pokemon cards. Those are not yours and you shouldn’t steal. Understand?”

The boy didn’t have much to say, just quietly nodded and agreed to return the cards

So most of you know that Boy One has been running a little scrap metal business this summer. He drags Granddad all around Wabash and the surrounding counties on his days off to collect cans and other metal items from people to cash them in. He had a partial load stored behind the garage and it was stolen. I thought it taught him several good business lessons: people aren’t always honest so gotta stay on your toes; keep your inventory safe, etc.  It happened a couple of days ago so I thought we had moved on, but I was wrong.

Yesterday, Grammy decided to post a public service announcement on Facebook admonishing the thief that victimized her precious boy and indicting his upbringing that clearly lacked lessons in morals and respect. In doing so, she taught Boy One an even more valuable lesson: play your cards right and you can turn an unfortunate situation into a profitable one. After her post, messages and comments poured in from sympathetic people also disgusted with the degenerate scrap thief, offering to let Boy One pick up scrap from them. When I last heard, he had five pick-ups scheduled for today with more coming in. Luckily, it’s Granddad’s weekend off because it sounds like he’s going to be putting in a twelve-hour day at his side job with Swan’s Scrap, LLC.

At times like this, I realize there are still parenting lessons to be learned from my mom.

Don’t let me down

I break everything I touch – washers, vehicles, computers, vacuums. I break them all, and I can tell you why. It’s because I have three little kids, a house to clean, a full-time job, and I feel like I do the work of three women and I expect everything else around me to do the same.

Oh your recommended load is no more than 8 towels? Well I have 15, so let’s start there and see how you do.

You can’t sweep up an entire box of Cheerios? Let’s give it a go. I believe in you.

You’re not meant to grind enough food for an entire army? Right, if you were an ordinary garbage disposal, but you’re no ordinary garbage disposal.

You want me to rinse my plate for you before loading because you can’t digest the scraps? Then what do I need you for, Dishwasher? If I’m going to do all of that, I might as well wash the plate myself. Plus your buddy, the garbage disposal, is refusing to take these last few scraps so step up and do your part. 

I expect everything around me to do its personal best because that’s what I try to do, but appliances don’t give a damn about their job performance. They are lazy! Which is why I use and abuse every appliance that comes here. They mean nothing to me. When an appliance is purchased by the Swans, it knows it is going to live a brief and miserable life, full of toil and sadness. 

There are a lot of things The Husband hates about me, but I’m pretty sure this is near the top. Luckily, he’s really handy because I would have bankrupted us years ago if he weren’t. He follows me around fixing everything in my path of devastation. Our house is like a real-life version of Wreck-it Ralph. 

Me: I’m gonna wreck it!

And then along comes Fix-it Felix to cheerfully fix it with his magic hammer. 

The Husband: I can fix it!

Except in this version, Felix doesn’t have a magic hammer so every repair takes hours and is expensive. And Felix cusses at Ralph through the whole thing. And Ralph just sits and watches Felix make the repair while sipping a glass of wine. 

So I hate telling The Husband when I’ve broken something. Tonight, I tried to incorporate a little playful humor in my confession/maintenance request:

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Of course his answer was to stick my hand down the garbage disposal to remove the blockage. I’m not sure why I asked how to fix it because I have no intention of doing so. I guess this gives the illusion that I did plan to fix it so maybe it will mitigate his anger. In fact, maybe I’ll even tell him I did try to fix it, but just couldn’t get the job done. Because I’m but a mere woman and I need a big, strong man to save the day and get this garbage disposal fixed…..because it will be a cold day in Hell before I stick my hand in that disgusting water. Who knows what’s in there!? I cleaned out the entire fridge. The last things I remember putting in there were broccoli, spaghetti, chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, and rotten chocolate milk from a sippy cup I found under The Girl’s bed. I think it quit working somewhere abound the beginning of the chicken and noodles, but I had faith it was going to rally. No such luck. So yeah, it’s a pretty disgusting combination of leftovers that is filling the entire kitchen with a peculiar smell, so I’m avoiding the area altogether until he gets home. 

My mama told me, you better shop around

My mother-in-law has a compulsive shopping problem, and she has made it her life’s mission to clothe my children.  She has always randomly shown up with sacks of clothes for the boys, but things got really out of hand when I was pregnant with The Girl. That woman literally bought every single stitch of clothing The Girl wears. And it’s all beautiful clothing – brand new, fancy, lacy… My babysitter always complains because The Girl’s everyday attire is usually a beautiful gown with all the trimmings – bloomers, ruffled socks, matching hair ornamentation – and she is worried it will get ruined.

Satin bloomers? On a Tuesday? Really!?

 Anyway, the MIL is a compulsive shopper, but she does have a few rules for herself:

  1. Never buy anything at full price, and
  2. Never pass up a good deal.

I follow Rule #2 by never buying anything myself and capitalizing on the best deal of them all: 100% off, compliments of the MIL. I show my love for her by letting her buy me things because I know how much she enjoys it. When she’s feeling sad, she shops because it lifts her spirits.  When I’m feeling sad, she shops for me because it lifts her spirits.

Anyway, I don’t usually know when she will show up with a load of purchases, but there is one time every year that I know I can expect it: without fail, she buys the boys new tennis shoes for the start of school.  Sure enough, two weeks ago I got the text: What size shoes are the boys in? 

A few weeks later:

 

Pick two for each.

 I cross off the $50 I had budgeted for school shoes and thank God for her unhealthy shopping habits.  It wasn’t until I was telling The Husband about it later that I learned that the annual shoe purchase is so regular for a specific reason. His grandma, the MIL’s mother, had a tradition of taking him and his brothers to get their school shoes every year. She wasn’t a rich woman, but she made it a point to let them go into Spiece and pick out any pair of shoes they wanted.

I never met Grandma Shankle, but I’m told I would have liked her. From the stories I’ve heard, I’ve always thought that was probably true. Now that I know she’s the reason I save $50-$100 on school shoes every year, I know it’s true. So thank you, Grandma Shankle, for starting a tradition that now keeps my boys in new shoes. And thank you, MIL, for making sure my girl is always prepared to drop everything and head to a royal ball at a moment’s notice if necessary. If it weren’t for you, my kids would look like a group of pre-Daddy Warbucks extras from Annie.

Don’t hate the player

We were at the city pool today and I noticed that Boy Two was hanging pretty tight with one particular girl. She was an adorable little brown-eyed beauty with long brunette hair, approximately six inches taller than him.  He is one of the shortest seven-year-olds around, but what he lacks in height, he makes up for in blue eyes and personality. I don’t know how to explain it, but the kid has game. He’s the polar opposite of his brother, who spent his day at the pool sitting along the wall, slathering gallons of sunscreen on his pasty, skeletal body and wearing a towel on his head Arabian-sheikh style because he is absolutely terrified of getting sunburned, all while incessantly asking when we are leaving until I finally let him call Granddad to come rescue him from the torment of the pool.

Boy One is a dweeb, but Boy Two is a total playboy. He’s that perfect storm of playfulness, intelligence, sarcasm, humor, indifference, and confidence just short of arrogance that drives girls wild. I know this because he acts exactly like his father. While The Husband isn’t the most physically impressive specimen of a man, I was a young girl once and I know the capabilities of that personality. Been there, done that, and I know it when I see it.

So anyway, Boy Two and Flirty Girl are having a great time at the pool. He even brought her over to introduce herself.

Hi, I’m Flirty Girl. I went to Kindergarten with him.

Oh, nice to meet you, Flirty Girl. I’m his mother.

When I decided it was time to take the baby home, Flirty Girl saw me packing our things and she rushed over.

Are you leaving?

Yeah.

Does he have to leave?

No he can stay here with his Grammy, if he wants. 

She seemed happy that he got to stay longer, but it dissipated quickly when he said, “Ahh, I think I’ll just go home. It’s too hot.”

Good work, son. Leave them wanting more. She heads toward the exit with us and talks to me as we go.

I like a different guy, ya know.

Oh, really?

Yeah. I used to like your son, but not anymore. Now I like a different guy.

Boy Two holds his tongue until just as he’s walking in the boys’ locker room. Then he calls over his shoulder with a smirk, “Hey, Flirty Girl! Tell your sister I said hi.”

Flirty Girl should have stalked off with her dignity at that point, but girls will be girls and, well, he is very handsome.

Alright, well, see ya later, Boy Two!

I’m too fed up to come up with a catchy title

You know how people say, “Have a nice day”? I never have a “nice” day. When I wake up, I know I’m either going to have a fantastic day – a got a raise, found a surprise $20 in my coat pocket, made a new friend on a sunny day type of day – or I’m going to have this kind of a day:

My problems started when I left work (as they typically do). I had my heart set on going to the county fair. Fair week was always the highlight of my summer as a kid. That legacy has stuck with me into my adult years and I still look forward to the fair every year. And every year when I go, I can’t figure out why. The fair is pure misery and here are a few reasons why:

  1. It’s 1,457,535 degrees at the fair. I only sweat once per year and it’s at the fair.
  2. It’s dusty. And the dust gets in your eyes and sticks to your annual sweat.
  3. It’s expensive. The food is expensive, but that’s to be expected. The expense that really ticks me off is the parking. If you are on our fair board (or whatever entity sets the Wabash County Fair parking prices), shame on you.  It’s your fault my kids didn’t get an elephant ear because I was too cheap to buy one of those AND park my damn car.
  4. You have to take your kids to it so they can make great fair memories so that they too will continue to subject themselves to this torture long into their adult years. And at the fair kids get things like suckers and balloons which turn them into slobbering, sticky sweat monsters with an added appendage that relentlessly bops you on your sweaty, dusty face.

So the fair sucked, but if that had been the only bad part of my day, it would have been fine. I might have even classified it as the elusive “nice day.” But the fair was only the very beginning.

 

On the way home, my low tire light came on.  I figured it was just a slow leak, but when I started seeing smoke and smelling burnt rubber, I determined that was not the case so I pulled over 1.5 miles from home.  Now I don’t know what’s going on, but we’ve had an endless barrage of flat tires over the past year.  The Husband claims it’s my fault. It has something to do with the way I drive or the places I go or the fact that I’m a female or just simply the fact that I’m not him.  Anyway, every time I have to call him for a flat, I get the same lecture, so I don’t even want to call him. So I send him this text: :

I have a flat tire. No, it’s not a slow leak. Yes, the rim is ruined. No, I didn’t drive on it. No, I didn’t hit anything. I don’t even want to hear it. 

He comes to the rescue, but rather than picking me and the kids up and driving us the 1.5 miles home and coming back solo to fix it, he makes me (us) stay with him while he works on it. He does this to punish me for my propensity toward flat tires and I refuse to give him the satisfaction of acting like it bothers me. So I sit in the car and start writing this post. After a while, his conscience gets the best of him.

You can run the air if you want to….

No, thank you. I’m fine.

So he works for a while, then decides it’s going to be a more extensive repair than expected so he tells us to get in the truck and he’ll take us home. I start to get in his disgusting truck that is jammed to the hilt with trash and whatnot when Boy Two spills his can of pop all over the passenger seat. I’m hot, I’m tired, and I’m already covered in sticky sweat so does it really matter? No. It does not. I just want to get home so I plop down on the soggy passenger seat and my cheerful chauffeur gets ready to drive me home. Aaaaaand his truck won’t start. He drives an old beater farm truck with 250,000 miles on it (hence the reason he doesn’t care if it’s full of trash), but it’s usually pretty reliable. Not today. So we are now sitting along the side of the road with two kids and two disabled vehicles. I cant even make this crap up.

From high school gym class, I recall that I can walk a mile comfortably in about 12 minutes so that means I’m an 18-minute walk from home, add five minutes since I’ll be carrying a baby and my purse, which is, thankfully, loaded with a big bottle of cheap wine.  That’s still quicker than calling a family member to come out and get me. At this point, the objective is to get to my bathtub in the quickest way possible and walking seems to be it, so eyes on the prize, I get ready to go.  The only thing about walking that really makes me mad is the fact that I sat on the pop puddle for no reason. At just that moment, God threw us one crusty, old bone and the truck started. The Husband and I rode home in silence.

All of that would have been enough to consider this an awful day, but there had to be one last punch to the gut. Now that I had finally made it home, I only had two more hurdles to clear before putting an end to this day of horror: get the baby in bed and open my wine. I laid the baby down and reached for a diaper. The box is empty.  Are you freaking kidding me right now? I had picked up a box, but it’s in the back of my car 1.5 miles away. I remembered the bottle of wine, but forgot the diapers. I don’t actually feel bad about that. More specifically, it is in the ditch where The Husband threw it to open the compartment that holds the spare tire. As he drove me away toward home, I remember thinking, “Man, I hope no one steals that box of diapers. That’s $20.” Of course, The Girl had pooped because, why not? Again, God threw me one last bone and I managed to scare up a swimming diaper three sizes too small. Good enough.

If you were wondering, I did make it to the bathtub, which is where I’m finishing this post right now. I believe The Husband is still sweating along the side the road changing my tire. I’m sure we’re not speaking so, Dear, if you’re reading this, please don’t forget my box of diapers in the ditch.

Oh, and if any of you see me around, please don’t tell me to have a nice day because it isn’t going to happen. Tell me to have a fantastic day because anything short of that is destined to be…well…a day like this one.