All work and no play makes me a dull boy

I forgot how much I love the school year. I hesitate to say that because I’ve seen a few posts bashing moms that are glad school has started. Yeah, that’s a thing now. People say things like:

They grow up so fast, you should want to spend every moment you can with them.

or even things as extreme as:

Why did you have kids if you didn’t want to be around them?

Well, that’s crap. I’m not ashamed to say that I was excited for school to start, but it has nothing to do with how much I enjoy or loathe my children’s company. As a mom working a 9-5, I see my kids the same amount whether school is in session or not. It is of no consequence to me if they spend their day at school, at home, or on the moon. It doesn’t matter, because I’m at my desk and they definitely aren’t there.

So yeah, I don’t hate my kids, but I do love it when they go to school – not because they are gone, but because….

1. It gets us back on a routine. My kids probably took less than five showers all summer. They slept until noon every day and stayed up until who knows when. They ate nothing but junk food all day long, which costs a fortune. When school is in session, we have a nightly routine: homework, dinner, bath, bed. They know what’s coming and they are well-rested, well-fed, and at least slightly more hygienic than farm animals.
2. They get bored. Halfway through the summer, we’ve run out of new and exciting ways to dazzle them. We did Great Wolf Lodge, Indiana Beach, campouts, parties, the fair, the movies, the pool. After all of that, there were still about 1,300 hours in the summer and only so many of those can be filled with new and exciting activities to enrich your life and engage your senses. My kids were ready to get back to their friends and school activities.
3. Along the same lines, it takes less to entertain kids that are exhausted from a long school day. During the summer, after working all day, I come home and they expect something like one of the adventures described above. They’ve spent all day relaxing, preparing for whatever exciting quest I have planned. I, however, did not. Because I was at work. Working. Now that school is in session, this is their preferred activity for this evening:

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Yeah, that’s a makeup tutorial on how to make yourself look like the Elf on the Shelf. That’s the kind of activity I don’t mind participating in after a long workday.

4. The start of school signals a new wave of exciting things to come: new classes, new teachers, new friends, a new season. And you have to get through the first day of school to make it to Christmas. And who would want to deprive their kid of Christmas? You tell me who the crappy mom is.

So yeah, summer is great, spending time with kids, doing so many activities, yadda, yadda, yadda, but the school year is (much) better. My kids and I are on the same page during the school year.

You’re tired? I’m right there with ya, man. Let’s crack open the ice cream (and wine) and see if we can find a gnome makeup tutorial next.

The road to nowhere leads to me

When we lived in town, we were only a few blocks away from my parents. It wasn’t uncommon for Mom, Dad or my sister to unexpectedly drop in for a visit. And by “it wasn’t uncommon” I mean it happened every day, sometimes multiple times per day. The Husband was never a fan of the impromptu visits from my family which, I believe, played a large part in him agreeing to my first pick when we were house shopping – because it is a twenty minute drive from my mother.

I actually fell asleep on the way here the first time we drove by to check it out. The Husband woke me up with a big smile as we went by:

There’s your house, Mom!

I thought he was just excited because he knew I was going to love it. I was mistaken. He was excited because he knew how long it had taken to get there and he knew I had no idea since I’d been asleep. New rule: if it’s a long enough drive to fall asleep, it’s too far to be home.

Anyway, living out here in Siberia, I’ve learned how to improvise and do without:

We’re out of diapers
Town Mother Swan: I’ll run over to Walmart and pick some up.
Country Mother Swan: Guess we’re doing the dish towel thing until tomorrow. Take it easy on the milk, kid.

I don’t feel like making dinner
Town Mother Swan: McDonald’s it is.
Country Mother Swan: If I’m too lazy to make dinner I’m also too lazy to make the voyage to town. Here’s some ravioli, kids. I’ll eat some other day.

The internet is slow and Grey’s is buffering
Town Mother Swan: This is an outrage! What the heck is the problem!? Why is this happening!?
Country Mother Swan: It happens. Guess it’s time for bed.

Six inches of snow fell last night
Town Mother Swan: Ugh I guess I have to shovel this square of sidewalk for the mailman. (alright, I’ll be honest: I hope the mailman has his snow shoes on because I’m too lazy to get out in the cold to shovel that square)
Country Mother Swan: I’ll never make it out of here alive.

Gas is $2.50 per gallon
Town Mother Swan: So?
Country Mother Swan: We are on lockdown. Only essential travel permitted.

The water bill comes
Town Mother Swan: I can’t wait until we move to the country and the water is free.
Country Mother Swan: This free water smells like rotten eggs and it’s yellow and there is no pressure. We need fifteen different filtration systems and now we’re spending more for water than we did in town.

Mom wants to know if I want to come over for dinner
Town Mother Swan: Sure! (as I hop in her car to head there because she asked me in person since she was already at my house as usual)
Country Mother Swan: No thanks, I’m not coming to town today.

Who says that? “I’m not coming to town today.” Like we would have to hop in our wagon and hook up the oxen to make the trip and it’s just not worth the trouble.

All that is fine and we’re making it work, but the worst part is that our house is located in the Bermuda Triangle created where three counties meet. Our road is a county line road and it doesn’t extend any further north than our mile. People really need directions to get here but no one listens to directions anymore.

What’s your address?
Well, it’s….but you just need to come down State Road 15 then turn left at….

Oh I’ll just put it in my GPS.

Well, sometimes GPS has trouble so….

I finish my directions. I can tell the other person isn’t listening because they are still just planning on relying on that trusty GPS. Alright, Smarty-Pants, see ya soon. It actually gives me a little bit of joy when they call ten minutes after they are supposed to be at my house.

Ok, I’m lost. How do I find your house?
Yeah, that’s what I thought, punk.

Truth be told though, I complain about the inconvenience, but anyone that knows me knows that my corner of the world out here in No Man’s Land is on the short list of things that bring me the most joy in life.

Takin care of business

So business is booming for Swan’s Scrap, LLC. Ever since Grammy’s post about the stolen scrap, pick-ups have been pouring in. This weekend, they did six pick-ups, one yesterday, and one is already scheduled for next Monday. He has even expanded from strictly scrap metal to general junk, which is why my yard looks like hodge podge yard sale, but I’m not going to complain about it because you should see Grammy’s yard. Her house is headquarters. They had to move all cars out of their garage so they could keep the inventory secured in a locked facility. I told her she might need to request a zoning variance if she’s going to continue running a salvage yard out of her home.

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Most of his treasures will be cashed in for scrap but a few things were too nice to scrap – a working stove and dryer, a couple of ladders, and a hard-shell assault rifle case which he intends to use to hold his money.

The business is a three-man show. Grammy is dispatch. She’s constantly on her phone, messaging clients, coordinating pick-ups, and sending the crew out. Granddad is the driver and the muscle, and Boy One is the boss man, but not the kind that’s afraid to get his hands dirty.

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So anyway, like I said, it was a record-breaking weekend for the business, but it wasn’t without complications.

Dispatch filed a complaint with the boss against the driver because he got a little rude with her when he couldn’t follow her directions to a certain pick-up. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much the boss could do since he can’t find another driver to work for such low wages.

There was one run-in with the law when the boss couldn’t make it home from a run and had to stop along the way to pee in the woods. Luckily, the officer was just checking to make sure everything was ok, not trying to arrest an 8-year-old for indecent exposure.

Aside from those small issues though, he’s very professional. He shakes every client’s hand and thanks them for helping him out. We’ve gotten so many compliments, and many people have invited him back. One even gave him a magnet tool.

Next week at this time, my boy will be inside sitting at a desk, bored to tears, wishing he was out gathering scrap. School is one of the most important things, and he does well at it, but it kind of makes me sad for him. This boy is built for manual labor.

I’m sure, however, that his crew is looking forward to a little break. So thankful that my mom and dad took the time to do this with him this summer, even though they have jobs and tons of responsibilities too. I think it turned out to a bigger job than they expected, but I believe he will remember this summer forever.

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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.