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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya, honey

I run the finances at our house, and by that I mean that I track every single cent that enters and leaves our account. I have spreadsheets that would impress John Nash. It’s actually kind of a hobby of mine. I monitor our account so vigilantly that if The Husband makes a purchase, I’m usually texting him as he’s walking out of the store…

Me:  Whatcha doin’?

The Husband: Nothing

Me: Oh really? Are you sure you’re not leaving Walmart? Because someone just spent $14.17 there. Using your card. What did you buy? 

The Husband: ….deodorant and toilet paper.

So anyway, this week he decided to take Boy Two to see Transformers. The movie is apparently not even kid appropriate since Boy Two said there were “one thousand cusses” in it, but the cussing was not the main issue with the trip to the movies. The main issue was that it cost $38.10 for one adult and one child to attend a movie. Unbelievable. I wanted so badly to tell The Husband what a ridiculous expenditure this was, but I couldn’t.  Here is why:

Last weekend, against The Husband’s wishes, I threw a total (family friendly) rager complete with 101 guests, beer, a DJ, a bounce house, a little more beer, food, fireworks, etc. Typically I wouldn’t approve of such a frivolous expenditure, but I decided to loosen up just this once. Here was my thinking: Remember all of the times your parents said, “OK, well you go ahead and do that – when I’m not the one paying your bills.”? I do. And by that token, I should have been throwing huge parties for quite a few years now, but this was the first one. Because while my parents were going on about all the cool things that would happen once they weren’t paying my bills, they forgot to also explain that I would actually be the one paying them. They let that part be a surprise. Adulthood is the great deception of life.

Anyway, the party was big, but I was able to trim costs quite a bit. Everyone brought food, the fireworks and bounce house ended up being provided by a couple of benevolent guests, and the DJ gave me the family discount. It did, however, slightly exceed our standard monthly budgeted amount for fun, which is approximately two dollars.

The Husband was against the party from the beginning, not because of the expense, but just because he’s not into large crowds or big events (and he hates it when I get fixated on a project like this). He complained, but I wasn’t hearing it. This was my chance to prove that adulthood doesn’t have to be complete drudgery, so I forged on. And guess who was one of the last ones still partying long into the night, hours after most of the guests had left and I had gone to bed (a/k/a fell asleep on the porch). Yep, The Husband. He paid for it the next morning when we had to deflate the bounce house, wrangle it into its bag, and hoist all 7,000 pounds of it into his truck, in the hot blazing sun, still slightly inebriated, so that it could be returned to the rental place before noon to avoid additional charges. Welcome back to reality, folks.

Anyway, I got off track here so let me get back to my point. The movies are expensive. Don’t go there. Don’t pay $40 for your kid to listen to one thousand cusses. Wait until it comes out in stores. Better yet, find a way to download the pirated film online for free (plus attorney fees if you get busted). Or even better yet, cuss at your kid yourself, just don’t waste your money on the movies. But also don’t scold your husband for frivolous purchases just days after you’ve completely blown your budget out of the water for a big party that he wanted no part of – even if he did end up having a good time. Don’t do that because you don’t want divorced, but also because, if you do, you won’t get to do it again next year. And you want to do it next year – only bigger.

For that reason alone, I didn’t say a peep about the expensive movies. Instead, I used that time to start planning for next year’s party. I’m thinking elephant rides, a jumbotron, and possibly one of those t-shirt cannons.

 

Can’t buy me love

Boy One is the most money-hungry child I’ve ever encountered. Everything in his life has a price. This is cool because you can buy his love. He would totally flourish in a situation with a rich step-dad trying to win him over. In fact, maybe I’ll try to work out something like that for him. Anyway, his love can be bought, but not by me because kids are freaking expensive and after funding everything needed to meet their basic needs, I have no money left to buy their love. So I just go without.

I would have a problem with Boy One’s prodigious greed, but I don’t say much because he has the work ethic to back it up. He will do any chore to earn a quick buck. This year, he decided to have a rummage sale. He packed up all of the toys he wanted to get rid of and instructed Boy 2 to do the same.

I’m having a rummage sale. You need to put all of your toys in this basket and I’ll tag them.

There was no agreement about who would receive the proceeds from the sale of Boy Two’s items. I’m pretty sure it was some sort of eminent domain situation. Anyway, it seemed like he was doing a pretty good job of managing his rummage sale empire until I started checking his prices: broken plastic John Deere tractor toy – $25 new, $60 at Boy One’s sale; Johnny Jump-up – $20 new, $40 at Boy One’s sale. I suggested perhaps his prices were a little out of line with the current rummage sale pricing index, but he didn’t care. For that reason, I decided to discourage the rummage sale idea and he moved on to his next venture…

Granddad taught him that he can make money off of scrap metal and now he is constantly scavenging for it. I don’t really have a problem with it, but I did have to draw the line when he started eyeing the trampoline poles.

You can only scrap things that we don’t really need or use. We need the trampoline poles if you want to be able to jump on the trampoline.

He said he understood, but that didn’t deter him from staying on the lookout for potentially unneeded metal. This is why, if you were at the public pool today, you saw my son rifling through the trash. It’s not because I haven’t fed him. He’s just looking for empty  pop cans, which is apparently more fun than swimming or going down the slide. With that level of dedication, I’d say this boy has a bright future as an entrepreneur. Or perhaps just the town junkie that scavenges for scrap metal….