New House Rule

Yesterday morning I dropped Kid B off at the high school for her second-to-last day of Summer Bridge Program.  I swung by my sister’s house on the way home to do a book swap.  We were talking for a bit and I noticed that my nephew was playing video games while his three little sisters were bugging the crap out of him.  Knowing full well what it was like to be a kid stuck at home with three little sisters who bug the crap out of you, I offered to kidnap him and bring him to my house to play with Kid D for the day.  So, off we went.

On the short drive over, I fired up the speakerphone and called my house.  When Kid C answered, I told her to tell Kid D that I was bringing him a very special surprise, and then I hung up.

It took no more than 30 seconds for my phone to ring back.

“Hi, Mom?  Ummm, yeah.  I wanted to know if I could have a treat too.  Because I have been really good and all,” said Kid E in his best, I-am-the-cutest-kid-in-the-universe voice.

“Well, kid, you have been a pain in my ass not so bad lately.  But I am bringing a surprise home for your brother today.  You can maybe share it a little, but it is mostly for him.  And you can tell your sister, ‘None for Gretchen Weiners.  You go, Glen Coco!'”

When we got to the house, I had my nephew climb into the way back of my truck.  Kid D was waiting for me at the kitchen door, so I told him he could open the hatch and find his surprise.  When he found his cousin waiting for him, he was thrilled.  They bounded off together to play whatever it is eight and nine year old boys play in the summertime.

A little while later they were eating a mid-morning snack… bowls of cereal and some fruit.  These boys are big enough and independent enough that I don’t have to help them at snack time.  They were talking and eating and having a good old time, but they weren’t horsing around or being rough.  I was nearby in my office working on the computer.

Next thing I know, I hear my nephew say, “Where is your mom?” and then, “AUNT STACY!”

I ran into the kitchen straight away.  A piece of cantaloupe had become stuck in Kid D’s throat and he was choking.  It dislodged by the time I got to him and he was breathing fine, but both boys were very visibly shaken.

I hugged Kid D and praised his cousin for his quick response.  I think I went on to hug Kid D about 17 more times over the next few minutes.  He was truly alright, so I was just an embarrassment and a nuisance to him at that point.

A short time later my Crazy Mom Thought Train left the station at about ninety-nine miles an hour.  What if his cousin hadn’t been with him to call for me?  What if it had happened when I wasn’t at home?  What if he trips while running down the stairs and breaks his neck?  What if he gets hit by a car while he is riding his bike to his friend’s house down the street?  What if he gets kidnapped at the bus stop?  What if?  What if?  What if?

I calmed myself down and took a few deep breaths.  I was spiraling out of control and needed to reign it back in a little.  I can not control everything.  All I can do is teach these kids to act reasonably, follow practical rules and hope for the best.  It is really all anyone can do.

But I still insisted on implementing one new house rule:  No more eating again.  Ever.

At least it will be helpful for me during bathing suit season.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Oh, wait.  I think this was from another house that I live in during college.  My bad.

Oh, wait. I think this was from another house that I live in during college. My bad.

Summer Update – One Down…

… two to go.  Months, that is.  Seriously.  This is insane!  Have you looked at the calendar?  It is June 24th already!!!

Today we are officially one full month into our summer vacation.  And we have been doing lots of summery things… staying up too late to catch lightning bugs or looking for the super moon, grilling everything we get our hands on, enjoying the summer brews, spending our afternoons running through the sprinkler and swimming at the pool.  But, at the same time, we have also been adhering to quite a full schedule, which does not seem the least bit summery to me.

Kid A just left yesterday for four weeks in the Governor’s Honors Program.  She already traveled to the beach and New York City with friends for a week.  Kid B just returned from five days at goalkeeper camp, and she is in the final week of a three-week-long summer bridge program (so she can get her driver’s permit this Fall).  Oh, and she is signed up for another soccer camp at the high school during the evenings this week.  And remember that we drove to Alabama for that regional soccer tournament as well.  Kid C earned a promotion to dancing en pointe, so she hasn’t stopped her twice weekly classes.  And last week she attended a summer intensive dance program from 10AM – 4PM every single day.  That’s nuts, right?  How did this become our relaxed, summer schedule?

In the past, I would put my foot down and we didn’t do camps or activities or much of anything in the summertime.  We just watched movies, read books and hung out at the neighborhood pool.  Then we would spend a glorious week at the beach.  I soaked it up like the summer sun, because doing nothing can be quite fabulous.  And I truly believe it is therapeutic and necessary, especially because it seems as if we do all of the things during the regular school year.  But, as the kids have gotten older, things have changed and we don’t seem to get as much down time, even throughout the months of June, July, and August.  Sports and school and their social lives have all gotten so much more intense.  Out of necessity and albeit grudgingly, I have adjusted.

But the boys are a different story.  They are still young and I can get away with keeping their summer schedules blankety-blank, just as I like it.  While the older three are off practicing for college and soccering and dancing, the boys and I are doing a whole lot of summertime nada.  Kid D has been playing real and virtual ball (all of the kinds) outside and inside and Kid E learned/ is still learning how to swim on his own.  It has been really fun, even the “I’m bored!” parts.  But then they both got super complain-y all of a sudden.  It took me a while before I realized they might be sick.  In the summertime.  Who does that?

So then I had to add a doctor’s visit to the calendar, but fortunately the doctor figured out that both of them were being so whiny because they had sinus infections.  Or maybe allergies.  Whatever… please just fix them.  So the doctor sent us to the pharmacy to treat both possibilities simultaneously.

We had to wait for our order, so I made my way to the foot care section (I needed toe spacers for Kid C’s newly acquired foot pain obsession due to dancing atop her toes… that’s crazy difficult, y’all!), and the boys followed me there.  This year Kid E also learned/ is still learning how to read.  Conveniently, the feminine products share real estate in the foot care aisle (I was not aware that the vagina bone’s connected to the foot bone.  Mental note to discuss a more logical store organization with CVS.)  While I was determining which gel product would best keep my baby from getting bunions, I hear Kid E yelling to me from just a yard away.

“Mom, what are max pads?”

I completely and blatantly ignore him.

“Mom!  I mean, what are MAX-eye pads?  What are they, Mom, huh?  What are they for?  Max-EYE pads.”  He started getting louder.

“Nothing.  They are for nothing you need to know about, ” I whisper.  I’m so not in the mood for this.  I would so much rather be feet in the sand, face toward the sun right now.

Kid D is all of a sudden interested in this conversation too.  “No!  They are not max-eye pads, they are maxi pads!  See, it says ‘maxi pads,’ not ‘max-eye’ pads.  Mom, what are maxi pads?  Look at how big the package is!  What are they, Mom?  This box is huge!”

I hear all of the people in the pharmacy snickering as I navigate this minefield.  Thanks for the solidarity, sisters.  I guess I’m on my own.

“They are grown up lady woman things that you do not need to know about today.  Put them back on the shelf now and stop yelling, please.”

Kid E becomes incredulous.  “I just want to know what they are for!  Just tell me what the max-eye pads are for, Mom!  I just want to know!  Tell me!  Tell me, please!”  More blatant laughter from the traitors in the pharmacy.

Simpler summer times… no schedules, no camps and no boys asking questions about girls getting their periods

I quickly calculate that I have two choices here.  I can go for shock and awe, or I can distract.  And although I consider myself one of the hardcore members of the fan club for the former, I have not yet gotten my full summer recharge and I am not up for speeches and questions about tampons versus pads.  So, I opt for the lazy choice – the latter.  I chose a complete and utter cop-out.

“Hey, didn’t I see water guns at the front near the gum?  Why don’t you boys go pick out some squirters and we can play with them once you feel better.”

Fortunately, they run off without any more questions and I am spared continued awkwardness for the moment.

I do, however, plan to look into summer camps for these boys as soon as possible.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

The Hike

I held tight to my daddy’s arm as I walked fifty feet down the satin-lined aisle.  I stood beside an equally nervous Sheepdog and we both swore before God and our witnesses that we would ride it out through the good, the bad, and the ugly, forever and ever until we are parted by death.  Then we had a ginormous party.  It was a record-setting 96 degrees outside, well over 100 if you considered the humidity.  It was our wedding day.  And it was exactly twenty years ago.

This past weekend Sheepdog took me on a semi-surprise anniversary trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to celebrate our milestone.  I say “semi-surprise” because Sheepdog knows better than to try to take me on a vacation that I knew nothing about because I could not possibly prepare for such a trip.  I needed to know where we were going and what we would be doing and who was wrangling the entropy at home.  You say “control issues” and I say “practical preparedness.”  Whatever.

Now, it may be June according to the calendar, but it is still winterish in Wyoming.  It was cold at night (low 30’s) and barely got up into the 70’s during the day.  It was a little too brrrrr for my liking (my “liking” being anything having to do with the warm beach), but it was indeed perfect weather – and a beautiful location – for hiking.  So, after we took pictures with a moose on the side of the road, had a spectacular couples massage and some hotel room sex, we hiked the crap out of that place.

On the best day of our trip we hiked well over 11 miles, with a good 2,500 feet of vertical climbing.  Sheepdog calculated that for me on Strava… all I knew was that my hamstrings felt like we had hiked all the way back to Georgia.  We were in Grand Teton National Park, so we started off walking all around Phelps Lake, which took about three-and-a-half hours, including lunch.  Next we drove 15 miles north to Jenny Lake, which we first crossed by boat.  Then we hiked up to a spot called Inspiration Point, back down the mountain again, and around the lake back to our car.

When we returned to the hotel, we were exhausted but rejuvenated.  That one day of hiking in the woods together was incredibly meaningful and turned out to be more than just a day to us.  It was actually representative of our first twenty years of marriage in so many ways…

*  A mile on flat land is not too strenuous, but a mile uphill can mess with your head.

*  A turkey sandwich made with love by your husband tastes better than almost anything else you can dream up.

*  Sometimes the road signs will say “Rough Road” or “Frost Heaves.”  The best you can do is be alert and hang on tight for the ride.

*  Every once in a while you may cross paths with a girl who tells you she is going to jump into the lake naked.  It is okay that Sheepdog listens for her splash, as long as he is still walking by your side and holding your hand.

*  Occasionally you may also run into a boy hiking in just his underpants.  Discussing what you think will happen when he runs into the naked girl can provide lots of entertainment and giggles.

*  The weather may be too hot or too cold or somewhere in between.  Pack lots of options, and don’t complain about how heavy the suitcase is.

*  Bringing kids on the trip will change everything.  Sometimes you need to leave them at home with your sister.

*  Nobody likes a whiner, even if you get jammed in the leg by an unyielding tree.  Be tough.

*  Someone has to lead and someone has to follow.  Don’t be greedy about your position.  Share the responsibility.  But always let the man drive.

*  Wear good shoes.

*  Bring a book, but be sure to put it down sometimes so you can talk to each other.

*  If he carries all of the water, she will be able to carry the camera.  Nobody gets thirsty and everything is documented, so everybody wins.

*  You may think that you only like beach vacations, but the mountains just might surprise you.  You’ll never know until you try something new.

*  You forget the pain of the climb when you see the view from the top.  Especially if you are seeing it with someone you love.

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“In the name of God, I take you to be mine, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.  This is my solemn vow.

I give you this ring as a sign of my vow and with all that I am and all that I have I honor you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”

Happy 20th Anniversary to my Sheepdog.  Thanks for sticking it out through all of the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It has been an incredible and inspiring hike.  Let’s keep going.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

The Ski Lift

When I was growing up, my best friend lived right across the street from me.  We did everything together from the time she rolled out of bed at noon until our parents made us come home at sunset.  We had a ton of freedom to do basically whatever we fancied.  We rode bikes all over town and in the woods, played Barbies on the front lawn, and basically hid from all of the other younger kids on our block.  So many of my childhood memories involve her… including the first time I went snow skiing.

Her parents owned a local ski shop and she and her younger brother began skiing when they were babies.  They went skiing all of the time.  I think the first time I went with them I was about nine years old.  I suited up and hit the slopes.  No matter that she took me to a (double?) diamond on my very first run.  Fortunately, I was a kid and made of rubber and I totally dug the speed from racing down a mountain, all tuck-and-go.  In my head-to-toe matching yellow hat, pants, bibs combo, I effortlessly earned the nickname “Runaway Banana.”

My family soon got in on the skiing vacations as well.  Actually, it seemed like our whole town did.  And we skied A LOT.  We took tons of day trips to local areas that were fun, but my favorite ski vacations were the ones where we got to ski day after day after day.  They even instituted a week off of school in February, called it “Winter Vacation” and most everybody traveled north.  We went a few times a year to Pico Mountain in Killington, Vermont, to swoosh down Charlie’s Highway, the Lower and Upper Pikes, Bushwacker, Forty-Niner, Upper and Lower Giant Killers, and even A and B slopes when they were occasionally open.

And, again, our parents gave us the freedom to ski wherever we wanted, together as kids.  But instead of meeting back home when the sun went down, we just met them at the Lodge for happy hour after the lifts closed.

Now, Pico Mountain is not a ginormous ski resort.  It was also the 1980’s and kids could still do the unaccompanied roaming thing without much worry.  It also didn’t hurt that most every person on the mountain also came from my hometown, so we all kind of knew each other up there.  Nevertheless, even when we were “on our own,” we would occasionally run into a parent here and there.

I have learned as a parent myself that there are many taboo topics that other parents don’t necessarily tell you all about, mainly because they are so horrible that you just might opt out of the whole parenthood gig if you were forewarned of their atrociousness (things like the unimaginable quantities of poop, puke, lack of sleep, all-consuming fear of total responsibility for the life of another human being… and those are just a few that jump to mind regarding babies).  But there are also upsides to parenthood that you might not necessarily consider either.  One of those is certainly the joy you can get from the embarrassment of your children in public, mostly as payback for crap they did as babies and/ or toddlers, but also for just being kids.  Looking back, my dad was totally in on that secret.

So there I was, racing down Pico Mountain, cutting tight left and right, skis all parallel like I was one of the Mahre twins (at least in my mind I was), and then I would inevitably hear him singing down from above…

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“I love my Staaaaaaaaaa-cy,
Oh, yes I doooooooooo.
When she’s not near to meeeeeeeeee,
I’m sad and bluuuuuuuuuue.
I love her truuuuuuuuuu-ly,
I doooooooooo!
Oh, Staaaaaaaaaa-cy,
I LOVE YOU!”

Yes, I cringed.  Yes, I pretended I didn’t know him.  Yes, I skied away as fast as I could.  But it secretly made me so happy that my dad would put himself out there (he is a horrible, and LOUD singer) to express his love-slash-retribution like that.  To this day, I smile with such joy every time I see a chairlift.

On this Father’s Day, I want to tell my dad just how much I love him right back…

I love you truly,
I do!
Oh, Daddy,
I LOVE YOU!

Happy Father’s Day to all of the embarrassing dads out there.  xo

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Where Do Mini Fridges Come From?

At one time or another I have commented that these kids are all just like their father.  Typically, the observation comes after they do something either really smart or really stupid, which is fairly often.  It is slightly more rare, however, that I will notice any mini-me tendencies in them.  Except when they do something super awesome or funny.  Like Kid C this morning.

Kid B is at summer school.  Not really.  Well, she is at school, but it is a Summer Bridge Program for rising 9th graders so she can fit a second language (Latin, of course) into her schedule next year.  She is taking a health class.  The first day she brought home a parent permission slip for me to sign so they can teach her sex education at school.  When it comes to information, I believe “the more, the merrier,” and it is always interesting to hear my kids recount the versions they get from the public school arena, so I enthusiastically signed off on that.

Anyway, the rest of my chickens were hanging out in the basement this morning.  Kid A was Instagramming, Kid D was watching baseball/ playing MLB 2K12 on the X-Box, Kid E was pretending to be a puppy (complete with sound effects) and Kid C was pretending to be his owner.

Kid C was quickly bored with her little brother.  I was half-listening/ half not when I heard her tell him that he’d better behave or he was going to the pound.  Hey… at least she didn’t say that she would drive him back to the foster mom’s house after 48 hours (Undercover Awesome), right?

Then she started a totally different conversation with herself…

“There once were these two refrigerators.  They used their ice makers as a mating call.  When they drop the ice and make the sound at the same time it sends an electronic pulse, and then they make a baby… and that’s how mini fridges are formed!”

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I am definitely signing the sex ed permission slip for THAT kid when the time comes.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

I’m Sitting in the Bathroom

… but not doing what you’d expect.  I’m on my computer while everyone else in my hotel room sleeps.

I am currently in a Westin in Huntsville, Alabama, along with Kid C and Kid E, and of course Kid B as her team is playing in the US Youth Soccer Region III Presidents Cup, representing Georgia in the U14 Girls division.  Kid B is the team’s goal keeper and she rocks.

We drove here Thursday on a few highways, but many more country roads.  After passing four hours worth of farms and swimming holes, we finally arrived.  Then I realized Kid B was burning up with fever.

One day into the playing part of the tournament, and lots of water, ibuprofen and rest later, her team is leading their flight in points.  They play again this afternoon, but regardless of the outcome, they will be playing in the semi-finals tonight against a wildcard team.  The winner of that game goes on to play in the finals on Sunday.

The hotel brought in a rollaway last night.  Kid C slept in it.  Kid B is in one bed, Kid E and I are in the other.  I woke up at 6:30 (7:30EST) to Kid E playing a DS game that requires tap-tap-tapping on the screen.
This is how we do hotel rooms (and this is us down two kids and one Sheepdog)

This is how we do hotel rooms (and this is us down two kids and one Sheepdog)

Tap-tap-tappity-tap-tap.

Then he had to poop.  So we did that as quietly as we could (but my kids like to chat while they are on the toilet… so there was that).  It wasn’t even 7AM and I knew I needed to let the girls rest more (Kid C was showing signs of illness last night too), so Kid E and I put our bathing suits on and headed down to the hotel pool.  But first he insisted we go out to the car to fetch his goggles, so as to ensure that even more people saw me with early morning bed head and my pool cover-up.  Thanks, Kid E.

After about forty-five minutes of brand new swimmer, half-swimming-half-drowning by my youngest child while I stood right next to him to fish him up after the drowning halves (lobby coffee in hand the whole time) in the “heated” indoor pool, we headed back up to the room.  I use quotation marks because, two hours later, we are both still shivering.

I put Kid E back in his pajamas (at his insistence) and tucked him into the warm Westin Heavenly bed.  Then I went to take a hot shower.  When I was done, all three kids were sound asleep, so that’s how I ended up here… in the bathroom on the third floor of a very nice hotel, trying to keep myself quietly occupied.

I am hopeful that they will all wake up rested, fever-free, and ready for another day of awesome soccer.  Go Ambush!

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Rock Star

I took Dr. Sheepdog’s advice on the life affirmation, and shortly thereafter began exhibiting signs of too much of a good thing.  So I quickly called the office of Hot Doc to see if he could analyze my urine and write me a script that would lessen my urge to pee every three to five minutes.

I knew that I was traveling on a rocky road when counsel with Hot Doc didn’t provide me even a sliver of pain relief.  His killer smile and collaboration on a prank yielded no respite (He told me to tell Sheepdog no sex for four weeks. I chose to tell Sheepdog I was pregnant.  Sheepdog found neither to be funny).

Controlled substances gave me little lull in my torture, so I reverted to witchcraft, sorcery, and tricks of old.  I practiced meditation, controlled breathing and visions of my happy place to manage the diabolical torture my body was going through.  Oh, and I had signed up to deliver dinner to not one but two friends that day, so I had that to distract me.  By the end of the day I was convinced that I was dying.  I tried to pee one more time.

Sweet relief of Jesus.  Afterwards, I dialed Sister C’s phone number and waited.  When I finally heard an adult female voice at the other end of the line I screamed, “I just peed out a rock!”

“Um… this is Mary, the babysitter.  Sister C and House Captain went to a Braves game, so you can try them on their cell phones.  But it sounds like you just passed a kidney stone.”

If April showers bring May flowers, what do Mayflowers bring?

If April showers bring May flowers, what do Mayflowers bring?

Later, I reached Sister C and she (being the kidney stone expert in our family) confirmed.  But apparently I’m supposed to save the little bastard for lab tests and whatnot (I didn’t).  And I now need to make adjustments to my diet and whatnot (less calcium, lower sodium, fewer animal proteins… basically get rid of all the fun stuff).

Hot Doc sent me a message via secure client portal this morning.  My urine culture returned negative for evidence of urinary tract infection.  Duh.

So I responded with this:

I’m not too surprised, because later that day I peed out a rock… my very first kidney stone! I just figured I was dying because it hurt like a mother all day. After it passed, I felt so much better but it took my body a day or two to completely recover. I did finish the course of antibiotics you gave me.
I guess I’ll just know for next time (fingers crossed there will be no next time) when I have acute lower back pain or throbs in my flank and groin and waves of debilitating agony that make me throw up, that another stone is rolling its way down the chute.
At least I remembered my Lamaze breathing. That really helped! Plus, I’m kind of a badass. That helps too.
I will follow up with my urologist.
Giddyup (that’s a stirrup joke because you are my gynecologist),
Stacy Swiger

Sheepdog says I’m going to get fired as his client.  I’m still on pain meds.  That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…