Recently, Sheepdog had an appointment at the dentist for his 6-month cleaning. I always encourage him to give out his own email and phone number for those kinds of things because I do not keep his schedule during the week and I have enough people to coordinate without adding him to the mix. For whatever reason, I was receiving all of the text, email, phone, and voice mail messages with regard to this particular appointment, and to make for even more notifications, Sheepdog has apparently maxed out his dental benefits for the calendar year and they wanted to confirm that he knew this cleaning would be out-of-pocket.
October 19, 11:10 AM – TEXT MESSAGE (incoming) “Joshua has an appointment with the dentist on 11/9/21 at 8:00 AM. Questions? Call phone number. Please note, all patients are asked to wear a mask/face covering when in the office. Txt STOP to opt-out from automated msgs”
November 3, 1:11 PM – TEXT MESSAGE (incoming) “Text C to confirm appt for Joshua on 11/9/21 at 8 AM with the dentist. Text R to reschedule. Questions? Call phone number. Please note, all patients are asked to wear a mask/face covering when in the office. Txt STOP to opt-out from automated msgs”
November 4, 11:54 AM – MISSED CALL Dentist
November 4, 11:55 AM – VOICEMAIL Transcription “Good morning this is the dentist giving you a call um Joshua has an appointment with us at 8 AM on November 9 next Tuesday un this appointment will be out of pocket you still get a discounted rate with your insurance but I was calling to let you know please give me a call back at phone number thank you”
November 4, 11:55 AM – TEXT MESSAGE (outgoing) to Sheepdog:
And, yes, Sheepdog has a black eye in that picture. It is from jujitsu, not from me.
I am still bored, but I am clearly not ready to get a real job yet.
I was recently reminded by Kid C of a statement I made about a year ago at a December 2019 family birthday party for one of my youngest nieces. Until she mentioned it, I had completely forgotten that it happened. Now I feel like Lucy Ricardo and I’ve got some ‘splaining to do. But first, a flashback…
It was the fall of 1985 in southern, coastal New Jersey. I was just about to turn 15 years old and one of my birthday presents was the privilege of tagging along on a weekend sailing trip with my dad, my uncle, and each of their best friends. I was naive enough to go out on a 27′ sailboat in the Atlantic Ocean and have little to no idea of how to actually sail a boat, how to navigate, or what safety procedures to follow in a crisis. Ah, the joys of teenage invincibility. The five of us left port out of Toms River and headed out of the bay into the big, blue sea.
Except for may dad, my house at the time was occupied by all women – my mom and three little sisters, as well as my grandmother and my aunt and their female dog, so I was really excited to spend the weekend with dudes who were doing dude things… smoking cigars and drinking alcohol and then the inevitable imparting of their wisdom and life lessons. To this teenage girl who was floundering around and trying to figure things out, I could think of no better, drama-free way to spend a weekend.
I don’t recall many specifics from the bulk of the trip, but I have great memories of watching these influential men in my life sail the boat, prepare and serve meals and drinks, and interact with one another. I felt so much support from them as they gave advice on how to navigate friendships, family, boys, and life in general. On our final Sunday afternoon leg back toward the marina, I recall feeling really grounded and so very loved and protected. I was confident and ready to take on the world!
Suddenly, and practically without any warning, a huge squall popped up in the middle of the ocean. Driving rain, swirling winds, and very rough seas prevented any of us onboard from seeing beyond our own extended arms. It was all hands on deck to batten down the hatches, or whatever real sailors do to keep their passengers, crew, and boat safe in that situation. I ended up on the bow of the boat, my hands gripping the pulpit tightly as I stared this monster storm right in the face, and I smiled right at her. I didn’t have any actual sailing skills and I figured I’d just be in the way, so I went where I thought I’d be the least underfoot. It was so loud and wet and incredibly scary but also invigorating as the boat rose and then fell upon the waves over and over and over again. I felt like I was at one with the upheaval and the feeling was powerful. Those moments of pure adrenaline coursing through me while still relishing in the safety cocoon that had been established over the past few days will stick with me forever. I felt so alive!
Then, as quickly as it showed up, the storm disappeared. I found out immediately that my instinct to get out of the way was not well-received by any of the sailors. Because there was such limited visibility in the thick of it and I was not below deck, where the “normal” people apparently go in such a situation, they actually thought I was a (wo)man overboard throughout most of the chaos and they were not happy with me. They all hugged me tightly while simultaneously scolding me the rest of the trip in for being an absolute effing moron. But I was still grinning because of my life-altering experience up on that bow.
Fast forward more than three decades to 2019… I have now been married to Sheepdog for 26 years and together we have five incredible kids. My life is amazing by every standard, but I am definitely the boring one on the team. Sheepdog has jumped out of an airplane, flies downhill on a mountain bike while navigating stumps and jumps, is an actual boxer in a ring with punches to the head and body, commutes to work on a bicycle in crazy Atlanta traffic, and who knows what death-defying X-Game he’ll attempt to make part of his daily life next? This has been an integral part of his personality his entire life, so it is not my place to challenge him for behaving like that. As yin to his yang, I have a personal need to be the steady and dependable one in the duo. That, in conjunction with the reprimand for my sailboat antics, has curbed me from doing anything too dangerous over the years. Now I plan meals, make sure the kids have school supplies and toiletries, and I do laundry. That’s about it. Cue the adrenaline rush.
As our kids become more independent and head off to college and move out and get married and get older in general, my role is changing. They need me less and less (although part of me hopes they’ll always need their mama just a little bit) and I started having more time to myself, as well as the ability to branch out and do more exciting things than pick up the dry cleaning.
In the fall of 2019, Kid C left for college, so it was just me, Sheepdog, and the two boys at home. While Kid D is a high schooler and Kid E is still in middle school, they are pretty self-reliant and I started to taste the freedom. I got excited about dipping my toe back into a life that was a smidge more about me than about my husband and kids. After years of almost exclusively doing my mom job, I was ready to think about things that brought me joy and excitement… things that brought back that feeling of being in the middle of an unpredicted squall on the bow of a sailboat and make my soul feel truly alive.
So at this family birthday party at the very end of 2019, I wanted to gauge reactions of those closest to me to my plan and I started announcing that 2020 was going to be the YEAR OF ME. My 50th birthday was coming up in October and I just knew that this was the right time for a change. At some point, Sheepdog heard my declarations (in all fairness he had been encouraging me to do something along these lines for a while, but my justification for not doing anything was that someone should still be the reliable parent while the kids are young and he certainly wasn’t changing any of his behaviors). Later on during the party, I overheard Sheepdog telling another guest that 2020 was going to be OUR year of travel and time together and lots of new stuff. He was so proud and excited as he started naming exotic locations and adventures.
Right then, something inside me snapped. How dare he hone in on my year? I understand and appreciate that he loves me and wants to spend time together and wants the excitement for us both, but the plan – MY PLAN – was to be selfish and I wanted Sheepdog to be the yang to my yin and maybe sit still safely in the corner playing the role of the dependable one for a few minutes while I did my thing, whatever it may be.
So I stood up in the middle of the party and I said loudly to Sheepdog, “NO!” and then to everyone else I over-dramatically raised my hands and voice and proclaimed, “2020 is going to be the YEAR OF ME, or it will be the YEAR OF NOBODY!”
…and that is my confession and while I am humble enough to realize I can not affect an entire planet, there’s the whole thing about the power of words and what if another person said the exact same thing at the exact same time and it was like a Jinx situation? I have knocked on wood and thrown salt and thrown a ball far, far away and all of the things you’re supposed to do to undo bad fortune. I am so very truly sorry that I yelled what I yelled and 2020 has been such an upside down and sideways debacle and I’m sorry that I was being selfish and I hope that by writing this post I can undo whatever wrinkle I put out into the universe and we can all just go back to boring and regular and normal next year. The End.
Wish me luck for tomorrow and I wish you all a healthy and happy new year and may you all make 2021 your BEST YEAR EVER!
Last night was a perfect storm of parental fandom. Kid D had a baseball game, Kid B had a soccer game, and Kid E went out for a bike ride… all at the same time. With Sheepdog out of town (attending said soccer game with both sets of grandparents), it fell on me to cheer for everyone simultaneously.
I sat in the bleachers at the local baseball park. We just came off a 13-day break in practices and games due to the long Columbus Day holiday weekend, so everybody was rusty, including the fans. The weather during our last game had crept into the 90’s, but we live in Atlanta where the weather is manic, so the forecast called for lows in the 50’s before the game would be over. The mom next to me was wearing shorts (“I refuse to put on pants when I still have a tan!”) but she was prepared with two blankets and her PTA Mafia friends sharing body heat around her.
Kid E joined me at the baseball game, but he doesn’t like to sit still for long. We brought his bike and helmet for entertainment and distraction, and after his nutritious dinner of a soft pretzel and Reese’s cups from the concession stand, he took off to ride like the lead in Breaking Away. But also with instructions to check back in with me after every couple of laps around the track. The park was packed and he is super cute and I will not have anybody stealing my baby.
About a half hour into the baseball game, the soccer game of the season for Kid B’s team began at Glenn Warner Stadium in Annapolis. I’m talking Army vs. Navy and at the service academies that match is no joke. Go Navy! Beat Army!
Like I said, Sheepdog was there in person, but I was home with the others and had to watch online. I tethered my laptop to my cell phone and proceeded to do the 10-second whiplash dance. That’s 10 seconds of watching Kid D’s baseball game, 10 seconds of scanning the park/ bike path for Kid E, and 10 seconds of screen time watching Navy Women’s Soccer.
I think I held down the fort pretty well. It can be tricky, and it was more luck than skill that I was able to see most of the great plays as they happened. Add in a request from Sheepdog to periodically brief him on the status of the baseball game, as well as receiving other notifications from an awesome team dad who lives near the Naval Academy and live texts game updates to a group of us who normally can’t be there in person, a phone call to check-in and let me know what her plans were for the evening from Kid C, as well as a mayday search for Kid E after a no-see for too long (found him, or rather he found me) and a relatively minor bike crash right in front of the concession stand… it was a pretty busy two hours. I had developed an eye twitch, but I got to see it all!
Kid D has a stellar squat game
Fast-forward to 8-something p.m. Kid E was done riding and had joined me watching both games from the bleachers. The Blue Rocks, Kid D’s team, were up 5-3. Rules in the 13-15 year-old league are that you have to play at least one hour and forty-five minutes, so we started the 5th inning. The home team kind of fell apart (it was cold, it was getting late, and they also had the past two weeks off…) and the Blue Rocks ended up scoring 12 runs. The score was 17-3. The third out against us took FOREVER to happen, but it finally did. All we had to do was get three outs against them and we could all go home.
There exists a kind of surreal, slow-motion recollection of this next part for me. The Army/Navy game was getting wild. Navy tied it 1-1, after having trailed for the whole first half and a good part of the second. The crowd got rowdy after the tying goal was scored, and the play on the field was getting heated. Army got a yellow card. With just minutes left, Navy almost scored, but the goal stayed empty. The Blue Rocks got 2 outs against the other team. We needed JUST ONE MORE. Fans were standing in the bleachers at both games. We were all on edge. The excitement was palpable. I was still doing the 10-second drill back-and-forth, screen-to-field. I kept forgetting to breathe.
Then it happened… I gave the baseball game 10 seconds of my attention (that third and final out was still elusive) and then I switched to watching online as a beautiful, sweet kick went perfectly into Army’s goal. I’m not sure at first if it was live or a replay but I quickly realized that Navy had just scored on Army with 0:44 left in the game!
I jumped up from the baseball bleachers and screamed out, “GOAL!” as loud as humanly possible while the other fans and parents looked at me like, “Does she even know anything about sports?”
It is no secret that I think most holidays are contrived by the powers that be to boost the economy through the sale of needless crap that does not actually mean that a person loves you. There is most likely a Kay Jewelers in every mall in hell. Gifts do not equal love.
Say that in your head one more time because it is important. Gifts do not equal love.
Loving behavior equals love. Lots of loving behaviors. Over time. And rocky terrain. And loving behaviors on sunny days and during the fun stuff and in the middle of all of the excitement too. Lots and lots of loving behavior equals love. Gifts do not equal love.
I will, however, make an exception to my rant to allow sarcastic valentines to squeak in. I can definitely get on board with these. I might even go so far as to say that these valentines would count as a little bit of love. May I suggest a few that should be sent from my family?
From Kid E:
From Kid D:
From Kid C:
From Kid B:
From Kid A:
Now that’s what I call love, folks. Lots and lots and lots of love.
A few weeks back I went online and purchased tickets to a predicted train wreck of a movie for Sheepdog and I to see this Valentine’s weekend. The very popular book series that inspired said film had proven to be a key ingredient to a very memorable vacation for us a few years back in Cabo San Lucas. Given that we are not going on that trip to Mexico this year, and the fact that Sheepdog tethers himself to the thought of that week as if it were an actual life source, I figured I would throw him a bone(r). Mr. Grey will see you now.
And then I thought it would be nice to invite my sisters and their husbands to the theater as well. So I texted them about it.
Between happily married, consenting adults, that is.
Wish me luck for tomorrow. Sheepdog’s not going to need any. He’s got 50 Shades of Lucky coming his way.
In the history of Christianity and the modern world (and without thinking about it too hard), I can not for the life of me come up with another single day for which there are so many preparations, so much forethought, such grand anticipation, and so much egg nog. The planning, the lists, the shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, stamping, mailing, decorating… all for ONE SINGLE DAY. And it happens every single year!
I get it. I really do… I am trying to hold true to the real reason for the season, while still making special memories for my family. Don’t overdo it, but don’t make your kids feel like freaks because all they got from Santa was an orange. I mean, I read John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas. I get it.
This year, I approached Christmas with calm. I figured I’d aim for yin and things would all balance out in the end. I had sprained my ankle in a freak (okay, slightly drunken) slippery, gravel road incident on Thanksgiving, so I had an actual reason not to do a lot of running around anyway. I worked hard (fortunately, it didn’t take much) to keep the joy of Christmas in my heart every day and to spread that joy to all* I met.
(* Except for that one lady in the parking lot near Homegoods. There was a bit of a car jam at the traffic light and she didn’t wish to wait. In the meantime, my cell phone rang and I answered it manually before switching to Bluetooth. The red light lasted for, oh, about a decade, so her impatience just kept mounting and mounting. She directed it all at me and screamed through her windshield, “HANG UP YOUR PHONE! I AM CALLING THE POLICE!” I was like, “It is a red light. I’m not even driving.” So she all-caps yelled at me again. I may have misplaced my yin a little when I yelled back at her (just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman), “Fine! You’re calling the cops? Great. Tell them I said, ‘Hi’!” Then I laughed out loud and mouthed to her, “You do see the irony in the fact that you are PICKING UP YOUR OWN PHONE to call the police and tell on me for being on the phone, RIGHT?” And then the light turned green. Merry Christmas, Lady.)
It has taken a full week for me to recover from my family’s awesome Christmas. And it truly was awesome. I am a very lucky girl.
Today is New Year’s Day. It is the day that represents starting over and clean slates and all things NEW. I am not a big New Year’s Eve partier anymore, so I usually wake up early on January 1st and I get to enjoy all of the newness by myself for a little while. It is one of my favorite mornings of the whole year.
So, here for your enjoyment is the Swiger Family Christmas card for 2014. I know I’m a whole week or so late, but it does say, “Happy 2015” on the back. Technically, I guess I am scootching in on the tail end.
But I’d like to think that I am actually sneaking in at the beginning of the NEW. May 2015 bring you joy and hope and lots of opportunities to live the life that makes you happy.
All across these United States, college students are fah-reak-ing out over finals. The Stacks are full and their Starbuck’s accounts are almost empty. Just hang on, kids. It’s almost winter break.
I need to talk to Kid A about all kinds of things… money, schedules, where she plans to live next year, her grandiose plans for spring break vs. what’s really going to go down, etc. But finals week is not the time to bring up such serious buzz kill topics. This is the time to send love notes, supportive messages, and comfort food.
Originally, Kid A was planning to take a nanny job with three little kids in a nearby neighborhood for the summer. But then she was offered a summer internship at my dad’s law firm in southern New Jersey. She weighed her options: Babies or the beach? Wearing t-shirts covered in finger paints and spit up or dressing up for an office job every day? Living at home with your parents who are always complaining about money or staying with grandparents who basically buy you whatever you ask for? Kid A is smart, has always been independent, and has had one foot out our door since she went to Spanish immersion camp the summer between her sophomore and junior years of high school. Obviously she chose the internship. She has been gone (with the exception of a long weekend when she came back to GA for college orientation) since the beginning of June.
Kid A and I texting a few short weeks after she left
Kid B was relied upon heavily during the house selling and buying phase of the summer. Basically, she raised the other kids for us. Well, she did along with all of the video game systems we have in the house. Do you know what happens when you leave a 15-year-old in charge? I’m talking no bathing until the weird smells start to offend, cereal/ peanut butter sandwiches/ frozen chicken nuggets as the “fancy” meals, and a glazed look in everyone’s eyes as a result of 8 – 10 hours a day of electronics exposure. I wasn’t paying attention to how bad it had gotten until one morning, after dropping Kid B at the soccer field for training, Kid E and I were having a nice car conversation. Then he asked me if I knew what a K/D spread was. I did not, but said I could look it up when we got home. Imagine my horror when I learned it was short for Kill/Death ratio (basically, how many kills you achieved before your character was in turn killed), tracked in Halo, a military science fiction video game. Parenting Fail #1,024 for the summer.
Me: Um, you know that this is a video game and you NEVER, EVER shoot anyone in real life, right? Because when you die in real life, you don’t get more lives.
Kid E: Yeah. Yes. Of course, mom. I know. Everybody knows that.
Eh, they’ll survive.
Fortunately for everyone, I was quickly jolted back into a lead parenting role as Kid B had a trip of her own planned this summer. She went to Europe to guest play with a team from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina in an international soccer tournament. She was gone for almost two weeks. She traveled to several cities in Spain (including Barcelona, San Sebastian, and Madrid) as well as the beach in Biarritz, France. She had the trip of a lifetime and didn’t miss home very much at all. As a matter of fact, she admitted to crying on the plane ride home because she couldn’t stay there for the rest of the summer.
For me, the time with both Kid A and Kid B gone was amazing. Don’t get me wrong… I enjoy both of them tremendously and love that they are my children. But let’s be honest about the Catch-22 situation involved in raising independent, strong-willed, powerful women (which is my end game in successful parenting Kids A, B, and C, by the by). There is the occasional tension and butting of heads between teenage girls and their mothers. And I’m saying that in the nicest way possible. Add in PMS, some OCD, the DMV, a deficit in R-E-S-P-E-C-T, plus a pinch of sarcasm, and you likely get one or more parties CRBT (crying real big tears). I already knew it, but while they were gone I was hit once again by the fact that raising teenagers is really hard. I’ve stopped counting all of my parenting fails with them.
Eh, they’ll survive.
But will I?
Oh, of course I will. I used their time away to thoroughly enjoy the three littles (well, Kid C is not so little anymore, but you know what I mean). We went to the movies and the pool and we played games and stayed up too late and went out to dinner (it’s much more affordable with less people!). It was relaxing and light and fun. No matter how many kids you start out with, it turns out having fewer is kind of a vacation.
But when it was time to pick Kid B up from the airport, we were all excited and ready for her to be home again. Especially the ‘kids’ that she raised for us.
Now we are back to 4/5. And even though it is only for a little while, I can’t wait for all of my chickens to be home. Having Kid A go off to college in August will definitely be interesting.
I planned to come by and say hello. I intended to introduce myself. I wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood, and do all the welcome-y things that good neighbors are supposed to do, just like Mr. Rogers taught me (well, maybe not the singing and the acting out stuff with puppets and toy trolleys and such, but you know what I mean). Sigh. But I haven’t. And now literal months have gone by. And I feel really bad about it.
I can make all of the excuses. You moved in during Spring Break. Spring Break! During Spring Break this year I was busy in Florida hating the beach in the rain along with too many loud people inside of a too small house. And then we got right back into school and activities and all of the things, so dropping by to say howdy to you fell to the bottom of my to do list.
Plus, you’re a dude. And from what I can discern with my mad private investigator skilz, you do not have a wife but you do have a couple of every other weekend teen-aged kids. What if you just went through an ugly divorce and now you hate all wife-type women?
And you rarely seem to be home. I saw you walking your tiny dog in the mornings while I was waiting with the boys for the school bus. But I never see you at other times of the day. What am I supposed to do? Sit on my front porch and wait for you to come home from work, and then go knock on your door? What if you come home from work and immediately have to go to the bathroom? I would be knocking and you would either have to poopus interruptus, or ignore me (because now I know you are home… I just watched you pull into the garage). That would be so weird. And not a little awkward for everybody involved.
I had a plan to bake you some brownies, which is what some very nice new neighbors of ours did when we moved into our house seven years ago. But every time I bake a batch of brownies, somebody in this house eats at least one out of the tray and wrecks the possibility of gifting the whole batch. OK, you got me. I’m the one who eats them, but that’s neither here nor there. And now I resent you a little bit for making it super convenient for me to eat brownies.
Then, I decided I would buy some Greenies treats or a toy for your dog. I went to PetSmart down the street and I had a traumatic flashback to the time that I thought it would be a great idea to adopt two puppies at once, but I got so anxious that I had to return them after only 48 hours and my kids still hate me to this day because of it and I feel like a broken human being because I guess I don’t truly like dogs and the whole experience was just horrible. Well, thanks for bringing that whole nightmare back up.
Maybe I will bring you a housewarming gift instead. A six pack? Maybe you don’t drink. How about something crafty or homemade… soup mix or take out menus from local restaurants? Something decorative or practical for the house… candles, a photo frame, a house plant?
A front door mat?
OK, OK. This is going in a weird direction. I feel that I have made this way more complicated than it needs to be. Let’s start over.
Welcome, neighbor. Better late than never, right? Here is my family’s contact information. We’d love to get to know you. Feel free to stop by anytime.
Sheepdog and I had just finished playing a fantastic game of hide and seek late last night, when a text came in from Kid A. A friend had alerted her that somebody just “hit” our driveway with shaving cream.
I like to refer to myself as “highly procreative” rather than “a slut,” but to each his own. D-minus for creativity, Class of 2015.
Ah, Junior/ Senior Wars. A time when high school kids can play lighthearted pranks upon members of the opposing class. A little toilet paper here, some shaving cream there. Some call it a rite of passage. Some call it fun and funny.
I call it stupid and a ginormous pain in my ass, especially when I am hosing off my driveway in my pajamas at 1 a.m.
The police department calls it vandalism, especially if it escalates. Shit just got real, yo. On your permanent record.
There are always going to be fartknockers who wreck it for everybody else.
Sheepdog and I do not condone Junior/ Senior War activity and we do not allow our kids to participate. But I was alerted via Facebook that some juniors’ houses in the neighborhood got TP’d the night before, so I took precautionary protective measures in anticipation of my senior getting a little something-something, just because. Cutting down the two river birch trees from the front yard a few years ago wasn’t going to be enough. I tapped into my Jersey Girl/ Boardwalk Empire roots and asked myself, What would 3-Pops do? But, since the answer to that question likely involved a baseball bat and some knee caps (not really my style), I decided to go a more technologically advanced route.
If you mess with her cubs, you had better be prepared to hear from the Mama Tiger (Swiger, like tiger).
I love a good penis on the garage door as much as the next girl, but I am a little concerned that all of your penises (and there were many) look like cacti. If you were drawing from memory, you might want to get that checked by a doctor, Picasso.
An apology would be nice, but I won’t hold my breath.
Yesterday was the first day of April, or as I would rather call it, March 32nd. I am not really a big fan of the pranks and jokes and general tomfoolery that accompany this particular calendar day. I never remember that it is April Fool’s until it is too late and by then I have fallen for a handful of pranks completely, thus becoming a literal fool (archaic: a person who is duped). Or, I see right through people’s trickeration and have to pretend. So, nope. I’m not really a fan.
But my kids are a whole different story.
A few years ago Kid B contributed to this blog by posting about her favorite pastime… pranking her siblings (Kid B Uses Her Powers For Evil). Kid C, Kid D, and Kid E seem to have gone the way of Wazaah, so they spent a good part of yesterday afternoon hiding each other’s shoes and pillows. It was all very annoying, especially at bedtime harmless and funny and made everybody giggle. Even I couldn’t keep my icy heart from melting each and every time I heard Kid D yell out “APRIL FOOL’S!” followed by a giant guffaw. He was on a roll by dinnertime.
Sheepdog had ridden his bike to work yesterday, so he came in through the basement workshop and not the kitchen door when he got home last night. He showered first and then joined us for dinner. When he came upstairs, he had the remnants of panic smeared across his face. Then he greeted us with, “Are you TRYING to kill me?”