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!
Sheepdog worked from home yesterday because he had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. He has a quiet office in the basement, surrounded by his bicycles, camping gear, and things that go pew-pew-pew. It is one of his happy places.
I went to the gym in the morning and came home to take a shower afterwards. Of course it was right at that moment that my phone rang. Even with soap in my eyes I could see that it was school calling. I turned off the running water and answered in my most official “no, I’m not naked” mom voice.
“Hi, Stacy. This is Tracy from the clinic.”
She had Kid D with her. He had a low-grade fever and felt miserable. I had noticed The Crud coming on with him earlier and I had actually made a doctor’s appointment for after school so they could diagnose his sinus infection and we could move on. But he wasn’t going to make it until after school and he needed to be picked up ASAP.
So I texted Sheepdog in the basement: “Any chance you can go get <Kid D> from school? I’m showering.”
His response: “Right now?”
I’m literally in the middle of a shower. I’m wet. And cold. I have soap in my hair and my eyes. For cripe’s sake: “Come up please.”
So he does and I explain that Kid D says he can not wait, so would he please go get him now. It will take me much longer, what with my in-the-middle-of-showering dilemma. Then I ask if he remembers where to go (coincidentally, we had picked Kid D up early on Tuesday to go to Kid A’s Capstone Expo at Georgia Tech so it was fresh in his mind) and he said of course he knew. So off goes Sheepdog. I very happily finish showering in peace.
Ten or fifteen minutes later, when I’m dressed again, I get a text.
Sheepdog showed up at the school. They buzzed him in at the front desk. He announced he was there to pick up his kid. The front desk lady asks for his teacher’s name.
Sheepdog: “Really? Are you asking just to make fun of me?” Hats off to her because the likelihood is very high that I would have done the same exact thing.
It turns out the kid was at lunch, so she sent Sheepdog off to the cafeteria to find him.
Sheepdog: “Are you ready to go?”
Kid: “(Hell) YES!” (packs up lunchbox and basically runs out of the room, forcing Sheepdog to keep up)
Sheepdog: “How are you feeling, bud?”
Kid: “Great, dad! I feel great.”
Sheepdog: “Wait. What? Didn’t you go to the clinic because you didn’t feel well, and the clinic lady called mom and asked her to come pick you up…”
Kid: “No. No clinic for me. I feel just fine. Where are we going dad?”
Shit. He then has to explain his mistake and take Kid E back to the cafeteria. Fortunately, he was a pretty good sport about the whole thing.
So that’s when I get the text from Sheepdog.
“Don’t know why I thought you said <Kid E>. Not him. Off to get <Kid D>.”
Sheepdog literally picked up the wrong kid from school and had to return him. Then he had to go to a totally different school across town to pick up the right kid.
I’m thinking that five kids in five different schools might be a little much.
Your kid texts you shortly after leaving for middle school in the morning, “Mom I left my project on the bus what can I do?”
Do you (A) give him some tough love and reinforce his independence by telling him to go to the front office and ask for help, and when they are not able to offer anything other than “you’ll just have to wait until you ride the bus home after school” you explain that he has to be responsible for his mistakes (although everybody is human and everybody makes them); or
(B) call the county school bus company, get transferred to dispatch, explain the situation, hold while he radios the bus driver on the walkie-talkie, says she looked but found nothing, text your kid back with the bad news, talk your kid off the ledge because he worked on the project for days and will get a late grade if he doesn’t turn it in today, continue periodically trying to calm him down via text, an hour later decide to call the county school bus company again (wonder should you disguise your voice this time… but decide no, that’s weird and not believable because your British accent tends to fall off mid-sentence) and ask if you can personally locate and search the bus because the kid knows down to the row, seat, and exact coordinates where he left it, profess your undying love for the understanding dispatcher who goes out to the bus, looks for and locates the project himself, drive to the bus depot two towns over (thus missing the last group workout of the morning and you know you’re not going to the afternoon one now) to pick up the project, drive it to your kid’s school, and text him to let him know it is there for pick up, then come home and take a nap?
Yeah, me too. I went with (A). I definitely went with that one. Oh, who am I kidding? That nap was awesome.
And he had a quiz in the middle of all of this! You know it’s serious when juvenile humor doesn’t get a smile out of him. Try saying ‘Boobie Washington’ a few times without giggling. You can’t.
I told Sheepdog back at the very end of February that I was bored. Bored of using my mad Tetris skills to load the dishwasher, bored with devising creative punishments for kids who do stupid things, bored by folding laundry (yes, even fitted sheets). Bored of driving all around this overpopulated suburban utopia. Bored by Netflix (gasp!). Bored with writing, even. Bored, bored, bored. Just bored. Pffft.
Sheepdog, being a manly man, went into problem solver mode and sent me away. In March he put me on a plane to Key West and attempted to curtail my ennui with balmy weather, college roommates, and cocktails. I had a good time. I don’t do things half-assed, so Nate the Great and the Boring Beach Bag (that’s me being bored with reading children’s literature) just kept keeping on. I came back from my long weekend happy, hungover, tired, and sick, … but still bored.
Speaking of beach bags, I even tried shaking things up with an impromptu break in spring by taking a (partial) family trip. Kids C, D, E, and I road tripped on down to the white sand paradise of Cape San Blas, where we roasted s’mores, dug holes to China with the cousins, and avoided sharks. A great time was had by all (except maybe the shark), but afterwards I was still eh.
I spent April managing schedules, cooking and washing, and – of course – driving. Why is there so much driving? I decided to rally and crush my job hand-on-the-plow style. In the life game of Rock, Paper, Scissors of Behavioral Traits, I supposed that tenacity would beat boredom every time, but it seems I was incorrect.
So by the beginning of May I was bored and wrong. Even wearing my hair up in a high ponytail wasn’t helping.
And then I got excited. About the possibility of a short-term, full-time job.
I know, right? Who AM I right now?
You may be wondering what kind of insanity pool I would even consider dipping my pinky toe into, given that I am currently in the midst of actively raising and parenting five children and running a house while my husband holds down a very demanding and stressful career, complete with out-of-state travel and various coaching/ volunteering jobs. I assure you, this job would be awesome. And it would be hard, but we could make it work because it is only for a few weeks. But I am sworn to secrecy about it and I can not tell you anything else about it while I await a hiring decision. As I told the kids, “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.”
Now they all think I’m going to work for the CIA.
Just thinking about the possibility of something different has breathed new life into my soul. I wasn’t even looking. It simply presented itself and now I want it more than anything. Even though I laughed until I almost peed while I updated and edited my resume. It took a whole lot of Bondo to fill that 14-year hole in my work experience. What’s another term for “overqualified ass-wiper?”
In the meantime, I am still a SAHM, and this week is the week of all things Mother’s Day. I had a tea to attend on Monday, where Kid E recited a poem he wrote entitled “I Love You More Than…” He included lots of homemade food items and our neighborhood water slide, for which I was very grateful, but Minecraft was suspiciously left off the list. At least I know exactly where I stand with that kid.
Also this week, Kid D came home with a new repertoire of ‘Yo’ Mama’ jokes:
Yo’ mama is so stupid, she got locked in a mattress store overnight and she slept on the floor.
Yo’ mama is so short, you can see her feet on her driver’s license.
Yo’ mama is so ugly, Bob the Builder looked at her and said “I CAN’T FIX THAT!”
Yo’ mama is so dumb, she played ‘Got Your Nose’ with Voldemort. Then he killed her.
The kids and I roared with laughter as he told each new joke. The other kids joined in and added their favorites as well. Then somebody started machine gun farting or something like that, so I put an end to the stand up routines.
That night as I was tucking Kid E into bed, I was feeling nostalgic about him still being little and sweet and I felt the need to explain to him that Yo’ Mama jokes are actually people making fun of moms and he shouldn’t be mean. And since Kid E is the sweetest kid ever, he said he understood and then he made up his own joke and then he grabbed my face and said, “Yo’ mama is so fast that she wins every race that she runs. Like that, Mom?”
Exactly like that, kid. I guess am totally winning, even if I don’t get that other job for the CIA. Happy Mother’s Day!
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.
Today is Kid A’s NINETEENTH birthday, but I’ve been incorrectly telling people for about six months now that she was going to turn 20 this year, and who can believe where the time has gone, and I’m too young to have a kid that old, and wasn’t she just a little baby a minute ago, and …(insert Charlie Brown teacher voice). But I stand corrected, as she is not 20 yet. And I can totally believe that she is 19. Just not 20. So, we’re good.
She was born in a blizzard. Well, not actually in a blizzard, but in a hospital during a blizzard. Although, the wife of a co-worker delivered one day before and she almost did have her baby in the snow as she was being taken to the hospital on a snowmobile (I am a little bit jealous of that super cool birth story).
I was overdue by five days and I was ready to evict my tenant. When the oxytocin kicked in, I tried to rip the side rails off of my hospital bed. Sheepdog hung out with me early on during the slow part of labor, but he seemed kind of bored, so I sent him home to have lunch and a beer and to shovel the driveway. It’s what I wanted to be doing if I hadn’t been otherwise occupied. Then he almost missed her actual birth. He literally ran into the delivery room while nurses were putting his paper hospital costume on him. He rounded the corner and burst into the room and BAM! he got a full frontal view of leg spread with a side of crowning baby head and extra sauce. Welcome to fatherhood, pal. That’s probably gonna leave a mark.
Kid A was, of course, perfect in every way. She was the first grandchild on both sides of the family, so she had no shortage of doting fans. And I was extremely enthusiastic to try my luck at parenting a human being, so I was very excited that she let me practice with her. If she was a boy, I wanted to name her Speed McCoy. Fortunately, that did not happen.
Hi there. I’m your mommy. It’s very nice to meet you. I truly thought you were going to be a boy, so I’m sorry about all of the blue sailboats on your nursery wall.
Thus began almost two decades of me coming up with crazy ideas and theories and names and opinions, and (usually and very luckily) fate intervening when I’ve gone too far. Kid A was my introduction to this insane, exhausting, fulfilling, scary, take-your-breath-away experience called parenthood. She is smart and beautiful and funny and makes me so very proud, even when she is giving me gray hair and making me talk to myself. She is driven and passionate and so very strong. I am very proud and lucky that she is my firstborn.
Happy 19th Birthday, Kid A. Sorry for all of the bad haircuts.
Sheepdog has a hard time sitting still. I feel that he was born with some horrific “can’t relax” gene. He still complains of being tired all of the time and that he feels run down and exhausted, yet he rarely listens when I wisely advise, “take a nap, dummy.” Naps are the best part of parenting as far as I’m concerned. They are the diamonds of Minecraft. My precious.
But, back to Sheepdog. The man is unable to just be. I tease him all the time about his lack of quietude, yet I secretly find his buzz intoxicating. I don’t want to be him, mind you. But I am thrilled that he is on my team. And he’s fun to watch.
This summer, my mom and dad gave Sheepdog a GoPro helmet camera. I do not think in the history of things created that there could be a more appropriate gift. Sheepdog is even more excitable than usual because of it.
He has already begun filling his dance card with mountain and road bike races throughout 2015. His first mountain bike race was the Snake Creek Gap 34-miler, which he completed last Saturday, January 3, in the cold and pouring rain in just over five hours. He was so muddy at the end that the ladies who give out chili to the riders afterwards asked him to pose for pictures because they had never seen anyone so filthy and caked in mud.*
And because he can’t sit still, Sheepdog came home from the race and promptly made a movie about it.
I told you he is fun to watch. How about those thighs, huh?
Wish me luck for tomorrow…
* Reminder to have Sheepdog build an outdoor shower in his spare time
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.