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There is no Off-Season for Me

16 Jan

Whine: Mr. Dad has taken over the TV yet again to watch a Really Big Game. Which happens to be Really Big Game #4,238 of our marriage. That’s a lot of Really Big Games. And I’ll tell you a secret, we don’t win them all. Which is why I’m skilled in the arts of both CPR and Tai Chi. (Ok, not Tai Chi, but that would be cool.)

Cheese: We have been married long enough (4,238 Really Big Games, to be exact) that Mr. Dad knows he has to be super-dad for a little while before he transforms into a mindless sports-watching machine. So I enjoyed listening to a rowdy game of hide-and-seek from the other side of a locked bedroom door.

This post is dedicated to that brave and selfless group of women known as Sports Widows. These women weather the ups and downs of every sports season with grace and  aplomb. Sports Widows earn their name from the endless evenings and Saturday mornings and Sunday nights and random Wednesday afternoons they spend holding down the fort alone so their husbands can follow their dreams of watching other people play sports.

Are you curious about your status as a Sports Widow? Read the signs and symptoms below to discover if you, too, belong to that most-honored group.

You might be a Sports Widow if…

…there’s a line in your budget labeled ‘Sporting Events’ and it’s larger than the line labeled ‘Shoes and Clothes.’

…the only time you’ve heard your husband threaten to ‘rip somebody’s head off’ was in regards to a made-up sport.

…your best chance for seeing your husband would be to catch him in a crowd shot on the TV.

…you can use the ESPN ticker like a Weather Channel for your husband’s moods.

…your supply of commemorative plastic cups outnumbers both your casual and formal drinking glasses.

…getting ‘dressed up’ for your husband means changing out of his team jersey t-shirt and into his team polo or oxford.

…after a particularly hard loss, people who are not fans of the team or sport call with their condolences.

…in your husband’s opinion, the Sports Hug is the only legitimate man-hug.

…you’ve only ever seen your husband Sports Cry.

…when your alma mater plays your husband’s you root for his team because it makes life easier. For both of you.

…you feel very guilty, but you wish the team would lose in Round 1 of the playoffs so you could have your husband back. (At least until the next sport starts up.)

…your husband spent part of your wedding reception listening to a football game.*

…your husband spends more time writing a trash talk post for his fantasy football message board than selecting your anniversary card. (And don’t even think about him writing in it. He signed it, didn’t he?? Didn’t he??)

…you have ever travelled across the country so he could do a ‘live draft’.

…you know what a ‘live draft’ is.

…you know all the names of the local sports radio hosts because you listen to sports radio… when you’re alone.

…your second-hand sports information outweighs that of most grown men.

…you routinely use metaphors like “hurry-up offense, call an audible, and zone defense” to describe routine domestic events and wonder why the other mommies don’t know what you’re talking about.

It might sound like I’m complaining about my lot in marriage, but Sports Widowhood isn’t all bad.

Mr. Dad pretty much always owes me one (how do you think I got him to approve this post?) and when he’s gone at the game, I get the remote to myself. And I like to pretend that his passion for sports is simply a metaphor for how he feels about me. Because that makes sense, right? Either way, some of the sweetest friendships I’ve formed happened while waiting for our boys to come home from the game.

Those same  boys who sometimes surprise us by having those rare ultra-meaningful man conversations sandwiched between analyzing stats and complaining about the refs. Or who stop on their way home from a out-of-town game with a new dining room table they picked up (without prompting) from Pottery Barn Outlet. (Yes, I said Pottery Barn Outlet.) Plus, there’s something to be said for watching Mr. Dad coach the kids on the proper team cheers (Heeeeeyyyyyy, Sic ‘Em, Bears!) and dressing Brother Bear up so they walk around in matching outfits all day.

Besides, it could be worse, at least he’s not into NASCAR.

Yet.

I would like to apologize now to my future daughter-in-law/sports widow for letting it start so early.

*For the record, Mr. Dad did NOT even think about doing this. Mostly because we got married in June — well before football season.

This post is dedicated to my own band of Sports Widows, who have made this job a lot more bearable. Good thing they’ll never know how much fun we have without ’em, right girls?

Hardcore.

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Choose Your Own Adventure

5 Aug

Whine: I heard Lil’ Sis crying in the other room alongside Big Sis’ cajoling whispers. I discovered Lil’ zipped into a carry-on suitcase, head downward as Big Sis dragged her around the room.

Cheese: All we needed was a bigger suitcase.

Do you think I could get this "luggage" past security? PS Big Sis is IN the suitcase.

 

 

 

On our 11th anniversary, Mr. Dad and I decided to get fancy. We threw three kids and everything we owned into our minivan and started leg #1 of what would eventually be a 40-hour road trip. We exchanged a quick smooch on our way out the door, muttered a somewhat sarcastic “Happy Anniversary” then hunkered down for the start of our 2,500 mile “vacation.”

But just as we were about to leave, he handed me two small strips of paper. Homemade tickets for a getaway weekend in the near future. So last weekend we dropped our kids on Kiki’s doorstep and got the heck out of Dodge. We spent a day at Schlitterbahn because what’s more fun than hanging out with thousands of people in their swimming suits? We spent the remainder of the weekend eating our way through Austin, TX.

I could talk for days about our little trip. How Mr. Dad saved cash in the back of his top drawer for months to pay for it. How we waited in line for a water slide for almost three hours and didn’t really care that much because we liked the company (well, except for the nicotine addict in front of us who got a little jumpy around Hour 2). How weird it was to finish an actual sentence without being interrupted, jumped on, or distracted by my lovely but attention-starved progeny.

The theme of our weekend was adventure. We ate tacos from a street vendor. Drank milkshakes with a little kick. Rode an uphill waterslide. Went dancing on 4th St (6th St. was a little too undergraduate for us.) Walked through IKEA (which is WAY on the wild side for me). Wandered around the Texas Capitol. I wore my hair wavy, for crying out loud.

We look well-rested, don't we?

Something about those three days reminded me of the days that seem several lifetimes ago. The days when Mr. Dad and I were just a couple of kids hanging out at the movie theater doing goofy stuff and trying to dig popcorn out of our retainers. The days when my biggest concern revolved around my hair (back the days of perms and hotrollers.) Or the days we spent as newlyweds on roadtrips and dinners out and watching whatever we wanted on TV. And somewhere between the Hotel Starbucks and 4th Street, we rediscovered both our love for really good tacos and just hanging out.

By the time we got on the road home, I was through with adventure and chomping at the bit to get home to my babies. Who, for the record, seemed rather unimpressed and a little confused upon seeing me. Brother Bear looked at me as if he may have remembered me from a former life as he looked to his Kiki for reassurance. I wanted to shout “GOOD GRIEF, I WAS ONLY GONE THREE DAYS, HOW BAD IS YOUR SHORT-TERM MEMORY KID?” but he’s a baby and he can’t count anyway, so I didn’t. But then we bribed them into coming home with us with a stuffed platypus and a few Disney t-shirts.

And now we’re back to Real Life. Which I don’t mind too much, since my kids can make an adventure anytime, anyplace. (Do you hear that, Costco? We’re coming for you.)

Business Class

8 Sep

Whine: Summer is officially over. I sent The Sisters off to their first day of preschool today. That means no more lazy mornings or swimming days or sleeping in our clothes then wearing them the next day. Darn. I might have to start doing laundry.

Cheese: Did you not hear me??? I sent the Sisters off to preschool! I drove several miles in the Sister-free car jamming to Psalty the Singing Songbook before realizing I didn’t have to.

I met some old friends for lunch a few weeks ago. You know, friends so old they remember those bangs you had in the 9th grade and still love you, so they’re really not going to care if you drag your three kids along for lunch. So I did. I spent most of lunch shushing, cutting up of spaghetti, and generally keeping things at a dull roar between bites of my Pasta Fagioli. Not to mention holding Brother Bear at arms’ length on the march to the bathroom because he had exploded in his cute little outfit. Unfortunately I had changes of clothes for everyone but him. Which left me with the choice: parade his naked little self back through the Olive Garden or dress him in Lil’ Sis’ clothes.

Let’s just say he looks pretty good in ruffles.

"But it's a very masculine ruffle, sweetie. . ."

I know businesspeople of varying stripes often meet for lunch to meet and get things done, but I’d put my ‘working lunch’ up against theirs anytime. If you get to eat all your food uninteruppted, you’re not working hard enough.

In a similar vein, ‘vacationing’ with kids, as I may have mentioned in a previous post (or two, or three), is about 1 part vacation and 99 parts work-your-butt-off. One of my friends has decided that any trip with her kids is to be considered a ‘business trip’ and I am going to embrace her terminology from here on out. Too bad I can’t expense it, too.

In the last six weeks we’ve taken two flights and driven 40+ hours, hopped on buses, trams and rental cars.

Traveling with three kids under the age of five is crazy. As in Barnum and Bailey, three-ring circus crazy. My trip to Florida with my mom was no exception. Lil’ Sis had a freak out of epic proportions which began in earnest when the ticket agent had the nerve to take her carseat and put it on the luggage conveyor. The screaming continued from the ticket desk, through security, into the bathroom with those dreadful automatic-flushing potties all the way to the jetway, with intermittent breaks for breath. Finally my mom (aka The Amazing Gigi) got her to calm down by holding her in a vise grip and singing in her ear.

We arrived in Atlanta, ran the gauntlet that is the world’s busiest airport, pushing a stroller, car seats draped over our shoulders, dragging multiple suitcases and trying somewhat unsuccessfully to retain our grips on both the children and our sanity, includng a very family UNfriendly tram to the rental car counter. If my Go-Go-Gadget-Mommy-Arms had been about fifteen seconds slower, Lil’ Sis would have been standing on the tram platform watching the rest of us chug away , which I found highly unsatisfactory. (Suffice it to say we convinced Alamo Rental to give us a ride on the return trip.) The five-hour drive from ATL to Tallahassee was the easiest part of the trip and THAT is saying something.

Our battle scars faded quickly once we arrived at the Promised Land. Hugs and kisses between cousins, introducing Brother Bear to his Aunt Wren, sitting on the couch with my sister eating ice cream pretty much gave me some much-needed travel amnesia. Which apparently Big Sis also had, as she spent the entire week referring to her cousins as “That Girl” and “The Little One” and my sister as “The Person Who Owns This House.” When my brother-in-law came home from being gone all week she rushed to hug him saying “Welcome Home, Uncle Steve!!!” (His name is Dave.)

(From L to R) The Little One, Big Sis, That Girl

We got home from Florida. The return trip was so easy in comparison, there’s not much to tell besides that fact that Lil’ Sis would NOT use the airport potty due to the automatic flushers and held it for seven hours. Good thing I had a spare size 3 diaper to put on her just in case. We got home amid severe upset-tummyitis (yay for me!), and I didn’t even bother to unpack. We left three days later for a family weekend to San Antonio with Mr. Dad’s family.

The trip was fun. We lolled our way down the lazy river, celebrated CharChar’s 1st birthday, and just generally hung out with the fam. Like I said, fun. Relaxing? Let’s not get carried away. There was an unfortunate “short cut” (Road Trips: Now 50% Longer!), a rather pointless “timeshare sales presentation” (because yes, I totally have $25K to spare, I’m so glad you asked), dinners to make, naps to enforce (good luck with that), poolside near-poop experiences to avoid, fussy babies who needed to eat/sleep after I’d been in the water for exactly four minutes.

Oh yeah, then we went to Sea World, because we were in the neighborhood. The weather sign said “His in the low 100s” and it wasn’t lying. Although we lost our body weight in sweat, we did get to see a baby killer whale and it’s Mommy. If that’s not vacation highlight reel material, I don’t know what is.

2 out of the 3 of them know the "gumbo and beignets" they're making are pretend.

Mr. Dad and I had the good sense to wait a while before our next adventure. Like three whole weeks. Our mission: try and cram as much activity into four days as is humanly possible. All told, we drove twenty hours and almost 1,000 miles, ate more delicious food and gourmet ice cream than was really wise, hung out with our awesome aunts, uncles, cousins and their kids, jumped off the high dive at the swimming pool, drafted the best fantasy football team of all time, talked a little trash to the competition and visited an awesome (and free) farm park. The cherry on top was when my friend Jo and her hubby Jon and their Littlest One (in utero) drove 7 hours (round trip) only to stay 24 hours. She’s as crazy as I am.

Lil' Sis and her pal Cousin Laura feeding the ducks.

Three generations of ice-cream lovers.

Me, Jo, Brother Bear and his future BFF.

I’ve stopped in the middle of the whirlwind a few times to question my sanity, doubtless some of you have done the same on my behalf. But in the end Mr. Dad and I have decided to put our money where our mouth is. We say we value family, and now our bank account agrees. So much for that timeshare in Aspen.

Honestly, though, I’m glad it’s over. I’m tired and about two weeks behind on laundry. The girls are ready for some structure, as is evidenced by their continual need to peck at each other’s fleshy parts. In short, we are all vacationed out.

But someday I’m going to be really bored and miss this chaos. Then I’ll stretch my legs in my very own airplane seat, watch what I want on my iPod and sip my diet coke without sharing and realize, hey, if I’m that bored I can just watch the highlight reel.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Insufficient Memory

12 Jul

Whine: You are very fortunate to be hearing from me today. I am taking time out from my very busy schedule of making memories to write this post. Making memories is exhausting.

Cheese: I have Photoshop and I’m not afraid to use it. Faking memories is not nearly as exhausting.

If you are like me you have many happy vacation memories. And you want the best for your children, which means giving them some vacation (it’s pronounced buh-KAY-shin if you’re four years old) memories of their own that do not involve reruns of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Handy Manny. I’ve taken the time to outline the elements of a proper vacation.

For any proper vacation, there is always Travel. As in spending five hours packing up everything you own and shoving it into your vehicle. This is done by allowing your children to use the open vehicle as an amusement park, climbing over the seats and turning all the knobs. When you finally “have everything you might possibly need”  (i.e., no more room in the car) you strap them into their seats (with the car running, obviously, since it’s 100 degrees at your house). Twenty minutes and two screaming kiddos later, you hop in the car only to realize that they’ve been sitting in their seats under a vent blowing HEAT at FULL BLAST and talk radio BLARING out the back speakers for that twenty minutes. Hence the crying. When you finally get out of your driveway you will then realize that you forgot the collapsible bed rail which of course you cannot collapse after turning around and going home for it, so you shove it beneath your son’s infant seat which is reverberating with the sound of his fury at being strapped in without prior authorization.

If you’re really, really lucky, your Travel is Budget Travel, which involves lots of begging (please, please, stop hitting your sister and don’t vomit until we pull over), borrowing (minivans and dvd players to name a few) and stealing (ok, no actual stealing, unless you count stealing a glance in the back for the ten minutes the sisters were peacefully coexisting.) But, we tell ourselves over and over, Budget Travel is where it’s at. It may not be pretty, but we’re bonding. Listen to them sing over Puff, the Magic Dragon in perfect little girl harmony. I mean, memories must be made and not bought, right? Oh, now listen, they’re fighting over who gets to sing the chorus. Precious.

Budget Travel also requires a mid-journey stop to slap together a few ham and cheese sandwiches  from the cooler in the back seat that is jammed full of groceries so as to avoid the insanely high prices of whichever vacation locale one happens to frequent. Incidentally, a pound of frozen hamburger works well as an ice block, in case you were wondering. So you throw a couple of dry sandwiches (because of course you forgot the mayonnaise) back to the wolves, who half eat half smear them across the back seat of the [borrowed] minivan. But sandwiches are so much healthier than those deliciously greasy and temptingly convenient chicken nuggets. No more trans-fatty sludge for us, no way. You’d think after five days of limited rations, the number on the scale would have gone down instead of up. But you would be wrong.

And the linchpin of Budget Travel is, of course, the borrowed lodgings. Whether it be a condo with a pool or a house on the lake, knowing the right people is key to vacationing on a dime. Borrowed lodgings are fantastic if your children are the play-nicely-on-the-piano and put-away-their-toy-as-soon-as-they-are-finished-playing type. However, if you happen to be blessed with the peanut-butter-cookie-dough-slinging, spilled-milk-on-the-carpet, crushed-froot-loops-in-the-couch-cushions type, borrowed lodgings may actually cost you more than booking a room at the Hilton and hiring a babysitter.

Borrowed lodgings often involve water/outdoor activities as the primary (i.e., only) means of entertainment. So after wrestling your exhausted and disoriented children into bed after your Incredible Journey and having them awaken far too early the next morning while you are feeling every last ounce of strength leave your body because all you ate for dinner the night before at 10:30pm was a “well done” grilled cheese sandwich, if you wake up to cloudy skies and a side of drizzle, you may be quite tempted to lock yourself in the bathroom and order a pizza.

But these are the days that memories are made of.  Will they remember crying and whining most of the day because they had a hard time sleeping in an unfamiliar bed and freaking out when they hear the tiniest bit of thunder over the pool they were swimming in? Or will it be eating sandwiches and Froot Loops for almost every meal because Mommy says something about a budget? I sure hope it’s the having a picnic on the balcony and convincing Mommy to swim in the rain. Otherwise their next buh-KAY-shin, might just be a stay-KAY-shin.

Before they accidentally kicked their plates to the ground.

Stay tuned for part two of the Summer Vacation series later this week!

Last Hurrah! (for now)

14 Jan

Whine: I caught Lil’ Sis throwing a washcloth into the toilet. When I reprimanded her, she scampered away beyond the bathroom door, poked her around from the other side, then said “Bye!” as she shut the door and took off. There’s something to be said for a kid who knows how to make a quick getaway. 

Cheese: I bribed the children to help clean up the kitchen after dinner tonight. I can’t say it made the process any more efficient, but if I’m not raising them to be my own little labor force, then why am I having all these kids? Besides, there’s nothing quite so cute as the toddler who still thinks helping mommy “put away” the silverware is fun, little does she know it’s only the beginning of a lifetime of servitude.

Two months from now (give or take a few days depending on how big and/or stubborn this baby is, which, if his sisters are any indication will be VERY) my life as I currently know it is going to stop. My current existence of eating regular(ish) meals, sleeping most nights, and occasionally wearing something other than my gigantic grey sweatpants is going to look downright luxurious compared to what’s coming.

Upon realizing this, I did what any intelligent woman with a looming baby sentence would do. I went on vacation.

A very, very, very dear friend of mine* was kind enough to go ahead and diligently work for several years and get her Master’s just so she would have a reason to throw a big party just so I would have a reason to escape one last time before having my third baby. Pretty impressive planning on her part, I would say.

So anyway, this friend, let’s call her Kel, invited me to this FABulous party to celebrate her milestone, and being the loving, supportive and sacrificial friend that I am decided I would put aside all the very important toilet-retrieval and other sweatpant-related goings-on in my life and head out to Arizona for a weekend.

The day of the blessed vacation finally arrived and Mr. Dad and the kids dutifully shuttled me to the airport, terminal C, just like it said on my Itinerary.** I said my goodbyes. Lil’ Sis shed a few tears and Big Sis barely looked up from the cartoon she was watching on Mr. Dad’s cell phone to say goodbye. I gave Mr. Dad a big “I-can’t-believe-you’re-so-nice-to-let-me-leave-you-with-them” kiss and we went our separate ways.

As I headed inside, I checked my text messages only to discover that my flight would be departing from terminal A. In an airport like ours, getting yourself from one terminal to the next very quickly requires a passport and some bribe money, so I ran back to the curb in hopes that I could catch Mr. Dad before he got very far.

So then I’m running in high heeled boots, with no coat in the sub-freezing wind, pulling a pink polka-dotted suitcase and trying to call him on my cell phone. I can see the taillights getting farther and farther away. After six unsuccessful phone-call-while-running attempts, a few awkward almost-falls and the back end of the car disappearing around the corner, I decided to call one more time before giving up.

Finally my Knight answered and assured me he would be back around to retreive me in just a few minutes, which he was. On our journey to the other terminal I discovered that my many phone calls were unsuccessful because Big Sis was watching her cartoons on the phone and didn’t know (or did she?) about call waiting. But it was no matter at that point because I was getting to the right place after all.

Upon exiting the car a second time, I gave all the requisite kisses, and Lil’ Sis, like the sweet and appropriately-attached child she is, did her requisite crying. Not too much crying, but just enough to let me know that I am a valuable part of her daily life. Big Sis, again, barely acknowledged my exit.

But then, just as I was about to shut the door, she shouts urgently “Just a minute, Mommy! I need to tell you something!!”

I poke my head back in. “Yes?” I ask, waiting for her to melt my heart. “What is it?”

“Mommy,” she says, “don’t call again. I’m watching a movie.”

And with that, my trip began. At least I didn’t feel guilty for leaving her. . .

The trip itself was luxurious. Fantastic. Relaxing. Fun.

I met another very, very, very dear friend*** of mine at the airport, let’s call her Jo. We spent the whole flight catching up and making plans for the weekend. We arrived with no hassle, and I marvelled at the ease of this novelty called child-free travel. I realized it’s been a LONG TIME since I did that. I really should do it more often. But, I digress.

One of the reasons that I love these two very, very, very dear friends (besides the blackmail) is because I met them at the height of my nerdiness (freshman year of college, the year the oversized flannel shirt met the permed hair and fluffy bangs) and not only did they NOT turn and run the other way, they embraced my nerdy ways, possibly because they are also nerds. Our nerdy fun back then included, but was not limited to, Michael W. Smith sing-alongs, dressing up in various costumes for no reason and cavorting through the dorm, and kidnapping other people’s action figures and holding them for ransom (hey, we weren’t allowed to drink or dance or even buy lottery tickets, don’t blame us).

So if nerdiness is one of our common bonds, I am sure that they will appreciate the fact that I took the liberty of illustrating our time together in the form of a pie chart.

If you knew how long I spent making this, you would laugh at me.

But although I am a NERD of the highest order (see above), I am not equally gifted in all areas of nerdiness. I am generally lacking in Technology category (see above). If you wish to view the pie chart in all it’s glory, just give it a click and take it all in.

Basically, what the chart so neatly illustrates is that we haven’t changed much at all. We like to eat, sleep, shop and waste vast amounts of time doing stupid things. But most of all, we like to talk. We spent an entire day’s worth of hours just talking. Some of it was very deeply impacting, particularly the part about how addictive my chocolate chex mix was (covered in powdered sugar, how’d I get that through airport security?). But most of it was just about life. About jobs, families, being codependent with your dvr, etc. . . And that’s really why we’re friends. Because in the end, your friends are the ones who are willing to talk about the pros and cons of expensive high-heeled boots because it matters to you. (And because they might want to borrow them sometime.)

So thanks for a great weekend girls! Thanks for giving the bed to the pregnant girl. Thanks for making a list of all the Important! Things! we would do, then checking them off one by one, like any proper Type A. Thanks for letting me take a break from Mommyhood and rest up before this next stage of my life begins. And thanks for breaking bread with me over a table full of shrimp and shrimp-related items.  But most of all, thanks for liking me the way I am, pie charts and all.

Hopefully this makes up for all those other photos of us. . .

*By very, very, very dear I mean she has photos of me from college which would show me in many comprimising fashion/hair positions.

**When I say Itinerary, I don’t mean the thing you print out with your tickets. I mean the thing that Jo makes with each and every detail of the trip. You know, like contact info, addresses, gates and times for all travelers, etc. But then she also includes the a chart with the weather, a title for the weekend, a cute picture pasted on top and a google map of all relevant locations. Speaking of nerds. . .

***Yeah, she’s got photos, too.