Lottery Did Not Change My Life

I believe there are two kinds of luck. You can be lucky in that you land on your feet time and time again despite little effort and even less logic. Or you can possess luck that lets you win things; random contests, the lottery and big money raffles.

I am Irish and an eternal optimist, so I should have this luck thing all sewn up. Alas, I have discovered that you cannot be lucky twice over. Not that I’m complaining, but I have always been the nine lives kind of lucky. I never win anything. EVER.

That doesn’t stop me from trying, however, as I buy scratch offs, Powerball tickets and enter online contests by the dozens.

I was just meant to be a winner, I know it!

Recently, I received a scratch-off lottery ticket in a birthday card. And not just any scratch-off; it was a $5 ticket. See, people who never win anything only invest in $1 instant win tickets because spending more would be like driving down the road and throwing $5 out the window.

But I was perfectly willing to waste someone else’s $5 and that ticket burned a hole in my purse the entire way through dinner.

When I got home and looked at the ticket more closely, my first reaction was confusion. The expensive tickets have a crap ton of directions. I mean, this was the War and Peace of scratch off rules and procedures.

I was savvy enough to know this was Maryland Lottery’s way of weeding out the weak. Make one mistake—erase even one unscratchable box—and the whole thing was null and void.  I was not falling for that like some kind of amateur.

Instead, I read every line of teeny tiny print twice, grabbed a quarter (my lucky coin) and began scratching. Moments later a mound of steel gray shavings indicated I was done.

The card was a sea of numbers and dollar signs so it took me a few minutes to match everything up. On first glance, it looked like I won. On second glance, it still looked like I won.

There it was plain as day, I was a winner, dammit.

Now, I realize that winning $5 is not earth shattering news. But, to the winning challenged it means you broke the seal; like going scoreless in the first half of a basketball game and getting that first bucket.  It signals a change in momentum.

Could this be the birthday gift that changed my life forever?

The next day I excitedly tucked the ticket in my pocket as I headed to the grocery store.  I was giddy as I presented it to the woman behind the counter.  My smile faded as she proceeded to inform me that the machine was being temperamental so she couldn’t verify just then.

I volunteered to leave the ticket with her as I shopped and return to collect my crisp $5 bill later. I had my wallet open and ready when I stepped back up to customer service with its shiny, red lottery machine.   Unfortunately, the only thing that was crisp was her tone as she said,

“It’s not a winner. The machine says it’s not a winner.”

I opened my mouth to protest but she had moved onto the next customer and their urgent cigarette needs. Fine, I thought, I will take the ticket somewhere else and get my money. What did she know anyway?

The following afternoon, I stopped at 7-11; the holy grail of scratch-offs and all things lottery. I grabbed a diet coke for a little celebratory toast and handed over my ticket. Imagine my surprise when the clerk said,

“This ticket has already been paid out.”

What the what?

I explained my experience at Giant and the nice 7-11 lady handed me a slip of paper confirming previous payment and location. Oh, and then she wanted $2 for my diet coke. That stung. I planned to pay with my big payout.

So far, being a winner was less fun than I imagined.

Fueled by diet coke and a few episodes of “My Lottery Dream Home” on HGTV that morning, I drove straight back to the Giant.

I impatiently tapped my toes at customer service while a guy wired some money until it was finally my turn.

I gave up the ticket and the payment slip from 7-11 and before I could begin my story, the woman cut me off saying,

“This has already been paid out.”

Well, that was annoying. I had my whole story mapped out, but I guess words are at a premium at customer service; everyone there has a sad tale.

I plunged into my explanation anyway, complete with a physical description of the employee who had wronged me in the first place and a dazzling visual wherein I emphatically pointed out the winning line on the card.

She was clearly annoyed but when you have three boys, you spend a lot of time at the good old Giant. They knew me. As far as they knew I had never scammed them before but she was still conflicted about whether to pay out the money. So, I did what any rational person would do.

I threw my kids under the bus.

“It’s my kids’ ticket. I mean I wouldn’t make such a big deal about a measly $5 if it was mine. They will be so disappointed. You understand.”

I would just have to go to Confession later. Surely all the meals, messes and mania endured at the hands of said kids amounted to at least $5 worth of trouble.

Well, that did it. The red, shiny lottery drawer smacked her in the stomach as it sprung open. She yanked out the $5 bill and handed it over.

Woot! I was a winner.  Finally my luck had changed.

As I buckled myself in to head home, I made a mental note to thank my girlfriend. And that is when it hit me.

I was not a winner. She was.  She picked the ticket; all I did was erase it and then crisscross the county and waste at least $5 in gas (plus the cost of the diet coke) to get my paltry winnings.

I was still my same boring, non-winning self.

I did have an extra five bucks in my pocket though. And as Garrison Keillor says… “Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have.”

Run Toward the Car: Challenge 2017

The night after Thanksgiving a relative got the call every parent dreads. The call notifying them that their 18 year-old son had been in a serious accident. He was a passenger in a car that slid off a winding road, hit a tree, flipped and burst into flames.

The parents were informed that he was alive but badly burned with multiple critical injuries. They were also told that Good Samaritans had saved their son’s life by smashing a window and pulling him through it to safety. Though burned themselves, these heroes stayed with him until he was taken away in the ambulance.

As horrific as the details of this accident are–and with the patient healing nicely– I cannot stop thinking about those strangers who happened to be there and had the fortitude to break into a vehicle engulfed in flames.

I would like to think I would do that. I want to believe I am that person. Yet, never having faced a similar crossroads, it is just speculation. I have no way of knowing how I would react.

However, it made me think about the power of one. About how an individual can throw caution to the wind, intervene and truly turn around someone’s day or perhaps their life. Our world has become so politically correct, no one would have blamed these passersby if they had simply called 911 and prayed for the boys out of fear of doing the wrong thing, being sued or suffering negative repercussions resulting from assisting.

Incidents like this give me hope that our knee jerk reaction is to do good. That despite the divisiveness and contentious nature of our country right now, we are inherently a nation of Good Samaritans.

There are burning cars around us every day in varying degrees. Yet, I still catch myself hesitating all the time. Will an elderly person be offended if I offer to help them with their groceries and cart? Will a mother think I am judging her if I approach to assist her as she juggles strollers, packages and exhausted toddlers?

It is disheartening that the current climate often makes us step back when we instinctively want to step in. We are quick to judge, slow to include and wary of strangers in need. So, I issue a challenge to everyone reading this; the same challenge I am tackling in 2017.

Run toward the car.

Let this New Year bring out the fundamentally good side in all of us. If each of us listens to their gut and extends a hand, soon enough we are linked. We become stronger when we are connected through kindness.

But there’s a catch. The tricky part of this endeavor is to reach out without calling attention to yourself. True compassion comes with neither bragging rights nor bravado. It is a whisper that reaches only those who benefit from the message.

I enter 2017 with an open heart, an open mind and a fierce determination to help my fellow man whenever I am able. I trust that, in turn, that kindness will boomerang back one hundred fold; not only to me but to others as well.

Our example is all we leave to future generations. I think we would all agree that 2016 was not a stellar sampling of living up to our potential. As I embark on this life change, I know I probably won’t save anyone from the clutches of death any time soon. And that I can’t abandon all common sense in search of my cape and shield.

But maybe, just maybe, I can bring light to a dark day or hope to the seemingly hopeless.

I don’t know about you, but I am a firm believer that karma looks favorably upon those who have paid into her system. When the day comes that I find myself on a dark road turned upside down by life, I think this good standing will come in handy.

I am aiming to make 2017 a happy and generous one. Won’t you join me? #runtowardthecar

Breaking Point

Did you have a good spring break? Do a little traveling and recharge your batteries?

Great. Great. Good for you!

I know you were worried the entire time you were gone, so I will allay your fears. The Stiles held down the fort while you were gone. Yup, we were the only folks in Montgomery County that didn’t go anywhere.

NO WHERE.

If you are reaching for Child Protective Services contact info, slow your roll. My kids researched and discarded this idea at least once a day the entire 10 days they were home.

Home. AKA Jail .

Which would make me the warden in a prison of my own making. Well, not entirely my own doing. See, two of our three school breaks coincided with the week after Easter off but my oldest returned to school the Tuesday after Easter.

However, his excessively long 17-day break included a trip to Spain to play rugby. He landed stateside before Easter but the train, plane and bus laden journey through a foreign country made him want to just hunker down at Chez Stiles.

Bye quick hop to the beach, hello bitter siblings.

To make matters worse, my husband and I also traveled just before Easter on a work trip to Florida. I tried to alleviate my guilt by gifting my kids with exotic Floridian trinkets like a jar of Alligator Poop (chocolate covered peanuts) but they were underwhelmed.
What has the world come to when boys are not completely jazzed by a gift with “poop” in the name?

Unfortunately, the boys finally saw first-hand what I had been admonishing for years—social media will come back to bite you. As the Snap Chat stories in exotic locales grew daily, so did the complaints and hostility.

By Day 3, I was drunk from all the whine.

Or maybe hungover without benefit of ever enjoying the buzz.

I ignored a million writing and editing deadlines to offer up every activity I could think of. Movies, the Renwick, Cruise on the Potomac to see Monuments and Cherry Blossoms, Sugarloaf hike and zip lines. Nope, nope, nope, nope and nope.

I got the memo that nothing is fun unless 1) you are doing it in a group and 2) preferably in a group that does not include your mother.

Apparently Three Dog Night had it all wrong; two is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

Just when I was running out of hope and marginally good ideas, there was a sudden shift. The complaints and hatred toward me slowed to barely a trickle. Meaning that the kids were only as miserable as they normally are on any given day.

The boys went outside and invented games. They went to the creek or walked into Mid-town. They even did a little homework and read.

As long as I got them out of the house for something every day and threw in a free meal and dessert, I was golden. Throwing calories at the problem was a significant improvement.

Their spring break was very similar to my experiences as a kid. I don’t even have specific memories of my childhood breaks because they were filled with nothingness which was an adventure in and of itself.

In a world full of everything and everyone spinning at warped speed, isn’t a little nothing ok?

I think so.

I started the week wracked with guilt for my poor deprived children but then realized that they truly had a break. Even the summers are filled with sports and camps so this is one of the few unscheduled times of the year for them.

We didn’t pack our bags or cross any time zones, but staying home did not actually kill anyone. in fact, we recharged our batteries just the same

The Phrase That Makes My Kids Better People

Parenting, in a nutshell, is bossing around the people you birthed for 18 years or so. Which is not as empowering as it sounds. Some days, it felt as if all I did was bark orders at my children. I disliked this one-dimensional approach to life with kids so much that I vowed to change the way I interacted with them.

And it only took two words…

“Thank you.”

Just uttering this phrase after my kids did something I had asked of them made me feel like less of a tyrant. Just because much is expected of our children in the way of chores, school work and contribution doesn’t mean parents are exempt from showing our gratitude. There is a great benefit, I think, in showing my kids how to take pride in meeting expectations.

So, when they take out the trash, I say thank you. And same for doing homework without a nuclear meltdown (I may even add a kiss for that one) or help with the groceries.

While I realize that these tasks are children’s way of paying back and being a valued part of the family unit, I still feel it is praise worthy simply because it teaches gratitude.

To me, part of what is wrong with our world today is that people have forgotten to be grateful for the small things. In a time growing more and more impersonal through electronics and our endless quest for the next big thing, we are losing sight of the personal niceties and the exquisite nature of the here and now.

Yes, putting the dishes in the sink is not earth shattering stuff but I really do appreciate it. It means I don’t have to and that my kids grasp the idea of lessening my burden. It means they are learning life skills. It means they see the world is about more than just themselves and their needs.

When you put it in that context, clearing the table is pretty amazing and certainly worthy of praise. And if I feel this way, why on earth would I not stop for a minute and say it out loud? If I am too busy or distracted to say thank you, then I need to rethink my priorities because my children will surely pick up on my cues.

The funny thing about gratitude is its boomerang effect. The more gracious I was, the more my kids reciprocated. My menial and expected tasks such as cooking dinner and driving were soon capped by a thank you from my children.

A mutual appreciation developed over the most mundane things, so when I asked for something above and beyond, the kids knew I would value the effort. These were our first faltering steps toward not taking each other for granted.

There are still spats, bickering and eye rolls galore but each time I see a text with “Ty” either to me or a sibling, I know the foundation of the family is chugging along just fine.

Certainly if we can muster up gratitude for our family—the people who make us craziest– no doubt we could do the same for the world at large.

I guess that’s really parenting in a nutshell–equipping our kids with the skills and example to be the best people possible once they are on their own. I am certainly thankful for the opportunity to do just that every single day.

The Kon of KonMari

Last January we celebrated 16 years in our house. The home we built from the ground up, selecting finishes and amenities we were sure would last a lifetime. I mean, it seemed so big then, like we would never fill it.

What morons we were.

During that time, I had three kids and apparently also birthed a tremendous amount of stuff. Now stuff is not necessarily a bad thing, but I needed to do some serious purging. So I did what every 2k internet junkie does; I consulted Marie Kondo. This Japanese organization expert and her KonMari method make Martha Stewart look like amateur hour.

I did a little research, watched some YouTube videos and television appearances and I was pumped! So sure that a little Kondo would translate into some serious Kan-do.

Yeah, well, not so much.

First of all, Kondo does not speak English or limited English at best. She prattles on in Japanese while we wait, surrounded by our piles, for her wisdom to be imparted by a translator. So, is the translator the real genius here? How do we know? Kondo could be talking about Japan’s average rainfall rates and NO ONE WOULD KNOW.

She is perky and attractive and smiles a lot. Could she be a front for some matronly organizational guru with no charm and spark?

Ok, Stiles, focus. Focus on the message.

Which is: Things should spark joy or we kick them to the curb.


This theory could put my children in grave danger at least once a day.

I’m kidding, really. Sort of.

Anyhoo, I was ready to face a decade and a half worth of possibly soulless, joyless objects with some Hefty trash bags to bolster me.

An hour later, I had filled three bags with broken bits of my sons’ “must have” toys, a few broken bits of my heart and fought back the big ugly cry burning in my chest.

Is this the KonKry Method?

I don’t remember a chapter about tears and trash but I soldiered on. Out went the Barney books which realistically sparked whatever the opposite of joy is. Adios Diego and Dora; you made me miserable in two languages. Puzzles with missing pieces and cars with 3-wheels didn’t make the cut either.

BAM! I was kicking some Kondo butt.

After hauling 8 bags outside for bulk pick-up, I posted the bigger firetrucks and ambulances on my Moms Facebook group. I mean nothing brings joy to a new generation of moms like a wailing siren that, inexplicably, never depletes the batteries.

You’re welcome.

I was on a roll and woke up the next day totally jazzed to tackle the closets. When you have three boys, you end up with a lot of hand me downs. I had bins and bins of perfectly good clothing that my youngest two wouldn’t be caught dead in.

Cargo Pants = death by cotton

Except, I did not want to part with some of those clothes. I could picture the boys—sometimes all three—in a particular outfit and I was a blubbering mess. I laid my head on a pile of Old Navy sweatshirts, stared at the ceiling and wondered if there was Kondo Kobweb method I should be taking advantage of.

However, even I couldn’t support the rationalization that all this emotion was joy; so I closed my eyes and put the clothing slowly into bags saving just a few items that had significance.

Like the homemade basketball uniform that I pieced together in 2009 from the scads of City of Gaithersburg jerseys we amassed. Only the youngest child has a treasure such as this because Mom would NEVER miss the basketball sign-up and subsequent jersey assignment with the first two kids. I begged the coach to let my son on the team, paid the equivalent of a mortgage in late fees, dyed a t-shirt brown and proceeded to glue, stitch and iron on decals to create the ugliest uniform known to man.

It was either my highest or lowest parenting moment ever. Only future therapy will reveal the truth.

This exercise was way harder than the toys. I needed a King-sized Kondo Kocktail to help me find some serious joy.

The piece-de-resistance of the KonMari method is the folding of the clothes you have deemed an extended member of the family. If anything is going into a drawer, it must be folded into itself over and over until it is the size of an envelope.

With no experience at Gap, this was daunting for me.

I was pretty sure I was going to get Karpal Tunnel Syndrome by Kondo if I kept this up. Then, I remembered one little factoid in the bio of our fearless, clean leader.

I haphazardly shoved all the remaining t-shirts into the drawer and felt more joy than I had since I started this organizational odyssey. This craziness didn’t apply to people like me and here’s why:

Marie Kondo has one child, who will celebrate her first birthday this summer.

ONE CHILD!!

Now it all made sense. She’s not delusional (ok, well clearly she is) but it is just because she is naïve. In fact, when she developed this revolutionary, impractical method, she had no children at all.

Please, write a book when you have multiple kids, backpacks, cleats, clothes that might maybe fit if you ever find the time to exercise, endless photo albums with pictures that make you weepy and, well, STUFF.

Sometimes all that stuff is a reminder of a life well lived and the things we loved while doing it. Ms. Kondo, if that’s Klutter then Kount me in.

The Future Is Now

The box sat in the corner unopened for days. Perhaps we knew once opened, the contents of that box would change our lives forever, so it was critical to get the timing just right.

For in that carton was a robotic vacuum and all of my happiness.
I do sort of hate that I am old now and thrilled by a good, sturdy appliance. Pretty soon I will be talking non-stop about the weather and the good old days. But I won’t be vacuuming while I do it.

Well, the truth is, I never vacuumed in the first place. So the joy derived from this machine is more in the variety of not having to listen to everyone else whining about vacuuming. It’s not easy to get fired from household chores under your own roof, but I did it.

I got demoted from Hoover duty within months of being married. I was smart enough to nab a man who simply cares way more than I do about the state of our floors at any given time. He ran that vac much like he mowed the lawn–meticulously–leaving perfectly straight lines in his wake.

My lame skills didn’t stand a chance.

Once we had kids, we developed age appropriate chores to be done weekly. Now, the boys are responsible for bathrooms, trash duty and the vacuum. The only job they whine about?

The vac.

Sadly, my children have not inherited their father’s love of all things clean. Every weekend it was an epic battle over who was going to be the chump vacuuming the main level. I tried to keep track so no one suffered two weeks in a row but my math skills are on par with my vacuuming skills so often I lost count.

I was tired of listening to my kids complain. I was tired of listening to my husband complain about the kids complaining. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to break my “no vac” streak and do it myself.

Enter Amazon.

**I have to digress for a moment and give a big, fat shout out to our parents who lived full, productive lives despite the inability to buy something without ever leaving the house. Let alone the option of having it delivered in 24-hours. This sort of fortitude and can-do attitude is commendable and makes me think we are all a bunch of wimps**

Fearing the dog hair and lint would be our undoing, my husband ordered the futuristic appliance without telling me. When that box arrived and he explained, I swear I fell in love with him all over again, right there in the foyer.

Once we opened it, I simply stared at it with a mix of trepidation and awe. It is an amazing concept but I couldn’t picture how it actually worked. I was skeptical with so many questions about the stairs, my furniture and doors.

Well, after one rotation around the dining room I was a believer. My husband was sure that the robot would free us up to do other things.

You know, other more important things. Things like w-a-t-c-h-i-n-g the robotic vacuum. We were all mesmerized. It was pure entertainment for the entire family. Everyone but the dog, that is. The dog was sure that this machine must be stopped immediately or great harm would come to everyone he loved.

If it came down to a choice between the dog and the robot that ended the vacuum wars forever, I would be in quite a pickle.

I’m kidding.

Sort of.

Because, let me tell you, once you remove the filter and empty the little canister, it is pure robot love. That circular disc manages to pick up a crap ton of dirt as it bumps along its way. We run it several times a week now and even the dog has gotten used to the intrusion. It is that good.

I had become Jane Jetson; all futuristic and gadgety and there was no going back.

Now, if we could just invent an electronic device that cleans the toilet after visits from three boys with bad aim, my life would really be transformed.

Amazon, are you listening?

My Life vs, Made-for TV-Movies: Christmas Edition

Forget about shopping, wrapping and to-do lists! ‘Tis the season to plop down in a comfortable chair and get lost in a predictable Christmas movie. Each season, stations air countless hours of holiday programming, but no one trumps the Hallmark Channel for original Christmas movies.

Now I know a scrooge or two who might argue the term “original.” Come on. Just because the same five actresses appear in over 100 films doesn’t mean you have to get all bah humbug about it.

Amiright?

With this abundance of great hair, straight teeth and Christmas love and togetherness, the lines of reality can get a little murky. Especially if you watch 8-hours at a clip like I do. #nojudgment

Sometimes I have trouble distinguishing where the made-for-TV-movie ends and my real life begins.

You too?

Well, honey, come sit next to me because I have devised this handy check list to sort it out. Be sure to select all movie scenarios that apply to you:

____ The Snow Flake Kiss: Forget the pop of fireworks when you lock lips, it ain’t love until your kiss is charged enough to spark some serious flakes. Watch out eHarmony, what Santa and his elves have joined together, let no man tear asunder. And there is no membership fee in Santa’s love club. Amen.

_____ Alternate reality: Have kids and don’t remember their names or giving birth? Lost in suburbia wondering what became of your penthouse with a doorman? The Ghost of Christmas Future fixed Jimmy Stewart right up, so just go with it. Soon enough you will experience an “aha” moment catapulting you back to reality and begging for the woulda-shoulda-coulda life you glimpsed.

____ Visits from “Up North:” This ambiguous location is the super-secret, totally obvious code for the North Pole. Shhh! This can only mean you have encountered an elf or angel commissioned to save you from yourself before Christmas. Do not argue with a higher calling!

____ A rescue mission: You are the only person available and qualified to trudge off to some Arctic, backward hick town and save a business or famous Christmas attraction. Despite arriving in a completely inappropriate outfit with barely enough clothing for a 3-day stay, North Face and Ugg attire will magically appear. You will be cozy and desirable as you restore glory to the dilapidated, fall in love and stay forever.

___ Santa Switch: A man with a booming laugh, beard and jelly belly keeps popping up in the oddest places. He could be the janitor, cab driver or appear anywhere red suspenders are welcomed. He knows your name and may or may not be visible to other people. Before you ask for a psych evaluation, remember Christmas magic can make you look a little whacky to the outside world.

____ Handmade goodness: The sudden desire to bake cookies, whittle some ornaments from reclaimed wood or make costumes for the school pageant are signs that you have been bitten by studio manufactured Christmas spirit. In what universe are advertisers still lining up what with movies encouraging all these handmade shenanigans? Consumerism people, it’s what real Christmas is all about.

And speaking of advertising…

____ Product placement: Are you strategically placing Folgers coffee in your selfies? Featuring that Visionworks eye glass case in the family Christmas card photo? Please–we beg you–be more subtle than the Hallmark Channel. The fact that no Hallmark wrapping paper or cards show up in a movie—EVER– is so confusing. Shouldn’t they be hawking their own goods first?

If you checked even one item above, expect a call from make-up and wardrobe, you are about to have a made-for-tv-movie moment this holiday season.

And just remember, if Santa winks at you, there is a Christmas wish in your future. And we know you’ll wish for more movies, of course.

Days 14 & 15: The Shopping Network

Every member of the family has his or her role within the familial structure. Well, unless you’re a mom, in which case any and all roles can default to you at a moment’s notice.

Even at a young age, my oldest son established himself as the Tim Gunn of the family minus the snooty accent (most of the time anyway,) He was arbiter of cool and had the power of veto over his brothers’ purchases.

This, of course, made Back to School shopping a breeze for me. I gave him a budget and watched him work his magic. It was a sight to behold, really, the way he could work a rack of t-shirts at Marshalls or find bargain shoes at the Nike outlet.

We covered a lot of ground before college drop-off but this was the one thing that wasn’t on my radar. . We were so busy outfitting his room that I forgot his brothers needed an outfit or two as well.

The fact that I used “outfit” to describe something my teenagers would wear is precisely why I can’t be in charge of picking out clothing. It is cringe-worthy vocabulary (insert eye-roll)

How the hell was I going to shop with my stylist 7-hours away?

Between football practice and work schedules, I found just one morning with a few hours available for a trip to the Mall. Without my assistant buyer, I simply did not have the faculties to tackle the outlets.

Each boy made a list. Ok, that’s not true. I badgered them until they came up with a couple of items they really needed. Oh and I had to promise them lunch at the mall in order to extract said list.

I never missed my eldest more than in that moment.

I stood in a sea of Nike and didn’t dare touch a thing. I wanted him to get the shorts that were on sale but I knew if I said that, it would have the opposite effect.

We both felt comfortable in the realm of team logo apparel. There was another mother held prisoner by indecision, like me. We exchanged a look that promised we would forget anything we saw there in the Young Men’s department and never speak of this day again.

My youngest, who was really just looking for shoes that fit the uniform code, had wandered off to play Pokemon and pretend he lived with another family.

Smart boy

We settled on Terp shorts, no shirts and socks that may or may not be the right ones. I can now detail the 100 different kinds of white socks Nike distributes that look exactly the same, except they aren’t.

We tried on no less than 10 pair of Sperry’s for my 8th grader and none of them fit. I willed a little Sperry cobbler to appear, put my son’s foot on that slanted stool and make him a custom shoe right there. I mean, everyone knows it’s Sperry’s or nothing. (insert eye roll)

Guess what? I opted for nothing. Did I mention we were T-2 days until school?

I headed for the one area where I knew we would find success—the eatery. I’m not sure if it was the Diet Coke or finally getting a win after a discouraging trip but suddenly it was all so clear to me.

The boys needed to shop alright.

IN THEIR BROTHER’S CLOSET.

Even after taking a crapton of clothes to college, his closet was still bursting at the seams. Shoes, shorts, t-shirts, all cool and approved by the Dalai Lama of design himself.

Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

Maybe he was feeling nostalgic for home, maybe it was pity or perhaps now that he is living with other men he realizes the gross excess of clothes he possesses but he gave the in-home shopping network the green light.

Phew!

Although I took anything I thought he’d want for himself off the market, his brothers were primed for back to school–including the elusive Sperry’s—in no time. Those Sperry’s looked suspiciously like they had never been worn, which just proved my genius.

So, I guess my role in the family is to be right—AGAIN. Such a burden (insert eye-roll).

Day 13: All Hail the Queen

After I gave birth to my third son, a lovely Jamaican man came into my hospital room with my dinner tray. He spied the picture of the two older boys and then at my blue-capped newborn and said,

“Ah, the mother of sons. You will be a queen one day.”

Here’s an update for you… I’m still waiting.

What that guy failed to mention is that the road to the crown is paved with mud, stains and unidentifiable odors.

To think I used to spend HOURS drinking in that sweet baby smell and now I scramble to stay down wind of the whole lot of them. And their friends.

My status in the family is never clearer than when they hand me the rugby, football or baseball pants to wash. These items require special delivery because they are too caked with mud to be tossed into the hamper with the run of the mill disgusting stuff.

My husband does the big loads of laundry (no, that still does not make me Queen, I sort and fold) but the athletic gear is all mine My 15yo just brought home his practice pants and jersey for the first time after weeks of football.

WEEKS, people.

Grass, mud and blood caked all three. I wished for an old fashioned wash board while I tried not to think about whose blood was shed on his jersey.

Kids have been playing football since roughly the 1930’s. I cannot imagine what those old-time pants were made of or how anyone got them clean. No Sport Tide detergent, Oxi spot pretreating and wick-away fabrics back in the day.

I think they just bleached them until their skin burned off and called it a day.

This was a challenge dammit and I was going to get them white again if it killed me. It took three times of filling the sink, soaking and draining to get clear water. Even the experts at the WSSC have not seen water this brown.

This was royal alright. It was a royal pain…

I pre-treated and scrubbed each spot until my arm muscles ached and then poured in some bleach and let them marinate. My house smelled clean even if the football gear was not.

I had been at it for over an hour. My hands were pruned and I might possibly have ruined the chance for a good fingerprint should I ever end up in the slammer.

I rinsed everything one final time and took them outside to dry, letting the sun do some of my dirty work. Since my deck is the modern day equivalent of a clothes line, I draped stuff everywhere. The athletic girdle with the pads built in twisted every time I tried to hang it so I just threw it in a chair and hoped for the best.

My poor neighbors, at any given time there is an array of personal items drying on my deck. We are the Beverly Hillbillies and if we had more room on the lawn, we would park the truck there too.

I went back inside and further distanced myself from my queenly status by cleaning up my mess and doing the dishes I’d piled on the counter to clear the sink.

It was 9:30am and I was exhausted. Now I know why all the pics of women from pioneer days show them with an arm draped across their forehead and looking wrung out. Like Scarlett O’Hara, spent from the rigors of deciding between Ashley and Rhett, I needed to take to my bed.

Well, in reality I lounged for an episode of Baywatch in Hawaii circa 1996. That show has more cheese than Wisconsin and it was the perfect elixir for my overwrought soul. Although there were some tense moments when Matt got bitten by a poisonous fish and almost fell down the rapids trying to reach the fishing village for assistance with Mitch. How come this show never won an Emmy?

But there was a happy ending for the lifeguards and for me. When I walked out onto the deck a few hours later, the white was blinding I tell you. Every trace of dirt was gone.

After lunch my son came down to get ready for practice. I had gathered everything up for him and watched him shove all my hard work carelessly into his bag. He grabbed his water jug and gear and as he walked out the door he said:

“Thanks mom, you are the best. You really got all that stuff clean.”

In that moment, I understood the subtlety of what that attendant was saying. Mothering boys is noble work as they really are foreign creatures to us mothers. They make big messes and big smells but they love big too. And when that big love shines on you, it is a regal moment indeed.

**picture drawn by my youngest when he was 8 years old. There is a small chance he was depicting me, but not super likely**

“To Siri With Love…”

Dear Siri,

I admit, the first time I heard your perfectly modulated, computer enhanced voice, I was mesmerized. I applauded those geniuses at Apple for making us all futuristic like the Jetsons. We pushed that button often, just because we could.

But a mere five years later I’m more than a little unmesmerized. Is that a word? Don’t answer that, nevermind.

Siri, can I be honest?

Shut up.

Just. Shut.The.Hell.Up.

I think you are trying to put me out of business. I used to be the one with all the answers. I was the freakin’ Encyclopedia Britannica. What I didn’t know, I fabricated with the kind of self-confidence that no child dared question.

You are trying to suck the lifeblood from my authority one snappy response at a time. You know everything from the square root of 2,433 to NBA stats. My kids went so far as to pick a nickname to share just between the two of you.

So not cool.

As a woman, we could be all solidarity and fist bumping each other as we show my little people who is boss. Between you and Google, thinking for oneself is a dying art.

So I propose a new approach. When my kids ask a math question, you just say, “Do your homework on your own, dammit.”

Or if my kids have a query at midnight, you respond, “Your sorry butt should be asleep right now.”

See how that works? I scratch your keypad and you scratch mine?

It’s bad enough today’s generation will never know how to read a map. Or wait while the cassette tape rewinds to hear their favorite song again. Or God forbid, go to the library and find reference books.

Now my kids use you, Siri, against me. They quiz me on a topic and compare my answers to yours. I can’t compete with your quick wit and clever repartee. That little Sugar Hill Gang rap rip-off is comedy gold.

You got it all going on; like the cool aunt with the added bonus of a British or French accent. See, Siri, I am out here ranting about how life is HARD. Until you show up and make it look so easy.

These kids are drinking the Siri Kool-Aid while I serve up the bitter truth.

So, Siri, here is my truth: back off sister.

Because until you can get the kids to do their homework without asking more than once. Or find shoes that have been missing for a month. And remember who throws away lunch if the sandwich has mustard…. Girl, you are just phoning it in.

Previous Older Entries

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 338 other followers

Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.