Happy birthday, Little Man

Today is Little Man’s eighth birthday.

It’s not a “landmark” birthday like the one I just had last week, or the one his big brother will be hitting soon. In the grand scheme of things, turning eight is not a big deal. One year older, several inches taller, and just old enough to tell me at the school this morning that I can still hug him in public but no more kisses in front of his friends.

I snuck one in on the  top of his head anyway during my allotted hug. I don’t think anyone noticed.

It may not be a landmark birthday, but it’s a big day around here. He’s our bonus baby, the one who came along when his brother and sister were already half-grown. He’s old enough now to ride in the car without his booster seat. Next year, he’ll be able to get off the school bus without an older sibling, which is a good thing because next year he will also be my only child still at  home.

Little Man and I made cookies last night to take in for his class today. I had found a box of Strawberry Milkshake flavored cookie mix on clearance a few weeks ago, and we discovered last night just exactly why it was on clearance.

It was the single most complicated box mix of anything I have ever seen in my life. Things had to be “frothed” and “folded” and prayed over, and I think there is a remote possibility that we may have created an alien life form in the process. We ended up creating a sticky, paste-like pink substance that clung to the spoons like a living thing as we fought to drop gelatinous globs of it onto a cookie sheet.

They are delicious, but I swear the tiny chocolate chips look like eyes glaring at me.

For his ninth birthday, the boy gets Oreos.

Last night, his big brother whispered to him that birthday boys should get French toast and scrambled eggs and hot cocoa for breakfast for their eight birthday. He whispered it and muttered it and then announced it rather loudly until Little Man agreed.

For the record, his big brother can be a little bit of an asshole that way.

My kids go to a school that serves free breakfast to all kids every day. Let me say that again, just to make it perfectly clear. Free. Breakfast. To all kids. Every day. Free. I haven’t had to feed my kids in the morning for years.

Now, I work in the school kitchen, so I know the food is fresh and healthy. And let’s face it, it’s prepared on surfaces that are a hell of a lot cleaner than any of the surfaces in my own kitchen. In short, the people at our public school feed my kids a better breakfast than anything I’m going to make them at home.

And did I mention that it’s free?

Still, it wasn’t so bad starting the day out with homemade French toast and scrambled eggs, as long as I had access to plenty of coffee.  I even managed to get the syrup on the toast and ketchup on the eggs instead of vice versa, so I did better than I had really expected.

I gave the cookies to his teacher and I’ll be returning later in the afternoon to read to the class from The Stinky Cheese Man. Folks, if you haven’t read The Stinky Cheese Man, you are missing out. Even if you don’t have a child in the appropriate age range for bodily function humor and horribly groan-worthy jokes, you just have to read this book. I don’t know what I’ll do when my Little Man gets too old for it and I run out of excuses for reading it to anyone. That’s right, I am a fifty year-old woman who still laughs out loud over The Stinky Cheese Man.

I think there just may be support groups for people like me.

Apparently, I can be a bit of an asshole at times, too.

Tomorrow, the boys start Spring Break and I dive headlong into Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to reach my goal of 30,000 words in April — especially since April includes Spring Break, a final round of edits on Fat, Fifty and Menopausal, and preparations for my oldest son’s high school graduation — but I’m willing to give it a try.

April is going to be a busy month around here, but for today, the last day of March, our only plan is to have fun with a certain Little Man who is growing up much too fast.

Happy birthday, Little Man.

 

 

Don’t Panic

I thought that by this time in my life, I’d have a few more answers. Oh, not to the big questions like how to cure cancer or how to bring about world peace. I’m not even talking about questions like “how do I find a way to live on Toblerone, cheap wine, and mass quantities of coffee while still maintaining a perfect figure?”

That question would, of course, have to come after answering the question of “how do I actually get a perfect figure in the first place?”

I could even go my entire life without knowing the answers to “How many roads must a man walk down?” or “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”

I just want the answers to the small things. I want to understand how other people seem to be able to get through their days without everything swirling into chaos of dirty dishes, unfinished projects, wrinkled clothes and adolescent zits at the age of forty-nine.

I want to know how other people manage to go through life without looking like Pigpen from “The Peanuts” by ten a.m. I don’t get it. I shower in the morning, do my hair and make-up, put on clean clothes. Just like everyone else, right? I even iron my clothes when necessary.

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Oh, look, a Selfie

Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t even know where my iron is.

I’m not even sure I own an iron.

But still, I look normal and put-together for the first ten minutes or so, before all hell breaks loose. Dirt, stains, spills, wrinkles, and random dog hairs just seem to leap onto my body somewhere between the front door and my car. My hairspray fails, my mascara smudges, and my earring back drops into my bra, where I just might find it again later along with tidbits of breakfast and random bits of broccoli from lunch. By the time I get to wherever it is that I’m going, I look like I’ve slept in my clothes.

Sometimes, I look like I’ve been buried and brought back to life as a zombie in them.

I also want to know how other people always seem to be able to manage their money. I never have any. Okay, so I’m not exactly a highly-paid New York Times Bestselling author or a super-successful . . . well, anything. But still, I get a paycheck every other week. I try to pay my bills. I never splurge on luxuries for myself, other than the occasional Toblerone or bottle of $2.99 Boone’s Farm.

So why don’t I ever have any money? Where does it go?  How do other people do this?

I’m sure I spent some of that money on an iron at some point. It’s not like those things cost much, which is a good thing since it looks like I’m probably going to have to buy another one in the near future.

Another thing I want to know is how to be the kind of mom who’s got a handle of everything going on in her kids’ lives. I always seem to be missing some vital information about a band concert or a school party or a science project until the very last minute, at which point one of my children is guaranteed to tell me that I’ve known about it for weeks but simply chose to forget about it on purpose because I don’t love said child as much as I love the other two.

I kind of wish I knew how to be as good at laying on the passive-aggressive guilt trips as my children are. They must have learned it somewhere, but obviously not from me.

I’ve tried the dry-erase calendars and the Cozi family app on my phone. I’ve tried the Google calendar. I’ve tried everything.  I really  have. I simply have to face the fact that I have zero organizational skills and the attention span of a squirrel on crack.

The sad truth is that I’ve never even managed to keep a houseplant alive for more than a few weeks, and yet I’m responsible for three people that I helped bring into this world. It’s a minor miracle that all three are functioning human beings who manage to make it out the door every morning with food in their bellies and clothes on their bodies. If homework is done and no one is crying, it’s like winning the lottery.

I want answers because I’m turning fifty next month and I always thought I’d have things figured out by now. I really thought I’d have my shit together by this point. You know, be a good example. Have my poop in a group and know where my towel is and all that jazz.

I thought I’d have this adult thing all figured out.

At the very least, I thought I’d know where my iron is.

 

This post has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, hosted this week by Kristi at Finding Ninee. This week’s sentence starter was “I thought by this time in life I’d  . . .”

Follow the link to see what some of the other bloggers have done with it!

And yes, in case anyone caught it, there are several references to Doug Adams in this week’s post. I don’t know why, but his work has been on my mind a lot lately. 

A Bit of Advice

Last summer, I watched my oldest child graduate and move out. Now, before I’ve even had time to catch my breath, I’m preparing to watch her brother follow in her footsteps, and it’s a lot harder than I expected it to be.

Sure, this one was my baby for ten years before their youngest brother was born. And he was my “difficult” child, the one who had me pulling out my hair and threatening to sell him on ebay by the time he was in second grade. We had a lot of rough years getting to this point, and it’s breaking my heart to realize that I have to let him go just as I’m finally starting to understand him.

But even more than that, there is the realization that I am also waving good-bye to all of the kids that are graduating with mine. I’ve watched some of them grow up from pre-school or even earlier; when so many of them tower over me or speak in deep baritones, it seems impossible that I once held them on my lap or dried their tears.

I wish I knew the right words to say, the right wisdom to impart to all of them. I wish I knew the secret of life so I could tell them all what to do to make everything turn out just right.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is . . . .

. . . sometimes it’s okay to ask for help.

. . . it’s all right if you hate Shakespeare.

. . . try a peanut-butter-and-dill-pickle sandwich at least once in your life.

. . . every once in a while, do something that scares the hell out of you. However —

. . . stop doing dangerous things that scare the hell out of your mother. Seriously, our hearts can’t take it.

. . . go ahead and cry.

. . . be nice to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

. . . forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it.

. . . eat dessert first once in a while.

. . . wait to say “I love you” but don’t wait too long.

. . . don’t mix peppermint Schnapps with pizza. Trust me on this one.

. . . give three sincere compliments every single day.

. . . let it go, whatever “it” is that’s hurting you.

. . . don’t be afraid to make the first move.

. . . understand that life is not going to turn out exactly the way you expect, and accept that it’s going to be amazing anyway.

. . . call your grandparents more often.

. . . read Slaughterhouse Five.

. . . don’t be afraid to say good-bye. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever.

. . . find something beautiful about yourself every day.

. . . know that life is not a competition and you don’t always have to win.

. . . take the high road whenever possible.

. . . read a banned book at least once in your life.

. . . remember that there’s more to life than what you see on the internet.

And last, but definitely not least . . . .

. . .forgive yourself once in a while. You deserve it. 

 

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “What I’m really trying to say is …” Hosted by Kristi of Finding NineeMardra Sikora, and  Vidya Sury .

 

 

Coffee or Tea?

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If we were having coffee this morning, you’d probably have to fend for yourself. Yes, it’s been one of those mornings.

My Sunday began a little before seven a.m., when I rolled over in bed and found a pair of big blue eyes mere inches away from my own. They were sparkling and oh-so-wide-awake. Disturbingly wide-awake. Terrifyingly wide-awake.

“Hey, Mom!” the boy chirped. “I wondered if you were ever gonna wake up.  Can we go watch TV? Have you had your coffee yet? Are you gonna make waffles today? ‘Cuz we’re out of cereal. We still have the Cheerios stuff but everybody else ate the good strawberry stuff and I never got any of it at all. Can we go to the Amish store and get some more of it ‘cuz it’s really good and it’s my favorite and I never get any because everybody else always eats it before I get any. We have some Lucky Charms but I don’t want it because I already ate  the marshmallows and now it’s just cereal. I don’t want eggs though ‘cuz it takes too long to make ‘em and I’m really hungry and aren’t you ever gonna get outta bed?”

I like to think I said something wise and motherly that fully demonstrated my love for this, my youngest child. In reality, however, I think there’s a pretty good chance I said something along the lines of “I have to pee.”

I haven’t really made coffee in my new place yet. I’ve basically switched to tea for a lot of reasons that sort of escaped me this morning. I dug around in the cupboards for the parts and bits and pieces of the coffeemaker, jammed them together, dug some more for the filters, and scraped the last bits of cheap dollar store coffee out of the bottom of the Folger’s can where I store it to trick myself into thinking I’m drinking the good stuff.

Now I’m somewhere in the middle of my third cup, and Little Man is polishing off his first. Oh, don’t judge me; it’s more milk than coffee, and it’s not as though a little caffeine is going to give him that much more energy. He can’t have more energy than he has at this moment. He’s already vibrating. He’s also playing some game in the living room that involves Matchbox cars, a stuffed camel, and a giant penguin that keeps playing “Let it Snow” on an endless loop that is seriously lacking in volume control.

The energy is a good sign, honestly. He’s settling into our new home and getting enough sleep, and I just don’t think he knows what to do with himself now that he’s fully-rested. He loves his “new” bed here, and I think this may be the first time in months that he’s actually been sleeping all night long without getting up in the night to crawl in with me or one of his siblings.

The coffee is really pretty bad, I’m afraid. If you really want to share some, you’re probably going to need some sugar and milk. Maybe a shot of whiskey, if I had any. Perhaps I should have offered tea?

I have some flavored coffee beans we could try if I hadn’t given the Princess my coffee grinder when she left for college. She was so excited about those blueberry-muffin-flavored coffee beans she bought herself, and I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the hammer-and-rolling-pin method she devised on her own.

She seems to be settling into college life pretty well. She sent me a copy of a paper she wrote about her Great-Aunt Marian, and I was a sobbing wreck by the time I finished reading it, so it would seem that she’s making a good start in that class, at least. She also seems to be pretty happy with Mr. Nice Guy, the newest man in her life. I don’t know much about him beyond the fact that he makes my daughter happy and he treats me with respect, and that’s enough.

My oldest son, the Dark Prince, seems to be settling into his Senior year as well. I can’t believe this hulking 6’3” young man with the size 14 EEEE feet is is the same little boy who taught himself — and all the other daycare kids — to ride a bike because his father and I weren’t teaching him fast enough. I can still see him whizzing around in circles on that little green Hulk bike.

Riding in a straight line presented a few challenges for him, if I remember correctly, but he mastered it the way he has always mastered the challenges that face him. He’s now in the running for a really big scholarship, and I’m busily crossing fingers, toes and everything else in hopes that the opportunity pans out for him.

So . . . life is going on.

It was an awful summer. One of the worst ever. But I survived, and I’m moving forward. Oh, we’re still tripping over boxes, and I’m starting to think I’ll never get all of our clothes put away, but we’re settling in and doing okay. Not great yet, but okay.

Even without good coffee.

Tea can be good too. Different, but good in its own way. I just need to be okay with the idea that my life is sometimes going to have to be different too, but good in its own way.

Good Morning!

It’s ten a.m., and I’m sitting at the computer in my jammies. I’ve lost count of how many cups of coffee I’ve inhaled, or how many times I’ve thought about taking a break only to push the thought aside and keep writing until the kids wake up and need me. Don’t judge me for letting them sleep in; it’s summer vacation.

I’m hungry. My ankles are swollen. I really have to pee.  And let’s face it; I’m pretty sure I stink.

This is not my fault.

I blame the writing workshop I attended last night. The instructor has been talking about plotting and structure, and I don’t remember ever feeling so driven to hurry home and write. I was home by eight, and I figured I could “burn the midnight oil” to make a lot of progress before going to bed. I felt like a real writer, like an artist starving to create a masterpiece. Yessir, I had a real fire in my belly.

Have I mentioned that I also have kids? More specifically, kids with nothing in their bellies.

My seven year-old greeted me on his bike at the foot of the driveway, surrounded by a posse of small people on similar bikes. “I’m hungry,” he announced as soon as I stepped out of my friend’s car.

“Didn’t your brother feed you?”

“Nope.”

My sixteen year-old sat on the couch, reading. “Is there a reason you chose not to feed your little brother any supper tonight?” I asked.

Shrug. “It’s not supper time yet.”

“Son, it’s after eight.”

“He never said he was hungry.”

This is the child I have entrusted with his brother’s safety while I work. Honor Student, National Honor Society member, general overachiever academically speaking, but apparently a bit lacking in common sense when it comes to child care. I may have to re-think this particular arrangement.

Out came the Foreman grill and burgers, plates and buns. Thirty minutes later, they’d been fed and the youngest was begging to be allowed to go back outside for s’mores at the neighbor’s bonfire. Which, of course, resulted in a sticky child in dire need of a bath, despite the fact that this child is terrified of my bathtub because he believes the rust stains are bloodstains. Every time he gets a bath at my house, he is absolutely convinced that something is going to climb out of the drain and kill him, so I have to stay in the bathroom with him for the entire bath to ensure his safety.

At one point, I also had to start texting my wayward daughter, who had taken my car to work nearly twelve hours earlier and apparently vanished from the face of the planet. Or at least outside of the calling area. Otherwise, she would surely have called or texted to let me know where she was and whether or not she was safe.

Shortly after learning that the Princess was safe but forgetful, I got a giggly phone call from a friend who thinks she has found me the perfect man. There was talk of a blind date with a handsome acupuncturist she met in the hot tub at the local wellness center; however, she doesn’t know his name or anything about him beyond the fact that he is “book smart” and has some distinguished gray at the temples. She wants me to come with her on the next family night so I can meet him, but somehow I don’t think I’ll be feeling my most attractive in a bathing suit, in a hot tub, or meeting a man who just may want to stick needles in me.

So what it boils down to is that I didn’t even get a chance to look at my computer until this morning, and I have been kicking butt ever since.  Their Love Rekindled is finished in rough draft, but I’ve made the decision to go back through and apply what I’ve learned in the workshop. I’ve been doing some restructuring, cutting, re-writing and –I hope – improving upon what I had already created.  I feel like I’m making it so much stronger, so much more coherent.

I had originally planned on releasing this one at the end of July, but now I want to push that back a bit. I want to make it the absolute best book it can be, and that’s going to take a little longer. I am going to aim for Labor Day Weekend, and I plan on sharing my first chapter here within the next few weeks just to give you all a taste of what to expect.

I’m also seeing a lot of things I wish I had done differently in my other books, although I’m not really sure whether I’m going to go back and make changes or not. To be honest, I’m sort of feeling ready to put my Beach Haven series aside for a while and dive into the new series that’s been percolating for a while.  It’s about three childhood friends, a fortune-teller, and the idea of Love and Destiny.

I’m thinking about making one of the characters an overworked, overstressed single mom who works four part-time jobs while writing romance novels and falling in love with a handsome acupuncturist after a chance meeting in a hot tub.

Or maybe it’s just time for me to switch to decaf.

Coffee Time

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If we were having coffee, I’d start by apologizing for the mess in my kitchen. I’d pull out the mismatched cups from the cupboard and haul out the giant canister of sugar for you, since I’m just not the type to keep sugar in a dainty little sugar bowl. That’s all right, though, because I’d have to offer you the entire gallon jug of milk since I’m not big on using the dainty little cream pitcher, either.

I take my coffee black for a reason.

Let me tell you about my week, because it’s been an emotional one. My oldest child graduated from high school at the end of last week, and this week has been all about adjusting to the idea that she’ll be leaving home in a few months.  She’s done a lot of sleeping in and I’ve done a lot of nagging, and I thought I might possibly be well on my way to a stroke the day I came home from work and found her sunbathing in the front yard – with the TV blaring inside a house full of dirty laundry and dirtier dishes.

I also had my last day of work in the school lunchroom this week. Oh, sure, I’m planning on going back in the fall, but this was unexpectedly emotional. I didn’t expect the kids to hug me good-bye, and I certainly didn’t expect to miss any of them so soon.  Even more than that, I didn’t expect the ending of the school year to feel like the ending of a chapter in my life. This was my first real job since my accident, and it’s been all about finding the balance between pushing myself and knowing when to step back.

In a way, this job was a huge step toward understand who I am now and learning to thrive in my new “normal.” It was a step that was every bit as terrifying – and hard—as those first steps on the walker nearly four years ago. And I did it. I made it. I survived all the way to the end of the school year.

This was the week I interviewed for a second job to help me make my bills. It’s a front-desk position at a local hotel, and it would be a godsend. I did my best at the interview, but it’s hard to tell. I am supposed to hear something on Monday. Either way, it’s good to know my resume is good enough to get me an interview, and the interview itself was good experience for the next interview.

This was the week I finally conquered a really stupid fear and wrote my first real novel synopsis. That, in a nutshell, has been my biggest reason for self-publishing:  I was afraid of writing a synopsis to send to a traditional publisher. As much as I love self-publishing, I still want to explore my options with a traditional publisher, just to see what’s out there. So now I’ve done it and sent it out and I can check it off my “bucket list.”

Who knows – I may soon get my first real rejection letter and end up checking something else off the ol’ bucket list.

This week, I signed the lease on my house for another year. I had really expected to be able to buy it by this point, so it was a little disappointing. I love my house; I want to stay here forever. I just thought I’d be farther ahead by now. Money is trickling in too slowly and flowing out too quickly, and it hasn’t gotten any better this first year on my own.

The week ended with a two-day college orientation trip with my daughter and ex-husband. I hadn’t realized she was so grown-up until I saw her mingling with all of the other young adults on WMU’s campus, and I hadn’t realized just how ready she is to go. I’ve heard all the clichés about “spreading her wings” and all that nonsense, but I never really understood it until this moment. It’s almost time to let her go.

This week, I realized that I am not ready.

If we were having coffee, this is the point where I would break out the peanut butter cookies that I’m supposed to give to the neighbor who mowed my lawn. I’d top off our coffee cups and tell you to drink up before my kids wake up and invade the kitchen, because this is one of the few chances I’ll have to spend one-on-one time with another adult and I want to enjoy every minute of it.  And I think we need a little distraction, because I’m not quite ready to say anything more about my daughter moving out or the fact that I really enjoyed spending those two days with my ex.

Besides, I’ve been talking about myself this whole time, and now it’s your turn to tell me about your week. What have you been up to? What challenges have you faced and how did you deal with them?

Be sure to visit Diana over at Part-Time Monster to link up and see what some other bloggers have had to say with their weekly coffee share.  Thanks to Diana for hosting the #coffeeshare posts!

Carrots, Anyone?

It started in line at the grocery store.  And since I live in a very small town with only one grocery store, it quickly escalated into one of those uncomfortably memorable moments in life.

I was waiting for the cashier to finish ringing up a six-pack of Vernors when I heard it from behind me – that unmistakable sound that any mother can identify at any distance: Gag, splatter, and a pitiful little cough.

I didn’t need to turn around to confirm that my son had just defiled the checkout lane at Wagoner’s Grocery Store.  But as usual with me, there is so much more to the story than just the tale of a seven year-old vomiting in public.

You see, I had just interviewed for a job at that store a few days earlier.  My job at the school is about to end for the summer, and I am in a full-out state of panic because I can’t find employment anywhere.  The government says I am not disabled, but I am having one hell of a time finding anyone who will hire a forty-nine year old former hairdresser with a twenty-pound lifting restriction. Every job, even basic cashiering, requires a certain amount of lifting.

So I’m not disabled, but I’m not physically able to get a job. Go figure.

The manager at the grocery store was very honest with me. She liked me and thought I’d be a valuable addition to the team, but . . . what if a customer had a 25-lb bag of dog food or some other heavy item that had to be lifted back into their cart? I told her that I understand, and I really do understand; nobody can afford to hire an employee who can’t do every aspect of the job.  I assured her that I would still continue to shop at the store and there would be no hard feelings. After all, it’s a small town.

Remember that.

When the school called to tell me that my boy was feeling sick and needed to be picked up, I really didn’t think he was all that sick. He said his tummy felt bubbly, but there was no fever. He certainly didn’t look sick, but I’ve learned over the years that a bubbly tummy should never be ignored. I’ve also learned that the best treatment for a bubbly tummy is a few sips of room-temperature Vernors.

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Okay, for all of you unfortunate souls who have never experienced the joy that is Vernors, let me explain. Vernors is the best ginger ale in the known universe. Don’t argue with me that you know of something better; Vernors is simply the best. It just is. Any Michigander will agree.  And any Michigander will also tell you that Vernors has medicinal uses during flu season. Whether it’s the carbonation or the ginger or just the firm belief that it really works, Vernors always seems to do the trick.

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But my boy is only seven; he was not old enough to leave at home or in the car while I ran into the store for his Vernors. I took him in with me, grabbed a six pack for him and a Diet Coke for me, and headed for the register.

Where the new cashier was being trained for the position I had so desperately wanted. She is the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, and I was so happy to see that she got the job. She has more kids than I do, and I know for a fact that she is one hell of a hard worker with a reputation for being a fantastic employee. I can’t think of anyone in the world who deserves the job more than she does.

In fact, I was in the process of opening my mouth to congratulate her when Young Faithful blew behind me.

I grabbed the child as he let fly with a second stream of partially-digested carrots. I started apologizing profusely and asking for a mop while simultaneously trying to swipe my debit card. And like any good mother, I was also desperately fighting the urge to join the Puke Party. I mean, let’s be honest here. When it comes to parenting, I am not one to gently rub the puker’s back while murmuring words of comfort. No, I am more of a “If you’re gonna hurl, hurl that way” kind of mommy.

I have to say that the grocery store staff reacted admirably. They cleaned up the mess and told me they hoped my little boy felt better soon, and they have asked about him every time I have gone into the store since then. Everything about that store has just gained about 100 more points on my personal rating scale for a business. They are all such nice people, so professional and caring toward every customer, even the ones who decorate the floor with a slightly used lunch.

On the other hand, I am now the woman who let her sick child blow chunks all over the woman who got the job I wanted.

I have just officially forfeited all rights to ever again say anything to anyone about being a good sport.  About being gracious. About accepting defeat with honor and dignity.

And I may never eat another carrot.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “It started in line at the grocery store . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Nicki from Redboots, and Dawn M Skorczewski.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

Making Lemonade

It was one of those “when life hands you lemons” moments.

My youngest son has been getting on my last nerve.  He has been pestering me about going to an arcade in the next town. Badgering me. Whining, begging, pleading, annoying me to within an inch of losing my sanity. He’s too young to understand “Mommy can’t even afford to pay the electric bill, so she doesn’t have any money for things like arcades.”

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Besides, his eyes glaze over whenever I start referring to myself in the Third Person.

I don’t like arcades. The noise level and bright lights make me anxious. I get a headache and a sour attitude, and I just don’t have time to sit at an arcade developing anxiety, headaches and attitude problems. I don’t even have time to do things that don’t give me a headache. My family is so busy right now that it seems like we don’t have time to catch our breath, much less have any fun. Add to the mix my scramble for a summer job and concerns about paying my bills, a lawn that needs mowing, spring allergies and so much more, and I’m putting some serious thought into crawling under the kitchen table in a fetal position.

Again.

I’m getting good at blanket forts.

Don’t judge me.

And somehow, I’ve got to find time to finish writing Their Love Rekindled, figure out how to set up a mailing list on MailChimp, keep my blog updated, and continue building my “platform” so I can have a social media “presence” to help sell the books that I can’t find the time to finish writing.

And let’s not forget that for some random reason, my town keeps losing power for 4-5 hours at a time. With no explanation. Afterwards, my computer keeps having identity crises and I lose all kinds of documents that are supposed to be auto-saved but aren’t.  Yes, I know that I should really take a computer class so I know what to do in these situations.

Let me just sign up for a class in all my spare time. I’ll pay for it with the money I don’t have.

So, on Sunday, I did what all really bad mommies would do under those circumstances: I caved.  I gave in. That’s right, I rewarded my child for whining, begging, pleading, and badgering. I scraped together my last $10 that really should have gone toward gas for my car, tossed the boy into the back seat, and headed out for Klassic Arcade in Gobles, Michigan.

Let me tell you right here, right now, that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Klassic Arcade is a tiny, dumpy little blue building with a dirt parking lot. From the outside, it looks like a bit of a hole-in-the-wall. A dive. But inside . . .

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Stepping through the door was like stepping through a time warp. The place was lined with wall-to-wall pinball machines and “classic” video games, including Galaga, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Pac Man, and Frogger. If they’d had Centipede, I probably would have passed out from sheer joy.

I paid $5 each for our wristbands that allowed us to play any of the games as many times as we wanted. Little Man and I darted from pinball machine to video game, giggling and pressing buttons without any real idea of what we were doing. I tried to remember how to play some of the games from my teenage years, but let’s be honest here – back then, I never went to arcades to play the games. I went to meet the boys who played the games.

Except Centipede and Tempest. I was really competitive when it came to those two games.

I had told my little boy that we would stay for only a few hours. I fully anticipated a loud, overcrowded and overwhelming Chuckie Cheese type of experience. But Klassic Arcade is nothing like Chuckie Cheese. Small, personal, friendly, and with a little snack counter that has over one hundred different flavors of soda pop to choose from, most of which are in pretty glass bottles. It was actually cozy, if you can imagine an arcade being cozy.

Now, remember those random power outages I mentioned earlier? Forty-five minutes into our Klassic Arcade adventure, another one hit. And that’s when things got weird.

Nobody complained.

Nobody demanded a refund.

Nobody even seemed upset. Customers sat down at the charming little tables at the snack counter and chatted with each other. We bought bottles of pop (ours was red apple) and took turns opening and closing the cooler doors quickly to keep everything nice and cold inside.  My son and I shared our red apple pop, which turned our tongues bright red and gave us both red moustaches. After that, he and I wandered outside, where he proceeded to find ten four-leaf clovers. Ten. I’ve never even found one.

He also found two five-leaf clovers, but I haven’t decided if those were extra-lucky or just a weird freak of nature that could only be found by a member of my family.

I don’t know if the two men working there that day were owners or employees, but they were amazingly friendly and cheerful throughout the entire adventure. I know it must have been difficult for them to lose all that business on a weekend; one of them confided that a five-hour outage the previous day had wiped out their Saturday business as well. Basically, they lost money last weekend because of the twin power outages.

But they laughed and joked with the rest of us while we waited. After thirty minutes, they handed out free passes for all of us to come back again, and then shut things down for the day. We didn’t need the passes, though; I’ll go back again. And again. It wasn’t about the vintage games or the fancy pop; it was about the friendly atmosphere, the cheerful environment, and the way the staff handled an unfortunate situation.

Life handed them lemons last weekend, and they made more than lemonade. They made people happy.

And that was pretty sweet, sort of like Sprecher’s Red Apple.

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Randomness

I don’t really have any one big topic to write about right now, but I have a whole bunch of random things that I feel like sharing.  Just for snicks.

  • The daffodils are almost done, but the lilacs are getting ready to bloom. What a great reminder that life may suck sometimes, but true beauty always comes back.  Things get better. They have to.
  • I just worked up the courage to enter the Writer’s Digest annual competition.  I used to enter it every year, but sort of let it fall by the wayside a while ago. I have no delusions about taking first place, but I’d like to get recognition for being somewhere in the Top 100. Even if I’m all the way down there in 100th place I’ll be ecstatic.
  • My espresso machine just broke. I feel as though I’ve lost a valued member of my family.
  • My daughter went to prom this weekend, and I got all nostalgic and weepy when I saw the pictures of her and her friends dressed up for the event. There are rumors around town that I spent the evening singing “Sunrise, Sunset” at the top of my lungs, but I can neither confirm nor deny that particular rumor.
  • I cut off my oldest son’s hair last week and discovered that he’s a pretty good-looking kid now that I can actually see his face.  Poor kid has this absolutely astonishing hair that grows wide instead of long. He usually won’t allow me to cut it because he says it is an endangered habitat for the baby eagles nesting in there. Yes, he says things like that all time.
  • My house has had no heat for a week, and my relationship with my afghans has moved to the next level.
  • Interesting tidbit that some folks may not realize:  if you are a blogger and you leave a comment on my blog, it leaves a clickable link that readers can follow back to your blog. This does not mean that I am sending people to your blog or linking to it in any way; when you leave a comment, you are creating that link yourself.
  • Readers who click on the link created by your comments are not “stalking” you.  Bloggers who approve your comments creating these links are not “stalking” you, either.
  • I will never again buy frozen burritos from the local Amish store. I still don’t know what was wrapped up inside those suckers, but it should never have been put inside a burrito. That was a bad idea.  And I should never have eaten two of them; that was an even worse idea.
  • Going back for a third one the next day was just stupidity on my part. I’ve got no excuse.
  • Speaking of the Amish, I saw something yesterday that was just delightfully wrong on so many levels: four Amish ladies, in full black dresses, bonnets and aprons, jumping on a trampoline.
  • Words failed me.
  • Seriously, words never fail me.
  • I have chosen to discontinue my author interviews for the time being for some personal reasons that I’d rather not go into right now. Don’t worry; I plan on starting up again when things calm down a bit in my world.
  • And speaking of author interviews . . . those of you who enjoyed my conversation with Zombie author M. Lauryl Lewis may be interested to know that her book Grace Lost has been nominated for the Zombie Book of the Month Club. If you’d like to vote, click here and scroll through the comments until you see the mention of Grace Lost. Then just “like” it. That’s all there is to it.
  • I am speaking about writing and self-publishing at my local library in two weeks, and I am utterly terrified. I just know I’m going to stutter; my old lisp is going to come back, and I will probably forget how to speak English. That’s a problem, because I don’t really know how to speak anything else, either.
  • Oh, and one last thing. Like any author, I have set up Google alerts to let me know whenever there is an online mention of my pen name, my real name, the names of my books, and so on. When I receive an email letting me know of such a mention, I check it out. That is not “stalking.” That is “protecting my professional image.”
  • And that’s all I’ve got to say on that.

Now I’m off to watch part of my youngest nephew’s baseball game, followed by youngest son’s first game of the season. It’s cold and damp outside, and sitting on the bleachers is going to be just plain awful.

And I can’t wait.

If Dishes Were Wishes . . .

The chore I hate doing the most is dishes.  I despise doing the dishes. I have a dishwasher now, but that doesn’t seem to change the fact that I still end up elbow-deep in dish soap at least twice a day.  Every day.

I don’t get it.  I really don’t.  There are only four of us in this house, and there is just no logical explanation for exactly how we manage to dirty so many dishes in a single day. Every single day. Granted, I do a lot of cooking and baking, which has a tendency to make the bowls and pans stack up, but that doesn’t account for everything.

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My clean dishes never seem to make it from the drainer or dishwasher to the cupboards. They seem to be in a constant rotation of use-wash-use-wash without ever enough time for a cycle or two of use-wash-put away.

I work in a high school/middle school lunchroom, so I occasionally have to jump in and help with the dishes as part of my job. I don’t really mind doing it there. Maybe that’s because I’m surrounded by other lunch ladies who are also working, or perhaps it’s because I’m getting paid to wash dishes there. Or it could be that the task of washing dishes at work is somewhat of a finite process; there comes a point each day at which the job is done. Completed. Finished.

There is no such point in my house.

I have a daughter who hoards coffee cups in her room, but she can be counted on to bring down an armload of them two or three times per week. I’m not sure how one seventeen year-old can manage to accumulate that many dirty cups in such a short amount of time, but at least they make their way back to the kitchen.

My youngest son tends to stockpile sippy cups and juice glasses on the coffee table in the living room. Like his sister, he can be counted on to bring them to me eventually. But again, it escapes me how one very small person can use so many cups and glasses in a day. Does he get a new one for each sip?

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And I simply cannot understand the spoons under the couch.  Why are there spoons under my couch? We don’t eat in the living room. Well, okay, we use TV trays and eat in the living room on occasion, but most family meals take place at the kitchen table. When we do eat in the living room, the plates and forks make it back to the kitchen with no problem, so why not the spoons?

It’s not just the sheer number of dirty dishes in a constant flow through the dishwater that bothers me.  There’s the fact that the dishes never seem to quite make it to the sink unless I am the one putting them there. They make it as far as the edge of the table, or the counter in the general vicinity of the sink and dishwasher, but God forbid anyone actually manage to put a dirty dish anywhere even close to a source of water.  I have one child who will carry dirty dishes past the sink to stack them on the stovetop. This should not surprise me, however, as this is the same child who used to walk past the bathroom and down the hall to my bedside to tell me “I gotta throw up” seconds before launching the flow in my direction.

On really bad days, I have started to wonder if there are other people living in my home that I am not aware of.  Perhaps there is a family of twelve residing in my basement, and they sneak upstairs to deposit their used plates and silverware on the counters while I am at work. They might be the same people whose shoes seem to pile up at my door; that would explain the twenty-seven pairs of shoes mounded up beside the door despite the fact that my children keep insisting “Those aren’t mine!”

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I can’t blame it all on my kids or the possible basement-dwellers. When it comes to my own coffee cup, I am just as bad as the rest of them. I drink my morning coffee out of a jumbo white and blue mug decorated with seagulls and lighthouses, and I like to carry it around and sip out of it while I get ready for work. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to set it down in various places whenever I reach a point in my morning routine that requires the use of both hands, after which I quickly forget exactly where I set the damn thing down.

At which point, my morning turns into an impromptu game of Find-The-Coffee, which rarely ends well because I have not yet swallowed enough coffee to jump  start my brain. I eventually give up and go back for new mug, and all is well until I have to put that one down so I can finish getting dressed. By the time I leave for work, I can sometimes go through an entire pot of coffee this way. I figure it’s not really all that bad for me, though, because I only manage to drink about half a cup.

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Part of my nighttime routine around here is a scavenger hunt for almost-full mugs of cold coffee before bed. I have found them in my bedroom, in the laundry room, in the refrigerator, and even outdoors in my son’s playhouse on one memorable occasion. I still have no idea how that one got out there.

As I read back over what I’ve written here, something just occurred to me.  While I still don’t have an answer about the spoons, I think I figured out how my daughter and youngest son manage to dirty so many cups and glasses during the course of a day.

They take after their mama.

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This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “The chore I hate doing the most is . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Michelle from Crumpets and Bollocks, and Kristinjill from Ripped Jeans & Bifocals. Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!