Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cross Country Skiing? Downhill? At age 6? Sure! Let's do it!

SwimGirl has decided to take a break from the pool this season.  Instead, she is pursuing "Nordic Skiing," a sport of which all I know is that it is basically cross-country skiing in spandex bodysuits, and that it isn't nearly as inexpensive as we expected it to be.  The plus side so far is that we have gotten about 1" of snow this year, so instead of possibly hurting herself on skis, SwimGirl has spent her Nordic Skiing practice time  running, which seems safer than skiing - even the type that does not involve careening down a hill at a high rate of speed (do I believe that she can't hurt herself only running? No. I am sure she can, since she is the child who is notorious for tripping over painted lines on the floor, always followed by a cheery "I'm OK!"). However, the idea of her doing Nordic Skiing takes me back to my own childhood:

The winter I was about six years old, my parents thought it would be a grand idea to purchase cross country skis for the family, including an itty-bitty pair for me.  My feet were too small for them to find proper ski boots, so they found me a pair of little leather boots that somehow managed to work with the bindings (very very old school bindings) on my itty-bitty skis.  We went on a few excursions near home to get a feel for the skis before dad decided it would be ok to take my older (by three years) brother and I on an adventure that would take us a few miles from where he parked our car.

We were doing swimmingly: my dad would go first and make the track (of course we weren't on a "ski trail" - that would have been much less adventurous and too easy!), my brother followed behind him and I brought up the rear (my mom was unable to join us on this particular adventure and since I was six, I have no idea why she wasn't along.  In fact, I'm not positive she had cross-country skis at all; it all might have been a wonderful scheme for her to get us all out of the house so she could have peace and quiet for a while).  Even though I was small and slower than my dad and brother, I don't remember them ever leaving me trailing too far behind them (which probably explains my memories of them standing around. A lot.), which, if you know my brother, was probably pretty hard for him to do, and had our dad not been there with us, I would probably have been left alone pretty quickly. (After all, this is the boy who, upon finding out that I wanted to "run away like Huckleberry Finn" when I was five, went out and found a stick and a bandanna, then placed two hot dogs and a slice of bologna in the bandanna, tied it onto the stick and sent me - in my bib overalls sans a shirt - on my way, and afterward celebrated the fact he was once again an only child.)

Eventually, plodding through the snow on level ground proved to be too boring for us (read "DAD"), so as soon as we neared a small hill, he headed up it.  Being that we were in Wisconsin, reaching the top of the small hill didn't take long and it also meant that somehow we had to go back down the small hill.  Whoosh! Went my father down the hill, looking like an expert ski-master to my six-year-old eyes.  Whoosh! went my brother, only almost falling down once or twice but managing to right himself before landing on the ground.  "This doesn't look too hard; it actually looks like fun!" I thought to myself as I positioned my skis pointy-end down in their tracks.  

"C'mon, honey! You can do it!" my dad called encouragingly.  So, courageously, I pushed off the top of the hill with my poles and felt the exhilaration of gliding down hill. Until I realized I had no idea how to stop and then felt my skis slipping and my balance failing.  I vaguely remember going off their track where I may or may not have hit some kind of lump that turned into a launch-pad of sorts, flying off of that and finally landing in a heap by my dad's feet.

"I'm ok!" I stuttered as my dad checked me over for injuries.
"You might be, but your skis aren't." He replied.  Sure enough, one of my skis had somehow lost its pointy-ended tip in my descent and/or fall.
"How am I going to get back to the car now dad?" My dad looked at my brother, looked at my ski and then at me, "Well, I guess I'm going to have to carry you.  All three miles. Back to the car."

That was the last time we went cross country skiing.  It was not long after that that we all learned to downhill ski, which also contributed to some very strange injuries (blackened eye from a T-bar for one) and incidents (ever wonder what it is like to ride the chair lift back down the hill? I don't; I've done it!) that are dragged out and retold with much laughter, embarrassment and chagrin at every family gathering lasting longer than two hours.

I'm sure SwimGirl will do fine with Nordic Skiing, as long as she stays on the flat.  If not, hopefully her optimistic, "I'm Ok!" will ring out from wherever she's landed.

A Snapshot of My World

A Typical School Day Morning:

5am Hubby leaves for his 2+ hour commute to current job location.

6:15am Re-awoken by alarm blaring (enter title here) song from local Christian Radio station, slap snooze.

6:25am Alarm goes off again; new song blaring. Slap snooze again.

6:30am Decide to turn off alarm as brain is running anyway and sleep is no longer possible. Lie as still as possible while ruminating over the day's upcoming events (kids off to school, errands to run, chores to complete, hockey games, swim practice....)

6:32am Remember that there is still half a DVR'd Hallmark movie to watch, flip on TV and resume movie.

6:39am Tearing up over sweetness of Hallmark movie love story plot.

6:44am Hear basement shower go on; oldest child in shower. Glance at clock to check start time.

6:49am Cry a little more over Hallmark movie, check child's showering time so far.

6:55am Shower still going. Movie almost over.

6:59am Think: That child better get out soon or her brother won't have any hot water! Wish I knew how to turn off the hot water and surprise her...

7:01am Hear the CLUNK as basement shower is shut off.  Movie over, flip to Fox News.

7:05am Decide that am still burned-out from the election and really don't give a crap that Romney is having lunch with Obama, so Obama can a) look like he's a real gentleman and b) steal Romney's ideas and pass them off as his own regarding the budget crisis, so turn off Fox News and roll out of bed.

7:15am In kitchen hoping for some coffee, only to find that hubby has emptied coffee pot completely.  Mutter to self about no coffee while grinding coffee beans.

7:16am Oldest child attempts to get into my coffee-making space to make breakfast for herself. Tease her by getting into her space right back.

7:17am Dancing in circles in middle of kitchen, hand over my eye, saying "Gross! Gross! Gross! You licked my eye!" while oldest child and 16 year old son laugh at me.  Say to oldest child "Don't lick your friends!" Her response: "At least I didn't bite you."

7:21am 16 year old son hands me dress shirt and pants and says "Thanks mommy," before going downstairs to a (probably cold) shower.

7:23am 8 year old child comes into kitchen still in pjs, saying "It's pajama & movie day at school today, so all I had to do was put on my boots and hat on. We get to watch 'Santa Buddies' and not 'A Christmas Story' or 'Inkheart' because my teacher forgot to tell us we can only watch 'G' movies." ("A Christmas Story" isn't Rated-G? Who knew? Good thing I didn't let her take "Christmas Vacation" like she wanted to!)

7:28am Ironing shirt and pants. Get into argument with oldest child over her date for the Sadie Hawkins dance. Feeling very much lied to. Am told "YOU NEVER LET ME DO ANYTHING!" (Lies! Lies! Damn lies!) Take away oldest child's car keys and tell her to find a ride or ride the bus.

7:31am Still fighting with oldest child over fact that boy she "isn't dating" is disrespectful because a) he rarely drives, b) when he does drive, he doesn't even pull into driveway to pick her up, c) and the fact that he needs to get over his "fear" of me and come into our house, because really? That text message telling him that if he drove her car again and I found out that I would report it stolen was so 7 months ago - get over it already, man up and come into the dang house or I really will give him a reason to be scared of me.

7:40am Boy-child comes upstairs in shorts, wondering why he has no clothes yet, and if he has to ride the bus, how will he do it without pants?

7:42am Finish ironing boy's pants and shirt, vowing that he will get better shirts than the 65/35 poly/cotton blend hubby bought him (no wonder the shirts "tear up his neck"!).

7:45am Make youngest child her requested PBJ sammie for breakfast.  Fight some more with oldest child. Text BFF today's troubles. Fight irritation over the fact that maybe she is right and that I am overreacting (I NEVER OVERREACT!) again. Happy she agrees with me about being lied to and that boy needs to be more respectful.

7:50am Grudgingly give keys back to oldest child, with conditions: a) She finds other friends than boy to hang out with this weekend, b) that he drives and comes to door to pick her up if she does hang out with him, and c) that they start hanging out here more often because it is impossible to trust someone with my baby-girl who refuses to actually let me get to know them.  She agrees and snatches the keys from me.

8:15am Two oldest children run out the door to school. Youngest children dressed, teeth-brushed, hair-brushed, on couch, playing Wii.  Think, I have time to check my email before they have to be out the door... crack open laptop and log-on.

8:31am See email from son's hockey coach, telling us that 8 year old "Sparkles" will be welcome to sing "National Anthem" at hockey games when there isn't a music student there to do it.  Tell Sparkles, who bounces around like a puppy in happiness.  Ask her, "Some of the games you'd have to miss swim practice in order to be there to sing for the Varsity - would that be ok?" Her reply: "UM, YEAH, MOM! I'd rather sing than swim any day!" (Guess her getting a swimming scholarship to college like her older sister is out.)

8:47am Look up from computer and realize that the girls have 4 minutes before their bus will come; yell "Girls! You gotta Go!"

8:48 Mass panic ensues, reminiscent of the proverbial "Flying around like a fart in a mitten," as the three of us run around trying to find boots, mittens, hats (heehee cute sparkly Santa hats!), backpacks, agendas, jackets, snowpants, etc.

8:51am Girls at bus-stop. Did not miss bus. Back to the computer for me.  Now what?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fun with the Neighbors Part II

As mentioned in my previous post, "Fun with the Neighbors Part I", my next-door neighbors drive me a little crazy.  The only upside of this situation is that I'm pretty sure we drive them equally crazy, which goes to show that there really is justice in the universe.

With the great weather this fall, the farmers across the road from our neighborhood were able to get their crops in quite early, leaving the fields crowded with Canada geese gleaning the dropped corn kernels all day.  Once goose hunting season started, we were awakened early on Fri-Sun mornings by hunting sounds - gunfire and geese honking as hunters took advantage of the easy access to thousands of birds.  Growing up around guns and having many friends who hunt, the only feeling I had about the gunshots I heard was irritation from the fact that I was being woken up far earlier than I wanted to be on weekends.  This sentiment was shared by my neighbor to the south - he too, did not appreciate the 5am gunfire - and, in past years, went so far as to call the police on the hunters.  Legally, they are allowed to hunt on the land across the road since it is privately owned, and birdshot does not travel far enough to threaten any residences, so his  call was to complain about his peace being disturbed (he also admitted to me that he was a bit jealous because he wasn't hunting with the hunters which added to his irritation when making the complaint to the police).

My neighbors to the north, however, being from California, decided instead to make a complaint to our city, citing that the hunting was a danger to residents in nearby neighborhoods and going so far as to say that our entire neighborhood was also worried about the dangers of hunting in the fields across the road from our homes.  Which is to say that the residents of the neighborhood with whom my neighbor speaks on a regular basis, may or may not have an issue with the hunting.  She did not ask me my opinion; if she had, I would have happily told her what I thought.  (I'm guessing that's why she never asked me.)  Instead, I only learned of her complaint when I was approached by a reporter for our local city newspaper who happened to see my daughter and I outside our house after she had been interviewing next door neighbor about her complaint.

At first I thought the reporter was stopping by to talk to my fantastically talented daughter about the fact that she had just participated in Early National Signing Day and had rocked at the State Championship Swim Meet the prior weekend.  My disappointment was short-lived, however, when I learned the actual reason for the reporter's appearance in my neighborhood.  (I have to admit that she may have thought I was nuts for the cackling laughter and snorting that I couldn't hold back when she told me her reason for being there.)  She asked me if the neighbor had ever talked to me about the hunting, mentioning that my neighbor had claimed knowledge that the entire neighborhood was concerned.  She asked me if I would be willing to go on the record how I felt about the goose hunting, and once I stopped snickering, I told her that while I didn't appreciate being woken early in the a.m., it was private land, so it didn't matter what I thought - they were legal to do it.  I then asked her: "Did she tell you they moved here from California last year?  Did you ask her for her views on the 2nd Amendment? Did you mention to her that a) that land is being developed into a subdivision early next year and hunting will no longer be allowed and b) that she has more chance of getting hit by a stray bullet in downtown (enter big city name of your choice here) than by birdshot in her backyard, especially when it is protected by her 6' privacy fence?" I also told her that I wished that they would allow more hunting - bow, not gun, mind you - within city limits as the night before I had followed two deer who were out for their evening constitutional on a residential street two blocks to the north of my own neighborhood, and that I was tired of the coyotes barking nearby every night and the raccoon that loved to harass my dogs.  (By the way, my suburb has a population of 50k+ and while we still have woods and farmlands nearby, we are by no means truly "rural" in nature.)

While I was chatting it up with the reporter, I noticed my neighbor in her car, high-tailing it out of her driveway while giving me the ol' stink-eye.  It was about that time that the reporter asked if I thought any of our other neighbors would be willing to share their views on the issue, to which I responded "Yes!" and helpfully pointing out which neighbors were hunters and/or who actually talked to my neighbor on a regular basis.  The last I saw of the reporter, she was being welcomed into the house across the street, home of one of the many hunters who has resided here for more than 20 years.

The next day, hubby and I took advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures (mid 60s on Thanksgiving Day Eve?! No Way!) to "Griswold" our house: dragging out of our attic all the working lights, candy-canes, Santa, Sleigh, Reindeer, etc. and installing them on our house.  (It really is a good thing we have no HOA here or we'd be in severe violation of "single-color"/"clear/white light only" rules, etc.)  We love the Christmas Season and sharing Christmas cheer with our neighbors by having the largest light display possible, which is celebrated with the "Annual Lighting Ceremony" on Thanksgiving night, modeled after the Griswolds of "Christmas Vacation," complete with "drum rolls" produced by whomever is still at our house after dark on Thanksgiving Day and the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by my BFF, after which every one usually hurries back inside, complaining of the cold and asking why we insisted on having them outside to witness the turning on of our glorious lights.

The fact that our neighbors have yet to put a single light on their house last season or so far this season only contributes to our glee regarding our over-the-top display - if we can be annoying them in the process, it truly does make the work it took to create the display all the more worth it.

Black Friday morning found BFF and I up and at Menards at 5am, then on to Mills Fleet Farm at 6am (yes, we really are geeks! But the deals at Menards were really awesome.) which was where I found the final piece to this year's Christmas Light Display: A Six Foot Inflatable Snowman Hunter, complete in camo and wielding a shotgun! I snatched up the box and took it home with me, intent upon putting it in the front yard, six inches from the lot line between the neighbors' home and our's. Hubby even seemed excited with the prospect of tweaking the neighbors, laughing over the irony that we aren't even hunters!

Alas, it was not to be: our light display this year is too big this year for the crappily wired electrical system of my house as it is, and the addition of my wonderful Camo-Clad Snowman would require that we not only not run the microwave after dark, but also be relegated back to using candles for light (and while that seems like fun for a while, the thought of the 16, 8 and 6 year old children playing "Pioneers" while wandering around with lit candles scares the crap out of me) if we wanted to keep from blowing circuit breakers every 30 seconds.  So unfortunately, I had to take the Snowman back to Fleet Farm. (I promise though, next year, I will give up the candy-canes and even the sleigh and reindeer if I can have Mr. Snowman Hunter in my yard.)

~~ Still waiting to see an actual article printed about the goose hunting; wondering if there will actually be one published.  Also fighting the urge to buy a Christmas wreath for the neighbors & put on their front step since their unbedecked house looks very bare and sad next to our Griswold majestic wonderland.  There's two things stopping me: 1) Hubby finding out and yelling at me for wasting money on our unappreciative neighbors and 2) being caught putting the wreath on their front step (they keep their blinds closed all day, so the chances of being detected are slim, but I'm still paranoid).

Fun with the Neighbors Part I

We have lived here for four years.  For the most part, our neighborhood is pretty quiet, other than lots of kids tearing around, the occasional doggy escape from fenced-in yards, random ferrets or cats found hiding under our deck, fireworks shot off after 10pm on non-4th of July days, etc.  But generally, the neighbors, while friendly, haven't been the type of people to insist upon neighborhood BBQs or block parties, a fact for which most of us have been grateful.  Until last year when new people moved into the house to our north.  They came from the exotic land of California: the wife is an Associate Professor of Social Work at two of the most liberal schools in the metro, the husband is a card-dealer at one of the local casinos/card-rooms.  Together they have two children, a son (no one has ever seen/met) in college and a 6 year old daughter (who is apparently deathly allergic to dogs and to kids who refuse to allow her to boss them around). A week or two after they moved in, a good friend of mine "@SHockeyMama2" (follow her on Twitter!), stopped by with her very well-behaved and leashed dog, to hang out and have a beer on my deck with me.  While I went inside for something, @SHockeyMama2 took her dog into my backyard (still on his leash) to let him wander around.  She was greeted by my neighbor (who may have been on my property at the time) with "Don't you let your dog poop in MY YARD!"  That, my friends, was one of his first mistakes.  First of all, the dog was on a leash.  Second of all, no one speaks like that to @SHockeyMama2 and gets away with it. Third of all, that dog was like a child to her, and like her kids, NO ONE talks smack (and that was smack talk) to her about her dog or her kids without retribution.  From that moment on, the neighbors were never given the respect (they believe) they deserve (from everyone) from @SHockeyMama2, (who, ironically, knows pretty much everyone in our city and is well-loved by everyone who has ever met her) who began to loudly refer to them in insulting terms, infused with her southern sweetness, so unless you really knew her well, it would be hard to tell if there were insults being hurled their direction or not, every time she was on my deck or in my backyard.  (Quite entertaining.)

About six months after the family moved in, the fun truly began: suddenly our once quiet "stay-out-of-your-neighbors'-business" neighborhood became "HEY! Let's have neighborhood ladies' get-togethers at each other's homes once a month!"  Initially, I was included in the planning emails, but due to the fact that I have an exceptionally busy life carting my children from one activity to another and a husband who may or may not be home for weeks at a time, I was unable to attend the gatherings (Ok, I admit it: the gatherings were NEVER a priority to me anyway).  This, I believe, was one of my first mistakes.

My next mistake happened this spring when the neighbors decided to put in a 6' high privacy fence on the border of our properties.  Forgive me, but as I watched the browbeaten husband diligently trying to measure where to put the fence while the nagging and disapproving wife, clipboard in hand, looked on, I thought that maybe it would be prudent (and hubby agreed, him being 5 hours away at the time and unable to supervise said fence-building) to go out and chat with the happy (ha-ha) couple regarding the placement of the fence.  While I made small talk and joked with one of their buddies and talked about my plans for a row of raspberry bushes in the area of which they were planning to put the fence, they decided that I was angry about the fence that they insisted had NOTHING to do with us (even though I had received several FaceBook messages and messages via my children that my geriatric dog had pooped in their yard, and I caught their "perfect" little princess swimming in our pool without permission or adult supervision on occasion).  The second day of fence building began with their "guide-line" having snapped at some time in the night, for which I received a, yep, you guessed it, FACEBOOK message asking me if I "had any knowledge of how said line would have been broken? you know, since I am angry about the fence?"  Like I would have wasted my time to go cut their line.  Which is exactly what I asked - if they "were trying to imply that I cut their line?"  Wifey quickly retracted her statement by saying that "perhaps I had seen someone cut it?" (Because maybe I spent the night staring into the darkness outside the one window on that side of the house, guarding their line with my special magical x-ray vision. Yah, sure, you betcha.)  In all honesty, I don't like the fence.  I think it is ugly and does nothing to promote all the neighborly happiness/communication that they seem bound and determine to foster with all the neighborly gatherings they set up (but never host).  However, it is a great support for the raspberry bushes I planted and next spring will be awesome for the rows of giant sunflowers I plan to plant.  (I'm also planning on doing a "sunflower fence" stretching between our outside wall and their fence - just to demonstrate that there CAN be beauty between our yards.)

The summer dragged on with me doing the usual gardening (starting way too many tomatoes and actually sharing them with the neighbors), reading on my deck, yelling at my kids, mowing the lawn, planting raspberry bushes, chatting with all the neighbors when I ventured to the front yard (rare), etc. Until, toward the end of the summer, when the neighbors, through yelling at my girls ("No! You can't play with us in our yard! Your dog pooped in our yard!") and via Facebook (did I mention that their door is a mere 30 feet - if that - from mine?) alerted us to the fact that they believed that our 14 year old Border Collie/Australian Shepard X (also known as the BEST DOG IN THE WORLD) had not only gone into their garage and out the back garage door and pooped in their backyard, but she had also APPROACHED their child who is DEATHLY ALLERGIC TO DOGS. This began a series of events which may have included some FB replies regarding my feelings about passive-aggressive people, my going over to their house, ringing the doorbell several times, walking through their garage and into their backyard, only to find children playing but no adults in sight, more FB messages and finally, the husband coming over to "confront" me about my dog (I also must mention that these are very short people. Which, during the conversation, when he stood on my front stoop and I stood in my doorway, I was towering over him - quite empowering, really).  He insisted that it was my dog (yeah, ok, right) and that if it happened again, they would call animal control.  He had just uttered that detestable sentence when his wife walked up to hear my reply: "Sure, you do that. And the next time my dining room fills with the scent of WEED, I'll be sure to call the cops."  (Did I mention that they're from California? And Liberals? I honestly couldn't give a hoot if they toke up now and then, but could they please not do it behind their 6' privacy fence on the border of our yards? And, if they're going to threaten Animal Control on my geriatric dog, they need to understand that I will go Mama-Bear and fight back viciously.)

At this point, the husband's face went white as he stammered "What? That couldn't have come from our house! That must have been someone else!" as the wife also said, "You think we smoke pot?!" To which I replied, "Either you or some of your friends do, but it was definitely pot."  They went on and on about how they don't smoke weed (I don't care) and about my dog and how terrible my kids are (that really was the last straw) when I finally said, "Get the hell off my porch. NOW." Undeterred, they continued attempting to argue their case until a little voice piped up behind me: "My mom said NOW!" (Which, really, while I appreciate my 8 year old daughter having my back, the timing was really bad, since she just proved them right regarding the behavior of my kids. Regardless, I could barely keep from laughing in their aghast faces.)  They finally stalked off and nothing more was said for several weeks (during which time the husband "disappeared" for over a week, and since then, I've not been given the second-hand high from pot-smoke drifting from their yard into my dining room), which was great.

After a few weeks of avoiding almost all neighborly contact and being excluded from event-planning/invitations by the wife (but having other neighbors be sure I still received said emails - ha! psyc on her bootay!), school began.  I was not looking forward to the first day of school since everyone ends up at the bus stop to watch their little precious babies get on the bus.  Somehow, my crazy next-door-neighbors and I managed to perform the task without having to speak to one another.  However, it was so uncomfortable that I decided to make nice with the neighbors.  So I took them a small bouquet of gloriously blooming sunflowers and made peace (my effort was met with the wife hugging me...ooooo please stay out of my bubble. I'm part Scandinavian - we don't invade space nor do we appreciate space invaders, doncha know? Or maybe SHE DOES KNOW? Devious woman.).

Or So I Thought....

(Stay tuned for Part II)