Alexa, How Do You Pack a Bag Near Toddlers and Grandparents?

Here's something no one tells you about kids. You absolutely cannot pack for a vacation when they are within 5 miles of the suitcase.

I have yet to devise a system (other than handcuffing them to the back door) to prevent things from being removed from the suitcase. Back when I was an amateur, I would arrive at our destination only to find that the underwear I packed was missing but now we had a toilet brush and 7 boxes of tissues, should we need them.

I become my own version of TSA now while packing. I watch the bag like a hawk to make sure nothing unnecessary goes in and nothing necessary comes out. If I even saw a tiny hand near the bag I swatted it away.

This past weekend, we headed north to see the parentals and my brother. I, of course, had to work. Because this is my lot in life. The second I get in the car to go anywhere out of town, two things inevitably, always, without fail, happen:

1) It begins to pour rain. (Torrential storms cued up for real when I hit the South Bronx.)
2) Someone needs to buy a house.

There is no cell signal at my parent's house. But if you sit by the front door you can get one bar and make a call if you don't move your head too much. Since it was 20 degrees, going outside wasn't an option. I'm talking to my client's lender to get the final info I needed to put in the offer and in the kitchen, my brother says, "Alexa, what's the weather?"

Allow me to digress about Alexa. Two or three years ago, the very same brother told me that this was the next big thing and I should buy it when my chance came up. Since I'm a whore for anything Amazon, since he's usually never wrong about these things, and since I am also, apparently, a sucker for getting in on something exclusive, I bought it.

Ours is defective. No. I take that back. Ours sucks.

Me: "Alexa, what's 2 plus 2."
Alexa: "You wanted to hear songs by Lionel Richie"
Alexa: "Playing songs by Lionel Richie"

I mean, it's like this all the time. If I didn't occasionally ask her to blast Guns N' Roses on those rare moments when I'm home alone, I would smash her head like Telly Savalas did to Talking Tina. (If you haven't seen that episode of the Twilight Zone, you are missing out.) There are times when Real Estate Dad and I are watching TV and Alexa will just start talking. Sometimes she tells herself jokes and then gives the punchline. I don't get it. I'm also 99.9% sure she is listening to us and reporting to google.

Back to the parentals. I'm trying to get a contract done there's my brother, asking Alexa stupid things I can answer because I JUST CAME IN FROM OUTSIDE! I know he is trying to prove to me how useful Alexa is. Clearly he hasn't had to contend with the likes of ours which failed out of 3rd grade Alexa-School. I start screaming at him to make Alexa shut up because I can't hear anything. And the loan officer I'm speaking with starts laughing hysterically.

"You must be talking to your brother?"

Aren't all family gatherings like this?

And then, Monday came and it was time to drive back to DC.

We stayed in a hotel. So we checked out of the hotel. We go to the parentals and there are several tiny shopping bags, waiting by the front door for me, filled with all sorts of things. And this, my friends, is where it all goes downhill.

"Here are the paintings you wanted. Oh, do you want these blouses? Just cut the shoulder pads out. These flowers are for the girls, they asked for them so I made them for them, they can keep them in their room. Do you need a thermometer? How about these calculators, can't the kids use them for school? What about the donuts? Here, your brother got these for the girls."

Then there's me. "What paintings. No one wears blouses anymore. The girls don't need fake flowers, they have enough junk. We have a thermometer. No calculators - they're 3 and 5, they can't even write much less use a calculator and no the donuts are stale and they don't need the sugar for a 5 hour ride back home and I specifically told every one of you in October no more stuffed animals because the girls are overloaded."

I couldn't move fast enough. Most of that stuff ended up in bags anyway. Every time something else was dumped on me, it went into a little bag. What. The. F. I was unpacking tiny bags and tossing crap back in their house like a game of hot potato.

And then I said what I always say when I'm 7 minutes out from leaving.

"If you don't stop dumping stuff on me every time I come here, we're not going to come back again."

But we'll go back this spring. We always do.


The School Thanksgiving Feast

M's elementary school does a cute little performance of all the Kindergartners and then we have a feast with our littles right after. The parents sign up for various food items. The person who signed up for plates and napkins was 15 minutes late which was mega-annoying. My excuse is that the corn, that I also signed up for at the last minute, wasn't cooperating.

I'm unsure how I managed this, but inside the pot where I was steaming the corn, there were frozen kernels and burned kernels. Only me. Pulled it out of the pot and put it in the microwave and that wasn't working either. It was a miserable failure. I took what was passable, left the rest on the stove and hoofed it up to the school.

(I mean, come on, who the hell can't cook corn???)

I caught the performance, and also got the plates there in time (and that stupid corn.) I saw M in her little Turkey Hat she made up there on stage with her "team." The team is made up of two other cuties who she seems to hang with the most, who thankfully, because it's all about me, have moms I totally think are awesome.

After the performance, the three girls ended up at the same table with their mama's while I served some of the food for the kids. Then I joined M and her "team" to eat. When the girls were done they got up to run around and play but left behind the turkey hats. One of the mama's picked up her daughter's hat and read what was written on the feathers.

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Mama 1 reads the hat. "I'm thankful for God. GOD? That's weird."

Mama 2 and I laughed. Mama 2 picks up her daughter's hat.

"I'm thankful for God. What? What are they teaching them?"

We all had another good laugh. I leaned over to grab M's hat. I fully expected hers to say the same thing because M usually does what her friends do.

This is M's hat.

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Thanks for nothin, mofo's!

On second inspection, I noticed she actually wrote something, then erased it.  So she is, in effect, thankful for nothing. Well played, M. Well played.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Little Girls, Big News

Since she started school, M has really been fast-tracking the whole growing up thing. When she saw some kids had lost teeth already, she kept insisting her lower front tooth was loose. I was like, "Pssht, you're faking."

Well, she wasn't. We've been getting daily tooth updates until today that sucker finally popped out during lunch. The school seems to have been down this road a few times because they were ridiculously prepared.  They had a small plastic tooth shaped container on a string that they place the tooth inside of and then M got to wear it around her neck like an Olympic Award.

We got a dollar for each tooth. Of course I'm referencing the late 70's here, so I assumed there had been some inflation. I about fell off my chair though when I googled (of course) and found it was $5 or more. Whoa! Tooth Fairy is gonna need to sell some more houses to fund the rest of that mouth.

Not to be without news of her own, Chubs announced she made a new friend in school today. Real Estate Dad said, "Oh wow, what's your new friend's name?"


Real Estate Dad said, "That's a funny name."

"And I made another friend, their name is Stupid."

Real Estate Dad realized where this was going but he was already in deeper than Taylor Swift at a red lipstick store.

"My other two friends are Poop and Butt Butt."

This made her laugh maniacally, the kind of laugh where you hope no one is watching. Unless you're Chubs, or one of her new friends she met today.

I Took a Stand Today

Facebook is rife with people taking stands on things. I try to hang in the middle, not having any real strong opinions on things, giving people the benefit of the doubt. I have to say, it's nice and happy living this way....not believing the worst in all politicians, thinking but then promptly ignoring the latest outrage instead of taking a stand on something. Stopping by the TV for a brief moment and then jetting out the door with a shrug or a laugh.

But today? Today. I took a stand on something.

We will have no more Taylor F*cking Swift in our house.

Sorry little ladies, but I'm raising you to be independent, confident women who won't give a rat's ass about the latest boy.

I reached my boiling point with Tay Tay before M was born, and I remember other moms saying, "Oh you won't be able to stop it. Girls love her." Hmm. Perhaps. I mean, it's not like my own mother could stop my non-stop decades long obsession with Guns N' Roses. In fact, this conversation via email occurred this week.

Ma: With this Las Vegas shooting, I'm worried about you going to another concert this weekend.
Me: It's your fault for not letting me go to the Meadowlands concert when they came through in 9th grade. My friends were in the Paradise City video! That should have been me! Now I have to go see them as often as I can go.
Ma: Can't you get over it?
Me: Front Row Ma! Front Row!
If I fill M's little ears with other music maybe I can sway her. Today while driving and flipping thru the stations, her little ears heard two notes of that craptastic talentless moron and I couldn't move off the station fast enough. "THAT ONE THAT ONE THAT ONE!"

"Cause the players gonna play play play play play and the haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate and I'm just gonna shake shake shake shake shake"

KILL ME. I'M GOING TO STAB STAB STAB STAB STAB MYSELF IN THE EYES. I couldn't even let the song finish. I moved the party down to Aerosmith.

"This is old people's music."

For real? It was "Rag Doll." It's about strippers. Or hookers. Whatever, still better than Taylor.

A Tale of Two Max's

Several of the "corgi ladies" and I managed to rescue a corgi in the Florida panhandle. His name is Max. We are hoping the little guy is all up to date on his shots and then he can be transported to the Jerz hopefully to his new home.

Chubs has been off for 4 days because she's been sick. Poor little thing has been so sick but she finally went back to school today. She's been mentioning that there's this boy Max who is her hand-holding partner on the walk to the playground. Well today Real Estate Dad picked her up and asked how her first day back was. She said it was "noisy." Chubs is not one for anything loud. Real Estate Dad asked why it was noisy and she said because everyone was yelling and screaming her name when she walked in to school.

"Except Max. He was the only one who wasn't noisy. I like Max. He's 4."

Of course she likes them older. Just like her mama. And of course she likes the one boy who doesn't seem to notice her. Also like her mama.

I Hate School

Surprise #474 about kindergarten. Kindergartners have homework. Every night there are two pages of homework that have to be done, for a package of 10 that have to be turned in each Monday.

What. The. F.....

The first day was okay.  Painful, but okay. It took about an hour longer than it should have but it was done.

The second day I said "M, it's time to do your homework." She said, "I don't want to."

And that is the routine we've acted out nightly. There are nights that Real Estate Dad and I are just too tired or annoyed to fight with her. I tried telling her that this is the first of many many nights of homework and she got pissed. And you know what? I don't blame her one stinking bit.

Who the hell decided kids in kindergarten should have homework? My forehead is crinkling right now even typing that out because it pisses me off. Homework for kindergartners is really just homework for the parents and no. Just no. I'm way too busy to spend hours of time begging and coaxing and then helping with the homework. I don't think I had homework until maybe 4th grade. I can't even remember but I know it wasn't kindergarten.

Argh. School

I'm Clearly Unprepared...For All of This

The first week of kindergarten is off to a somewhat hilarious start. On Day 2, M announced that she had a boyfriend. I asked his name. She didn't know.
Real Estate Dad said, "Yep, you are just like your mother. She didn't know any of their names either."
M said she wanted to wear her fancy purple dress with the flowers (read: Dress we found in that morass in the center of Costco) to see if her boyfriend noticed or said anything. And, scene.
How the hell did we get here?
Today we asked how school was and she told us "Well, I went into the bathroom and someone had pooped and there were all these little balls of poop floating in the toilet and they couldn't flush it so I had to help them flush it so that all the poop would go down."
Real Estate Dad wanted to know what her teachers were doing when she was plunging the toilet. I wanted to know who clogged the joint. She told me the girl with the lipstick. I looked over at Real Estate Dad and said, "Oh yeah, one of the kids on the first day had full on bright pink lipstick. It was funny and yet slightly jarring." M said, "Yeah, that's her. She's the one who clogged the toilet.
I would tend to not believe M, but it's obvious when she lies. When she's telling the truth she's pretty quick and deadpans it.
Can't wait for tomorrow! It's like a hilarious soap opera with no bad ending!

Forgive Me, I've Been Remiss

It's been months I realize, but this summer we scored the most excellent Summer Nanny! Truthfully, I robbed her from her place of business which also happened to be Chubs's longtime tumble gym where we're not allowed to poach teachers but hell. I couldn't resist. And my intuition was on point. Summer Nanny rocks! So how does Summer Nanny result in me not updating here? Simple. I was able to crank out an insane amount of work this summer thanks to Summer Nanny raising my kids. As in, I closed more homes for clients now than I did last year for the entire year. And we've got 4 months to go.

Sadly, those 4 months will be without Summer Nanny. Cue, sadface.

Several weeks ago, I checked out M's elementary school website after we had not received any mail about the upcoming school year and who her Kindergarten teacher was. There was a school supply list posted on the Kindergarten page, and then another list on each of the teacher pages. The lists were similar but not identical. So I started purchasing the items that were on both the general list and most of the teacher lists.

Well what I fool I am. Here's what I didn't know. THOSE LISTS CHANGE! ALL THE TIME!!!

D'oh! So finally a couple weeks before school we received mail with teacher assignments. Great! After I google stalked her teacher to make sure she was young* I then consulted the supply list. Seemed like I had done a decent job and only needed to pick up a few more items. I placed an order online, picked that up from Wal Mart and I was done. 

So I thought.

Suddenly, I was in possession of way too many glue sticks (the lists said buy 12, now they only wanted 5,) and the wrong color construction paper, and we no longer needed crayons.  What? Where did the crayons go? And some items on the "girl list only" seem to have moved to the boy list so I have the wrong gender supplies. Or something. I mean, the supplies aren't gender related or anything. And I'm missing pencils. I'm missing Ticonderoga Primary Tri-Write Pencils. Off to Amazon only to find that those 12 pencils will cost around $20. What. The. Hell. But there was one seller selling them for $5. Great. Order placed.

And two weeks later, no pencils. I checked Amazon and it pretty much boils down like this: Since the day I placed my order, that seller received 96 1-star comments saying they were a scam artist and never shipped the item and did not respond to inquiries. I tried to place a refund order and it said the seller no longer exists on the Amazon Platform. I want my $5.00!!!! Or my pencils. Christ.

Since "Megan's" storefront on Amazon was declared a farce, I started looking other places and couldn't find any better pricing or selection. I decided to look in person. I went to Office Depot and they had the triangular pencils but not "My First" size which is large. I went to CVS and they had the "My First" pencils but not triangular. I went to Staples and they had them! Except they were black rubbery type of wood even though the box said wood. Shit. I can't buy these because they need to look like the pencils in the picture which are yellow.

The funniest part of this is twofold.

1) M knows how to write with a regular pencil already and;

2) These are communal supplies, not for her specifically. So really, I'm spending all this time looking for pencils for the kids whose parents actually loved them enough to keep them home until this very day instead of sending them off into the wilds of Daycare and Pre-K where they learned, among other things, how to write. Except for the letter "E," to which M adds many many dashes, not just the ones at the top, middle and bottom. But she gets an A+ for this because I used to do the same exact thing.

In total, there are probably about 8 hours of my life I can't get back due to these stupid elusive pencils and the fact that I'm a complete amateur at this. Maybe this is like those secret clubs where you have to know the location and secret word to get inside. The moms "in the know" got these pencils months ago and here I am, the day before school starts, still scrambling.

I'm better at real estate, clearly.

And, because you're still waiting for the explanation of the asterisk, here.

*M has to have a young teacher because if her teacher is old, she's liable to call her an "old bat" which is what I call every old lady driver on the road and M now thinks this is what you call old ladies - they are either Yiayia's or old bats.

But I'M (sob) NOT (yawn) TIRED!

Here you go. Another expert parenting gem from my small bag of wisdom. I now attack bedtime with complete sarcasm.

Every night for the last two weeks it's "I'M NOT TIRED!" How familiar those words are. I can remember sitting at the top of the stairs in my house screaming the same thing to my parents. I was willful, I could stay awake for hours.

I've tried it all. There's no reasoning, there's no reminding them how hard it is for them to wake up for school, there's no promises of fun stuff tomorrow if they go to bed now because NOTHING WORKS.

Tonight when the I'm not tired crap started I said, "Fine. Just lay in bed. I'll come back at 3 in the morning and if you're still awake, we will get out of bed and go to a party."

Pirate: Really?

Me: Yes, really. But you have to be awake. That's the rule. Lay in the bed, don't get up, stare at the ceiling and at 3 if I come in here and your eyes are open, we are going.

Chubs: Can I go to the party too?

Me: Chubs, it won't be a party without you, of course you can go.

I left their room around 9.

Real Estate Dad asked what my plan was if they were by some stroke of insanity, awake at 3. I said, "I guess we'll go to Steak and Egg."

A few minutes later we heard little feet scurrying around. Real Estate Dad went upstairs because he heard Chubs talking. He came back down.

Real Estate Dad: She's up there waiting for the party. I don't know how she doesn't sleep. Ever. She's up all the time. She's the happiest child, all the time.

Me: She is you. You don't sleep because you're afraid you will miss things. She was born 3 weeks early and I was in labor start to end for like 45 minutes because she wanted OUT. She's totally your kid.

Almost 1 a.m. right now. Real Estate Dad texted me from upstairs.

"Finally asleep."

That was a close call. Two hours away from dragging a 2 year old out to some non-existent party. My parenting skills could really use a tune-up.