Hey, October! How you doin’?

So long, September. And don’t let the door hit you in the you-know-where on the way out!

It’s October. Ahhh. Normally, I don’t think of myself as an October-lover, but this year, I’m welcoming it with open arms. Especially considering how the last few days of September went.

Let’s see. I went to a scrapbook retreat last weekend with my mom-in-law and sisters-in-law. (Fortunately, I my photos and scrapbooking supplies were still in the back of the van from my last scrapbook retreat in July.) It was fun, as always, and I filled in a few gaps for Boy #1’s album. You no longer turn the page from his baptism and see his 6th birthday party! However, when I came home, I had to brace myself for what I knew I’d find. The boys were home alone. (Well, Husband was there, but hello, it’s football season!) At first it wasn’t too bad. Boy #1 had supposedly cleaned the living room, but I still was able to whirl around in three seconds and scoop up 5 cups and pop cans that I knew were there when I left on Friday, so apparently he wasn’t extremely thorough. Boys #2 and #3 had busied themselves with making a “fort” in Boy #2’s room, which consisted of dragging Boy #3’s mattress off his bed and propping it up in Boy #2’s room, in the process knocking things over and dragging other things all over the floor. Excellent.

However, Husband had worked on the laundry and picked up our room, and the messes and “rearrangements” were minor compared to what could’ve happened, or so I thought.

“Uh, something’s wrong with your computer,” Husband told me quickly, like he was ripping a Band-Aid off my arm.

I found my laptop lying, neglected, on the floor of the living room. When I picked it up and cradled it in my arms turned it on, I didn’t see any damage. Well, besides the fact that it was disgusting from what I’m assuming were the boys’ food-covered fingers. Either that or they licked it. Which is entirely possible.

“It’s starting up fine,” I told Husband. But then he said, “Try to type,” and I understood the issue. The only key that would work was the “Return” key. Which isn’t really convenient when you write for a living.

Upon questioning my children, they couldn’t think of anything they’d done to render the typing disabled. They were innocent, they assured me, as innocent as the newly fallen snow.

So Monday evening I turned over my laptop to the Apple Store, where one of the Geniuses informed me that it looked like it had gotten wet. “I am so not suprised,” I said after telling him about my weekend away and my guilty-looking children.

Have I mentioned before that I love Apple? Well, I found another reason to. The technician at the Genius Bar went ahead and covered the repair under my Apple Care program (It probably shouldn’t have been covered, but he said he appreciated my honesty. If I’m nothing else, I’m honest!), and I didn’t realize just how much I would owe him until I picked it up last night. My bill would’ve been $755 if I’d had to pay for it. YIKES! Needless to say, my children will not be coming anywhere near my laptop unless they can show me they have $755 to hand over as a deposit.

Husband teased me about going through withdrawal while my computer was away, but I told him the reason I went to bed at 8:00 was because I didn’t feel well. But he is probably a little bit right. I admit that I found myself caressing the top of my laptop a bit too lovingly last night.

So besides the computer incident, I also got an email this week from Boy #3’s teacher saying that he’d had to stay in for recess because he’d spit out his food at another boy at lunch.

Is that wrong?

What is it with the third kid? Honestly, Boy #1 was perfect in kindergarten. He didn’t break a rule and just sat quietly with his hands folded in his lap. Boy #3’s already gotten in trouble for cutting his shoelace off during math and now spitting his chicken at a kid. This should’ve really been the other way around. Six years ago I had much more energy, and only two kids. I would’ve felt more like dealing with naughty behavior (or at least felt able to). Now I’m creeping closer to 40 with three kids. I’m plum wore out. It would be nice if Boy #3 could have a little mercy on me.

But it’s October, and I’m starting fresh. Today is the first day of the rest of my life! (Or, at least the rest of the month.)

This month will be different. I will gain control of my house. I will gain control of my kids. I will make changes.

And I already started. As of today we have one less pet. This morning, I cleaned Fluffy’s cage, loaded him up cage and all, and took him to the Animal Rescue League. I finally gave up our bird!

This wasn’t easy, obviously, since I’ve been thinking about it since Boy #2 was born 8 years ago. We love Fluffy, but he’s just not happy. He always seems stressed and then screeches this ear-piercing tweet that lasts for hours. And then when we got Teddy, things got worse. Anytime you’d come within a foot of Fluffy, Teddy would sense it and try to attack the poor bird. I’m surprised his little heart hasn’t given out. And no one wanted to take care of him. I can’t imagine why; scraping bird poop out of a food dish is so refreshing! So I was the one to do it, and it wasn’t often enough. I knew if we wanted to sell our house, like we do, we had to simplify.

And that meant giving up the bird.

Our ARL is extremely nice, so I felt good about taking him there. That is, until I walked in and had to wait for this couple who were trying to get their dogs back. Apparently they’d been taken away, and the couple had to pay $130 each in fees before they could reclaim them. The girl was quite possibly pregnant, or maybe just had an unfortunate beer belly, and the guy looked like he’d lost one too many brain cells to a can of Natural Light. Not the brightest bulbs. So imagine my surprise when Mr. Dim Bulb turned to me and asked, “Are you just givin’ that bird away?”

Yeah, my mouth just kind of hung open.

The man continued, “Cuz if you’re just givin’ it away, I’ll take it.”

“Uh…” I stammered, wanting to scream, “Over my dead body, you deadbeat!” Fortunately, the nice woman at the ARL kindly informed him that if he couldn’t afford to reclaim his own pets, he really wasn’t in a position to take home another pet.

I didn’t trust him, though. He kept eyeing Fluffy, and at one point even offered to “help” the ARL: “I can carry his cage back for ya, if ya want,” he told the ARL worker.

Fortunately, again, she was on to his schemes. “No, I’ve got it,” she told him as she  carried Fluffy to safety.

When she came back and I’d signed the paperwork, I asked, in front of the couple, “So, do you screen people before you let them adopt the pets?” And she informed me that yes, they do have qualifications. “Not just anyone can take care of a bird,” she told me.

I don’t think Mr. Dim Bulb agreed. I’m sure he thought he could just take him home and throw a worm in his cage. I feel really bad for the one dog the couple could afford to buy back and secretly hope that they don’t come up with the money for the other one. Maybe it can get adopted to people who aren’t idiots.

Oh, did I mention that the couple started feeling each other up as we were standing there too? But how can I blame them. There is something very sexy about being in an animal shelter, wooed by the frantic barking of dogs. Especially when you’re there to explain that you can’t afford to pay for your own dogs’ fees, who were neglected in the first place. And you look like you haven’t showered in a week. Makes me wanna make out with my honey just thinking about it!

I’m going to initiate a list of places where it’s NOT okay to make out:

  1. animal shelter
  2. dentist’s office
  3. grocery store

These are all based on actual makeout sessions I have witnessed. My list of ones I’ve yet to witness (and hope never to) would obviously be much longer. I’ll work on that in my spare time.

So now I’m going to sweep up the dried bird poop and feathers that are on the floor where our cage used to be, and then I’m going to see how long it takes for the family to notice that Fluffy is gone. Anyone in a betting mood?

So with one animal down (and hopefully one to go, if I can ever get up enough nerve), I am working toward control of my household. Next on the list is cleaning and organizing. Which I should be doing now. Instead of being on the computer…

I need you all to hold me to this. I want to be able to report changes by Halloween!

And now I’m off to scrub poop off a Star Wars ship. (If only I were kidding…)

Photo from micahelaw

Just Another Relaxing Trip to the Grocery Store

Why is it that a simple run to the grocery store with kids in tow is never—simple? You know how grocery stores use “shopper psychology” when they design stores, purposely putting the milk in the far back corner of the store so you’ll have to walk by the Oreos on your way there, or putting the sugar-crack cereal at children’s eye level, knowing that by Aisle 6 the parents have already been worn down and will likely give in to their kids’ begs and pleads? Well, I have a hunch that they also have some special gas that they pump into the air that makes kids go temporarily insane. Seriously. I mean, where is the one place you can always count on your kids throwing themselves down on the floor? Yep, the supermarket. It’s a conspiracy, I’m telling you!

Take for instance my experience today. I only needed a few items and had limited time, so I thought I was relatively safe for a quick stop at Hy-Vee with Boys #2 and #3 before Boy #1 arrived home on the school bus. In and out. Really, how hard could it be?

Well, I’m not kidding when I tell you that it started the moment the kids’ feet crossed the threshold of the automatic door. First, Boy #2 had to “help me” push the cart. (Imagine me doing big sarcastic finger quotation motions when I say “help me.”) Apparently “helping me” push the cart means ducking under my arm, which is attached to the cart handle, and popping up so he’s now in between me and the cart. So now we must try to walk and push the cart in unison, except I have to now walk with my legs about twice as far apart as I normally walk. And I have to walk twice as slow. And my vision is slightly impaired by the nearly 8-year-old who is smack-dab in front of me. And this left Boy #3 just on his own, walking off to the side. This was not necessarily an ideal situation for any of us. Finally I convinced Boy #2 that this really was not working (after taking several deeeeep breaths) and so instead he climbed on the back of the cart, and Boy #3 climbed on the side. And I attempted to push a combined 100-pound lopsided cart.

“Maybe if I give one of them a job,” I thought, “this will be easier.” Thus begans my boys’ introduction to the World of Coupons. It begins with a BOGO coupon for Wholly Salsa, an exciting find as this salsa is really good! I asked Boy #2 if he would like to be in charge of holding the coupons once we find the products. He accepted the challenge, but not before I warned him about how valuable those little clippings were. “If you lose this,” I told him, “it’s like losing $4.” “Whoa,” he said, obviously impressed at my advanced couponing skills. But apparently he wasn’t impressed enough to actually hold on to the coupons as we had to stop and look for one at least three different times before I finally said, “Do you want me to just hold on to the coupons?” and he answered, “Yes.”

In a further attempt to keep my boys halfway sane and also get some “good mom” points (from whom, I’m not sure, though), I incorporated a little math lesson into our jaunt down the cereal aisle. Now, you must understand that cereal is a staple in our house. Further up on the food chain than bread and maybe even milk considering the boys would rather eat their cereal dry than go without cereal just because we’re out of milk. So we spend a lot of time in the cereal aisle both because we buy a lot of boxes AND because unless I bargain-shop for our cereal, we could spend our month’s house payment on Frosted Mini-Wheats. First, I asked Boy #2 to locate the cereal for which we had coupons. To make it a little more difficult, he had to make sure it was the correct size by looking at the number of ounces. Boy #3 had to get in on the action too, which was fine except that he managed to run in front of every other person with a shopping cart while searching out the Apple Jacks with the “Whole Grain” symbol on it. And then he wouldn’t move, so engrossed in his quest, and so we’d create a little aisle traffic jam until I could grab his arm and finally get his attention so he could get out of the way. Boy #2 did enjoy figuring out how much one box of cereal would be when the sign said “5/$10,” which I realized he did when he said, “Mom, if we buy two boxes it’s $4.” And coupons started getting more exciting when he realized that if we bought two boxes of cereal that were 5/$10, and we used a coupon for $2 off two boxes of cereal, “Hey, we’ll get one box free!”

A few aisles later and I was seeing the light at the end of the dairy case tunnel. However, on the way we had to pass one of the boys’ most coveted items—string cheese. They could smell it an aisle away . . . and the whining began. “Please, mom? PLEASE?!” I know, I know, it’s not like they were begging for a 5-pound bag of jelly beans or a case of Twinkies. But dang! String cheese is expensive! Especially when they devour an entire $6.98 package in one evening. (Not to mention what all that cheese does to their digestive system!) But, worn down as I was (Curse you, shopper psychology!), I was convinced to purchase a smaller package of Twisted String Cheese with the promise that they would each only eat ONE piece per day AND they would throw away their wrapper instead of tossing it onto the floor. (I know, I’m so weak!)

Next it was on to the milk aisle where I had to give my prerecorded “We don’t need to buy chocolate milk when we can make our own chocolate milk” speech. By this time, the “insanity gas” must’ve really gotten to them because if it’s possible, I think they actually wriggled all the way to the check-out aisle, arms extended and grabbing anything within arm’s length on the way.

When we pulled into Aisle 9, I saw that the guy in front of me had 4 little kids with him, including a baby, all by himself. I was hoping that would make us, with only 2 kids in tow, look a little bit better. But probably not. Especially considering Boy #3 not only put a economy-sized bag of candy on the conveyor belt and then did the whole “What?” innocent act when I told him to put the candy back. And as I was trying to dole out my coupons and run my debit card through the machine, I had to also keep an eye on each boy with my peripheral vision because Boy #2 was pushing buttons on the debit machine while spinning and flailing his arms, and Boy #3 went from grabbing a whole stack of greeting-card sacks to standing beside the next checker over and acting like he was going to start punching numbers into the cash register to trying to get his fingers stuck in the conveyor belt to pulling out the little check-writing ledge so the next person would run into it.

By the time we got out of there, I was sweating and I’m sure my blood pressure had increased quite dramatically. The boys, however? They were oblivious. Again—the gas? It had to be because as I was giving myself some mental affirmations and taking my calming breaths so I didn’t flip out, the boys were all smiles, like they’d just had the time of their lives.

Oh well. At least I managed to get enough groceries so that I won’t have to go back until, well, tomorrow . . . Ugh.

Image courtesy of x-ray delta one on flickr

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