Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Difference A Year Makes!

The boys went to Monster Jam today.  I remember last year when they went to Monster Jam, or at least when Andy went and little Alex got a conciliatory ice cream cone.  I remember this day, specifically, because we had been house hunting that morning, in a tailspin to figure out where we were going to live as we were shockingly under contract to sell our home.  The very last house we looked at that day, a couple hours before Monster Jam would start, was the house that I sit in now.  I am typing three feet away from where Chris, our realtor (whose catch phrase seemed to be "Just relax."), and myself agreed that this was the house for us.  This house.  The one tucked into the tree lined cul-de-sac one block from the playground, the one with five perfect bedrooms plus a playroom plus a dream kitchen out of a design magazine, plus four bathrooms, a sprawling family room, and a lovely living room and dining room.  That house sounds perfect, don't you agree?  Wonderful!  On paper, that house has it all!  Are you guys rich?  you must be wondering.  How are the schools?  Is it convenient to the expressway?

We sold our other house and moved into this one after the most grueling six weeks of my life.  These are things that I do not recommend doing.  Moving an entire household while six months pregnant with two little boys who try to pack full cups of water.  Making extremely important life and financial decisions while overwhelmed with pregnancy emotions and an almost insurmountable appraisal issue.  Oh, and putting regular dish soap into the dishwasher instead of dishwasher detergent.  It makes a huge, foamy mess that oozes out the sides of the dishwasher and basically floods your kitchen.  Not recommended.

Oh yeah, this house has a weird Tuscan mural, too. We haven't
had the heart to paint over it.  Yet.

Anyway, we moved into this house and immediately twelve things broke.  The downspout detached from the back of the siding.  The garage door broke.  I discovered that literally nothing was attached properly to the wall- the towel hooks, the toilet paper roll holders, the curtain tie backs. The poop vent in the downstairs bathroom detached and hung from an open square in the drywall.  The dishwasher didn't seem to work properly.  The boys' bath faucet had a corroded diverter.  The foggy windows (which we did get a credit for at closing) seemed a million times worse once we moved in. We found a mouse in the basement, basically killing all the joy I'd once had at the aspect of actually having a basement.  We found holes in doors and in walls, cracks in ceilings, crumbled grout.  The dark, murky paint colors the previous owner must have picked during a deep depression start to wear at my soul.  And then the carpeting.  Looked fine walking through the house a few times, but then we moved in... and walking barefoot.. and it was so stiff and flat and worn thin and full of stains that magically didn't seem to show before.  It's like the seller's realtor had sprayed some potion on the carpet to hide the stains during showings.  She was good! And suddenly, we were all moved in and I hated this house.

Emily and mural.
Of course, here it is a year after first seeing this house.  Love's a strong word, but it's probably the right one. We reattached things that were loose, painted over walls, fixed items that were broken.  I even did some grouting, although just so you know, I will never be a professional grouter.  I mean, maybe I might be if I find the right union.  This morning, we ordered new carpet, and today, a fiscal year so to speak of when we first stepped into what would be the (hopefully) forever home for our young family- today the transformation to completion is within reach.  But, of course, we have done more in this year than just move into this house and make it ours.  We welcomed Emily, the beautiful almost nine month old daughter who came home here.  We celebrated the boys turning three and five (and me thirty-five, oddly enough a mash up of their ages).  The boys have filled this house with their various items and joyous smirks and an assortment of semi-funny fart jokes.  Emily has added baby cuteness and some nighttime crying.  Andy started kindergarten this past year, Alex started surprise egg videos, and Emily started crawling.  We've had countless wonderful family moments (and of course many, many moments in which my screaming at the boys would not be suitable blog material for fear of being reported to DCFS.)  Here.  We've lived our lives here.

And now, this year, Alex is old enough to go to Monster Jam.  I have the sinking feeling he will get Monster Jam in addition to ice cream.  And Emily and I are at home, giggling and snacking and marveling on the difference a year makes.  A year, a screwdriver, and some bright yellow paint.

She's mostly giggling and snacking.  I'm marveling.  Everyday, I'm marveling.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Food Man!

The PTO at Andy's school sends a new fundraiser item home nearly every day.  The PTO, or "Parents Tapped Out," as I believe the acronym stands for, is trying to bleed us moms and dads dry- but for a very good reason.  Our schools need money!  Especially Andy's school, which I believe has a bit of a cash flow problem.  It's the MC Hammer of Lake County elementaries.  And so of course I support the PTO, believing that my extra dollars here and there will perhaps help magically boost its average state rating.  "We bumped up from "okay" to "awesome" overnight," I imagine the president of the PTO saying at next year's Back To School night.  "Thanks in part to Mrs. Berger, who diligently purchased only from Smile.Amazon.Com and, without fail, bought into every half-cockneyed money grab we could throw at her!  Also, she paid close to $9,000 in property taxes.  But she also bought tickets to dances and pencils for Valentine's Day, and that's what REALLY pushed us up over the edge!"

The thing is, I really like Andy's school, and most of the PTO events have been fun.  Yet I cringe every time a new flyer falls out of his blue folder at the end of the school day.  I write a check to the PTO every week in one form or another,  At this point, I believe they have my routing and account number on auto-fill at the secretary's office.  The secretary really should act more excited to see me on the occasions that I stop by Andy's class.

There was a food delivery fundraiser around Thanksgiving that I of course took part in.  The food on the company's website looked pretty delicious, and a rather large portion of my purchase would benefit the PTO.  What a no brainer!  I ordered the following items.  A five cheese pizza.  A bag of mozzarella sticks.  Two mushroom and cheese flatbreads.  Frozen philly steak meat.  Four crab cakes. Actually, what I ordered is irrelevant.   So, as I was saying, I placed an order, whispered a "You're welcome, PTO," to my computer screen, and waited the seven days for my foodstuffs to arrive.

The day before Thanksgiving, the food delivery/sales man rolled up to my house in his magical, refrigerated truck.  I met him at the door, where he introduced himself (Nice to meet you, Scott.) and went into a long spiel about all of the delicious food type stuff he has in his truck and what to do if I'm not home during my *next* delivery (As if.  But thanks for the freezer bags, Scott.) and about four different scenarios involving what I could do when/if I needed more crab cakes or was even mildly dissatisfied with my mozzarella sticks.  The man was thorough, to say the least.  Before finally leaving me with my bag of food, he explained that he was in my area every two weeks and he'd see me again soon.  (Wait, what, Scott?)  A little confused, but thinking our transaction was basically complete (The PTO did get paid, right, Scott?), I closed the door behind him and tried to get on with my life, first throwing out the wrapped up poopy diaper I'd been holding the whole time.

And so my life continued its whirlwind of PTO donations, overbuying perishables, television binge watching, and fishing miniature superhero figures out of my baby's mouth.  Then one overcast afternoon, the doorbell rang.  Alex jumped up off the couch, hoping against hope that it was the package man with a bubble-wrapped package for him. Alas, it was just Scott, having returned as vaguely promised to stand on my doorstep and launch into his sales pitch about coupon codes and turkey drumsticks.

"No, we're good, don't need to buy anything else," I told him after politely and patiently listening.  "And you don't need to stop by again.  I'll just order online if I want something."

"Oh, I'm in the neighborhood every two weeks, so I'll just come by.  See you soon!"  And off that man ran before I could further protest.

"Mommy, where's my package?"  Alex asked.  "What, no package?  I'm just so.... angry!"

Another two weeks went by.  We had an exciting Christmas and a New Year's Eve in which I reveled in having a young baby and being able to go to sleep no later than 11, just how I like it.  Then one morning, I woke up and I knew it my gut what day it was.  Crap.  The food man was going to come. I'd been meaning to find a way to go online and figure out how to cancel his appearances, but time gets away from you when you're yelling at young children and explaining why your son's shoddily crafted Lego tower is a piece of architectural garbage and will always fall down, every single time.

"Listen," I told the boys that afternoon, huddling them together in the darkest corner of our kitchen.  Andy was home from school early, and it was me and my young children versus the impending visit of the food man.  "If the doorbell rings, I'm not going to answer it.  So don't make any noise or go running to it.  Okay?"

"Why not?"  they asked, mystified that we even had the option not to open our door to its ringing bell.

"Well, it's the food man.  I don't want to buy his food.  I told him to stop coming and he keeps showing up.  He's kind of a weird guy, honestly.  He talks too much.  I'm just not in the mood today.  Besides, the mushroom flatbread was not delicious and had an odd smokey undertone.

"Okay," they agreed solemnly.  Then Andy whispered, "Is he here yet?"

The next hour went by with the boys stealthily peeking out the front window and tiptoeing around as if the food man could sense movement from his traveling refrigerated food mobile.  Suddenly, after Alex, Emily, and I had started to relax in the playroom with ten twenty-four piece puzzles, the doorbell rang, its ding ominously asking, "For whom does the bell toll?"  Andy let out a little shriek from the kitchen, where he'd been playing on the lap top, and immediately dropped to his knees and army crawled his way over to the rest of us.  "The food man is here!" he hissed.  Alex's face transformed into a mask of sheer panic, and he quickly found a blanket for us to hide beneath while Andy rolled into a corner and tucked himself in behind a box of toys.

It was like there was a crazed murderer after us instead of a talkative older gentleman who was knowledgeable about frozen meats.

We waited a minute or two longer, and then the doorbell rang again, insistently.  I half expected to hear his voice waft through the vents:  I know you're in there.  Alex trembled next to me, and Andy whispered, "Let's go look to see if he's gone yet."  I agreed, scooping Emily into my arms (who had been obliviously sucking on a baby wipe), and we crept down the hall as to peek around the corner at the front door.  Crap!  There was Scott the food man STILL STANDING THERE on the porch, just patiently waiting like a freak.  We turned around and went back to the playroom, where Alex was now standing behind a tower of diaper boxes.  "I'm just hiding from the food man!" he whispered.

Another minute went by, and we ventured out again.  Scott was gone from the porch but had gotten back into his truck and driven around the cul-de-sac only to park across the street from us.  "What is he doing there?"  Andy asked from his hiding spot off to the side of the window.  "Is he... waiting for us?"

"Sure kind of looks that way," I replied.  "Don't worry, he'll go away soon."  And eventually he did.  When I looked out the front door five minutes later, there was a cheerful, but persistent little post it note attached to the glass.  "Sorry I missed you!"  it said.  "I'll be in the neighborhood until 5:00! JUST CALL ME IF YOU NEED ANYTHING."

"I will make it top priority to call the food company and get this guy to stop coming," I promised myself.  "This is ridiculous.  No more hiding like war criminals."  Of course, I promptly forgot, and two weeks later, the doorbell rang.  Alex, who was sitting next to me on the couch, hopped up in fear and cried, "Is it the food man?  Do we need to hide?  OH NO!"

"Oh my God, it is probably the food man!"  My heart sank into my stomach, weighed down by fear and regret.  "But the garage door is open.  He knows we're home.  I have to answer."

Slowly, I plodded to the front door and cracked it open.  "Hi there!" Scott called out.  "Do you need anything?  We're having an amazing sale on chicken breasts!  Lightly breaded!"

"Nope, we're good!"  I replied back, trying to match his sing-song tone.  "Listen, there's no need to stop by.  It's so nice of you, but I'll just order online.  Okay?"

"Oh, okay, but it's really no bother," Scott replied.  "Listen.  There's this email that you should get with a coupon code good through Monday.  Watch for that email.  Or if you want to go grab a pen-"

"I'll check my email, thanks so much, Scott!"  I interrupted brightly, watching Alex crawl under the dining room table from the corner of my eye.  "Have a great day!"

Did I manage to get rid of Scott?  I wondered, closing the door and double locking it while he went off to his truck.  I would find out in two weeks.  Time passed again, uneventfully.  Emily got a tooth and became more mobile.  Andy got another Book-It pizza coupon.  Alex convinced me to have the package man deliver a Thor action figure.  And then it was Wednesday again, and I pulled the boys close to me.

"Listen.  I'm not sure if the food man is coming today or not.  But if the door bell rings, it's probably him."

"So we have to hide," Andy finished for me.

Alex had questions this time.  "Is the food man bad?  Is he going to hurt us?"

"Of course not!"  I answered confidently, although I wasn't quite sure myself.  "But listen.  I just don't want to deal with him."

"Let's yell at him," Alex suggested.  He demonstratively balled up his fists and yelled so hard that his face began to shake.  "GO AWAY, FOOD MAN!  WE DON'T WANT YOUR FOOD!  YOU'RE BAD AND STUPID!  STOP COMING HERE!"

"Or," Andy offered, "We could just tell him politely that we're not interested."

"Both of you are wrong," I said.  "We're just going to do the reasonable thing and hide."

I was in the living room a little while later when I glimpsed the green and orange refrigerated van pull up to my curb.  "OH CRAP," I called out, somersaulting out of the room like a ninja.  "It's the food man!  Everybody down!"

But.  The doorbell didn't ring, and after a few moments, through the silent air in which the boys and the baby and I did our best to not even breathe into, I could hear the food truck starting up again and pulling away from the curb.  He had come to our house.  He had looked at it.  But he hadn't rung the bell.

Weird.  Creepy.  But at least I hadn't had to talk to him.

Will the food man return?  Will I finally just call the company directly to ensure that he doesn't?  Will Alex yell at him that he's dumb and we don't want his food?  Will Andy have a calm conversation with him about not ever returning?  Will he stake out our house from across the street and just do random drive bys?  Will the PTO set up a fundraiser through another food delivery company that simply stuffs its meats and cheeses into my mailbox without sending out a talkative delivery man who will give me and my children no other option but to hide under a blanket while we wait him out?  It's all to be continued.... If I am unable to continue blogging, then let's just put it out there for the record.  It was Scott.  The food man.  On the front porch.  With a ham steak.