Monday, August 22, 2011

The Whine-a-lots

We are a family of whiners. 

I used to think it was just the kids... but then I listened to myself... and realized that, in our house at least, whining is a learned behavior. Of course, when I do it, its called nagging.

You would think the youngest whiner would be the biggest offender, but no!  The order of hierarchy goes something like this:  Momster (that's me) Only Son, Third Child and then Bonus Baby

Firstborn, Sweetie Petite-y and Husband barely register on the whining scale... but rarely, just like an erratic heartbeat, they too make their displeasure known.

I whine alot* about messes - scattered toys, dirty dishes in the living room, trash and wrappers missing the basket, balled-up socks everywhere, and, oh yeah - BEDROOMS ALA CYCLONE!  Not that the rest of the house escapes unscathed, (no one would ever see the gorgeous, hand-crafted deacon's bench that Father-In-Law made if the Critters had their way) but the Critter-dens collect detritus quicker than a blind alley behind McD's!

I whine alot* about Critters spending too much time in front of a screen, and not enough getting their hands dirty - and I don't mean making mud pies!

I whine alot* about having to scrimp and make do, and about my latest aches and pains.

I whine alot* about whining alot* about whining* --- it's a vicious cycle.

Only Son whines* about  limits on his screen time, doing chores, doing more than his fair share (ha!), getting his hair cut, whatever is for dinner, homework, and his sisters - especially when they're in the bathroom.

Third Child whines* about not having the latest and greatest, well... everything!  Including her own room.

Bonus Baby whines* about no more potty training treats, not enough play dates, wanting "just two more minutes" before bedtime and one more verse of whatever the lullaby du jour may be.  Come to think of it, she's the only one who really has anything worth whining about.

Bonus Baby whines mostly to me, Only Son and Third Child whine at everyone, and, while I nag the Critters, I whine to Husband.  And he doesn't like it...

Then again, neither do I. 

So, what to do about all of this whining?

I tried posting mantras - you know, power of positive thinking blurbs - taped in inconspicuous (but heavily trafficked) areas of the house - like computer monitors and the door jam of every bathroom and Critter den.  Some are for everyone's benefit, and others for my sanity....

Spend your dash wisely.
(if you don't get it, think tombstones...)

Lord, may I be a blessing to those I meet today.

Bless me as I bless others.

Deal gently.

...and my new personal favorite (which I recently found on a wooden shingle and hung above the Critter's school portraits)

Thou Shalt Not Whine!

I'm the only one who notices them any more...

Bonus Baby can't read yet, so she's off the hook.  As are Husband, Firstborn and Sweetie Petite-y since they've already got the message.  And for the rest?  I'm considering stronger measures. 


*The above lists in no way encompass the breadth of actual complaints.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Aunties

Among our many reasons for the family road trip, seeing The Aunties ranks right at the top of the Critters' list.  Pretty much mine too.

And while most disclaimers come at the end of something, just let me preface the remainder of this post by saying that these rocking Midwest ladies are some of my favorite people in the whole world.  I love them all dearly, and am pretty sure they love me right back... which is why I can poke fun at them with impunity!

Not that I would ever do such a thing!  No, if Husband's Sisters are looking at this and laughing right now it's because of how accurately I have depicted them.  In fact, if they know how to, I'm pretty sure they will each enlarge the above image to check out their eye color, what that is in Bobby Lou's hand, and whether or not you can see Auntie JuneBug's tattoo. (You can!)

For years now I've wanted to do a pencil portrait of them similar to the one I did of Husband's Brothers...

 but who has time?

Besides, this is how I usually see them given that we spend our vacations together.  And even when we don't get in much beach time - or, ahem!... when someone doesn't make it to the reunion - this is how they are indelibly imprinted on my mind.

Sometimes they actually make it into the water.


That would be Auntie-In-Law.  She can swim rings around the other Aunties - literally. 

She's as much a favorite as the others.  Besides swimming (and biking, kayaking, hiking, and visiting places on her ever-expanding bucket list) she usually hosts us in The Orange Room above her garage for a night or two each summer.  This privilege (for us) includes scrumptious homemade meals, homemade wine, computer expertise, poolside lounging and free psychological evaluation.

And this would be Auntie Faux.  She is Auntie M.'s best friend, and just like cubic zirconium, it's hard to tell the difference between her and the real thing.  Each year she and her family (which includes some very pampered four-legged Faux Cousins) camp with us.  Thanks to her, my Critters actually get to see an occasional vacation picture. (Note where the camera was last post...)

Besides vacationing together with the whole family, Husband's Sisters get together for occasional W.A.M. Weekends.  I would tell you what W.A.M. stands for, but, as Husband would say, then I'd have to kill you. 

I have only attended one of these due to distance.  As I remember, it was a lot of fun - dressing up, going out to dinner, sharing stories...

...but not as much fun as the last W.A.M. Weekend I heard about.  The evening started out much the same...

Then, thanks to Auntie-In-Law, a novelty cocktail was introduced...

Another pumpkin Martini anyone?

(There are two additional Aunties-In-Law who live "out of state":  Auntie M2 has only made the reunion a few times, but Auntie Real Live Poet hasn't even met most of the Critters (What a shame! Who's to blame?) as our vacations rarely coincide. Neither of them should, however, be lulled into thinking that they are above becoming blog fodder...)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Family Reunion

It's a yearly event, one most of us anxiously await...

...or dread...

...or in my case both.

It involves a major road trip for us, and that means the family manager - that would be me - kicks into overdrive.  This year though, for whatever reason, I wasn't too stressed out.  I made my usual lists:  what to buy, what to pack, what to remember to do before we left, and a half dozen other what-to's that got added to with stunning regularity.  OCD'er that I am, of course I write in and check off anything that I accomplish that isn't already on the list.  By the time (pre-dawn!) we pulled out in a fully loaded Vantana, four pages of exed-out lines in double columns on both sides were stacked neatly on the freshly wiped counter.

Since both Husband and I are displaced Midwesterners, we make an effort to visit both our families in one fell swoop.  With the size of our clans however, that's harder than it sounds.  This year, odds were better since both family reunions were scheduled for the same week.

Husband's Family religiously books sites in January for our week long, summer camping family reunion (the date of which is determined around the campfire a year in advance).  Or, I should say, Hubby's Sister #3 does the booking.  The rest of us depend on her tenaciousness in securing a block of connected sites approaching the size of Rhode Island.  She swears timing is everything.

For nearly a week we are immersed in communal family living - we, who live at far distances reveling in the proximity of loved ones, the within-staters tolerating it for the sake of family unity.  And whenever individual space is needed, a nap in tent or camper is never viewed as anything more than typical lazy, vacation fare.

Actually, Husband's Family could serve as a prototype for what families should look like.  Even at their worst they are much better than most.  Family first, but friends by choice - sisters (6), brothers (5), in-laws and outlaws and their offspring (2 apiece for the married ones, our Critters being the exception) and now a generation of babies - most of us actually choosing to spend our yearly vacation time together! 

My Side?  Well, I am one of nine, but my own siblings, I'm sorry to say, are so disparate in lifestyle and beliefs that, other than physical resemblance, we have little in common.  Not that we aren't nice to one another, but often it is the politeness of strangers.

...or maybe it's just me...

...or... it could have something to do with the fact that I live several states away and rarely see the rest.  But barring some cataclysmic event involving earthquakes and within-continental drift, that isn't likely to change.

I had hoped that this year would be different.  After all, it's been nine years since we all gathered for our parent's 50th wedding anniversary.  And now that Dad has cancer, I'm pretty sure we're all making more of an effort to keep in touch, at least with our parents.  But during the My Side portion of our trip, not everyone stayed at the same place, so the only time we had all together was our single afternoon, extended family reunion.

There were dozens of other clan members to touch base with - long forgotten cousins, distant several-times-removed folk, beloved aunts, uncles and more... so many that my Critters were a bit overwhelmed by it all, and earned an unprecedented reputation for being shy!

Taking after my Father, I find myself having to talk with every single person present no matter where I am.  Put me in a situation where there are not only familiar faces, but histories and....well, let's just say, if Hubby had had a roast in the oven, it would've burnt to a crisp!  (No, there were no roasts at the reunion, and come to think of it, I have never known Hubby to cook one... but, no matter, Mom will get the reference.)  What I mean is, there just wasn't enough time to reestablish ties with everyone, even though I tried, by gum!  I felt horrible when I realized how the crowd had thinned and there were several people I hadn't done more than say hello to.

Belatedly, I realized that  my older Critters had the right idea.  They went swimming with an uncle and cousin or two, and ignored the rest of us.  And had a great time.

Of course, it took half an hour to "sneak" out, but toward the end of the reunion, I grabbed Husband and Bonus Baby and went swimming too. Other of my siblings joined us, and soon half of the clan was making pyramids and playing the same water games we had as children.  So... it may not have been the reunion I dreamt of, but it turned out pretty well all the same.

Oh, and apologies again to the tall, blond contingent that ended up at the wrong beach....