Is My Name Google?

People. They’re the worst. Especially helpless people. Especially helpless people who are also bossy. Especially helpless and bossy people who are demanding and ungrateful. Especially helpless, bossy, demanding, and ungrateful people who interrupt me.

I’m hanging out in the coffee shop this afternoon. I’m antsy, and just needed to chill out and not be driven insane by my children. David is probably not particularly thrilled with being home with them, but when you’re 14, you don’t always have a lot of choices. So I’m listening to my earphones and editing some photos, applying for some jobs. Just doing some stuff that is easier to do when you don’t have a kid declaring his hunger or telling on his brother every five minutes.

So I’m plugging merrily along, and a late middle-agish woman comes up to my table. I thought she was just waiting for her coffee, until she tapped on my table and waved at me. I took out my earphones, even though Jim Rome was in the middle of a pretty funny rant about some new thing called “spray cake,” you know, in case going to the trouble of baking a cake, and eating it with a fork and plate is too daunting of a task for you.

Her: “Excuse me. I don’t know anything about computers, even at the library, and I’m wondering if you could help me with something.”
Me: “Sure.” I got up, thinking she had something wrong with her computer she wanted me to troubleshoot.
Her: “Oh no, can you check something on your computer?”
Me: “Oh, ok. Yeah.”
Her: “I’m not interrupting what you’re doing, am I?”
Me: “No. It’s fine.”
Her: “Can you look up and see if the county fair is going on right now?”
Me: “Oh, the Carver County Fair is actually in August.”
Her: “But can you see if there are any other county fairs going on today?”
Me: “Oh. Yeah, I guess.” I searched “Minnesota County Fairs” and found a link for Fairs & Festivals on the Explore Minnesota website. I scrolled through, but didn’t see any fairs this weekend, but read off some festivals going on in Hastings and Fargo.
Her: “No, I mean just the metro area. Are you looking at the metro area?”
Me: “Well, yeah, this has metro area information.”
Her: “But I don’t want anything from outstate, just Dakota County, Hennepin, Scott County. The metro area.”
Me: “Right, but I don’t think there are any county fairs going on right now.”
Her: “Maybe you should let me see.”
Me: “Ok.” I turned the screen toward her and scrolled through.
Her: “But this says fairs and festivals. Isn’t there something that just has county fairs?”
Me: “Well, I think they’d be included in this.”
Her: “Can’t you type in just Minnesota county fairs?”
Me: “Sure.” I went back to my search results and found a link for “MN 2014 County and State Fair, Events and Festivals” as she now moved behind me to look directly over my shoulder.
Her: “Is this just county fairs now?”
Me: “I think so. It really looks like most of them don’t begin until the end of July. The Otter Tail County one is this weekend.”
Her: “That’s Fergus Falls.”
Me: “Yeah, I know, but it looks like that and Wabasha are the only ones really happening right now.”
Her: “There’s Kittson County. Where’s that?”
Me: “Um, I really don’t know, it says Hallock.”
Her: “I just want the METRO area.”
Me: “I know, it looks like Scott County is the closest, and it starts next week.”
Her: “Oh, there’s Jordan. Is that Scott County?”
Me: “Yes, that’s the one that starts the 23rd.”
Her: “I can’t really see the dates, where are the dates? What is today?”
Me: “The 18th.”
Her: “Are these all in date order?”
Me: “It appears so.”
Her: “There’s Washington County, but I just want the metro area.”
Me: “I know. It just doesn’t look like there is anything this weekend.”
Her: “What’s that one in Hastings? Oh, an antique show. I thought these were just county fairs?”
Me: “Um, I guess there are some other things on this list too.” I scrolled up and realized I was on a County Fairgrounds USA site.
Her: “Oh so this is fairgrounds. This must also list things that are going on at the fairgrounds. Can you type in something that JUST has COUNTY fairs?”
Me: “Well, I think they’d be included on this.” GEORGE IS GETTIN’ UPSET!
Her: “Oh. So I guess they maybe don’t have something with just county fairs.” (I feel like she really meant, “Oh, you’re just too lazy or stupid to find the correct website.”)
Me: “I think pretty much everything is right here.”
Her: *SIGH* “Well, I guess now I know that Jordan is next week.”
Me: “Yeah.”
Her: “Well, thanks.”
Me: “Sure.”

I hope she steps in manure while she’s there. Metro area manure.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Love Love

I played a lot of tennis as a kid, honing my skills by using the outdoor racquetball courts at the local community college as a backboard. Not many of my friends played tennis, especially anyone in the neighborhood, so my usual partner was my little brother. He was not an especially gracious loser. A typical match with him consisted of multiple contested line calls, abrupt rule changes, scoring arguments, and fits of pique that often resulted in him launching tennis balls over the fence. Many times I would just get disgusted with him, and stop playing, which resulted in him declaring that if I “quit,” he would be the winner.

Flash forward 25 years later, and Justin has taken an interest in tennis. I love that, because it gives me an opportunity to get back out on the court again after a very long hiatus when I had tiny kids. Unfortunately the experience is eerily reminiscent of those old days with my brother, leaving me feeling exasperated, frustrated, and angry.

Yesterday morning I took Cameron (age 11), Justin (age 8), and Alex (age 7) out to hit around. The fun began when Justin insisted on playing “a real game,” despite the fact that he can only get one of five balls back over the net. Of course that is my fault because if I hit one to his backhand side, he complains vociferously. “Stop hitting it there! I can’t do LEFTY!!!” But if I hit it to his forehand, Cameron would step over and attempt to hit it in front of him, resulting in clashes over whose ball was whose.

Justin’s biggest problem is that his expectations are way too high. He thinks that even though he’s never had a formal lesson, and has only played a handful of times this summer, that he should be playing at the level of a Roger Federer or Andy Murray. And when he misses a shot, he swings his racquet in disgust, yelling at himself like John McEnroe.

We arrived with three cans of tennis balls, nine balls. At one point I used the last ball in my pocket, and Cameron hit one that rolled to the fence by the far court. I needed another ball to start a rally, but only saw the one that had been hit over the fence, still lying in the grass. What happened to all the balls? I asked Justin how many he had in his pockets. Evidently all of them, which he refused to give up, and insisted I run over and get the one that was by the fence. Eventually we coaxed him to let us use some of the balls from his pockets, but admonished Cameron when he hit another one astray. “I’m not letting you use my balls if you keep HITTING them!”

Ages ago I got clocked in the face while playing the net. The ball hit me right in the eye, bruising my cornea. My pupil was constricted for a week. That was more enjoyable than what was happening with Justin at this moment. Another car pulled up, and out jumped a dad and his two kids, an older boy who was quite good, and a kid about the age and talent level as Cameron. “Care if we join you?”

“Sure,” I said, secretly thinking, “Do it at your own risk.”

Justin then couldn’t concentrate until we retrieved our ball that was on the side of their court. “MOM! They have our ball!”

Nothing could convince him that it wasn’t a big deal, and that I was sure they’d kick it over when they had a chance. That’s when Dad started barking orders at his kids in Russian. Or maybe it was just coaching. Kind of everything spoken in Russian sounds ominous. Chalk it up to growing up during the Cold War. But Justin was intimidated, and refused to play on the side of the court adjacent to them, but of course Cameron wouldn’t trade places with him. After hitting about ten balls onto their court, I suggested we move to the kid-sized courts on the other side of the fence.

They actually did a little better on those courts, but everyone wanted to be on my side. There isn’t enough room for three people on a junior court, but every time I moved to another side, someone would follow me, and someone would cry about being left. Finally I just told Justin and Cameron to play a set by themselves, and Alex and I would hit on our own on another court. That remained friendly for about two minutes, and then the arguments about line calls, scores, etc. began. My favorite of Justin’s arguments: “It’s not fair if you hit it good and I can’t get it! That’s MY point then.”

The day came to its inevitable conclusion when each one insisted he was the winner, and Justin threw his racquet at Cameron.

Game. Set. Match. We’re outta here.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014


No Girls Will Want My Hair Like This

IMG_0006Justin and Alex were having a conversation at dinner last night about having kids.

Justin: “Mom, will Alex be the uncle for my daughter?” (Justin has decided a while back he’s having a baby girl.)
Me: “Yes.”
Alex: “Can uncles be girls?”
Me: “No, uncles are boys.”
Alex: “And Justin will be my uncle.”
Me: “Your kids’ uncle. And David and Cameron’s kids.”
Alex: “I KNOW! That’s what I mean. Will I be uncle for David and Cameron?”
Justin: “Yeah, Alex. And me.”
Alex: “But how do you even get babies?”
Justin: “Shhhh! You know.”
Alex: “Oh yeah, Mom, we know. Dylan, on the bus, told us.”
Jennifer: “Oh. Ok.”
Justin: “Yeah, but I’m not gonna do the thing. I’ll just adopt my kids.”
Alex: “Eeeeww, I’m not doing the thing either. I just won’t have any.”
Me: (Silent. Wondering what exactly they think “the thing” is.)
Justin: “What if you don’t find a wife?”
Me: “You’ll find one.”
Justin: “But no, what if you don’t?”
Me: “Then I guess you just stay single.”
Justin: “And that’s it?”
Me: “Don’t worry, you’re cute. And sweet. Lots of girls will like you.”
Justin: “No, I’m not cute. My eyes are weird like this.”
Me: “You have pretty eyes.”
Justin: “Well, no girls will want my hair like this. They’ll want it, like, cut, and with a style.”
Me: “Maybe.”
Justin: “And I can’t eat bad stuff because then my mouth will smell, and girls won’t like that. For kissing.”
Me: “Better keep brushing your teeth then.”
Justin: “And my eyes don’t look good.”
Me: “Why don’t you like your eyes? You have beautiful blue eyes.”
Justin: “But I’ll have to do something to my hair.”
Me: “I guess.”
Justin: “Can we go play tennis?”

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Cup Nuts

So one thing I never knew about until David was seven years old, and starting his first year of baseball was protective cups and athletic supporters, or more commonly known as jock straps. I didn’t understand how you put your feet into them, which way the cup was supposed to go, or how they should fit. My husband dealt with it initially, but since then I’ve become relatively well-schooled in the subject since it generally falls to me to get a gaggle of Little Leaguers dressed out pretty much every night May through June.

One thing I have not figured out, and would like someone of the male species, or a retailer to explain, is why the athletic supporters are only sold with a cup? Same with compression shorts. The supporters and shorts are good for one or two seasons at best, but the cups are indestructible. As they should be. So I can easily hose those things down with Lysol and Clorox wipes, and they’re ready to be handed down to the next kid, but the rest of the outfit isn’t suitable for man, child, or beast.

As a result, I’m overrun with cups. I have adult cups, youth cups, and peewee (Yes, the size is actually labeled as peewee. Har.) cups in almost any size. It’s like they multiply, and I find them lurking everywhere.

Last night we had a nut cup crisis before Justin and Alex’s game. Their compression shorts were pretty snug, the cups weren’t staying secure, and resulted in ear-piercing cries of:

“It keeps going sideways!”
“It feels weird!”
“It’s too small!”
“It’s too big!”
“It pinches!”
“It moved AGAIN!”
“It’s gonna move when I run!!!!!”

I had to call in David to give Justin a talk about how it was ok to make, ahem, adjustments, on the field, because guys in the MLB are doing that all the time. He actually had some good big brother advice.

“Justin, the only reason it’s there is to stop you from getting hit in the balls and puking. Just ignore it, and if it moves out of place, put it back. Also, I wear a jock strap.”

Alex’s protests were more vigorous. Finally I told him to just take it out. And he did in the car and now I can’t find it in there.

So that leads us back to the why can’t I just buy a supporter conundrum. I went to two places today, looking for jock straps. The first major sports retailer only had compression shorts (with cups), which were the source of the whole mess. So I bought two supporter/cups at the second location, and then got home to find that someone had taken the damn supporter out of the stupid package, leaving only THE CUP! So now I have to make another trip to return it and I’ve wasted over two hours of my life this week on CUP DRAMA!

In the words of Elaine Benes, “I don’t know how you guys walk around with those things.”

Simmer, Don’t Boil

The morning before school routine at my house is a delicate dance, and if you don’t adhere to the intricately choreographed steps it will quickly turn into a clown show.

For example, I know that my 6-year-old will spend the first 15-20 minutes after he wakes up insisting that he’s not going to school. Just go with it. My 8-year-old will refuse to brush his teeth until 5 minutes before the bus comes. Don’t bother nagging until 7:52. My 11-year-old will lie about having brushed his teeth, and will inevitably be searching for something he lost. Call him on it.

It’s all quite simple, if not maddening, and I am well aware that we’re an ill-fitting sock, a mediocre lunch selection, or a missing sketchpad away from full-on meltdown. It’s an extremely volatile environment, and it’s important to keep things at a low simmer, then if something does ignite I can just throw a little baking soda on it or smother it with a lid, and we can move on. You can’t lose your shit with them unless there has been no progress at all, and you have to mean business.

My husband, despite my pleading for him to just get in the shower, get ready for work, and let us be, frequently insists on coming upstairs after his workout to “help.” Unfortunately he brings a full can of gasoline and a lit match with him, and the next thing you know I’m running for the fire extinguisher, which is loud, dramatic, messy, and would have been completely unnecessary had proper protocol been followed.

And guess who is left to clean up the aftermath?

Conversations I Never Thought I’d Have: Part I


He can’t wait to punch something that won’t get him in trouble.

Conversations in a household populated with four boys can be interesting, to say the least. And the most ridiculous part is when I try to respond. I start off perplexed, and end up being totally vested in it.

Justin: “Mom, what’s worse? Getting stabbed with a knife or a scissors?”
Me: “I don’t know. I suppose it would depend on where you’re stabbed.”
Justin: “But which is worse?”
Me: “Neither of them would be good.”
Justin: “But which one is WORSE?”
Me: “A knife.”
Justin: “How about a chainsaw, or, um…a pitchfork?”
Me: “Definitely a chainsaw.”
Justin: “A machete or one of those…like what do you call those ninja knives?”
Me: “You mean throwing stars?”
Justin: “No.”
Me: “A samurai sword?”
Justin: “No, like just a knife with a curve. Like this.” (Draws a swoosh in the air with his fingers.)
Me: “I don’t know. Probably a machete.”

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Enjoy That Onion

I’ve written before about awkward conversations I’ve been forced into at my local grocery store. It seems one cashier is more socially inept than the next. There’s the one who tries to be helpful, I guess, by unintelligibly YELLING at you that you don’t need to take your diet Coke off the bottom of your cart. The one who makes random comments that have nothing to do with anything you’ve ever thought about. Or the one who asks you a thousand questions about your shopping experience. Or the one who won’t make eye contact. Interestingly enough, the one who may or may not be a satan worshipper is the most pleasant and engaging of anyone there.

Today was someone I hadn’t met before. It went a little something like this.

Cashier: “Did you have a good time today?”
Me: “What?”
Cashier: “In the store. Did you have a good time?”
Me: “Uh. I guess.”
Cashier: “It’s okay if you didn’t. I just like to ask.”

I laughed awkwardly, not sure what to make of this conversation. Meanwhile the transaction has stalled because the scale wasn’t working to weigh my single white onion. And the cashier was making even more bizarre comments about how things like this always happened at the most inopportune time. And I continued to smile sheepishly, praying that the thing would work so we could move this along, ready to tell him to either forget the onion, I don’t need it, or to just charge me whatever he wants for it. Just please make this stop.

Finally the woman cashier from the neighboring aisle came over and did something to fix it.

Cashier: “That’s exactly what I was doing. I guess sometimes it just takes a woman’s touch.”
Me: (More nervous laughter because I don’t know how to respond to that.)
Cashier: “I hope you enjoy that onion. Because, you know, it took a lot to get it through.”
Me: “Yeah, I will. I guess.”
Cashier: “You’ll need to slide your card through again. Everything wants to be touched a certain way today.”
Me: “Ok.” (Please stop talking about touching.)

After what seemed like an eternity, I moved quickly to start bagging my groceries, happy to have a task that will keep me from being subjected to further chit-chat. Behind me was YELLING cashier, in civilian clothes, bagging his personal purchases, talking to a woman near him.

Woman: “What’s a chimichanga?”

Get me out of here!

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014