Is It Bad Parenting If I Post a Negative YELP Review on My 11-Year-Old’s New Cleaning Business?

I’ll admit it. I hate vacuuming. I love the end result, but it’s the journey I object to. I don’t even care if it’s done in the diamond-shaped pattern. I just love it clean. Enter, stage left, my enterprising son Jack, now on summer break.  I hate vacuuming enough to pay him $5 a week to do it for me. He even includes the stairs!

Yesterday, the enterprising Master Jack launched his latest get-rich-quick scheme. He’s trying to earn money for his new paintball gun, which I have deemed a “non-essential item” (cue up the voice of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons when you say that in your head) not covered on my list of parental obligatory expenses. An Azodin Kaos, to be exact. So Jack decided he’s now in the housecleaning business. He offered to mop my wooden floors. It was a mere $2.00 up charge. SOLD! He created his business name and a sell sheet, which he proudly posted on our refrigerator (I hate stainless steel refrigerators; I need mine magnetic since I use it as this hectic household’s visual command center).

Jack’s logo choice alone should have been my first of many red flags…

This logo screams "Pest Control," no?

This logo screams “Pest Control,” no?

But in the midst of his Swiffer slopping, er, mopping efforts, he pivoted, ceasing further progress. He grabbed a Sharpie, raced over to the refrigerator, took down his ransom note-like sell sheet and raised his pricing to $5! He more than doubled it! The cajones on that kid!

Because...INFLATION?

Because…INFLATION?!?

With righteous indignation, he announced he was “finished” with the kitchen. It took no white glove inspection to discover that many areas were completely neglected. Ignored might be the better term. Corners, the perimeters, huge swaths of flooring, and then the entire area beneath the kitchen table bypassed the purview of his Swiffer. One would almost have to try to be that bad at mopping.

That sell sheet is taking up a lot of real estate better used by my magnet collection.

That sell sheet is taking up a lot of real estate better served by my magnet menagerie.

At that precise moment, my BFF Marovich called. She suggested a bad YELP review might get him in line. I agreed. I added Angie’s List and HomeImprovement.com. Perhaps a Better Business Bureau complaint while I’m at it.  The cherry on top.

But two can play this game. I’m compiling my own list of fees. Trips to the orthodontist because he lost his bands again? $10. Trips to his friends’ houses? $15 (round trip, naturally–I’m not totally heartless). Every squeeze of toothpaste? .50 cents. In no time, I will have recouped my housekeeping fees. Maybe then I can afford to hire a real professional again. (Our house misses you, Judy!) I hate to dash Jack’s little entrepreneurial spirit, but didn’t Thomas Edison once say something about learning from one’s failures? Cloud, meet silver lining. One down, many careers to go.

 

 

I Really Need to Cuddle with Tom Skilling Right Now

Tom Skilling is THE rock star of weathermen. When I learned my friend Ian had interned with him, I pummeled the poor guy with a million questions. Which aftershave does he wear? What makes him laugh? Where does he live? Like Game of Throne‘s Peter Dinklage, WGN’s forecaster Skilling has been the enigmatic source of fascination for me and a few of my friends. But today, I just need to cuddle with Tom Skilling. Preferably beneath a bed. Also, that bed needs to be in a deep basement. I need Tom’s reassurances that everything is going to be just fine. Here’s why:

Dude...we are SO screwed right now.

Dude…we are SO screwed right now. (Image courtesy of U.S. National Weather Service Chicago.)

After Hurricanes Ivan (which wiped out our Florida home) and Dennis, weather anxiety has become a thing with me. Dave Dorman and I lost too much. I’ve never recovered from the panic it caused me. It even prompted our move back to Illinois. This, despite me being a sturdy Midwesterner. I’m accustomed to death-defying weather like the Blizzard of ’79, where snowmobiles were racing down Michigan Avenue. I lived here during the 1990 Plainfield tornado, so devastating it made the cover of PEOPLE magazine.

Prior to my hurricane experiences, the weather unglued me only once. I was unaware my next-door condo neighbors had just installed surround sound. They were watching the movie Twister” at what I’m guessing was 11–the loudest volume. My entire condo was vibrating. As Helen Hunt was diving into the storm cellar on their TV next door, I was bending myself into a frickin’ pretzel, trying to squeeze behind my spiral staircase to certain safety. I couldn’t reconcile why, from my cramped vantage point, I was peering out at blue skies through my transom windows. Post torna-faux, we all had a good laugh about it. (If only they’d watched Jurassic Park, like most folks with new surround sound at that time. I probably wouldn’t have freaked over an impending T-Rex attack.)

So..before Hurricane Ivan, I never gave weather forecasts a second thought. I scoffed at the old farts for whom the Weather Channel was their MTV (yes, I’m old enough to use MTV metaphors). All that changed when Jim Cantore suddenly appeared on our TV screen, reporting from two miles down the road. Like a bad horror movie, at that exact moment, our power was cut. We were sitting in inky, black darkness. We couldn’t even see our hands in front of our faces. The winds howled from the depths of hell. It was the longest, most terrifying wait for dawn I’ve ever known.

Now I sit. And I wait. The eerie stillness outside like the mosquito who has ominously stopped buzzing. It’s about to hit the fan, folks.

I get it. Chicago needs Tom Skilling in studio right now, reporting the weather. But I also need Tom, my weather teddy bear, here. Reassuring me. Beneath the bed. Preferably in my basement.

 

 

 

 

RIP, Christopher… “Like Pieces of Glass in My Head All of the Time…”

The last image taken of Christopher, holding his new niece.

The last image taken of Christopher, holding his new niece.

I wave the white flag. I cry “Uncle!” I can bear no more losses this year. There’s been too much death. (In a future blog, when I’m feeling ready to talk about it, I will share the story of my bio-mom’s death in March of this year. That, too, was heartbreak.)

If there were any way I could take away the pain Darlene, my BFF since kindergarten, is feeling, I would. Her heart is broken. In a million pieces.

My BFF since kindergarten, my beautiful friend Darlene, and her beautiful son.

My BFF since kindergarten, my beautiful friend Darlene, and her beautiful son, gone too soon.

Here is a link to the eulogy she wrote, and below is the funeral program I wrote for her son Christopher. While one of the saddest assignments I’ve ever received, it was also the greatest honor and privilege that they entrusted me–the irreverent friend who attempted slipping a “There Once Was a Man from Nantucket” poem into my own wedding ceremony–to do this for them. (Darlene was my official photographer that day.)

So…here it is:

Christopher Ryan Nauman grew to become a big man with an even bigger heart. In fact, he had one of the biggest, most loving hearts many of us ever knew. Like John Coffey, the character he loved so in The Green Mile, Christopher lived his life vibrating on a different frequency than the rest of us…feeling things more deeply and intensely than we could ever possibly understand. He was God’s instrument, so sensitive and finely tuned…so fragile inside of a body seemingly so sturdy and strong.

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There was never a doubt of Chris’s deep, abiding love for his family and his friends, which knew no bounds. He was loyal to a fault. There were times in his life when those who would prey on loving souls mistook his kindness for weakness. But that was not Chris’s journey. He continued being kind, overlooking their faults.

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From the time Chris was small, his love for children was obvious to anyone near him. He relished his time with every one of the children in his orbit—Riley, Mazie, Colbie, Teagan—protective and clearly smitten, always playing with the little ones and loving on the babies.

Chris was blessed in being raised with family who always saw the essence of who Chris truly was, despite the challenges he faced; they saw the true potential in his God-given gifts. They nurtured his love for reading, feeding him on westerns by Louis L’Amour, adventures by Clive Cussler, and the diverse fiction of Stephen King, informing his vivid theater of the mind.

They also encouraged his natural talent for art. Illustration came easily to Chris. His parents helped him parlay that gift into the imaginative tattoo art that was innate to Chris. We treasure those who forever carry the touch of his ink on their skin.

Christopher, the Illustrated Man.

Christopher, the Illustrated Man.

Being outside surrounded by nature gave Chris so much peace; mowing the lawn was the chore requiring the least amount of prodding. One of his favorite jobs was installing piers, since it combined being on the water with being outside, although his fair skin would pay the price at day’s end. He loved working in the yard, helping Darlene build their brick flowerbeds and plant the gardens in front of their home, working tirelessly alongside her on those ambitious outside projects.

The beautiful flower bed Christopher helped build and plant with his mom.

The beautiful flower bed Christopher helped build and plant with his mom.

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Another joy in Christopher’s life aside from music, art, books, and video gaming, was his dad’s cooking. He’d regularly call home and query Robert with “What leftovers do you have?” or “Dad! What are you going to make?!?” His favorites were Robert’s spicy chili mac and his barbecued pork steaks. If he’d had the luxury of choosing, those would have been on the menu for his last meal.

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Joining his Uncle Darrell, another gifted artist, we believe–no, we know–Christopher is in heaven, collaborating with all of the artists in residence, making heaven an even more beautiful place.

We ask that you pray for each member of our family to heal our heartbreak, and that you always remember Christopher in your prayers. He will hear you.

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My sweet friend wrote this on Facebook just now:

True Blue.

True Blue.