Sunday, October 23, 2011

never the popular kid

I was never the popular girl in elementary school. Definitely not the cool girl in junior high. Nor was I the "it" girl in high school. Far from it. I hated when the teacher would announce "Now, find a partner....." or "split into teams....." My stomach would get in knots and I'd anxiously look at the floor, wishing it'd swallow me up and save me from the embarrassment of being the last girl chosen. Ugh. No PE teacher should have the kids pick teams. That was one of the most fabulous feelings in the world, let me tell you. It was always left to me and the girl in the wheelchair. Go me.

When we did go to football or basketball games, it was usually me sitting with my Dad, while everyone else in my class would run up and down the track like a bunch of hooligans. Total "L" on my forehead ("loser" for the layman). Perhaps I am dramatizing the crappy social experience of my life as a pre-teen and teenager. However, it's not by much. Maybe that is why I loved writing and reading so much, even back then. When I was reading, I could transport myself to "Sweet Valley High" or was one of the babysitters in the Babysitters Club. I wasn't the odd and awkward farm girl, with hips too big and hair too poofy (sadly, my locks did not know a flat iron until college). With writing, I could ignore the blabber of junior high and high school drama crap and be the creator of my own world, instead of being a side item to theirs.

That is why, I am still getting used to going to athletic events at Holly.

I am the girl that the kids are excited to see and that the parents are pleased to finally meet. I have heard "Mrs Leiker!" more times than I have heard "Well, looks like you're the last one, Monica". It's so odd to me that people know and not like "Now, who is that girl?? No, not that one. The one with the not-so-big glitter belt buckle and embossed cowboy boots. Who is that girl..... I think I went to her wedding, maybe..." It's more like "That's Monica Leiker. She's Hayden's sub and the kids love her. I know, right? The kids actually enjoy a sub and she hasn't been ridiculed yet by the students."

Between Aaron and I, I'm the one that people recognize more than him. For example, at the homecoming pep rally that Aaron was announcing, a group of students were asking amongst themselves "Who is that guy announcing?" One girl answered "That's Aaron Leiker. He's Monica Leiker's husband." (with the exception of the birth of Colton, the marriage to Aaron, K-State beating OU for the Big XII championship in 2003, and finally graduating Graduate School).

For once since our move, I wasn't an accessory to my handsome tall blond husband. I was the main deal and he was the accessory and in his home town, no less. Fabulous. Simply fabulous.

I've told Aaron that I'm already jealous of our not-yet-born-herd-of-six-kids. They'll be popular. People will know them. They'll like them and just "Oh, she's nice"-like them. They'll go to football and volleyball games and have kids to run like hooligans with around the track. They may be picked last in PE, if they inherit their mother's fear of flying balls.

I guess this post is to those kids who were always and constantly pickled last in anything. Who doesn't seem to have found their niche in junior high or high school and to be honest: Who wants to have hit their peak in HIGH SCHOOL?! It's silly, looking back at those "cool kids" back then. The ones that thought their little worlds were THE world, sadly never left and still hang out with the same crowd. Eh, maybe it works for them, but it sure as heck did not work for me.

Someday, maybe someday, you'll be able to say that when you walk through the lunchroom during elementary chow time, you have a bunch of little bodies that want Mrs. Leiker to enjoy Chicken and Noodles with them.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

sandwich cookies and pumpkin patches

Yesterday, I found myself sitting the PreSchool room, amongst 14 youngsters who were exhausted from our recent trip to the pumpkin patch. When I was first told that today is the day of the pumpkin patch trip, I instantly froze in fear. "Oh, lord. Is it going to be muddy? I didn't wear my boots today, instead I opted for my boat shoes. And wait, 14 pre school kids running around crazy searching for that "perfect" pumpkin? Yeah, right. They'll never find their perfect piece of orange heaven and it will consist of me running all around the 5 acre plot of pumpkins screeching their names, while sticker plants invade the precious soles of my Sperrys. Fabulous." To be true to the experience, it went off without a hitch. Although, I'm not sure some of them realized that when they told Mrs. Leiker this is the one they want and gnawed it off the vine and wrote their name on the bottom, that meant it was THEIRS. Perhaps the memory line of possession hasn't quite developed fully for their ittle brains. And Mrs. Leiker was able to trot home with 3 pumpkins for herself, her hubby, and the roommate who resides in our basement. And, I didn't even have to pay for it. Perfection, in my world.

Back to the exhausted Mrs. Leiker sitting on the carpet (no, I was not in time out), watching 14 preschools tikes wolf down their snack of orange jello and mandarin oranges and cookies. However, these cookies they were enjoying were the kind that us girls grew up on.

Generic. Generic vanilla sandwich cookies.

I forgot that part of my childhood that included always Price Saver or Shur Fine generic sandwich cookies. It's obvious as to the real deal that they were striving after: Oreos. Our mother would never ever ever purchase Oreo brand cookies. Perhaps, if someone was visiting. However, if it was a family member: forget it. Chances are, they grew up with generic cookies so why should Mom spend an extra dollar on cousin so-and-so? Not happening. I can't begin to tell you the cases of those sandwich cookies we went through. Vanilla. Chocolate. Then the mix of Vanilla AND Chocolate. Stale heaven, folks. Stale heaven. Our Mom purchased everything generic. Toilet paper. Cereal. Cream corn (vomit). Canned vegetables (which are horrible, in comparison to their steamfresh counter parts). I still do the same thing. I'll stand in front of the food aisle, analyzing the prices of the various competition. It's easier, yes, to grab and go. But, then I think of the cents I could be saving, and I'll stand there as long as I have to until I figure out what is the cheapest. Poor Aaron.

Is there a noticeable difference between Oreo and sandwich cookies? You bet your glass of milk there is! Is that even a question?? But, for this sub teacher in the PreSchool room, I silently gave thanks that my mother was the generic genius that she is. Because, if she hadn't only purchased cheap food, I would not have had that sweet memory yesterday of sneaking into the pantry to OD on stale cookies with hardened filling, while having preschool kids hang on my arms and legs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Daddy, a zenith TV, and bad TV

People still find it hilarious that the only show us girls were permitted to watch growing up was "Little House on the Prairie". That statement from my mouth, is usually followed by shocked looks of disbelief and denial. I am asked "How did you survive?!" (Um, by food. Yeah, food. usually does the trick. Final answer). Or "What did you DO after school?!?!?!" (Um, wow. What did we do after school? Oh yes, homework. Or played outside on the farm or in the shelter belts that protected our house. I had one helluva imagination. Which is probably why I love writing so much. And reading so much. Oh yeah, we read a lot, too. For FUN. Yeah, I know, right?! Who does that?!). We didn't have Nintendo or PlayStation or any other miscellaneous stuff that falls int the category of "Sitting on your rear and stare at the television. Be sure to block out everything else that is going on in the house and what your mom is telling you to do."

Now, to be fair, we were allowed to watch other shows than LHOTP, but Daddy or Mom had to be in the room with us. These included "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman", "Home Improvement", and "Walker: Texas Ranger." If by chance, we'd veer off that channel of good-ole-family-fun, and were watching something else that even HINTED to the vices of sex, cursing, drinking, or anything else that causes a 5th grade boy to squirm (and a father of four girls to hit his knees and pray), Daddy would, without doubt, clear his throat and ask in a disgusted-at-social-media voice:

"Isn't there anything else on?!" Even though, it was HIM who changed the channel. Again, that's totally irrelevant, right?

You can always tell when the dialogue of the show is getting nasty and going down that path to "Satan's playground" (again, another Daddy term that he picked up from his mother). I'd tense up, knowing that sooner or later the "sex" word would be uttered or the characters would engage in activities that should not be shown on tv. Especially when a daddy and his daughters are watching. Ugh. That awkward feeling is uncomfortable. You add the fact that you're in high school and the thought of watching anything that involves sexual activity and your Dad, is similar to the desire of being locked in a tanning bed.

When I was home two weekends ago, Daddy and I were watching an episode of something I can't even remember. The characters started making out and the next thing you know..... I start getting that awkward feeling of wanting to melt into our circa 1970s couch covered with a beige upholstery cover. And I am 27 years old. Married. That same feeling was there: awkward. And the kicker of the deal?

Daddy was out. Snoozing in his chair. Dreaming of 9770 S-series combines and 60 bushel wheat. Visions of him riding away in his 1974 two-tone blue Chevy pickup, with Shadow (our family dog) into the sunset.

And I still was still nervous as all heck that he'd somehow come out of his 8:00 pm slumber. And ask that old phrase that made all us girls stomachs turn from embarrassment:

"Hey, isn't there anything else on?!"

Monday, October 3, 2011

An old Zenith and an unhooked dishwasher

Next month, my parents will be celebrating 30 years of marriage. 30 years that were blessed with five children and countless dollars spent on prom and homecoming dresses and back to school crayons (NEVER Crayola. Rose Art, anyone?) Looking back on the years living at home, never once, did I think "Well, this is it. This is the fight that will leave my sisters and I choosing which parent we want to spend Christmas and Ash Wednesday with." Sure, they had discussions and arguments, but never fights. Never had yell-at-the-top-of-your-lungs fights sprinkled with pull-out-all-the-stops fights. If they did, they never conducted that sort of business in front of us girls. I am sure there were those "discussions" that had the possibility of escalating into nasty emotional drama, but we never were prived to that sort of immature mud slinging. My role model for a healthy marriage? My parents. Easy.

So, how do you gift your parents with a gift that symbolizes that respect and admiration? How do you put into a thing the thoughts and love and honor you reserve for them? You would assume looking at my parents house and based on my blogs poking fun at Mom's lack of interior decorating preference, that it would be easy. Me, the girl with matching green plaid seat cushions that correspond with her Lemon Pepper table runner, that jive with her Aspen red plate settings. I've got nothing. When I posed the question to Aaron about what to get Mom and Dad, he suggested reasonable items. Items that would solve all the issues I have with their house. For example, he suggested getting rid of their old Zenith, which the new Plasma sits. Author note: the "new plasma" has been in their house for over 3 years. It's still new to me and my sisters. It'll probably always be "new" to us. Anyways, their new TV sits on top of their old TV. This is the TV that I first watched the beloved "Little House on the Prairie" so many Fridays on PBS ago. The TV that we religiously watched "America's Funniest Home Videos" Sunday evenings. The TV that I watched "This Old House" on Sundays after Mass, while Daddy "dozed" in his chair. The TV that played countless, I mean countless, Disney VHS tapes. "Walker Texas Ranger"? You bet, it had a home in our Saturday evening hearts (and the eyes of the ranger are always upon you). How could Aaron suggest that we get RID of this decorating surreal work? Nope. Tacky TV on TV action stays.

Next idea was a dishwasher, that works. We have one, oh yes, we have one. It's old and not hooked up and houses many old rags and dish towels and the molding things you use to mold hamburger patties. I think there is also some frosting decorating tools in old bread sacks. So, yeah. We don't have one. I know what you're thinking, with angst: "How did they do all those dishes?! By hand?! Oh! The horrible display of sanitation!!" If the fact that we did our dishes by hand disgusts you, then I'll leave out the garbage container that is an old butter container that sits on our counter. So many, so many memories are housed for me around that beloved sink. Throwing water at Mel, when she put back dishes that I had quickly washed; screaming in terror, when Daddy would put his nostrils against the outside window, hoping to scare the crap out his daughters (which he always succeeded). Watching TV and hearing Mom screech "I need some dish dryers" and then Daddy anxiously pushing us (ok, more like demanding) to get into the kitchen to help our mother. At the time, I would have given anything to have a dish washer like all my friends; being able to load it and walk away and NOT have to spend one more minute with my slimy, stinky sister. Pure torture.

I'd give anything to go back to those days of having Mel closer to me.... And life not being so complicated with the responsibility of finding health insurance since we're self employed (darn farming) and proving previous coverage prior to September 1. I miss those days sharing a room with her and making CLEAR divisions as to what MY side was and what HER side was. I digress.

You see, all the things that we sisters agonized over as annoying and frustrating while we were growing up............ Those hick deals made us who we are today. The memories. The yelling. The tears. The soaked shirts. Standing in front of that old Zenith to say the blessing before meals and making sure that Mel and Alayna weren't looking at the TV while praying. Horrible Catholics. Writing this is even making me bittersweet emotional. It's a flood of memories that are kept in that TV on TV action and that dishwasher full of old rags.

So, I think we're all at a loss as to what to give Mom and Dad next month........ Because they've already given us everything a Harvey County daughter could want. A vintage TV and smelly dishwasher.