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Siri

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For the record, I never wanted a smart phone. I was fine with the simplicity of my phone that I had to slide open to answer. I didn’t mind that I couldn’t check my email 24/7. I didn’t care that when I sent a text message there were no emojis to add expression and pictures to my words.

Somewhere along the way I caved into peer pressure. There was an old, unused smart phone that sat in our kitchen drawer for over a year. My husband nearly gave up asking me if I wanted to use it. Mr. Technology found it hard to accept that I was completely satisfied with my no frills phone that’s sole feature was to make and receive phone calls. Imagine that! Oh, how I long for those days again.

Now I have an iPhone like the rest of the world and although I’ve had it for quite some time, I still don’t know all of the features it offers. All I know is that it stresses me out a bit, or at least one feature does, and her name is Siri.

Siri and I do not have a good relationship. We are not friends. At the moment, Siri and I are barely speaking. I never knew a phone could have feelings but I could swear Siri is passive-aggressive. Some days she pretends like she can’t even hear me. It’s like when I tell one of my children it’s their turn to take out the kitchen garbage. No response. Or when I ask my husband to get something out of the attic for me. Crickets.

Certainly by now Siri should be recognizing my voice and “getting to know me” as Apple advertises. We’ve been in a relationship for a couple of years so how do I not take what she does or does not do personally? Hard to believe I’m offended by a handheld computer. I should have been born in the 1800s! These are just some of things she says to me.

When I ask Siri to call my husband she always responds, “Which husband?” Not only should she know I only have one husband, by now she should know our anniversary date, how he proposed, and how many children we have.

Once I asked her for directions and after driving for over an hour she said, “When you reach your destination you will have to get out and walk.” I believe that’s why I asked her for directions in the first place. The purpose was to arrive by car not on foot!

Granted I may be a little geographically challenged but when I ask Siri for directions home, she should not ask me “which home address for Lisa Baniewicz?” I only have one home.

It’s getting worse. I knew our relationship really took a dive this past week. While out of town I missed an exit and needed directions. I have no idea what Siri thought I said but she literally responded, “Well, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion.” At that moment I was not only dumbfounded that some how I managed to offend a phone, but also convinced Siri definitely hates me.

My relationship with Siri is hanging on by a thread. It’s rocky to say the very least. I’m contemplating going back to my now out-of-date, no thrills phone. For now instead of enduring her smart remarks, I changed her voice to the male version. Maybe he will be nicer to me.

(First published in the Atchison Globe 5/21/16)

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Airport Security

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How many times does it take one normal, college-age girl to get through airport security? Just ask my niece. A few years ago while traveling home from college to enjoy Christmas break with her family she found out even the littlest things affect the alarm at the security checkpoint. In her case, it was an abundance of little things.

There’s nothing quite like an airport during the holidays to add stress to one’s life. Not to mention adding in lack of sleep from cramming for final exams right beforehand. A holiday traveler requires an abundance of patience and prayers that they will make it to their destination in time for the actual holiday. Successfully making it through security in a timely manner is part of that equation.

The first concern is usually liquids. Three ounces of any liquid, especially for a young woman, is like a teaspoon compared to what she would normally use. Three ounces wouldn’t even cover Barbie’s golden locks. And then taking into account anything you think might be considered a liquid should be in a clear plastic bag is a must. My motto over the years has become: If in doubt, keep it out.

But liquids were not the issue for my niece. Her problem was walking through the metal detector. She set off the alarm four times! The TSA officers were completely stumped. She had already emptied her pockets, removed her belt and shoes, taken off her watch, and her earrings. She told her parents she basically took off everything aside from her clothes. I’m sure they were thrilled.

I was glad she didn’t get “patted down” as the TSA officers call it. That happened to me once at airport security. In my case, they told me I was “randomly selected” for this fabulous opportunity. Afterwards I felt like I should at least exchange phone numbers with the employee. They certainly knew me intimately after that experience. My first clue should have been when they asked me if I wanted a private room. Foolishly I thought why?

Finally, after my niece went through the metal detector a fourth time and set off the alarm yet again, she told the security agent she had bobby pins in her hair. She was asked to remove them. I’m sure they were ready to move on to the next traveler by this point. Little did the airport personnel realize how long this process would actually take. My niece’s only concern was what her hair would like after removing every bobby pin. (When she recalls the story she describes it as “horrendous.”)

I’m guessing she wasn’t exaggerating because she literally removed 50 bobby pins from her hair! The employee couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it until this past weekend. My daughter went to prom and had her sister style her hair. She used 80 bobby pins. 80! Thank goodness bobby pins cost relatively nothing. Regardless, that adds up to a lot of metal in anyone’s hair.

After my niece’s airport security bobby pin fiasco (as I like to call it), she is happy to report she has airport security down to a science. She now announces that she has bobby pins in her hair before going through the metal detector. She said, “Now all they have to do is fan my head with the wand instead of having to mess up my hair.” And good hair is bound to make anyone’s travel experience better no matter what time of year.

 

First published in the Atchison Globe 5-7-16

 

Prom & Parenting

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There is no mercy for a brother who grows up with four sisters of various ages. He hears conversations that probably make him cringe and aside from his sisters constantly talking and asking him questions, he gets a lot of questions from me as well. It’s no wonder he likes to practice playing his electric guitar often and loudly. I would too. I always tell people he will be an incredible husband one day or decide to become a priest.

When Prom was still several weeks away, a teenage girl stopped by our house. She was not even at our home to see my son but that didn’t matter to my youngest daughter. Our visitor was not even two steps out the front door when my 8-year-old said, “Ooooh, she’s cute! You should ask her to Prom!”

My daughter didn’t say it as much as she squealed it loudly. In our house we call this her “outside voice.” She tends to use this voice inside much too often. She struggles with volume control. I’ve tried to encourage her to tone it down but I’ve not been very successful. My college age daughter loves to point out these parental failures.

My oldest daughter, who is now a sophomore in college, feels it’s her duty to evaluate my parenting skills anytime she is around the family for more than a few hours. Her favorite line is, “All I’m saying is you parent differently now.”

I choose to not add fuel to the fire because in some ways I completely agree with her. I do parent differently now. It’s because I’m about 100 years older than I was when she was in elementary school. I don’t have the same amount of energy and things don’t bother me as much. Not to mention, had I discovered the fabulous taste of Riesling wine a few years earlier, she would be benefiting from the results as well.

It came as no surprise (well, maybe a little) when my son said he was not telling us whom he was asking to Prom. He made it very clear my husband and I would know after the fact. I thought he would at least tell me. This was not the case. Luckily he told two of his sisters – the college age one because he needed her help with his plan to ask the girl – and his 15-year-old sister, probably because they go to the same school and he figured she most likely would find out anyway.

I was grateful he confided in his sisters but thought I would burst waiting to find out who it would be. My only reassurance was from my teenage daughter who said, “Don’t worry, mom. You like her.” That did make me happy.

My son even refused to tell my husband and I the “when” and the “how” he was asking. I’m convinced he could totally work for the FBI and never give up information.

The day finally came. I was aware it was happening only because he asked me for money. Shockingly he’s my only child that rarely asks for money. It was a dead giveaway. After an excessive amount of sticky notes that spelled out “Prom?” on her car, a poster that said, “Take note, you should stick with me at Prom,” and a bouquet of flowers, we are all very happy she said yes, otherwise I still don’t think he would have told me.

 

First published in the Atchison Globe 4-23-16

The Junk Cabinet

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I think my junk drawer is breeding. What once started as a drawer full of miscellaneous items in our kitchen has now turned into a cabinet. It’s hard for me to call any of it junk though. My family is constantly in that cabinet. Whenever we can’t find something, it’s the first place we all look and usually find what we need.

For some ridiculous reason it is also the cabinet I decided to store the school lunch bags. They are stored on the top shelf, which even I can barely reach, let alone my youngest child. They take up so much room that there is no ideal spot. So they landed there. We seem to have accumulated several over the years. Maybe that happens with five kids. Considering everything I get rid of in our household, it’s amazing that I cannot seem to part with lunch bags. They seem to be one of the last well-made products in our world because they last forever! I certainly cannot say that about my dust buster or dishwasher.

In our “catch all” cabinet, we also have an array of household items like light bulbs, batteries, and glue. I believe in being prepared. One time when a friend was visiting my refrigerator light bulb went out. I reached into the cabinet, dug around, found the bulb I needed and quickly closed the cabinet before anything fell out on my head. My friend was amazed I had that size light bulb on hand. I hope she’s here when my microwave light goes out. I have a spare.

I’ve learned that no household with children can have enough batteries on hand. These seem to breed on their own yet never in the size we need at the time. I could not believe I actually needed a 9-volt battery the other day. I did not even know they were still used. We’ve tried the rechargeable batteries to save money but that did not go over well. We just ended up with a bunch of batteries that were never charged when we actually needed them.

If any homework or household project requires glue we’ve got it. Our cabinet has Gorilla glue, Elmer’s liquid glue, Elmer’s glue sticks, and Super glue that seems to Super glue itself shut and never work. It’s basically good for one use only but it’s in there.

There’s painter’s tape, duct tape, but no Scotch tape. The demand for that greatly increased once I had children. I’m not even entirely sure what they use it for. I just know it’s never in the cabinet.

I have emergency numbers taped to the cabinet door with neighbors listed that have moved, probably twice by now. I have Bath and Body lotion because I feel the need to have lotion in every room in my home. Also, because it was 75 percent off, so why not?

There are several incomplete decks of cards, plastic spoons for a card game my family loves to play during the holidays, and dice in mismatched sizes. One day I really need to clean this cabinet out, but then where will we find what we need?

 

First Published in The Atchison Globe 3/2016

 

 

Presidential Order of Business

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The 2016 Presidential Election may not be until November 8, but it feels like it’s right around the corner. So I decided to offer a few suggestions to our new president, sort of a “Honey do” list like I give my husband. I’m sure he/she will be excited to read my list. Maybe it will even be on the first meeting’s agenda.

Dear Mr. (or Mrs.) President:

I’m writing to offer you a few suggestions while you are in office. I emphasize the word “suggestions” here as my hopes continue to diminish with every election.

First order of business: Let’s be honest. After you are elected, not everyone will be happy that you have won. Some people may even feel hostile. I propose that you implement another national holiday immediately to gain favor. I strongly believe you would get very high ratings in those initial Gallup polls if the Monday following Super Bowl Sunday is declared a national holiday. No United States citizen should have to work the following day after consuming large amounts of chicken wings, queso, guacamole, chili, and beer. If work productivity on that Monday was actually measured, I’m sure it would be considered a win-win for both employees and employers in the end.

Second order of business: I have been trying to teach my children that it’s important to vote. That it is a right and a privilege. My teenage son is not convinced his vote really counts. I understand his point of view. I have found if I cannot get to the voting polls until after work, it does feel a bit useless when the news is already reporting which presidential candidate is substantially ahead in my state. Instead of wishing for a power outage the night of the next election, is there any way you could make news stations wait to broadcast results until after the voting polls are closed?

Third order of business: Can you do anything about lowering the National Debt? I have a college student that thinks taking out more loans is the answer to all of her financial stress. It’s difficult to convince my daughter there is no forest with anything green sprouting other than foliage. She is the generation that thinks money grows on trees. (Oh wait, my mother says that’s my generation.) If the country is trillions of dollars in debt, what should I tell my daughter when it comes time to pay back the money she has borrowed? I understand lowering the National Debt might not be feasible during your tenure; after all, our country didn’t accumulate that kind of debt over night. If it’s not attainable, then can you tell me how to get a credit card with that kind of limit? I know several people who would be interested.

I wish you the best of luck while in office. It would certainly be challenging to have your job.

Best Regards,

Lisa Baniewicz

 

(First published in the Atchison Globe.)

 

Geography Bee

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The day I found out my fourth grader was asked to help represent her class in the school Geography Bee I got so excited, but a little nervous. She would be competing against fourth through eighth graders. I knew she was not asked to participate because of a talent she inherited from me. I hesitated to tell her I was the last person that should help her study.

She was given websites that offered geography quizzes and suggested topics to research…like specific islands, bodies of water, and where places were located in relation to Kansas.

Having driven on 100 percent of all of our family vacations, I thought any question in proximity to Kansas would be a no brainer. When quizzing which state is directly above Kansas, she was stumped. This was not a good sign. We had literally just been in that state two weeks prior. I immediately started praying she inherited her father’s geography skills over mine, or she would not get past round one.

The night before the big event my son got home early from basketball practice and found us hovered over the iPad. This drew his interest and he started firing off questions for his little sister. I was quite impressed what he was learning in school. Teenage boy that he is, when he started teaching her all the places around the globe with names relating to body parts (that he and his friends found hilarious), I told him he was done helping. I didn’t think my daughter would be asked where Lake Titicaca was located. He was officially fired.

My daughter continued to study diligently and shared that she even studied with her friends over recess. Still in earshot, her big brother immediately jumped all over that news. “Why would you do that!” he said. “Enjoy recess while you can. It goes by so fast.” (This from the high school junior who is greatly suffering from senioritis already.)

My response was, “Hey, she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. She’ll be hitting the books for years. Don’t discourage her now. Someone needs to support me when I grow old.”

The morning of the Geography Bee she got up and had a healthy breakfast of Lucky Charms. I was hoping they’d “magically” inspire the correct answers later that day.

I was hoping to at least catch the end of the contest and left work as quickly as I could that afternoon. Unfortunately it was already over. The school secretary told me that it went rather quickly. I didn’t take this as a sign our school was filled with future environmental consultants, land surveyors, or cartographers. (In case you’re anything like me, those are the people that help in the scientific development of producing maps. Never my calling in life.)

When I saw my daughter I asked, “So, how’d it go?” She answered with a huge smile on her face, “Well, I got three answers right and three answers wrong.” She then added, “Oh well, I was the youngest.” She seemed quite pleased with herself.

I didn’t have to tell her that if it were baseball, getting a hit one out of two is really good. That it’s so good in fact that if a player is batting .500 they’re most likely the best batter on the team, not to mention the entire league. She didn’t need a “better luck next time.” She was happy. Therefore, so was I. After all that studying she knew more coming out of the Geography Bee then going in. And, she certainly knew a lot more than her mom. So I just hugged her and let her be…or maybe I should say “bee.”

 

Compliments of the Atchison Globe

Teeth Aplenty

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Everyone around me seems to be losing his or her teeth. From an older friend, to my teenage daughter, on down to my 10-year-old, teeth are coming out left and right.

It started while eating lunch with an older friend recently. He stopped chewing to take something out of his mouth. He then proceeded to tell me anytime he feels something crunchy in his mouth he has to make sure it’s not one of his teeth. He laughed and said he never flossed while growing up and now his teeth keep falling out. I think my eyes just got big and round upon hearing this news. I don’t know why he thought it was funny. I consider teeth pretty essential for a lot of things, mainly eating.

Fortunately, my 19-year-old daughter isn’t randomly losing her teeth. She just had a wisdom tooth extracted. I kept trying to assure her that all would probably go well. (Emphasis on probably. There are no guarantees with this unpleasant procedure.) She was lucky enough to only have one wisdom tooth so I told her to consider this a huge bonus. I tried to spare her the stories of my four impacted wisdom teeth, dry sockets, and weird reaction to some of the medication that was prescribed. There was no need to send her into a state of panic. We’d cross that bridge only if necessary.

We opted to celebrate the night before with a sort of “last supper” in mind. While feasting on yummy burgers and chocolate shakes with some of her sisters at Five Guys, we laughed and talked about funny anesthesia stories. Then, out of nowhere, my 10-year-old shrieked, “I just lost my tooth!” She was part shocked and excited. Personally, I thought she was joking until she then held up a tiny, bloody tooth. (So much for ketchup on our French fries.)

Sitting across from her was her 7-year-old sister, who literally had just thrown up at school when a classmate lost her tooth at lunch. When her classmate lost her tooth she spit it out along with her mouth full of food. The site of this caused my daughter to toss her cookies. Hoping to avoid a repeat performance, I kept my eyes on the queasy one as I led my other daughter to the bathroom with a blood soaked napkin.

When we got home, my daughter not only put her tooth under her pillow that night but also a note. She asked for a Barbie and some other toy. (Did we not just celebrate Christmas?) The note went on to say if that was “too much trouble” the Tooth fairy could leave $2, one for her and one for her little sister. I found that to be very sweet.

The next morning, I found out it was a total scam! My two little darlings made a pact to ask for an extra $1 every time either one of them lost a tooth. (Why didn’t my sister and I think of this when we were little?)

Hopefully, everyone’s teeth will stay in tact for a while and our mealtime will be a little less gory. I could use a little normal in my life.

 

Compliments of the Atchison Globe