Too Much Candi In the Pool

We arrived on our vacation three hours before check-in. The reason we’d chosen this particular neighborhood was for the fantastic pool – it was large and decked out like a resort, with rock features and waterfalls in the center of the pool and around the edges, a gorgeous covered area with legit outdoor couches comfortable enough to take a nap on, a big screen tv the size of my living room, a full and luxurious outdoor kitchen, and a four-story tower that was perfect for running up and seeing the ocean, the city, the sunset.

Pool

So since we were early, I called our rental agency and asked if we could go ahead to the pool – it had a gate code, which we had been given, but I wanted to make sure the code would work if we were early. They said that we could absolutely go – the gate code was good, and it was a great place to hang out until our rental house was ready.

So we grabbed our swimsuits and headed to the pool. The kids, happy to be out of the car, jumped in and began enjoying the wonderland of vacation. I curled up on the couch with a book, as my swimsuit was too hard to procure, packed in one of the bags beneath everyone else’s bags. But I was quite content to have a few minutes to myself. 

About an hour later, I noticed that a very tanned, bleached-blonde lady in her fifties was talking very animatedly to Chris, David, and Ashley – all the adults on this vacation but me. I thanked my lucky stars for my forethought to hide myself deeply tucked into the couch and went back to reading.

Then one of them pointed to me and told her my name.

Dangit.

I paid closer attention and started catching snatches of conversation. Then she marched over to me and began a whirlwind speech.

“Hi. I’m Candi – the pool attendant. It’s against the rules to come before your check-in time and I should really kick you all out. I really should. I’m supposed to kick you all out. See, you don’t have your pool bracelets on and I’m not allowed to let anyone be here without pool bracelets. The whole city used to use this pool and it was just a mess. So we got the locking gates and they hired me. By the end of the week you’ll be SO glad that we have a pool attendant. I’m here to be nosy and keep order. Anyway, you need to have your bracelets, but your husband said that it wasn’t time for your check-in yet. I really should kick you all out. He said your rental company said you could come in and that was wrong – very wrong. I need to have a talk with them as soon as possible. Can you please provide me their name? And their phone number? I need to give them a call.”

I wasn’t given the opportunity for words edgewise or otherwise, so I simply provided her the name and number of our rental agency and prayed that God would have Mercy on Their Souls. 

She disappeared with her phone, looking rather excited at her opportunity to go Five Star Pool General on a rental company, and the rest of the adults came over to where I was, looking rather dazed by the onslaught of Candi the Pool Attendant.

We were all enjoying a moment in the shade and a snack when she came back and restarted her impressive flood of words.

“I called and told them that what they did was wrong – very wrong. That you’re not allowed to come in here before check-in. I told them that they needed to let you in the house – even if it’s not ready – so you can get your blue bracelets so I don’t have to kick you out. They apologized. You should be getting a call from them….”

While she repeated this information in an endless loop, my phone began ringing. There was no possible way for me to pause her breathless assault of my ears, so I just let the call go to voice mail. I knew it was them, but I figured they needed a second to regain their composure anyway.

I finally escaped from Candi and walked out the gate to call them back. The woman that had been The Lucky One to receive verbal waterboarding from Candi picked up. I could hear the blush in her cheeks. She apologized and said they’d forgotten this was a “pool band neighborhood”, and that she was going to give me a one-time code to get into our house, retrieve our bracelets, and go back to the pool.

…Because if we didn’t have those Absolutely Vital blue bracelets on, our existence was def gonna poison Miss Candi’s pool.

I walked down the street to find our house. The door was already ajar because the cleaning crew was there. I tip-toed in and called out an apology, grabbed a handful of priceless turquoise rubber bracelets, and rushed back to the pool, quickly placing one on every arm in our group.

Candi happily bounced over, gushingly THANKING us for wearing our pool bracelets – something she proceeded to do to everyone she passed for the rest of the afternoon. She put on her most Professor Umbridge-Like wide and fake smile, looked each person in the eye, and said “I see you’ve got your pool bracelet on! THANK YOU for wearing that!!”

I thought that our Bracelets of Belonging would finally score us some peace at the pool, but I was wrong. 

So. Very. Wrong.

What it did is make us insiders with Miss Candi, and now she wanted to sit and gossip with me about all the things that proved her value.

….”There was this one time that a tall blond woman with the big hat and the expensive swimsuit – you know the type – (air quotes) – “Miss Seaside”, just walked on up into this pool without a bracelet on. I asked her why she was here. She motioned to her handsome husband on the golf cart – ‘Oh, we’re just checking the pool out.’” 

(The story ended with Miss Candi kicking her out and in indignance saying to me “Now she had a fancy golf cart and a handsome husband – why did she need to be stealing our pool? Because that’s what it is, you know, if you don’t have a bracelet, STEALING.”)

…”The parents are just the worst. I have to keep an eye on all the kids. I usually see them trying to escape before the parents do. That’s why I check the doors all the time – to make sure they’re closed. Those parents aren’t paying any attention!!”

(She proved this by sprinting over every time a kid yelled or even squealed with glee to accusingly ask the parents “Are they okay?? What happened??”) 

…And our most precious moment was when she told me that another reason she had to keep the miscreants out is because we as guests had permission to do anything we wanted … “and I DO MEAN ANYTHING” … in the pool tower – and we obviously didn’t want other people doing those things in our pool tower.

(Yes, Miss Candi, we DEFINITELY plan to use the pool tower for a spot of romantic liaison without any concern that you’re going to come up and ask to see our blue bracelets.)

After she finished her gossip, she decided it was time that I and the other parents knew all of the rules. And which ones she was going to enforce and which ones she was going to encourage us to break. So she gathered the four of us again and began, in agonizing detail, to explain everything.

…”The county mandates that no one eat or drink within 10 feet of the pool, but I want you to stay hydrated, so please have a drink (imbibe! It can be alcohol!) alongside the pool while you’re standing in it. But I will NOT allow you to walk around with your beverage.”

(Someone needs to tell Miss Candi that alcohol is not hydrating.)

…”You and your children MAY NOT play on the rocks or touch the rocks.”

(She proved how important this rule was later by charging bull-style at a family whose toddler got too close to the rocks – AFTER blowing her whistle – because of course she had a whistle – as loudly as she possibly could have point-blank behind my right ear.)

…”Don’t forget to use the TV! Do you know the code to get in the TV cabinet? Wow – you do?  Most rental companies don’t provide that! Surely you want to watch TV right now. It’s first come first serve so turn it on whenever you want!!”

(She followed this up half an hour later by questioning me again as to why I wasn’t watching TV. Because I had Miss Candi to watch. Why would I need TV??)

…”The rule on using the outdoor kitchen and tables is leave no trace – clean up after yourself and enjoy.”

(We ordered Pizza a little later. We threw away our pizza boxes. But three different times I heard Candi muttering behind me – “I said leave no trace. If you eat at a table clean it up. There are rags in the sink.” Finally I sent Ali over to get a rag to wipe away any invisible pizza crumbs so that Miss Candi would shut up. Which of course was an impossible feat to attain.)

…”No vaping because most people don’t understand that there is glass inside an e-cig and there is ABSOLUTELY NO glass allowed on the pool deck.”

(We laughed, but Miss Candi interrupted with “Oh I wish I could vape right now. I need a cigarette so bad.” We agreed – she definitely needed a cigarette.)

She assured us again that she was the best thing to ever happen to this neighborhood and we would be SO GLAD by the end of the week that we had a pool attendant. Because she added value-added services like OPENING THE GATE for us. AND CHECKING ON OUR CHILDREN.

I wasn’t sure if Miss Candi was going to be the most entertaining part of my week or the most annoying part. There was a very fine line and she was tightroping it very with grand determination.

She regularly went from dancing around the pool deck and applauding people for having mimosas in the pool to angrily running at a child who happened to be two feet from his parents just to return said child accusingly as if the parents were the worst humans ever. She would go from encouraging someone to turn on the TV! Enjoy yourselves! To manically demanding to know “WHAT IS THAT?!?!?” to someone who had brought their own karaoke machine. Then upon realizing what it was, giving a little approving dance shimmy to show just how crazy fun she was.

But it was her smile that was the scariest part. It was wide. It was toothy. It screamed out “I’m teetering on the edge of my own metaphorical swimming pool of boiling lava and if you push me over that edge I will drown you in the hot tub but only 8 people are allowed in the hot tub at once so I’ll have to ask two to leave so that I can put my feet in to get a good angle to hold your head under the water.”

But as long as we had our blue bracelets, the rules clearly stated that we could not be drowned by pool attendants.

How to Race Like a Jerk.

1. Give Pro Tips to Random Runners. They LOVE it.

Chris and I discovered several races ago that, although I like running with him quite a bit on normal days, I like running quite alone for half marathons. Besides the fact that I run more positively when alone (I always feel like I’m trying to keep up when running with others, but push myself to be faster when alone), there’s something so fulfilling to my introvert’s soul to be surrounded by people, yet be under zero obligation to interact with any of them. Every now and then I’ll chat for a second with another runner, but I spend most of my 13.1 miles silent.

We had a half marathon in our city earlier this year. It is a relatively big one, so I was enjoying immensely the droves of people surrounding me, all who expected nothing of me. I was pushing myself a bit – I’d had a PR (personal record – fastest personal running time) the day before at the 5K, and foolishly thought that I could have two back-to-back PR days. But my legs hadn’t recovered from their fastest pace ever the day before, and I was working hard. 

I’m a heavy breather while running anyway – I noticed this a while back. It’s fine. I don’t care. I might sound like I’m dying but I’m successfully getting oxygen into my lungs so I just go with it.

The stranger at mile two who came up over my left shoulder, however, did not feel the same.

He was a guy in his fifties, a guy I wasn’t aware existed until, as he was coming up behind me, began speaking rather loudly into my ear – something I never appreciate in any context of life.

“You need to save your breath. This is just the first hill, you know.”

What the…did someone order me a personal coach? This is the worst gift delivery ever.

“I’m just a heavy breather. I’m fine.” 

I sped up to try and shake this dude who had enough energy for his own race and to mansplain mine. 

It didn’t work.

“This course has rolling hills for the next several miles. Lots of ups and downs. You really need to pace your breathing.”

SERIOUSLY DUDE THERE’S ENOUGH OXYGEN IN THE WORLD FOR ME TO HEAVY BREATHE AND MAKE IT THROUGH THIS RACE.

And also, I’ve done this race three times. I know the hills. 

I still hadn’t seen this guy’s face, but I had a vivid mental image.

Will+Ferrell+Anchorman+2+Films+NYC+saAb7UClAXXl

I really thought Mr. Mansplainer would fuel me on with rage and indignation to speed up to a pace where I could absolutely smoke him (he was, after all, behind me and my heavy breathing until just a few seconds ago), but somehow he (or my PR from the prior day) made me slow down quite a bit for those next two miles.

Which only made me feel even more irritated at his unrequested coaching.

At least I had something to think about for a few miles.

2. Assume that You are THE Most Important Participant and Act Accordingly.

I never saw Mansplainer again (then again I would only recognize him from his heavy talking in my ear…someone should tell him to save his energy for the rolling hills,) but his performance of arsishness got significantly outdone towards the end of the course.

This particular marathon is a double loop course. Which means us half marathoners are finishing up as the whole marathoners have to start all over again. Which also means that I always get lapped by the lead whole marathoner a couple miles before I finish my half (meaning that he’s approaching the end of his second lap, 26.2 miles, as I’m approaching the end of my first and only lap, 13.1 miles.) Because wow people can run fast.

This year I was super proud of myself. He usually catches me 2-3 miles from my finish. But this year, I made it all the way to less than a mile from the finish line before I heard the sirens approaching. I always get excited about this because much like swimming, you cannot fathom how fast a fast runner is on television. You must experience it. You must feel his thirty-foot long stride in perfect rhythmic pounding shriek past you at a speed you didn’t even know was possible by a non-furry mammal to truly appreciate an elite runner. 

I prepared myself for excitement and paid attention to the lanes to make sure I didn’t get in the way. They’d already separated the full and half marathoners with cones down the middle of the street – we each got a full car lane to continue our race. I got to the far side of my half marathon side of the street. 

The two motorcycle cops came by, sirening and loudspeakering that the winner was coming through and everyone needed to move over. The police SUV and the news crew SUV were not far behind. 

Except that…there were three full marathoners (who were just finishing their first lap) that took exception to this well-known practice.

They began yelling at the motorcycle cops.

“This is our marathon too!! We’re not moving!!”

 Now let me remind you. This dude has just run twice as far as them in the same amount of time, is a feat of humanity and is about to win a freaking race.

But they aren’t having it.

The motorcycle cop megaphoned right at them. “Move out of the way! Winner coming through!”

They got screamy. 

“WE HAVE NOWHERE TO GO!! THIS IS OUR MARATHON TOO!! WE! ARE! NOT! MOVING!!”

There was an easily accessible and completely empty sidewalk to their left. And there was my lane, which I was gladly willing to share, to the right. But they had “nowhere” to go.

A race official on a bike reached them. He started screaming at them.

They screamed back.

The news crew and police SUV were nipping their heels. I could feel the lead runner’s Olympian footfalls closing in.

But they would. Not. Move.

The lead runner went around the two SUVs and around the immovable runners. The news crew, whose job it is to live-broadcast the winner finishing this race, swerved into my lane. I moved over further to allow him room.

The police SUV just kept going forward. Nipping those runner’s heels. And was never able to get by them, that I saw.

If only Mansplainer could have been there at that moment, to run up behind them and talk loudly into their ear. 

“You need to save your energy. This is just the first lap, you know. There are a lot of rolling hills in the next few miles, and if you use up all your energy turning and screaming like that, you’re never going to make it.”

3. Write Exposé on Other Misbehaving Runners and Mock them Mercilessly.

uh….oops.

On Becoming a Spelling Bee Drama Queen.

We Callahans like Spelling Bees. There’s something so…objective about spelling, and yet so very challenging as well, because English is stupid. Every year at the beginning of the school year, I check the Scripps site daily for the release of the year’s list of 450 words. Because you can never be too early in starting your study process. 

And process is exactly what we have. I call out the words, the kids spell them, I write down (twice) the words they miss – once in my notebook, and once in theirs. They rewrite and study from their notebooks, and I use my notebook the next day to review the words they missed, then call out another batch of words. At the beginning of the year, the process is taxing on me, because Noah is an agonizingly slow speller. So I leave myself plenty of margin for what I call Patience Doodles – a skill every homeschool parent needs in spades.

Spelling Bee Drama IMG_5923

After five months of practice on the 450 words plus the extra word lists, it was time for the Homeschool County Spelling Bee. In Alabama, there are 67 counties – except when spelling bees are involved, in which there are 68. Each county has a county bee for public and private schools, but all homeschoolers in the state are shoved into Homeschool County.

(Which, as with previous years, I spent much time pondering what Homeschool County would look like, if it were an actual geographical location. So many Chick-Fil-As. The thrift stores are full of denim skirts from homeschool days past. The hair length is three times the national average. Every car has a CC sticker on it. And the entire county absolutely REEKS of Lavender and Thieves.)

This was our first time participating in Homeschool County, because in years past, we’ve had Regional bees, from which the top three go to Homeschool County. Two years ago, Ali got fourth place in Regional  (or, as we like to call it, First Place of No More Studying), but we’d never broken through to Homeschool County before. But this year, they cancelled regionals and compiled us all into Homeschool County, meaning that Ali and Noah would both get their chance to shine.

This was the first bee we’d participated in that was on a Saturday, which meant that Chris would get his first experience as Spelling Bee Dad. I explained to him beforehand that though the bee starts at 1pm, expect a lengthy amount of time set aside for explaining the rules. It’s best to be prepared for such things, and as he told me later, about halfway through the rules, he was super glad I’d warned him.

One of the rules is about an appeal. It’s always given as an aside, with a “we really hardly ever need these, and I haven’t seen an appeal in years, but if you find yourself needing to make an appeal on behalf of your student, go to the back and get an appeal form.”

Every time she states this rule I have a picture in my mind of Appeal Mom. She’s a total stage mom, the kind that yells at the teacher when her kid gets into legitimate trouble, and who is always convinced that everyone is out to wrong her kid. I mentally shake my head at her obnoxious entitlement. Good thing she doesn’t exist in Homeschool County.

We began the bee. As always, I wrote down every word with my own legend attached to it. The only reason I do all of this paperwork is to keep my own jitters at bay, my hands from shaking, and my heart rate down. Writing soothes me and keeps my stomach from cramping when it’s time for my kid to spell again. Oh – and I mark the homonyms because I like playing the game “what in the world is a homonym to that word?” in my head. One must have coping mechanisms.

Spelling Bee Drama IMG_5921

(Yes, I misspelled homonym the first time I wrote it on my legend. Yes, Chris caught it and giggled silently at me.)

Spelling bees are for first through eighth graders, all grades together. Noah, being in second grade, had only made it through studying the first 250 words. He spoke confidently and accurately, though, and was doing quite well. When it got to round five, I whispered to Chris “this is probably Noah’s last round.” But no – he spelled cardboard correctly, cheering me at the fact that he got as far as he possibly could have based on what he’d learned. As expected, he spelled out in the next round, came and sat down beside me and whispered “We never studied gangrene!!” 

Ali was still going strong. She had memorized all 450 words, and had studied quite diligently into the extra word lists as well. But I was still nervous – because panic and accidental mistakes are easy to make.

By round nine, there were only six spellers left. When it was her turn, she was given the word tetrarch. My eyes widened. My brain began spinning. I definitely did not remember that word on the lists. And I could tell she didn’t either. She asked for the definition. She quietly thought. And, completely without surprise to me, she spelled it incorrectly – tetrark. 

She came to sit down and I whispered, “Do you remember that word?” “No!” 

I did a mental checklist of all of the other words in the round. All the other words were straight off the word list, right around the 400s. I scanned the 300s and 400s. There was no tetrarch.

I had Chris re-scan them. He couldn’t find tetrarch. 

And, before I could consider my actions, I stood up and walked to the back of the room to get an appeal form.

The room let up an audible gasp. Or maybe it wasn’t audible. Maybe I just felt the mental gasp from everyone in the room.

Chris later admitted that he was shocked at my sudden turn into Appeal Mom, and had a Hamilton moment as he watched me gear up for my first duel…

tumblr_inline_owbss3KVpJ1v1v613_540

tumblr_o0mdfnjM1v1r4m60qo2_500

I whispered to the official that tetrarch wasn’t on the word list, but we clearly weren’t “off-list” yet (what happens when the 450 words are used up), as all the other words that round had been on the word list – I knew since I wrote them all down. She agreed that I should fill out an appeal form.

I did, and at the end of round ten, the pronouncer called me up to see my appeal form. I explained. She did a search on her computer and showed me where tetrarch was: Word #408. There it was, right there, on her computer screen.

I walked back to my seat and pulled out my folder again, and they started up round eleven. I found the right page and began scanning. 

And this is what I found:

Spelling Bee Drama IMG_5922

I DID NOT HAVE A WORD FOUR OH EIGHT.

ExhaustedUnripeDamselfly-size_restricted

How even.

What even.

It just was not there.

tenor-19

Without thinking, I stood up and walked to the back of the room. For an unprecedented, nay historic SECOND APPEAL.

giphy-26

I took my laminated word list with me. The official, as I was, was dumbfounded. 

At the end of the eleventh round, upon seeing my Double Appeal Mom behavior, the pronouncer called for a ten minute break. The crush of guilt and shame at somehow becoming THAT mom overwhelmed me. So I very apologetically showed her my word sheet. She added herself to the count of dumbfounded individuals. I told her that I understood that too many rounds had gone by to let Ali back in, and would be fine with whatever they decided.

There was ten minutes of deliberation. Much discussion. Much look at that missing #408.

While we waited, Ali was both excited about being out and excited about being put back in, as she had a basketball game right after the spelling bee, and if she were out, she’d be on time. I asked, “Do you want me to go ahead and tell them not to worry with it? You can be done…” She looked at me like I was crazy. “NO WAY!!! I want back in if I can get in!!”

fb6cb390-69fb-0133-9005-0e17bac22e39

And they decided that, since this was a Scripps Spelling Bee and that clearly Scripps had made a mistake, Ali should be allowed back in – but that she had to spell two words correctly, for rounds ten and eleven, to earn her spot. They explained it very well to the whole crowd, so that there were no misunderstandings as to why they were making an exception to the rule. She finished up her explanation with “And if you have a problem with this, don’t bother to appeal – you can only appeal for your own speller.” 

Boom.

Then,

“No pressure, Ali. Are you ready?”

I sat on my hands.

1d4f4c8ae058f2e25eff41197e11e514

She spelled her first word flawlessly. 

giphy-25

But then her second word. Oh, her second word. 

This time, it was all my fault.

You see, I always look up the pronunciations of words that I don’t know, of which there are always plenty, like mille-feuille and recherché and netsuke. But if it’s a word I do know, and I’ve been pronouncing all my life, it doesn’t occur to me that I might be wrong. (And, for the record, I’m wrong a lot. So many words are “reading only” words and I find out years later that I’ve been saying them incorrectly in my head all my life.)

Her second word was Phaeton.

Go ahead – pronounce it mentally.

Did you pronounce it fay-TON?

Well, you’re doing it wrong.

The pronouncer pronounced it FAY-uh-tun.

Which, when spoken aloud, sounds nothing like fay-TON.

I cursed myself for my mispronunciation.

I cursed myself for not telling Ali “Now, your mother is a serial mispronouncer. If anyone says a word you’ve never heard, search your memory for other spelling words that are KIND OF like it to see if perhaps your mother has mispronounced it wrong all her life.”

And, as expected, she did not spell it correctly.

HighlevelConsciousGannet-size_restricted

So not only was I Double Appeal Mom, but I followed that up by being Hijacker of my Own Daughter’s Success Mom. If only there were a bee for that.

Epilogue:

…Ali was just relieved that she made it through the Spelling Bee without any (of her own) dumb mistakes, and she made it to her basketball game happily free of Spelling Bee anxiety.
…I was relieved when our beloved Spelling Club leader, Miss Melissa, got home and immediately checked her own word lists and also found that she was missing Word #408.
…And next year, we’ll definitely use those Scripps recordings for
ALL word pronunciations.
…Last night, Chris and I were watching a British Drama after bed. They referenced their fay-TON. I screamed “fay-TON!! fay-
TON!!! I’m just British, you see!!!” – it did not help regain anyone’s Spelling Bee Glory, but it also didn’t wake up any children, so we’ll call it a win.