Last week my husband Mike was out of town on a business trip so my Mom invited me over for dinner. It was nice of her to invite me over but she definitely had ulterior motives-her and my Dad had just bought a new TV so they needed their “Tech Girl” to come over and set it up. (My family refers to me as “Tech Girl” as a way of putting an affectionate spin on to getting me to do their Tech ‘bitch’ work for them. Smart, right?) I finished setting up the TV but had to break the news to them that the new TV would no longer fit on their 80’s style TV stand. My Mom was just appalled and disgusted. “I bet the TV companies do this on purpose just so that you have to go out and buy a new TV stand!” She said, “It’s all a scam to get you to spend more money!” She was just shocked that a flat screen TV would not fit on a stand her and my Dad bought back when Reagan was in office, one that had compartments for a VCR and even storage for VHS tapes. “Mom, this TV stand is made for those old box-y TVs,” I said back, “This stand is older than I am. I don’t think the TV companies are trying to scam you, I think maybe it’s just time to get a TV stand made for TVs that have been made in this century.” I then told her I could order a new TV stand for her and it could be there the next day but instead she ignored me saying, “Hold on, let me get Dad from his office downstairs and see if he has any ideas.” So there I stood with the TV all hooked up on the floor as I waited for my Mom to get my Dad from his basement office. As they came back up the stairs I could hear my mom filling my Dad in “the problem.” As they made their way into the TV room my Dad looked at the new TV on the floor and the old TV stand and just said, “Oh Hell! This crappy new tv probably wasn’t even made in the United States! Well, let me see what I can do.” Then I just watched as he tried to make the TV fit on the TV stand without success. “Yea, like I said… you guys need a new TV stand,” I started to say, “They are pretty cheap at Target I can order you guys one-” And that’s when my Dad, who was not listening to me at all, abruptly cut me off and said to my mom “Hold on Mo I’ve got an idea.” I’ve heard my Dad say that before, so I knew I wouldn’t like what was coming next. That’s when my Dad went into the garage and got a piece of wood, came back inside to where my Mom and I were standing in the TV room with the TV, placed the board on the old TV stand, and then placed the new TV on the board. Then he took a step back, smiled and admired his work and said, “There! Problem solved!” I was stunned. I looked around the room, thinking ‘this cannot be happening right now,’ what is this crazy old geezer I call my father doing? And then, just when I thought things could not get any worse my Mom says, “What a great idea Mike! Good thinking!” My first thought was ‘Mom how dare you encourage this behavior’ and the second was ‘Have the Baby Boomers gone mad?!!’ I snapped out of my catatonic state and finally said “Absolutely not! No, no, no, no. This is not ok and I cannot be part of this! It looks like you are building an altar here and then gave up and decided to place a TV on it!” That’s when my dad tried to argue that the set up was “perfectly fine” and my mom tried to say “It would just be temporary.” But I was roommates with these two Baby Boomers for a long time so I knew their game.
I then texted my four siblings for emotional support:
Once I was done making fun of my parents, and after my Dad called me both a “little smart ass” and a “little brat” we eventually had dinner. Over dinner we talked about the grapes my Dad had bought at the store, whether it’s better to have “fair grapes” (meaning grapes that don’t taste very good) or “no grapes at all” (My mom, sister Jane and I voted no grapes and my Dad was team fair grapes) and then we went on to discussing the ungrateful “welfare birds” (As my Dad calls them), just the usual things. After dinner I drove home laughing. When you stop at Mike and Mo’s, they always provide you with dinner and a show. You never really know what kind of hilarious antics they are getting into.
A few months prior my Mom kindly invited me for dinner while my husband Mike was traveling. (Mo Money and Mike Sr like to keep me fed). I was doing what I do best-sitting on the couch, going through their DVR, looking for a good Inside Edition or Dateline to watch while my Mom was in the kitchen prepping her meal. (I did offer to help but she told me I’d be on for clean-up). My Dad came downstairs from doing his favorite activity-emptying all the wastebaskets in the house- and into the kitchen/TV room area. Just as I was about to relax and settle in for a juicy “Inside Edition” with Debrah Norville, I heard my Mom say to my Dad in a rather serious tone. “Ok, Mike, should we do it now? Are you ready?” “I’m ready if you are, Mo.” He replied back. My head immediately turned as I could tell something was up. “Oh no…what’s going on?!” I said, rather frantic. They both ignored my question. I could tell they didn’t want to tell me but I persisted. “WHAT IS GOING ON WHAT ARE YOU TWO UP TO?!” “Well…” My Mom said rather quietly, “We didn’t want to tell you since we know how sensitive you are to smells, but the sauerkraut in the fridge has gone bad…turns out it expired a while ago, so Dad is going to help me dump it out right in the garbage outside. Then we are taking the jar right to the laundry tub in the basement so I don’t think you should smell a thing!” “OH MY GOD WHAT?!” I cried. I had so many thoughts running through my head I didn’t know where to start. Who eats sauerkraut in our family? Why have they come up with a whole mission to save this jar? What is sauerkraut exactly? What is it used on? (I later Googled this). My Dad chimed in “Well since you have a nose like a HOUND DOG and are over today we are doing this special procedure for you, you little brat!” “Ahh Thanks?” I said sarcastically “But I don’t understand. Just throw the whole thing out! Right in the garbage! Don’t even open the jar! If it’s expired it’s going to smell horrible!” “No!” My mom said firmly, “It’s a good jar and I want to keep it.” “I will buy you a new jar! I replied, “They sell them places!” But my Mom stood firm. “No, this is a good glass jar, I want to save it for when I make my mustard.” Wow. Shots fired. She KNOWS I also HATE MUSTARD so she was not messing around. “It’s a nice jar.” My Dad confirmed. I started laughing and said dramatically, “I’m gonna VOM all over the place!” Then I started doing an impression of our old dog Duke throwing up (I’m really good at that impression and it always gets laughs) “Mo, look at this weirdo!” My Dad said laughing. “You guys are the weirdos that are saving a sauerkraut jar!” I said back. “Um, don’t you need to go home soon?” My Dad asked. “Don’t lie!” I said, you know you miss having your little smart ass around.
Yup, I’ve been an old married HAG for a bit now but before that me, Mike Sr. and Mo Money used to be on and off roommates for quite some time. I used to experience incidents like the sauerkraut jar or TV altar daily back when I was living with them. The three of us would have some ridiculous conversation and banter and then we’d gather for dinner where we’d have more ridiculous conversation and banter. I’d make fun of my Dad, he’d call me a “little snip” or a “little smart ass,” my Mom would laugh and then my dad would make fun of me. After dinner, when my Dad had had enough of us he’d retire to the basement and watch his show in his recliner and my mom and I would stay upstairs, our heating pads set on high, and settle on the couch for a good murder show.
There was an incident when I lived with my parents that I thought my Mom was trying to make me the subject of the next Dateline-The “tortilla soup incident” when my Mom may or may not have tried to poison me. It was a normal day just like any other, my mom was preparing one of her famous “fend for yourselves” dinners, not to be confused with her “clean out the fridge” dinners. “Fend for yourselves” was when there was nothing in the fridge except probably that jar of sauerkraut and my Mom informed us to just heat up something in the fridge. My parents were “splitting a salad” and did offer me some but since I am not a bunny rabbit and it looked like my dad had mulched the lawn and then threw everything from the yard in the salad, I respectfully declined. That’s when my Mom informed me there were cans of soup that I could crack open and from there things took a dark turn:
Me: Yea, I’m just going to have soup, it’s freezing in this house anyway. Is the heat even on? Mom: Well I keep telling you, the sweatshirts you are wearing are too thin! You need to put on a thicker sweatshirt! Me: Mom! I keep telling YOU that I don’t own a sweatshirt factory! I can’t designate how thick or thin they make the sweatshirts! I just buy them. Mom: Look at me, layers! See I have a turtle neck, sweater and my Columbia fleece on! (During this time I had cracked open a can of tortilla soup and started heating it on the stove) Me: Mom, this soup looks a little weird, are you sure it’s still good? Mom: I’m sure it’s fine. Dad: I don’t know Mo, how long have those cans been in there? Mom: Here, let me taste. Taste fine to me, you can eat it. (I finish heating up my questionable soup, pour it in a bowl and sit down, trying to force myself to eat it. My hand shakes as I bring the spoon to my mouth. After two spoonfuls I give up) Me: Ok I can’t eat this, I have to dump this! This taste awful! I think it’s gone bad. Mom: Yea, it didn’t taste very good when I tried it. Go ahead and dump it. (Me and my Dad look at each other and start laughing) Me: Well then why did you tell me that it was fine and that I should eat it?! Mom: Well I don’t like that type of soup, so you shouldn’t have asked me to try it in the first place. Me: (laughing) Well maybe you could have informed me of that to begin with! I’ll probably get food poisoning from this.
My mom just shrugged her shoulders. That night, despite the murder attempt, I was able to make it to the couch for our show time, but I did request we watch Inside Edition and not Dateline that night-it just hit too close to home. And I allowed a little more space between us on the couch, just to be safe. I almost went so far as to go in the basement with my Dad, but the thought of having to sit through one of his dumb shows was too much, so I risked it and stayed upstairs with my Mom.
My Dad never really watched any shows with me and my mom, not because he was scared of my Mom would murder him, he just preferred his alone time in the basement. Once during showtime my Dad just decided to go for a walk and I went down to the basement and I discovered that he had just left his show on pause when he left the house! Growing up my Dad would NEVER let us do this, and if he caught us he’d ask “Is the couch watching TV?” So I decided to give him a taste of his own medicine:
As you can see, I took photos at several angles so there was indisputable proof that he had in fact, left the tv on in an empty room. At least when my Mom went with him she had the common decency to turn the TV off and leave a note for me:
My parents have always been so generous towards their five children and I am grateful that they allowed me to be their on again off again roommate for so long. Other than the one incident, the the service at Mike and Mo’s is always great. You can never leave their house in a bad mood, it’s nearly impossible. I always leave laughing. After I moved out it dawned on me though that I never left my Yelp review, like I always joked I would. So Mom and Dad, from your fourth child and “Little Smart Ass” you get a glowing review with five stars all around.
I recently dropped off a few boxes at my parents’ house as they are doing a bit of redecorating and need to pack up some junk. Big things happening at the Kelly house-Mike Sr. and Mo Money are finally tearing down the 90s style wallpaper that lines their first floor hallway and stairway leading up to their second floor. They are also getting new carpeting on their stairs, upstairs hallway and in the bedrooms. I was glad they were finally getting around to finishing these renovations as this was really a project our old Dog Duke started when he was a puppy. Duke must have been watching too much HGTV and was left home alone one day and decided to rip a part of the 90s wallpaper down. I always said he had an eye for design. Mike Sr. was not very pleased though. The carpet and wallpaper have been there since 1993, when my parents put a second floor addition on their house to have more room for their growing family. So both are a little out-dated and are past their glory days.
As I set the boxes down I started looking at the walls and all the family photos that were on them. Two things went through my mind. First: WHY WHY WHY were some of these outfits legal? Examples below (Please note, photos kept in frames for dramatic emphasis):
I vividly remember one specific day we took one of those above family photos, although I am not quite sure which one, maybe the day I dressed as Boy George, I projectile vomited all over our brand new Ford Windstar-And when I say brand new, I mean they drove it home from the dealership three days prior. It didn’t help that I had also attended a birthday party that day and had ingested A LOT of Hawaiian Punch. I can’t remember if I threw up because I was sick or if my stomach turned because I was just disgusted by the lack of cupholders in the van. I mean one cupholder having to be shared between TWO captains chairs?!! Come on Ford, you could do better. I bet my mom remembers this day vividly too as I am sure it was a really great Saturday for her-dragging her kids to the Olan Mills studio, then to a birthday party, and finishing the day by cleaning up her child’s vomit. I mean that puke got everywhere. I was sitting in the back middle seat and it traveled all the way to the front. My puke trajectory was really unbelievable. Hopefully they had some Oxiclean to get those red Hawaiian Punch stains out of that gray interior. Thanks Mom for cleaning that up-I owe you a drink.
After getting over the outfits and telling myself “That was in style back then” to feel better about myself, the second thing that went through my mind was, wow, time really flies. I don’t remember when the wallpaper was put up or when the carpet was installed. I was just a toddler when my parents put the addition on their house so they could have extra room for their children and no longer had to shove them all in one bedroom. I do have a lot of memories running down those first and second floor hallways and playing on those stairs. I remember the mornings before school, rushing around, searching for where I left my backpack or uniform because I always left my backpack, school papers and uniform scattered about throughout the house. Every now and then our parents would get fed up with everyone’s junk and we’d be told that after school “no one could watch TV until everyone’s stuff was brought up to their rooms” So in order to get to the TV faster the five of us would work together and we’d tie a jump rope to a bucket and use it as a pulley system to bring things upstairs. A couple of kids would collect everyone’s items on the first floor, throw it in the bucket, then someone (usually my brother) would be on the second floor and pull the bucket up with the rope, handing it off to someone else. That person then would take the items and just throw them into each person’s respective rooms. We’d do this until the first floor looked spotless. Our rooms looked like a mess but hey, not our problem. Our parents said “The first floor” needed to be cleaned up, they made no mention about our bedrooms. Every time we did this we got in more trouble because the rope rubbed against that expensive 90s wallpaper and caused it to peel up. But we never learned and kept doing it.
I have a lot of fond memories waiting with my siblings at the top of those green carpeted stairs on Christmas or Easter morning, anxiously waiting for my parents to give the “ok” to run down and open presents or find our Easter Baskets. I remember not being able to sit still on those steps many mornings when we were little. As we got older, I remember holiday mornings many of us would be laying on the steps or leaning on those walls because we celebrated Jesus’ birth or resurrection a little too hard the night before. I think on those Easter mornings my Dad (who always hid our Easter baskets) got a special kick out of following whichever child was the most hungover that year with the video camera as they struggled to find their Easter basket throughout the house. I will never forget those Easter mornings feeling as if I had just spent 40 days fasting in the desert instead of Jesus, while my Dad following me around giggling and doing commentary with the video camera two centimeters from my face. Truly a cross to bear.
The green carpeted stairs were a favorite place for Mo Money to take pictures of her five children as well. She ESPECIALLY loved assembling us on or by those stairs to take our Christmas card picture:
So while I am happy that my parents are doing nice things to their home, I think a part of me will miss that green carpet. I don’t think I’ll miss the wallpaper though, that stuff needed to go. But those stairs and hallways gave us a lot of happy memories growing up. And I am sure Duke is smiling down from dog heaven, very pleased that the work he started is finally being finished.
Last month, Mike and I made it through a rather rocky couple of weeks. You see, while our garbage pick-up day is every Monday, our recyclable pick-up is only every OTHER Monday which is rather confusing. Well, add a holiday to that Monday and who knows what is going on! So Presidents’ Day rolls around and Mike checks our area’s website and it says there will be no pick-up on Presidents’ Day. Well we were lied to because it was picked up! We were devastated. For weeks the anxiety of how full our recyclable can was getting CONSUMED us. Would we make it to the next recyclable pick-up day? Would we run out of room in our recyclables can? The two of us drink lots of fluids-Propel, Body Armor, Diet Coke, Sprite, Coors Lite, Twisted Tea, etc. Our recyclables add up quickly! Every night at dinner one of us would bring up how we couldn’t wait until the recyclables can was picked up. We also discussed what we might do if we ran out of room in the recyclables can. Our plan was to of course just throw our recyclables in the regular garbage, which I didn’t feel great about, but we are also lazy so it wasn’t like we were going to make any extra effort doing anything else. I asked Mike if it came to that if he’d “take care of it” because I “didn’t want to know if what I was recycling was actually ending up in the trash” and he promised he would. “Don’t worry Kath,” Mike said “I’ll take this one on so your place in Heaven is still safe.” “Thanks, Mike,” I said. “I appreciate it because you know I’ll be so busy trying to talk St. Peter into letting you in with me at the gates of Heaven that I really don’t think I’ll have time to address this.” Well, I really don’t know how it worked out but all I know is that Mike put out a very full recyclables can AND garbage can on Recyclables/garbage Monday. It was a difficult few weeks for both of us, we almost had to cut back on our drinking habits, but like we always do, we leaned on each other for support and together we made it through. Since then we have NEVER taken a recyclables day for granted ever again.
Before our wedding day(s) people often asked us, “How are wedding plans going?” Now that we are newlyweds, the question we always get asked is: “How’s married life?” Well, Old Man Montag may give a different answer but so far I am really enjoying married life. NO PARENTS, NO RULES!! YEAHHH! Just kidding we have rules. Like Sundays are our day we ALWAYS get fries. So far the first year of marriage has been an eventful one. Well, honestly we’ve watched a lot of TV, but we’ve also done a bit of traveling…
We’ve completed a lot of home projects, babysat a few times for my nieces and nephews, dog-sat and even fish-sat. I mean we had so many animals at our house I was beginning to feel like Saint Francis of Assisi. And add in the dog and fish and the place is a petting zoo!
Married life has been filled with a lot of firsts. We had our first Christmas as a married couple:
We finally started acting like real adults and started using our nice dishes for the first time ever:
Married life has been filled with lots of learning:
And a lot of “adjustments” or compromising…
But I think it’s the day to day small things that I have enjoyed the most. One thing Mike and I usually do together each morning is watch the news before we leave for our day. Usually since I am up WAY before Mike, I get to the remote first to turn the news on. But a few weeks ago, on this particular day, Mike somehow got the remote before me. I walked into the TV room to see him at his spot on the couch, drinking his smoothie with the CBS morning news on, NOT NBC which I usually have on. “Oh… You have the CBS News on today, huh?” I said, not even trying to hide my clear distaste. “What’s wrong with CBS?” Mike asked. “Nothing,” I said. “I just prefer to watch ‘The Today Show’ in the morning. It gives me the news but with a little more pizzaz! I get my facts but I also get my pop culture and my morning boost with Hoda, which I appreciate. CBS is too boring, it’s just like, ‘Here’s your depressing, boring news America. Womp, Womp.’ And that’s it.” “Hey! I LIKE CBS news in the morning exactly for that reason! I just want the news and no other stupid stuff!” Mike said defensively. “Yes, Mike” I replied softly, “You like it because CBS morning news is the OLD MAN NEWS. So this is why you are drawn to it. I’ll watch it with you for a bit but we are going to have to take turns with our news in the morning because I feel like I am watching an excel spreadsheet.” As I watched the morning old man news I decided to grab a banana and bit into it. Which led into one of me and Mike’s typical produce conversations:
Me: Oh sick! There are so many strings on this banana! Have you noticed how stringy these bananas are? I feel like I am eating the peel with the banana there are legit so many strings on these bananas we recently got! Mike: Honestly I only eat them in my smoothies so I haven’t noticed the amount of strings on them. Me: I had one the other day and it was SUPER stringy but I thought maybe it was just one bad banana and I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt but I think they are all like this! Ugh gross! I can’t stand the texture! I don’t think I can eat these! Shoot do you think we accidentally bought organic? You know how I feel about organic things! Mike: Oh, yup. I know!
Mike knows I do not believe in buying organic. Give me the pesticides is my motto! I am not paying extra for organic. Once I was done having a break down over the bananas, we moved on to talking about apples. I recently tried buying a new apple called a Cosmic Crisp type apple and both of us were blown away! Honestly it was a happy accident-I wanted to buy Honey Crisp but when I saw the price of them I wasn’t ready to take out a second mortgage on our house just yet so my fall back was coming home with the Cosmic Crisp apples, which were on sale, and wow were they delicious.
When it comes to doing the grocery shopping, Mike and I try to take turns, depending on what our schedule is for the week. Mike is actually pretty good about volunteering to go to the store, which I very much appreciate, but I also think he does this to prevent me from buying in bulk. When I shop, I buy the LARGEST container of something I can find. Mike HATES this. I absolutely love going to COSTCO and Sam’s club to stock up on things. I could spend my whole day at those amazing places. I am not sure why I get such pure joy out of buying in bulk. Is it the savings? I often ask myself. The fact that I won’t have to buy ketchup for the next three years? Whatever it is, it makes me happy, so I keep doing it. On my recent Sam’s club shop last week, I bought both a large canister of Folger’s coffee and a large canister of Dunkin coffee. As we were carrying items in, Mike was confused by all the coffee, seeing as I am the only coffee drinker in our household. “Why did you buy two things of coffee, Kath? He asked, “Are we hosting a brunch or something?” I smiled excitedly and said, “Oh, no, no, no! I needed more of my daily Folgers coffee but I also got myself some Dunkin ‘treat yourself coffee’ as well!” I stood there smiling, clearly very pleased. Mike was still confused. “But I thought your ‘treat yourself coffee’ was when you go get yourself a Dunkin coffee, at Dunkin?” he said. “Oh, no. That’s a ‘treat-treat’ coffee.” I replied. “This coffee is just a ‘treat’ coffee to make my mornings a little brighter.” I was still smiling. Mike laughed “Well that makes a lot of sense,” he said sarcastically. “Hey!” I replied, “Treat yourself coffee makes me happy and I think I deserve to be happy!”
Mike and I both try to prep dinners too. Mike is great about cooking when he can, but if you ask me, I do feel like since being married I have spent A LOT more of my time doing things like cleaning chicken, freezing chicken, then unfreezing it, chopping up vegetables etc. Two things I hate the most: Cooking…and putting pillows in pillowcases. I just don’t think you get your return on investment when it comes to cooking. You spend HOURS making something and then it’s eaten in about 30 seconds. I’d rather spend my day doing something else. Like buying bulk items or something, I don’t know. And putting pillows in pillowcases, not sure why I have such trouble doing this but I feel like I have to wrestle the pillow into the pillowcase every single time. I don’t know what I am doing wrong but it’s exhausting and I hate it.
Before our wedding day, Mike and I mostly talked about and did things relating to our wedding. Now that our wedding day is over, I’d say most of our daily conversations revolve around two main things: The dishwasher and the lawn. Our dishwasher’s schedule is really the big topic of conversation between the two of us. You see, Mike and I are still learning to blend our dishwasher morals and beliefs at this stage of our marriage. Mike is big on hand washing dishes, he also likes to pack the dishwasher to the brim, only running it when absolutely necessary. He doesn’t really rinse his dishes either but leaves food particles on them and just sticks it right in that dishwasher. I, on the other hand, try to avoid hand washing dishes AT ALL COSTS. I don’t care if I need to run that dishwasher five times in a day-I believe anything is dishwasher safe if you set your mind to it. BUT I rinse off my dishes before putting them in, I’m not an animal. I put no thought into to how I put dishes in the dishwasher, I just shove them in there, unlike Mike, who is very methodical about it. It’s like a game of Tetris for him. The only thing I am particular about is I like the silverware to be placed up in the silverware basket. I just feel it gets cleaner this way. Since being married Mike has adjusted his utensil dishwasher placement to this for me which I appreciate. The other day he was in the kitchen (where he belongs am I right ladies? Just kidding) and I suddenly heard him yell out “Ouch!” “Are you ok?!” I said as I went into the kitchen to see what the commotion was about. “What happened?” “Yea,” he said. “I was loading the dishes and I poked myself on one of the knives that’s facing upright in the basket!” I looked at him like he was crazy. “Well why are you putting the knives up like that in the dishwasher?! Sheesh! That’s so dangerous!” I said in disbelief. “I thought that’s how you wanted the dishwasher loaded!” He said back, “Silverware up!” I laughed and said back, “Well obvi I meant spoons and forks but not knives, silly! I’m not a psychopath, I don’t want anyone to get hurt here!” Mike rolled his eyes. “How was I supposed to know!” He said back defensively. “I mean, Mike, I am a little worried that you didn’t know. One of us could have gotten hurt the way you’ve been loading those sharp knives in the dishwasher!” I said. “I JUST DID GET HURT!” Mike replied. But both of us can agree, that there is no worse feeling than meaning to start the dishwasher before going to bed and waking up and realizing we forgot. So many mornings we will wake up and one of us will open the dishwasher and say “OH MY GOD! NO! WE FORGOT TO START THE DISHWASHER LAST NIGHT!” It is an awful way to start the day. Which is EXACTLY why I buy myself ‘treat yourself coffee’ to have on hand for myself for sad times like these.
When it comes to our second main topic, the lawn, I take on more of the role of “the listener” for this one while Mike does the talking about the lawn. Mike’s likes to talk about all different aspects of caring for the lawn with me, to which I just nod along. In the summer he likes to let me know about his watering schedule for the lawn and where and when he plans to move the sprinkler. In the fall he lets out his frustrations to me about how he just raked and now there are new leaves all over the lawn because “they just won’t stop coming down.” “Mike, I’m sorry,” I say sympathetically, “But we live across the street from a forest. We are going to have leaves on our lawn.” In the winter he tells me about his future plans to seed the lawn when the weather gets warmer. And in the Spring when we go on walks together we admire other people’s nice lawns and wonder what they are doing that we aren’t.
When it came to making various decisions for our wedding, it wasn’t always easy. Mike and I sometimes have differences in tastes and opinions. But for some reason picking our first dance song was a quick and easy one for us. We both wanted the song “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison. It’s our favorite. Not sure exactly what Van meant in the song but I always interpreted “into the mystic” as kind of “going into life” or starting life. One of the last lines of the song is “And together we will float into the mystic.” So, I guess to sum up and answer the question, “how’s married life?” It’s been great. We are learning, laughing and really just enjoying together floating on into the mystic.
The other day I was watching my sister Maggie’s kids while she was working. As I and and my nieces and nephew, Michael, Ciara and Bridie, were sitting around the kitchen table shooting the breeze and having a brew – I mean having a snack – my sister Maggie came up from the dungeon she calls her basement office. “How’s everyone’s day going? Are you having fun with Aunt Kath?!” My sister asked her children excitedly as she came into the kitchen, giving each one a big hug and kiss. My day was going fine, THANKS FOR ASKING, MAG! I thought to myself as I got no hug. Maggie sat down and asked little Michael, Ciara and Bridie, “What have you guys been up to?” So far that day we had played in the snow, we’d read stories, played with kinetic sand (which was an absolute pain to clean up I might add). We’d danced to animal freeze dance, we drew pictures, we all ate a pretend breakfast at the kids’ pretend restaurant. (The service was TERRIBLE by the way.) I did so much with these children I thought the Babysitter’s Club was going to call me up and ask me to be their next president (I would have respectfully declined, but it would have been an honor just to have been asked.) But what do these kids answer back when their mother asks what we have been up to? Ciara: Aunt Kath said we could make a smoothie and we haven’t made a smoothie yet. Michael: Mom, when can we watch our show? Aunt Kath said we have to wait to watch our show and I want to watch “Octonauts.” Bridie: **Says nothing.** (Now granted she’s only one, but her silence spoke volumes to me)
Wow. “Are these children serious right now?” I said to my sister, who just sat there and laughed. “Oh, ok, is this the game we’re going to play with Mom?” I said to the kids. “Are these the shots we’re going to take? Ok well I’m at the free throw line right now and I have a LOT of shots to take: not bringing plates to the sink, no please or thank yous, fighting. You know the deal – we make smoothies and watch a show AFTER the toys are cleaned up, and you two have not keep your end of the bargain.”
It’s funny what kids choose to remember or not remember. I babysat for them in November and had to scold the dog ONE TIME for taking food off of the baby’s high chair tray, and ever since then Ciara reminds me every day of that time I called Winston a bad dog. “Aunt Kath, Winston’s not a bad dog; he just doesn’t know any better, so don’t call him a bad dog.” And then she repeats that same phrase to me about 17 times in a row. “Yes Ciara, I know Winston is not a bad dog,” I always say back. But then, since I am an Aries, the Ram, I always have to add in for my own satisfaction, “But as I’ve said before, I don’t regret calling him a bad dog because he WAS being a bad dog that day. So, say all you want, but I regret nothing.” The other day when I came over and she reminded me yet again that Winston was not a bad dog I told her parents that she will probably be sure to have this etched into my headstone when I die. “Loving Aunt… Once called Winston a bad dog and he’s not a bad dog.”
With my sister Maggie having recently gone back to work, she and her husband have been doing the balancing act that many parents do – managing childcare while both working full time on different schedules. It’s a tough act, and some may say they could use a Mary Poppins to come help out. But who needs Mary Poppins when you have someone better – Auntie Kath Poppins? So with my sister back at work I have been spending a lot more time with my nieces and nephew. It has been an absolute joy, and not just because I get to fulfill my lifelong dream of riding around town in a Honda Mini Van with 17 cupholders.
It’s been a lot of fun hanging out with my nieces and nephew, and babysitting them more often has taught me a lot. Here are the top five things I have learned from spending my days with my buddies:
Moms and Dads do not get enough credit! I’m not a regular Mom, I’m a cool Godmom, but after watching three children, I have so much more respect for all Moms and Dads. DAY TO DAY TASKS ARE SO MUCH HARDER WITH CHILDREN! As my husband Mike knows, I can’t, for the life of me, seem to be on time for anything, no matter how hard I try. And that is just getting myself somewhere on time. So trying to get myself plus three children anywhere on time has been a challenge. I learned this the hard way when trying to get the kids to their swim class and Ciara to Farm Camp (and yes there is a thing called “Farm Camp”). When I first started watching the kids, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that putting shoes and socks on to go outside took about an hour. And the kids take a really long time too! 😉 Buckling seat belts, packing snacks, extra diapers – going anywhere takes FOREVER. When my sister first trained me on packing for swim class I thought she was packing us up to send us off on a Florida beach vacation there was so much stuff.
Ever since I started babysitting I have gained much more respect for parents that get their children to events on time. To my husband Mike, if you’re reading this, just a suggestion here, but maybe you should be in charge of getting our future children to places on time because you know if I take them we will be late and it will give you anxiety.
To all parents reading this, whether you currently have young children or if your children are grown – I think you all are superheroes.
2. Mental toughness is key. One day as I was crouched on the floor helping my two year old niece Ciara pull up her pants, her hands on my shoulders, our noses about two inches apart from each other (following COVID protocol of course) I noticed she was looking at my face with a concerned look. Finally, she opens her mouth and asks, “Aunt Kath, you have owies on your face?” What I wanted to say was, “No Ciara, it’s called adult acne, and dermatologists still can’t seem to find a cure SO STOP POINTING OUT MY FLAWS AND JUST LAY OFF, OK? But instead I calmly said, “Yes Ciara, I have owies on my face.” Then she asked, “Why don’t Montag put band aids on your owies, Aunt Kath?” I thought this was quite cute that she legit did not understand why my husband wasn’t putting band aids on my “owies” and almost made up for the terrible insult she just threw at me. Aww, I thought to myself, I guess I can subtract one hour from my “crying into my pillow time” tonight after that comment. But then she started counting the owies on my face so my self-esteem took a real deep dive and I added a few MORE hours to pillow crying.
That was the thanks I got after dealing with everyone’s bodily fluids? You really have to be mentally tough to deal with the whole… bathroom stuff. Auntie Kath Poppins tries to take her mind and her nose to a different place when those things are going on. When I lift one of the kids onto the toilet and I see their facial expressions shift from a smile to a frown, brows furrowed, teeth clenched, body shaking, that’s when I say, “Ok, Aunt Kath’s going to give you a minute. You just yell when you’re done.” And I leave the bathroom for a bit. Then I hear the call and I go in and they are ready for me, already in position like a football player in the three point stance ready to make a play. During these times I may be physically present, but my mind is elsewhere.
3. Repetitiveness is the name of the game. I’ve learned that children are creatures of habit. They like to read the same books, watch the same shows, and listen to the same songs over and over… and over again. It’s like they purposely want these things embedded into your brain. Some of these children’s shows and stories are just plain weird too. I’m almost embarrassed my nieces and nephews like them.
When playing hide and seek they even like to hide in the same exact spots. Now, I have experience in acting. Not to brag, but In 7th grade I was in the Most Holy Redeemer production of “Newsies” starring as an extra newsie, AND I took ONE semester of acting in high school. So would I call myself a talented actress? Yes. But after a while it is hard to act like you don’t know where they are hiding.
4. They suck the life right out of you. Children really keep you running around, and they always want what you want. I am always thirsty and need water, so I keep a water bottle with me at all times. I could give the kids 30 water bottles and they would still drink out of mine. The other day I turned around just in time to see my nephew finish taking a big gulp of my water. The afternoon sunlight was coming through the window so I could see all the backwash drift down into my water bottle just perfectly as he set it back on the table. It was really a beautiful sight to see. Also, do you ever want to stop and eat something? Well, kids don’t let you do that either. They could have a feast in front of them and if you take out one scrap for yourself to eat in a corner they will be on you in a millisecond, crawling on your lap stealing the food from your mouth. Each day I come home from babysitting, I basically collapse on the couch and say, “Ahhhh Mikkkkkeeeeeeeeee I’m so tired. Want to watch an episode of Breaking Bad?” Again, Moms and Dads do not get enough credit – they never get to rest.
5. Children are hilarious and will always leave you with a smile. Having the opportunity to look after my nieces and nephew has really been awesome. They bring such joy and happiness to my life and each day have me laughing. They are “my buddies” and I’ve greatly enjoyed being able to spend more time with them. I think Dunkin has seen an increase in my coffee buying habits though, but this has been a win for everyone as Aunt Kath always brings the kids donuts when she gets her Dunkin. Already the kids have taught me so much, and my appreciation for all parents has grown exponentially! But I think overall, the most important thing I’ve learned so far is that Winston is in fact a good dog.
A few weekends ago, I was up at my parents lake house in Michigan. It was dreary, cold, rainy and damp but it was an exciting weekend nonetheless as it was the weekend the new oven would finally arrive! Not everyone in my family was able to make it up to say one final goodbye to our old oven so I thought it was my duty to give our old oven the send off it deserved. I sent a photo of our emotional goodbye to my parents and siblings:
We were all sad to see the old girl go but we were rather excited to actually have an oven that you could set the correct temperature on. The oven was so old that all the numbers were scratched off which made it nearly impossible to properly preheat the oven. Everyone had an extremely difficult time using it, everyone except my Mom that is. She had a system down and couldn’t understand why everyone thought that it was so hard to use the oven. Every time one of us needed to cook something (usually it was just a frozen pizza), and our Mom wasn’t there, we usually ended up having to call/Facetime her, and these are the instructions she would give:
Mom: “I don’t know why you kids seem to have such an issue using this oven! It’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Ok here is what you do. Turn the temperature knob, the second to the left NOT THE FAR LEFT ONE, and since you can’t see any of the numbers on the knob you’re going to turn it all the way until you can’t turn it any more. That means the oven is on broil. Ok? Now, if you look closely you will see tiny notches on the knob. But they are hard to see-Dad and I usually have to get out the magnifying glass and get out a flashlight. Both are in the drawer in the cabinet near the side door so maybe grab that. Ok, are you still with me? Ok now that it’s on broil you’re going to have to work backwards and try and count the notches. Every once in a while you may be able to see a slightly bigger notch, that I think is the “350, 450, etc” and the smaller ones are for “325, 375, etc. So all you need to do is basically subtract from broil, which is 500 and figure out which notch you need and turn the knob backwards. Oh and also remember on the stove, the far LEFT burner does not work, ok? so if you need to use the stove DO NOT USE THE BACK LEFT BURNER. And you know the timer doesn’t work right? Dad and I have a little timer on the stove but I don’t know maybe you kids use your phone or something. Kid on other end of phone: [Just silent the whole time and worried about accidentally blowing the whole place up making a wrong move on the old oven]
Imagine trying to follow these instructions after a few alcoholic beverages.
As I sat there in our freezing cold cottage on that rainy cold day, wishing the old oven still worked (No matter how defective she was) I started thinking back to the summer and how it didn’t seem like that long ago that we were all in this cottage in the middle of July, cranking the AC units because it was way too hot. I thought, Wow! Where did the summer go?! It seemed like just yesterday we were all together for our annual “Family Week” at Dewey Lake. Each year we pick a week during the summer to all be together and every year, even though it’s very hectic and there is never enough space for everyone, it’s always a blast. This family week I decided to keep a journal of the week’s events. So, sit tight for this flashback to the warm month of July:
In typical fashion, all 17 of us were going up at different times. Our “Family Week” technically started on Sunday, and some went up then, but I hitched a ride with my older sister and her three kids since Old Man Montag (my husband Mike) had to work and wouldn’t be able to join until later in the week. Being a classic insomniac, I had been up since the day before and was just waiting for my older sister to pick me up in her luxurious Honda Mini Van with 16 cup holders. My sister Bridget was already in Michigan with my parents and she texted me to see when we were leaving and discuss who was coming up when:
Once Maggie and her three children arrived, we hit the road to start our vacation. I stopped and had gotten her kids donuts and put on my Spotify playlist I made for them, which I titled “Michael and Ciara’s Jams” (Once my niece Bridie is old enough to talk she can be added). The playlist basically consisted of theme songs including “Paw Patrol,” “Mickey and the Roadster Racers, and other 20 second show theme songs. AWW YEAH, cool Aunt Kath had arrived and was riding shotgun on this road trip. The kids picked the songs themselves but they also threw some curve balls in there with Ciara adding “Do Wa Diddy” and Michael wanting “We will Rock You” by Queen. The whole playlist had about ten songs, and when most of them are 20 second kid show songs, it gets old pretty quickly on a two hour ride. During the ride my niece and nephew pointed out every truck, piece of construction equipment, and jeep they saw on the highway. They kept claiming that they saw it first but many times I would see the trucks and jeeps first having a great view of everything in the front seat. I had to call them out on their lies and put them in their place multiple times. Little Bridie decided she’d rather scream/cry the entire time instead of play the game with us.
Once we unpacked everything I did a quick stop in the bathroom to dab the blood coming from my ears from all the noise of the car ride and then it was time to be in vacation mode. We gathered our drinks and went on a chaotic pontoon boat ride with all six of the grandkids. Lucky for everyone on board there is a portable kids’ toilet on the boat so the kids all wanted to use it…so that was fun for the rest of us…Who doesn’t love a sunset bathroom ride on the water?! Once we got in we all called it an early night.
The next morning my nieces and nephews and I did slow motion/fast motion running videos for a while, so that kept us all entertained for a good chunk of the morning:
We had some fun in the sun (Well, some of us did, my dad and I have no tolerance for the sun) and then once the kids went to bed (my brother, older sister and their families were staying at a different cottage just down the road-not enough beds these days at the Kelly Cottage!) I did some “tech work” for my parents, because “Tech Girl” never gets a full vacation. My parents had recently gotten rid of cable since they have streaming services, but because they like to watch the news and regular TV I ordered them a digital antenna that I so kindly said I would set up. (Yes, I continue to be THE GLUE that holds our family together) Now, our cottage is basically one room, with one TV so it’s important that it be in full working order for everyone. Once it gets dark out and the mosquitos come out, we are kind of all stuck inside with not much to do. The TV and our phones are usually our only source of entertainment for the night because we are not and will never be a “board game family” and being all together we usually have to all decide on what we are going to watch. So I set up the digital antenna and then did some other “Tech” things for Mike Sr. and Mo Money. Once I was done WORKING ON MY VACATION WHILE EVERYONE ELSE SAT THERE ON THEIR PHONES I somehow found the energy to then show Mike and Mo how to use the TV with the changes I had made. After all my efforts, this is what happened:
Mom: Oh thank you so much sweetie! What would we do without our Tech Girl? Me: Yeah no problem. So do you guys want to watch something now? We could look for a movie on Netflix or something to all watch? Mom: Oh yea, that sounds great honey, but actually before you got up here Bridget, Dad and I were in the middle of watching this docuseries on Netflix, you’d probably like it actually! It’s called “Sophie” and it’s about a murder in Ireland? It’s really interesting! Me: Um yea, Mom, remember I’m the one who recommended that docuseries to you? Because I’ve watched it already. Remember I told you Mike and I watched it and I thought you might like it so I went over that one day and showed you at home how to watch it on Netflix? Mom: Oh, Oh! Sweetie that’s right, you’re right! (She said gingerly grabbing my arm as the memory came back to her.) (Silence ensued as we both kind of look at each other) Mom: Well I think we are on the third episode! Maybe you could set that up for us and we can all watch that together! What do you think? Wouldn’t that be fun?! Me: Fun for me? To watch for a second time a docuseries about a horrific murder and joining you guys in the middle of the series? Mom I like a good murder show but I don’t want to watch it again, I am not a psychopath. Mom: Well… Bridget is leaving on Thursday so we kind of want to finish it. Me: Ok… Welp, I guess now that you’re done with my services, I’ll set it up for you and get out of your way here and just lay in my bunk bed and stare at the top bunk since I don’t do enough of that already having insomnia and all. Mom: Awwwww thank you sweetie! (As she pulls me in to kiss my forehead as I set up Netflix for her). You are so sweet!!! Me: Yea no worries at all, it’s only 8:30pm, I’ll head to my bunk bed over here and ‘retire to my chambers’ for the night, [I said dramatically as I walked the two feet to my bed and grabbed the curtain to pull shut since I didn’t have a door to slam] no biggie.
So, in typical baby boomer fashion, once they were done with my services, they shoved me aside and I just laid in my bunk bed, which is about ten feet from the TV, while the family enjoyed their evening.
The next morning, my sister Bridget, sister-in-law Alyssa and I decided to take the kids on what we called a “Nature Walk” down the beach. We saw a lot of interesting things, saw some fish, lots of boats, but the highlight for the little kids turned out to be seeing an old cookie on the beach. My nephew Connor actually requested to go back and see the cookie again. It was a half-eaten Nutter Butter for all who are curious.
After that the little kids obviously worked up an appetite and were requesting a snack. So we got back and they binge ate Doritos. I’ve never seen children attack food more than my nieces and nephews attack those chips.
Once we waited the proper half hour it was time for a swim. During our family week, everyone shares different items, including beach towels but you really have to watch out because my brother Michael has a tendency to take any towel and use it as “The diaper changing towel” for any of his children, and then casually throw it back in the mix for anyone to accidentally use. Nothing quite as refreshing as going for a swim in the lake and then drying off only to realize you smell like urine because you had mistakenly grabbed one of “the changing towels.”
Everyone is pretty good at sharing but sometimes my little nephew Michael likes to call people out for using his things. On this particular day my sister-in-law, Alyssa, grabbed a “Conroy towel” and little Michael Conroy, watching everyone and everything like a hawk, decided to call her out, “Mom!” He yelled, “Aunt Alyssa is using our towel!” Coming to my sister-in-law’s defense, I said back, “Well, if we are calling people today out,” Looking directly at my nephew, “Maggie! (Michael’s Mom) Michael Conroy was in my bed again and messed everything up!”
You see, the thing about being up at our place is that you have to be ok with constantly getting your personal items trampled on and rummaged through by the little kids. Do you have nice things? Well you won’t come home from family week with them. My nieces and nephews particularly love to just tear through other peoples’ beds, do gymnastics competition on them, and sometimes leave little “surprises” for us for when we climb into our beds. Many times when I’m at Dewey Lake I’ll climb into my bed and discover some rocks, a little plastic doll, a truck or sometimes even some Teddy Grahams or raisins in my bed. They are so sweet, always are looking out for me, making sure I have enough to eat.
Usually up at our cottage, in addition to rummaging through your items, these little gremlins will just walk right in on you in the bathroom. Being an old house, the bathroom door does not have a lock so there is nothing more terrifying than when you are in the shower and you hear tiny pounding footsteps racing right towards the bathroom and a tiny voice yelling “I HAVE TO GO POTTY!!!” You try and stop them yelling “NOOOOOOO!!!! AUNT KATH IS IN THE SHOWER!!!” But usually at that point there is nothing you can do, they have already torn the door open and they are sitting on that toilet and you just pray that that niece or nephew is just… you know… respectful in whatever business they are doing as you try and enjoy your shower. I told my six nieces and nephews after getting out of the shower one day that I was going to give them all a lesson on knocking but before I could Mike Sr. made a trip to the hardware store and installed a lock on the door! We all named him the Real MVP of the week and his humble response was “I have to protect my daughters from these ‘savages’ (referring to his grandchildren).”
Later that evening we went on another boat ride through the “Dewey Lake Channel.” Since the channel is filled with turtles and other lake wild life, on this ride my brother-in-law, Mike and I made an important declaration to the other adults on the boat, that we do not care for them to point out turtles to us. You see, at Dewey Lake, turtles pop up like squirrels but for some reason my adult family members still act like seeing one is like seeing a celebrity.
Person Seeing Turtle: “OH MY GOD LOOK IT’S A TURTLE! I WILL NOT STOP POINTING AND SHOUTING AND MAKING A SCENE ON THE BOAT UNTIL EVERYONE GETS UP AND LOOKS AT THIS TURTLE I AM SEEING POP UP OUT OF THE WATER! OH WAIT IT JUST WENT UNDER SORRY EVERYONE BUT YOU GUYS SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT! IT WAS HUGE!”
Every single time everyone will have to get up from where they are seated or crank their neck in an uncomfortable position and see NOTHING because the turtle that was “spotted” mysteriously went under the water again. I do not like doing this because many times I am under a blanket or some sort of towel covering me for warmth and then it falls to the floor when I get up and I also can’t turn my neck very far. I also think seeing a turtle in the water is much like seeing a stick in the water because many times when they pop up you can only see their heads and that is what they looked like. So, giving these reasons, upon entering the channel, I just politely wanted to make my family aware that while I appreciate and admire the excitement they have about turtles, I do not share in it, so I will be staying in my seat and not making any effort to turn my neck or body in order to see any turtles. But I did ask them to please let me know about any other wildlife as I would be interested in making the effort to turn my neck to see those. My brother-in-law Mike, had a slightly different approach, simply stating that he just ‘did not care about turtles that much.’ Once my family got over the shock of Mike saying he didn’t care about turtles, we entered into the channel. We saw a lot of turtles and wildlife including a beaver. After that my nephew Connor would not stop saying the word “Beaver Dam.” It was almost as if it was his new vocab word for the day and he was trying to incorporate it in every sentence he spoke.
Once we docked everyone CONVENIENTLY have places to run off to leaving my younger sister Jane and me to be the only ones to tarp the pontoon boat. If you’ve never tarped a boat, it’s awful. You can never really figure out which way the tarp fits on the boat, the buttons never snap, there are massive spiders everywhere, and then once you’re done someone has to crawl underneath to put the poles in. While tarping, Jane and I got in an extremely heated argument about which one of us was the bigger ‘Martyr’ in the family because Jane ended up having to be the one to crawl in and put in the poles. I wish I was kidding about this fight but I am not. I’m sure people across the lake could hear us yelling at each other
Jane: WHY DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THE MARTYR OF THIS FAMILY??! I WAS HARDLY ON THIS BOAT AND NOW I HAVE TO PUT THE POLES IN?! Me: OH! YOU THINK YOU ARE THE MARTYR? I AM THE MARTYR HERE! DID YOU FORGOT HOW I GAVE YOU THE ROOM AND THE BIG BED THIS WEEK WHILE I SLEPT IN THE BUNK BEDS?!! THE BED THAT THE KIDS USE AS A JUNGLE GYM AND STOMP ALL OVER AND LEAVE DEBRIS IN?! THERE WERE LEAVES IN MY BED LAST NIGHT!! MY ROOM HERE IS A PLAYGROUND! AND YESTERDAY THEY TRIED TO USE ME AS A JUNGLE GYM AND YOU KNOW AUNT KATH IS NOT A JUNGLE GYM SHE IS A CHINA DOLL. VERY DELICATE AND BREAKS EASILY! Jane: (lowering her voice now) Oh no, no! Aunt Kath is so fragile they can’t play rough with her! Only Aunt Jane and Aunt B! They should know this by now! Me: I KNOW! I told them exactly that!
So, Jane and I, as we always do, reconciled and concluded that we were even with our “Martyrom” (a new word we were using) and that the rest of our siblings OWED US.
On Friday my Mom just SUDDENLY decided to instill a new rule that “Everyone must take off their shoes upon enter the cottage.” We were all outraged. “Mom!” I said just completely flabbergast. “You can’t just INSTILL a new rule on one of the LAST days of family week and expect us all to remember! We don’t even take our shoes off when we enter the house at home! How are we all supposed to remember this OUTLANDISH RULE when our minds are all on ‘vacation mode’? this is crazy!” Everyone agreed. Growing up we were never taught to take our shoes off when entering the house and now that her youngest child is 25 she tries to teach this to us now? This wasn’t going to stick. But we all tried because “Mom’s the boss” but mostly everyone forgot.
After that the kids took one last swim and then I helped them make a birdhouse out of a High Noon box because their Aunt B, Aunt Kath and Aunt Jane have no kids and were living their best life all week long so we had plenty around.
After that my brother and his family and my oldest sister and her family packed up to leave. This was honestly the longest goodbye of my life as we thought they were going to leave numerous times but then they’d remember something they forgot from inside, or one of the kids needed to use the bathroom again, then there was a mad search for “Uni” (my niece Ciara’s stuffed unicorn animal. She was safely found). My Mom was really sad too so she was making a big production of it having everyone watch them pull out of the driveway. You can really tell that my sister Maggie and brother Michael are her favorite children right now-I think it’s because they’ve given her grandchildren-but they are also her first born son and daughter, so me, Bridget and Jane knew we don’t really stand a chance. (Actually Jane’s the youngest so she’s got that going for her, but anyway). My Mom was making sure they had enough water, Diet Coke, snacks etc, basically acting like they were headed off on the Oregon Trails. You could tell she was sad and that she was going to miss her kids and grandkids being up at the lake with her. Not my dad though, I think he had the vacuum in one hand while he waved goodbye with the other-he could not wait to vacuum up all the crumbs, wiped down the Dorito hand prints from the boat and spray down the patio set. He had a full day of cleaning ahead and he was smiling ear to ear thinking about it. My Dad LOVES cleaning. Jane and I stayed for the goodbye sob fest for a while (Our sister Bridget had left Thursday for a concert so she was unable to join the goodbye tour) and then we decided to peace out as we were burning daylight and had more vacationing to do.
Once we finally said our goodbyes, the place was eerily quiet. no more little voices just the sound of my dad CONSTANTLY vacuuming. By this point in the week it was just my parents, Jane and me left at the old Kelly Cottage. Later that Friday afternoon, Old Man Montag aka my husband Mike (Not to be confused with all the other Mike’s in the family) Who was working like a dog the whole week was finally able to get off work and enjoy some much needed time at the lake!
The rest of the weekend was crazy busy for me as I decided to start this game where I would just randomly pop out at Jane and start blasting the hit Abba song “Waterloo.” She never knew when it was coming, and I would creep up on her at various hours of the day and night. As we all know, no one can make me laugh quite like I can so as you can imagine, my abs were pretty sore from laughing once the weekend was over. Below is a screen shot of a video I took when I creeped up on Jane while she was doing the dishes. I would usually sing along, because as we all know, ABBA is SO CATCHY!! How could you not?! So I thought I’d spare everyone’s ears from my singing and just post the screen grab.
That pretty much sums up Family Week 2021. My only regret is that I wish I spent more time with the old oven. I had no idea this was going to be her last Family Week with us. But overall I had a great time and I think the rest of the family did too. I think my niece Abby summed it up best the first time she came up to Dewey Lake. She had just learned to talk and could only use one word phrases to describe how she was feeling. (or so she claimed, some say she was just being lazy.) But the whole time little baby Abby was up at Dewey Lake she kept repeating the word “Happy.” I always leave Family Week feeling both extremely happy and grateful. Grateful for the chaos, grateful for this place we can all go and be together each year, grateful to Mike Sr. and Mo Money for working so hard to give us this little piece of heaven, and grateful for my awesome family. It was another fun Family week and an amazing, happy summer at Dewey Lake!
Last month marked one year since Mike and I bought our house, a beautiful, old fixer-upper that we absolutely love in a neighborhood that we always wanted to live in. Owning a home has definitely been an adventure, we’ve learned a lot-about home-ownership, ourselves, and each other, and we certainly have more learning to do. Luckily we signed a 30 year mortgage though so we’ve got time.
When we think back to where we were just over one year ago, our life was a lot different-Mike and I weren’t even engaged yet! I was still livin’ my best bachelorette life in my apartment with my two roommates, hitting up the bars on Western Ave which were just a stone’s throw away. I was rather busy with life as when we weren’t at the bars, me and my roommates had taken a deep dive into the classic show “One Tree Hill.” So every night, Chad Michael Murray was taking us on a roller coaster of emotions in the All-American town of Tree Hill. It was exhausting! Mike was still in his apartment in the city, preaching to everyone how he wouldn’t be back on the Southside for quite some time. CLASSIC, SILLY Mike! When we heard about the house that we now own being for sale, we looked at it “to be cute” not thinking we’d seriously consider buying it. After going through the house I remember we went out to dinner and ripped the house apart. But secretly I loved it. Old Man Montag secretly thought it would be great investment….And then somehow we found ourselves in the middle of buying a home.
The process of getting the home was stressful for both of us, but mostly for Mike. I was mostly pretty thrilled. But poor Old Man Montag was extremely stressed the entire time. Little did I know he had already bought an engagement ring and was planning to propose (to me thank goodness) in the coming weeks and now buying a house was thrown at him. Besides the whole proposal, Mike is a planner anyway, so the fact that he could not plan for this home-buying process really stressed him out. “I don’t know Kath,” I remember him saying to me one night when we were discussing the house “This just wasn’t part of the plan I had in my head. Plus I always imagined before we bought a house that I would have the chance to read some books on the home-buying process and do some more research before we became homeowners. I am just a bit stressed about this all!” “Ok,” I responded calmly. “First I’d like to address these books you mention you planned on reading about the home-buying process. Are you serious you dork? Did you actually plan on reading books before we bought a home? Where do these books exist? Do you own a library card or were you going to order them off Amazon or something? I have a lot of questions, but we can address those later.” We laughed (Well mostly I laughed) and then I continued, “Second, this may surprise you, but I always imagined myself doing NO research before we bought a house, much like my research of all things a do. So I am actually doing ok right now. But if you don’t feel comfortable about this I do not want us to do it.” Mike’s stressed level settled a bit when we really went through finances and costs and he was able to make an excel spreadsheet of everything. His spreadsheet included all that normally goes into a home: closing costs, fees, taxes, major repairs, etc. He also had a lawn mower on there, which was fine, we’d need a lawn mower, our house had a lawn, but he kept mentioning this lawn mower whenever we’d discuss the house. (much like he mentioned the garbage can when we talked about our Dewey Lake Wedding) We’d be discussing home buying expenses and utilities and then he’d say something like “And don’t forget, we’ll need to buy a lawn mower.” As if I could forget. “OK!” I finally said one day, “City boy Mike! I get it! We need a lawn mower! I know! We have grass! We will also need other expensive items that you don’t have on there! Like a new roof soon! Maybe put that one there instead! We will get you your precious lawn mower don’t worry. I’ll even wrap it under the Christmas tree for you with a bow if you want.” “I’m just thinking about the lawn and how it will need to be cut!” He responded. “I just don’t want you to forget about things like that. Those are expenses that add up.” “Whoa.” I replied quickly. “You think just because I have scrawny arms and I am weak that I can’t push a lawn mower and therefore I don’t think about it?!” “Well partly, yes.” Mike replied without hesitation. “Well!” I said back, “I will have you know that I had to cut the grass growing up! My parents made us girls do that yard work stuff too! AND I am a lot stronger than I seem! Those Propel caps are just on really tight and they hurt my wrists to open!” I also reminded Mike that he always needs me to open his Coors Light cans for him, but he claimed it was only because my nails are longer and he just can’t get his short nails under the tab to pop it open. Then we went off topic while I gave different examples of times I lifted heavy objects.
Ultimately though, after many spreadsheets and conversations, we made the decision together to purchase our forever home (Without any books) and it has been one that both of us are so glad we did! And we even had money left to get a lawn mower!
And, side note, despite all my bad jokes I made through the home-buying process Mike still decided to propose to me!
In this past year, we’ve settled into our house. We’re so settled in fact that we’ve already got our designated spots on the couch. Mine is near the space heater, next to my “drink tray” and close enough to the outlet where I can plug in my heating pad and snuggle up with about seven blankets because our home is freezing and I’m always cold. Mike’s spot is where ever I haven’t burrowed myself in yet. One of my favorite home purchases I treated myself to was my “couch drink tray.” Sure, we have a coffee table in front of the couch but I found it rather cumbersome always having to reach forward to grab my water, coffee, Diet Coke, propel and/or Body Armor. It’s just so jolting taking my arm out of my blanket, exposing it to the frigid air, just to take a sip of one of my 30 drinks I have next to me. (I am always thirsty, probably should get that check out but I’m busy with a house now so it’s at the bottom of my list) so I got myself a little tray that I could keep next to me on the couch at all times. Minimal reaching effort. Would highly recommend to any homeowner. Best investment I’ve made in a while!
In addition to our couch tray, Mike and I could not be more thrilled with our “Basement refrigerator” we just acquired. Like most homes in America, we have too many food and drink items for just one fridge to hold (Typical First-World Problems, ugh!) so we had to get a second fridge for all our alcohol, pop, and various other necessities. It has been a game changer! Has totally freed up so much space in our first floor kitchen fridge. We often wonder HOW we got through most of this first year without it. We both have agreed that the basement fridge is in the top ten best things to ever happen to us. We don’t have any children yet but once one comes along he or she has big shoes to fill because both of us have said we may love this fridge more than any of our future children.
Besides those major investments we’ve also made a lot of changes to our house and done a lot of different projects this past year. I don’t think we had closed on the house more than two minutes and suddenly tree killer Mike is hiring someone to chop down this big, beautiful old tree in our backyard because it was “too close to the house.” I liked the tree and didn’t want it cut down so I initially protested.”Ugh Mike do we really need to cut it down?? It is so old and pretty! I like the tree!” Mike shut me down immediately “The tree has got to go.” Heartless Mike replied, “The roots are going to ruin our foundation and I don’t want any branches falling on the roof.” I did eventually agreed but I did make a lot of jokes to him about how I was going to read the Tree the story of “The Giving Tree” before he murdered it but per usual Mike ignored my jokes. I laughed though. No one make me laugh quite like I do.
Another big project for us was the installation of a ceiling fan in our bedroom. I am not a fan of ceiling fans (pun intended). Mike loves them and really wanted one in our bedroom. I love the white noise of regular fans but HATE ceiling fans. Why? First, it’s just too breezy for me. I am always cold and if I wanted to experience some wind I’d go outside-which I would not do because I HATE WIND. I don’t want sleep in a wind tunnel, no thank you. Second, the breeze from the ceiling fan causes the little hairs on my head to tickle my face. This is rather annoying when you are laying in bed trying to sleep. Third, I’ve just had too many bad experiences with ceiling fans. I’m still traumatized from the ceiling fan at a place we used to rent every summer growing up. The clicking noise of that ceiling fan still haunts me today. I remember laying there in a sleeping bag on the floor, with about eight of my cousins, all of us shoved in this small bedroom, breaking every fire code in the state of Michigan with the amount of children we had staying in one rental home, just wide awake all night (as children with insomnia do lolzz) looking at that fan and listening to that clicking noise as everyone else just slept away. In my mind I was screaming “HOW DOES NO ONE ELSE HEAR THIS?!” If you told me five years ago that I’d agree to a ceiling fan in my bedroom I would have told you you’re crazy. I am more of a box fan person. It’s loud, you can direct the air where you need it to go, stick it in your window, it’s so versatile! But, when you love someone you make compromises, so I agreed to the ceiling fan. But I told Mike it had to be the most silent ceiling fan ever created and that the lights on the ceiling fan could not be too bright (I am very particular about lights-they hurt my baby green eyes… and give me migraines). So, after much research by Mike, we did find a ceiling fan that we both could agree on. And as a gift he got me a box fan for the white noise I needed. I was thrilled and had to text my old roommates right away about it:
Most of our other home projects this year have been painting. One thing Mike and I have learned about ourselves is that WE HATE PAINTING. And I know there are people out there that may say “Oh I kind of like painting, I find it rather calming!” No, you like it for about the first hour and you do not like all the prep work, clean up, or the numerous trips to the Home Depot paint section because there are TEN MILLION SHADES OF BLUE AND GRAY AND THE SAMPLE NEVER LOOKS THE SAME WHEN YOU PUT IT ON THE WALL. Please come talk to me once you’ve spent the past year of your life painting different rooms in your house. And not to brag but I am a good painter. I owe this to my father who is is rather meticulous about painting and passed along his children. Growing up my Dad was like a drill sergeant when it came to any painting around our house (Which us kids often helped with because Mike and Mo didn’t care about any child labor laws.) He passed along his OCD painting ways to his children and we are all good painters because of it. All of us except my sister Jane. My dad knew there was no helping Jane, she was just an awful painter. One summer when we were growing up my parents decided to completely renovate our basement. We’d all be down there painting the newly installed drywall, but my Dad did his best to keep Jane FARFAR AWAY from any roller or brush. Every morning she’d come down in her painting clothes all ready to help paint like the rest of us, we’d all get assigned our job by my Dad and every single day my dad would say to Jane “Ahh you know what Jane? I kind of have a taste for some chocolate chip cookies. I bought some ‘break and bake’ Toll House ones from the store, would you mind making those for me?” What my Dad meant was really “Jane, you are a terrible painter and I don’t want you to mess up my new basement so I am going to assign you ‘busy work’ to keep you away from here.” Of course break and bake cookies do not take long to make so then she’d come back down and he’d have to keep her busy doing something else like “straightening up the pantry” or “going through the coupon drawer” (Not sure why we had this-we never used the coupons). He quickly ran out of “jobs that Jane couldn’t mess up” so he just kept buying different types of cookie dough from the store. We had so many break and bake chocolate chip cookies that summer.
Mike, I have found, is very similar to Jane in his painting skills. I love Mike to death and he has many great skills, but painting is not one of them. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I’m a terrible dancer, Mike and I both know this and have accepted this. Mike is not the best painter, but he has a great attitude and has been working at it. I have been trying to teach him my ways too. “Mike! You are painting too fast! Paint is splattering everywhere!” I tried to tell him as we were painting our bedroom. “You have to go slower and be more gentle!” “Ahhh!” He yelled out in frustration “I just want to be done painting! That’s why I’m going so fast! I WANT TO BE DONE WITH THIS ROOM I HATE THIS!” Mike’s patience is tested when it comes to painting but he is getting better. I have sometimes found myself using my dad’s trick of trying to assign him ‘busy work’ when it comes to painting some rooms, but he really is becoming a better painter!
No matter how good or bad we are, we have come to realize that we were not meant to be painters. We hate it and always have to reward ourselves with alcohol after finishing a room.
One of our biggest projects so far has been our “Dateline Room” AKA our dining room. When we moved in the dining room had wallpaper, so we thought it would be an easy project to take it down and paint. We could not be more wrong. Turns our there was about four layers of wallpaper going back to about 1930. Once we got down to the final layer, the walls were crumbling and yellowed. The room looked like a murder had taken place there so we renamed the Dining Room “The Dateline Room” (One of our favorite shows.) After about six months of work and hiring someone to re-plaster the walls it finally looks like a dining room again!
So in summary, this year of home-ownership has been filled with a lot of painting, a lot of trips to Home Depot and Menards, but also a lot of fun. Maybe Mike doesn’t so much agree with me about the fun part, but he’s also done a lot more work on the house than I have, I’ve mostly given my opinion on things. (I think I’ve done a great job giving my opinion though). While we’ve learned that owning a home is a lot of work, and we still have a lot to continue to learn, it’s been a blast trying to figure it all out with my best friend Mike. I’m so grateful to have him on this new adventure. We both look forward to the many parties, Christmases, birthdays, etc. we will have in our forever home!
When COVID forced us to postpone our wedding, Mike and I decided, “OK, let’s have two weddings instead.” Are you confused yet? Well, welcome to the year 2021. Sit tight as I try and explain.
When we made the tough decision to reschedule our wedding, we were upset that COVID postponed our big wedding celebrations, but we were not going to let it postpone our lives. So we decided to still get legally married on our original wedding date of June 11, 2021. That decision was the easy part. The hard part was figuring out what that June 11th “Minimony” would look like. If you read my last blog post you’ll have learned that Mike and I think about things and situations VERY differently. So as you can imagine, the road to June 11th was an interesting one. At first, we were going to do a little ceremony in our backyard and have a big party with our friends and family after. We had bought an old “fixer-upper” home in the fall of 2020 that we still had a lot of work to do on-a lot of which probably would not be complete by June 11, 2021. In my head I thought “Great plan, we’ll say some vows in our backyard, get lots of alcohol, friends and family will come over and we will call it a day.” Boom. Done. After all, I had PLENTY of experience party planning as I used to throw an annual party in my Grandma’s backyard called “Grandma’s Daytona” inviting all our college friends over to day drink on her pool deck, AND I had just thrown Mike a successful “Mike-Tober Fest” Party at my apartment for Mike’s 30th birthday. How hard could throwing a wedding be?
Well, for me life was beautiful there for a while but little did I know poor Mike was loosing sleep over the whole thing. After a few weeks he finally came to me to tell me how stressed he was. I tried to calm his nerves, reminding him that I’m basically an event planner with all my experience but then he was asking me all these questions about bathroom situations for people, electrical outlets, tents in case of rain, food, etc. to which I responded “What’s with all the questions?! We’ll get it figured out! The wedding is like months away!” (As you know I am a last minute person.) He was also stressed that our house was a construction zone. I told him that as our closest friends and family they should love us for us and not the state of our house. Plus maybe we’d get lucky and some people may be inspired to pick up a hammer or a paint brush while they were over and we’d get the place done a little quicker. My joke fell flat with my audience.
After many more conversations we finally decided to get married at the perfect place, a place that meant a lot to both of us-Sister Lakes, Michigan. I had been going up to Dewey Lake since I was a baby and Mike had been going up to Indian Lake for many years. Our parents were so gracious to offer their homes to us so we decided to make a weekend of it. We’d get married on Dewey Lake on Friday, June 11 and then hang out at Indian Lake on Saturday. We’d keep it to just our immediate family.
We were thrilled we had finally come up with a plan for our wedding. Mike immediately started creating his spreadsheet of various costs. I immediately started designing koozies for the weekend. I thought I’d be done after that. Well… I was wrong. Turns out that weddings, no matter how big or small, are a lot of work. And they are NOTHING like other parties. NOTHING.
Since I knew I had a a lot of work to do, at first I did what I like to call “productive procrastination.” I ordered sunglasses for everyone, commemorative beer mugs, Body Armor drinks for everyone’s next day hangovers, sent a lot of Snapchats and told A LOT of people about the koozies I ordered. Honestly I was ready to kick back and relax after ordering the koozies.
But then as the day grew closer and closer my mom and sisters started asking me questions about flowers and decorations and what I was wearing. The phrase “It takes a village” is an understatement when it comes to me because without my family I do not think I would have made it this far in my life. They wanted to help make my day special, and will the little information I gave them, they helped make it the best day ever.
-When they asked what type of bouquet I wanted, all I said was, “I don’t know, I just don’t want to look like I’m holding a stalk of cauliflower.” And they found me a beautiful bouquet.
-When they asked what type of dress I wanted I said “Oh you know me, I could look good in a potato sack! Hahah Just kidding, I just don’t want to look like I’m making my first holy communion in my white dress.” Mike and I both look very young for our age-fold our hands and throw a rosary at us while we are dressed like that and we could easily be mistaken for making a different sacrament.
When it came to ordering dinner for the wedding I did do that one all on my own. (Excuse me while I pause to pat myself on the back). I used my skill of “making decisions based on doing zero research, only on if the person I’m talking to on the phone is nice to me.” So I called up a Mexican Restaurant near my parents’ lake house that I had never eaten at, really became besties with the girl on the phone, and the next thing I knew tacos were on the menu for the wedding! Looking back, I guess it was a little risky going with a place without ever sampling their food or knowing anyone that had ever sampled their food. Thank God that worked out because how awkward would that have been if everyone got food poisoning on my wedding day? Yikes.
When it came to decorations, my mom and I did make an attempt. We went to Michael’s Craft store and it was unfortunately very traumatic for me. Being in the fake flower and ribbon section of that store was my nightmare. Plus my mom kept using words like “tulle” and naming specific flowers like “peonies.” She might as well have been speaking a different language because I had no idea what she was talking about. “Mom!” I finally said probably too loudly “I HAVE NO IDEA THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF YOUR MOUTH! What kind of tool are you looking for? And stop naming flowers please! I NEED TO GET OUT OF THIS STORE! WHAT KIND OF PLACE IS THIS?! THIS IS AWFUL WHY ARE THERE SO MANY FAKE FLOWERS!” After my breakdown, I was ready to get back to work. So I rolled up my sleeves, and called my friend Nancy and she and my friend Jan handled all the decorations. They made our little wedding setup look like something out of a magazine, it looked absolutely amazing!
As the wedding grew closer we got busier and busier. Mike was determined to stick to his excel spreadsheet list so every few days we’d check it. He was VERY CONCERNED about the garbage can situation so that was a line item and a topic of many conversations. It seemed like every time we’d talk about our little wedding he’d loop it back to the garbage can.
Mike: Ok so we have the tent, food, alcohol, now we just need to figure out the garbage can for dinner. Me: What is your obsession with the garbage cans?! Mike: Well… do your parents have outdoor garbage cans we can use? Where are people going to throw out their trash? Me: I don’t know! Can’t we just tie those black garbage bags to the tent poles and people can throw their garbage there? Mike: Oh no, no, no Kath! We can do that! Do you think I can fit one of the garbage cans we have in our garage in your back seat and drive it up? Me: You are absolutely not putting a used garbage can that’s been sitting in our garage in the back seat of my car. That’s gross. Mike: I’ll put a blanket on the seat so it won’t get dirty. Me: No! If it’s that big of a deal we’ll buy a garbage can! It will be your first wedding gift from me to you.
I told him we would need to take a picture with our new garbage can, and of course we forgot. But as fate would have it, she snuck in to one of our wedding photos:
Once we got the garbage can situation figured out, I did question Mike’s “seven bags of tortilla chips” Excel line item but then he started going off on a long winded math spiel and I got bored and asked him to stop and I just said “Ok seven bags of chips sounds good to me.”
Once we finally had everything ready it was time to drive up to Michigan for the big day. The night before I stayed with my parents and Mike stayed with his. I thought it might be cute for me and my dad to watch the movie “Father of the Bride” but he said “Nah, I’ve seen that movie before!” and that was that. In typically Kelly family “Wait until the last minute” fashion we were still getting our house ready for the wedding until late at night. We had been meaning to hang up family photos since my parents’ bought the lake house three years ago, but what better time to be hammering in some frames than at 10 p.m. the night before a wedding?!
June 11, 2021 finally arrived and it was awesome. My Godfather, my Uncle Tom, officiated the ceremony. (I’ve been calling him Father Tom since). My Dad walked me down the “aisle.” My nieces and nephews served as flower girls and ring bearers (good thing they can use this “minimony” as practice for the big show in September because not going to lie their form needs some work) Both our Mothers did readings. Mike’s Godmother, his Aunt Mary led us in Grace at Dinner. The weather was scalding hot for everyone else but perfect for me (I don’t do well in the cold and I hate wind-the day was very hot and we had no breeze). What a day it was!
After a while I had to put a stop to all the photos because I had literally had enough. The photographer wanted us to do all these poses in different spots, doing weird stuff like gazing into each others eyes, or Mike whispering in my ear and I finally had to tell her “Yea, listen, this is unnatural for us. We don’t do this and we aren’t going to order these photos.” Mike and I are very real people, so we just don’t do the “foo-foo” photos, as my Dad calls it. The one photo we took of Mike “Whispering in my ear” he looks like he’s creeping on me and that did give us a good laugh so we actually may print that one out. After the 8 million photos we were finally able to have celebratory drinks, dinner and go on a boat ride.
The next day the celebrations continued as the Montags graciously hosted us on Indian Lake. We had a blast at the sand bar.
Our mini wedding was truly an unforgettable weekend. COVID postponed our big wedding but I still got to marry my best friend on our original date. Blessed and lucky-that is what we are. We had so much fun getting married, we can’t wait to get married again in September!
And my niece Ciara perfectly captured how everyone felt the Monday morning after the wedding weekend…
Recently, my fiancé Mike and I had to make the difficult decision to postpone our wedding due to COVID restrictions, something brides and grooms today are all too familiar with. We planned to have our wedding on June 11, 2021 and now have pushed it back to September 17, 2021 in the hopes that COVID might read the room a little and make an exit. The two of us reacted to this change in very different ways: One of us cried and asked the other (dramatically through tears) if we could please get a dog to help cope with the trauma, and the other just began updating the eight million spreadsheets they had created for the wedding. After reading this, maybe you’ll be able to figure out who was who in that situation.
I think the saying “opposites attract” applies pretty well to Mike and me. Mike needs to have everything planned out, organized, neat and tidy and he does things WAY in advanced. I, on the other hand, live my life by the wise words my brother once told me when I was a freshman in college and he was a senior in college-both of us at the University of Dayton. Those words were “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute.” (He told me this when I was trying to decide between going to a party and finishing a paper I had due the next morning….I won’t say what I did, but I will say I still got the paper done.) I don’t plan things out, my organizational skills need work and I procrastinate a bit on things in my life. Mike is a realist and I am an optimist. I love Dunkin’ coffee and he prefers Starbucks. Mike is a numbers and data guy and I am more of a “Where are the pretty pictures? These numbers and text on this page are boring me” type person. Mike likes to research and read reviews of things before making a purchase, I am more of an impulse shopper/buyer. When it came to planning our wedding and choosing different vendors, we had two different approaches. Mike liked to call various companies and compare prices. I value my time and “Go with my gut” when choosing things. A few months ago, when we were trying to find a hotel for our wedding guests, I told Mike that I’d take on the task of finding a hotel and blocking rooms for our out of town guest to stay. Being the planner that he is, Mike took the lead with a lot of our wedding planning, which was TOTALLY fine with me, but I thought I’d offer some assistance on this. Guess I was feeling extra generous that day or something. “Hmmm I don’t know Kath,” Mike said. “I appreciate the offer but I’d like to actually price out hotels and if you do it you’re going to call the first hotel you Google, come back to me and say excitedly, ‘So! I called this place and the guy on the phone sounded really nice! So I think I’m going to go with them!’ and I don’t want to have to tell you no.” I just laughed because his impression of me was spot on and I would have 100% done that.
In addition to our different personalities, Mike and I grew up differently. Mike is the oldest and has one brother, I am the fourth of five children (Middle child survivor). His family used coasters and my family did not. (Our coasters were the constant layer of dust on side tables-nature’s coaster). My family bought in bulk (and yet fed us as if it was still the Great Depression and food rations were still a thing) and his didn’t. Mike’s parents bought him proper athletic gear for sports, whereas my parents knew they’d be wasting money on me and made me use hand-me-downs from my older siblings or just said “I’m not buying you those expensive foo-foo soccer shoes you’ll use for a month and then I’ll be tripping over them in the basement for the rest of the year!” (direct quote from my Dad). Mike was allowed to have any type of pop-tart he wanted for breakfast-Oreo, chocolate, s’more you name it! Whereas in our family we could only have the brown sugar ones or strawberry because those were the “healthy” pop-tarts. (He still brags about this.)
This difference in upbringing has led to some interesting experiences and conversations in our relationship, including “the great pickle jar debate of 2019” when I picked out a pickle jar that was apparently “Gigantic” according to Mike. (I thought it was a normal size). And he thought it was pretty funny when I told him that when I was little and played soccer, whenever the referee would line everyone up to check and make sure everyone had proper shin-guards and spikes on before the game, as soon as everyone would turn to show their fancy soccer spikes I would bend down and pretend I was tying my shoe because I didn’t have any. This was just common practice for me growing up.
Not all our conversations are ridiculous ones though. We definitely had some important conversations before deciding we were going to spend the rest of our lives together:
We discussed how we would never EVER go camping-we are NOT “outdoor people”-I have no tolerance for cold weather and we don’t like to get our shoes/clothes dirty.
We discussed how we will never let our future children play a musical instrument because neither of us are musically talented so we DO NOT want to have to sit and listen to them practice in our home. Or worse-have to attend some sort of concert or recital they may be in. Exception to the rule would be if they had some sort of headphone plugged into the instrument so we wouldn’t have to suffer. If our children have to play the recorder at school I may even have to try and get a doctor’s note to excuse them from bringing that noise gun home. We don’t want that in our home.
We will NEVER EVER go to Disney World-crowds, long lines, many of the characters creep me out, the hot sun-talk about our NIGHTMARE! Plus we don’t like rollercoasters. They are too “jolting” for me and Mike just doesn’t like them.
But I think one of the most important conversations came after we purchased a home together (home purchase ordeal will have to be a whole other blog post). We were driving back to our house and Mike said to me, “Kath, I have a very serious question to ask you, and I hope I know your answer but I need your full attention.” I paused the music, turned to him and said, “Ok, I’m ready.” I could tell Mike was a bit nervous and struggled to find the words, but he finally said, “Would you ever want to host a garage sale at our new home?” I grabbed his hand and said, “Michael, absolutely not! Do you not know me at all?” “Thank GOD!” He said relieved” But I continued. “Do you know how much work garage sales are? All the PLANNING that goes into them? Can you really see me organizing a garage sale? Pricing everything out, sorting through things. Ugh! I’m getting anxious just thinking about it!” “Yea you would never do that I don’t know what I was thinking,” Mike said. I continued on my rant: “And THEN after all that AWFUL sorting you have to sit there in the hot sun on a WEEKEND while people come look at our junk? You think I’d give up a weekend for that?” “But what if it turns out our block does one of those big garage sales where every house on the street does a sale?” Mike asked. “Well,” I said with a sigh, “We’d have no other choice but to sell the house I guess.”
Despite all our differences, Mike and I are very much the same. We are both old souls. We love our Dateline and murder shows. We both love Propel and automatically rate a restaurant higher if they have bread on the the table. The two of us have the most random conversations all the time and we share in the same sense of humor. We value and appreciate our differences but also make fun of each other for them, and that is what I think makes us the perfect match. Together, we always have fun and always have a lot of laughs-usually at the other’s expense. As hard as it’s been trying to plan a wedding during COVID, it’s been 100 times easier with my lifelong best friend, Mike. (Talking about my fiancé Mike here, I feel like I need to clarify since I have a lot of family members named Mike. Also, just saying, things may have been 200 times easier with Mike AND a dog, but who will ever know because no one loves me and won’t buy me a dog) While we we were crushed to have to postpone our wedding from our original date of June 11th to September 17th, we’re hopeful that the COVID cloud will not be raining on our wedding plans anymore. But if it does, I know that together, we’ll weather the storm.
In 2020 I went on a couple of trips to a place I never, ever wanted to go, and never thought I would need to go-The Mayo Clinic. But in August of 2020, after hospitalizations and months of issues from nerve damage, heart issues, and declining health, my family finally convinced me to take the journey to Rochester, Minnesota. While many people offered to accompany me on the trip, it ultimately ended up being a “reunion vacation” with my old roommates/parents Mike Sr. and Mo Money. Although I must say I almost backed out of the trip all together when my Dad tried to pull a fast one on me and my Mom THE NIGHT BEFORE by suggesting we take his car instead of the Honda Mini van. My dad received two responses to this suggestion. My Mom responded first with just a simple “Mmmm No, Sweetie.” Since my Mom is the boss, my dad and I both knew that was the final answer, we would not be taking his Chevy Impala. But, since I am a “smart ass,” (as my parents have so affectionately called me from a young age) I couldn’t help but add my two cents to his suggestion. I first asked my Dad if he even remembered how to back his car out of the garage it had been so long since he had driven it (He hardly ever drives it as he does not like to get it dirty). I then said that there was no way I was riding all the way to Minnesota in the back of his old geezer car, there just was not enough cupholders.
I was honestly appalled at my Dad’s suggestion. It was like he didn’t know me or my Mom at all. Didn’t he know the Chevy Impala only had 8 cupholders? Did he not remember how many cupholders my Mom and I take up with with all our drinks and items? My Mom with her coffee, yogurt, possible McDonald’s oatmeal and water and me with my Dunkin Coffee, two waters, Propel, Diet Coke and Gatorade? Did he block out all the family road trips we took? Thinking back… probably.
The morning finally came to leave for the Clinic and I was taking my sweet time as I was in no rush to get out the door seeing as I wasn’t really looking forward to going there in the first place , but my Dad was very much rushing me out the door. He was also making comments about how I was packing too much and that we would be running out of space in the Mini Van. (Yeah right like that would happen in our HONDA mini van which comfortably seats 8 and has plenty of leg space and cargo room). My sister Jane asked if I wanted to borrow her nail file for the trip but I was sure to decline her offer, saying very loudly so my Dad could hear me from where he was in the other part of the house, that there wasn’t enough space in the van for me to bring it. My Dad and I were really starting the trip out on a good note. After a lot of running around the three of us were finally in the van ready to pull out of the driveway. Two of my sisters had come home from the North Side of the City to say goodbye and wish us well before our big trip so they were waiting on the porch ready to see us off. Just as my Dad was about to put the car in reverse my mom thought that that exact moment would be a great time to show my Dad a cute video our oldest sister had sent of her kids the night before that “she was so busy rushing around packing” she didn’t get the chance to show him. “Hold on Mo, I can’t really see it right now… I need my glasses.” My Dad said as she shoved the phone in his face. With that he put the car in park (still in the driveway), got his glasses out and the two of them watched this video, while me, my two sisters on the porch, and probably the rest of the block LISTENED to the video since my Mom’s phone is hooked up to her car and they had it blasting through the mini van speakers. “WOW!” I yelled from the back seat so they could hear me over the sound of my niece and nephew coming out of the Mini Van speakers. “I AM SO GLAD I RUSHED TO GET IN THE CAR FOR THIS FIVE HOUR ROAD TRIP JUST TO SPEND AN EXTRA 4 MINUTES LISTENING TO AUDIO OF A VIDEO PARKED IN OUR VERY OWN DRIVEWAY!” After we gave the whole neighborhood a free concert of screaming kids, we were FINALLY on the road.
The car ride there was an interesting one to say the least. We were on the road less than an hour before my Dad needed to stop for a McDonald’s Diet Coke. A little while later my Mom asked if she could “Lean her chair back a little.” Before I could answer she nearly broke my nose with her headrest she pushed her seat back so far and so quickly. I was so badly pinned beneath her seat, I almost couldn’t get out my phone to take the below Snap Chat to send to my siblings.
Then later the two of them took out some booklet with some weird squiggly lines all over it and started studying it. I asked what it was and they said it was an “Atlas”-Some collection of maps they used to use back in the 80s. I then asked my parents if they knew what year it was. It was a legit question though as my dad drove so slow, I started to question what year it was myself. Was time backwards? Were we moving in slow motion? I watched as car after semi-truck after snail passed us on the road. “Hey Dad!” I called up from the back. “Are you trying to add more ailments to my already long list of medical conditions before we get to the Mayo Clinic?” “No. Why?” He asked sounding confused” “Then why are you making the rest of our ears bleed with this awful talk radio you’re listening to? When can I put my Spotify road trip playlist on?” My Mom laughed. I waited until the point in my Dad’s rant when he called me a “Millennial Snowflake who doesn’t know the front door from the back” and then I smiled and put my headphones in. I had my dose of entertainment so I was set for at least the next few hours.
After a few more hours my Dad got off at a rest stop for us to have lunch. He made a beeline for the first McDonald’s he saw as he and my Mom LOVE McDonald’s. They asked what I wanted but I wasn’t too hungry and I also don’t love McDonald’s as much as they do so I said I would just get a snack at the gas station. They did not like that answer so they forced me to eat somewhere, after a lot of back and forth, I don’t even remember how we ended up going here, but we ended up going through the drive through at Culver’s. Now, lots of people have regrets in their life. Going through this Culver’s with my parents may forever be my biggest regret in life because of the the amount of questions it somehow sparked. My parents were firing questions at me left and right. For some reason they acted like they had never heard of Culver’s. They also must have thought I was a cofounder of Culver’s or something with all the questions they were asking me:
(In line in the Drive-through) Mom: Kathleen, Did you say this place is know for their fries? Me: No, I never said that Dad: Now, Kathleen, Is this a burger place? Me: Yeah, you can get a burger. Mom:So Kathleen, you said this place has good fries? Me: Mom, you literally just asked me that. I never said anything about their fries. Dad: No fries for me! I don’t care if they have good fries I don’t want any fries. Me: I never said anything about their fries Dad: Kathleen, what do people order here? Me: Dad, the menu is right there. Get a burger if you want. Dad: Well how big are their burgers? And I do NOT want fries. Me: Oh, well, let me go get my measuring tape I always carry around in my pocket and measure a burger patty for you! I don’t know Dad! Just order something! Mom: Oh shoot Mike, Honey this is a Pepsi products place. Me: Just go to McDonalds! I didn’t even suggest going here I am not even hungry!
After many more questions and complaints, we finally had our food. Since indoor dining at Culver’s was closed due to COVID restrictions and already spending that extra 4 minutes in the car watching that video of their grandkids, my parents thought it would be a good idea to eat our lunch on a picnic table outside the Culver’s. This was my own personal Hell as it was windy and there is nothing I hate more than having to be outside on a windy day let alone eat outside. Our lunch was not very enjoyable-Napkins blowing every where, debris from a nearby tree getting in my pop, there was a bee by us, we were steps away from a highway so it was loud. The only one who seemed happy was my Dad and that was because he was watching semi trucks go by on the highway while eating the fries he said he didn’t want. Finally we all had enough and finished our lunch in the car. “So how did you guys like your first meal at Culver’s?” I asked as we continued our drive. They both kind of looked at me and scoffed as if I had just asked them the dumbest question in the world. “Um, we’ve eaten at Culver’s before, Kathleen.” My Mom said with a little chuckle. “Yeah, don’t you know there’s just one a few block’s away from our house?” My Dad said. Apparently they were the new Culver’s experts, and I was ok with that.
We made one more stop at my Mom’s old college so she could relive her glory days a bit and then we FINALLY arrived at the hotel. When we got to the lobby to check in I noticed they offered free coffee WITH flavored creamer-always a sign of a high end hotel. Mike Sr. knows how to treat his girls-only the finest Marriott’s for us! The hotel receptionist gave us our two rooms (side by side) and we took the elevator up to our floor. I was pretty pumped to have my own room but just as I was walking in my room yelling to my parents “Peace out! See you in the morning.” I noticed my mom was following me in and not my Dad. “Oh whoa, Mom, you’re at the wrong room, silly!” I said “Dad, you better keep an eye on this one she’s walking in to other people’s rooms!” Probably not a joke you should make in the hallway of a hotel when other people can hear you, but I went for it. “Haha, no Sweetie,” My Mom said. “Dad and I thought I could stay with you!” “Yeah you girls have fun!” My Dad said as he started walking towards his room. “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, hold on. Are you guys having marital problems or something? Wait you are still married…right?” I said. (Another joke in hotel hallway) “I do not remember discussing this. If this is something where you want to show moral support by not leaving me alone, I can assure you, I am good being alone. Second, I think the rules of marriage state that you pretty much have to share a hotel room when you travel together. I think it’s in the vows: ‘To love and share hotel rooms together for as long as you both shall live’ thus I should have my own room not Dad. Ok, well good chat! But I think I should hit the hay so I’m going to head to my room now bye!” “No, no, no!” My Dad replied. “I need my own room because I get up so early and Mom sleeps so late so we thought it would be best if you two share. Plus I have work calls this week I need to take.” “But I am up very late.” I responded, “Plus, Dad, do you not remember that I am a business woman that went on TWO business trips where I stayed in my own room? I have grown accustomed to this corporate lifestyle I cannot go back to sharing now.” Both being business people, my Dad and I negotiated for a while but ultimately I let him have his own room and my Mom and I shared.
The next morning We had to be up bright and early to be at the Clinic for lots of doctors appointments, procedures and tests. My Dad had to work and my new roommate conveniently had to go back to our hotel after getting a migraine so I was there by myself. I thought my roommate was going to be cool but I guess not. At the end of the day they gave me a COVID test which I’m pretty sure they used a wire coat hanger to shove up my nose, to my brain and down my throat. They were so “Thorough” that I got a nosebleed from it. So, there I was, looking like a huge dork with my head tilted back, bloody tissues everywhere, trying to pitch my nose, keep my mask on and call my Dad to come pick me up all at the same time. When we got back to the hotel that evening my mom was still laying down with a migraine so my dad and I decided to go for a walk around a nearby lake that we heard about (Once my nosebleed stopped). You may be thinking in your head, ‘Oh what a nice father/daughter activity!’ Well it was NOT! My Dad kept saying I wasn’t walking fast enough even though I was practically running, and he kept making loud inappropriate comments about everyone and everything on the crowded lakefront trail but claimed he was whispering. On about the 100th time he told me I was walking too slow I finally had enough and responded “MAYBE I AM WALKING SLOW BECAUSE I DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO THINK WE’RE TOGETHER WITH ALL THE INNAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS YOU’RE MAKING!!” I then told him to just go ahead and keep on fast walking back to the hotel but he wouldn’t because he said he ‘didn’t want people on the path thinking he left his little 8th grade daughter alone.’ That is the last walk we took together that trip.
When we got back my Mom was up so we discussed where to go to dinner. I made numerous suggestions that people had recommended to me and my Mom kept saying “Sounds tasty but let’s save that for another night” because she basically had her mind already set on Panera so we ended up going to Panera. After dinner my Dad wanted to stop at the grocery store for the second time in less than 24 hours to get more yogurt. “How many yogurts are you downing in that room of yours, Dad?” I asked as we were in the all too familiar yogurt aisle yet again.
On This Mayo journey I discovered that my parents really love two things: Chain restaurants and yogurt. We made so many stops for my Dad to get yogurt I think he cleaned out the state of Minnesota of it. The United Dairy Farmers had to have an emergency meeting after the consumption of yogurt on that trip. My parents also kept pushing their love of yogurt on me, encouraging me to get some yogurt as well. I finally caved and picked the least tasting yogurt-like yogurt that I could find.
The next couple of days were filled with more tests, procedures, doctors and yogurt of course. On our last day we got back to the hotel late from the Clinic and I said I wanted to get outside and go for a walk after being poked and prodded in a hospital bed all day. My mom said she would join me and then asked if it was ok if she invited dad… I said no, because of our walking experience the last time but she must have thought I was kidding because she texted him anyway. After receiving the text he came over to our room and announced that ‘if we were going to walk slow he didn’t want to go because he needed to walk fast’ which then led into my Dad and I getting into a fast/slow walking argument. My Mom, AKA THE POT STIRRER who started this whole thing in the first place, then acted like she was the peace maker, and decided my Dad would go on his walk alone and “the girls” would go on their walk. But she also wanted to have a “Happy Hour” drink after our walks but before our dinner reservations so then it was decided that we would all meet back in “the girls room” for a drink before our reservations. All three of us agreed to the boss’ plan and headed out on our separate walks like one big dysfunctional family. When we got back my Mom and I were waiting for my Dad to have our drink but he wasn’t answering any of our texts, calls or knocks on his door. Finally, about ten minutes before we had to leave for dinner he came into our room all ready to go to dinner and told us that he already had his drink in his room by himself because he (and his is a direct quote) “Didn’t know when we’d be coming back from our SLOW walk” so he just went ahead and had his drink. I asked if he made any effort to text, call, or respond to our texts/calls or even knock on our hotel room door that was right next to his to try and find out when we’d be back to which he simply said “No.”
After my Mom and I chugged our beers we’d been waiting to drink with my Dad we headed to dinner. I knew immediately that I was going to need another beer when I saw the QR codes on the tables. Why was God punishing me so much? Had I not suffered enough? I honestly didn’t think I had the energy to explain QR codes to the Baby Boomers. Somehow I gathered the last of my strength to show them how to access the menu:
Dad: Hells bells! I forgot my glasses again! Mom: Here Mike, Honey you can borrow mine. Dad: Oh Hell! The print is so small you can hardly read the damn thing! Mom: Oops! Kathleen, sweetie I accidently x’ed out of my menu on my phone. Can you pull it up again? Dad: I had a big lunch so I don’t want anything big! Mom: I don’t either because with us leaving tomorrow, I don’t think we’ll be able to take any leftovers home! Oh whoops! Kathleen I lost the menu on my phone again!
Once we moved past the ordeal of getting the menu we had a nice dinner. We discussed what the doctors had said and different test results. My Mom talked about how impressed she was with the doctors we met with and my Dad talked a lot about how much he really enjoyed having his one hotel room. He went into great detail about how neat and tidy he kept his room all week compared to ours and how he was so glad he did not have to share with us and all our ‘foo-foo girl products’ all over the room. After dinner we obviously made a stop at the railroad tracks so my Dad could check those out, then we headed back to our hotel to get some rest before our drive back home the next morning.
While I wish I could say that was our last trip the the Mayo Clinic, we did have to go back. But luckily the following trip gave my Mom the opportunity to hit up the Olive Garden she’d had her eye on since the moment we arrived on that first trip. Bottomless breadsticks? Totally worth another trip to Mayo.
Lots of people go to the Mayo Clinic to “find answers” to their medical misfortune. But sometimes those answers aren’t always the the ones you’d hope to find. This was unfortunately what happened in our case. But we got our answers nonetheless. The best solution now is to take those answers and move forward with them. And I am ok with that because what I’ve learned on this journey is that I have the most supportive family and friends a person could ask for. The past year has been a crazy one, but I will forever be grateful to everyone we helped me and will continue to help me along the way.
A few months ago, my sister Jane and I went on one of our usual quarantine walks. But on this particular walk, for whatever reason, we decided to switch things up a bit and go through the cemetery. Maybe it was because we were getting bored of our normal route, or maybe it was because growing up, instead of watching “Sesame Street,” my Mom had shows like “Dateline” and “Cold Case Files” playing for us so we felt quite comfortable with death. Whatever the reason, we were really enjoying walking through the cemetery on that bright sunny morning, commenting on all the headstones, picking out our favorites, and discussing if we would go with granite or quartz, an in-ground or above-ground headstone when our time came, when I noticed someone had left a Dunkin Donuts’ coffee at their loved one’s grave. Being a Dunkin coffee lover myself, I thought this was very nice, and I asked Jane if she would do that for me when I kicked the bucket. Well, let me tell you, a person’s true colors REALLY shine when you ask them to pick you up a coffee postmortem because here is the conversation that followed:
Me: Wow, that’s really sweet that person left a Dunkin coffee on the headstone for their loved one! Jane, would you do that for me when I die? Jane: Awww that was so nice! Hmmm well, I mean you do love your Dunkin Coffee. That’s probably your favorite food right? Me: I mean yea, I’d say it’s the base of my food pyramid, yes. Jane: Ok, well would I have to actually pay to have coffee put in a Dunkin cup or could I just go to Dunkin and ask for the cup and put that on your grave? Me: Ok. Wow, first off, you cheap ass! A Dunkin Coffee is like two dollars just suck it up and get me the coffee for crying out loud! I’m dead! All you have to do is pay two dollars! You got the way better end of this deal YET AGAIN CLASSIC HEALTHY JANE LIVING LONGER THAN ME!! Second, HOW IS AN EMPTY CUP GOING TO STAY AT MY GRAVE IT WILL BLOW AWAY!! Jane: I would put rocks or water in the cup to hold it down. Me: Ok, you know what that might work better because now that I think about it, since I get my coffee with cream and sugar if you leave that by my grave that may attract animals and I don’t want them stomping on all the flowers Mom will be planting at my grave. Jane: Ok then so what will you bring to my grave when I die? Me: Well obviously you LOVE hummus and chips so I’ll bring you the COSTCO sized hummus. But I will need to know what type of chips you want. Should I bring pretzel chips or pita chips for you? Jane: Hmm, yikes, tough choice. I kind of like to switch it up. Can you alternate and maybe bring me hummus and pita chips one week and then hummus and pretzel chips the next week? Me: UMMMM excuse me?! I’m sorry, do you think I am going to turn into your own personal Grub Hub delivery service once you die?! And do you know how pricey pita chips and pretzel chips can be?!! You won’t even buy me a two dollar coffee and you want me to buy you pita chips AND pretzel chips weekly like I am some sort of grocery delivery service?! You’re lucky I’m even bringing you chips!! I could make you dip vegetables in the hummus if I really wanted to! And we have to chat about the frequency of these grave site visits, I mean I’ll do my best to be there but I have a full time job and then once it gets into the winter months you know I get cold easily. I can’t be standing out there in the elements. These Chicago winters are no joke. Jane: Yea, your lips turn purple when it gets lower than 70 degrees out that’s true.
After more discussion, we got the grave-site schedule figured out (a logistical nightmare but thank goodness we checked that off our list!) and enjoyed the rest of our walk through the cemetery. Jane tried to appease me and say that she would leave a gift card at my grave that had two dollars on it, to which I was even more insulted.
A lot of people have used this quarantine to get in shape, organize their homes, or try out new recipes. (I’ve done none of that.) Other people have been really, really bored during this quarantine. Luckily for me, I have been able to keep myself entertained, because honestly, no one can make me laugh quite like I can. So, what have I been doing over quarantine? Well, I’ve gone on a lot of walks. LOTS of walks. Part of my daily routine involves going for a walk, coming home, checking my Fitbit for my step count, being surprised at how low it is and yelling out loud “UGH! THAT’S IT?!!” And then telling everyone around that my Fitbit MUST be broken because I for sure walked farther than it has documented.
Other than going on walks, another favorite quarantine pass-time of mine is watching recipe videos. I never actually make any of the recipes, but for some reason those recipe videos of the hands making various dishes show up on my newsfeed and they are so mesmerizing that all of a sudden it’s 6 hours later and I haven’t blinked. So that’s really taken up a good chunk of my time.
Other than that, so far during quarantine I’ve watched a lot of shows, drank a lot outside, took a lot of Snapchats and even attempted to make a few smoothies (Went horribly wrong). But my proudest accomplishment so far during quarantine has definitely been getting my haircut. While I’ve been blessed with a great flow of hair, it’s a wild mane, and when it’s not tamed I literally look like Jesus. So when the whole world went on lock down, including hair salons, Jesus rose again:
While I am MORE than ready to be done with this quarantine, I am very lucky that my family has been able to stay healthy during all of this. My two biggest complaints have been that the Governor kept interrupting “Inside Edition” and “Jeopardy” to give daily updates and that my Dad changed his laundry day. So with those being my biggest problems right now I am extremely lucky. But my Dad really did throw us all for a loop when he changed his laundry day from Sunday to Monday. He has been doing the laundry on Sunday’s for the last 35 years and all of a sudden he switches things up on us! My siblings and I have never felt so lost and confused.
Quarantine life hasn’t been ideal, but I’m very fortunate I get to spend it with this crew: