Living The Lake Life

IMG_1629.jpgIn July, we had our annual “Family week” in Sister Lakes, Michigan. Each year the seven of us would spend an entire week together at my Grandparents’ cottage on Dewey Lake. As we got older, it grew harder to be able to find a week that worked with everyone’s schedules- jobs, sports, and friends’ weddings and other events got in the way throughout the years, but we always found at least a few days during our Family Week (Or in some years only a few hours) for everyone’s schedules to align and be together. While a lot has changed through the years, especially now that my parents have their own cottage across the lake from my grandparents’ cottage, much of what makes our family week so much fun, remains the same.

The day we would leave for our big week at Dewey was always a very hectic and chaotic one. Our family isn’t really organized or big “plan ahead” people so we left much of our vacation prep to the last minute. If we planned to leave the house at noon, we were lucky if we got on the road by 3:30 or so.

It always seemed my Mom would decide she needed to have her life long to-do list done before we left, as if she was leaving for a six year journey through Antarctica and not a seven day vacation a two hour drive from home. She was always the last to pack her suitcase as well.

Mom: Ok kids, we’ll leave very soon, I just need to throw a few things in my suitcase and we will hit the road. Oh, and let me just pay a few bills, my Kohl’s and JC Penny Charge Cards, clean and dust the entire first floor, finally put all your baby photos in scrapbooks, get the house tuck-pointed, meet with the financial planner to discuss Dad and my retirement plans, and sew up the the clothes that have been sitting on my sewing box for the past five years, and then we can go. Oh and can one of you kids’ water my flowers? Thanks!

As a child, I never understood why it took her so long to get ready. I’d grab my Simba backpack, throw in my Pocahontas swim suit, Stretch Armstrong Doll, some crayons and maybe a pair of sandals and I’d be set. It wasn’t until I switched up my packing technique and travel gear last year that I realized it may take some time to get five kids ready for a week-long vacation.

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Just waiting on the porch with my Simba backpack on, ready to head up to Dewey Lake.

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The Simba backpack was a little camera shy.

No matter how late we left, a McDonald’s stop was always made a top priority because we were fattys and obsessed with McDonald’s. Plus, we couldn’t let our Mom suffer a fry attack while on the road. That would be dangerous for all of us. McDonald’s growing up was a huge treat. If any of us five kids ever found out the others got McDonald’s without us we became enraged. “YOU OWE ME NOW, MOM! YOU OWE ME!” We’d say if we were out at a birthday party or friend’s house and got home to find evidence of a McDonald’s meal. Yes, we kept score, we were that petty. As a family we were devastated when McDonald’s discontinued their Super Size Fry option. It really messed up our order. We had our fry to child ratio down to a science. But like any family, we stuck together, adjusted our order (after A LOT of trial and error) and got through it.

I still distinctly remember one trip to McDonald’s on our way up to Michigan. My Dad had to stay home to work for a few days so it was just my mom and us five kids in the car. As the golden arches came into view, my mom asked everyone what they wanted to eat. From her car seat my tiny, two year old sister, Jane, took her thumb out of her mouth and said she wanted two cheeseburgers. We all tried to dissuade her and convince her she probably couldn’t even finish one cheeseburger but she was adamant that she wanted two cheeseburgers. With fries. After we were done fat shaming her, my mom gave in and ordered her two burgers and Jane scarfed them both down very quickly. As we drove off we were still in disbelief and talking about how much Jane ate, while Jane just sat listening in her car seat, looking very content with her thumb back in her mouth. “Wait…” My older sister Maggie said. “…Did anyone feed Jane breakfast this morning?” It was dead silent as we all looked around at each other. Then all at once we burst out laughing at the fact that we forgot to feed Jane. But no one laughed harder than my Mom. “Whoops, sorry there Janie!” My mom managed to get out through her laughter. “Don’t worry sweetie, I promise we’ll feed you dinner.” We still laugh about it to this day. Jane turned out fine.

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Smiling because our bellies are nice and full with the deliciousness of McDonald’s.

Sometimes, I miss the days when we all drove up together, all packed in one car. It was so much more simple. As we got into high school and college and got busy with other things, it became like trying to solve a complex algebra equation figuring out who was driving up what car, when, and with who during our vacation week. It was always the worst being the last one up to Michigan during our family week because then you became the “Errand Betch,” running around gathering things people had conveniently forgotten and requested you bring up, or making last minute trips the store for things they had run out of so far during the week. Sadly, this year, I was the last family member to join everyone on Family Week so I was the Errand Betch and IT WAS HORRIBLE. I wouldn’t wish being my family’s Errand Betch on my own worst enemy. My family members are some needy people, let me tell you.

Here is evidence of my nightmare in our family group text:

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It’s like you give people an inch and they take a mile am I right? Classic Millennial generation.

My Mom was the worst offender though. She tried to soften her demands with her use of emoji’s but I wasn’t going to be fooled.

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Beaten and worn, I prevailed and finally did make it to the Lake. Also wasn’t aware Michigan didn’t sell carrots or pretzels, very interesting, MOM!

While it’s always a crazy rush to get to Dewey Lake, once we’re there we go right into vacation mode. Year after year, we always have a great time and lots of laughs together. Sure, we still have the occasional fights, but not like we used to when we were younger. I actually credit having the internet and technology up at the cottage now with helping to eliminate some of our fighting. I remember in the pre-internet years we got in two really huge family fights. One was about the lyrics to the song “American Pie” and the other was about what color the shutters on our house were. Half of us said they were green and the other half insisted they were tan colored. We were a family divided for days until the end of our vacation when we pulled into our driveway to finally have closure and discover that our shutters were not green or tan, but actually white to everyone’s disbelief. A simple Google search now a days could have solved both those fights in a matter of seconds. IMG_1638

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There was no room in the car to pack hairbrushes.

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We had to get my Dad’s favorite family member-the broom (on the far right), in this family photo as well.

Now we have a new generation enjoying the lake with five grandkids in the mix. It’s cool to see them play together and have fun at Dewey Lake like me and my four siblings did when we were little. And it’s such a relief that they also get a thrill out of a seeing a turtle in the lake like we did and STILL DO. My family could honestly see 30 turtles in a day and each time the thrill does not fade. You would think the turtle was doing a juggling act or providing some sort of entertainment for us instead of just popping it’s head out of the water. When a turtle makes an appearance conversation stops and everyone rushes to get a glimpse of the astonishing turtle:

“Hey can you pass the sunscre-OH MY GOSH LOOK! EVERYONE STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING THERE IS A TURTLE IN THE LAKE! WHAT A MAJESTIC CREATURE! I CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT I AM WITNESSING RIGHT NOW THIS IS AMAZING! WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF SEEING A TURTLE IN ITS NATURAL HABITAT OF A FRESH WATER LAKE! I AM IN SHOCK!”

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Despite the looks on their faces WE WERE ALL HAVING FUN DAMN IT!

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Connor was nice enough to wait until after the camera flash before pulling Ava’s hair and making her cry.

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They claimed they had no money to throw in for gas for the boat so we put them to work instead. We love the nieces and nephews but they are so stingy when it comes to money.

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Baby Ciara fake sleeping on the boat to get out of doing chores. Lazy.

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Baby Michael gets really chatty after a few too many bottles of juice.

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Aunt Bridget wouldn’t share her Mini Mouse umbrella with them.

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Baby Connor raising awareness for the endangered bee species with his outfit.

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When at Dewey Lake we do what we want-calories don’t count and if you want to wear Christmas PJs in July go for it.

While our family week is always chaotic and crowded and no one ever seems to get enough sleep, I think that’s part of the reason we have so much fun. Every year, it’s such a blast just being together, laughing, hanging out and enjoying the lake life! We already can’t wait for next year!

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Best part of being up at the lake: Jane and I get to be BUNK BED BUDDIES AGAIN YEAHHHH! reliving our glory days.

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As you can see, after eating those two cheeseburgers, Jane’s shirt no longer fit.

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Our Dog clearly just saw a turtle. He was obviously still in shock.

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Cheersing to the Aunt life, to being able to play with the kids when you want, and then give them back to their parents so you can go drink.

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I told Maggie that since there are no seat belts on jet skis I had no choice but to hug her the entire ride.

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I like to make sisters uncomfortable until they are comfortable.

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My Dad was trying to take a picture of his beloved shed and we got in the way.

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Dewey=Donuts all day every day thanks to Mike Sr.

Summertime, Baby!

892.JPGAs the fourth of July holiday draws near, I honesty can’t believe how fast this summer is flying. While it’s been a busy June, the start of the summer of 2018 has DEFINITELY been more relaxing than the summer of 2017, when half my family decided to make a pregnancy pact and all be pregnant at the same time. Last summer, I felt like Steve Martin in Father of the Bride Part II running around trying to prepare for the birth of the babies, never knowing when the the moment would come.

I am especially grateful that I haven’t had to help my mom host any baby showers this summer either. Last June, my mom thought it would be a good idea to host my sister’s baby shower at our house. She must have blocked out the memory of all the years we had to host graduation parties at our house when she made this decision. With 5 kids it seemed each year someone was graduating from grammar school or high school and we had to throw a party at our house for it. Unlike my mom, those horrific memories of preparing for the graduation parties were burned in my mind, and I knew getting ready for this baby shower would not be much different than those graduation parties. The cleaning, the errands, preparing the food and drinks, the decorations. It’s exhausting. I still remember as a small child getting ready for my brother’s graduation party. Per usual we were up to the last second trying to get our normally messy house in shape for the outside world.  I distinctly remember the panic I felt when I was sweeping and out of the corner of my eye I saw our first guests walking up the driveway. My siblings soon saw the guests too, and we all looked at each other, frozen in fear with our cleaning supplies in hand. We said nothing, but we didn’t need to, the terror in our eyes said enough. After no one moved or talked for what felt like hours I finally shouted to my mom. “Mom! Aunt Kathy and Uncle Jim are here already! What do we do we’re not done cleaning the dining room!” “WHAT?! ALREADY??!” My mom responded frantically “Did we not say four on the invitation?! It’s just a few minutes after four why are they here already?!” At this point we’d go into crisis mode-a drill we knew all too well. My mom would run upstairs to change, do her makeup and take the curlers out of her hair while us kids would handle things downstairs. One kid would go make small talk outside with the firsts guests (stalling them from coming inside) while the others would start shoving papers, shoes, backpacks and any other junk ANYWHERE we could hide it-cabinets, drawers, closets etc. I must say, as long as no one opened any doors, our house looked pretty darn good!

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Don’t bother calling DCFS on my behalf. Sadly this picture was taken 15 years ago so the statute of limitations is up, there’s no saving me now.

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Big smiles after being told we would not be hosting a party for Bridget’s Kindergarten Graduation. Michael was so excited he forgot to support baby Jane’s head. She turned out semi-ok still though.

While I tried to convince my mom to have it somewhere else, she insisted hosting the shower at our house wouldn’t be that bad. And as it turns out, she was actually completely wrong. It was WORSE than getting ready for those graduation parties. For one, our workforce was less since only two kids lived at home instead of five. Poor Jane and I were worked like dogs-cleaning, getting balloons, alcohol, food, decorations etc. Meanwhile Duke, the only real dog in the house, did no work at all which I thought was completely unfair. Also, we had no clear theme since my sister didn’t know if she was having a boy or a girl! (Spoiler alert: She had a boy). And don’t even get me started on setting up the tent. Putting that tent together nearly ripped my family apart. Then once the shower started Jane and I thought we were off the hook but no, our work continued. Again, I related to Steve Martin but this time in Father of the Bride Part I when they host his daughter’s wedding reception in his backyard and he doesn’t even have time to eat at the party! And to make matters worse for us, Mo was CONVENIENTLY leaving for a vacation with Mike Sr. the day after the shower so poor Jane and I were left with the clean-up as well!

 

 

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The one thing we forgot to put away before the baby shower. Mo claims it was a tomato plant. Sure, mom, ya big hippie. I’ve read books about the 70’s, I know what happened back in the day.

So, how have I spent the summer of 2018 so far now that I haven’t had any baby showers, you ask? Well, this summer I’ve been caring for a different kind of baby, my favorite kind of baby actually, my Baby Boomers, Mike and Mo. Baby Boomers are a lot like newborn babies except they require a lot more care and attention because they need help with just about everything technology related.

One thing that has kept me earning my room and board is the smart TV in our basement. My siblings and I got this for our parents as a Christmas gift and it completely backfired on us-me in particular. My Dad loves his television shows so we thought he would enjoy a bigger, sharper TV for his basement “lair” as we call it. Boy, were we wrong, Mike Sr. is not a fan of new TVs and all their “bells and whistles.” Just about every night I get summoned to the basement by my father’s calls. “KATHLEEN! THE TV IS BROKEN AGAIN!” It’s never actually broken, he just doesn’t really know how to use it. Last week, I heard my nightly call from my father, and dragged myself down to the basement where I found him sitting perfectly still in his La-Z-Boy recliner, a blank stare on his face as he waited for his in-house cable repair man-aka ME-to come and “fix” his TV so he could watch Railroad Alaska or Highway Thru Hell or whatever dumb old man show he was watching that night. I became irritated because I could tell he made no effort to solve the problem on his own, and I was tired of constantly being the cable man of the house.

Me: What, are you paralyzed from the neck down or something??!! Can you not move and reset the cable box? You’re just sitting there! Did you even TRY to get up and resolve this issue on your own??!!
Dad: I pushed the AT&T button and it didn’t work! These damn TVs now a days you need about 8 million clickers just to turn the thing on! Why can’t we have one of the old TVs where you push the power button and that’s it!
Me: YOU DON’T NEED 8 MILLION CLICKERS! HERE, LOOK!
(At that I grabbed the remote and in about 2 seconds I had his show on)
Dad: Well how in the Hell did you do that so fast?!
Me: Dad, we’ve been over this a thousand times before, you have to learn! I won’t always be here to fix the TV for you.
Dad: Hey, at the rate you’re going who knows if you’ll ever get married and move out, you may be an old maid living with us forever, which is fine by me because we will need someone to take care of us when we are old.
Me: You already ARE old. And I told you many times before, I’m putting you right in a nursing home. And not one of those fancy and fun nursing homes like Smith Village. That place is like college for old people. Way too fun and expensive for you. You’ll go wherever the state tells you.

Another thing that has kept me busy this summer is my recent purchase of an Alexa that I put in our kitchen. Our radio went out and I thought we needed an upgrade so I bought an Alexa for the house. After I set it up I hosted a training session for the Boomers, showing them how to use it and all the features it has. Since then my Dad has been shouting commands at her, to which the device ignores because he keeps calling the thing “Siri” and not “Alexa.”

Dad: (Leans down and places face about an inch from Alexa and shouts) SIRI! HOW MUCH DOES A CSX HEAVY WEIGH?
Me: Dad, a couple things: 1. It’s not Siri it’s Alexa, 2. you do not need to shout and lean in so close to the thing 3. I highly doubt she knows much about freight trains.
Dad: Ahh see she’s not that smart then if she can’t even tell me how much a CSX Heavy weighs, is she? But I know you can tell me, Kathleen.
Me: Yes, I know this only because you’ve ingrained it in my brain since I was about two years old. It weighs 216 tons.

My mom is the opposite when it comes to the Alexa. She will be in different rooms whispering with her hand covering her mouth so that the Alexa doesn’t hear her, acting like she’s a prisoner that doesn’t want a guard to hear her escape plan.

Mom: (Said in whisper voice from the family room) Kathleen, I have a question about you know who (pointing to Alexa in the kitchen) but I don’t want to say her name and accidentally turn her on!

The Baby Boomers are still getting used to the smart TV and having Alexa as another “roommate.” But I’m confident once I can properly train them on using these things they’ll learn to enjoy them. It’s a lot of work taking care of my Baby Boomers but they are worth it! Yup, it might have been a busy June, but summertime living is always easy with Mike and Mo!

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Me being the backbone of the household while the two drunks behind me enjoy another Twisted Tea.

 

The Journey to (God)Motherhood

About a month ago, I finally fulfilled my life’s prophecy-I became not only an aunt but a Godmother. I was absolutely thrilled but I also thought, “Sheesh, it’s about time someone asked me to Godmother their child!” I mean, I feel like I am a pretty holy person since I went to a catholic grade school, high school and college, AND now I work for a Catholic school. Heck, I even LOOK like Jesus himself when I let my hair air dry after I shower:

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Might spend some time in Purgatory for this snap but it was worth it.

With all these credentials it’s really hard to hide my halo. Plus, I had been campaigning for Godmother ever since last December. It was a long and tiring campaign, but I won in the end. Sit tight and I will tell you my success story:

My journey to Godmotherhood began on Christmas morning 2016, when my oldest sister Maggie and her husband announced to the family that they were expecting a baby in July. The five of us kids had just given our parents their gifts when Maggie suddenly said that she and her husband had ‘one more gift for Mom and Dad.’ My two other old maid sisters and I were sitting on the couch and we immediately exchanged dirty looks.  We never said anything out loud but in our heads we were all thinking “Look at this brown-noser, giving Mom and Dad another gift! Here the five of us decided to collectively give Mom and Dad gifts and she goes and makes us look bad by bringing an EXTRA gift just from her and her husband?!” Our mood changed when my parents opened the gift to discover they had a grandchild on the way. I was very happy for Maggie but also thought she was being a little selfish. I mean here we were trying to celebrate the birth of Jesus and she had to go steal the spotlight from Mary?! Rude.

About a month later, before we even fully processed this new addition coming to our family, my brother Michael announced that he and his wife were expecting twins! Classic sibling rivalry always trying to one-up the other sibling. Michael really made Maggie look lazy on this one. One baby, really Maggie? That’s it? I guess not everyone in a family can get that strong work ethic gene. (When it comes time for me to have children in 15-20 years I’m shooting for triplets just to out-do everyone).

The whole family was shocked but thrilled. We were suddenly going from zero grandkids to three grandkids! In the Kelly family it seems that my sister Maggie and brother Michael to like to do things around the same time. They both got engaged about a month apart from each other, then they got married only four months apart, and now they were starting to have kids around the same time. That’s nice that they are able to bring my parents such joy with their life events. God knows my two other sisters and I aren’t going to be accomplishing those things anytime soon. In fact, I often wonder what my parents say about me when their friends ask about their kids. I imagine it’s something like this:

Friend: “So Mo, how are all your kids doing?”
My Mom: “Oh yea everyone is doing great! Maggie and her husband have a baby boy, Michael and his wife just had twin girls, Bridget has an apartment in the city and is a manager at her company, and Jane is teaching abroad in Prague for a year! Oh and Kathleen… yea she’s doing well…still living at home with us…not too much new with her…[*Here my mom racks brain trying to think of accomplishment*] she dressed up as a bag of dog food for Halloween so yea, we’re really proud of her and not worried AT ALL that she’ll never marry. We are so proud of ALL our children.”

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Still my greatest accomplishment in life. Duke and I killed it with our couples’ costume. No regrets.

While everyone was happy that we had three babies on the way, no one was quite as ecstatic as my mom. She would have sent out a press release and announced on national television that she had three grandchildren on the way if she could have. I also noticed that she began acting different-regularly attending yoga and Pilates classes at the local gym, which she never did before. “Going to POW! (People on Weights) Sorry I didn’t have time to make anything for dinner but I think there’s someone’s leftovers from something in there I’m sure you could eat!” she’d say, as she walked out the door in her yoga pants and sporty fleece, water bottle in hand. Who was this “I’m a gym membership Mom who regularly attends classes” gal? I thought to myself. The Mom I remembered was strictly a “pop in a Jane Fonda’s New Workout VHS and exercise in the basement a few times a month” kind of gal.  At first I thought this was just her way of trying to get out of cooking dinners, as these classes just so happened to be around dinner time, but then I realized it was all for the babies. “Are you trying to be one of those sporty Grandmas Mom?” I finally asked one day as Sporty Spice-I mean, my Mom-was headed out the door. “I have to build up my strength if I want to be lifting up my grandbabies!” She replied with a big smile and a wink.

My Dad, on the other hand, could not have been more opposite of my Mom in his excitement about his grandchildren. He was very happy of course, he’s just never been a man to show much emotion. His response to his children telling him they were expecting was much like a response you’d get when you told someone you had chicken for dinner. “Ah, very good” was my father’s big reaction to the news. We all though this was hilarious of course and we talked about it recently at a family dinner a few weeks ago:

Dad: [Said defensively] “Well what the Hell did you want me to do, start jumping up and down and doing cartwheels?! I was happy for them but it’s not like I didn’t know it was coming! Most people get married and then they have kids! It’s not like it was a huge shock!”
Me: “Dad, you show more excitement when your subscription of TRAINS Magazine comes in the mail than you did when you found out you were going to be a grandpa!
Dad: “Well that’s different! I don’t know WHEN TRAINS magazine is going to come so it’s exciting!”
Me: “IT’S A MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION, IT COMES EVERY MONTH!”

At this point everyone was laughing hysterically. I think then my dad realized how ridiculous he sounded, but still wanted to stand his ground.

Dad: “Yes, but I don’t know WHAT DAY of the Month TRAINS Magazine will come OR what will be in it, which is very exciting.”

What can I say? The man loves his trains.

It’s crazy how fast nine months goes by when you are not the one pregnant. I’m not sure how fast time went by for my pregnancy pact friends, but before I knew it, all three babies had arrived, 2 days apart from each other. On July 31st we welcomed baby Michael and two days later on August 2nd twins Abby and Ava arrived. By August 3rd, I realized that my Mother’s five children were old news to her. She was a grandma now and her grandbabies came first-her five kids were now sloppy seconds.

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I remember when my mom used to look at me like that. It was nice having my Mom for 26 years but the babies have her now. I am old news. I had a good run though.

Once our family adjusted to life with three babies one very important question remained on everyone’s minds-Who will the Godparents be?! Since CLEARLY my parents were both emotionally unstable to handle being Godparents, as we saw through their actions after first hearing the joyous news that babies were on the way, I knew they were no competition in getting in my way of becoming Godmother. Jane left the country to teach in Prague so I knew she wasn’t even a contender but I did have my other siblings to compete with. As the weeks went by and no one had yet been asked to be a Godparent, we all began to worry that maybe no one would be a Godparent! Finally, about a week before the baptism, my brother asked me to be the Godmother of his daughter Ava. He really waited till the last-minute to ask me but I still gladly accepted and immediately began searching for the perfect Godmother outfit to wear to the baptism. Something that said “I’m not a regular Godmom, I’m a cool Godmom.”

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Me and my Godchild, Ava. Went with a sweater dress from Macy’s, I felt it just screamed “I’m a Godmom.”

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The whole family minus Prague Jane after the triple baptism. It was a little embarrassing that the babies wore white after Labor Day but they pulled it off.

While it can be difficult being a single (God)Parent AND working full-time, it’s very rewarding. Those babies are so darn cute, you can’t help but be happy around them. I used to reach for a drink after a rough day but now I just reach for a baby. I finally have someone to pass down all my prized possessions (AC unit, selfie stick and autographed photo of Inside Edition host Deborah Norville) to after I die. (These kids will make out like bandits upon my death).

Being a young, first time Godmom I still have a lot to learn. Thank goodness I joined the Moms of Beverly Facebook Group to network and get advice from other, more seasoned Godmoms. Us moms need to stick together and support one another! Being a Godmother is a huge responsibility but I am more than happy to take on this new role! Spinster Aunt Kath has lots to teach her nieces and nephews!

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Baby Michael in the middle posing as if he’s on the cover of GQ Magazine. They have Grandma Kelly’s eyes and Grandpa Kelly’s hairline.

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The original Kelly crew plus the ceiling fan with all the babies. (Thought I should post a photo with Prague Jane in it so she didn’t feel left out).