They Say It’s Your Birthday

This year, my Mom instigated a new tradition for our family- The “Birthday Bonanza.” What is a Birthday Bonanza you might ask? Well it’s basically a fancy name my Mom gave wanting to combine several of her children and grandchildren’s birthdays together so she could get them over with in one big dinner. So far this year, she’s had two Birthday Bonanzas. Our most recent birthday Bonanza was a huge success. We celebrated My brother Michael’s birthday and my nieces Abby and Ava and nephew Michael’s 3rd birthdays. This Bonanza had THREE different cakes and celebrated the honorees birthdays BEFORE their actual birthday-something that almost NEVER happens in our family. We’re never early for anything! My Mom was very pleased.

Obviously the case of Twisted Teas in the back was a gift for the 3 year olds to split, so calm down everyone we weren’t going to let them each have their own case until they’re at least 4.

While the second birthday Bonanza went smoothly, the first Birthday Bonanza was a bit of a different story. My Dad, my niece Ciara, my sisters Bridget and Jane and myself were all the Guinea pigs for this one. All of our birthdays are either in March or April and we finally got our Birthday Bonanza in June. From the very start of planning for this inaugural bonanza I couldn’t help but feel like we were putting my mom out. “Now listen!” My mom said to me a few days before the Bonanza, anger and annoyance in her voice “I HAVE A PORK ROAST THAT’S BEEN IN THE FREEZER FOR TOO LONG NOW SO WE ARE USING IT FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY DINNER! IF I DON’T USE IT SOON IT IS GOING TO GO BAD SO THAT IS WHAT WE ARE HAVING, END OF DISCUSSION!” I sat there for a minute a little confused as I didn’t have a clue as to why I was being yelled at about a pork roast when I was just innocently sitting in the TV room sipping my Diet Coke trying to watch a Dateline I had recorded from the previous week. “Ummmm ok…” I responded. I could tell this frozen pork roast sitting in the freezer had been a dark cloud over my mom’s head for some time. So I decided to respond with a sarcastic comment “No better time to thaw out and serve a questionable hunk of meat than on the birthday celebration of your three old maid daughters huh Mom?” She then called me a little smart ass. I laughed.

The pork roast pressure must have been too stressful for my mom to handle because just one day before the big Bonanza she threw a curve ball at us and moved the location from my parents’ house to my brothers’ house.

Still can’t believe my Mom made me bring my own beer to my own birthday party!

Although it got off to a rocky start, Bonanza #1 turned out to be a good time and no one got sick from the frozen pork roast. It was a great day celebrating the three month anniversary of my 29th birthday.

Spoiler Alert everyone I wished for my OWN Birthday Bonanza.

Growing up, birthdays were a big deal in our house. It was your time to shine and get all the attention for once. Plus, you even got to choose the dinner that night! It was our parents way of making us feel special. They even let us use a plate on our birthday stating that we were special:

Please note that while the plate acknowledges you are in fact special, it clearly states that you are only special TODAY AND TODAY ONLY. Mike and Mo did not want their children thinking they were special 365 days a year

I, of course did not want my older sister Bridget to feel too special so I decided to be born on her birthday so we could share in the special-ness together. I often remind her that I am the greatest birthday gift she ever received. This meant that not only did we always have to coordinate on what dinner we wanted for our birthday celebration, my parents had to purchase ANOTHER “you are special plate.” After the unexpected financial burden of this extra plate, my mom must have tried to make up the cost by wrapping our birthday gifts in newspaper for the next 25 years. I don’t think any of us ever received a gift from my parents that was wrapped in birthday wrapping paper. Because nothing says “happy birthday” quite like getting a gift wrapped in the obituaries section.

As you can see, cantaloupe was on sale for $1.58 when Michael turned 7
Not sure who invited the Grim Reaper there in the purple hoodie on the left but looks like he may have been there for Jane judging by how rough she looks. Let’s zoom in a little…
Hope Jane was unwrapping some Pedialyte, looks like she was pretty hungover and struggling from the night before.

But thank you Mom for cutting costs so Bridget and I could each have our own plates on our birthdays!

Hostess Cupcake: The official sponsor of the Bridget and Kathleen Birthday.
Bridget’s 6th and my 4th birthday. As you can see, I still had yet to master the “hold up how many fingers old you are” pose and had to turn to see if I was doing it right. Math has never been my thing.
One time my Grandma remembered it was Bridget’s birthday but forgot it was my birthday too so while Bridget got a birthday bear I got a Thanksgiving bear. Totally not noticeable at all though.
Bridget trying to reject my love on our birthday in high school. She was clearly still upset that I stole her birthday
I hope we both wished for vitamin D on this birthday because judging by our ghostly skin, we were both severely deficient.

In addition to using newspaper to wrap our gifts, my mom was also a huge fan of reusing boxes. Mo has an eye for real sturdy, quality cardboard boxes. Did you think you were going to just toss that box your new iPhone came in? Oh no, think again-Mo Money has plans to use it on Christmas to wrap up some socks she got you, that box is NOT leaving the house. It will go in the box closet in the basement. Some might say these actions sound like early warning signs of hoarding, but we know they are actions of a mother’s love. When you get a gift from my mom, very rarely does the box coincide with the actual gift inside. It really adds to the surprise. I think this is why she always made us do the “hold up your unwrapped gifts for the camera” pose.

That was not that iHome box’s last birthday party I’ll tell you that.
What a hottie that Ken.
The chin-up bar that my dad never let my brother hang up as he said it would ruin the door frame so instead it sat in that box in the basement for the next 15 years.
Really my mom should have told Jane to lay off the booze. Let’s zoom in a little on her face:
Two year old baby or deranged man? Cast your vote now.

While the birthday dinners were mostly happy ones, there would always be a fight about blowing out the candles. Because the five of us kids were all jerks, we all got a huge thrill out of trying to blow out each others’ birthday candles. Like clockwork, we’d sing “Happy Birthday” and right as the birthday kid was about to make a wish and blow out the candles, one of us would come from behind and blow them out, then the birthday kid would cry, or hit the sibling that blew them out and then that kid would cry, then my mom would re-light the candles, we’d re-sing the last verse of “Happy Birthday” as my Dad held back and covered the mouth of the kid who blew out the candles so the birthday boy or girl could finally have their moment. Not going to lie, I was often the one being held back and having my mouth covered the second time around…

Really had to hustle around the table this time to try and blow out Michael’s candles
Poor Maggie never stood a chance with Michael, Bridget and me hovering around her like vultures. At least I (far left) was trying to be polite about it and kept my hands folded.
Not sure if Michael ended up spitting on Maggie’s head or blowing out the candles on this one.
“Don’t mind me boys, just going to squeeze my way in here and blow out my brother’s candles.”
Jane’s evil grin was a dead give away that she had plans to blow out the candles.
My Dad trying to guard Maggie from Me and Jane.

Although these days our birthday dinners are a little different than they used to be, I think the “Birthday Bonanza” is much better suited and way more efficient for our growing family. So Mom, kudos on keeping the birthday celebrations going and thanks for always making us feel special. And lastly, don’t think I didn’t notice you used actual wrapping paper for your grandkids’ gifts at the last Birthday Bonanza.

Got a pink ball for my birthday because ball is lyfe.
My Dad never holds up his gifts on his birthday because he usually ends up returning them all.
Photo captured at the first ever Kelly family Birthday Bonanza

Little Lamb Leaves the Farm

Last week, my younger sister Jane left the United States to teach abroad in Prague for a year. Yes, our little lamb left the farm. For years, she had been talking about moving to a different country after she graduated college, but none of us actually thought she would do it. We just figured it was something she’d talk about but never follow through on, like how my mom talks about putting our family photos into photo albums, but we all know that will never happen. Of course we listened to Jane when she told us of her plan to move to Europe after graduation but in our heads we were all thinking, “Oh there goes the family nut job Jane rambling on about her ‘magical’ adventures again.” We all laughed because we all know there is no magic after you graduate college. Silly young and naive Jane! But when she booked her flight and paid the program deposit back in May, it was a reality check for all of us that this little lamb was serious.

IMG_0505

Me and Jane back in the day when she was content living in America. Mom: “Here Kathleen, hold your baby sister Jane and I’ll take your picture!” **Thinks it will be a perfect Kodak moment” Me: K. **Does not touch baby but just let’s her lean against me uncomfortably** 

We all reacted differently when Jane shared the news that she was officially going abroad. My mom was sad and told her she was not allowed to meet her future husband there, that she MUST move back to the States after a year. My dad immediately began to worry and asked if she had ever seen the movie Taken. He was not too keen on the idea that his youngest child was going to be so far away for so long. “Remember that little lamb, ‘Miss Kelly’ we saw in Dayton?!” My dad said, “That’s how I picture you in a foreign country! You’ll just be prey for all sorts of vultures! You’re too trusting of people!” It would be an understatement to say that he did not take this news very well. For my siblings and me, it was disbelief. “You’re actually leaving us?!!!!” I said, “I thought this whole ‘I’m going to move abroad’ thing was just one of your empty promises that you’d never actually follow through on! Like how you said you’d replace Bridget’s earrings that you lost a couple of years ago but you never actually did!” “HEY!” Jane responded, defensively, “I TOLD Bridget to pick out a pair and then I’d pay for them and she never did! Also, I’m offended that you thought I would never go through with my plan.” I just kept asking Jane the same question, quoting Gus Portokalos, the father in my favorite movie of all time, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “Why you want to leave me?!” I just didn’t understand why she was leaving me and fleeing the country.

After the initial shock wore off, Jane then announced that she would be a “miser” this summer so she could save lots of money for her big move. This was also very hard for everyone to believe and we all had a good laugh. We had no idea how much misers liked to go out to the bars and eat out on the weekends. Jane did get a job nannying over the summer so she was making and saving some money. She was able to do this because I, being the saint that I am, let her borrow my car while I sacrificed and walked to work everyday. My work is less than a mile from where I live but don’t try and belittle my sacrifice. It was tougher than people give me credit for. Do you know how many lemonade stands I had to avoid on my walk home from work everyday? Summer in suburbia means lemonade stands are on every corner like Starbucks downtown. It’s easy to avoid eye contact with children yelling at you to buy lemonade when you are in the comfort of an automobile, but when you’re on foot it’s a lot harder! And do you know how many sprinklers I had to walk around in the early morning hours on my journey to work? Sidewalks are for walking, not sprinklers! Plus, with all the extra exercise I was getting, I began to worry that I would get too jacked and people would not recognize me at the end of the summer! “Is that Kathleen Kelly or Jillian Michaels? I can’t tell.” People would say. I better get into heaven after all I went through. I will keep everyone posted on my canonization process.

Since Jane was living at home again over the summer, her and I got to spend a lot of time together. We no longer shared a bedroom but we still saw each other in the hallway and other common areas of Ma and Pa Kelly’s old maid sanctuary. We also had similar work schedules so we were usually up in the mornings at the same time and we went to bed at the same time. We had some great conversations while brushing our teeth together in our upstairs bathroom. Our “Kids” bathroom vanity has double sinks so we would stand next to each other chatting while brushing away, washing our faces or flossing. One night, after I had JUST cleaned our bathroom hours before, I watched Jane as I brushed my teeth and she washed her face. After a few minutes I paused my electric toothbrush and finally said, “Um, excuse me, Jane? I just had a quick question that I’ve been meaning to ask you.” She stopped washing her face and looked at me, thinking I was going to ask her about something very serious. “Yea, what is it?” She said, a little concerned. “Have you ever been to Splash Mountain in Disney World?” I asked. Her concern then turned to confusion. “No, why?” she said. “Oh, ok” I said, “I was just wondering. I wasn’t sure if you were maybe trying to relive your experience on that ride the way you are splashing away over there as if you’re Hayden Panettiere washing your face on a Neutrogena commercial, getting water all over the counter tops that I JUST cleaned.” She just laughed and rolled her eyes. “Aren’t you a little smart ass?” She said. She will definitely miss my sarcastic remarks while she is in Prague.
Another time while we were both brushing our teeth Jane was trying to talk to me about how she calculated the amount of time on average people spend on morning and night time routines. She was explaining how she came to her final number but honestly I could not hear her and I really did not care. I’m hard of hearing and I had just replaced the battery in my electric toothbrush so it was louder and more powerful than ever! I finally stopped my toothbrush and cut her off. “Jane, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to stop talking. I just came here to brush my teeth and go to bed, not to solve a math problem on the ACT.” It’s like we get it Jane, you graduated college with honors.

Image-1 (19)

Nothing makes you feel more like an adult than brushing your teeth everyday in a bathroom papered with hippos.

As the summer rolled on and Jane’s departure date got closer, my parents became more and more sad. It was crunch time for them to get everything in before Jane left. They threw her a going away party, we took our Christmas card picture and then we had NUMEROUS “Last Family” meals to the point where it was getting ridiculous. My Mom kept adding family dinners so everyone could say goodbye to Jane. It was starting to get awkward how many times we were all seeing each other. “Are we all going to have to meet again tomorrow for a ‘Family Snack’ between lunch and dinner as another goodbye meal to Jane?” I asked my mom sarcastically as we finished up our 800th family dinner. (She ignored my question and instead just called me a smart ass.) We even had a last family lunch at my parents’ favorite burger place in the neighborhood, Pappy’s. This lunch temporarily distracted Mike Sr. and Mo from their sadness about Jane’s departure upon their discovery that Pappy’s had switched from Coke to Pepsi products. Being die hard Diet Coke fans, my parents were LIVID that they could no longer drink Diet Coke with their lunch there. For the first time in many months we had a meal where the conversation did not center around Jane’s big move but rather how Diet Pepsi does not agree with my father’s stomach and how my mom thinks it tastes flat. Somehow they managed to drink the poison some people call Diet Pepsi, finish their meals, and make it home safely.

IMG_0112

We wore America hats at Jane’s going away party just as a subtle reminder to Jane that she was born in the USA.

IMG_0120

My very heartfelt and not passive aggressive at all sign I made for Jane’s party.

Before we knew it, it was time for Jane to leave us. My parents were sad but I reminded them that I will still be here and many people think I look just like Jane so there’s really no difference. Hours after she left, Duke moved his things into Jane’s room and took over her bed, but I’m sure he is sad that she is gone. (Don’t worry Jane, we told him about your “No eating Puperoni in bed” rule.) I was sad for Jane to leave me too. It was nice having another Millennial home with me to take care of the Baby Boomers and I will definitely miss our conversations while brushing our teeth. But I know that she will have the time of her life and I hope to visit her in the Spring. I’m sure the year she is gone will fly by and before we know it, our little lamb will be back on the farm.

Image-1 (18)

Wore my funeral dress to work and sent Jane this Snap Chat on the day she left. Unfortunately I could not find a black veil. 

 

 

Time to Eat!

Not many families take time to sit down and eat dinner together these days. But in my family, growing up we ate together almost every night. At our kitchen table we each had an assigned seat, which was a direct result of the fights that broke out over the dreaded “Running Seat”. You see, being your typical fat-ass American family we have so much food that we need two refrigerators to hold it all (first world problems, I know). Our second fridge is located in the basement. Whenever we ran out of butter or milk during dinner the kid sitting in the seat closest to the basement door had to go down ALL those stairs, grab the food item, and then walk back up ALL those stairs to the dinner table. As you can imagine this was a great burden on us and so no one wanted to sit in that seat. My mom grew tired of hearing us complain and fight, “I had to go get the milk from the basement last week, I’m not doing it again tonight!” so she did away with the “Running Seat” and assigned us seats. Everyone got a chair except for my youngest sister Jane and me, we had to share a  wooden bench. This was fine when we were little but when we were no longer American Girl Doll sized space became a little tight on that bench. The youngest children always get the short end of the stick.

Each night my mom would make a delicious meal and serve her five kids Great Depression sized meal portions on tiny salad plates, just enough to prevent our bodies from going into starvation mode. She claims she did so because we just didn’t eat a lot but I think her real reason was so we would have leftovers for the next night. Nothing makes my mom smile more than a leftover night or “clean out the refrigerator” dinner night so she can get a night off from cooking. I don’t blame her, I’ll probably be the same way with my future children.

IMG_1371

Me and the gang enjoying a brew after dinner.

Since my mom did the cooking us kids were expected to help with the other dinner preparations and clean up. We were each assigned a dinner chore-someone would have to set the table, another person would have to do the dishes and another person was tasked to serve and clean up dessert. The Kelly family believes that no dinner is complete without dessert. Then my mom would make up a BS job like sweep the floor or something just so one person didn’t get away with not doing anything.

029

Looks like Michael was on for serving/cleaning up dessert that night. He can’t even smile and enjoy his cake he’s so worried about all those spoons he’ll have to wash and paper plates he’ll have to throw out when we finish. Sucker.

When we were younger someone would spill their glass of milk just about every night at dinner. And it seemed no matter where at the table the milk was spilled from, it always landed on my sister Bridget. But she’s a middle child so I guess she deserved it. Once the nightly glass of milk was spilled, my oldest sister Maggie would usually trip and fall bringing her plate to the sink and break the plate. She went through a very long clumsy stage in her preteen years. It got to the point where we wouldn’t even acknowledge the fact that she had just face planted onto the tile floor again. No one would even ask if she was ok because we knew she would just get up, grab the broom, and sweep up the pieces of her broken plate into the garbage. The crashing sound just become background noise to us. She quickly depleted our plate supply back in the late 90s. Had my parents not spent so much money replacing broken plates, we may have been able to afford two more chairs for Jane and me.

Like any good Catholic family, we say Grace every night before we eat, although we like to add our own little spin on things. My Dad leads the prayer, saying the usual “Bless us O Lord..” then we thank God for everything he has done for us and then anyone can throw out special intentions, saying the name of someone that is sick, had a family member who died or just people that need some prayers sent their way. Because of this, our Grace can get a little lengthy and usually ends up something like this:

Dad: Please continue to bless us and hear our prayers, we especially pray for Grandma, Uncle Jim…
Mom: Kathy Johnson
Dad: Kathy Johnson? What happened to her?
Mom: Her brother-in-law just died
(As this unnecessary conversation goes on the rest of us still have our hands folded and are waiting to get back to saying Grace.)
Dad: Really?! How did he die? He was fairly young wasn’t he?
Mom: Yes, I think he was in his mid-fifties. Sadly he had cancer, he had been sick for a while.
Dad: What kind of cancer?
Me: Can we please get back to the praying so we can wrap things up and eat already? Let’s finish Grace and then talk about this.
Dad: Ok, sorry! Please help everyone that needs our prayer, protect our troops, and keep those dimwits in Washington, DC from ruining our country and putting us further in debt! Amen.

This then leads to my Dad getting very worked up and telling us how we will probably be the ones that have to pay for the country’s debt and that we most likely won’t ever be able to retire. Then I politely wait until he is finished with his rant to ask him if he needs a Xanax and then thank him for making my future seem so bright.

015

Had Maggie not ruined this picture by being in her pajamas, this could have been an advertisement for Catholic Schools. Go Catholics!

While the seven of us can’t eat dinner together every night anymore, we do make an effort to get together every once in a while to share a meal. And for some reason, whenever we have dinner together now we always end up talking about rats. Each person has their own rat experience or story to share with the rest of the group. In fact, I can’t remember the last dinner we had all together where we didn’t talk about rats. Although family dinners are fewer and farther between these days, we always have a great time catching up with each other and have lots of laughs.