Recently, Mike and I did some construction on our house. We decided to not just renovate our kitchen, but move our kitchen into a whole different room in our house-we are extra like that. You hear a lot of construction horror stories from couples or families who have renovated their homes and dealt with disasters, but Mike and I really lucked out in the whole process. We had awesome contractors who were reliable and attentive to us and they did amazing work. Sure we ran into some hiccups and delays during construction, but I think after planning and replanning a wedding during COVID, nothing really could phase us.
Any sort of work being done on your house gets annoying after a while, but when I found myself starting to get irritated or frustrated with the inconveniences of living in a construction zone for so many months, I’d think about my parents. Mike Sr. and Mo Money did major construction to their home back in 1993, when I was just two years old. After realizing it probably was illegal to shove four children in one bedroom they decided to add a second story to their ranch-style home. They moved our family of (then) six plus Boxer dog, Sam I (Not to be confused with a dog we got after Sam I died and named Sam II, but that’s a story for a later time) down to the basement while construction workers built a second story, completely reconfigured the first floor of their home and renovated their kitchen. Four children ages 2-7 and my parents in one little basement living like refugees. This was of course the pre-Jane years when I was still living my glory days as the youngest child in the family. Jane, in a classic youngest child move, rolled into the family two years later when my parents already had a big enough house for her to sprawl out in and a brand new kitchen. Jane never suffered like the rest of us-Classic.Youngest.Child) I don’t remember anything from this big construction project, but I’m sure my parents remember it all. I often wonder if they still have nightmares that they are back living in those close quarters with their young children. I did find a few photos of the 1993 construction to try and “jog” my memory of the events the last time I was at my parents. Let’s take a look:
Mike and I do not have children yet, so thinking back to the construction my parents went through all while keeping four small children happy and alive, I could not complain. We really only had to deal with massive flies getting in the house during construction, which I guess in a way IS like dealing with children sometimes.
Although we did not physically do any of the work ourselves, any construction project is a lot of work with all the decisions that come with it. After work and on the weekends Mike and I were out looking at cabinets, handles for the cabinets, countertops, appliances, backsplash, lighting, etc. We made so many trips back an forth to Home Depot and Menards too that we lost count.
Getting a good price on cabinetry took some work as well and we had to go to a few different places to find the best price while still getting quality cabinets. We finally settled on a cabinet place in the neighborhood. I remember sitting at the cabinet place with Mike, waiting for the woman who worked there to finish whatever she was doing on her computer to give us the final cost. Mike was probably sweating thinking about the price but I was distracted looking at a cup of very nice promotional pens on her desk. They were awkwardly placed in the middle of her desk-halfway between her side and the customer side so you weren’t sure if they were just “For the taking” or you had to be “gifted” with one. I mean they looked like nice stylus pens and they were very shiny. I could have reached over and grabbed one but then I would have to lean and stand up ever so slightly from the sitting position. Doing this would draw attention, which I wanted to avoid. I’m sure she placed the pens there knowing the customer would have to do this, which didn’t exactly scream “Here, take a pen!” and I didn’t want to be rude. So I just sat there staring at the pens and then Mike and I discussed the pen situation on the ride home. (We’d discuss the price later but the pens were more important). He agreed that it was unclear whether the pens were for the taking or not, but he made it clear that when he went back to drop off the check, he was getting a pen. “We’re paying enough for these cabinets that we should be able to have all the pens we want!” he said. Sure enough the next week after dropping off the check he arrived home with a pen for me. Not all heroes wear capes.
Appliance shopping was another thing that took up a lot of our time. Driving out to the stores one day Mike asked me what kind of appliances I may want for our new kitchen. “I don’t really care,” I said “Just as long as we are sure to get a good, quality microwave. That’s all I really want.” Mike nodded, smiled and said saracstically “I’m so glad we are redoing our entire kitchen just so you can have a good microwave.” I laughed as I realized how ridiculous I sounded but I use the microwave A LOT. I heat up a lot of things-I love heat. Our old microwave was just awful, I couldn’t stand it. I’m pretty sure it was one of the first microwaves ever made. It had a DIAL! Plus it was too small for me to fit my Dunkin’ coffee cup in to reheat it. (Yes I know you’re probably not supposed to microwave the Dunkin’ cups but I was already probably glowing in the dark from the radiation that 1980s microwave was omitting so just LAY OFF!)
When we were trying to decide on whether or not to get the double oven or standard stove-top oven that was an easy decision for me-The less ovens I have access to, the better. I do not enjoy cooking so having a double oven seemed like a nightmare to me. I could just imagine my siblings suggesting things like “Why don’t we do Thanksgiving at Kathleen’s she’s got that double oven.” I could not let that happen so we decided we could “Add it down the road” if we thought we wanted it later.
During the kitchen renovations, I thought I was going to get a break from cooking. I even found myself smiling at the thought of having no excuse but to order take-out for dinner because we had no working kitchen. But to my disappointment, since we were MOVING our kitchen to a different room, our contractors informed us we would have full use of our old kitchen while they built our new one. After hearing this devastating news I told Mike I needed to “be by myself” for a while.
The months went by and before we knew it our beautiful kitchen was done and ready for us to move into it. Mike and I thought it would be a great idea to go through our old kitchen items and get rid of things before we made the transfer over. It was a great idea in theory but unfortunately after starting this task we soon learned that we are both psychopaths and have emotional attachments to certain kitchen utensils. I tried to get rid of one of our old, ugly, very rusty spatulas but Mike informed me that it is his “favorite spatula” and he likes to use it when reheating his pizza. I told him as long as we stay up-to-date on our tetanus shots the spatula could stay. Then Mike suggested we go through our silverware and get rid of any forks/knives/spoons that didn’t match our newer set. But in going through the drawer I had to stop Mike from getting rid of the knife I specifically like to use for butter AND my honey spoon. The knife is more lightweight than our other knives so it’s just nice not to do any extra heavy lifting when I need to spread some butter. And I don’t use honey often but when I do I know what spoon I’m going to grab. So off to the new kitchen our junk went.
It’s taken some time to get used to our new kitchen. One big learning curve is our garbage disposal. We never had one before and neither of us had the luxury of growing up in a garbage disposal household. As children after finishing dinner Mike and his brother manually scraped any remnants from their plates into the garbage. Me and my four siblings were basically fed scraps to begin with by my mother so we never had anything left on our plates to scrape into the garbage after dinner so this whole garbage disposal thing has definitely taken some getting used to. But everyone said we HAD to have one and Mike really wanted one so being the loving wife that I am we got one. Mike likes our garbage disposable but I am not sold-they seem like they have a lot of rules about what can and cannot go down them. After weeks of shoving potato skins down our garbage disposable I found out this is on the “do not put down the garbage disposal” list. Whoops. I mean any potato type out there took a trip down our disposal-russet, red, sweet you name it. I was also putting carrot peelings down there too which I guess is a big no-no.
One thing we both agree that we love is our new dishwasher and it’s third rack-yes it has not just two racks but three, allowing us to be extra lazy and shove extra dishes in our dishwasher so we don’t have to hand wash them. We were very confused by the additional top third rack when we initially got the dishwasher, we had so many questions-Is this factory error that we have more than two racks? What do we put in this special rack? How does this work? But now we love it. It is also a big conversation piece when out with friends. In fact one night I even asked Mike to send me pictures of it while I was out with a group of friends and we were discussing dishwashers:
We almost didn’t get the dishwasher because Mike was unsure about the bar on the outside. He was worried it was a “Safety Hazard” and people might bump into it. “Bump into it?!” I remember saying in disbelief because this thought never would have crossed my mind, “You’d have to be a complete DIMWIT to bump into that bar, it doesn’t even stick out that far! If someone bumps into it, that’s their own fault for being an idiot and not looking where they are going.” Mike agreed that it might be far-fetched so we ended up purchasing the bar-handle dishwasher with the surprise third rack. Two days after it was installed who do you think accidentally ran into the bar, resulting in a giant bruise on her leg? Me.
For a some time we grappled with the question “what do we do with the old kitchen?” For a while we were kind of in a limbo stage, still trying to figure out what to do, so we were kind of just put junk in our old kitchen for a few months. My nieces and nephews started calling the old kitchen “the play room” after I brought up a dusty box of toys from the basement and stored them where the oven used to be. We loved the suggestion but there were a few things in there that didn’t exactly scream “play room” during that limbo stage. See if you can spot them in this photo: (and please note, we moved the box of toys out for the kids, we did not actually let them play in there)
We love having our new kitchen. I have been practicing my cooking skills in it, we’ve hosted many parties and had a lot of laughs around the kitchen island already. We are excited for all the happy memories we will make in our new space!
A few weekends ago, I FINALLY finished putting away all our Christmas decorations. It was a process I had started on about January 2nd and over Martin Luther King weekend, I finished putting the last of the Christmas boxes away on the shelves. If you are the type of person who can put your Christmas decorations away all in one single day then I am very impressed. For me, I treat the task of putting Christmas decorations away much like I treat putting my laundry away: it takes at least 10-12 business days to complete. The intricate Post-Christmas process that I follow is one I learned from my mom. Here is how it usually goes:
Day 1: Undecorate tree. Unfortunately undecorating the tree took me twice as long this year because I had to sweep up LOTS of extra needles from our Charlie Brown tree. Mike and I were lazy and just went to Menards for our tree since it was closest to our house. They didn’t have much of a selection of real trees and they were all tied up in netting so you couldn’t really see what they looked like. BUT Menards was closest to our house and we were NOT about to make the effort to go anywhere else. So we brought our “6-7 foot” (so they claimed) real tree home in a shopping cart:
Taking ornaments off a tree is an extremely depressing task so after doing so you must treat yourself to a delicious lunch from one of your favorite local fast food establishments. Only fries can cure the “undecorating the tree” depression that sets in. But before you can eat you must collect all the knickknacks and set them on the dining room table so they are all in one spot, shoving aside the normal junk you leave on the dining room table to make room for the Christmas junk. After a long lunch break you bring up the Christmas boxes from the basement and start to put the holiday knickknacks away. BUT (and this is key) you don’t fully finish because you get tired/distracted by doing other things.
Day 2: Finish wrapping and putting knickknacks away in their boxes, making sure all garland and lights are taken down but leave garland/lights in a pile on the living room floor because you don’t have the energy to box those up quite yet. The Knicknack box on the other hand, is filled and lid is closed but that will remain in the living room for a few more days.
Day 3-7: Make some half assed attempts to finish putting everything away, maybe bring some boxes to the basement but do not put them away/on the shelves where they belong. Leave them in an inconvenient spot for everyone else in the household, blocking something all other house members need to access regularly or leave in a main traffic area of the basement. This year I decided to leave a pile of Christmas boxes right at the bottom of our basement stairs, forcing us both to go around the barricade every time we needed to go to a certain part of the basement.
Day 8-9: This is “The Limbo Stage” where you will see decorations you missed in the house when you aren’t even looking for them, just going about your day. Then you’ll say to someone, “Ah! Look at this! A Christmas decoration that escaped us!! It’s a good thing I didn’t put those boxes away yet so I can add this to them!”
Day 10-12: Look at the Christmas boxes and hate yourselves just slightly for being the way that you are, and finally put them away. A process that takes about five minutes but you’ve successfully dragged out over a course of a few days.
As sad and depressing as putting away Christmas decorations are, as I was doing it, I was thinking back to the Christmas prior and I smiled because I felt grateful that this Christmas we did not have the same creature stirring this holiday season that we did the previous. Yes, last Christmas a mouse decided to Air BnB our home during the cold winter months. For a while I was too ashamed and embarrassed to say this publicly but I am tired of that mouse silencing and controlling us. WE DID NOTHING WRONG. We keep a clean house. We store our food properly. We wondered what we did to deserve such a thing. Mice will do that to you. They will make you feel bad about yourselves and keep you living in fear. The mice are gone now but every time Mike and I see a small shadow or something grabs our attention on the floor we jump a little thinking it might be a mouse.
We think the mouse moved in while we were away in Ireland. We arrived home from our trip on December 1st and soon realized we were not alone. We had squatters. It was a Saturday night and we were staying in, I had just made us a delicious meal of chicken nuggets and fries that I had spent A LOT of time taking out of the freezer and we were sitting down to watch “A Christmas Story” with some cocktails when the mouse first showed himself. We both thought we were seeing things when something scurrying across the floor grabbed our attention. Then he ran by again and I’m pretty sure all three of us let out screams.
Right from the start Mike was ready to fight to the death, but I wanted to go about it in a more humane way. I wanted him to maybe trap the mouse and let him go many miles away where he could live happily in a field somewhere? I didn’t want to kill the little guy. I mean, in my experience, mice were always pretty harmless, even cheerful and friendly-You have Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Stuart Little, etc. Plus what if it turned out we had one of the Three Blind mice staying with us? How bad would we feel if we killed a BLIND MOUSE?! Just awful.
Well my tune quickly changed when I started to feel personally victimized by the mouse. First, he got into the basket where we store our blankets and my heating pads and ate through all MY microwavable heat wraps. No one messes with things that keep me warm! NO ONE! Since this incident happened while my husband Mike was away on business and I was the woman AND man of the house that week, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. So being the independent woman that I am, I rolled up my sleeves, texted him a photo of what happened, and left everything until he returned:
Since I am basically Saint Francis of Assisi and love all animals, I let the heat wrap slide with the mouse. BUT THEN, one night, he somehow got into MYbackpack that I take to work everyday and ate a packet of oatmeal I was going to have for breakfast that morning! (Quaker Apples & Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal in case anyone was wondering). That was the final straw.
It was after these vicious attacks from the mouse that I finally gave the order to “take care of the mouse” in a manner much like Pontius Pilate did to Jesus. “CRUCIFY THAT MOUSE, MIKE! I WANT HIM OUT OF HERE!” I yelled.
From there, Mike turned our house into a war zone against the mouse, setting all different kinds of traps everywhere:
I swear, Mike set up more elaborate traps for this mouse than Macaulay Culkin did trying to catch Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in the movie “Home Alone”. But despite his best efforts, this turned out to be a very smart mouse and somehow kept avoiding all the traps he set in place. The mouse and trying to catch him consumed us both. It was all we could talk about. We hardly talked about our excitement over recycle can pick-up garbage day anymore! (Which only occurs every OTHER week, super confusing). To make matters worse, I was starting to think the mouse was paying my nieces and nephews, who I nanny for everyday, to harass me. Each day during story time they “just so happen” to pick out a mouse-themed book. Coincidence? I think not:
The mouse got more and more comfortable in our home the longer he stayed with us. On Christmas night as we were sitting in our living room, enjoying the Christmas tree and the glow of our fake fire from our broken fireplace, we both heard a noise coming from the kitchen. We paused the movie we were watching to listen again. It sounded like someone taking aluminum foil off something. We both jumped up and ran to the kitchen and quickly flipped on the light just in time to see the mouse eating the Christmas coffee cake that was wrapped up on our counter. I was grossed out but Mike was LIVID that the mouse decided to eat that specific coffee cake, one from the local bakery that he was really looking forward to having for breakfast the next morning. “OUT OF ALL THE LEFTOVERS,” Mike said fuming, “HE WENT FOR THE ONLY ONE I WANTED! He could have gone for the store bought donuts we left wrapped up on the counter but no, he just HAD to go for the good stuff! The Wolf’s Bakery Coffee cake. I am so disappointed!” Mike was angry and upset. Even though I too was not happy with the mouse, feeling the Christmas spirit, I did encourage Mike to think about how the mouse felt. The mouse was probably just as disappointed to not get his Christmas treat. He probably thought we had gone to bed and snuck in for his little midnight snack and we caught him before he could dig into his Christmas feast. It was a real tragedy all around. There were no winners in the coffee cake situation.
One night when out with friends, we finally confided in them about our mouse ordeal, sharing the big shameful secret we had been hiding for a while. We were worried how everyone would reacted (Would they still be friends with us?!) But it turns out EVERYONE’S life had been touched by a mouse in some way, shape or form. Everyone had their own mouse story to share and tips on ways to slaughter the thing. One friend even “had a guy” who could take care of the mouse for us.
After using everyone’s mouse tips and tricks, Mike got the mouse. We thought that was the end of our mouse journey, but no, there were more. I was the one to discover this and so I had to gently tell Mike, who was still celebrating his victory over getting the mouse, that there were others. “Mike,” I said with a sigh, “I think that mouse you killed had offspring, there are more mice in our house.” “Aww no,” He said sadly, “Please don’t say that.” “I know,” I replied, equally as sad, “I don’t like the idea of killing mice children either, I’m sad about it too but I think it has to be done-” Mike quickly cut me off “What? No! I don’t care about killing the mouse’s children!” He said sternly, “I’m just upset there are more mice!” “Oh,” I said with a laugh “I thought you were sad about killing a whole mouse family like I was!” “NO!” He said quickly, “These mice need to go!”
So after that, I don’t know how he did it because I don’t like to ask questions about it, but Mike got all the mice. We are now a mouse free household again. We no longer have to live in fear, but we still have some PTSD from the traumatic ordeal.
Recently, while nannying one day, I was telling my nieces and nephews our mouse story. They wanted to see a photo of the mouse, which I of course didn’t have and I told them that. But they demanded a photo and wouldn’t leave me alone about it until they saw photographic evidence. So, knowing that children are notoriously dumb, I used my quick thinking skills and showed them a stock photo of a mouse that I Googled:
After telling them the story, the kids ask me about the mouse almost every day. I think telling it has helped me heal. I am happy that now, I have all new heat wraps/heating pads and my only roommate now is Mike.
A year ago, Mike and I took the trip of a lifetime to Ireland for our friends’ wedding and we had an absolute blast! Weather was a bit chilly but that didn’t stop us from having a very memorable and fun trip with our friends. We often talk about that trip and laugh at all the memories we made and fun we had. I kept a journal of our adventures during the trip, so in honor of the “one year anniversary” here is a little throwback to our Ireland adventures back in November 2021:
We left on a Friday in November, so the day before we were both rushing around trying to get packed up and do some last minute things around the house. Of course when I say “we” I really mean “I” because Mike had his suitcase packed up and ready to go with ample time to lounge on the couch. Honestly though guys have it so easy when it comes to packing. A couple of pants, shirts and a pair of shoes and they are done. While he was downstairs lounging on the couch all ready to go, I was trying to figure out which shoes would go with what outfit for what day. We would be gone for 10 days, attending a wedding and then doing traveling on our own after so it was a lot to consider! Even as Dad’s Taxi, aka my Dad, picked us up in the Honda Mini Van with 16 cupholders to take us to the airport, I was still shoving last minute outfits in my suitcase, just in case. If there is one thing I am good at it’s overpacking, so I couldn’t disappoint my fans now.
The whole week leading up to our trip people kept asking if we were excited. I said “yes” but secretly I was very worried. Was I worried about traveling to a different country during a global pandemic and possibly getting sick? No. I was extremely worried about whether or not my suitcase would make it under the weight limit when I checked it in at the airport. Mike kept saying it would be ok if my suitcase was over the weight limit, that I should just pack what I needed and we’d just pay the fee. But he didn’t know the charge was $100, and I wasn’t going to tell him. I was worried he might have a heart attack if we got to the baggage check and my suitcase was over the weight limit. The night before as he was downstairs watching TV, I was upstairs secretly trying to lift my suitcase on the scale in our bathroom. But you know what? Human scales are not made for suitcase. I also had trouble lifting my suitcase so I thought I might be in trouble. There I was at about 11 o’clock at night trying to wrestle my 50lb suitcase onto the scale. Every once in a while Mike would hear a loud thud and yell up and ask if I was ok and I would just yell down “Yes! Everything is fine!” At this point I don’t remember if the thuds were me falling or the suitcase. It’s all a blur now. On the ride to the airport in Dad’s Taxi I shared my concerns with my friend Maura, who was also going on the trip:
Luckily, when we got to the bag check, my guardian angel must have been looking our for me because my suitcase made it under the the weight limit! Watching my bag go on the conveyer belt to be sent to our plane I felt as if the weight of that bag was finally lifted from my own shoulders. I was so relieved. It was then that I became excited and was ready for a pre-flight cocktail to begin our festivities.
We met up with our friends at an airport bar, having a grand old time but then ended up having to run to our gate because they mislabeled our boarding time for our plane. We thought we were going to miss our flight but we made it! Running through the airport I felt like I was in the scene from “Home Alone” when the McCallister family missed their alarms and had to run to make their flight. Because we were rushed I did not get to stock up on water for the flight and Mike did not get to do his “pre-flight routine” so we were both uncomfortable. This was the first time Mike and I were flying outside the country together and poor Mike had no idea how much water and liquids I need on long flights. I tried to warn him, and so did my sister Jane, who traveled to Italy with me, but Mike didn’t know what he was in for. “Oh my God I’m so thirsty! When are they passing out the drinks!” I said to Mike, “I’m turning into a raisin here I’m so thirsty! I need water!” “Kath, we haven’t even gotten to our seats yet!” he said back. “Well since they closed all the water fountains because of COVID, I wasn’t able to fill up my water jug, so maybe they should pass out water or something as you get on!” I was very distraught not having any water.
Once we found our seats and settled in, Mike and I immediately started looking at the various movie options. One of our favorite hobbies to do together, besides drink alcohol at bars and other locations, is watch TV, so we were anxious to see what options they had available. “Oh my gosh look at this Mike!” I yelled excitedly. He turned to look at my screen to see a movie called, “Kathleen Was Here.” He looked back at me very unimpressed, asking “What about it?” “A movie with my name in it?! This is so exciting! My name is never in movie titles! HOW THRILLING!!” I replied. (I was extremely excited about this.) My excitement drained a little when I read the synopsis of the movie and it was actually a very depressing storyline about a girl who was “18 and alone” (Classic middle child Kathleen I’m sure). But it was still very exciting nonetheless.
We took off and they began passing out PATHETIC sized waters and soft drinks so the whole time I was extremely thirsty. “These are shot glasses of water and Diet Coke!” I said to Mike, “Are they serious with this right now?!” But other than feeling like I was going to keel over from extreme thirst, the flight was great.
We landed in Dublin and I immediately went on a search for water, with no luck. We got our rental car (cupholders were a little lacking) and we found our way to our hotel. It was early in the morning Dublin time but the hotel people were nice and let us get into our room. Once in we both immediately fell onto the bed and passed out-I didn’t even get to check the brochure to see if our hotel offered a free breakfast, unlimited lobby coffee, or if they gave you a free shower cap in the bathroom-that’s how tired I was! After a few hours of rest we walked to a restaurant to grab some food. We hadn’t even been sitting down for more than a minute and I immediately spilled the Diet Coke I ordered all over the table. It was like watching liquid gold go down a sewer drain. My dehydrated body just needed all the liquids it could get. Once our food came we realized there was a major problem. Extremely small ketchup packets. Mike and I looked at each other and silently prayed that maybe other restaurants might offer the ketchup bottles and this wouldn’t be a theme for our entire trip. Turns out it was definitely a theme in Ireland. Tiny ketchup packets are like our kryponite. Mike can never get them opened, my clumsy hands struggle with them as well, and it’s just not enough ketchup. I don’t like to be limited by how much ketchup I can have with my fries. Please give me the bottle and I will choose how much I use thank you very much. Plus then the empty packets are just on your plate and it’s just a mess. American restaurants started doing this during COVID and it was awful. One of the worst things about COVID, really. Here we were back in that nightmare.
After I made the whole restaurant sticky by spilling my Diet Coke, we left to walk around and explore a little more. It was raining so I was really regretting bringing my athleisure gym shoes because I do not like to get them dirty. The only reason I brought them was because they are lighter than my other shoes and I was so worried about the weight limit thing.
Once we explored a little bit we went back to our hotel, got ready and met friends out for a very fun night.
The next morning we began our drive from Dublin to Donegal. Mike drove and I was “Co-Pilot” as I always like to refer to myself. Any time Mike and I drive somewhere we know it will take WAY longer than Google Maps tells us because of the amount of pee stops we make for Mike and water/drink stops we make for me. At our first rest stop while I was waiting for Mike I was looking at all the gas station merchandise and what do I stumble upon?! A “Dad’s Taxi” keychain! It was fate and I had to get it for my Dad. I was very excited and immediately texted my siblings about the treasure I found.
We hit the road again and I sat back and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. I saw some animals in the distance and excitedly yelled, “Look Mike! Piggies!” I got out my phone to take a picture of the Irish piggies. Mike turned to look and said back, “Kath…those are sheep.” I looked again and he was right, they were in fact, sheep. I had been meaning to make an eye doctor appointment for a while because I thought I needed new contacts, but I never did make that appointment. So I just said back, “Hmm you are correct, I guess I really should get to the eye doctor soon.” Also in my defense, and not that I would fat shame any animal, but those sheep were in need of a shave so all that wool made them look larger. No matter my excuses, my mistake became a running joke of the whole trip. Which honestly I didn’t think was fair because Mike accidentally called the shoulder of the road the “elbow” and he didn’t seem to get made fun by our friends of quite as much as I did.
Once we arrived at our beautiful hotel we met up with the wedding party for a delicious dinner. Then we all enjoyed drinks at the hotel and engaged very intellectual conversations which included the awkward “step” in front of the urinals in the boys bathroom and whether or not one was supposed to step up on it. Some thought it was to cover up plumbing, others thought it might be an actual step. To help settle the case the boys brought the girls into the boys bathroom to get their take on the matter. We all decided the step was not for stepping.
The next morning, our friends Mallory and Maura, Mike and I all went on a walk to explore the area. None of us knew where we were going so as we were leaving the hotel grounds my fourth grade Girl Scout instincts kicked in and I knew we should try and look for some sort of marking so we could find our way back. “Ok everyone, just remember where we came out so we don’t get lost on our way back!” I said and looked around for something to use as a marker. “Ok lets all remember that skinny branch up there.” I said with confidence. Maura and Mallory looked up. “Or…” Mike said, “We could all remember that bright red sign right there.” All of our heads turned and about three feet away was a big red sign pointing to a house for sale. “Damn,” I thought to myself. “Maybe this is why my Mom never sewed those patches on my Girl Scout sash-she knew I had no future as a Girl Scout so she wasn’t going to waste her time.” Every Girl Scout meeting I’d show up with my empty brown sash on, patches in a plastic baggie in my hand. Other girls were running out of room for places to sew their patches on their sash. Lucky for me I didn’t have that problem-my mom could always switch from a plastic sandwich bag to a gallon zip-lock bag if needed. Once I got home I’d put my Girl Scout sash and patches right back where I got it before my meeting-on top of her sewing box in the pantry.
Once our troop established proper markers, we began our journey and walked around the cute little town, admiring everyone’s Christmas decorations. Maura commented how she loved that in Ireland ‘They don’t have Thanksgiving as a barrier in putting up Christmas decorations, that they can just roll right into it after Halloween.’ We all agreed. Who needs to give thanks anyway? After walking through the town we explored a historic fort. I asked Mike if he wanted me to take a picture of him next to the dumpster in the historic fort and he did not. So Me, Maura and Mallory took a picture with the historic dumpster instead.
After taking a photo with the historic dumpster we walked a little more around the streets of the tiny little town. We were the only ones out and about in this town. It was-what we thought-a quiet day. That’s when an old Irish man came out of his house and in a thick Irish broth said “What’s all the commotion about?! Is there a parade in town?!” What’s going on?” We told him we were in for a wedding, he said something else none of us could understand through his thick Irish accent so we did what any polite person would do which was laugh politely and went on our way.
Later that night we had the rehearsal dinner which was a blast and then the next day was the big wedding. Mike, Mallory and I drove to the mass together and in our rental car. We weren’t used to the narrow roads and had a few near accidents where we thought we were going to die a horrific, fiery death but luckily we made it in one piece. The church was beautiful, set on a hill overlooking the water with a little old cemetery right next to it. As we finished parking and walked up to the doors we all admired the breathtaking scenery. “Wow!” I finally said. Mike and Mallory both said the same thing, as we all looked around. I must have still been thinking about our near death experience in the car because while Mike and Mallory were looking at the beautiful church, I was looking at the cemetery. Then I said, without skipping a beat, “What a beautiful place to be buried.” As my eyes continued to gaze over at the cemetery. Mike and Mallory looked at each other a little confused and started laughing saying, “Or married.” “Well of course that too!” I said quickly trying to save myself. I didn’t even realize until they corrected me what I said probably sounded so dumb. But I guess after seeing my life flash before me so many times on those narrow and windy rural Irish roads I was only thinking of my death. My bad. Pretty sure our bike paths in America are wider than some of the roads in Ireland.
The wedding ceremony was beautiful and the bride and groom were stunning! After, we headed back to the hotel for the reception and that was so much fun! Mike’s three piece plaid suit really stole the show. It’s like the suit was made for this specific day. We danced the night away and then I got the chance to sit down with the bride, Meg, to discuss car cupholder expanders. I had recently purchased one for my car for my cumbersome 32 ounce water bottle that, tragically, did not fit in standard sized cupholders. Switching to a 24 ounce water bottle was out of the question for me as I am always thirsty and need mass amounts of water at all time. I thought I would be doomed to a life of awkwardly having to balance my water bottle in my lap while I drove. But then I had the idea of investing in a cupholder expander. Let me tell you-LIFE CHANGING. Probably one of my best purchases. Meg was very interested in this item and even suggested we go into the cupholder expander business as it would surely be a lucrative one. We agreed it be future business partners. (Business plans have yet to be drawn up, we are still in the “brainstorming stage.”)
The wedding was so much fun that everyone needed a good majority of the next day to recover. After some much needed rest we all got ready for the wedding after-party at a local bar. Mike, Mallory and myself drove together. It should have been a quick drive to the bar but we ran into some car trouble. Your first thought might be “oh no, they must of had a flat tire or their car broke down on the way.” No. We got in the car and then could not figure out how to defrost the the windshield. We were Googling things, fiddling with the car temperature, I even took out the car manual (THAT is how desperate we were-I was looking through a car manual!) and we had no luck. How many Millennials does it take to defrost a car windshield? More than three that’s for sure. We could not figure out what the internal car temperature vs outside temperature needed to be in order for the frost to go away. Then we started second guessing if it was frost or fog. And was it inside the window or outside the window? I thought about enrolling in Ireland’s nearest school of meteorology it was taking us so long to defrost the windshield. Becoming a meteorologist would have been quicker. We could not figure out what we were doing wrong. Finally we decided to blame the car. “Faulty system” we said to make ourselves feel less stupid about the whole situation. We eventually figured out something and we were able to safely make it to the bar.
After a few hours Mike and I decided to call it an early night as we were leaving early the next morning to continue our travels to Galway. We said our goodbyes to everyone and got back in our semi-defrosted rental car. We were sad leaving because it had been such an awesome experience with an amazing group of people and we did not want it to end! But we still had the second half of our trip to journey off to…Part two of our adventures coming soon. Stay tuned!
The other night I made dinner for Mike and myself. Like all of my cooking attempts, we really weren’t sure how this dinner was going to turn out. (We always keep our medicine cabinet stocked with Tums, Pepto Bismal, antacids, etc so we are prepared for my dinners). Much to our shock, it actually tasted good! AND I made the dinner using fresh tomatoes from my garden in the backyard. Did I feel confident enough to be on the cover of “Good Housekeeping” Magazine after my one amazing dinner? You bet I did. Not only did I cook a dinner that was edible, but my summer project of “Having a Garden” turned out to be a success as well. It wasn’t an easy road to get those tasty tomatoes into our dinner though.
My vision of a garden all started this past spring. It was another cold, rainy, dreary day in Chicago. At that time it seemed it had been raining every day for weeks! After so much time, weather like that started to affect both Mike and my mood and we were feeling a little down. I started thinking towards the summer and needed a project to keep me busy. That’s when the idea of having a garden popped in my head. At dinner that night I excitedly explained my plans to Mike. He was very supportive and on board with my big idea. But he did delicately question my project choice. “Sounds like a great summer project, Kath!” He said, trying to match my enthusiasm. “But, just curious…why are you choosing to grow a garden for your summer project… given your track record with accidentally killing most of our plants in the past?” He said it in the kindest way possible, but we both knew I was a plant serial killer. Not on purpose, of course, but it was the truth. Any plant someone would give me or I’d buy seemed to immediately die in my hands. It was as if my thumbs were poisonous and not green at all.
Anytime my Mom, who basically runs her own house plant hospital, came over to our house I could feel her looking around at my dead plants and judging me. My house was like walking through a plant funeral home to her. “Looks like your plants here could use a little water…want me to give this one a little drink?” She’d say and she walked around frowning at all the houseplant corpses I had. “I DID WATER IT BUT I THINK I ACCIDENTALLY DROWN IT SO JUST LAY OFF, MOM!!” I’d think as I’d watch her judging eyes scanning my plants.
I was determined to prove that I could keep something alive so I told Mike that I was going to, as my Grandma used to say “come Hell or high water” grow us some vegetables that summer. He, as always, offered his support and wanted to know how he could help. But I knew this was something I needed to try do on my own.
As I tell you about my journey, readers should know about a few of my many characters flaws. First, while I am a big “ideas” person, my follow-through could use some work. So when Mike cautioned me to “Maybe start out small” I basically shut him down and shared with him my plans to become a full-time farmer. I was going to grow any vegetable you can imagine, plus pumpkins and watermelon, different herbs and spices, etc. Why would we buy produce at the grocery store when I could grow it in our own backyard! The other thing readers should know is that’s while I come to the table with great project ideas, I tend to procrastinate a bit on starting, sometimes waiting until the last minute. But at this time, I was still riding high from this big project I was excited to start, so the very next day after telling Mike my plans, I went to Menards to check out the garden center and get my supplies. I got in the store, realized all the supplies I needed was in the “outdoor” garden center, and turned right around and left as it was a rather chilly spring day and I did NOT want to be outside looking at plants in the cold springtime weather. I went right home and snuggled up by my space heater and promised myself I’d go back when the weather was slightly warmer. (I mean the wind chill that day- no thanks. It was in the 50s).
A few weekends later Mike was going to Menards so I decided to join him and check out the garden center again since the weather was more conducive to garden center shopping (Unlike my last attempt!) But I ended up getting distracted by the basil section. My soon-to-be Brother-in-Law’s nickname is “Basil” so I had to take some photos with the basil plants and send it to him! It’s not everyday you see basil plants so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share the experience with other Basils!
Most of the month of May I spent telling people about my plans for this amazing garden but not actually doing anything to make it happen. I talked about it to anyone who would listen-at family dinners, Bridal showers I attended, out at the bars. Pretty much everyone in the Chicagoland area knew of my gardening plans. I was taking vegetable requests from people and even told my mom I’d “lease her some of my land” if she wanted to grow some tomatoes of her own after I finished tilling the soil (which I hadn’t started yet).
A few weeks later on a Saturday when Mike was doing yard work I announced that I was going to start clearing my land for my garden. I made a big deal about it, acting like the town crier as I announced to him how I was finally starting work on my garden. If I had a bell I would have been ringing it throughout our backyard as I yapped away to him. Once I was done running my mouth and making myself laugh, I got out a shovel to start digging. Unfortunately for me, the first time that shovel hit the dirt it was like hitting concrete. Yikes! I didn’t say anything at first but in my head I thought “Oh HELLLLL NO! I am NOT dealing with this today!” It was a Saturday and I wasn’t in the mood for all that work and getting dirty. We had plans later and I already washed my hair the night before. (It was not a hair washing shower day for me, only a body washing shower day) But I couldn’t just say that out loud because I knew Mike was watching me with a grin so I turned to him and said, “You know what? On second thought, I think I’ll do this gardening later in the week. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow and the ground will be much softer after that.” And I put down my shovel and went right back inside.
As summers tend to do, the summer days somehow flew by and suddenly we were coming up on the Fourth of July. I had bought vegetable seeds but did no tilling of soil and no planting. I didn’t even have overalls. I’d say my land was barren but it was not, it was full of weeds and other wild plants that I was supposed to clear away in the spring. The vegetable seeds just sat on our kitchen counter starring me in the face every time I walked by.
But, lucky for me, a farming miracle happened. I got together with some old work friends for a little Fourth of July party and one of my friend’s asked how my garden was coming along. When I told her I hadn’t started, she told me her father had a surplus of vegetable plants that he would be happy to give me. All I had to do was plop them in the ground and water them. Talk about winning the vegetable garden lottery! Fast forward a few days and I am having a lovely summer afternoon with my friend Jan and my new friend “Papa” out in his backyard. Papa walked me through his amazing and expansive garden and taught me lots of things about growing vegetables. He then generously gave me all different types of tomato and pepper plants. It was a great day. And it finally lit a fire in me to clear that land and get those vegetables in. I did not want to let Papa down.
Once I got my vegetable plants planted I took VERY special care of them. Full disclosure, there were a few weeks over the summer that the plants did not receive much water due to me “forgetting about my garden” (in my defense, a garden behind the garage is a forgettable location but it was sunny) but I think that made my plants stronger. So really I did them a service. Right around Labor Day my first crop came in. I was over the moon:
I will confess I did get a little jealous when I discovered another tomato farmer in the area, who also happens to be my three year old niece, was yielding more crops than me. But it wasn’t a competition, OK?!
While I think I could make some improvements for next summer’s garden, overall, I’d say my garden project was a huge success this summer. I learned a lot, made a wonderful new friend and even hosted a few farm conferences with some fellow farmers to discuss the challenges of backyard farming:
Unfortunately at the conference we did have one disrespectful Farmer fall asleep during our discussion on the use of Miracle Grow. Clearly she’s in the wrong profession and was just there for the free lunch.
So put in your vegetable requests now, because its official and I am happy to report that after a successful 2022 season, Farmer Kath’s Garden will be returning for the Summer of 2023.
In July, my family gathered together for our annual “Family Week” up on Dewey Lake in Michigan. This has been a long tradition in our family, started when we’d go up for a full week to my grandparents’ cottage on Dewey Lake. Now my parents have a Lakehouse of their own on Dewey Lake and have kept the tradition going. Through the years we’ve grown from a family of seven to a family of 17, so it’s harder and harder to find a week in the summer with everyone’s busy schedules. The group texts usually start in February to try and lock down a week in July. After much discussion we managed, yet again, to find a week to all be together for a few days, and what a fun week it was!
Since my husband Mike had to work, I hitched a ride up with my sister Jane on Tuesday. My parents had already been there a few days, and my brother was on his way up with his three kids. In classic Kelly family fashion, Jane and I had scheduled to leave in the morning, but we were running late, so we didn’t end up leaving until around noon or so. The two of us had a great ride, jamming out to some tunes, Jane BELTING out every word, while I struggled to find places to put all my drinks for the car ride (Jane has a nice car but the cupholder situation is a little lacking). We were excited and energized about the upcoming week. I asked Jane if she planned on breaking any coffee pots this year during family week. Jane has a long history of accidentally breaking the family coffee pot. So much so that my Mom keeps an extra coffee pot on hand just in case Jane “I break coffee pots” Kelly comes out to ruin your morning. To my relief Jane informed me that my mom no longer allows her to wash or touch the coffee pot so we should all be properly caffeinated all week long.
About an hour and a half into our ride we realized how hungry we were. All that packing and running around really worked up an appetite in both of us. We paused the music and started to get serious about how we would solve our hunger situation:
Me: Maybe we should stop and pick up sandwiches for everyone for lunch on our way, what do you think? Mike is bringing our cooler so I have no food to offer accept that spaghetti squash I threw in your back seat and I only brought that because it’s been sitting on my counter at home for two weeks so I am down to the wire on cooking it. I know Mike won’t cook it while I’m gone and it will just go bad. **Editor’s Note:Secretly I was hoping one of the 16 other people up at the lake might be “inspired” to cook the spaghetti squash so I didn’t have to. I only really brought it to prove a point to Mike-he wanted to just throw it out but I kept claiming I had big plans to cook it for dinner. I am a big “ideas” person when it comes to cooking but my follow through could use some work. Honestly I just needed it off our counter at home.** Jane: I don’t know, don’t you think there is food at the cottage to eat for lunch? I mean Mom and Dad have been up there for a few days already. Me: If I know Mom and Dad, and I do, there won’t be much food, maybe a can of tomato soup since they like to eat like it’s still the Great Depression. I think we should just stop and pick stuff up. Or Mom will tell us to make quesadillas. No one loves quesadillas more than Mom. Jane: You’re right. She does love quesadillas. Can you just text Mom and ask her if there is food there? I don’t want to eat out so I’d like to avoid it if I can. Me: Ok, HEALTHY JANE! I will text her but I know she will just tell me there’s stuff to make quesadillas and I am just not in the mood for all that work and cheese! And I sure AS HELL am NOT making that spaghetti squash I brought and eating THAT for lunch on my first day of vacation! I don’t feel like breaking my hand trying to cut that thing today. I am just too tired! And it’s too healthy to eat as our first meal on vacation.
So, I texted my mom and here is her response:
So after much more discussion we made a quick decision to stop for sandwiches at Subway. I had talked to my mom prior and she said her and my Dad didn’t want anything for lunch if we stopped of food on the way, but being the saint I am I called to double check if they wanted lunch. She said “Mmmm, Subway?!!” Sounding very interested, “Let me check with Dad when he comes in and call you back in a little while with our order. He’s working outside cutting down some bushes!” But we were about three minutes from Subway and didn’t have all day to wait for my Dad to finish hacking away every square inch of Michigan forestry so I said, “Well we are almost at Subway, do you mind just asking him now and then could you TEXTme what you guys want? It’s just easier if you TEXTwhat sandwich you want so I can just read it off my phone and to the Subway worker. I don’t have a pen and paper with me.” “Oh right, right! Sure sweetie!” She said “I’ll ask Dad what he wants and we will get our order to you right away!” “Great, thanks!” I said, “TEXT it to me!” We pulled into Subway and I turned to Jane laughing and said, “How much do you want to bet Mom is going to CALL me back with their order?” Just as I finished my sentence my phone rang. I answered the phone laughing because it was my Mom, getting right down to business with her Subway order “Hi sweetie! Dad and I will have a six inch turkey on whole grain with lettuce, tomato-” “Mom, can you text this to me?” I said laughing “Oh right, right! I’ll text it now! Love you! Bye!” She said. Jane and I had a good laugh. True to her word she DID text me her order. Once we arrived we all had our sandwiches on the patio and my Dad called me a “Little SNIP” for calling him out for asking for a bottle of Diet Coke OR Fountain Pop Diet Coke from Subway. But my parents practically had to rent a U-Haul truck to bring up all the cases of Diet Coke (cans) they brought up for this family vacation, so I was just making a point.
After lunch my nieces and nephew gave a Taylor swift performance for everyone using Jane’s karaoke microphone. Then Connor did the most serious performance of “Monster Trucks” I have ever seen. He really got into character. If you haven’t heard this jam, add it to your playlist.
After their performance Jane and I went for a walk around the lake and we saw a swan. We talked about what we should name the swan and whether it was a boy or girl swan because we were not sure. Then we got into a discussion about what our parents told us we would have been named if we were boys. I just assumed since my parents were going to use the name “Tom” on me if I were a boy it would just trickle down and they’d use it for Jane but apparently they were going to name her Joe. Mind blown! “Well that’s good,” I said “Because I can’t see you as a Tom but I can definitely see you being a Joe.” She took offense to this for some reason but I told her I just could not see her being “Tom” if she were a boy but I feel like I would have pulled off the name better. After that important conversation was out of the way we moved on to discussing who’s skin was more dry. “Jane, don’t even kid yourself you know my skin is way more dry. Have you seen my arms?! FEEL THESE!” I said, shoving my arms in her face. “Like sandpaper. You could file down the corners of a picnic table with these babies.” That’s when Jane agreed, I won the dry skin contest. Jane and I always have only the most deep and meaningful conversations when we are together.
Once we got back from our walk we went on a boat ride and then my sister Maggie and her family arrived in their Honda Mini Van. We all helped them unload and I swear I don’t think I have ever seen a mini van more packed to capacity with stuff. I helped get her three children out of their carseats and I felt like I was looking for survivors of a building collapse through Paw Patrol suitcases, boxes of Cheerios, toys and stuffed animals. We got everyone settled, figured out the sleeping situations and then went to sleep.
Wednesday my sister-in-law Alyssa, sister Bridget and her Fiancé Steve all arrived. Everyone was happy to see them but we were a little distracted by a much more exciting event-a dead bat was found on one of the trees outside on my parents’ property! So honestly the dead bat stole the show that day-the week really, we all couldn’t stop talking about him. After that anytime someone asked me how I slept the night before I told them I slept “like a dead bat.”
Thursday, Jane decided to make brunch for everyone which included a French toast casserole, eggs, and bacon. Unfortunately she very much underestimated the amount of bacon to buy so she had to ration it. Before we were allowed to get our food she made a big announcement that adults were only allowed one slice of bacon and the children were allowed a half of a slice of bacon. She felt kind of bad about it but I reassured her, saying we were used to Mom starving us growing up with the skimpy meals she would divide among us so we’d all be ok. Our bodies were used to going into starvation mode.
We were all sitting outside on the patio enjoying our brunch with one thin slice of bacon each when my sister Maggie said, “Jane, this French Toast Casserole is delicious! I really love the pecans on here! It really adds a nice crunch!” Everyone enthusiastically agreed about how tasty the crunchy pecans were. But I just looked around confused at everyone’s plates as I had NO pecans on my French toast casserole Jane gave me. Bewildered and disappointed that I was missing out on the pecans, I finally said, “Hey… you guys got pecans on yours?” Jane quickly and flatly replied back, with no remorse in her voice, “Oh yea, I served you and I think maybe a few other people a part of the casserole that didn’t have any pecans on it. Sorry about that.” But she really didn’t sound sorry AT ALL. “Well!” I said dramatically, “I didn’t realize it was ‘Bring Your Own PECANS’ to this brunch! MY APOLOGIES! BUT I’M GLAD EVERYONE ELSE IS ENJOYING THE ADDED CRUNCH THEY BRING TO THE CASSEROLE! IT SOUNDS DELICIOUS BASED OFF THE CRUNCHING NOISE I HEAR!!”
After everyone BUT me had their brunch with plenty of crunchy pecans and only one slice of bacon, we took the boat to the island and hung out, getting into a deep discussion about a tattoo contest Nestle Drumstick was hosting. Basically if you tattooed a drumstick on your body you would get free Drumsticks for a year. We were a family divided on whether or not we would do it. After the island we went around the lake and then through the channel so people could see turtles-which I of course didn’t care about-turtles are the squirrels of the lake. I am over them. A dead bat is impressive, but turtles are old news. It was an awesome day though. We spent all day long on the boat. So long that my skin started bleeding from too much sun exposure and we had to stop for Band-Aids. But it was totally worth it. And everyone commented on how bright my blood was which I think is a compliment. We docked the boat and then my husband Mike arrived so our family was finally complete!
Friday morning I walked with Alyssa and the kids from the house where we were staying to my parents’ house so we could get coffee. (Jane had kept away from the coffee pot so it was still in working order!) The distance from the two houses wasn’t that far but my three year old nephew Connor led everyone a certain way specifically so he could be sure we all saw the dead bat on the tree again. As if we could forget the star of the week. Then we talked about the dead bat for the next half hour or so. Later in the morning it started raining and the rain didn’t stop all day so it was kind of a lazy day. We all kind of just hung out until it was time to start drinking again. Bridget and her fiancé Steve made tacos for dinner and then we watched the rain from the gazebo while we warned Steve about all the “Catholic things” and “Bridget things” he should know. The most important thing being the family rule my parents had to establish long ago because of Bridget: No one could-under any circumstances-order chocolate milk and pancakes together. You could order them separately but NEVER together. This was because one time we were out to breakfast and Bridget threw up all over her plate right at the restaurant after eating chocolate milk and pancakes. I guess the experience was so traumatic for my parents they felt the need to establish this rule, but I don’t think the rest of us were that phased by someone in our family puking yet again. It was almost a daily or nightly occurrence in our house. Real sensitive stomachs in the Kelly family. I remember the incident and I don’t think any of Bridget’s four siblings even asked if she was ok, we were all just yelling at her that ‘NOW the rest of us can’t have chocolate milk and pancakes anymore.’ 25 years later and we are still working on forgiving her. There’s nothing like washing down a plate of sugary pancakes with an icy cold glass of sugary chocolate milk. A luxury the Kelly family will never get to experience again. We wanted to be sure Steve knew that in marrying Bridget he would accept the fate that he and their future children would never be able to eat chocolate milk and pancakes in one sitting again. He accepted and that is what we call true love.
Saturday, our final day together, the weather turned beautiful again. We grilled and took a family photo with my tripod selfie stick complete with remote. If you don’t have one of these babies I’d highly recommend:
After that we went to the island and played catch with a football. Even the girls joined in! On a scale of zero to spicey, us girls were definitely the sportiest of the spices that day. Until we accidentally hit a sleeping child on the head with the football. Connor was ok though. He looked up for a minute and then went right back to sleep. A win for everyone! After that Jane made a Jeopardy game which was a ton of fun to play. For dinner Mike and I ordered pizzas for everyone because we didn’t want to actually cook anything (Each family provided a meal for the group. Everyone else cooked something but since Mike and I are lazy we outsourced our meal to the local pizza place). Then we karaoked all night long. It was a blast.
And just like that the week was over and Mike and I were loading the spaghetti squash that I never cooked into our car to go home. Another Dewey Lake Family Week on the books. Like every “Family Week” we spend together at Dewey Lake, it was a week filled with great weather, a lot of fun, lots of laughs, and my dad ranting about how we are all putting too much stuff in his shed. And like every year, I left feeling grateful to be part of my awesome family of 17…well 18 now if we are counting the dead bat. Because after the week we all agreed he felt like part of the family. I was also very thankful Jane didn’t break the coffee pot this year so we had coffee all week. Thanks Jane!
Family Week is a vacation that’s only a few days but it always leaves us with a ton of happy memories that keep us smiling all year long.
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 week, Walgreens was having a sale on photo prints, so I decided to finally make an attempt to print out some photos from our wedding to hang our walls so it looked like people lived in our house. It was a very half-assed attempt, as the photos are still sitting on our dining room table, but Mike and I enjoyed looking through them and thinking back on the day we got married for the second time.
It’s hard to believe a wedding we spent a year planning and replanning is already behind us-over four months behind us. (Although those thank you note are definitely not behind us.) It seems like just yesterday we were starting our wedding journey, at Crate & Barrel, setting up our wedding registery. We should have hired a photographer to capture that memorable day for Mike and me. Crate & Barrel had a free event for engaged couples to come and peruse the store before it opened to the general public and check out things to register for. We heard it was fun…and we heard they gave you free mimosas, so we decided to go. But, the day the “fun event” arrived we realized it started at 8am on a Sunday, it was freezing cold outside, there was snow on the ground and we were both hungover. We were struggling. The whole time we were there it seemed as if all the other couples knew exactly what they were doing and having a grand old time. But Mike and I…our troubles began before those Crate & Barrel doors opened:
Since it was freezing out I did a mad dash from where we parked to the door only to discover the store doors were locked “Ahh Mike! The doors are locked! Did we get the date wrong?!” I said to a hungover Mike (and our scheduler) who was slowly coming up behind me as I did my “I’m cold” jig by the locked door. “It’s just locked because it’s closed to the general public,” he said calmly. “There’s a lady coming now to unlock it for us.”
“Good morning! Are you here for our engaged couples registry event?!” The lady said cheerfully as I burst through the door to get warm and Mike slowly followed “Yes.” We both said. “Wonderful!” She said, “Now if you could just go to that table over there and I’ll be with you shortly to get you all checked in.”
As we walked a few steps into the massive store I turned to Mike, “Shoot, Mike!” I wasn’t listening or paying attention to that lady when we walked in! Where are we supposed to go to sign in?!”
“Well I don’t know either!” He said. “But Mike!” I said. “You’re supposed to be the listener!” “Well I know but I’m hungover!” He said back defensively. “I’m pretty sure she said over here though so let’s just wait at this table.” Mike said. So we walked over to a section of the store with a table and waited to get all signed in for our fun little couples event. As we waited for what seemed like a LONG TIME I admired all the cute little toys, baby giraffes and cribs that seemed to be surrounding us. Seemed a little weird to me they were pushing the baby stuff on everyone when no one at this event was even married yet. But I just kind of shrugged and became distracted by how expensive it all was. Yikes. We both started to wonder what was taking this lady so long and we started to get annoyed. No one even seemed to be around! Finally some lady came around the corner. “Um..excuse me, what are you two doing over there?” She said cheerfully confused. “Yes! Hi! We are here for the wedding registry event for engaged couples!” I said back. Trying to sound excited. “Yes right, I know.” she said, “I’m the one that let you in the door, but you are in the children’s section right now, and that part of the store is closed, you need to come over here.” That’s when we noticed the lights were off in the section we were standing in. Whoops. That wasn’t our only little hiccup with that lady. Long story short we were supposed to upload a photo of ourselves for our registry page and we ended up accidentally uploading a photo of a teapot instead. Then we couldn’t get it off. Stayed there through our whole year of wedding planning. I think this lady was wondering if she really should have left us in the children’s section.
After we struggled through the whole sign up process it was time to begin the fun part-registering for our plates and dishes and other cookware that we would use for years to come. Since we were not registering for new utensils, I came prepared-I whipped out my spoon from home I had brought along in my purse and I was ready to test out some dishes. I brought my “Testing Spoon” to test out the noise our current silverware would make against these new dishes. If this was going to be our “forever” plates/bowls/cups I didn’t want to FOREVER have to listen to awful banging and clacking noises as my fork hit my plate or spoon hit a cereal bowl in the morning. That noise just hurts my ears. Mike knew dish shopping with me wasn’t going to be easy.
So, once we overcame the hurdle of the registration table I was ready to go with my testing spoon, just walking around tapping away at the different plates and bowls. We got some strange looks, and many offers to help from all the nice staff people, to which we respectfully declined. In fact Mike and I found them OVERLY helpful and we were getting annoyed. “Man!” Mike said, “These ladies are like vultures! can they just leave us alone so we can look at some plates?!” “Seriously!” I added in the same tone. “What’s a couple have to do around here to just peacefully walk around with a testing spoon and tap on some plates?!”
So, fast forward through: Wedding dress shopping…
And lots of other fun wedding festivities, and our (second) wedding week was finally here!
The night before our second wedding we had our rehearsal at the church and then dinner at our favorite restaurant, Ken’s on Western. Here Mike and I gave our wedding party their gifts-coolers, the gift that keeps on giving. Most brides do cutesy gifts for their bridesmaids like robes or pajamas, but not me. “They don’t need any more of that crap!” I said to Mike one day, “I’m sure they have enough of it already.” (I realized I sounded exactly like my Dad) When I heard Mike was giving his groomsmen golf coolers I decided to go with the oh-so-versatile “backpack cooler.” Mike and I had purchased a backpack cooler together early on in our relationship (That’s when you know things are serious-when you make a major purchase like that together) and we’ve loved it ever since. So I thought my bridesmaids would love one too. Turned out to be a huge hit. They even came with a bottle opener and ice packs!
The rehearsal dinner was great, we had a wonderful evening with family and friends. It was a great way to kick-off our second wedding weekend.
The morning of our (second) wedding day I woke up in my old bedroom in my parents’ house and it was still dark outside. “Wow!” I thought to myself, looking up at the stars, smiling, “The stars seem to be shining EXTRA bright today!” Of course I was talking about the glow in the dark stars on the ceiling of my bedroom. Still there after all these years. And still making my Dad angry after all these years. They always give me a good laugh just thinking about them. We decided to spend the night before our second marriage apart, the traditional way, so I went back to my parents’ after the rehearsal dinner and Mike went out for a bit and then back to our house for the night. How nice for the men to have the luxury to stay our late and sleep in a bit on your wedding day, huh? On wedding days guys can get ready in a flash, but any girl knows that if you’re in a wedding, and you’re getting your hair and makeup done, expect to be there about five to seven business days before the ceremony starts.
**All Brides: “Ok girls! Ceremony starts at 3pm so first bridesmaid scheduled for hair please arrive at 1am! But we’ll have coffee, mimosas and pastries so it’s all good!”
You always have to try to soften the blow by letting the girls know their will be coffee, food and mimosas there. And if you’ve never put together a hair and makeup schedule for a group of people, let me just tell you, it’s harder than the entire ACT or SAT. Makeup takes longer than hair, you have to factor in photography time, what time the bus is getting there, etc. It took my Mom, sister and me DAYS to figure out my bridal parties’ hair and makeup schedule. I told Mike I felt like the chess champion/child prodigy from the show the ‘Queen’s Gambit,’ where she lays in bed using the ceiling to move different chess pieces in her mind. I basically did the same thing every night except instead of chess pieces I was moving bridesmaids time for their hair and makeup. His response was, “Just to clarify, you are comparing yourself to a fictional genius and world chess champion?” “Yes,” I replied, “Any more questions, MIKE?” “No.” He wisely said.
Boys don’t understand the struggle. They throw a suit on and then drink alcohol before the ceremony starts. That’s about it. We have lots of pictures to prove it too.
Meanwhile the girls…
Once everyone was all dolled up it was time to take the short bus ride to the church where I was immediately shoved in a tiny room so “no one could see me before the big reveal.” This was by far the worst part of the day for me. The room was very hot on this 90 degree day. It was very small. I was in a big beautiful dress complete with headband and veil but it weighed about 30 pounds. I also had about 30 pounds of makeup and hairspray on. I was sweating. I was in the “church library” but it felt like a prison cell and I was getting ready to bust out of there. I was only supposed to be in there a few minutes but as wedding ceremony seem to never start on time, the clock ticked on as I sat in there sweating by myself. The worst part was that this tiny little room was right by the entrance so I could hear everything going on, I just couldn’t see anything. Every once in a while my Mom or one of my bridesmaids would “check in on me” and then go back to having their fun with all our guests. My anxiety grew, I just wanted the ceremony to get started.
I could hear Mike laughing and mingling and having a grand old time with our guests as I sat in my prison cell. “What?! Is he running for alderman or something?!” I said sarcastically to my Mom and sister who took pity on me and finally came to sit with me and keep me company. “Can you tell him to quit chit chatting and get to his spot so we can start this already! The more time he talks the more time I’m in here!” Mike has a great ability to engage anyone in conversation, and it it one of the many things I love about him. But at this moment I did not partculiarly have a great appreciation for his “gift of gab” as he sometimes refers to it when we are already late starting our ceremony and I am stuck in a prison cell the whole time. There I was baking in this tiny room while my husband is out there acting as if he’s hosting the neighborhood barbecue, delaying our wedding. All I wanted was fresh air.
Finally I heard the music start, our bridal party lined up and the ceremony was starting. I was finally let out of my prison cell. “Does anyone have an oxygen mask for me?” I said jokingly to my Dad and friend Nancy, who was helping line up our bridal party so that things ran smoothly. I grabbed my Dad’s arm. I could see the entire church through the closed all-glass doors.
It was just me and my Dad left at the back of the church at this point. We were just about to be given the signal to start walking down the aisle when I feel something break loose from my facial region and fall straight into the abyss of what should be my chest, but is really just an empty padded bra, and into my dress. I have so much stuff on that I cannot tell if it’s an earring, a big piece from my headband or if my hair just came undone. I am panicked as I have about a millisecond before I’m supposed to walk down the aisle. I am frantically but gingerly feeling around my face and head trying to figure out what just fell into the grand canyon that I call my chest, resisting the urge to just reach down my dress and grab whatever fell. If I did, the entire congregation would see me through the glass doors. So instead I try whisper screaming to my Dad, “Dad! Dad!” I scream whisper. He doesn’t even turn the slightest bit. This was a time when I really wished my dad wasn’t so hard of hearing. He is also about a foot taller than me so the height difference wasn’t helping this cause either. “Dad!” I scream whisper a little louder. This time I’m pretty sure the back row heard me, but my Dad still didn’t. Finally I give him a little hit with my bouquet “DAD!” Finally he turns and looks at me. “WHAT?!” He says annoyed. “IS MY HAIR MESSED UP?! DO I HAVE AN EARRING MISSING?!” I am frantically asking. “A WHAT?! YOUR HAIR?” He asks back looking extremely confused. I don’t blamed the man, I myself felt like I was in the twilight zone as I never EVER imagined myself EVER asking my Dad for any sort of advice on my hair. Desperate times call for desperate measures though. “Nevermind!” I say back, “Do I at least have both earrings in?” I’m praying my Dad can at least help me with this. “What?!” He says again looking around at my face, still confused, “What am I supposed to be looking for? An EAR…RING?” He said it as if the word had never left his mouth before. I had to abort the entire mission. I started to laugh. I didn’t know if my hair looked like I rolled out of bed now or if I had some sort of piece of jewelry missing but at this point I didn’t care. “Nevermind, Dad.” I said with a laugh “All good. Let’s do this.” And we walked down the aisle. And by “We” I mean me, my Dad, and whatever had fallen into my dress and was uncomfortably in there.
And when we did the old hand-off, you know giving old maid Kath from one Mike to the other, this is the first time I messed up. You would think with this being our second marriage I would know what I was doing but nope. It was as if I didn’t attend the rehearsal the day before. My Mom always used to tell me when I was little that “I needed to work on my listening skills” because apparently I wasn’t good at listening or something, I don’t know, I stopped listening to her reasons why, I always got distracted, but now I think she was on to something. When Mike, my Dad and I all met at the end of the aisle, my Dad and Mike shook hands, as businessmen do. Well, even though I am an experienced business woman having gone on TWO business trips, I like to show a little more love than what a handshake can show. But I wasn’t really thinking about wedding day etiquette. When Mike and I see each other we always give one another a little kiss on the cheek hello. So I gave my Dad a kiss goodbye and then went in for the “hello, good, to see you today” kiss on the cheek to Mike, forgetting that you aren’t technically supposed to do that at a wedding until you’re announced as a married couple. HOW SCANDALOUS OF ME!! Mike, the ruler follower and listener in our relationship, did not forget. So when I went in for the kiss he freaked out, and moved away whisper yelling “No! What are you doing?! Not yet!” And stopped me. Ouch. Luckily, I’m no stranger to rejection so this didn’t really phase me. I just simply turned to all my Bridesmaids, shrugged and jokingly yelled “DENIED!” We didn’t realize until months later when we got our photos back that our photographer actually captured the moments after this romantic exchange.
About midway through the mass the mystery item that fell into my dress finally finished it’s journey and made it’s way onto the floor of the altar. Turns out it was a gigantic hair clip that was helping keep about the whole left side of my hair in place. It’s truly a miracle my hair stayed looking so great. That God for hair spray.
Once we sat down Mike realized he forgot to give the priest the rings. Luckily they were in the back of church, but he forgot to actually give them to the priest. He just “left them on a little table behind the altar area.” “Shoot, Kath do you think he knew where to find them and maybe grabbed them before mass?” Mike asked sounding hopeful. “Mmmmm nope not a chance.” I said laughing. If this was my time to be reassuring maybe I wasn’t but I couldn’t lie IN CHURCH! “What do you think all priests just have like a sixth sense of where to find hidden wedding rings?” “I don’t know I thought maybe he might know to just grab them!” Mike said sounding a little worried. “It’s fine I said, all we’ll have to do is send someone back there once we go up to do our vows.” I said back. I wasn’t the least bit worried. After having to plan and replan a wedding during COVID, I didn’t even consider this an issue. Plus we were already married. But at this point Mike began trying to get our priest’s attention by raising his hand as if he had a question in class and scream whispering to him. (Lots of scream whispering at our second wedding.) “Father! Father! I LEFT THE RINGS ON THAT TINY LITTLE TABLE IN THE BACK…” Mike began to scream whisper to our priest who didn’t even turn our way. “What are you doing?” I said laughing. “He is like 100ft away from us he’s never going to be able to hear you. And you look like a third grader who has a question for the teacher!” We both had a good laugh, sat back and just enjoyed the mass. The priest did have to stop to sneak in the back to grab those rings but no one seemed to notice.
During the mass I think I got myself tangled in the train of my dress about 1000 times. Every time I had to make a turn I had to be untangled by Mike or my maid of honor, my sister Jane. I was like those dogs that keep getting tangled up in their own leash because they won’t stop moving every time their owner tries to untangle them. “Kath, remember what the priest said, just always try and turn to the right and your train will follow.” “Ahhh I know but I feel like I’m driving a boat!” I said. “I can’t even steer this thing!”
Once we were married again it was time for pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. We decided to go by a pond near our home and we really lucked out with the weather. I think I inadvertently captured a few turtles, frogs and geese dragging the train of my dress around that pond, but we got some great photos.
After pictures it was time for the reception. When planning our reception Mike and I didn’t want or need many extravagant or elaborate things. We basically wanted good drinks, good food and good music. But specifically we wanted that good food to be plated as opposed to “Family Style.” Nothing gives us more anxiety than going to an event where the meal is “Family Style” and you’re passing around all the food at your table. There’s just never anywhere to put the dishes. Then everyone is fumbling trying to move stuff on the table around so that there is a spot for the potatoes between the gigantic centerpiece and everyone’s 17 glasses and 36 utensils they have set out in front of them. Then someone always takes too much and there’s not enough for everyone else. Plus Mike has short arms, mine are just plain scrawny and weak so it’s hard for us to pass things. Those dishes are heavy. So moral of the story… we couldn’t have that at our wedding, we couldn’t do that to our guests.
The only thing we really splurged on were the coozies. But we couldn’t NOT have coozies at our wedding! I am pretty sure Mike and I have a coozie addiction. We just can never get enough of them. We’ll be at other peoples’ weddings with coozies and at the end of the night Mike will come up to me and be like “Here Kath, can you put these in your purse? I grabbed us three extra coozies.” To which I’ll usually respond with something like “I already have four in there, I’m not sure I can fit any more.” But I always find a way. And that is why we have coozies just spilling out of drawers and cabinets in our home.
Our reception went off without a hitch (as far as I know) The speeches were amazing, the music was great and the food was plated. At the end of the night, the DJ told me I got to pick the final song to close out the night. “You’re the bride.” He said “You get to choose the last song!” “Ok, I’d like you to play Mr. Brightside.” I said confidently. Mike and I like that song, and I wanted to end the night on it. “Well, usually we play something slower or something like Last Dance to let people know it’s the end of the night.” “Oh, that’s nice.” I said back. “But I’d still like Mr. Brightside.” “But I already played that.” The DJ said back. “Yes you did.” I was well aware he already played the song. “How about something else?” The DJ said. “But I thought you said I was the bride and got to pick, and I’d like Mr. Brightside please.” He finally relented and played it for me. It was great.
After that people came back to our house to continue the festivities. We finally kicked them out at 5am. Everyone except my sister Jane, my Maid of Honor, who decided to spend our first night as an official married couple with us. She takes her Maid of Honor duties very seriously.
The next morning we had a nice little brunch at my parents’ house and then since it was a Saturday we went out to the bars. Mike and I (And Jane) were discussing the driving situation when we got back to our house-whether we should Uber or drive and just leave my car there overnight. Finally we decided it was best to drive my car and go back and get it the next day. “Ugh fine,” I said. “But when it comes time to getting the car tomorrow, we’re BOTH going to get it, not just me. We’re in this together now.” I said “Oh now is when you decided we’re in this together?” Mike said laughing “Four years of dating, two weddings and buying a house together but NOW, NOW, when it comes to picking up your car the next day, now is when you decide we’re in this together?” “Correct.” I said “As I think you’ll come to realize that picking up my car tomorrow will be a more of a mountain we’ll need to climb than you’ve first thought, as I know tomorrow we will both be on the couch and not want to be in daylight.”
When I asked my niece Ava what her favorite part of the wedding day was, she told me it was “Having a snack.” I don’t recall that part, honestly the whole day seemed to go by in a blink of an eye. All I remember was what an amazing day it was with our family and friends. When Mike and I first met, I knew I was going to marry him, but I never would have dreamed we’d be rescheduling our wedding. But it really turned out to be a blessing. I got to marry my best friend twice and have two awesome wedding weekends. Plus, now Mike has to get me TWO anniversary gifts every year. I’d call that a win.
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!