Family Week 2022: Dead Bat Joins The Vacation

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:

Do I know my Mom or do I know my Mom?

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 TEXT me what you guys want? It’s just easier if you TEXT what 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.

In case anyone ever wants to get my parents Subway, this is their order.

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.

A throwback Dewey Family Week picture. Looks like Maggie (on the left) jumped in on an in depth conversation Jane and I were having about which orange pop brand is the best tasting.

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!!”

The kids really enjoyed their 1/2 piece of bacon they were allowed to have.

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!

The Sun doesn’t like us but we smile anyway.

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.

The pancake puker, Steve and me. One big happy family.

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:

Testing out the remote
My testing subjects did a great job.
Photo taken right after my Dad and I got in a heated debate about whether a piece of produce on Alyssa’s plate at lunch was a cucumber or a watermelon rind. I was correct in stating it was a cucumber.
I always like to take a candid right after everyone gets “released” from the family photo. You just never know what you will capture.

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.

Bridie assisting Jane during the game. Bridie was clearly was trying to take over MY role as family Tech Girl. That role is taken, Bridie! But you can be assistant TO the Tech Girl. I will allow that.
After Connor got hit in the head with the football he looked up, smiled and went right back to sleep. Talk about a team player!
Jane and Steve really getting into karaoke
Michael singing his song from deep within his soul.

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.

Our Matriarch and Patriarch: Mo Money and Mike Sr.
We did eventually cook the spaghetti squash that spent family week with us. It definitely didn’t taste great and we treated ourselves by NOT cooking and ordering a pizza the following night.
Drunk on s’mores
This Lily Pad raft is fun but it takes up too much room in my Dad’s shed.
The Kelly Kids practicing their soft smiles
Awkward that Bridie and Ciara showed up in the same outfit and they both refused to change. Bridie clearly was not happy.
Mike Sr and Mo Money decided not to get the Nestle Drumstick tattoo but just pay for their own ice cream.
Instead of getting ice cream with a side of hot fudge my mom prefers hot fudge with a side of ice cream.
The OG Kelly kid Crew. Family week circa 1999? Did Jane just pee on Maggie’s lap? Maybe. So many questions.

Mike and Kath Say “I do” Take 2

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.

Me asking if we should go for round three and Mike flat out saying “We’re not going for round three.”

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.

There we are, Kathleen and Michael, the Vintage Grey Tea Kettle. It’s a little harder to see the whole tea pot from a mobile phone view but you get the idea.


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?!”

If any engaged couple reading this needs to borrow my testing spoon, just let me know.

So, fast forward through:
Wedding dress shopping…

Mo Money loves her MO-mosas

Pre-Cana…

I want a dog SO BADLY and Mike doesn’t love me so he won’t agree to get one yet.

Bridal showers…

I was only slightly late for my own shower. But my nails looked great.

And lots of other fun wedding festivities, and our (second) wedding week was finally here!

We were so stressed out about everything we had left to do before the wedding that we had to binge watch Breaking Bad and lay on the couch to cope with our anxiety.

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!

And it has pockets!!

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.

Just digging in to my donut feast. It’s very important to start a wedding day with a nutritious breakfast.

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.

Cheersing goodbye to his freedom I assume.

Meanwhile the girls…

Had to get one more photo with the Hippo Wallpaper in our kids’ bathroom at my parents house!

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.

The prison cell also doubled as a daycare for my older siblings’ kids. It was a multi-purpose room.
Jesus in the back, photo bombing me and Connor with the classic peace sign.

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.

My good friend Nancy Keeping me sane in my prison cell and making sure my bridal party made it down the aisle ok!

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.

Really enjoying fresh air and people here as you can see.

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.

Businessmen finalizing their business deal. You can see by the look on my face that I don’t remember what I am supposed to do here because I wasn’t paying close enough attention at the rehearsal the night before. Sorry Mom you were right! I need to be a better listener!
DENIED!!!!

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.

Discussing the whereabouts of our rings.

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.

Mike picking the frogs out of my dress.

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.

TAKE 2 get it? Because we tried once and then COVID said no so it was take 2. Good times.

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.

Mike’s vest really stole the show that night.
I asked someone to toss me a rag, figured I might as well polish up the chandeliers while I was up there.
Our future children are doomed to be terrible dancers.

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.”

My sister Jane likened herself “to a trash bag” that day and yet still rallied and went out.

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.

Take that COVID, we won.

Dewey Lake “Happy”

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.

The Honey Nut Cheerios can pick songs for our next road trip playlist because they were the quietest on the ride.
I felt like I was at a five star resort having access to TWO mini vans whenever I please.

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.

Most times when I wake up early I can hang out outside but on this day it was raining so I just sat there for hours, alone with my thoughts while my family was off in dreamland.

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.

Mother Earth-I mean, Aunt B (Bridget goes by “Aunt B”) and all the Nature Walkers.

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.

That’s my bed I need to sleep in all week but all good.
Connor taking a “fake nap” in Aunt Jane’s bed. The kids for some reason love taking “fake naps” in other people’s beds but never want to take real naps in their own beds.
Apparently Michael is taking a real nap here but I still think he’s “fake” napping. That’s what happens when you fake something so many times. No one believe you when the real thing comes along. Just like the boy who cried wolf.

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).”

Little Michael (one of the savages) helps Grandpa install the lock on the bathroom door.

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.

Connor talking to his Dad about Beaver Dams.
Binge eating Doritos and other snacks.

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.

These are the faces of Martyrs.

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.

There was a fight about who got to hold the High Noon Bird House in the photo. I obviously lost. But we were having fun I SWEAR!

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!

Vacation Mode Old Man Montag.

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!

Mike Sr and Mo Money. We were able to get Mo to take her sunglasses off for this one. Her baby blues are sensitive, always have to let her shut her eyes and then give the “1,2,3 and open on three.”
Mike Sr. enjoy his view and blocking mine with this gigantic umbrella he uses to block the sun.
She could be a Gerber Baby Model am I right? Of course I’m talking about my mom here.
Bridie looking like she’s going to murder someone. Maybe she’s been watching murder documentaries on Netflix too…
Jane and Mo Money enjoying some coffee on the swing. Mo Money’s favorite spot.
You always have to be prepared to have a child handed to you at any moment during family week.
If Diet Coke could maybe sponsor next year’s Family Week that would be super helpful. Also Doritos please sponsor us too.
The savages attacking Grandpa.
No idea what the twins are doing here.
I asked Connor if we could switch hats but he said no.

Back With The Baby Boomers

A couple of months ago I became ill which has required me to temporarily move back home with my parents. For those curious people out there, (because how annoying is it when someone says they were “sick” but gives no details-am I right?!) I developed a blood clot which led to a severe virus and other complications. But don’t worry, I was not NEARLY as sick as my sister Jane was that Christmas Eve back in 2016 when she contracted a mysterious and deathly illness…She was hungover but claimed she had every chronic illness in the books. Thank goodness after a lot of Gatorade and sleep she made a full recovery by Christmas morning-a true Christmas miracle.

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This portrait hangs in our upstairs hallway to commemorate the Christmas Eve Jane nearly died from a hangover.

My recovery has taken a little bit longer than Jane’s, but luckily after I was discharged from the hospital my old roommates/parents so graciously took me in. I’ve been staying here for the past couple of months recovering and hanging out with Mike and Mo, but the weeks have just flown by we’ve been so busy!

One of the things that has captured our attention and has been a hot topic of conversation between the three of us is the bird feeder in our yard. Mo Money loves her birds so my Dad placed a bird feeder on our side yard so it could be seen from our kitchen window. This decision has proven to be better than investing in Hulu, Apple TV or any sort of premium movie channels because we are all just GLUED to watching this bird feeder. The other day a hawk tried to get in on the action and stopped at the bird feeder for a little lunch. Things got intense. I thought I was about to witness the beginning of a Law and Order Bird Edition!

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The hawk about to murder Mo’s birds on the bird feeder. Please note: All Hawks are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law.

One day when I was laying on the couch I heard my Mom let out a disgusted/irritated groan from the kitchen. I knew right away that there must be a squirrel trying to get up on her bird feeder to eat her bird seed. There is NOTHING my mom hates more than squirrels. “UGH! Look at this big fat squirrel trying to get up on my bird feeder! GET AWAY SQUIRREL! SHOO!” She yelled angrily as she banged on the window trying to scare away the squirrel. “Wow, Mom. Why did you have to call the squirrel fat?” I replied. I thought she was going to take out a BB gun and start shooting at the squirrel she was so fired up.

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The Squirrel ran away crying after my mom fat shamed it.

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Check out that bad ass bird with the Mohawk. I bet he’s bringing the alcohol to the party at the bird feeder.

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And on tonight’s menu we have a red Bird Blend that pairs deliciously with worms.

Another thing that has kept me busy over my time recovering was helping the Baby Boomers with all their technology needs. When it comes to needing help with the TV, their phones, or computers, Mike and Mo don’t care if I’m on my death bed or not. Mike Sr’s favorite shows like Ice Road Truckers, Cabin Masters or Highway Through Hell cannot wait. My Mom likes to pretend she can wait for help, but actually wants things fixed immediately. “Sweetie, absolutely no rush on this, I know you have a bad headache, but when you’re feeling better do you mind looking at this notification that keeps popping up on my iPad?” My mom will say as she walks over to sit on the side of the couch where I’m laying and shoves her iPad in my face. “Here let me just show you what keeps happening when I turn it on. But you can fix it later!” The other day the three of us had a heated conversation about the Alexa:

Mom: Kathleen, honey, when you’re done resting can you just look at my iHome? I was trying to play my iPod the other day and the thing keeps beeping! I have no idea why!
Me: Mom, that’s because that thing is about 30 years old. No one uses iPods anymore! It’s not 2005! I specifically set up the Alexa and got you a Spotify account so you wouldn’t use that broken thing anymore! Then you went and put your old iHome right in front of the Alexa!
Dad: I personally HATE that stupid Alexa! Whenever I ask it questions about trains it never know the answer!
Mom: Can I play the Moody Blues and Steely Dan on Spotify?
Me: I mean, I wish you couldn’t, but yes, you can.
Dad (talking to Alexa): Hey Alexa! How much does a CSX Heavy Train weigh? See! She’s a dimwit! She has no idea!
Mom: Well, sweetie, one of these days I’m going to need you to give me a lesson on this Spotify thing.
Me: Well, we’ve had lessons before…
Mom: Next time, I’ll write them down!

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I set up the Alexa and Mo puts her ancient iPod thing right in front of it. Pierces my heart every time I see it.

As the weeks went by and I began to regain my strength, I was able to start making fun of my Dad again for all the weird chores he loves to do around the house, like emptying all the wastebaskets before garbage day, or raking. Mike Sr. LOVES raking. One time things got really tense when my Dad had discovered my Mom had emptied the wastebaskets the day before garbage day. I witnessed the whole ordeal from the couch. My Dad had the garbage bag in hand and headed upstairs to go through all the rooms, but a few seconds later came down looking sad and confused. “Maureen,” He said in a very serious tone. “Did you already empty the wastebaskets?” “OOOOOOOOhhhhhh Snnnnaaapppp!!!!!” I yelled from the couch. I thought a fight was about to break out. “Mom, everyone in this family knows emptying the wastebaskets is Dad’s thing. You NEVER take that joy away from him.” After a long talk all was forgiven. But I could tell my Dad was still sad so I tried to cheer him up. “It’s ok, Dad, cheer up! You know, I think I saw one leaf blow on to the grass earlier, why don’t you go out and rake the entire lawn now, that will keep you busy for a few hours.” “Oh Mo!” My Dad replied. “Isn’t our little smart ass feeling much better that she can make fun of me again!”

Here is the text conversation my Dad and I had last week when he was on a business trip in Iowa:

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ulemozJfVt94-aJSb2ZpeOHfCncdzJqm7jhi11eYzJLZFZV4D8sTC05c8xYydS-PNGv-GKnL_8lJhmwSgU4LTGodyjmJPqIE19C9TGwJwN3NHqeyPhlHrWaCD8H401t-9C5-QK9pK7cn7xUUkxVEMhYg4yy5UDPpgGopIW7_ef0alllZ6hyIwl1Alp5E31mmipn_1tMSCoXE855wx

Mike Sr., happy as can be after finding some leaves to rake in the street.

My Mom and Dad have been great caretakers, cooks and Uber drivers since I’ve been sick. I think my Dad has kept all the local bakeries in business trying to make me eat the highest calorie baked goods he can find:

Dad: Kathleen! You have not eaten that cookie I got you! I heard it yelling to you from the counter, (Said in his cookie voice) “Kathleen! You need to eat me! Eat me now!”
Me: Uggghh Dadddddddd!! It’s too much to eat! I can’t keep up with all the food you’re shoving in my face! I’m not hungry!
Dad: Oh, you little weakling! You need to bulk up in order to get over this illness! There’s Portillo’s Chocolate Cake in there for you too and you BETTER eat it! That will make you “Strong like Bull.”

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I do love my Dunkin’ Coffee

My mom has been a great Uber Driver. I feel like I’m in a luxurious UberBlack, rolling up to work getting dropped off in Mo Money’s Honda Mini Van with 16 cup holders, automatic sliding doors and plenty of leg room. Nothing cooler than being 28 and having your Mom drop you off at the school where you work, stepping out of the mini van with your backpack on, looking like a 12 year old, ready to be a business woman. I’d rate Mom’s Uber at 5 stars but honestly, she’s got a little road rage, always saying things like, “Oh yea, nice blinker, PAL!” (Emphasis on the pal but I have a feeling they aren’t really friends) or saying a sarcastic “Yea, you’re welcome, BUDDY!” after she lets someone in and they don’t give “the wave.” So I’m going to have to give her 4 stars.

As far as caretakers, they’ve been great. My only complaint would be that they don’t have any ice packs, so I’ve had to use bags of frozen vegetables for my bad headaches. The birds on the feeder think I look ridiculous, but it’s nice that those frozen vegetables that have been in our freezer since 1999 are finally getting some use.

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The headaches caused sensitivity to light and sound, but I was ready to be invited to a dinner party at a moment’s notice. Everyone loves a little side veggie with dinner.

I’m very fortunate to have such great parents to take me back in and help me get back to good health. I have so much to thank them for-not only have they constantly supported me and cared for me, but they’ve given me four amazing siblings who have always looked out for me since the day I was born. So thank you, Mike and Mo-for the entertainment, care, the Uber rides, coffees, and this awesome family. The road to recovery is much easier with these great people below…and your Honda Mini Van with 16 cup holders.

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Thanks to everyone here EXCEPT OWL whoo literally did nothing.

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This is the day back in the Fall when I hosted my family for brunch and realized I had no idea how to mince garlic.

 

 

 

 

School Days

Throughout this Fall, when scrolling through Instagram, I’ve seen a lot of people post “First Day of School Photos” of their kids. The kids are usually standing on the porch, looking all happy, neat and tidy in their school outfits, holding a cutsie little sign that says “Jack’s first day of Kindergarten” or something like that. While most people’s first thought when seeing photos like this is probably “Aww how cute!” But mine is always, “How the HECK do these parents have time in the morning before school to take these perfect photos of their kids?!” The “first day of school” photos we took on the porch when I was a kid looked nothing like the ones I have been seeing on Instagram. My family’s school photos back in the day seemed to be a little different, here are a few examples:

Exhibit A. My sister Bridget’s “first day of school photo” that apparently I decided to photo bomb. Clearly I was NOT happy that I was too young to go to school and therefore didn’t get my photo taken:

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Don’t be fooled by the hearts on my pink sweater, and the blankie I’m holding, I was ready to fight. Nobody puts baby in a corner, I wanted my own photo too.

Let’s zoom in a little on this one, shall we?

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You can see the look of betrayal on my face. How DARE my mom take a photo of my siblings and not me.

Exhibit B: My sister Maggie’s school photo:

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My Mom could have used a lesson in “staging” when it came to photography because all of these pictures have some homeless little girl in the background. Oh wait that’s me.

Exhibit C. I finally got my way and got to be in one:

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I was so happy my face hurt from smiling. Special thanks to my mom for giving me and Bridget those awful bangs, really helped make this photo even more awkward.

Growing up, we didn’t really have too much time to spare to set up a cute photo because, except for my dad, we weren’t really “morning people.” We all had an extremely difficult time getting out of bed before 7 in the morning. My mom I think had the most trouble though, with my youngest sibling, Jane, being a very close second. My Dad traveled for work during the week so my mom was usually a one woman show when it came to getting the five of us up and out the door for school every morning. We never had to set our own alarms because my mom would come in and gently wake us up. Our wonderful mom would slowly open our doors, walk over to our beds and place her hand on our backs and softly say “time to get up honey.” Sounds like a really nice way to wake up, right? And it was… BUT... that was only if you got up on the first wake up call. If you decided to get a few more minutes of shut-eye after being woken up, our sweet little Mom could do a complete 180 and somehow turn herself into a fire-breathing dragon. If one of us was still in bed while the others were downstairs eating breakfast she would stand at the bottom of the stairs and yell your name until you got up. I don’t know how she managed to change the pitch in her voice so it felt like she was sending nails into your ears when she called out your name the second time, but somehow she found a way. She only had to yell the sleepy kid’s name once or twice until they responded, yelling back down, “OH MY GOD I AM UP! I’M UP! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST STOP YELLING MY NAME I’LL BE DOWNSTAIRS IN A MINUTE!!!!” I still have permanent ear damage from the days I decided to snooze a little later.

Every once in a while my Dad would be in town during the week and let my mom sleep, so he would wake us up in the morning. There was never a problem with falling back asleep when my Dad woke us up due to adrenaline pumping through your veins after the near heart attack he inflicted on us when he swung open the door, stomped in, flung open the shades and said “GET UP!”

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Want to be sure your child gets kidnapped? Then you should definitely send her to preschool with her name on her shirt. Kidnappers love an easy target.

Once everyone was up we’d all be in the kitchen, eating breakfast and packing our lunches. The best breakfast days at our house were Wednesdays and Thursdays. Wednesday was “Donut Day” when we each got a delicious prepackaged, never fresh Entenmann’s Donut. Before you could dig in to your donut though my mom made us eat her famous homemade fruit salad (recipe: crack open a can of Madarin oranges, slice up a banana, divide evenly onto 5 paper plates and you are all set!) You couldn’t touch your donut until all your fruit had been eaten. Since their were 8 donuts in a package and five kids, on Thursday’s we would each get half a donut. But we’d still have to eat the whole fruit salad which, looking back, doesn’t seem fair. My Mom was a real health nut back then I guess. The other days of the week it was either cereal or toast. Sometimes my Dad would surprise us and get Reese’s Puffs cereal. So many fights broke out over Reese’s Puffs. I remember one Reese’s Puffs fight in the morning ended with my brother throwing the empty box across the kitchen. My parents were not happy about that fight and we all got in trouble. But in our defense, if they didn’t starve us by rationing one box of cereal, or giving us donut crumbs-I mean donut halves, maybe we wouldn’t be so hangry in the mornings.

After breakfast it was off to frantically search for the pieces of our school uniform and homework papers we had left scattered throughout the house the night before. Then it was back upstairs to brush our teeth. Jane, in classic youngest child fashion, would always be the slowest getting ready and she would usually be crying because she wanted to go back to bed. Jane preferred to chill out a little and watch “The Big Comfy Couch” before getting ready to go anywhere. Through Jane’s preschool and kindergarten years, the four of us had to help get her ready in the mornings. Getting Jane dressed and ready for school was much like getting a sand bag ready for school because she literally made no effort to help or do anything at all. She actually made it harder to get her dressed because she would never take her thumb out of her mouth.

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Me and Jane chilling on the couch. Even as an infant Jane liked to coast for a while before starting her day.

Every morning for her entire year of preschool she would be brushing her teeth at the sink while one of us did her hair and the other got her backpack together. After all those things were done we did manage to squeeze in a few school photos through the years.

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I think since I was missing my two front teeth and couldn’t really eat, Mo Money was able to use the time she might have spent feeding me breakfast to take this photo.

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Do I look uncomfortable (sitting on the right) because I’m wearing a back brace or because I’m practically sitting in a Home Depot Garden center with all those flowers around me, triggering my seasonal allergies? Who knows.

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My Mom is so efficient she was able to simultaneously get my brother to feed the dog and take a photo at the same time!

Things were just as hectic after school as they were in the mornings. The afternoons were filled with sports practices and games, orthodontist appointments, homework and piano practice. I absolutely HATED piano practice. Or I guess I should call it “keyboard practice” because we did not have the money or space for a real piano, so we had our lessons on a keyboard. (Our piano teacher shamed us ever week for it) On piano practice day I’d be laying on the living room floor about ten minutes before our piano teacher was due to arrive, begging my sister to do my piano homework that I had not done yet, even though I was given a whole week to do it. But, like I’ve always said, if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute! (I had better things to do with my time, like play catch with Christmas candles in the living room, I had no time for piano homework) “Please Bridget!” I’d beg while laying on the floor, dreading my piano lesson. “I’ll do your dinner chore all week if you just do my piano workbook for me!” Spoiler alert: I cannot play piano or keyboard at all now, but I did learn great negotiating skills.

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Here’s me fake practicing piano so there could be photographic evidence for my mom that I did in fact, practice from time to time.

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Don’t be fooled by those medals, they gave them to everyone. Not only were we bad at soccer, we were bad at taking soccer photos.

So, we may not have Instagram worthy “first day of school photos” (they definitely would not get too many double taps if they were posted on the ‘gram) but they are good for a laugh. I’m glad my mom decided to capture a more “authentic” school photo of her nutty kids, not spending too much time trying to get the “perfect Instagram photo.”

So thank you Mom, for getting those photos, getting us off to school every morning, and most importantly, helping Bridget and me realize at an early age, that we can’t pull off bangs.

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Gotta love those awkward high school years.

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Even though I look like I belong in the 5th grade with my sister Jane on the right, I was actually in high school when this photo was taken.

Living The Lake Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Simba backpack was a little camera shy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There was no room in the car to pack hairbrushes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I like to make sisters uncomfortable until they are comfortable.

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

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

It’s Good To See Your Smiling Face

img_9639.jpgA few weeks ago I stopped at my parents house after work to help my Mom with some tech issues she had been having. For months she had been telling us that she needed to get a new iPhone because ‘an annoying message kept popping up saying her storage was full and she didn’t know how to get rid of it.’ Well, I highly doubted she actually needed a new phone so I told her I would stop by the house and take a look at it. Plus, I was getting tired of her using the “my storage is full” excuse when she wanted to take a picture at family gatherings. “Ok kids, I want to get a picture after dinner but my storage is full on my phone so it can’t be done on mine. Kathleen, can we do it on yours? You brought the selfie stick right?” She’d always say. (Talk about a lame excuse, am I right? Classic Mo Money) For some reason my Mom just assumes I carry a selfie stick with me at all times. I think I’m beginning to get arthritis in my arm from constantly having to be the one to hold the selfie stick in our family group photos. I needed to fix her phone so other people in the family could start holding the selfie stick. That thing is heavier than it looks.

So, after I finished fixing the sound on her laptop, I moved on to her phone. It only took me about 2 seconds to realize why her storage was full-She had about 3,000 photos on her phone. You may think since she has five children and five grandchildren that these would be all family photos, but no. My Mom had thousands of the most random and useless photos on her phone that should have been deleted years ago. Some of the pictures I came across were:

  • a picture of a light bulb
  • a picture of a Carson’s 20% off coupon
  • a photo burst of a church bulletin
  • A blurry picture of a PowerPoint slide on her computer screen
  • Numerous photos of what looked to be a Poison Ivy rash on my Dad’s arm
  • A video of a faucet at Home Depot (I think she meant to take a picture but accidentally took a video instead.)

Here are some other Kodak moments she captured on her phone:

After telling my mom what the issue was, she agreed to let me go through and delete what I thought were dumb photos. I began doing this and stumbled upon some very strange photos. “Mom!” I yelled to her from the kitchen as I sat at the table deleting photos for her “Why the heck do you have a photo of a dead bird on your phone?!” What kind of sick person has a photo of a dead animal on their phone? I began to question if I really new this mom of mine that I though was so sweet. “Oh hold on sweetie let me see that photo.” She paused the murder show she was watching in the TV room to come take a closer look with her reading glasses. “Oh THAT bird!” she said excitedly. “Yea, look at how interesting that bird’s beak is! I’ve never seen a bird like that! I keep meaning to text it to my college roommate to see if she might know what type of bird it is! She really knows her birds. Don’t delete that one yet please.” “Mom,” I replied with a laugh. “You took this photo in 2014! That was five years ago! Do you really plan on still sending it to your friend at this point?!”

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The disturbing bird crime scene photo my Mom has on her phone.

Well, the dead bird photo was classified as a ‘do not delete’ photo so it stayed on her phone and I’m sure my mom still has yet to send it to her friend. But, I was able to delete some photos to give her some room on her phone and she was very grateful that her ‘little tech girl’ (as she likes to call me when she’s not calling me a ‘little smart ass’) came over to help her once again.

Even though I moved out of my parents house almost a year ago, it really doesn’t feel like it all that much because I find myself over at Mike and Mo’s Old Maid Boarding House quite often. In fact, I don’t think my dog Duke has even realized yet that I actually don’t live there anymore. But my old roommates and I have a good system going now since I moved out. I come home and provide them with IT services, humorous & sarcastic comments (As I’m sure they miss having their “Little Smart Ass” living with them full time), and they provide me with food (They really love feeding me which I appreciate because it saves me trips to the grocery store), Diet Coke and their interesting stories.

Just the other day my Dad was telling us how he had to break up a “cat fight” early one morning. We were all on the edge of our seats as he told the story. He literally broke up a fight between two cats that were hissing at each other. I was so glad no one was hurt in the scuffle. Talk about scary stuff. You never know what these pet parents are teaching their pets these days. Then my mom topped his exciting story with her own story about how she went shopping before Father’s Day to get water shoes for my dad but accidentally ended up buying water shoes for herself instead. Major plot twist!! Did not see that one coming.

Besides sharing stories, we also have some great conversations too. The other day when they were feeding me dinner we had a riveting conversation about one of my dad’s favorite shows, Ice Road Truckers:

Dad: Kathleen, want to watch Ice Road Truckers with me after dinner?
Me: Absolutely not. I have no desire to watch that boring old man show with you.
Dad: Oh come on it will be fun!
Mom: I thought that show was canceled?
Dad: I have some recorded from previous seasons.
Mom: What’s the guy’s name on that show that has all the kids?
Dad: The guy with the 12 kids? Ahhh… Hmmmm… Oh Hell what’s his name?!
[Several minutes go by as we anxiously wait for my dad to tell us the name]
Mom: That’s ok if you can’t think of it. I was just wondering.
Me: And I really never cared what his name was in the first place, so don’t hurt yourself trying to think of it.
Dad: No, hold on, it’s really going to bug me if I don’t think of it!
Mom: You could tell me his name was… Josh or something and I’d believe you, I don’t know any of the characters on that show.
Dad: ALEX! Ahhh yes! I remembered it! Alex is his name! He’s a Catholic too.

Other hot topics these days have included the new toaster they just got (Mike Sr. thinks it’s too fat and takes up too much room on the counter), the new washing machine (Mo Money HATES the new washing machine-it’s too loud) and the Shred and Electronics Recycling Day our town was having. There is nothing Mike Sr. and Mo Money love more than shredding and recycling old electronics. I was worried with this day coming up that I’d get flooded with calls from my parents asking my advice on whether or not it was ok to get rid of various cords they had been holding on to since the early 90s or computer games that only work with a Gateway 2000 desktop computer, but surprisingly they didn’t have too many questions for me.
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When a family member needs your help eating cheeseburgers you have to be there. No questions asked. Family comes first.

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No matter what we talk about or do when I go over to my parents’ house we usually have lots of laughs. We’ve come a long way since when I first moved out and was getting accused of taking fans from the house (my family is very particular about our fans) or being pestered about going through my mail or going through my coats in the coat closet. Now my parents seem to really enjoy having me stop by. I’m not sure if this is because I finally returned the coolers I borrowed from them or if they really are starting to enjoy my company.

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In my defense, when it was agreed that I could borrow the coolers for my party, we never agreed on a time frame of how long I could use them for.

After any visit, whether I was over for dinner, helping them scan something, fixing the TV, or just stopping in for an afternoon Diet Coke, as I’m leaving my parents tell me to text them when I get back to my apartment so they know I got back safe and sound (even though I only live about a mile away). Each time I text them that I got back to my apartment they tell me “We always love seeing your smiling face.” Mom and Dad, I always love to see your smiling faces too.

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Mo’s emoji game is on point.

 

And Holy Is My Name

Last weekend, Mike Sr, Mo Money, myself and my two other old maid sisters were vacationing in Michigan, sitting by the lake and sipping our morning coffee soaking up the view, when all of a sudden Mo ripped us from dreamland by saying, “Well, we better get going to get ready for Mass or we’ll be late!” My two sisters and I all painfully looked at each other and gave a collective sigh before we immediately started whining like four year-olds. “Noooooooo! Come on Mom, don’t we get vacationers dispensation?” I asked. “Plus the priest here just loves to talk! He makes the mass so long!” “Well, Dad and I are definitely going, you girls don’t have to go if you don’t want to…” My Mom said. We started to relax back in our lawn chairs. Just as my Mom was walking in the house to begin getting ready for church, her hand on the door knob, she turned back at us and hit us with her classic zinger, “But, you know, we have a lot to be thankful for…” Then she headed inside. Boom. Mo Money with the mic drop. There it was, the guilt bomb. The judging eyes. The look that said “Fine don’t go but I hope you bring a magazine with you to help pass all the time you’ll spend in Purgatory when your time comes.” There is nothing worse than getting guilt tripped by your Mother. Saint Peter’s judgement at the gates of Heaven is NOTHING compared to judgement from a Mom. Gosh darn it, Mom! Why did we have to be so fortunate and blessed and raised in such a loving home! Why couldn’t you have neglected us so we didn’t have all these wonderful things to be thankful for?! Sheesh!

So, like the good children and Catholics we are, we changed out of our pajamas and headed to church. Just as we anticipated, the priest talked for way too long and the mass was OVER AN HOUR. Doesn’t he know we Catholics have a strict time limit on the length of masses? The mass seemed extra long because we weren’t near any babies so entertainment was lacking. But, it was an outdoor mass so we did have some nice landscaping to look at. Plus, the biggest moth I have ever seen in my life was on one of the chairs behind us, and we got in a family disagreement about whether it was a real moth or a fake moth, so that argument made time go by rather quickly (It was real, but he made no attempt to shake our hand at the handshake of peace so he was a real rude moth if you ask me).

Once mass was over, like most Catholics, we got in the car and ripped the mass apart while driving home.

Mom: I mean his homily had a good message but sheesh! Did he need to keep repeating himself over and over?! It’s like, ‘Get the hook out!’ Am I right?
Me: Why can’t we ever say a simple, ‘Lord hear our prayer’ at the petitions?! Why does it always have to be something super long like “Please respond, ‘Infant baby Jesus, creator of all things, son of God, blessed, peaceful most high’ hear our prayer.”
Dad: I hate when they sing the “Glory to God” song in such a depressing tone. Can’t they make a more upbeat version of it?!
Bridget: That was ridiculous, that priest talked for way too long. Also, did anyone see that lady sitting a few rows in front of us still had the tag on her shirt? I was debating in my head whether or not I should tell her.
Jane: I still don’t think that was a moth, that thing was way too big. I think it was a cross breed of some sort of other insect.

Although the mass was a little long, we were glad we went. Mothers are always right. And my Mom was definitely correct in saying that we as a family have a lot to be thankful for. My parents instilled this in us from a young age. They supported these values by sending us to Catholic school and teaching us the importance of attending church weekly. Growing up, we always went to mass together as a family. The seven of us jammed in one pew always created a lot of excitement. Fights between us siblings would usually occur, causing my parents to strategically sit between certain siblings, using themselves as human shields when fights broke out. A lot of fights happened during the Palm Sunday Mass when we would take a palm and slowly try to stick it in the other person’s ear while they weren’t looking. This would especially make my Dad mad because I’m pretty sure Palm Sunday mass is his favorite mass of all time and we were distracting him. He loves being able to play a role in the gospel and he really gets into character. So much so that we usually have to tell him to tone it down a little as he yells very loudly over everyone else in church, “BARABBAS, BARABBAS! FREE BARABBAS!” or “CRUCIFY HIM!” He was never able to join the drama club in high school so I think he feels this is his time to shine. While our Dad always looked forward to Palm Sunday mass, for the rest of us, it caused a lot of anxiety, at least for the first half of the mass, as we were all wondering if the priest would let us sit or make us stand for the extra long gospel. You never forget those Palm Sunday masses where you had to stand the entire gospel.

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As you can see, Jesus and I grew up together.

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Looking sharp in our uniforms. The real sin here is Bridget wearing that hemp sea shell necklace.

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Did Mo Money send us to Catholic school because of the great education we would receive or because she knew we would have to wear uniforms and she wouldn’t have to do as many loads of laundry?

During crowded Christmas and Easter masses, it was not uncommon for one of us kids to faint. I still remember standing during the “Our Father” prayer and turning to see my sister Maggie looking white as a ghost, (More white than her usual pale complexion) and then hearing my Dad whisper yell to my brother from the other end of the pew “MICHAEL! CATCH MAGGIE! SHE’S GOING TO FAINT!” Unfortunately Michael didn’t realize what my Dad was telling him in time and Maggie made some weird noise and then hit that church floor pretty hard. The rest of us weren’t really phased by seeing my Dad help her up from the floor and take her to the back of church to sit outside for a bit because honestly, Maggie could get a paper cut and she’d faint. But the rest of the congregation seemed a little horrified.  “Oh she’s totally fine,” We nonchalantly told the extremely concerned strangers who were staring. “She does this all the time. A little fresh air and she’ll be back in time for communion.”

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Not sure why Maggie found it necessary to bring that purple sack of potatoes she’s holding with her to Easter Mass.

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After she celebrated Holy Saturday a little too much, we placed bets on when Jane was going to start to feel “a little faint” at this Easter Sunday Mass.

As we got older, and after we made our First Holy Communions, our parents trusted us to go to mass without them, which we did. Reflecting on it now, my parents are actually pretty lucky we all kept the faith after my mom made the four of us girls all wear THE SAME communion dress at our First Holy Communion. Talk about a fashion faux pas! Puffy sleeves may have been in style when my oldest sister made her communion but by the time I made mine, puffy sleeves were totally out of style. It was definitely a cross to bear. Despite having to wear an out of style dress from the early 90s, my First Communion was still “the best day of my life” apparently: 

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Spelling has never been a strong skill for me.

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Our communion photos hanging in our upstairs hallway so guests can vote on “who wore it best.” Vote for me please.

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Jane trying to choke me after I told her she would have to wear the puffy sleeved communion dress too. Also, guarantee after my mom reads this blog she’ll say to me “I loved that communion dress! I thought it was really cute on ALL you girls!”

When we did go to mass on our own, we were always sure to grab a church bulletin as proof to Mike and Mo that we actually attended. A church bulletin is basically a receipt to the mass. We all knew that without our receipt our parents would start asking lots of questions about the readings to test us and see if we actually attended. We NEVER left mass without a bulletin.

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Passing down all my wisdom to my nieces and nephews: “Auntie Kath’s Life Lessons.” Look for it on the Best Sellers List soon.

So, although sometimes masses can be a little long, my siblings and I have all continued to go as adults. Because our Mom is right, we have a whole lot to be thankful for. We are very blessed and lucky.  And Mom is always right…right Dad?

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Even dressed as an angel my mom still found a way to put me in a turtle neck. Mo is a huge fan of the turtle neck look.

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Jane and I resting easy knowing we’ll get into Heaven.

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Our dog was never baptized and never went to Catholic School so you can see the worry and panic in his eyes in this photo, wondering if the “All Dogs Go To Heaven” rule still applies to him.

 

 

 

Stuff My Dad Says

IMG_1976My Dad is a very funny guy. Not as funny as me of course, but I’ll give him some credit. One of the many things I love about my Dad is that you never know what is going to come out of his mouth. This keeps things very interesting and it keeps everyone laughing in our family.

A while back, my younger sister Jane and I were eating dinner with my parents, just having a nice conversation (we were probably talking about Tupperware to be honest, that seems to be dominating our conversations lately) when all of a sudden my Dad turns to my sister and me and says in a very stern voice, “Now listen! I don’t want any of you kids playing with those Ouija Boards! From what I hear they are just a channel for evil spirits!” It was silent for a minute as Jane and I looked at each other and tried to process what he just said. Then we burst out laughing.

I had noticed when going through our DVR that someone in the house kept recording shows such as Ghost Hunters, My Ghost Story and A Haunting. Clearly my father was the one recording these shows. I guess have to be better about setting the parental controls to make sure he’s not watching television shows that are obviously too scary for him.  “Well, that was random and has nothing to do with what we were talking about,” I said. “Just don’t play with them!” he said. “I hear they are only portals to these evils spirits!” “Dad, we are 27 and 23 years old, do you really think we are going out playing with Ouija boards with our friends?” I said. “Hell! I don’t know what you girls do when you go out on the weekends!” He responded.  I began to laugh again saying, “Believe me Dad, when we tell you we’re going out binge drinking with our friends at the bars, we’re telling you the truth. We’re just big boozers, not ghost hunters, so you have nothing to worry about.” “Well, I just found Mom had a Ouija Board when she was little!” He said. I was laughing uncontrollably now but manged to say, “Would that have been a deal breaker for you? If you knew when you were dating her that she had a Ouija board in 3rd grade, do you think you still would have popped the question?” For a minute he looked like he was really thinking hard about the answer to that question. Finally he said he probably would have still married her but made sure to have “a priest come in or something to get rid of any spirits that might have latched on to her.”

When my Dad is not talking about Ouija boards he’s usually making fun of me. The other day I stopped at my parents after work and had a backpack on with my work laptop in it. My Dad immediately commented on this as soon as I walked in the door. “What are you doing with that backpack on?! You already look like a 12 year old, that backpack does not help your case.” “EXCUSE ME, DAD!” I responded, “But I will have you know that I am a business woman with a lot of important business things I need to carry around, and my laptop is big and heavy so I need to use a back pack! I can’t fit it all in a purse!” “Well with you wearing that thing I’m worried the police are going to see you and call us to come pick up our little girl. [Does impression of police officer] ‘Yes, excuse me, Mr. Kelly but we spotted your daughter walking down the street, shouldn’t she be in school?’ DCFS will be after us too.” My Dad really made himself laugh with that one. “Well it’s your and Mom’s fault I look so young!” I replied “You guys are the ones that gave me these genes!”

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Was I seven or seventeen when this photo was taken? We can never really know.

When he’s not making fun of me for looking like a child, he is usually teasing me about being weak. Back in February we had a span of extremely cold days, and I accidentally left a case of Diet Coke in the trunk of my car which froze and then exploded. This was devastating, all 12 cans exploded, no survivors-it was hard to see my beloved Diet Coke in that state. Then my trunk froze shut so I couldn’t open it to clean in up. I wasn’t too worried about it though because cleaning up that Diet Coke massacre seemed like a lot of work, so I was fine with having an excuse to wait to do it. I stopped home and was telling my parents this story when my Dad interrupted me in the middle of it and said “Oh no, no, the trunk is not frozen shut, you’re just a weakling.” I tried to assure him that I tried numerous times to open it with no luck because it was, in fact, frozen shut, but he would not believe me. “Well that’s because you’re like a little infant! Infants aren’t strong enough to open trunks! Here, where’s Jane?!” My Dad said, looking around the house. “She could open that trunk up for you with no problem, she’s ‘Strong like Bull.’ JANNEEEE COME DOWN HERE PLEASE!” He yelled up to her. My dad had recently had surgery so he could not do any heavy lifting, so he outsourced the manual labor to his youngest daughter. Sure enough, Jane went out and popped the trunk right open. “Oh.” I said. “I guess you were right, Dad.”

If you feel bad for me that my Dad makes fun of me, don’t. He makes fun of his other four children too. (See my Dad’s contribution to our family group text below that he sent us a few years ago when visiting Jane in college for Parents Weekend)

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Our Dad is so sweet.

While he makes fun of us a lot, he’s also taught us how to give it right back to him, and we never hold back in doing this. Because of this, we’ve had a lot of laughs throughout the years. My Dad is a big goofball, and he’s definitely passed on this trait to me. So since we are both goofy nutcases, a lot of the conversations I have with my Dad don’t even make any sense. Other people overhearing them would probably think we were crazy (which we are). Most of the things my Dad and I talk about center around my Dad’s favorite things: trains, trucks, construction equipment and Diet Coke)

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This was last summer when I was living my best life on vacation in Michigan. Sipping Diet Cokes and watching trucks, making my Dad jealous. Life was good.

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Making fun of my Dad for being a dork and reading train magazines. I did become worried when I saw there was an article in the magazine titled “Meet a Family Who Cleans Up Derailments”- didn’t want Mike Sr. to get any ideas for his own family…

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Forget about the beautiful view of the ocean and mountains, I had my eyes set on that beautiful piece of construction equipment.

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Mike Sr. putting on his safari hat to head out to do one of his favorite things-rake leaves.

When I was about four years old, for some odd reason, my Dad decided one day at dinner that it would be hilarious if he started calling me a “Soup Spoon.” So from then on most days when he would come home from work, before taking off his coat or putting down his briefcase he would come through the door and make a beeline for the silverware drawer in the kitchen, grab a spoon and say to it “Hi Kathleen! How was your day?” My siblings thought this was also very funny, but I was not a fan, so this added to the hilarity for my Dad. So, for the past 25 years of my life or so, my dad still likes to call me a soup spoon or randomly text me about soup spoons. As you can imagine this joke has never gotten old (sarcasm font used on that last sentence).

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Wise words to wake up to from my Father. Please note that he sent that text at 6:26am. 

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Classic Millennial desperate to find some wifi.

While I often refer to my dad a weirdo, lunatic, nutcase and goof, I have come to realize I am just like him. But I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I feel lucky to have grown up with a Dad like mine. He always cheered us up when we were sad, made us laugh when we were crying and has always been there ready with a joke to help ease a stressful situation. (Usually a lame joke but a joke nonetheless). A lot of people talk to their Dad about the news, sports, or career things, but I’m happy to continue talking to my Dad about trucks, trains and construction equipment. So this one’s for you Dad. Thanks for teaching us how to always find the humor in life and turning us all into lunatics just like you.

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We got really excited for cake.

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I don’t even know what to say about this photo.

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Mike Sr. doing his fake smile, probably at his wit’s end with his kids saying through clenched teeth “just take the picture Mo.”

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Classic Jane, the Big Boozer, hit the bottle a little too hard that night and passed out.

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Apparently my mom didn’t want to be pictured with this bunch of lunatics. I don’t blame her.

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Frosty Lives To See Another Year

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped at my parents’ house to help my Mom put away all the Christmas decorations because even though I moved out, I continue to be the backbone of the household. I honestly don’t think there is anything more depressing and exhausting than putting away Christmas decorations. I thought making Christmas cookies was terrible. Well, that task is a walk in the park compared to the chore of packing up all that Christmas spirit come January. As a stood in the Dining Room wrapping up the Christmas trinkets and Knick-knacks in newspaper, watching my hands turn black from all the newspaper ink, I started laughing about how tacky and ridiculous some of our old Christmas decorations are. Most of them are about 30 year-old homemade projects that we made in preschool that we continue to hang up every Christmas.

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One of Jane’s masterpieces I like to call “receding hairline” angel. Nothing says “Christmas time” quite like this angel with the creepy grin, who looks like it’s flying around on the prowl to kidnap some children.

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I made this one. I probably could have done a better job distributing the green glitter but IT’S CALLED ART OK YOU GUYS!

Every January we try to purge and get rid of some of these decorations, but we never do because someone always seems to have an emotional attachment to something.  For the past decade my oldest sister Maggie has been trying to throw out the Frosty the Snowman Candle but her four siblings will have none of it. I remember the first time she tried to put him in the garbage, chaos and outrage ensued throughout the house. Frosty sparked quite the argument. I thought I even heard one of my siblings yell “crucify her” from another part of the house. Yes, things got heated but Frosty stayed cool through the whole thing and Maggie lost the battle. Plus, Frosty the Snowman is my Dad’s favorite song, we couldn’t POSSIBLY get rid of Frosty!

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Frosty taunting Maggie with that big smirk on its face, knowing it will be able to enjoy at least one more Christmas.

Another time someone suggested we get rid of the “Red Ball” Christmas candle but that idea was quickly nicked due to its involvement in “Kathleen’s Candle tossing incident of 2002.” What was this incident you ask? Well, I was bored one school night and decided to make up a game where I repeatedly threw that red ball candle as high in the air in the living room as I could without it touching the ceiling. (Not to brag but I was pretty good at the game until I got too cocky). On one of my final tosses I wanted to see just how close I could get to the ceiling without actually hitting it. Well, turns out I am A LOT stronger than I may look because I threw it just a little too hard and a lot too high, hitting the living room ceiling and leaving a big, bright red mark on it. I immediately panicked because I knew my parents could be home at any moment so I stacked a bunch of dining room chairs on top of each other and attempted to scrub the red mark off the ceiling but it was not coming off. Mike Sr. and Mo Money were not too happy when they came home and saw the mark. But really, I still feel like the whole thing was kind of their fault because they were the ones who made up the rule that we could not watch TV on school nights. Had I been watching TV like all the other kids in America, maybe I wouldn’t have been tossing a candle around. Mike Sr. ended up having to repaint the entire ceiling so now the mark is gone, but my siblings like to hold on to the candle as a reminder of how dumb I was as a child.

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My sister Bridget texted me this in early December. 17 years later and I’m still getting made fun of about the red ball candle incident.

The older I get, the more of an appreciation I have for all parents at Christmas time and all the effort they put in to making sure their kids have a happy, memorable Christmas. I remember one Christmas my Mom decided to be an ambitious Santa and she made all five of her kids one of those fleece-tie blankets. We came down the stairs Christmas morning and there under the tree were five blankets, a different pattern for each of us marked with our names. We started to run towards them to see which blanket was ours. “Careful kids,” My Mom casually cautioned from the couch as she sipped her coffee in her robe, still looking a little sleepy. “I’m pretty sure I left sewing needles in a few of those blankets so be sure to CHECK FOR NEEDLES before you use your blanket. I started to check last night but then was just too tired so I thought ‘forget it’ so it’s YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to check for needles before you decide to use your blanket or put it on your bed.” Just recently we were talking about this great gift but I think it sparked PTSD in my mom. “Ugh! I am NEVER doing THAT again!” My Mom said with disgust. “I don’t know what I was thinking! I was working on those darn blankets until about 3 in the morning and then you kids woke us up to open presents around 6! That was terrible!”

Santa, I think, got a little tired over the years. Being the fourth of the five kids I began to see Santa’s steady decline in energy and enthusiasm in his response to our letters. Every year we would leave Santa some milk and cookies on the table near the tree and a note with lots of questions. In the beginning Santa answered all our questions, but towards the end there Santa got a little short with his responses. I remember writing out a long letter with some of my siblings to Santa, asking numerous and detailed questions. When we woke up Christmas morning, Santa did leave us a letter in response, but all it said was “Dear Kelly Kids, to answer your questions, I use Magic. -Santa” He also ignored my gift requests. Every year I asked for a go-cart, Moon boots and a mini trampoline and I NEVER got them. I was a deprived child. Those moon boots would have come in handy when I was trying to scrub that candle mark off the ceiling.

By the time Jane, the fifth child, was into Christmas, believing in Santa and all that fun, Santa seemed to have no time for any magic or nonsense like that. “Wow!” Little Jane said after we had just finished opening all our presents. “Santa was really good to us this-” But before she had time to finish what she was saying my mom cut her off. “Mmmm yea,” my mom said, paying no attention to what Jane was saying. “Kids, I have the receipts to all those gifts, you are NOT going to hurt my feelings if you want to return something but if you do let me know ASAP! I am NOT spending the new year in the mall making a bunch of returns like last year! But I also DO NOT want to see any of the clothes I bought you hanging in the closet WITH THE TAG STILL ON a few months from now.” I saw Jane looking very confused wondering why our Mom would have receipts to gifts Santa brought, but then she got distracted playing with a toy and her confusion turned to happiness again.

I’m sure by the time Christmas rolled around my Mom and Dad were exhausted from all the shopping, decorating, long, boring Christmas Pageants and trying to send out a decent Christmas card. I know it was a long process trying to pick a photo that hid the fact that their five kids were lunatics. Fights always broke out when we were trying to take our Christmas card photo-Someone would hit someone, then someone would be crying, etc. Then you think you get your act together and have a good photo only to realize that someone had their eyes closed. Blinking during photos is a huge problem in our family because our baby blues/baby greens are very sensitive to the light.

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Why am I in the back looking like I’m not part of the family at all but photo-bombing some other family’s picture? There was plenty of room on that step for me to squeeze in. As you can see we went with the “Turtle” theme with the turtle necks and Ninja Turtle shirt.

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Kohl’s must have been having a pre-Christmas sale on khakis, or Mo had some Kohl’s cash she needed to burn.

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So awkward that me, Maggie and Bridget showed up wearing THE SAME DRESS. What are the chances?! We all refused to change.

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Mo was a huge fan of utilizing the stairs for the Christmas card photos, no matter how uncomfortable her children were.

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I had to hold on to the railing for support after the leg injury I sustained posing for the first few takes.

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Children of the corn take 1.

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Take 2

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Mike and Mo must have thought, “Since our kids are at the most awkward stages of their lives, let’s take this year’s Christmas Card photo at 7am in the woods so they look awkward AND extremely tired.”

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Those were happy tears Michael was crying… We swear!

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Apparently I got distracted easily. Some things never change.

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Michael looking thrilled, Jane looking like she’s the host of a daytime talk show.

So after contemplating putting some of those Christmas decorations in the donate pile, I finally just wrapped them up and put them back in our Christmas decorations box. I figure we can always decide next year if we want to get rid of anything. To outsiders our decorations may look weird and tacky (because they are) but they bring us happiness, and that’s all that really matters!

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Baby Jane posing as if this was going to be on the cover of Baby Gap’s Christmas Catalog. Meanwhile I’m in the front looking like Dennis the Menace with my overalls and weird smile.