A few weekends ago, I FINALLY finished putting away all our Christmas decorations. It was a process I had started on about January 2nd and over Martin Luther King weekend, I finished putting the last of the Christmas boxes away on the shelves. If you are the type of person who can put your Christmas decorations away all in one single day then I am very impressed. For me, I treat the task of putting Christmas decorations away much like I treat putting my laundry away: it takes at least 10-12 business days to complete. The intricate Post-Christmas process that I follow is one I learned from my mom. Here is how it usually goes:
Day 1: Undecorate tree. Unfortunately undecorating the tree took me twice as long this year because I had to sweep up LOTS of extra needles from our Charlie Brown tree. Mike and I were lazy and just went to Menards for our tree since it was closest to our house. They didn’t have much of a selection of real trees and they were all tied up in netting so you couldn’t really see what they looked like. BUT Menards was closest to our house and we were NOT about to make the effort to go anywhere else. So we brought our “6-7 foot” (so they claimed) real tree home in a shopping cart:
Taking ornaments off a tree is an extremely depressing task so after doing so you must treat yourself to a delicious lunch from one of your favorite local fast food establishments. Only fries can cure the “undecorating the tree” depression that sets in. But before you can eat you must collect all the knickknacks and set them on the dining room table so they are all in one spot, shoving aside the normal junk you leave on the dining room table to make room for the Christmas junk. After a long lunch break you bring up the Christmas boxes from the basement and start to put the holiday knickknacks away. BUT (and this is key) you don’t fully finish because you get tired/distracted by doing other things.
Day 2: Finish wrapping and putting knickknacks away in their boxes, making sure all garland and lights are taken down but leave garland/lights in a pile on the living room floor because you don’t have the energy to box those up quite yet. The Knicknack box on the other hand, is filled and lid is closed but that will remain in the living room for a few more days.
Day 3-7: Make some half assed attempts to finish putting everything away, maybe bring some boxes to the basement but do not put them away/on the shelves where they belong. Leave them in an inconvenient spot for everyone else in the household, blocking something all other house members need to access regularly or leave in a main traffic area of the basement. This year I decided to leave a pile of Christmas boxes right at the bottom of our basement stairs, forcing us both to go around the barricade every time we needed to go to a certain part of the basement.
Day 8-9: This is “The Limbo Stage” where you will see decorations you missed in the house when you aren’t even looking for them, just going about your day. Then you’ll say to someone, “Ah! Look at this! A Christmas decoration that escaped us!! It’s a good thing I didn’t put those boxes away yet so I can add this to them!”
Day 10-12: Look at the Christmas boxes and hate yourselves just slightly for being the way that you are, and finally put them away. A process that takes about five minutes but you’ve successfully dragged out over a course of a few days.
As sad and depressing as putting away Christmas decorations are, as I was doing it, I was thinking back to the Christmas prior and I smiled because I felt grateful that this Christmas we did not have the same creature stirring this holiday season that we did the previous. Yes, last Christmas a mouse decided to Air BnB our home during the cold winter months. For a while I was too ashamed and embarrassed to say this publicly but I am tired of that mouse silencing and controlling us. WE DID NOTHING WRONG. We keep a clean house. We store our food properly. We wondered what we did to deserve such a thing. Mice will do that to you. They will make you feel bad about yourselves and keep you living in fear. The mice are gone now but every time Mike and I see a small shadow or something grabs our attention on the floor we jump a little thinking it might be a mouse.
We think the mouse moved in while we were away in Ireland. We arrived home from our trip on December 1st and soon realized we were not alone. We had squatters. It was a Saturday night and we were staying in, I had just made us a delicious meal of chicken nuggets and fries that I had spent A LOT of time taking out of the freezer and we were sitting down to watch “A Christmas Story” with some cocktails when the mouse first showed himself. We both thought we were seeing things when something scurrying across the floor grabbed our attention. Then he ran by again and I’m pretty sure all three of us let out screams.
Right from the start Mike was ready to fight to the death, but I wanted to go about it in a more humane way. I wanted him to maybe trap the mouse and let him go many miles away where he could live happily in a field somewhere? I didn’t want to kill the little guy. I mean, in my experience, mice were always pretty harmless, even cheerful and friendly-You have Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Stuart Little, etc. Plus what if it turned out we had one of the Three Blind mice staying with us? How bad would we feel if we killed a BLIND MOUSE?! Just awful.
Well my tune quickly changed when I started to feel personally victimized by the mouse. First, he got into the basket where we store our blankets and my heating pads and ate through all MY microwavable heat wraps. No one messes with things that keep me warm! NO ONE! Since this incident happened while my husband Mike was away on business and I was the woman AND man of the house that week, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. So being the independent woman that I am, I rolled up my sleeves, texted him a photo of what happened, and left everything until he returned:
Since I am basically Saint Francis of Assisi and love all animals, I let the heat wrap slide with the mouse. BUT THEN, one night, he somehow got into MYbackpack that I take to work everyday and ate a packet of oatmeal I was going to have for breakfast that morning! (Quaker Apples & Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal in case anyone was wondering). That was the final straw.
It was after these vicious attacks from the mouse that I finally gave the order to “take care of the mouse” in a manner much like Pontius Pilate did to Jesus. “CRUCIFY THAT MOUSE, MIKE! I WANT HIM OUT OF HERE!” I yelled.
From there, Mike turned our house into a war zone against the mouse, setting all different kinds of traps everywhere:
I swear, Mike set up more elaborate traps for this mouse than Macaulay Culkin did trying to catch Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in the movie “Home Alone”. But despite his best efforts, this turned out to be a very smart mouse and somehow kept avoiding all the traps he set in place. The mouse and trying to catch him consumed us both. It was all we could talk about. We hardly talked about our excitement over recycle can pick-up garbage day anymore! (Which only occurs every OTHER week, super confusing). To make matters worse, I was starting to think the mouse was paying my nieces and nephews, who I nanny for everyday, to harass me. Each day during story time they “just so happen” to pick out a mouse-themed book. Coincidence? I think not:
The mouse got more and more comfortable in our home the longer he stayed with us. On Christmas night as we were sitting in our living room, enjoying the Christmas tree and the glow of our fake fire from our broken fireplace, we both heard a noise coming from the kitchen. We paused the movie we were watching to listen again. It sounded like someone taking aluminum foil off something. We both jumped up and ran to the kitchen and quickly flipped on the light just in time to see the mouse eating the Christmas coffee cake that was wrapped up on our counter. I was grossed out but Mike was LIVID that the mouse decided to eat that specific coffee cake, one from the local bakery that he was really looking forward to having for breakfast the next morning. “OUT OF ALL THE LEFTOVERS,” Mike said fuming, “HE WENT FOR THE ONLY ONE I WANTED! He could have gone for the store bought donuts we left wrapped up on the counter but no, he just HAD to go for the good stuff! The Wolf’s Bakery Coffee cake. I am so disappointed!” Mike was angry and upset. Even though I too was not happy with the mouse, feeling the Christmas spirit, I did encourage Mike to think about how the mouse felt. The mouse was probably just as disappointed to not get his Christmas treat. He probably thought we had gone to bed and snuck in for his little midnight snack and we caught him before he could dig into his Christmas feast. It was a real tragedy all around. There were no winners in the coffee cake situation.
One night when out with friends, we finally confided in them about our mouse ordeal, sharing the big shameful secret we had been hiding for a while. We were worried how everyone would reacted (Would they still be friends with us?!) But it turns out EVERYONE’S life had been touched by a mouse in some way, shape or form. Everyone had their own mouse story to share and tips on ways to slaughter the thing. One friend even “had a guy” who could take care of the mouse for us.
After using everyone’s mouse tips and tricks, Mike got the mouse. We thought that was the end of our mouse journey, but no, there were more. I was the one to discover this and so I had to gently tell Mike, who was still celebrating his victory over getting the mouse, that there were others. “Mike,” I said with a sigh, “I think that mouse you killed had offspring, there are more mice in our house.” “Aww no,” He said sadly, “Please don’t say that.” “I know,” I replied, equally as sad, “I don’t like the idea of killing mice children either, I’m sad about it too but I think it has to be done-” Mike quickly cut me off “What? No! I don’t care about killing the mouse’s children!” He said sternly, “I’m just upset there are more mice!” “Oh,” I said with a laugh “I thought you were sad about killing a whole mouse family like I was!” “NO!” He said quickly, “These mice need to go!”
So after that, I don’t know how he did it because I don’t like to ask questions about it, but Mike got all the mice. We are now a mouse free household again. We no longer have to live in fear, but we still have some PTSD from the traumatic ordeal.
Recently, while nannying one day, I was telling my nieces and nephews our mouse story. They wanted to see a photo of the mouse, which I of course didn’t have and I told them that. But they demanded a photo and wouldn’t leave me alone about it until they saw photographic evidence. So, knowing that children are notoriously dumb, I used my quick thinking skills and showed them a stock photo of a mouse that I Googled:
After telling them the story, the kids ask me about the mouse almost every day. I think telling it has helped me heal. I am happy that now, I have all new heat wraps/heating pads and my only roommate now is Mike.
(A continuation from the riveting “Mike & Kath Go International Part 1: Piggies in Ireland) After saying goodbye to all our friends at the bar and getting a good night’s rest, (Well, Mike slept well) we packed up our things and began our journey to Galway. On the way, we stopped in the town of Sligo and walked around there for a bit. There was a sign for “Kelly’s Barber Shop” so I made Mike take my picture next to it so I could send it to my family. The Barber Shop owner was looking through the window, wondering what we were doing, and probably about ready to call the police, but it was worth it. I knew my Dad would especially appreciate it as he used to love going to “Tony’s Barber Shop” in our hometown, which was confusingly owned and operated by a guy named Joe. I’m sure my Dad was Joe’s favorite customer as I assume it only took him about 3 seconds to snip the 4 strands of hair left on my Dad’s head, (My Dad blames his baldness on his five kids) then Joe could relax for the rest of the appointment time.
Later we stopped at at a gas station to fill up the car and also so Mike could make his one billionth bathroom stop on our trip. I say “we” in this but I of course waited in the warm car as I was not about to offer to fill up the gas-I am an independent woman but when it comes to anything car related-filling up the gas, brushing snow off my car, etc my arms seem to suddenly forget how to work. But my mouth works just fine in these situations so I did ask Mike if he would please get me my one billionth water on our trip, and possibly a Propel if he could find one when he went into the gas station. As I sat there I saw a baby in another car and we were staring at each other for a while until we started playing peek-a-book from our respective cars. I’m not sure which one of us was having more fun. I won the game though.
Exhausted from my game of peek-a-boo, and Mike tired from driving, we arrived in Galway very, very HANGRY. We ordered food and a drink at a bar but the food took FOREVER so we became more and more cranky. We sat there in silence, both just focusing on keeping an eye out for our waitress bringing out our chicken tenders. “Happy Thanksgiving.” I finally said to break the silence, as it was Thanksgiving day back in the good Ol’ USA so this was our big Thanksgiving meal. After finally getting our food we walked through Galway and hit up a Christmas Market. Mike bought us some overpriced mulled wine-It was supposed to have “extra alcohol in it” (What a Thanksgiving day treat!) but we both couldn’t taste it so were very suspicious. After walking around a bit more we went back to the hotel to FaceTime with our families to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving because we are both PHENOMENAL children. We decided to head to bed early because we were still so tired from the wedding festivities, long travel day, and game of peek-a-boo.
The next morning Mike had researched a coffee shop in Galway he thought we should check out. Mike doesn’t drink coffee, he drinks tea, but he knew I was going through WITHDRAWAL since we were on about day seven of me not having any Dunkin’ coffee. Every new town in Ireland we’d pass in our travels I’d ask Mike if I could borrow his phone (because of course I didn’t think to get an international data plan for my own phone for this trip, why would I? Thank goodness Mike did) and I would Google “Is there a Dunkin’ in Sligo? Is there a Dunkin’ in Galway?” But no such luck. At one gas station bathroom stop I saw a package of Dunkin brand donuts so I thought we might be getting close but it was a false hope.
So we walked to this coffee shop and upon walking in I think we both knew it was a mistake. I am not a fancy coffee drinker. I like my basic Dunkin hot coffee loaded with some cream and sugar. This place was a far cry from a Dunkin. It was one of those very boujee, hipster, “We are really into coffee” places. Very minimalistic decor, the chairs were those uncomfortable metal ones that are always cold and have no back support. The guy working the counter was wearing a LEATHER APRON. Like is that necessary? I mean maybe he was a blacksmith by trade and just working at the coffee shop on the side but I kind of doubt it. But, I was trying to be adventurous and give the place the benefit of the doubt so I went up to the counter to order. I wanted to pick just one but instead the apron guy went into a long winded spiel about each coffee, describing it in painstaking detail and how it’s brewed and basically each coffee bean’s family tree and lineage. He went on and on and I was not listening at all. Finally I just picked one and I asked him for cream and sugar in it. He then took another 7 hours to “prepare” it. Finally he placed a coffee down on the counter for me and looked down at it, seeming very pleased. But I was looking down at that same coffee and not very pleased because I was seeing that it was straight black and had no cream or sugar in it. So I said, “Thanks, but can I get that cream and sugar please?” He then looked up at me with such disappointment and heartache in his eyes, I will never forget it, and he replies, clearly hurt, “Don’t you want to try it first?” I looked at him and I’m not totally sure but I think I saw a single teardrop fall from his eye. I really did not mean to insult this man so I I fumbled my words and said “Oh right, right!” Our eyes were still locked as I took the cup and brought it to my lips and took a sip of the horrid black coffee. “Mmmmm, Good!” I said. After I took my sip I slowly started to back out of the shop. He smiled and shook his head in triumph and said “Great! Do you still want that cream and sugar?” “Nope! Bye!” I said quickly and I ran out of there to meet Mike, who because the coffee took so long, left the shop and sat outside on a bench to wait for me. I could not stop laughing telling him what happened as we walked down the street and then I tossed the coffee right in the garbage.
We walked ourselves right into a donut shop and got ourselves some donuts because we are donut fatties. Mike thought it would be fun to eat them on the streets of Galway but he led us to a bench that was basically in a wind tunnel. “Ummmmm, did you not like the table and chairs they had INSIDE the donut shop?” I asked him laughing as we sat there in pretty much the eye of a tornado, eating our donuts, hair flying everywhere, “Yea this was not a good idea.” He said. But no tornado could stop us from finishing our donuts so we sat there until we were done and then went on our way.
We explored an area called Salt Hill and then met some Irish friends of Mike’s for dinner and bar hopping. It was a late night but a very fun one.
The next morning is when things started to take a turn for the worst. Now, I’m not sure if anyone is familiar with the Children’s book series “The Berenstain Bears” but my parents used to read them to me and my four siblings growing up. One was called “The Berenstain and Too Much Vacation.” Cliff notes version of the story is it rained a lot on their vacation, they got grumpy and they were ready to go home. Well on this particular morning on our vacation, I think we had our fill of fun and were just very tired because we woke up and became “The Montag Bears.” We just went on a rant complaining about everything-the cold, the rain, tiny garbage cans in the hotels, ketchup packets, mayo on everything, lack of water, hand dryers instead of paper towels etc. Once we got all our complaints out we got dressed, changed our attitudes and found a DIFFERENT coffee place. I ordered the largest latte they had which turned out to be the size of a flower pot and Mike got a tea and they gave him an entire tea set. He looked like he was going to host a tea party.
After I downed my flower pot and Mike was finished with his tea party we drove to Cork. Cork for us in a nutshell: We drank a lot of Irish coffees at the same bar (We started referring to it as “our bar” we went there so much) and ate most of our meals at the hotel restaurant. Every time we tried to eat at an actual restaurant we we were turned away because of COVID capacity restrictions. On our last night in Cork Mike was able to get us dinner reservations at an ACTUAL RESTAURANT!! Which was quite a treat! It was a nice restaurant too but they still had ketchup packets. But the best part about that dinner was as we were getting ready to leave our table and Mike was putting on his coat, he accidentally knocked over one of the restaurant’s Christmas trees putting his arm in his coat sleeve. The tree fell right to the floor and glitter from the tree went EVERYWHERE! People were staring and I could not stop laughing. I thought it was hilarious. In fact, I am laughing writing about it now. We picked up the tree and quickly got out of there after that.
The next morning we were eating breakfast at the hotel. Mike got up to get more orange juice and he asked if I wanted anything. I asked if he could grab me a banana from the breakfast buffet. He came back with his orange juice and an apple in his hand instead. He went to hand me the apple, saying they didn’t have any bananas. Suddenly I turned into Kathleen “Montag Bear” again. I looked at the apple disgusted, scoffed, and then angrily said to him, “What?!!!! What kind of breakfast buffet doesn’t have bananas! Bananas are like THE POSTER FRUIT of breakfast!! This is ridiculous!!” I scoffed again and shook my head while I made no effort to grab the apple. It was like we were both frozen as Mike stood there at the table with his arm stretched out with the apple, ready for me to take it, and I sat there at the table, continuing to shake my head at the apple in disgust, too upset to take it. Finally after standing there for a while he placed the apple on the table and sat down to drink his orange juice. That’s when I woke up from being Kathleen Montag Bear and realized how dramatic I just was about the banana and starting laughing hysterically. “Ah sorry about that outburst,” I said through my laughter, “I don’t even want a banana that badly I actually like apples better!” We both had a good laugh.
After our banana-less breakfast, we walked to the train station with our suitcases to begin our journey back to Dublin. As we were entering the station I was behind Mike and suddenly let out a gasp and an “Oh no!” Mike quickly turned around, “What’s the matter?” He said sounding terrified. Poor Mike thought I was about to be kidnapped or something. But I awkwardly had to explain my gasp was because I realized I had gotten a mark on my athleisure shoes walking through the streets of Cork and I was very worried they would stain. I had no Tide to-go pen or the stain fighting power of Oxiclean with me so I was worried that dirt stain would set in on my shoes.
After arriving in Dublin we thought our hotel was a quick walk from the station but it turned out to be over a mile which is very hard to do when you have a just under 50lb suitcase. As we were walking one of the wheels came off our suitcase so we just continued to drag it the rest of the half mile to the hotel.
We got to our hotel exhausted, lounged for a while and then made a half-assed attempted to go do things. I wanted to find the hotel pool but after a pathetic search we couldn’t find it. We tried walking around the streets of Dublin but we were so tired we made it about two blocks before we ended up sitting back at the hotel restaurant. I did see, what I thought was some very pretty birds, but it turns out the birds were like the pigeons of Dublin.
The next morning we had to be up very early for our flight home. After a listening to our chatty taxi driver we arrived at our gate and plopped down on the airport chairs. Mike is not much of a morning person so he was struggling HARD. I was fine as I am used to not much sleep due to CLASSIC INSOMNIA. Finally Mike mustered up the energy to get up because he wanted some breakfast. He grabbed himself a muffin and brought me back a vanilla latte (Since there were no Dunkins I had to switch to drinking Lattes). “Thanks for the Latte!” I said I said smiling and chipper. Mike just gave me a nod, not even really looking at me, and still half asleep. But I was about ready to burst because that really wasn’t how I wanted to say “Thank you.” So after after a few more seconds of silence and me smirking to myself I couldn’t hold it in anymore so finally I turned to him, a huge smile on my face still, and said, “What I really wanted to say when you got back was ‘Thanks a Latte… for the Latte’ but I know you’re tired and really wouldn’t appreciate my joke.” “And yet,” Mike, said, still dead inside, “you still managed to say it.” Finally he started laughing. And then we got on our flight (This time I had about 50 water bottles with me) and we made our journey home.
Not long after we got home from our trip, I was over at my parents’ house and stumbled upon the “Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation” Book. I opened up the first page and who did I discover wrote their name in big letters claiming ownership of the book some 25 years ago? I did. “KATHLEEN” was written proudly above the title. “How fitting,” I thought to myself.
Our trip was amazing. We had so many laughs and saw and did so much. But there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being home. As was written in the Berenstain Bears Book, our trip to Ireland had way more rain than sun, but it has by far been one of our most fun trips yet.
A year ago, Mike and I took the trip of a lifetime to Ireland for our friends’ wedding and we had an absolute blast! Weather was a bit chilly but that didn’t stop us from having a very memorable and fun trip with our friends. We often talk about that trip and laugh at all the memories we made and fun we had. I kept a journal of our adventures during the trip, so in honor of the “one year anniversary” here is a little throwback to our Ireland adventures back in November 2021:
We left on a Friday in November, so the day before we were both rushing around trying to get packed up and do some last minute things around the house. Of course when I say “we” I really mean “I” because Mike had his suitcase packed up and ready to go with ample time to lounge on the couch. Honestly though guys have it so easy when it comes to packing. A couple of pants, shirts and a pair of shoes and they are done. While he was downstairs lounging on the couch all ready to go, I was trying to figure out which shoes would go with what outfit for what day. We would be gone for 10 days, attending a wedding and then doing traveling on our own after so it was a lot to consider! Even as Dad’s Taxi, aka my Dad, picked us up in the Honda Mini Van with 16 cupholders to take us to the airport, I was still shoving last minute outfits in my suitcase, just in case. If there is one thing I am good at it’s overpacking, so I couldn’t disappoint my fans now.
The whole week leading up to our trip people kept asking if we were excited. I said “yes” but secretly I was very worried. Was I worried about traveling to a different country during a global pandemic and possibly getting sick? No. I was extremely worried about whether or not my suitcase would make it under the weight limit when I checked it in at the airport. Mike kept saying it would be ok if my suitcase was over the weight limit, that I should just pack what I needed and we’d just pay the fee. But he didn’t know the charge was $100, and I wasn’t going to tell him. I was worried he might have a heart attack if we got to the baggage check and my suitcase was over the weight limit. The night before as he was downstairs watching TV, I was upstairs secretly trying to lift my suitcase on the scale in our bathroom. But you know what? Human scales are not made for suitcase. I also had trouble lifting my suitcase so I thought I might be in trouble. There I was at about 11 o’clock at night trying to wrestle my 50lb suitcase onto the scale. Every once in a while Mike would hear a loud thud and yell up and ask if I was ok and I would just yell down “Yes! Everything is fine!” At this point I don’t remember if the thuds were me falling or the suitcase. It’s all a blur now. On the ride to the airport in Dad’s Taxi I shared my concerns with my friend Maura, who was also going on the trip:
Luckily, when we got to the bag check, my guardian angel must have been looking our for me because my suitcase made it under the the weight limit! Watching my bag go on the conveyer belt to be sent to our plane I felt as if the weight of that bag was finally lifted from my own shoulders. I was so relieved. It was then that I became excited and was ready for a pre-flight cocktail to begin our festivities.
We met up with our friends at an airport bar, having a grand old time but then ended up having to run to our gate because they mislabeled our boarding time for our plane. We thought we were going to miss our flight but we made it! Running through the airport I felt like I was in the scene from “Home Alone” when the McCallister family missed their alarms and had to run to make their flight. Because we were rushed I did not get to stock up on water for the flight and Mike did not get to do his “pre-flight routine” so we were both uncomfortable. This was the first time Mike and I were flying outside the country together and poor Mike had no idea how much water and liquids I need on long flights. I tried to warn him, and so did my sister Jane, who traveled to Italy with me, but Mike didn’t know what he was in for. “Oh my God I’m so thirsty! When are they passing out the drinks!” I said to Mike, “I’m turning into a raisin here I’m so thirsty! I need water!” “Kath, we haven’t even gotten to our seats yet!” he said back. “Well since they closed all the water fountains because of COVID, I wasn’t able to fill up my water jug, so maybe they should pass out water or something as you get on!” I was very distraught not having any water.
Once we found our seats and settled in, Mike and I immediately started looking at the various movie options. One of our favorite hobbies to do together, besides drink alcohol at bars and other locations, is watch TV, so we were anxious to see what options they had available. “Oh my gosh look at this Mike!” I yelled excitedly. He turned to look at my screen to see a movie called, “Kathleen Was Here.” He looked back at me very unimpressed, asking “What about it?” “A movie with my name in it?! This is so exciting! My name is never in movie titles! HOW THRILLING!!” I replied. (I was extremely excited about this.) My excitement drained a little when I read the synopsis of the movie and it was actually a very depressing storyline about a girl who was “18 and alone” (Classic middle child Kathleen I’m sure). But it was still very exciting nonetheless.
We took off and they began passing out PATHETIC sized waters and soft drinks so the whole time I was extremely thirsty. “These are shot glasses of water and Diet Coke!” I said to Mike, “Are they serious with this right now?!” But other than feeling like I was going to keel over from extreme thirst, the flight was great.
We landed in Dublin and I immediately went on a search for water, with no luck. We got our rental car (cupholders were a little lacking) and we found our way to our hotel. It was early in the morning Dublin time but the hotel people were nice and let us get into our room. Once in we both immediately fell onto the bed and passed out-I didn’t even get to check the brochure to see if our hotel offered a free breakfast, unlimited lobby coffee, or if they gave you a free shower cap in the bathroom-that’s how tired I was! After a few hours of rest we walked to a restaurant to grab some food. We hadn’t even been sitting down for more than a minute and I immediately spilled the Diet Coke I ordered all over the table. It was like watching liquid gold go down a sewer drain. My dehydrated body just needed all the liquids it could get. Once our food came we realized there was a major problem. Extremely small ketchup packets. Mike and I looked at each other and silently prayed that maybe other restaurants might offer the ketchup bottles and this wouldn’t be a theme for our entire trip. Turns out it was definitely a theme in Ireland. Tiny ketchup packets are like our kryponite. Mike can never get them opened, my clumsy hands struggle with them as well, and it’s just not enough ketchup. I don’t like to be limited by how much ketchup I can have with my fries. Please give me the bottle and I will choose how much I use thank you very much. Plus then the empty packets are just on your plate and it’s just a mess. American restaurants started doing this during COVID and it was awful. One of the worst things about COVID, really. Here we were back in that nightmare.
After I made the whole restaurant sticky by spilling my Diet Coke, we left to walk around and explore a little more. It was raining so I was really regretting bringing my athleisure gym shoes because I do not like to get them dirty. The only reason I brought them was because they are lighter than my other shoes and I was so worried about the weight limit thing.
Once we explored a little bit we went back to our hotel, got ready and met friends out for a very fun night.
The next morning we began our drive from Dublin to Donegal. Mike drove and I was “Co-Pilot” as I always like to refer to myself. Any time Mike and I drive somewhere we know it will take WAY longer than Google Maps tells us because of the amount of pee stops we make for Mike and water/drink stops we make for me. At our first rest stop while I was waiting for Mike I was looking at all the gas station merchandise and what do I stumble upon?! A “Dad’s Taxi” keychain! It was fate and I had to get it for my Dad. I was very excited and immediately texted my siblings about the treasure I found.
We hit the road again and I sat back and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. I saw some animals in the distance and excitedly yelled, “Look Mike! Piggies!” I got out my phone to take a picture of the Irish piggies. Mike turned to look and said back, “Kath…those are sheep.” I looked again and he was right, they were in fact, sheep. I had been meaning to make an eye doctor appointment for a while because I thought I needed new contacts, but I never did make that appointment. So I just said back, “Hmm you are correct, I guess I really should get to the eye doctor soon.” Also in my defense, and not that I would fat shame any animal, but those sheep were in need of a shave so all that wool made them look larger. No matter my excuses, my mistake became a running joke of the whole trip. Which honestly I didn’t think was fair because Mike accidentally called the shoulder of the road the “elbow” and he didn’t seem to get made fun by our friends of quite as much as I did.
Once we arrived at our beautiful hotel we met up with the wedding party for a delicious dinner. Then we all enjoyed drinks at the hotel and engaged very intellectual conversations which included the awkward “step” in front of the urinals in the boys bathroom and whether or not one was supposed to step up on it. Some thought it was to cover up plumbing, others thought it might be an actual step. To help settle the case the boys brought the girls into the boys bathroom to get their take on the matter. We all decided the step was not for stepping.
The next morning, our friends Mallory and Maura, Mike and I all went on a walk to explore the area. None of us knew where we were going so as we were leaving the hotel grounds my fourth grade Girl Scout instincts kicked in and I knew we should try and look for some sort of marking so we could find our way back. “Ok everyone, just remember where we came out so we don’t get lost on our way back!” I said and looked around for something to use as a marker. “Ok lets all remember that skinny branch up there.” I said with confidence. Maura and Mallory looked up. “Or…” Mike said, “We could all remember that bright red sign right there.” All of our heads turned and about three feet away was a big red sign pointing to a house for sale. “Damn,” I thought to myself. “Maybe this is why my Mom never sewed those patches on my Girl Scout sash-she knew I had no future as a Girl Scout so she wasn’t going to waste her time.” Every Girl Scout meeting I’d show up with my empty brown sash on, patches in a plastic baggie in my hand. Other girls were running out of room for places to sew their patches on their sash. Lucky for me I didn’t have that problem-my mom could always switch from a plastic sandwich bag to a gallon zip-lock bag if needed. Once I got home I’d put my Girl Scout sash and patches right back where I got it before my meeting-on top of her sewing box in the pantry.
Once our troop established proper markers, we began our journey and walked around the cute little town, admiring everyone’s Christmas decorations. Maura commented how she loved that in Ireland ‘They don’t have Thanksgiving as a barrier in putting up Christmas decorations, that they can just roll right into it after Halloween.’ We all agreed. Who needs to give thanks anyway? After walking through the town we explored a historic fort. I asked Mike if he wanted me to take a picture of him next to the dumpster in the historic fort and he did not. So Me, Maura and Mallory took a picture with the historic dumpster instead.
After taking a photo with the historic dumpster we walked a little more around the streets of the tiny little town. We were the only ones out and about in this town. It was-what we thought-a quiet day. That’s when an old Irish man came out of his house and in a thick Irish broth said “What’s all the commotion about?! Is there a parade in town?!” What’s going on?” We told him we were in for a wedding, he said something else none of us could understand through his thick Irish accent so we did what any polite person would do which was laugh politely and went on our way.
Later that night we had the rehearsal dinner which was a blast and then the next day was the big wedding. Mike, Mallory and I drove to the mass together and in our rental car. We weren’t used to the narrow roads and had a few near accidents where we thought we were going to die a horrific, fiery death but luckily we made it in one piece. The church was beautiful, set on a hill overlooking the water with a little old cemetery right next to it. As we finished parking and walked up to the doors we all admired the breathtaking scenery. “Wow!” I finally said. Mike and Mallory both said the same thing, as we all looked around. I must have still been thinking about our near death experience in the car because while Mike and Mallory were looking at the beautiful church, I was looking at the cemetery. Then I said, without skipping a beat, “What a beautiful place to be buried.” As my eyes continued to gaze over at the cemetery. Mike and Mallory looked at each other a little confused and started laughing saying, “Or married.” “Well of course that too!” I said quickly trying to save myself. I didn’t even realize until they corrected me what I said probably sounded so dumb. But I guess after seeing my life flash before me so many times on those narrow and windy rural Irish roads I was only thinking of my death. My bad. Pretty sure our bike paths in America are wider than some of the roads in Ireland.
The wedding ceremony was beautiful and the bride and groom were stunning! After, we headed back to the hotel for the reception and that was so much fun! Mike’s three piece plaid suit really stole the show. It’s like the suit was made for this specific day. We danced the night away and then I got the chance to sit down with the bride, Meg, to discuss car cupholder expanders. I had recently purchased one for my car for my cumbersome 32 ounce water bottle that, tragically, did not fit in standard sized cupholders. Switching to a 24 ounce water bottle was out of the question for me as I am always thirsty and need mass amounts of water at all time. I thought I would be doomed to a life of awkwardly having to balance my water bottle in my lap while I drove. But then I had the idea of investing in a cupholder expander. Let me tell you-LIFE CHANGING. Probably one of my best purchases. Meg was very interested in this item and even suggested we go into the cupholder expander business as it would surely be a lucrative one. We agreed it be future business partners. (Business plans have yet to be drawn up, we are still in the “brainstorming stage.”)
The wedding was so much fun that everyone needed a good majority of the next day to recover. After some much needed rest we all got ready for the wedding after-party at a local bar. Mike, Mallory and myself drove together. It should have been a quick drive to the bar but we ran into some car trouble. Your first thought might be “oh no, they must of had a flat tire or their car broke down on the way.” No. We got in the car and then could not figure out how to defrost the the windshield. We were Googling things, fiddling with the car temperature, I even took out the car manual (THAT is how desperate we were-I was looking through a car manual!) and we had no luck. How many Millennials does it take to defrost a car windshield? More than three that’s for sure. We could not figure out what the internal car temperature vs outside temperature needed to be in order for the frost to go away. Then we started second guessing if it was frost or fog. And was it inside the window or outside the window? I thought about enrolling in Ireland’s nearest school of meteorology it was taking us so long to defrost the windshield. Becoming a meteorologist would have been quicker. We could not figure out what we were doing wrong. Finally we decided to blame the car. “Faulty system” we said to make ourselves feel less stupid about the whole situation. We eventually figured out something and we were able to safely make it to the bar.
After a few hours Mike and I decided to call it an early night as we were leaving early the next morning to continue our travels to Galway. We said our goodbyes to everyone and got back in our semi-defrosted rental car. We were sad leaving because it had been such an awesome experience with an amazing group of people and we did not want it to end! But we still had the second half of our trip to journey off to…Part two of our adventures coming soon. Stay tuned!
The other night I made dinner for Mike and myself. Like all of my cooking attempts, we really weren’t sure how this dinner was going to turn out. (We always keep our medicine cabinet stocked with Tums, Pepto Bismal, antacids, etc so we are prepared for my dinners). Much to our shock, it actually tasted good! AND I made the dinner using fresh tomatoes from my garden in the backyard. Did I feel confident enough to be on the cover of “Good Housekeeping” Magazine after my one amazing dinner? You bet I did. Not only did I cook a dinner that was edible, but my summer project of “Having a Garden” turned out to be a success as well. It wasn’t an easy road to get those tasty tomatoes into our dinner though.
My vision of a garden all started this past spring. It was another cold, rainy, dreary day in Chicago. At that time it seemed it had been raining every day for weeks! After so much time, weather like that started to affect both Mike and my mood and we were feeling a little down. I started thinking towards the summer and needed a project to keep me busy. That’s when the idea of having a garden popped in my head. At dinner that night I excitedly explained my plans to Mike. He was very supportive and on board with my big idea. But he did delicately question my project choice. “Sounds like a great summer project, Kath!” He said, trying to match my enthusiasm. “But, just curious…why are you choosing to grow a garden for your summer project… given your track record with accidentally killing most of our plants in the past?” He said it in the kindest way possible, but we both knew I was a plant serial killer. Not on purpose, of course, but it was the truth. Any plant someone would give me or I’d buy seemed to immediately die in my hands. It was as if my thumbs were poisonous and not green at all.
Anytime my Mom, who basically runs her own house plant hospital, came over to our house I could feel her looking around at my dead plants and judging me. My house was like walking through a plant funeral home to her. “Looks like your plants here could use a little water…want me to give this one a little drink?” She’d say and she walked around frowning at all the houseplant corpses I had. “I DID WATER IT BUT I THINK I ACCIDENTALLY DROWN IT SO JUST LAY OFF, MOM!!” I’d think as I’d watch her judging eyes scanning my plants.
I was determined to prove that I could keep something alive so I told Mike that I was going to, as my Grandma used to say “come Hell or high water” grow us some vegetables that summer. He, as always, offered his support and wanted to know how he could help. But I knew this was something I needed to try do on my own.
As I tell you about my journey, readers should know about a few of my many characters flaws. First, while I am a big “ideas” person, my follow-through could use some work. So when Mike cautioned me to “Maybe start out small” I basically shut him down and shared with him my plans to become a full-time farmer. I was going to grow any vegetable you can imagine, plus pumpkins and watermelon, different herbs and spices, etc. Why would we buy produce at the grocery store when I could grow it in our own backyard! The other thing readers should know is that’s while I come to the table with great project ideas, I tend to procrastinate a bit on starting, sometimes waiting until the last minute. But at this time, I was still riding high from this big project I was excited to start, so the very next day after telling Mike my plans, I went to Menards to check out the garden center and get my supplies. I got in the store, realized all the supplies I needed was in the “outdoor” garden center, and turned right around and left as it was a rather chilly spring day and I did NOT want to be outside looking at plants in the cold springtime weather. I went right home and snuggled up by my space heater and promised myself I’d go back when the weather was slightly warmer. (I mean the wind chill that day- no thanks. It was in the 50s).
A few weekends later Mike was going to Menards so I decided to join him and check out the garden center again since the weather was more conducive to garden center shopping (Unlike my last attempt!) But I ended up getting distracted by the basil section. My soon-to-be Brother-in-Law’s nickname is “Basil” so I had to take some photos with the basil plants and send it to him! It’s not everyday you see basil plants so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share the experience with other Basils!
Most of the month of May I spent telling people about my plans for this amazing garden but not actually doing anything to make it happen. I talked about it to anyone who would listen-at family dinners, Bridal showers I attended, out at the bars. Pretty much everyone in the Chicagoland area knew of my gardening plans. I was taking vegetable requests from people and even told my mom I’d “lease her some of my land” if she wanted to grow some tomatoes of her own after I finished tilling the soil (which I hadn’t started yet).
A few weeks later on a Saturday when Mike was doing yard work I announced that I was going to start clearing my land for my garden. I made a big deal about it, acting like the town crier as I announced to him how I was finally starting work on my garden. If I had a bell I would have been ringing it throughout our backyard as I yapped away to him. Once I was done running my mouth and making myself laugh, I got out a shovel to start digging. Unfortunately for me, the first time that shovel hit the dirt it was like hitting concrete. Yikes! I didn’t say anything at first but in my head I thought “Oh HELLLLL NO! I am NOT dealing with this today!” It was a Saturday and I wasn’t in the mood for all that work and getting dirty. We had plans later and I already washed my hair the night before. (It was not a hair washing shower day for me, only a body washing shower day) But I couldn’t just say that out loud because I knew Mike was watching me with a grin so I turned to him and said, “You know what? On second thought, I think I’ll do this gardening later in the week. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow and the ground will be much softer after that.” And I put down my shovel and went right back inside.
As summers tend to do, the summer days somehow flew by and suddenly we were coming up on the Fourth of July. I had bought vegetable seeds but did no tilling of soil and no planting. I didn’t even have overalls. I’d say my land was barren but it was not, it was full of weeds and other wild plants that I was supposed to clear away in the spring. The vegetable seeds just sat on our kitchen counter starring me in the face every time I walked by.
But, lucky for me, a farming miracle happened. I got together with some old work friends for a little Fourth of July party and one of my friend’s asked how my garden was coming along. When I told her I hadn’t started, she told me her father had a surplus of vegetable plants that he would be happy to give me. All I had to do was plop them in the ground and water them. Talk about winning the vegetable garden lottery! Fast forward a few days and I am having a lovely summer afternoon with my friend Jan and my new friend “Papa” out in his backyard. Papa walked me through his amazing and expansive garden and taught me lots of things about growing vegetables. He then generously gave me all different types of tomato and pepper plants. It was a great day. And it finally lit a fire in me to clear that land and get those vegetables in. I did not want to let Papa down.
Once I got my vegetable plants planted I took VERY special care of them. Full disclosure, there were a few weeks over the summer that the plants did not receive much water due to me “forgetting about my garden” (in my defense, a garden behind the garage is a forgettable location but it was sunny) but I think that made my plants stronger. So really I did them a service. Right around Labor Day my first crop came in. I was over the moon:
I will confess I did get a little jealous when I discovered another tomato farmer in the area, who also happens to be my three year old niece, was yielding more crops than me. But it wasn’t a competition, OK?!
While I think I could make some improvements for next summer’s garden, overall, I’d say my garden project was a huge success this summer. I learned a lot, made a wonderful new friend and even hosted a few farm conferences with some fellow farmers to discuss the challenges of backyard farming:
Unfortunately at the conference we did have one disrespectful Farmer fall asleep during our discussion on the use of Miracle Grow. Clearly she’s in the wrong profession and was just there for the free lunch.
So put in your vegetable requests now, because its official and I am happy to report that after a successful 2022 season, Farmer Kath’s Garden will be returning for the Summer of 2023.
In July, my family gathered together for our annual “Family Week” up on Dewey Lake in Michigan. This has been a long tradition in our family, started when we’d go up for a full week to my grandparents’ cottage on Dewey Lake. Now my parents have a Lakehouse of their own on Dewey Lake and have kept the tradition going. Through the years we’ve grown from a family of seven to a family of 17, so it’s harder and harder to find a week in the summer with everyone’s busy schedules. The group texts usually start in February to try and lock down a week in July. After much discussion we managed, yet again, to find a week to all be together for a few days, and what a fun week it was!
Since my husband Mike had to work, I hitched a ride up with my sister Jane on Tuesday. My parents had already been there a few days, and my brother was on his way up with his three kids. In classic Kelly family fashion, Jane and I had scheduled to leave in the morning, but we were running late, so we didn’t end up leaving until around noon or so. The two of us had a great ride, jamming out to some tunes, Jane BELTING out every word, while I struggled to find places to put all my drinks for the car ride (Jane has a nice car but the cupholder situation is a little lacking). We were excited and energized about the upcoming week. I asked Jane if she planned on breaking any coffee pots this year during family week. Jane has a long history of accidentally breaking the family coffee pot. So much so that my Mom keeps an extra coffee pot on hand just in case Jane “I break coffee pots” Kelly comes out to ruin your morning. To my relief Jane informed me that my mom no longer allows her to wash or touch the coffee pot so we should all be properly caffeinated all week long.
About an hour and a half into our ride we realized how hungry we were. All that packing and running around really worked up an appetite in both of us. We paused the music and started to get serious about how we would solve our hunger situation:
Me: Maybe we should stop and pick up sandwiches for everyone for lunch on our way, what do you think? Mike is bringing our cooler so I have no food to offer accept that spaghetti squash I threw in your back seat and I only brought that because it’s been sitting on my counter at home for two weeks so I am down to the wire on cooking it. I know Mike won’t cook it while I’m gone and it will just go bad. **Editor’s Note:Secretly I was hoping one of the 16 other people up at the lake might be “inspired” to cook the spaghetti squash so I didn’t have to. I only really brought it to prove a point to Mike-he wanted to just throw it out but I kept claiming I had big plans to cook it for dinner. I am a big “ideas” person when it comes to cooking but my follow through could use some work. Honestly I just needed it off our counter at home.** Jane: I don’t know, don’t you think there is food at the cottage to eat for lunch? I mean Mom and Dad have been up there for a few days already. Me: If I know Mom and Dad, and I do, there won’t be much food, maybe a can of tomato soup since they like to eat like it’s still the Great Depression. I think we should just stop and pick stuff up. Or Mom will tell us to make quesadillas. No one loves quesadillas more than Mom. Jane: You’re right. She does love quesadillas. Can you just text Mom and ask her if there is food there? I don’t want to eat out so I’d like to avoid it if I can. Me: Ok, HEALTHY JANE! I will text her but I know she will just tell me there’s stuff to make quesadillas and I am just not in the mood for all that work and cheese! And I sure AS HELL am NOT making that spaghetti squash I brought and eating THAT for lunch on my first day of vacation! I don’t feel like breaking my hand trying to cut that thing today. I am just too tired! And it’s too healthy to eat as our first meal on vacation.
So, I texted my mom and here is her response:
So after much more discussion we made a quick decision to stop for sandwiches at Subway. I had talked to my mom prior and she said her and my Dad didn’t want anything for lunch if we stopped of food on the way, but being the saint I am I called to double check if they wanted lunch. She said “Mmmm, Subway?!!” Sounding very interested, “Let me check with Dad when he comes in and call you back in a little while with our order. He’s working outside cutting down some bushes!” But we were about three minutes from Subway and didn’t have all day to wait for my Dad to finish hacking away every square inch of Michigan forestry so I said, “Well we are almost at Subway, do you mind just asking him now and then could you TEXTme what you guys want? It’s just easier if you TEXTwhat sandwich you want so I can just read it off my phone and to the Subway worker. I don’t have a pen and paper with me.” “Oh right, right! Sure sweetie!” She said “I’ll ask Dad what he wants and we will get our order to you right away!” “Great, thanks!” I said, “TEXT it to me!” We pulled into Subway and I turned to Jane laughing and said, “How much do you want to bet Mom is going to CALL me back with their order?” Just as I finished my sentence my phone rang. I answered the phone laughing because it was my Mom, getting right down to business with her Subway order “Hi sweetie! Dad and I will have a six inch turkey on whole grain with lettuce, tomato-” “Mom, can you text this to me?” I said laughing “Oh right, right! I’ll text it now! Love you! Bye!” She said. Jane and I had a good laugh. True to her word she DID text me her order. Once we arrived we all had our sandwiches on the patio and my Dad called me a “Little SNIP” for calling him out for asking for a bottle of Diet Coke OR Fountain Pop Diet Coke from Subway. But my parents practically had to rent a U-Haul truck to bring up all the cases of Diet Coke (cans) they brought up for this family vacation, so I was just making a point.
After lunch my nieces and nephew gave a Taylor swift performance for everyone using Jane’s karaoke microphone. Then Connor did the most serious performance of “Monster Trucks” I have ever seen. He really got into character. If you haven’t heard this jam, add it to your playlist.
After their performance Jane and I went for a walk around the lake and we saw a swan. We talked about what we should name the swan and whether it was a boy or girl swan because we were not sure. Then we got into a discussion about what our parents told us we would have been named if we were boys. I just assumed since my parents were going to use the name “Tom” on me if I were a boy it would just trickle down and they’d use it for Jane but apparently they were going to name her Joe. Mind blown! “Well that’s good,” I said “Because I can’t see you as a Tom but I can definitely see you being a Joe.” She took offense to this for some reason but I told her I just could not see her being “Tom” if she were a boy but I feel like I would have pulled off the name better. After that important conversation was out of the way we moved on to discussing who’s skin was more dry. “Jane, don’t even kid yourself you know my skin is way more dry. Have you seen my arms?! FEEL THESE!” I said, shoving my arms in her face. “Like sandpaper. You could file down the corners of a picnic table with these babies.” That’s when Jane agreed, I won the dry skin contest. Jane and I always have only the most deep and meaningful conversations when we are together.
Once we got back from our walk we went on a boat ride and then my sister Maggie and her family arrived in their Honda Mini Van. We all helped them unload and I swear I don’t think I have ever seen a mini van more packed to capacity with stuff. I helped get her three children out of their carseats and I felt like I was looking for survivors of a building collapse through Paw Patrol suitcases, boxes of Cheerios, toys and stuffed animals. We got everyone settled, figured out the sleeping situations and then went to sleep.
Wednesday my sister-in-law Alyssa, sister Bridget and her Fiancé Steve all arrived. Everyone was happy to see them but we were a little distracted by a much more exciting event-a dead bat was found on one of the trees outside on my parents’ property! So honestly the dead bat stole the show that day-the week really, we all couldn’t stop talking about him. After that anytime someone asked me how I slept the night before I told them I slept “like a dead bat.”
Thursday, Jane decided to make brunch for everyone which included a French toast casserole, eggs, and bacon. Unfortunately she very much underestimated the amount of bacon to buy so she had to ration it. Before we were allowed to get our food she made a big announcement that adults were only allowed one slice of bacon and the children were allowed a half of a slice of bacon. She felt kind of bad about it but I reassured her, saying we were used to Mom starving us growing up with the skimpy meals she would divide among us so we’d all be ok. Our bodies were used to going into starvation mode.
We were all sitting outside on the patio enjoying our brunch with one thin slice of bacon each when my sister Maggie said, “Jane, this French Toast Casserole is delicious! I really love the pecans on here! It really adds a nice crunch!” Everyone enthusiastically agreed about how tasty the crunchy pecans were. But I just looked around confused at everyone’s plates as I had NO pecans on my French toast casserole Jane gave me. Bewildered and disappointed that I was missing out on the pecans, I finally said, “Hey… you guys got pecans on yours?” Jane quickly and flatly replied back, with no remorse in her voice, “Oh yea, I served you and I think maybe a few other people a part of the casserole that didn’t have any pecans on it. Sorry about that.” But she really didn’t sound sorry AT ALL. “Well!” I said dramatically, “I didn’t realize it was ‘Bring Your Own PECANS’ to this brunch! MY APOLOGIES! BUT I’M GLAD EVERYONE ELSE IS ENJOYING THE ADDED CRUNCH THEY BRING TO THE CASSEROLE! IT SOUNDS DELICIOUS BASED OFF THE CRUNCHING NOISE I HEAR!!”
After everyone BUT me had their brunch with plenty of crunchy pecans and only one slice of bacon, we took the boat to the island and hung out, getting into a deep discussion about a tattoo contest Nestle Drumstick was hosting. Basically if you tattooed a drumstick on your body you would get free Drumsticks for a year. We were a family divided on whether or not we would do it. After the island we went around the lake and then through the channel so people could see turtles-which I of course didn’t care about-turtles are the squirrels of the lake. I am over them. A dead bat is impressive, but turtles are old news. It was an awesome day though. We spent all day long on the boat. So long that my skin started bleeding from too much sun exposure and we had to stop for Band-Aids. But it was totally worth it. And everyone commented on how bright my blood was which I think is a compliment. We docked the boat and then my husband Mike arrived so our family was finally complete!
Friday morning I walked with Alyssa and the kids from the house where we were staying to my parents’ house so we could get coffee. (Jane had kept away from the coffee pot so it was still in working order!) The distance from the two houses wasn’t that far but my three year old nephew Connor led everyone a certain way specifically so he could be sure we all saw the dead bat on the tree again. As if we could forget the star of the week. Then we talked about the dead bat for the next half hour or so. Later in the morning it started raining and the rain didn’t stop all day so it was kind of a lazy day. We all kind of just hung out until it was time to start drinking again. Bridget and her fiancé Steve made tacos for dinner and then we watched the rain from the gazebo while we warned Steve about all the “Catholic things” and “Bridget things” he should know. The most important thing being the family rule my parents had to establish long ago because of Bridget: No one could-under any circumstances-order chocolate milk and pancakes together. You could order them separately but NEVER together. This was because one time we were out to breakfast and Bridget threw up all over her plate right at the restaurant after eating chocolate milk and pancakes. I guess the experience was so traumatic for my parents they felt the need to establish this rule, but I don’t think the rest of us were that phased by someone in our family puking yet again. It was almost a daily or nightly occurrence in our house. Real sensitive stomachs in the Kelly family. I remember the incident and I don’t think any of Bridget’s four siblings even asked if she was ok, we were all just yelling at her that ‘NOW the rest of us can’t have chocolate milk and pancakes anymore.’ 25 years later and we are still working on forgiving her. There’s nothing like washing down a plate of sugary pancakes with an icy cold glass of sugary chocolate milk. A luxury the Kelly family will never get to experience again. We wanted to be sure Steve knew that in marrying Bridget he would accept the fate that he and their future children would never be able to eat chocolate milk and pancakes in one sitting again. He accepted and that is what we call true love.
Saturday, our final day together, the weather turned beautiful again. We grilled and took a family photo with my tripod selfie stick complete with remote. If you don’t have one of these babies I’d highly recommend:
After that we went to the island and played catch with a football. Even the girls joined in! On a scale of zero to spicey, us girls were definitely the sportiest of the spices that day. Until we accidentally hit a sleeping child on the head with the football. Connor was ok though. He looked up for a minute and then went right back to sleep. A win for everyone! After that Jane made a Jeopardy game which was a ton of fun to play. For dinner Mike and I ordered pizzas for everyone because we didn’t want to actually cook anything (Each family provided a meal for the group. Everyone else cooked something but since Mike and I are lazy we outsourced our meal to the local pizza place). Then we karaoked all night long. It was a blast.
And just like that the week was over and Mike and I were loading the spaghetti squash that I never cooked into our car to go home. Another Dewey Lake Family Week on the books. Like every “Family Week” we spend together at Dewey Lake, it was a week filled with great weather, a lot of fun, lots of laughs, and my dad ranting about how we are all putting too much stuff in his shed. And like every year, I left feeling grateful to be part of my awesome family of 17…well 18 now if we are counting the dead bat. Because after the week we all agreed he felt like part of the family. I was also very thankful Jane didn’t break the coffee pot this year so we had coffee all week. Thanks Jane!
Family Week is a vacation that’s only a few days but it always leaves us with a ton of happy memories that keep us smiling all year long.
Last week, Walgreens was having a sale on photo prints, so I decided to finally make an attempt to print out some photos from our wedding to hang our walls so it looked like people lived in our house. It was a very half-assed attempt, as the photos are still sitting on our dining room table, but Mike and I enjoyed looking through them and thinking back on the day we got married for the second time.
It’s hard to believe a wedding we spent a year planning and replanning is already behind us-over four months behind us. (Although those thank you note are definitely not behind us.) It seems like just yesterday we were starting our wedding journey, at Crate & Barrel, setting up our wedding registery. We should have hired a photographer to capture that memorable day for Mike and me. Crate & Barrel had a free event for engaged couples to come and peruse the store before it opened to the general public and check out things to register for. We heard it was fun…and we heard they gave you free mimosas, so we decided to go. But, the day the “fun event” arrived we realized it started at 8am on a Sunday, it was freezing cold outside, there was snow on the ground and we were both hungover. We were struggling. The whole time we were there it seemed as if all the other couples knew exactly what they were doing and having a grand old time. But Mike and I…our troubles began before those Crate & Barrel doors opened:
Since it was freezing out I did a mad dash from where we parked to the door only to discover the store doors were locked “Ahh Mike! The doors are locked! Did we get the date wrong?!” I said to a hungover Mike (and our scheduler) who was slowly coming up behind me as I did my “I’m cold” jig by the locked door. “It’s just locked because it’s closed to the general public,” he said calmly. “There’s a lady coming now to unlock it for us.”
“Good morning! Are you here for our engaged couples registry event?!” The lady said cheerfully as I burst through the door to get warm and Mike slowly followed “Yes.” We both said. “Wonderful!” She said, “Now if you could just go to that table over there and I’ll be with you shortly to get you all checked in.”
As we walked a few steps into the massive store I turned to Mike, “Shoot, Mike!” I wasn’t listening or paying attention to that lady when we walked in! Where are we supposed to go to sign in?!”
“Well I don’t know either!” He said. “But Mike!” I said. “You’re supposed to be the listener!” “Well I know but I’m hungover!” He said back defensively. “I’m pretty sure she said over here though so let’s just wait at this table.” Mike said. So we walked over to a section of the store with a table and waited to get all signed in for our fun little couples event. As we waited for what seemed like a LONG TIME I admired all the cute little toys, baby giraffes and cribs that seemed to be surrounding us. Seemed a little weird to me they were pushing the baby stuff on everyone when no one at this event was even married yet. But I just kind of shrugged and became distracted by how expensive it all was. Yikes. We both started to wonder what was taking this lady so long and we started to get annoyed. No one even seemed to be around! Finally some lady came around the corner. “Um..excuse me, what are you two doing over there?” She said cheerfully confused. “Yes! Hi! We are here for the wedding registry event for engaged couples!” I said back. Trying to sound excited. “Yes right, I know.” she said, “I’m the one that let you in the door, but you are in the children’s section right now, and that part of the store is closed, you need to come over here.” That’s when we noticed the lights were off in the section we were standing in. Whoops. That wasn’t our only little hiccup with that lady. Long story short we were supposed to upload a photo of ourselves for our registry page and we ended up accidentally uploading a photo of a teapot instead. Then we couldn’t get it off. Stayed there through our whole year of wedding planning. I think this lady was wondering if she really should have left us in the children’s section.
After we struggled through the whole sign up process it was time to begin the fun part-registering for our plates and dishes and other cookware that we would use for years to come. Since we were not registering for new utensils, I came prepared-I whipped out my spoon from home I had brought along in my purse and I was ready to test out some dishes. I brought my “Testing Spoon” to test out the noise our current silverware would make against these new dishes. If this was going to be our “forever” plates/bowls/cups I didn’t want to FOREVER have to listen to awful banging and clacking noises as my fork hit my plate or spoon hit a cereal bowl in the morning. That noise just hurts my ears. Mike knew dish shopping with me wasn’t going to be easy.
So, once we overcame the hurdle of the registration table I was ready to go with my testing spoon, just walking around tapping away at the different plates and bowls. We got some strange looks, and many offers to help from all the nice staff people, to which we respectfully declined. In fact Mike and I found them OVERLY helpful and we were getting annoyed. “Man!” Mike said, “These ladies are like vultures! can they just leave us alone so we can look at some plates?!” “Seriously!” I added in the same tone. “What’s a couple have to do around here to just peacefully walk around with a testing spoon and tap on some plates?!”
So, fast forward through: Wedding dress shopping…
And lots of other fun wedding festivities, and our (second) wedding week was finally here!
The night before our second wedding we had our rehearsal at the church and then dinner at our favorite restaurant, Ken’s on Western. Here Mike and I gave our wedding party their gifts-coolers, the gift that keeps on giving. Most brides do cutesy gifts for their bridesmaids like robes or pajamas, but not me. “They don’t need any more of that crap!” I said to Mike one day, “I’m sure they have enough of it already.” (I realized I sounded exactly like my Dad) When I heard Mike was giving his groomsmen golf coolers I decided to go with the oh-so-versatile “backpack cooler.” Mike and I had purchased a backpack cooler together early on in our relationship (That’s when you know things are serious-when you make a major purchase like that together) and we’ve loved it ever since. So I thought my bridesmaids would love one too. Turned out to be a huge hit. They even came with a bottle opener and ice packs!
The rehearsal dinner was great, we had a wonderful evening with family and friends. It was a great way to kick-off our second wedding weekend.
The morning of our (second) wedding day I woke up in my old bedroom in my parents’ house and it was still dark outside. “Wow!” I thought to myself, looking up at the stars, smiling, “The stars seem to be shining EXTRA bright today!” Of course I was talking about the glow in the dark stars on the ceiling of my bedroom. Still there after all these years. And still making my Dad angry after all these years. They always give me a good laugh just thinking about them. We decided to spend the night before our second marriage apart, the traditional way, so I went back to my parents’ after the rehearsal dinner and Mike went out for a bit and then back to our house for the night. How nice for the men to have the luxury to stay our late and sleep in a bit on your wedding day, huh? On wedding days guys can get ready in a flash, but any girl knows that if you’re in a wedding, and you’re getting your hair and makeup done, expect to be there about five to seven business days before the ceremony starts.
**All Brides: “Ok girls! Ceremony starts at 3pm so first bridesmaid scheduled for hair please arrive at 1am! But we’ll have coffee, mimosas and pastries so it’s all good!”
You always have to try to soften the blow by letting the girls know their will be coffee, food and mimosas there. And if you’ve never put together a hair and makeup schedule for a group of people, let me just tell you, it’s harder than the entire ACT or SAT. Makeup takes longer than hair, you have to factor in photography time, what time the bus is getting there, etc. It took my Mom, sister and me DAYS to figure out my bridal parties’ hair and makeup schedule. I told Mike I felt like the chess champion/child prodigy from the show the ‘Queen’s Gambit,’ where she lays in bed using the ceiling to move different chess pieces in her mind. I basically did the same thing every night except instead of chess pieces I was moving bridesmaids time for their hair and makeup. His response was, “Just to clarify, you are comparing yourself to a fictional genius and world chess champion?” “Yes,” I replied, “Any more questions, MIKE?” “No.” He wisely said.
Boys don’t understand the struggle. They throw a suit on and then drink alcohol before the ceremony starts. That’s about it. We have lots of pictures to prove it too.
Meanwhile the girls…
Once everyone was all dolled up it was time to take the short bus ride to the church where I was immediately shoved in a tiny room so “no one could see me before the big reveal.” This was by far the worst part of the day for me. The room was very hot on this 90 degree day. It was very small. I was in a big beautiful dress complete with headband and veil but it weighed about 30 pounds. I also had about 30 pounds of makeup and hairspray on. I was sweating. I was in the “church library” but it felt like a prison cell and I was getting ready to bust out of there. I was only supposed to be in there a few minutes but as wedding ceremony seem to never start on time, the clock ticked on as I sat in there sweating by myself. The worst part was that this tiny little room was right by the entrance so I could hear everything going on, I just couldn’t see anything. Every once in a while my Mom or one of my bridesmaids would “check in on me” and then go back to having their fun with all our guests. My anxiety grew, I just wanted the ceremony to get started.
I could hear Mike laughing and mingling and having a grand old time with our guests as I sat in my prison cell. “What?! Is he running for alderman or something?!” I said sarcastically to my Mom and sister who took pity on me and finally came to sit with me and keep me company. “Can you tell him to quit chit chatting and get to his spot so we can start this already! The more time he talks the more time I’m in here!” Mike has a great ability to engage anyone in conversation, and it it one of the many things I love about him. But at this moment I did not partculiarly have a great appreciation for his “gift of gab” as he sometimes refers to it when we are already late starting our ceremony and I am stuck in a prison cell the whole time. There I was baking in this tiny room while my husband is out there acting as if he’s hosting the neighborhood barbecue, delaying our wedding. All I wanted was fresh air.
Finally I heard the music start, our bridal party lined up and the ceremony was starting. I was finally let out of my prison cell. “Does anyone have an oxygen mask for me?” I said jokingly to my Dad and friend Nancy, who was helping line up our bridal party so that things ran smoothly. I grabbed my Dad’s arm. I could see the entire church through the closed all-glass doors.
It was just me and my Dad left at the back of the church at this point. We were just about to be given the signal to start walking down the aisle when I feel something break loose from my facial region and fall straight into the abyss of what should be my chest, but is really just an empty padded bra, and into my dress. I have so much stuff on that I cannot tell if it’s an earring, a big piece from my headband or if my hair just came undone. I am panicked as I have about a millisecond before I’m supposed to walk down the aisle. I am frantically but gingerly feeling around my face and head trying to figure out what just fell into the grand canyon that I call my chest, resisting the urge to just reach down my dress and grab whatever fell. If I did, the entire congregation would see me through the glass doors. So instead I try whisper screaming to my Dad, “Dad! Dad!” I scream whisper. He doesn’t even turn the slightest bit. This was a time when I really wished my dad wasn’t so hard of hearing. He is also about a foot taller than me so the height difference wasn’t helping this cause either. “Dad!” I scream whisper a little louder. This time I’m pretty sure the back row heard me, but my Dad still didn’t. Finally I give him a little hit with my bouquet “DAD!” Finally he turns and looks at me. “WHAT?!” He says annoyed. “IS MY HAIR MESSED UP?! DO I HAVE AN EARRING MISSING?!” I am frantically asking. “A WHAT?! YOUR HAIR?” He asks back looking extremely confused. I don’t blamed the man, I myself felt like I was in the twilight zone as I never EVER imagined myself EVER asking my Dad for any sort of advice on my hair. Desperate times call for desperate measures though. “Nevermind!” I say back, “Do I at least have both earrings in?” I’m praying my Dad can at least help me with this. “What?!” He says again looking around at my face, still confused, “What am I supposed to be looking for? An EAR…RING?” He said it as if the word had never left his mouth before. I had to abort the entire mission. I started to laugh. I didn’t know if my hair looked like I rolled out of bed now or if I had some sort of piece of jewelry missing but at this point I didn’t care. “Nevermind, Dad.” I said with a laugh “All good. Let’s do this.” And we walked down the aisle. And by “We” I mean me, my Dad, and whatever had fallen into my dress and was uncomfortably in there.
And when we did the old hand-off, you know giving old maid Kath from one Mike to the other, this is the first time I messed up. You would think with this being our second marriage I would know what I was doing but nope. It was as if I didn’t attend the rehearsal the day before. My Mom always used to tell me when I was little that “I needed to work on my listening skills” because apparently I wasn’t good at listening or something, I don’t know, I stopped listening to her reasons why, I always got distracted, but now I think she was on to something. When Mike, my Dad and I all met at the end of the aisle, my Dad and Mike shook hands, as businessmen do. Well, even though I am an experienced business woman having gone on TWO business trips, I like to show a little more love than what a handshake can show. But I wasn’t really thinking about wedding day etiquette. When Mike and I see each other we always give one another a little kiss on the cheek hello. So I gave my Dad a kiss goodbye and then went in for the “hello, good, to see you today” kiss on the cheek to Mike, forgetting that you aren’t technically supposed to do that at a wedding until you’re announced as a married couple. HOW SCANDALOUS OF ME!! Mike, the ruler follower and listener in our relationship, did not forget. So when I went in for the kiss he freaked out, and moved away whisper yelling “No! What are you doing?! Not yet!” And stopped me. Ouch. Luckily, I’m no stranger to rejection so this didn’t really phase me. I just simply turned to all my Bridesmaids, shrugged and jokingly yelled “DENIED!” We didn’t realize until months later when we got our photos back that our photographer actually captured the moments after this romantic exchange.
About midway through the mass the mystery item that fell into my dress finally finished it’s journey and made it’s way onto the floor of the altar. Turns out it was a gigantic hair clip that was helping keep about the whole left side of my hair in place. It’s truly a miracle my hair stayed looking so great. That God for hair spray.
Once we sat down Mike realized he forgot to give the priest the rings. Luckily they were in the back of church, but he forgot to actually give them to the priest. He just “left them on a little table behind the altar area.” “Shoot, Kath do you think he knew where to find them and maybe grabbed them before mass?” Mike asked sounding hopeful. “Mmmmm nope not a chance.” I said laughing. If this was my time to be reassuring maybe I wasn’t but I couldn’t lie IN CHURCH! “What do you think all priests just have like a sixth sense of where to find hidden wedding rings?” “I don’t know I thought maybe he might know to just grab them!” Mike said sounding a little worried. “It’s fine I said, all we’ll have to do is send someone back there once we go up to do our vows.” I said back. I wasn’t the least bit worried. After having to plan and replan a wedding during COVID, I didn’t even consider this an issue. Plus we were already married. But at this point Mike began trying to get our priest’s attention by raising his hand as if he had a question in class and scream whispering to him. (Lots of scream whispering at our second wedding.) “Father! Father! I LEFT THE RINGS ON THAT TINY LITTLE TABLE IN THE BACK…” Mike began to scream whisper to our priest who didn’t even turn our way. “What are you doing?” I said laughing. “He is like 100ft away from us he’s never going to be able to hear you. And you look like a third grader who has a question for the teacher!” We both had a good laugh, sat back and just enjoyed the mass. The priest did have to stop to sneak in the back to grab those rings but no one seemed to notice.
During the mass I think I got myself tangled in the train of my dress about 1000 times. Every time I had to make a turn I had to be untangled by Mike or my maid of honor, my sister Jane. I was like those dogs that keep getting tangled up in their own leash because they won’t stop moving every time their owner tries to untangle them. “Kath, remember what the priest said, just always try and turn to the right and your train will follow.” “Ahhh I know but I feel like I’m driving a boat!” I said. “I can’t even steer this thing!”
Once we were married again it was time for pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. We decided to go by a pond near our home and we really lucked out with the weather. I think I inadvertently captured a few turtles, frogs and geese dragging the train of my dress around that pond, but we got some great photos.
After pictures it was time for the reception. When planning our reception Mike and I didn’t want or need many extravagant or elaborate things. We basically wanted good drinks, good food and good music. But specifically we wanted that good food to be plated as opposed to “Family Style.” Nothing gives us more anxiety than going to an event where the meal is “Family Style” and you’re passing around all the food at your table. There’s just never anywhere to put the dishes. Then everyone is fumbling trying to move stuff on the table around so that there is a spot for the potatoes between the gigantic centerpiece and everyone’s 17 glasses and 36 utensils they have set out in front of them. Then someone always takes too much and there’s not enough for everyone else. Plus Mike has short arms, mine are just plain scrawny and weak so it’s hard for us to pass things. Those dishes are heavy. So moral of the story… we couldn’t have that at our wedding, we couldn’t do that to our guests.
The only thing we really splurged on were the coozies. But we couldn’t NOT have coozies at our wedding! I am pretty sure Mike and I have a coozie addiction. We just can never get enough of them. We’ll be at other peoples’ weddings with coozies and at the end of the night Mike will come up to me and be like “Here Kath, can you put these in your purse? I grabbed us three extra coozies.” To which I’ll usually respond with something like “I already have four in there, I’m not sure I can fit any more.” But I always find a way. And that is why we have coozies just spilling out of drawers and cabinets in our home.
Our reception went off without a hitch (as far as I know) The speeches were amazing, the music was great and the food was plated. At the end of the night, the DJ told me I got to pick the final song to close out the night. “You’re the bride.” He said “You get to choose the last song!” “Ok, I’d like you to play Mr. Brightside.” I said confidently. Mike and I like that song, and I wanted to end the night on it. “Well, usually we play something slower or something like Last Dance to let people know it’s the end of the night.” “Oh, that’s nice.” I said back. “But I’d still like Mr. Brightside.” “But I already played that.” The DJ said back. “Yes you did.” I was well aware he already played the song. “How about something else?” The DJ said. “But I thought you said I was the bride and got to pick, and I’d like Mr. Brightside please.” He finally relented and played it for me. It was great.
After that people came back to our house to continue the festivities. We finally kicked them out at 5am. Everyone except my sister Jane, my Maid of Honor, who decided to spend our first night as an official married couple with us. She takes her Maid of Honor duties very seriously.
The next morning we had a nice little brunch at my parents’ house and then since it was a Saturday we went out to the bars. Mike and I (And Jane) were discussing the driving situation when we got back to our house-whether we should Uber or drive and just leave my car there overnight. Finally we decided it was best to drive my car and go back and get it the next day. “Ugh fine,” I said. “But when it comes time to getting the car tomorrow, we’re BOTH going to get it, not just me. We’re in this together now.” I said “Oh now is when you decided we’re in this together?” Mike said laughing “Four years of dating, two weddings and buying a house together but NOW, NOW, when it comes to picking up your car the next day, now is when you decide we’re in this together?” “Correct.” I said “As I think you’ll come to realize that picking up my car tomorrow will be a more of a mountain we’ll need to climb than you’ve first thought, as I know tomorrow we will both be on the couch and not want to be in daylight.”
When I asked my niece Ava what her favorite part of the wedding day was, she told me it was “Having a snack.” I don’t recall that part, honestly the whole day seemed to go by in a blink of an eye. All I remember was what an amazing day it was with our family and friends. When Mike and I first met, I knew I was going to marry him, but I never would have dreamed we’d be rescheduling our wedding. But it really turned out to be a blessing. I got to marry my best friend twice and have two awesome wedding weekends. Plus, now Mike has to get me TWO anniversary gifts every year. I’d call that a win.
A few weekends ago, I was up at my parents lake house in Michigan. It was dreary, cold, rainy and damp but it was an exciting weekend nonetheless as it was the weekend the new oven would finally arrive! Not everyone in my family was able to make it up to say one final goodbye to our old oven so I thought it was my duty to give our old oven the send off it deserved. I sent a photo of our emotional goodbye to my parents and siblings:
We were all sad to see the old girl go but we were rather excited to actually have an oven that you could set the correct temperature on. The oven was so old that all the numbers were scratched off which made it nearly impossible to properly preheat the oven. Everyone had an extremely difficult time using it, everyone except my Mom that is. She had a system down and couldn’t understand why everyone thought that it was so hard to use the oven. Every time one of us needed to cook something (usually it was just a frozen pizza), and our Mom wasn’t there, we usually ended up having to call/Facetime her, and these are the instructions she would give:
Mom: “I don’t know why you kids seem to have such an issue using this oven! It’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Ok here is what you do. Turn the temperature knob, the second to the left NOT THE FAR LEFT ONE, and since you can’t see any of the numbers on the knob you’re going to turn it all the way until you can’t turn it any more. That means the oven is on broil. Ok? Now, if you look closely you will see tiny notches on the knob. But they are hard to see-Dad and I usually have to get out the magnifying glass and get out a flashlight. Both are in the drawer in the cabinet near the side door so maybe grab that. Ok, are you still with me? Ok now that it’s on broil you’re going to have to work backwards and try and count the notches. Every once in a while you may be able to see a slightly bigger notch, that I think is the “350, 450, etc” and the smaller ones are for “325, 375, etc. So all you need to do is basically subtract from broil, which is 500 and figure out which notch you need and turn the knob backwards. Oh and also remember on the stove, the far LEFT burner does not work, ok? so if you need to use the stove DO NOT USE THE BACK LEFT BURNER. And you know the timer doesn’t work right? Dad and I have a little timer on the stove but I don’t know maybe you kids use your phone or something. Kid on other end of phone: [Just silent the whole time and worried about accidentally blowing the whole place up making a wrong move on the old oven]
Imagine trying to follow these instructions after a few alcoholic beverages.
As I sat there in our freezing cold cottage on that rainy cold day, wishing the old oven still worked (No matter how defective she was) I started thinking back to the summer and how it didn’t seem like that long ago that we were all in this cottage in the middle of July, cranking the AC units because it was way too hot. I thought, Wow! Where did the summer go?! It seemed like just yesterday we were all together for our annual “Family Week” at Dewey Lake. Each year we pick a week during the summer to all be together and every year, even though it’s very hectic and there is never enough space for everyone, it’s always a blast. This family week I decided to keep a journal of the week’s events. So, sit tight for this flashback to the warm month of July:
In typical fashion, all 17 of us were going up at different times. Our “Family Week” technically started on Sunday, and some went up then, but I hitched a ride with my older sister and her three kids since Old Man Montag (my husband Mike) had to work and wouldn’t be able to join until later in the week. Being a classic insomniac, I had been up since the day before and was just waiting for my older sister to pick me up in her luxurious Honda Mini Van with 16 cup holders. My sister Bridget was already in Michigan with my parents and she texted me to see when we were leaving and discuss who was coming up when:
Once Maggie and her three children arrived, we hit the road to start our vacation. I stopped and had gotten her kids donuts and put on my Spotify playlist I made for them, which I titled “Michael and Ciara’s Jams” (Once my niece Bridie is old enough to talk she can be added). The playlist basically consisted of theme songs including “Paw Patrol,” “Mickey and the Roadster Racers, and other 20 second show theme songs. AWW YEAH, cool Aunt Kath had arrived and was riding shotgun on this road trip. The kids picked the songs themselves but they also threw some curve balls in there with Ciara adding “Do Wa Diddy” and Michael wanting “We will Rock You” by Queen. The whole playlist had about ten songs, and when most of them are 20 second kid show songs, it gets old pretty quickly on a two hour ride. During the ride my niece and nephew pointed out every truck, piece of construction equipment, and jeep they saw on the highway. They kept claiming that they saw it first but many times I would see the trucks and jeeps first having a great view of everything in the front seat. I had to call them out on their lies and put them in their place multiple times. Little Bridie decided she’d rather scream/cry the entire time instead of play the game with us.
Once we unpacked everything I did a quick stop in the bathroom to dab the blood coming from my ears from all the noise of the car ride and then it was time to be in vacation mode. We gathered our drinks and went on a chaotic pontoon boat ride with all six of the grandkids. Lucky for everyone on board there is a portable kids’ toilet on the boat so the kids all wanted to use it…so that was fun for the rest of us…Who doesn’t love a sunset bathroom ride on the water?! Once we got in we all called it an early night.
The next morning my nieces and nephews and I did slow motion/fast motion running videos for a while, so that kept us all entertained for a good chunk of the morning:
We had some fun in the sun (Well, some of us did, my dad and I have no tolerance for the sun) and then once the kids went to bed (my brother, older sister and their families were staying at a different cottage just down the road-not enough beds these days at the Kelly Cottage!) I did some “tech work” for my parents, because “Tech Girl” never gets a full vacation. My parents had recently gotten rid of cable since they have streaming services, but because they like to watch the news and regular TV I ordered them a digital antenna that I so kindly said I would set up. (Yes, I continue to be THE GLUE that holds our family together) Now, our cottage is basically one room, with one TV so it’s important that it be in full working order for everyone. Once it gets dark out and the mosquitos come out, we are kind of all stuck inside with not much to do. The TV and our phones are usually our only source of entertainment for the night because we are not and will never be a “board game family” and being all together we usually have to all decide on what we are going to watch. So I set up the digital antenna and then did some other “Tech” things for Mike Sr. and Mo Money. Once I was done WORKING ON MY VACATION WHILE EVERYONE ELSE SAT THERE ON THEIR PHONES I somehow found the energy to then show Mike and Mo how to use the TV with the changes I had made. After all my efforts, this is what happened:
Mom: Oh thank you so much sweetie! What would we do without our Tech Girl? Me: Yeah no problem. So do you guys want to watch something now? We could look for a movie on Netflix or something to all watch? Mom: Oh yea, that sounds great honey, but actually before you got up here Bridget, Dad and I were in the middle of watching this docuseries on Netflix, you’d probably like it actually! It’s called “Sophie” and it’s about a murder in Ireland? It’s really interesting! Me: Um yea, Mom, remember I’m the one who recommended that docuseries to you? Because I’ve watched it already. Remember I told you Mike and I watched it and I thought you might like it so I went over that one day and showed you at home how to watch it on Netflix? Mom: Oh, Oh! Sweetie that’s right, you’re right! (She said gingerly grabbing my arm as the memory came back to her.) (Silence ensued as we both kind of look at each other) Mom: Well I think we are on the third episode! Maybe you could set that up for us and we can all watch that together! What do you think? Wouldn’t that be fun?! Me: Fun for me? To watch for a second time a docuseries about a horrific murder and joining you guys in the middle of the series? Mom I like a good murder show but I don’t want to watch it again, I am not a psychopath. Mom: Well… Bridget is leaving on Thursday so we kind of want to finish it. Me: Ok… Welp, I guess now that you’re done with my services, I’ll set it up for you and get out of your way here and just lay in my bunk bed and stare at the top bunk since I don’t do enough of that already having insomnia and all. Mom: Awwwww thank you sweetie! (As she pulls me in to kiss my forehead as I set up Netflix for her). You are so sweet!!! Me: Yea no worries at all, it’s only 8:30pm, I’ll head to my bunk bed over here and ‘retire to my chambers’ for the night, [I said dramatically as I walked the two feet to my bed and grabbed the curtain to pull shut since I didn’t have a door to slam] no biggie.
So, in typical baby boomer fashion, once they were done with my services, they shoved me aside and I just laid in my bunk bed, which is about ten feet from the TV, while the family enjoyed their evening.
The next morning, my sister Bridget, sister-in-law Alyssa and I decided to take the kids on what we called a “Nature Walk” down the beach. We saw a lot of interesting things, saw some fish, lots of boats, but the highlight for the little kids turned out to be seeing an old cookie on the beach. My nephew Connor actually requested to go back and see the cookie again. It was a half-eaten Nutter Butter for all who are curious.
After that the little kids obviously worked up an appetite and were requesting a snack. So we got back and they binge ate Doritos. I’ve never seen children attack food more than my nieces and nephews attack those chips.
Once we waited the proper half hour it was time for a swim. During our family week, everyone shares different items, including beach towels but you really have to watch out because my brother Michael has a tendency to take any towel and use it as “The diaper changing towel” for any of his children, and then casually throw it back in the mix for anyone to accidentally use. Nothing quite as refreshing as going for a swim in the lake and then drying off only to realize you smell like urine because you had mistakenly grabbed one of “the changing towels.”
Everyone is pretty good at sharing but sometimes my little nephew Michael likes to call people out for using his things. On this particular day my sister-in-law, Alyssa, grabbed a “Conroy towel” and little Michael Conroy, watching everyone and everything like a hawk, decided to call her out, “Mom!” He yelled, “Aunt Alyssa is using our towel!” Coming to my sister-in-law’s defense, I said back, “Well, if we are calling people today out,” Looking directly at my nephew, “Maggie! (Michael’s Mom) Michael Conroy was in my bed again and messed everything up!”
You see, the thing about being up at our place is that you have to be ok with constantly getting your personal items trampled on and rummaged through by the little kids. Do you have nice things? Well you won’t come home from family week with them. My nieces and nephews particularly love to just tear through other peoples’ beds, do gymnastics competition on them, and sometimes leave little “surprises” for us for when we climb into our beds. Many times when I’m at Dewey Lake I’ll climb into my bed and discover some rocks, a little plastic doll, a truck or sometimes even some Teddy Grahams or raisins in my bed. They are so sweet, always are looking out for me, making sure I have enough to eat.
Usually up at our cottage, in addition to rummaging through your items, these little gremlins will just walk right in on you in the bathroom. Being an old house, the bathroom door does not have a lock so there is nothing more terrifying than when you are in the shower and you hear tiny pounding footsteps racing right towards the bathroom and a tiny voice yelling “I HAVE TO GO POTTY!!!” You try and stop them yelling “NOOOOOOO!!!! AUNT KATH IS IN THE SHOWER!!!” But usually at that point there is nothing you can do, they have already torn the door open and they are sitting on that toilet and you just pray that that niece or nephew is just… you know… respectful in whatever business they are doing as you try and enjoy your shower. I told my six nieces and nephews after getting out of the shower one day that I was going to give them all a lesson on knocking but before I could Mike Sr. made a trip to the hardware store and installed a lock on the door! We all named him the Real MVP of the week and his humble response was “I have to protect my daughters from these ‘savages’ (referring to his grandchildren).”
Later that evening we went on another boat ride through the “Dewey Lake Channel.” Since the channel is filled with turtles and other lake wild life, on this ride my brother-in-law, Mike and I made an important declaration to the other adults on the boat, that we do not care for them to point out turtles to us. You see, at Dewey Lake, turtles pop up like squirrels but for some reason my adult family members still act like seeing one is like seeing a celebrity.
Person Seeing Turtle: “OH MY GOD LOOK IT’S A TURTLE! I WILL NOT STOP POINTING AND SHOUTING AND MAKING A SCENE ON THE BOAT UNTIL EVERYONE GETS UP AND LOOKS AT THIS TURTLE I AM SEEING POP UP OUT OF THE WATER! OH WAIT IT JUST WENT UNDER SORRY EVERYONE BUT YOU GUYS SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT! IT WAS HUGE!”
Every single time everyone will have to get up from where they are seated or crank their neck in an uncomfortable position and see NOTHING because the turtle that was “spotted” mysteriously went under the water again. I do not like doing this because many times I am under a blanket or some sort of towel covering me for warmth and then it falls to the floor when I get up and I also can’t turn my neck very far. I also think seeing a turtle in the water is much like seeing a stick in the water because many times when they pop up you can only see their heads and that is what they looked like. So, giving these reasons, upon entering the channel, I just politely wanted to make my family aware that while I appreciate and admire the excitement they have about turtles, I do not share in it, so I will be staying in my seat and not making any effort to turn my neck or body in order to see any turtles. But I did ask them to please let me know about any other wildlife as I would be interested in making the effort to turn my neck to see those. My brother-in-law Mike, had a slightly different approach, simply stating that he just ‘did not care about turtles that much.’ Once my family got over the shock of Mike saying he didn’t care about turtles, we entered into the channel. We saw a lot of turtles and wildlife including a beaver. After that my nephew Connor would not stop saying the word “Beaver Dam.” It was almost as if it was his new vocab word for the day and he was trying to incorporate it in every sentence he spoke.
Once we docked everyone CONVENIENTLY have places to run off to leaving my younger sister Jane and me to be the only ones to tarp the pontoon boat. If you’ve never tarped a boat, it’s awful. You can never really figure out which way the tarp fits on the boat, the buttons never snap, there are massive spiders everywhere, and then once you’re done someone has to crawl underneath to put the poles in. While tarping, Jane and I got in an extremely heated argument about which one of us was the bigger ‘Martyr’ in the family because Jane ended up having to be the one to crawl in and put in the poles. I wish I was kidding about this fight but I am not. I’m sure people across the lake could hear us yelling at each other
Jane: WHY DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THE MARTYR OF THIS FAMILY??! I WAS HARDLY ON THIS BOAT AND NOW I HAVE TO PUT THE POLES IN?! Me: OH! YOU THINK YOU ARE THE MARTYR? I AM THE MARTYR HERE! DID YOU FORGOT HOW I GAVE YOU THE ROOM AND THE BIG BED THIS WEEK WHILE I SLEPT IN THE BUNK BEDS?!! THE BED THAT THE KIDS USE AS A JUNGLE GYM AND STOMP ALL OVER AND LEAVE DEBRIS IN?! THERE WERE LEAVES IN MY BED LAST NIGHT!! MY ROOM HERE IS A PLAYGROUND! AND YESTERDAY THEY TRIED TO USE ME AS A JUNGLE GYM AND YOU KNOW AUNT KATH IS NOT A JUNGLE GYM SHE IS A CHINA DOLL. VERY DELICATE AND BREAKS EASILY! Jane: (lowering her voice now) Oh no, no! Aunt Kath is so fragile they can’t play rough with her! Only Aunt Jane and Aunt B! They should know this by now! Me: I KNOW! I told them exactly that!
So, Jane and I, as we always do, reconciled and concluded that we were even with our “Martyrom” (a new word we were using) and that the rest of our siblings OWED US.
On Friday my Mom just SUDDENLY decided to instill a new rule that “Everyone must take off their shoes upon enter the cottage.” We were all outraged. “Mom!” I said just completely flabbergast. “You can’t just INSTILL a new rule on one of the LAST days of family week and expect us all to remember! We don’t even take our shoes off when we enter the house at home! How are we all supposed to remember this OUTLANDISH RULE when our minds are all on ‘vacation mode’? this is crazy!” Everyone agreed. Growing up we were never taught to take our shoes off when entering the house and now that her youngest child is 25 she tries to teach this to us now? This wasn’t going to stick. But we all tried because “Mom’s the boss” but mostly everyone forgot.
After that the kids took one last swim and then I helped them make a birdhouse out of a High Noon box because their Aunt B, Aunt Kath and Aunt Jane have no kids and were living their best life all week long so we had plenty around.
After that my brother and his family and my oldest sister and her family packed up to leave. This was honestly the longest goodbye of my life as we thought they were going to leave numerous times but then they’d remember something they forgot from inside, or one of the kids needed to use the bathroom again, then there was a mad search for “Uni” (my niece Ciara’s stuffed unicorn animal. She was safely found). My Mom was really sad too so she was making a big production of it having everyone watch them pull out of the driveway. You can really tell that my sister Maggie and brother Michael are her favorite children right now-I think it’s because they’ve given her grandchildren-but they are also her first born son and daughter, so me, Bridget and Jane knew we don’t really stand a chance. (Actually Jane’s the youngest so she’s got that going for her, but anyway). My Mom was making sure they had enough water, Diet Coke, snacks etc, basically acting like they were headed off on the Oregon Trails. You could tell she was sad and that she was going to miss her kids and grandkids being up at the lake with her. Not my dad though, I think he had the vacuum in one hand while he waved goodbye with the other-he could not wait to vacuum up all the crumbs, wiped down the Dorito hand prints from the boat and spray down the patio set. He had a full day of cleaning ahead and he was smiling ear to ear thinking about it. My Dad LOVES cleaning. Jane and I stayed for the goodbye sob fest for a while (Our sister Bridget had left Thursday for a concert so she was unable to join the goodbye tour) and then we decided to peace out as we were burning daylight and had more vacationing to do.
Once we finally said our goodbyes, the place was eerily quiet. no more little voices just the sound of my dad CONSTANTLY vacuuming. By this point in the week it was just my parents, Jane and me left at the old Kelly Cottage. Later that Friday afternoon, Old Man Montag aka my husband Mike (Not to be confused with all the other Mike’s in the family) Who was working like a dog the whole week was finally able to get off work and enjoy some much needed time at the lake!
The rest of the weekend was crazy busy for me as I decided to start this game where I would just randomly pop out at Jane and start blasting the hit Abba song “Waterloo.” She never knew when it was coming, and I would creep up on her at various hours of the day and night. As we all know, no one can make me laugh quite like I can so as you can imagine, my abs were pretty sore from laughing once the weekend was over. Below is a screen shot of a video I took when I creeped up on Jane while she was doing the dishes. I would usually sing along, because as we all know, ABBA is SO CATCHY!! How could you not?! So I thought I’d spare everyone’s ears from my singing and just post the screen grab.
That pretty much sums up Family Week 2021. My only regret is that I wish I spent more time with the old oven. I had no idea this was going to be her last Family Week with us. But overall I had a great time and I think the rest of the family did too. I think my niece Abby summed it up best the first time she came up to Dewey Lake. She had just learned to talk and could only use one word phrases to describe how she was feeling. (or so she claimed, some say she was just being lazy.) But the whole time little baby Abby was up at Dewey Lake she kept repeating the word “Happy.” I always leave Family Week feeling both extremely happy and grateful. Grateful for the chaos, grateful for this place we can all go and be together each year, grateful to Mike Sr. and Mo Money for working so hard to give us this little piece of heaven, and grateful for my awesome family. It was another fun Family week and an amazing, happy summer at Dewey Lake!
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.
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!
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.
The Squirrel ran away crying after my mom fat shamed it.
Check out that bad ass bird with the Mohawk. I bet he’s bringing the alcohol to the party at the bird feeder.
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!
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:
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.”
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.
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.
Thanks to everyone here EXCEPT OWL whoo literally did nothing.
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.
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:
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?
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:
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:
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gotta love those awkward high school years.
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.
In 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.
Just waiting on the porch with my Simba backpack on, ready to head up to Dewey Lake.
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.
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:
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.
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.
There was no room in the car to pack hairbrushes.
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!”
Despite the looks on their faces WE WERE ALL HAVING FUN DAMN IT!
Connor was nice enough to wait until after the camera flash before pulling Ava’s hair and making her cry.
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.
Baby Ciara fake sleeping on the boat to get out of doing chores. Lazy.
Baby Michael gets really chatty after a few too many bottles of juice.
Aunt Bridget wouldn’t share her Mini Mouse umbrella with them.
Baby Connor raising awareness for the endangered bee species with his outfit.
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!
Best part of being up at the lake: Jane and I get to be BUNK BED BUDDIES AGAIN YEAHHHH! reliving our glory days.
As you can see, after eating those two cheeseburgers, Jane’s shirt no longer fit.
Our Dog clearly just saw a turtle. He was obviously still in shock.
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.
I told Maggie that since there are no seat belts on jet skis I had no choice but to hug her the entire ride.
I like to make sisters uncomfortable until they are comfortable.
My Dad was trying to take a picture of his beloved shed and we got in the way.