I recently dropped off a few boxes at my parents’ house as they are doing a bit of redecorating and need to pack up some junk. Big things happening at the Kelly house-Mike Sr. and Mo Money are finally tearing down the 90s style wallpaper that lines their first floor hallway and stairway leading up to their second floor. They are also getting new carpeting on their stairs, upstairs hallway and in the bedrooms. I was glad they were finally getting around to finishing these renovations as this was really a project our old Dog Duke started when he was a puppy. Duke must have been watching too much HGTV and was left home alone one day and decided to rip a part of the 90s wallpaper down. I always said he had an eye for design. Mike Sr. was not very pleased though. The carpet and wallpaper have been there since 1993, when my parents put a second floor addition on their house to have more room for their growing family. So both are a little out-dated and are past their glory days.
As I set the boxes down I started looking at the walls and all the family photos that were on them. Two things went through my mind. First: WHY WHY WHY were some of these outfits legal? Examples below (Please note, photos kept in frames for dramatic emphasis):
I vividly remember one specific day we took one of those above family photos, although I am not quite sure which one, maybe the day I dressed as Boy George, I projectile vomited all over our brand new Ford Windstar-And when I say brand new, I mean they drove it home from the dealership three days prior. It didn’t help that I had also attended a birthday party that day and had ingested A LOT of Hawaiian Punch. I can’t remember if I threw up because I was sick or if my stomach turned because I was just disgusted by the lack of cupholders in the van. I mean one cupholder having to be shared between TWO captains chairs?!! Come on Ford, you could do better. I bet my mom remembers this day vividly too as I am sure it was a really great Saturday for her-dragging her kids to the Olan Mills studio, then to a birthday party, and finishing the day by cleaning up her child’s vomit. I mean that puke got everywhere. I was sitting in the back middle seat and it traveled all the way to the front. My puke trajectory was really unbelievable. Hopefully they had some Oxiclean to get those red Hawaiian Punch stains out of that gray interior. Thanks Mom for cleaning that up-I owe you a drink.
After getting over the outfits and telling myself “That was in style back then” to feel better about myself, the second thing that went through my mind was, wow, time really flies. I don’t remember when the wallpaper was put up or when the carpet was installed. I was just a toddler when my parents put the addition on their house so they could have extra room for their children and no longer had to shove them all in one bedroom. I do have a lot of memories running down those first and second floor hallways and playing on those stairs. I remember the mornings before school, rushing around, searching for where I left my backpack or uniform because I always left my backpack, school papers and uniform scattered about throughout the house. Every now and then our parents would get fed up with everyone’s junk and we’d be told that after school “no one could watch TV until everyone’s stuff was brought up to their rooms” So in order to get to the TV faster the five of us would work together and we’d tie a jump rope to a bucket and use it as a pulley system to bring things upstairs. A couple of kids would collect everyone’s items on the first floor, throw it in the bucket, then someone (usually my brother) would be on the second floor and pull the bucket up with the rope, handing it off to someone else. That person then would take the items and just throw them into each person’s respective rooms. We’d do this until the first floor looked spotless. Our rooms looked like a mess but hey, not our problem. Our parents said “The first floor” needed to be cleaned up, they made no mention about our bedrooms. Every time we did this we got in more trouble because the rope rubbed against that expensive 90s wallpaper and caused it to peel up. But we never learned and kept doing it.
I have a lot of fond memories waiting with my siblings at the top of those green carpeted stairs on Christmas or Easter morning, anxiously waiting for my parents to give the “ok” to run down and open presents or find our Easter Baskets. I remember not being able to sit still on those steps many mornings when we were little. As we got older, I remember holiday mornings many of us would be laying on the steps or leaning on those walls because we celebrated Jesus’ birth or resurrection a little too hard the night before. I think on those Easter mornings my Dad (who always hid our Easter baskets) got a special kick out of following whichever child was the most hungover that year with the video camera as they struggled to find their Easter basket throughout the house. I will never forget those Easter mornings feeling as if I had just spent 40 days fasting in the desert instead of Jesus, while my Dad following me around giggling and doing commentary with the video camera two centimeters from my face. Truly a cross to bear.
The green carpeted stairs were a favorite place for Mo Money to take pictures of her five children as well. She ESPECIALLY loved assembling us on or by those stairs to take our Christmas card picture:
So while I am happy that my parents are doing nice things to their home, I think a part of me will miss that green carpet. I don’t think I’ll miss the wallpaper though, that stuff needed to go. But those stairs and hallways gave us a lot of happy memories growing up. And I am sure Duke is smiling down from dog heaven, very pleased that the work he started is finally being finished.
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!
Last month marked one year since Mike and I bought our house, a beautiful, old fixer-upper that we absolutely love in a neighborhood that we always wanted to live in. Owning a home has definitely been an adventure, we’ve learned a lot-about home-ownership, ourselves, and each other, and we certainly have more learning to do. Luckily we signed a 30 year mortgage though so we’ve got time.
When we think back to where we were just over one year ago, our life was a lot different-Mike and I weren’t even engaged yet! I was still livin’ my best bachelorette life in my apartment with my two roommates, hitting up the bars on Western Ave which were just a stone’s throw away. I was rather busy with life as when we weren’t at the bars, me and my roommates had taken a deep dive into the classic show “One Tree Hill.” So every night, Chad Michael Murray was taking us on a roller coaster of emotions in the All-American town of Tree Hill. It was exhausting! Mike was still in his apartment in the city, preaching to everyone how he wouldn’t be back on the Southside for quite some time. CLASSIC, SILLY Mike! When we heard about the house that we now own being for sale, we looked at it “to be cute” not thinking we’d seriously consider buying it. After going through the house I remember we went out to dinner and ripped the house apart. But secretly I loved it. Old Man Montag secretly thought it would be great investment….And then somehow we found ourselves in the middle of buying a home.
The process of getting the home was stressful for both of us, but mostly for Mike. I was mostly pretty thrilled. But poor Old Man Montag was extremely stressed the entire time. Little did I know he had already bought an engagement ring and was planning to propose (to me thank goodness) in the coming weeks and now buying a house was thrown at him. Besides the whole proposal, Mike is a planner anyway, so the fact that he could not plan for this home-buying process really stressed him out. “I don’t know Kath,” I remember him saying to me one night when we were discussing the house “This just wasn’t part of the plan I had in my head. Plus I always imagined before we bought a house that I would have the chance to read some books on the home-buying process and do some more research before we became homeowners. I am just a bit stressed about this all!” “Ok,” I responded calmly. “First I’d like to address these books you mention you planned on reading about the home-buying process. Are you serious you dork? Did you actually plan on reading books before we bought a home? Where do these books exist? Do you own a library card or were you going to order them off Amazon or something? I have a lot of questions, but we can address those later.” We laughed (Well mostly I laughed) and then I continued, “Second, this may surprise you, but I always imagined myself doing NO research before we bought a house, much like my research of all things a do. So I am actually doing ok right now. But if you don’t feel comfortable about this I do not want us to do it.” Mike’s stressed level settled a bit when we really went through finances and costs and he was able to make an excel spreadsheet of everything. His spreadsheet included all that normally goes into a home: closing costs, fees, taxes, major repairs, etc. He also had a lawn mower on there, which was fine, we’d need a lawn mower, our house had a lawn, but he kept mentioning this lawn mower whenever we’d discuss the house. (much like he mentioned the garbage can when we talked about our Dewey Lake Wedding) We’d be discussing home buying expenses and utilities and then he’d say something like “And don’t forget, we’ll need to buy a lawn mower.” As if I could forget. “OK!” I finally said one day, “City boy Mike! I get it! We need a lawn mower! I know! We have grass! We will also need other expensive items that you don’t have on there! Like a new roof soon! Maybe put that one there instead! We will get you your precious lawn mower don’t worry. I’ll even wrap it under the Christmas tree for you with a bow if you want.” “I’m just thinking about the lawn and how it will need to be cut!” He responded. “I just don’t want you to forget about things like that. Those are expenses that add up.” “Whoa.” I replied quickly. “You think just because I have scrawny arms and I am weak that I can’t push a lawn mower and therefore I don’t think about it?!” “Well partly, yes.” Mike replied without hesitation. “Well!” I said back, “I will have you know that I had to cut the grass growing up! My parents made us girls do that yard work stuff too! AND I am a lot stronger than I seem! Those Propel caps are just on really tight and they hurt my wrists to open!” I also reminded Mike that he always needs me to open his Coors Light cans for him, but he claimed it was only because my nails are longer and he just can’t get his short nails under the tab to pop it open. Then we went off topic while I gave different examples of times I lifted heavy objects.
Ultimately though, after many spreadsheets and conversations, we made the decision together to purchase our forever home (Without any books) and it has been one that both of us are so glad we did! And we even had money left to get a lawn mower!
And, side note, despite all my bad jokes I made through the home-buying process Mike still decided to propose to me!
In this past year, we’ve settled into our house. We’re so settled in fact that we’ve already got our designated spots on the couch. Mine is near the space heater, next to my “drink tray” and close enough to the outlet where I can plug in my heating pad and snuggle up with about seven blankets because our home is freezing and I’m always cold. Mike’s spot is where ever I haven’t burrowed myself in yet. One of my favorite home purchases I treated myself to was my “couch drink tray.” Sure, we have a coffee table in front of the couch but I found it rather cumbersome always having to reach forward to grab my water, coffee, Diet Coke, propel and/or Body Armor. It’s just so jolting taking my arm out of my blanket, exposing it to the frigid air, just to take a sip of one of my 30 drinks I have next to me. (I am always thirsty, probably should get that check out but I’m busy with a house now so it’s at the bottom of my list) so I got myself a little tray that I could keep next to me on the couch at all times. Minimal reaching effort. Would highly recommend to any homeowner. Best investment I’ve made in a while!
In addition to our couch tray, Mike and I could not be more thrilled with our “Basement refrigerator” we just acquired. Like most homes in America, we have too many food and drink items for just one fridge to hold (Typical First-World Problems, ugh!) so we had to get a second fridge for all our alcohol, pop, and various other necessities. It has been a game changer! Has totally freed up so much space in our first floor kitchen fridge. We often wonder HOW we got through most of this first year without it. We both have agreed that the basement fridge is in the top ten best things to ever happen to us. We don’t have any children yet but once one comes along he or she has big shoes to fill because both of us have said we may love this fridge more than any of our future children.
Besides those major investments we’ve also made a lot of changes to our house and done a lot of different projects this past year. I don’t think we had closed on the house more than two minutes and suddenly tree killer Mike is hiring someone to chop down this big, beautiful old tree in our backyard because it was “too close to the house.” I liked the tree and didn’t want it cut down so I initially protested.”Ugh Mike do we really need to cut it down?? It is so old and pretty! I like the tree!” Mike shut me down immediately “The tree has got to go.” Heartless Mike replied, “The roots are going to ruin our foundation and I don’t want any branches falling on the roof.” I did eventually agreed but I did make a lot of jokes to him about how I was going to read the Tree the story of “The Giving Tree” before he murdered it but per usual Mike ignored my jokes. I laughed though. No one make me laugh quite like I do.
Another big project for us was the installation of a ceiling fan in our bedroom. I am not a fan of ceiling fans (pun intended). Mike loves them and really wanted one in our bedroom. I love the white noise of regular fans but HATE ceiling fans. Why? First, it’s just too breezy for me. I am always cold and if I wanted to experience some wind I’d go outside-which I would not do because I HATE WIND. I don’t want sleep in a wind tunnel, no thank you. Second, the breeze from the ceiling fan causes the little hairs on my head to tickle my face. This is rather annoying when you are laying in bed trying to sleep. Third, I’ve just had too many bad experiences with ceiling fans. I’m still traumatized from the ceiling fan at a place we used to rent every summer growing up. The clicking noise of that ceiling fan still haunts me today. I remember laying there in a sleeping bag on the floor, with about eight of my cousins, all of us shoved in this small bedroom, breaking every fire code in the state of Michigan with the amount of children we had staying in one rental home, just wide awake all night (as children with insomnia do lolzz) looking at that fan and listening to that clicking noise as everyone else just slept away. In my mind I was screaming “HOW DOES NO ONE ELSE HEAR THIS?!” If you told me five years ago that I’d agree to a ceiling fan in my bedroom I would have told you you’re crazy. I am more of a box fan person. It’s loud, you can direct the air where you need it to go, stick it in your window, it’s so versatile! But, when you love someone you make compromises, so I agreed to the ceiling fan. But I told Mike it had to be the most silent ceiling fan ever created and that the lights on the ceiling fan could not be too bright (I am very particular about lights-they hurt my baby green eyes… and give me migraines). So, after much research by Mike, we did find a ceiling fan that we both could agree on. And as a gift he got me a box fan for the white noise I needed. I was thrilled and had to text my old roommates right away about it:
Most of our other home projects this year have been painting. One thing Mike and I have learned about ourselves is that WE HATE PAINTING. And I know there are people out there that may say “Oh I kind of like painting, I find it rather calming!” No, you like it for about the first hour and you do not like all the prep work, clean up, or the numerous trips to the Home Depot paint section because there are TEN MILLION SHADES OF BLUE AND GRAY AND THE SAMPLE NEVER LOOKS THE SAME WHEN YOU PUT IT ON THE WALL. Please come talk to me once you’ve spent the past year of your life painting different rooms in your house. And not to brag but I am a good painter. I owe this to my father who is is rather meticulous about painting and passed along his children. Growing up my Dad was like a drill sergeant when it came to any painting around our house (Which us kids often helped with because Mike and Mo didn’t care about any child labor laws.) He passed along his OCD painting ways to his children and we are all good painters because of it. All of us except my sister Jane. My dad knew there was no helping Jane, she was just an awful painter. One summer when we were growing up my parents decided to completely renovate our basement. We’d all be down there painting the newly installed drywall, but my Dad did his best to keep Jane FARFAR AWAY from any roller or brush. Every morning she’d come down in her painting clothes all ready to help paint like the rest of us, we’d all get assigned our job by my Dad and every single day my dad would say to Jane “Ahh you know what Jane? I kind of have a taste for some chocolate chip cookies. I bought some ‘break and bake’ Toll House ones from the store, would you mind making those for me?” What my Dad meant was really “Jane, you are a terrible painter and I don’t want you to mess up my new basement so I am going to assign you ‘busy work’ to keep you away from here.” Of course break and bake cookies do not take long to make so then she’d come back down and he’d have to keep her busy doing something else like “straightening up the pantry” or “going through the coupon drawer” (Not sure why we had this-we never used the coupons). He quickly ran out of “jobs that Jane couldn’t mess up” so he just kept buying different types of cookie dough from the store. We had so many break and bake chocolate chip cookies that summer.
Mike, I have found, is very similar to Jane in his painting skills. I love Mike to death and he has many great skills, but painting is not one of them. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I’m a terrible dancer, Mike and I both know this and have accepted this. Mike is not the best painter, but he has a great attitude and has been working at it. I have been trying to teach him my ways too. “Mike! You are painting too fast! Paint is splattering everywhere!” I tried to tell him as we were painting our bedroom. “You have to go slower and be more gentle!” “Ahhh!” He yelled out in frustration “I just want to be done painting! That’s why I’m going so fast! I WANT TO BE DONE WITH THIS ROOM I HATE THIS!” Mike’s patience is tested when it comes to painting but he is getting better. I have sometimes found myself using my dad’s trick of trying to assign him ‘busy work’ when it comes to painting some rooms, but he really is becoming a better painter!
No matter how good or bad we are, we have come to realize that we were not meant to be painters. We hate it and always have to reward ourselves with alcohol after finishing a room.
One of our biggest projects so far has been our “Dateline Room” AKA our dining room. When we moved in the dining room had wallpaper, so we thought it would be an easy project to take it down and paint. We could not be more wrong. Turns our there was about four layers of wallpaper going back to about 1930. Once we got down to the final layer, the walls were crumbling and yellowed. The room looked like a murder had taken place there so we renamed the Dining Room “The Dateline Room” (One of our favorite shows.) After about six months of work and hiring someone to re-plaster the walls it finally looks like a dining room again!
So in summary, this year of home-ownership has been filled with a lot of painting, a lot of trips to Home Depot and Menards, but also a lot of fun. Maybe Mike doesn’t so much agree with me about the fun part, but he’s also done a lot more work on the house than I have, I’ve mostly given my opinion on things. (I think I’ve done a great job giving my opinion though). While we’ve learned that owning a home is a lot of work, and we still have a lot to continue to learn, it’s been a blast trying to figure it all out with my best friend Mike. I’m so grateful to have him on this new adventure. We both look forward to the many parties, Christmases, birthdays, etc. we will have in our forever home!
The other day I was talking to my Mom about schools doing eLearning during this Quarantine and how hard it is on both teachers and parents. “UGH” My Mom said, “I could not IMAGINE trying to do eLearning with you kids. That would be an absolute NIGHTMARE!” Wow, I thought. A little rude, MOM, telling one of your children that your worst nightmare would be spending all day with them. I THOUGHT YOU SAID WE WERE YOUR FIVE BLESSINGS?! This is not the first time she’s said this since the quarantine started. We get it Mom, your five kids were lunatics.
After I was done taking in this insult, and pulling the knife out of my heart she so casually threw in there, I started to think about how hard it would be for my Mom to be with us ALL DAY. Then I stumbled upon a photo from Easter when I was a baby. Seeing this made me understand why this would be my mom’s nightmare:
Four of the Five lunatics pictured here. You can see the desperation on my Mom’s face. “Hurry up and take the Picture, MIKE, so I can get away from these nutcases!” Let’s zoom in on my mom a little here:
That poor, poor woman. This is the face of someone that is in dire need of an alcoholic drink. You can see she is trying to mentally detach from the chaos that this going on around her.
I don’t want to speak for all my siblings, but I’d say most of us weren’t the most studious kids around. After school we really had no interest in doing more school work. I was probably the worst offender on this. I hated sitting down to do school work and would do anything to get out of it. I had better things to do, like play outside or see how many suction cup hooks I could get to stay on my face as you can see from this photo here:
“Mom! Look at how I can get these suction cups to stay on my face! Don’t I look like Frankenstein?” Was I off to a poetry reading or something next with that turtle neck I was wearing? Who knows.
Working on my dunking skills here. 2004 Holy Redeemer 8th grade gold ball basketball champion right there. Ball was life back in the day.
I must say, the five of us were pretty creative in some of the things we would do. Our parents were late in the game in getting cable so we really had to entertain ourselves. One of our favorite things to do when we couldn’t play outside was rollerblade in our carpeted living room. Talk about a cardio workout! It was not easy to roll around on that carpet. This was an activity we could only do when my Dad was out of town-he didn’t really appreciate us rollerblading inside. My Mom didn’t really mind, she saw the carpeting as better padding when her clumsy children fell.
The four of us girls also used the living room as our stage to make music videos to our favorite NSYNC, Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears hits. We’d rehearse for a few hours and then give our parents the painstaking task of not only sitting through our show, but filming it for us so we could review it later in order to perfect our dance moves and play our dance in both slow and fast motion. (Jumping off the couch or a chair and doing a spin looked a lot cooler in slow motion). Classic youngest child Jane, having grow up watching MTV with her older siblings, chose, how should I put this, some pretty risque dance moves. She loved to replicate Britney Spears in her early “Baby One More Time” days. Jane even liked to take her show on the road, volunteering to perform at different graduation or family parties. My parents soon after put the kibosh on Jane watching MTV with her siblings.
Here we see Jane practicing one of her more modest Britney Spears dances as I pretend to step on her. A fight later ensued.
Sadly, after we redid our living room, getting reupholstered furniture and replacing the rollerblading carpet with the “8 Million Dollar Carpet” as my Dad referred to it (and we now still call it, 20 years later), we could no longer roller blade in the living room. I still remember my dad’s lecture he gave us after our living room and dining room were redone. I think he just got the bill from the interior designer so his blood pressure was a little high and he was on edge. “Now listen!” My Dad said, as the five of us sat in the TV room. We could see the beads of sweat on his bald head and the panicked look in his eyes as he thought of all the money this new living room was costing him. “I don’t want ANY of you kids rollerblading in the living room anymore! We practically had to refinance the house after installing that 8 Million Dollar carpet Mom decided to pick out! And I don’t want ANY of you kids laying on the reupholstered couch in there either! The last thing I need is your dirty, greasy, gross bodies staining that fabric! Just stay out of the living room as much as possible!”
The last known photo of us sitting on the couch before my parents used our college funds to redo the living room.
The pre-upholstered couch days when we could sit in the living room. You can see the dirt and food on our clothing that we were passing on to that couch.
Just playing in the living room with our new doll Jane. Jane provided a lot of entertainment for us when she was born. Jane learned from an early age to support her own head. We weren’t going to do it for her.
We were all very photogenic.
If we weren’t rollerblading we were using our parents bed as a trampoline. We had a nice system going where we would line up in my parent’s closet (in order to get a running start) and use the closet doorway to hold onto, lean back and catapult ourselves onto the bed, doing our best flips and somersaults mid-air. Why enroll in gymnastics class when you have a queen sized bed you can just run and jump on? Honestly can’t believe the Jesse White Tumblers didn’t recruit us, we were so good.
Taking a break from our gymnastics to fake read on my parent’s bed/pose for a Christmas card photo. Check me out-baby genius right there fake reading a story to everyone.
After we tired ourselves out a bit we would all get out our backpacks and sit at the kitchen table to do a little homework. It was a little crammed, and fights would break out if you accidentally got your papers into someone else’s “area” but it was fun all being together, jamming out to some music as we worked away. My mom would be in the kitchen with us, getting dinner prepped and checking on us periodically, helping with various homework problems. As the years went on, and my Mom cared less and less, (both about our homework and dinner) the younger kids relied on the older kids to help them out with homework. This system worked pretty good until we got down to Jane. We were all pretty tired by the time Jane needed help on homework. She racked up quite a few pink slips for “not turning in homework.” Sorry Jane! She turned out ok though.
A rare photo of me doing homework. Drinking a Hi-C Juice Box to help take the edge off that stressful Math homework.
What a great looking family.
After homework and dinner we focused our attention on dessert. We NEVER let our parents forget about giving us some sort of dessert every night. If you acted up or didn’t do your chores my parents used “no dessert” as a punishment. Unfortunately for me, being born a “smart-ass” as my parents so affectionately termed me, I spent a lot of nights going without dessert because of my wisecracks and sarcastic remarks. My mouth got me in a lot of trouble. I just couldn’t help myself in getting the last word in. So many times instead of having dessert, I would be laying on the kitchen floor crying as my siblings sat at the table eating ice cream or cookies.
Some nights when the dessert supply was running low my Dad would “raffle off” the last cookie or scoop of ice cream, whatever it may have been. There would be a series of coin tosses between the five of us and the winner would get the dessert. Some times it would be a real nail biter on who would be the last person standing. Many times this caused a lot of fights, usually some tears, but it was very entertaining for my Dad.We were just reminiscing about it the other day and my Dad was laughing hysterically thinking about it:
Dad (laughing so hard tears were in his eyes): “I remember you five little brats would be like vultures all wanting the last Oreo. Certain kids (I’m not going to name any names) would be sore losers if they lost and go off crying after the last coin toss. [Dad continues laughing more] Ahh that was good.” Me: “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have been so cheap and just bought another pack of Oreos for us instead of starving your five children!”
Here we are post Oreo raffle. As you can see from the Oreo remnants on my face, I was the winner of this raffle so I was very smitten.
Looks like I won the Oreo, but lost my shoe on this time. I think I won dessert a few too many times as a toddler. It was my fat stage.
After us fatties got our fill of food, we finally settled down to go to bed. For some reason we found it soothing to fall asleep to various Disney movie soundtracks. Our favorite being “The Lion King.” Because what’s more relaxing than loud African music blasting in your bedroom-AHHHHHH ZENWENNAAAA BADA DEE SEE BABA (I have no idea what the actual African lyrics are to the opening of The Lion King but it sounded like that.) So we made our parents tuck us in and start the Lion King tape before they turned off the lights. Since I hated going to bed (I could never fall asleep) I would always try and delay my parents turning off the lights, asking various dumb questions to stop them. My parents favorite one of my questions that they still laugh about to this day is the time I asked them “What bones are made of.” Classic insomniac, doing anything to stop bedtime. Once we were finally all asleep, our parents finally got a much deserved and much needed break from us.
Looking back on all of this I have so much respect for my parents putting up with us every day. Sure, we were five blessings, but we were also five nutcases. Now I get why my Mom said she can’t imagine what parents are going through during this quarantine, and I can’t either. This quarantine has really made me appreciate not only my parents but all parents dealing with their own “blessings” at home. All I can say to parents out there is hang in there, be strong, and maybe buy an extra pack of Oreos.
I’m literally climbing a mountain running away and my Mom and Dad (the one taking this picture) couldn’t care less.
Looks like we were running out of furniture we were allowed to sit on so we had to share.
I wonder if my Dad thought about leaving us in that forest
Bridget and me playing with our real life doll Jane again. That was a damn good sucker and I enjoyed it very much.
Why did I button my top button like a psychopath?
Hood up, attitude out. I had no time for pictures.
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.
Last weekend, Mike Sr, Mo Money, myself and my two other old maid sisters were vacationing in Michigan, sitting by the lake and sipping our morning coffee soaking up the view, when all of a sudden Mo ripped us from dreamland by saying, “Well, we better get going to get ready for Mass or we’ll be late!” My two sisters and I all painfully looked at each other and gave a collective sigh before we immediately started whining like four year-olds. “Noooooooo! Come on Mom, don’t we get vacationers dispensation?” I asked. “Plus the priest here just loves to talk! He makes the mass so long!” “Well, Dad and I are definitely going, you girls don’t have to go if you don’t want to…” My Mom said. We started to relax back in our lawn chairs. Just as my Mom was walking in the house to begin getting ready for church, her hand on the door knob, she turned back at us and hit us with her classic zinger, “But, you know, we have a lot to be thankful for…” Then she headed inside. Boom. Mo Money with the mic drop. There it was, the guilt bomb. The judging eyes. The look that said “Fine don’t go but I hope you bring a magazine with you to help pass all the time you’ll spend in Purgatory when your time comes.” There is nothing worse than getting guilt tripped by your Mother. Saint Peter’s judgement at the gates of Heaven is NOTHING compared to judgement from a Mom. Gosh darn it, Mom! Why did we have to be so fortunate and blessed and raised in such a loving home! Why couldn’t you have neglected us so we didn’t have all these wonderful things to be thankful for?! Sheesh!
So, like the good children and Catholics we are, we changed out of our pajamas and headed to church. Just as we anticipated, the priest talked for way too long and the mass was OVER AN HOUR. Doesn’t he know we Catholics have a strict time limit on the length of masses? The mass seemed extra long because we weren’t near any babies so entertainment was lacking. But, it was an outdoor mass so we did have some nice landscaping to look at. Plus, the biggest moth I have ever seen in my life was on one of the chairs behind us, and we got in a family disagreement about whether it was a real moth or a fake moth, so that argument made time go by rather quickly (It was real, but he made no attempt to shake our hand at the handshake of peace so he was a real rude moth if you ask me).
Once mass was over, like most Catholics, we got in the car and ripped the mass apart while driving home.
Mom: I mean his homily had a good message but sheesh! Did he need to keep repeating himself over and over?! It’s like, ‘Get the hook out!’ Am I right? Me: Why can’t we ever say a simple, ‘Lord hear our prayer’ at the petitions?! Why does it always have to be something super long like “Please respond, ‘Infant baby Jesus, creator of all things, son of God, blessed, peaceful most high’ hear our prayer.” Dad: I hate when they sing the “Glory to God” song in such a depressing tone. Can’t they make a more upbeat version of it?! Bridget: That was ridiculous, that priest talked for way too long. Also, did anyone see that lady sitting a few rows in front of us still had the tag on her shirt? I was debating in my head whether or not I should tell her. Jane: I still don’t think that was a moth, that thing was way too big. I think it was a cross breed of some sort of other insect.
Although the mass was a little long, we were glad we went. Mothers are always right. And my Mom was definitely correct in saying that we as a family have a lot to be thankful for. My parents instilled this in us from a young age. They supported these values by sending us to Catholic school and teaching us the importance of attending church weekly. Growing up, we always went to mass together as a family. The seven of us jammed in one pew always created a lot of excitement. Fights between us siblings would usually occur, causing my parents to strategically sit between certain siblings, using themselves as human shields when fights broke out. A lot of fights happened during the Palm Sunday Mass when we would take a palm and slowly try to stick it in the other person’s ear while they weren’t looking. This would especially make my Dad mad because I’m pretty sure Palm Sunday mass is his favorite mass of all time and we were distracting him. He loves being able to play a role in the gospel and he really gets into character. So much so that we usually have to tell him to tone it down a little as he yells very loudly over everyone else in church, “BARABBAS, BARABBAS! FREE BARABBAS!” or “CRUCIFY HIM!” He was never able to join the drama club in high school so I think he feels this is his time to shine. While our Dad always looked forward to Palm Sunday mass, for the rest of us, it caused a lot of anxiety, at least for the first half of the mass, as we were all wondering if the priest would let us sit or make us stand for the extra long gospel. You never forget those Palm Sunday masses where you had to stand the entire gospel.
As you can see, Jesus and I grew up together.
Looking sharp in our uniforms. The real sin here is Bridget wearing that hemp sea shell necklace.
Did Mo Money send us to Catholic school because of the great education we would receive or because she knew we would have to wear uniforms and she wouldn’t have to do as many loads of laundry?
During crowded Christmas and Easter masses, it was not uncommon for one of us kids to faint. I still remember standing during the “Our Father” prayer and turning to see my sister Maggie looking white as a ghost, (More white than her usual pale complexion) and then hearing my Dad whisper yell to my brother from the other end of the pew “MICHAEL! CATCH MAGGIE! SHE’S GOING TO FAINT!” Unfortunately Michael didn’t realize what my Dad was telling him in time and Maggie made some weird noise and then hit that church floor pretty hard. The rest of us weren’t really phased by seeing my Dad help her up from the floor and take her to the back of church to sit outside for a bit because honestly, Maggie could get a paper cut and she’d faint. But the rest of the congregation seemed a little horrified. “Oh she’s totally fine,” We nonchalantly told the extremely concerned strangers who were staring. “She does this all the time. A little fresh air and she’ll be back in time for communion.”
Not sure why Maggie found it necessary to bring that purple sack of potatoes she’s holding with her to Easter Mass.
After she celebrated Holy Saturday a little too much, we placed bets on when Jane was going to start to feel “a little faint” at this Easter Sunday Mass.
As we got older, and after we made our First Holy Communions, our parents trusted us to go to mass without them, which we did. Reflecting on it now, my parents are actually pretty lucky we all kept the faith after my mom made the four of us girls all wear THE SAME communion dress at our First Holy Communion. Talk about a fashion faux pas! Puffy sleeves may have been in style when my oldest sister made her communion but by the time I made mine, puffy sleeves were totally out of style. It was definitely a cross to bear. Despite having to wear an out of style dress from the early 90s, my First Communion was still “the best day of my life” apparently:
Spelling has never been a strong skill for me.
Our communion photos hanging in our upstairs hallway so guests can vote on “who wore it best.” Vote for me please.
Jane trying to choke me after I told her she would have to wear the puffy sleeved communion dress too. Also, guarantee after my mom reads this blog she’ll say to me “I loved that communion dress! I thought it was really cute on ALL you girls!”
When we did go to mass on our own, we were always sure to grab a church bulletin as proof to Mike and Mo that we actually attended. A church bulletin is basically a receipt to the mass. We all knew that without our receipt our parents would start asking lots of questions about the readings to test us and see if we actually attended. We NEVER left mass without a bulletin.
Passing down all my wisdom to my nieces and nephews: “Auntie Kath’s Life Lessons.” Look for it on the Best Sellers List soon.
So, although sometimes masses can be a little long, my siblings and I have all continued to go as adults. Because our Mom is right, we have a whole lot to be thankful for. We are very blessed and lucky. And Mom is always right…right Dad?
Even dressed as an angel my mom still found a way to put me in a turtle neck. Mo is a huge fan of the turtle neck look.
Jane and I resting easy knowing we’ll get into Heaven.
Our dog was never baptized and never went to Catholic School so you can see the worry and panic in his eyes in this photo, wondering if the “All Dogs Go To Heaven” rule still applies to him.
My Dad is a very funny guy. Not as funny as me of course, but I’ll give him some credit. One of the many things I love about my Dad is that you never know what is going to come out of his mouth. This keeps things very interesting and it keeps everyone laughing in our family.
A while back, my younger sister Jane and I were eating dinner with my parents, just having a nice conversation (we were probably talking about Tupperware to be honest, that seems to be dominating our conversations lately) when all of a sudden my Dad turns to my sister and me and says in a very stern voice, “Now listen! I don’t want any of you kids playing with those Ouija Boards! From what I hear they are just a channel for evil spirits!” It was silent for a minute as Jane and I looked at each other and tried to process what he just said. Then we burst out laughing.
I had noticed when going through our DVR that someone in the house kept recording shows such as Ghost Hunters, My Ghost Story and A Haunting. Clearly my father was the one recording these shows. I guess have to be better about setting the parental controls to make sure he’s not watching television shows that are obviously too scary for him. “Well, that was random and has nothing to do with what we were talking about,” I said. “Just don’t play with them!” he said. “I hear they are only portals to these evils spirits!” “Dad, we are 27 and 23 years old, do you really think we are going out playing with Ouija boards with our friends?” I said. “Hell! I don’t know what you girls do when you go out on the weekends!” He responded. I began to laugh again saying, “Believe me Dad, when we tell you we’re going out binge drinking with our friends at the bars, we’re telling you the truth. We’re just big boozers, not ghost hunters, so you have nothing to worry about.” “Well, I just found Mom had a Ouija Board when she was little!” He said. I was laughing uncontrollably now but manged to say, “Would that have been a deal breaker for you? If you knew when you were dating her that she had a Ouija board in 3rd grade, do you think you still would have popped the question?” For a minute he looked like he was really thinking hard about the answer to that question. Finally he said he probably would have still married her but made sure to have “a priest come in or something to get rid of any spirits that might have latched on to her.”
When my Dad is not talking about Ouija boards he’s usually making fun of me. The other day I stopped at my parents after work and had a backpack on with my work laptop in it. My Dad immediately commented on this as soon as I walked in the door. “What are you doing with that backpack on?! You already look like a 12 year old, that backpack does not help your case.” “EXCUSE ME, DAD!” I responded, “But I will have you know that I am a business woman with a lot of important business things I need to carry around, and my laptop is big and heavy so I need to use a back pack! I can’t fit it all in a purse!” “Well with you wearing that thing I’m worried the police are going to see you and call us to come pick up our little girl. [Does impression of police officer] ‘Yes, excuse me, Mr. Kelly but we spotted your daughter walking down the street, shouldn’t she be in school?’ DCFS will be after us too.” My Dad really made himself laugh with that one. “Well it’s your and Mom’s fault I look so young!” I replied “You guys are the ones that gave me these genes!”
Was I seven or seventeen when this photo was taken? We can never really know.
When he’s not making fun of me for looking like a child, he is usually teasing me about being weak. Back in February we had a span of extremely cold days, and I accidentally left a case of Diet Coke in the trunk of my car which froze and then exploded. This was devastating, all 12 cans exploded, no survivors-it was hard to see my beloved Diet Coke in that state. Then my trunk froze shut so I couldn’t open it to clean in up. I wasn’t too worried about it though because cleaning up that Diet Coke massacre seemed like a lot of work, so I was fine with having an excuse to wait to do it. I stopped home and was telling my parents this story when my Dad interrupted me in the middle of it and said “Oh no, no, the trunk is not frozen shut, you’re just a weakling.” I tried to assure him that I tried numerous times to open it with no luck because it was, in fact, frozen shut, but he would not believe me. “Well that’s because you’re like a little infant! Infants aren’t strong enough to open trunks! Here, where’s Jane?!” My Dad said, looking around the house. “She could open that trunk up for you with no problem, she’s ‘Strong like Bull.’ JANNEEEE COME DOWN HERE PLEASE!” He yelled up to her. My dad had recently had surgery so he could not do any heavy lifting, so he outsourced the manual labor to his youngest daughter. Sure enough, Jane went out and popped the trunk right open. “Oh.” I said. “I guess you were right, Dad.”
If you feel bad for me that my Dad makes fun of me, don’t. He makes fun of his other four children too. (See my Dad’s contribution to our family group text below that he sent us a few years ago when visiting Jane in college for Parents Weekend)
Our Dad is so sweet.
While he makes fun of us a lot, he’s also taught us how to give it right back to him, and we never hold back in doing this. Because of this, we’ve had a lot of laughs throughout the years. My Dad is a big goofball, and he’s definitely passed on this trait to me. So since we are both goofy nutcases, a lot of the conversations I have with my Dad don’t even make any sense. Other people overhearing them would probably think we were crazy (which we are). Most of the things my Dad and I talk about center around my Dad’s favorite things: trains, trucks, construction equipment and Diet Coke)
This was last summer when I was living my best life on vacation in Michigan. Sipping Diet Cokes and watching trucks, making my Dad jealous. Life was good.
Making fun of my Dad for being a dork and reading train magazines. I did become worried when I saw there was an article in the magazine titled “Meet a Family Who Cleans Up Derailments”- didn’t want Mike Sr. to get any ideas for his own family…
Forget about the beautiful view of the ocean and mountains, I had my eyes set on that beautiful piece of construction equipment.
Mike Sr. putting on his safari hat to head out to do one of his favorite things-rake leaves.
When I was about four years old, for some odd reason, my Dad decided one day at dinner that it would be hilarious if he started calling me a “Soup Spoon.” So from then on most days when he would come home from work, before taking off his coat or putting down his briefcase he would come through the door and make a beeline for the silverware drawer in the kitchen, grab a spoon and say to it “Hi Kathleen! How was your day?” My siblings thought this was also very funny, but I was not a fan, so this added to the hilarity for my Dad. So, for the past 25 years of my life or so, my dad still likes to call me a soup spoon or randomly text me about soup spoons. As you can imagine this joke has never gotten old (sarcasm font used on that last sentence).
Wise words to wake up to from my Father. Please note that he sent that text at 6:26am.
Classic Millennial desperate to find some wifi.
While I often refer to my dad a weirdo, lunatic, nutcase and goof, I have come to realize I am just like him. But I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I feel lucky to have grown up with a Dad like mine. He always cheered us up when we were sad, made us laugh when we were crying and has always been there ready with a joke to help ease a stressful situation. (Usually a lame joke but a joke nonetheless). A lot of people talk to their Dad about the news, sports, or career things, but I’m happy to continue talking to my Dad about trucks, trains and construction equipment. So this one’s for you Dad. Thanks for teaching us how to always find the humor in life and turning us all into lunatics just like you.
We got really excited for cake.
I don’t even know what to say about this photo.
Mike Sr. doing his fake smile, probably at his wit’s end with his kids saying through clenched teeth “just take the picture Mo.”
Classic Jane, the Big Boozer, hit the bottle a little too hard that night and passed out.
Apparently my mom didn’t want to be pictured with this bunch of lunatics. I don’t blame her.
Earlier this month I hosted my first big rager with my new roommates. Since I still keep in touch with my old roommates, and wanted things to remain cordial since our split, I extended the invite to them. “Hey Mom and Dad,” I said one night as I stopped by to eat their food “Did you see the email invite about our Saint Patrick’s Day party? Are you coming?” “Ohh, I’m sorry sweetie,” my mom responded sympathetically. “Dad and I can’t make it, we will be in Florida.” Woooooowwwwwwww, I thought to myself. First off, how dare they miss MY party. Second, classic Mike Sr. and Mo Money living their best lives, always off vacationing somewhere. “Sheesh mcgeesh!” I said “Do you guys even live here anymore?! It’s like if you’re not in Michigan you are in Florida!” After I was able to get the knives out of my heart that my parents just threw at me, I informed them that I needed to borrow their coolers and chairs to which my dad immediately began making comments and jokes about how I was going to fill the coolers with lots and lots of alcohol. I didn’t deny this because, I mean of course I was going to do just that, I’m also trying to live my best life just like they are. But it did turn in to a bit of a light-hearted argument between the two of us. I think this fight was a result of separation anxiety and emotions being high with the three of us still trying to cope with our split. But we eventually made up and even though I was still salty that my old roommates were not coming to my first big party, I sent them a very sweet text before they left for their trip:
Yes, it’s been quite an adjustment for the three of us living apart. The baby boomers have had to get used to a much quieter house-I know they miss their favorite “smart ass” (as they so affectionately called me) terribly. And I have been learning to navigate the obstacles that come with living on my own and being an actual adult. Luckily, I’ve had a little help from the Baby Boomers along the way.
What was my first obstacle I tried to tackle on my own you ask? Assembling furniture- and let me tell you, I don’t EVER want to do that again. Talk about a chore! I ordered some cheap furniture off Amazon thinking it would arrive at my door all set up and ready for my new place. Nope, it arrived as a bunch of pieces of wood. It took me about six hours to put together my nightstand only to realize that I accidentally bought a child’s nightstand that was sized to go with one of those transitional beds kids have when they outgrow their crib but aren’t quite ready for a big bed yet. It was way too small for my new adult bed.
This was the most traumatizing experience of my life.
I still have nightmares about this day and this stupid nightstand that was pretty much made for a doll house.
A couple of lessons I learned here. First, look at the dimensions when you order something online. Second, nightstands aren’t really necessary if you have a cardboard box-Flip that box over and you have a perfectly good piece of furniture. And finally, just before you begin to assemble furniture stop, call your Dad, and have him do it instead. I was done being Rosie the Riveter after putting together that tiny nightstand and was not about to begin working on anything else. Thank goodness Mike Sr. was there to finish the task for me.
This is a perfectly good nightstand, I just can’t spill anything on it or it will disintegrate.
Another thing that I’ve had to get used to living on my own in a new apartment is not really having a close relationship with my landlord. I knew my last landlords pretty well since they also raised me. My current landlord is a complete stranger-couldn’t even tell you what he looked like! A pro to not being related to my current landlord is that he has never asked me to weed the patio or do household chores like my old landlords used to do. But he also has not once gotten me a donut or made me dinner like Mike Sr. and Mo Money would so that’s a con. Seems pretty rude too, what’s a girl gotta do to get a donut every once in a while? I thought they were included with my rent payment?
I tried to explain to my old landlord that I should be appropriately compensated for my manual labor, suggesting maybe he make an adjustment in that month’s rent but Dad was not going for it.
I have yet to wake up to a note like this from my new landlord. He only leaves us notes when we are late on our rent. Super rude.
I’ve also noticed that once you are not living with your parents anymore you have a lot more adult things to worry about so that has taken some getting used to as well. Right now one of my biggest concerns is making sure I break in my big mattress evenly and don’t put a dent in it. When I moved out I treated myself and bought a queen bed. I had always had a twin bed at my parents and thought I deserved a big bed in my new apartment. But it turns out it’s almost TOO MUCH bed for me! I feel like a fish going from a fish bowl to a lake with all that extra space-it’s overwhelming. (I almost said ocean but I feel like that analogy would have been more appropriate if I bought a king bed) I like to sleep on the same side so now I’m worried I’ll put a dent in that side. It’s been stressful! How do I avoid this?! Do I flip the mattress?! Do I rotate it?! And how often am I supposed to do this?! Every month?! A few times a year?! These are the things that keep me up at night.
I think the hardest adjustment for me has been getting used to my MUCH longer commute to work. When I lived at home it only took me three minutes to get to work. But now that I’m living in an apartment a whole three miles away from my parents’ house my commute time has DOUBLED! Yes, it now takes me six minutes to get to work! Plus, unfortunately I now have to drive past two grade schools so if I get caught in that school drop-off traffic that’s easily another two to three minutes added on there. That mini van grid lock traffic can be quite the headache. I mean I get parents want to pull over and give their child a kiss goodbye before they head off to school but don’t they know I am running late and in a rush to get to MY job?! Like shoot them a text later or something I have places to be, let’s move it along people. I’ve started to listen to the traffic report on the news in the mornings before I leave to see how bad my commute is going to be that day. If it’s a special guest day or a Christmas pageant or show and tell day or whatever at one of those schools I might as well just work from home because that makes for a NIGHTMARE commute for me.
Even though I am on my own, being an adult and everything, I do try to go back to the old neighborhood and visit the parents from time to time. It’s nice re-visiting the old place but it’s crazy how fast things have changed since I left-and not always for the best. For example, on my last visit home I noticed my parents switched from Heinz ketchup to Hunt’s ketchup. So I guess it’s a good thing I moved out when I did. Honestly, I couldn’t believe they switched to Hunt’s. You would think they’d be saving money now that I moved out. I made a mental note to start to bring my own ketchup when I go there from now on. But, without me there to offer my advice they are free to do as they please and buy whatever ketchup they want I guess.
So yes, it has been an adjustment for all of us getting used to our new living situation. I know the Baby Boomers miss me but they seem to still be living their best lives just like I am. It will take some time but we’ll adjust, we’ll get by!
Yes, I know I look like a preschooler even though that photo is from my Junior Year in High School. Headbands were in style back then so LAY OFF!
A couple of weeks ago, I stopped at my parents’ house to help my Mom put away all the Christmas decorations because even though I moved out, I continue to be the backbone of the household. I honestly don’t think there is anything more depressing and exhausting than putting away Christmas decorations. I thought making Christmas cookies was terrible. Well, that task is a walk in the park compared to the chore of packing up all that Christmas spirit come January. As a stood in the Dining Room wrapping up the Christmas trinkets and Knick-knacks in newspaper, watching my hands turn black from all the newspaper ink, I started laughing about how tacky and ridiculous some of our old Christmas decorations are. Most of them are about 30 year-old homemade projects that we made in preschool that we continue to hang up every Christmas.
One of Jane’s masterpieces I like to call “receding hairline” angel. Nothing says “Christmas time” quite like this angel with the creepy grin, who looks like it’s flying around on the prowl to kidnap some children.
I made this one. I probably could have done a better job distributing the green glitter but IT’S CALLED ART OK YOU GUYS!
Every January we try to purge and get rid of some of these decorations, but we never do because someone always seems to have an emotional attachment to something. For the past decade my oldest sister Maggie has been trying to throw out the Frosty the Snowman Candle but her four siblings will have none of it. I remember the first time she tried to put him in the garbage, chaos and outrage ensued throughout the house. Frosty sparked quite the argument. I thought I even heard one of my siblings yell “crucify her” from another part of the house. Yes, things got heated but Frosty stayed cool through the whole thing and Maggie lost the battle. Plus, Frosty the Snowman is my Dad’s favorite song, we couldn’t POSSIBLY get rid of Frosty!
Frosty taunting Maggie with that big smirk on its face, knowing it will be able to enjoy at least one more Christmas.
Another time someone suggested we get rid of the “Red Ball” Christmas candle but that idea was quickly nicked due to its involvement in “Kathleen’s Candle tossing incident of 2002.” What was this incident you ask? Well, I was bored one school night and decided to make up a game where I repeatedly threw that red ball candle as high in the air in the living room as I could without it touching the ceiling. (Not to brag but I was pretty good at the game until I got too cocky). On one of my final tosses I wanted to see just how close I could get to the ceiling without actually hitting it. Well, turns out I am A LOT stronger than I may look because I threw it just a little too hard and a lot too high, hitting the living room ceiling and leaving a big, bright red mark on it. I immediately panicked because I knew my parents could be home at any moment so I stacked a bunch of dining room chairs on top of each other and attempted to scrub the red mark off the ceiling but it was not coming off. Mike Sr. and Mo Money were not too happy when they came home and saw the mark. But really, I still feel like the whole thing was kind of their fault because they were the ones who made up the rule that we could not watch TV on school nights. Had I been watching TV like all the other kids in America, maybe I wouldn’t have been tossing a candle around. Mike Sr. ended up having to repaint the entire ceiling so now the mark is gone, but my siblings like to hold on to the candle as a reminder of how dumb I was as a child.
My sister Bridget texted me this in early December. 17 years later and I’m still getting made fun of about the red ball candle incident.
The older I get, the more of an appreciation I have for all parents at Christmas time and all the effort they put in to making sure their kids have a happy, memorable Christmas. I remember one Christmas my Mom decided to be an ambitious Santa and she made all five of her kids one of those fleece-tie blankets. We came down the stairs Christmas morning and there under the tree were five blankets, a different pattern for each of us marked with our names. We started to run towards them to see which blanket was ours. “Careful kids,” My Mom casually cautioned from the couch as she sipped her coffee in her robe, still looking a little sleepy. “I’m pretty sure I left sewing needles in a few of those blankets so be sure to CHECK FOR NEEDLES before you use your blanket. I started to check last night but then was just too tired so I thought ‘forget it’ so it’s YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to check for needles before you decide to use your blanket or put it on your bed.” Just recently we were talking about this great gift but I think it sparked PTSD in my mom. “Ugh! I am NEVER doing THAT again!” My Mom said with disgust. “I don’t know what I was thinking! I was working on those darn blankets until about 3 in the morning and then you kids woke us up to open presents around 6! That was terrible!”
Santa, I think, got a little tired over the years. Being the fourth of the five kids I began to see Santa’s steady decline in energy and enthusiasm in his response to our letters. Every year we would leave Santa some milk and cookies on the table near the tree and a note with lots of questions. In the beginning Santa answered all our questions, but towards the end there Santa got a little short with his responses. I remember writing out a long letter with some of my siblings to Santa, asking numerous and detailed questions. When we woke up Christmas morning, Santa did leave us a letter in response, but all it said was “Dear Kelly Kids, to answer your questions, I use Magic. -Santa” He also ignored my gift requests. Every year I asked for a go-cart, Moon boots and a mini trampoline and I NEVER got them. I was a deprived child. Those moon boots would have come in handy when I was trying to scrub that candle mark off the ceiling.
By the time Jane, the fifth child, was into Christmas, believing in Santa and all that fun, Santa seemed to have no time for any magic or nonsense like that. “Wow!” Little Jane said after we had just finished opening all our presents. “Santa was really good to us this-” But before she had time to finish what she was saying my mom cut her off. “Mmmm yea,” my mom said, paying no attention to what Jane was saying. “Kids, I have the receipts to all those gifts, you are NOT going to hurt my feelings if you want to return something but if you do let me know ASAP! I am NOT spending the new year in the mall making a bunch of returns like last year! But I also DO NOT want to see any of the clothes I bought you hanging in the closet WITH THE TAG STILL ON a few months from now.” I saw Jane looking very confused wondering why our Mom would have receipts to gifts Santa brought, but then she got distracted playing with a toy and her confusion turned to happiness again.
I’m sure by the time Christmas rolled around my Mom and Dad were exhausted from all the shopping, decorating, long, boring Christmas Pageants and trying to send out a decent Christmas card. I know it was a long process trying to pick a photo that hid the fact that their five kids were lunatics. Fights always broke out when we were trying to take our Christmas card photo-Someone would hit someone, then someone would be crying, etc. Then you think you get your act together and have a good photo only to realize that someone had their eyes closed. Blinking during photos is a huge problem in our family because our baby blues/baby greens are very sensitive to the light.
Why am I in the back looking like I’m not part of the family at all but photo-bombing some other family’s picture? There was plenty of room on that step for me to squeeze in. As you can see we went with the “Turtle” theme with the turtle necks and Ninja Turtle shirt.
Kohl’s must have been having a pre-Christmas sale on khakis, or Mo had some Kohl’s cash she needed to burn.
So awkward that me, Maggie and Bridget showed up wearing THE SAME DRESS. What are the chances?! We all refused to change.
Mo was a huge fan of utilizing the stairs for the Christmas card photos, no matter how uncomfortable her children were.
I had to hold on to the railing for support after the leg injury I sustained posing for the first few takes.
Children of the corn take 1.
Mike and Mo must have thought, “Since our kids are at the most awkward stages of their lives, let’s take this year’s Christmas Card photo at 7am in the woods so they look awkward AND extremely tired.”
Those were happy tears Michael was crying… We swear!
Apparently I got distracted easily. Some things never change.
Michael looking thrilled, Jane looking like she’s the host of a daytime talk show.
So after contemplating putting some of those Christmas decorations in the donate pile, I finally just wrapped them up and put them back in our Christmas decorations box. I figure we can always decide next year if we want to get rid of anything. To outsiders our decorations may look weird and tacky (because they are) but they bring us happiness, and that’s all that really matters!
Baby Jane posing as if this was going to be on the cover of Baby Gap’s Christmas Catalog. Meanwhile I’m in the front looking like Dennis the Menace with my overalls and weird smile.
Counting down, the top five things I’ll miss about living at home:
5. The Fights About the Banana on the Counter
My parents and I did not fight often in the time that we lived together, but when we did it was usually about only extremely important matters-like fruit left out on the counter. You see, my father wakes up and starts his day much earlier than my Mom. He is usually up around 4:30am and has his breakfast around 6am or 7am, then he is ready to start his day-he’s the “get up and go” type. My mom, on the other hand, likes to start her mornings off much later and at a slower pace than my father. She sleeps in when she can and doesn’t eat her breakfast until around 11am or 11:30am. My Dad’s breakfast always consists of cereal with fruit and a yogurt. He likes to put berries and slices of banana on his cereal. For some reason he never wants to use up the whole banana though, only half, saving the other half for my mom to eat with her breakfast, leaving the rest of the banana on the kitchen counter for her to eat when she is ready for breakfast. You might be reading this and think “Oh that’s so cute! What a cute couple splitting a banana!” BUT IT’S NOT CUTE AT ALL. Bananas turn brown very fast after you unpeel them and start to smell. ESPECIALLY when the banana sits there for a few hours waiting for my mom to eat it. This banana always bothered me because I have a very heightened sense of smell and it just grossed me out. I was patient with it for a very long time but one morning I just could not take it any longer. Thus, a small argument took place:
Me: DAD, I CAN’T TAKE THIS BANANA ON THE COUNTER ANY LONGER! IT’S GROSS AND SMELLS! CAN WE PLEASE JUST THROW IT OUT! Dad: NO! Why would we throw it out?! It’s a perfectly good half of a banana! WE ARE NOT THROWING IT OUT! Me: It’s not even good anymore! It’s all brown and gross! No one should eat a brown banana! Dad: No, no. You see, all you have to do is take a knife and cut off a thin slice of where the banana was exposed to the air. Then it’s as good as new! DO NOT throw that banana out, Mom will eat it with her breakfast. Me: That could be 12 hours from now! You know mom doesn’t eat breakfast right when she gets up! Can’t you just use a whole banana in your cereal or buy smaller bananas?! Dad: The system Mom and I have in place works perfectly fine, there’s no need to buy smaller bananas. I don’t see any problem with leaving a banana on the kitchen counter for a few hours. Me: And you know what’s another thing?! Why do you have to reuse tea bags and leave them on the counter?! Is it still the Great Depression?! Can we not afford tea bags?! I will gladly start picking up the tab on boxes of tea for this house if that is the case! And I don’t even drink regular tea! Only Twisted Teas.
I had gotten so upset by the banana that I just couldn’t stop. I was like a bottle that had been shaken for too long and was now exploding. Eventually I collected myself and my dad and I were friends again.
That was the first of many banana on the counter fights. Once Jane moved back home she also got involved. It was the Baby Boomers against the Millennials when it came to the banana. In the end we lost, but Mike did start covering part of the banana in foil to help slow down the browning process.
It’s like, we get it, you’re married. You don’t need to split a banana to show people you love each other.
4. Having Meals Together
The part I will miss about having meals together with my old roommates is not really the food, but the conversation. Whether it was at the dinner table, or at our Saturday lunches at my Dad’s favorite burger place, Pappy’s, I knew I was in for a nice meaningful conversation. Just recently over dinner, my mom was telling us a great story about how her and my dad got carded at Pizza Hut in Michigan. She was extremely angry that they got carded. She told the story with as much hatred and passion as she would talk about her arch-enemy: energy-efficient washing machines. I remember wanting to ask her so many questions (i.e. Why they were dining at Pizza Hut, what kind of alcohol they were trying to order, how were the bread sticks, did they go with the stuffed crust or regular, etc.) but I did not want to interrupt her storytelling.
Me and Jane discussing a Pappy’s lunch. Definitely miss those free Pappy’s meals. Most conversations that happen at Pappy’s still consist of their decision to switch from Coke to Pepsi products.
Over another lunch, my mom told a more light-hearted story about how she accidentally went to church NUMEROUS times in a span of two days (and none of those days were a Sunday, it was all during the week!) During this story I felt it was ok to interrupt her so I interjected and said, “Excuse me Mom, but have you heard the song ‘And They’ll Know We Are Christian By Our Love?'” At the mention of that song, I saw her eyes light up and she said excitedly, “Oh yes! That is a great song! One of my favorites! But I don’t think they played that at any of the masses I went to, why do you ask?” “Oh ok,” I responded, “Just wanted to be sure because it seems like you are trying to show us how Christian you are by how many times you went to church. I on the other hand, like to live by that song and show I am Christian, specifically Catholic, by my love. Ok continue with your story.” “Oh you little smart ass!” She said as we all had a good laugh. But I laughed the hardest because like I always say, no one can make me laugh quite like I can.
I will really miss these stories and conversations but the good thing is since I live so close I can stop by and hear a good story from Mike or Mo any time I want. Now that the weather is colder it seems my Mom’s favorite topic of conversation is her heating pad. Mo loves her heating pads and uses them a lot. Not so much for aches and pains, but mainly to keep warm in the house since she lives with my dad. As part of a moving gift she bought me my own heating pad and every time I stop by she asks me about it.
Mom: Kathleen, did you try that new heating pad I got you yet? Me: No, not yet but I’m going to try it soon. Mom: I kind of splurged and went with the nicer one for you. You know my good heating pad broke at the end of last winter? Me: Yea, yea. No, I know, I remember-
At that point I tried to cut her off from her heating pad tirade but it was too late, she was on her way into the bathroom closet to take out her new heating pad, which she HATES, and have me feel the new, cheap material. Tragically, my mom’s favorite heating pad died at the end of last winter and she has not been able to find a good replacement. Just about each time I’ve been home since September she has found a way to bring up the heating pad, making a point to take it out of the closet and make me feel the cheap material.
Mom: Here FEEL THIS! (She says this as she shoves the heating pad in my face so I can feel the new material) Me: Yea, that’s… that’s not as soft a material as the old one. (I say as I grab her hands and slowly and cautiously try to lower the old heating pad down, away from my face) Mom: They DO NOT make heating pads like they used to, I even tried transferring the material from the old heating pad onto this new heating pad but it did not work. So let me know when you use yours I may get that same brand for myself.
3. Mornings With The Roommates
Mornings with the old roommates were always fun. My Dad is just a ball full of energy in the mornings, making jokes and whistling his favorite song, Frosty the Snowman, as he moves around the house. Mike Sr. thrives in the morning hours. One of his favorite morning activities is feeding our dog, Duke. It’s interesting that my Dad likes fixing hot, gourmet meals for the dog but doesn’t do that too often for his own kids. Jane and I love that our dad loves feeding Duke because it means we don’t have to do it. It was always the worst when my dad was gone traveling on business and Jane or I had to feed Duke because we were always running late.
Jane is the complete opposite of my dad when it comes to being a morning person. After about 30 alarms, Jane’s body would slowly make its way downstairs to the kitchen but I don’t think Jane’s soul got up until around noon because she was always a zombie before work.
Who needs an alarm clock when you can wake up to your dad whistling a Christmas tune?!
Jane’s soul-less body stares off into space while Duke waits patiently for Mike Sr. to make his hot breakfast.
“MIKE! WHERE’S MY BREAKFAST?!”-Duke
2. Being the Backbone of the Household
Jane and I would often joke with each other about which one of us was the backbone of the household. Mike and Mo were DEFINITELY out of the running after they bought their cottage in Michigan. After that purchase their main house was old news to them so Jane and I had to run things. Jane loved to claim that she was the backbone of the house but we all know I was the clear winner. I don’t know what I’ll do with all my free time now that I no longer have to keep a household together!
I borrowed her tan sandals in case anyone was wondering which shoes.
1. Mike And Mo
And the number one thing I’ll miss about living at home is having my parents, Mike and Mo as my landlords and roommates. I know they are technically two things but they are married and share one banana so they get to count as one. (Jane, don’t get me wrong I’ll really miss you too but I’m still a little salty from that time you abandon me for a few months to live your best life in Prague).
Sure, I will miss the free groceries, utilities and roof over my head, but what I’m really going to miss are a lot of the little things like watching Inside Edition with Mo or joking around with my Dad. So thanks, Mike and Mo for providing the best nest a baby bird could ask for. Thanks for putting up with my sarcastic comments, odd sleeping hours, goofiness, loud music and long showers for the past 27 years. I finally flew away, but I haven’t gone too far. In fact I’ll probably be back tonight to see what you guys had for dinner. You guys are welcomed at my new nest any time.
They were kind of always exclusive with their aprons but it’s fine.