A Creature WAS Stirring

A few weekends ago, I FINALLY finished putting away all our Christmas decorations. It was a process I had started on about January 2nd and over Martin Luther King weekend, I finished putting the last of the Christmas boxes away on the shelves. If you are the type of person who can put your Christmas decorations away all in one single day then I am very impressed. For me, I treat the task of putting Christmas decorations away much like I treat putting my laundry away: it takes at least 10-12 business days to complete. The intricate Post-Christmas process that I follow is one I learned from my mom. Here is how it usually goes:

Day 1: Undecorate tree. Unfortunately undecorating the tree took me twice as long this year because I had to sweep up LOTS of extra needles from our Charlie Brown tree. Mike and I were lazy and just went to Menards for our tree since it was closest to our house. They didn’t have much of a selection of real trees and they were all tied up in netting so you couldn’t really see what they looked like. BUT Menards was closest to our house and we were NOT about to make the effort to go anywhere else. So we brought our “6-7 foot” (so they claimed) real tree home in a shopping cart:

Taking ornaments off a tree is an extremely depressing task so after doing so you must treat yourself to a delicious lunch from one of your favorite local fast food establishments. Only fries can cure the “undecorating the tree” depression that sets in. But before you can eat you must collect all the knickknacks and set them on the dining room table so they are all in one spot, shoving aside the normal junk you leave on the dining room table to make room for the Christmas junk. After a long lunch break you bring up the Christmas boxes from the basement and start to put the holiday knickknacks away. BUT (and this is key) you don’t fully finish because you get tired/distracted by doing other things.

Day 2: Finish wrapping and putting knickknacks away in their boxes, making sure all garland and lights are taken down but leave garland/lights in a pile on the living room floor because you don’t have the energy to box those up quite yet. The Knicknack box on the other hand, is filled and lid is closed but that will remain in the living room for a few more days.

Day 3-7: Make some half assed attempts to finish putting everything away, maybe bring some boxes to the basement but do not put them away/on the shelves where they belong. Leave them in an inconvenient spot for everyone else in the household, blocking something all other house members need to access regularly or leave in a main traffic area of the basement. This year I decided to leave a pile of Christmas boxes right at the bottom of our basement stairs, forcing us both to go around the barricade every time we needed to go to a certain part of the basement.

Day 8-9: This is “The Limbo Stage” where you will see decorations you missed in the house when you aren’t even looking for them, just going about your day. Then you’ll say to someone, “Ah! Look at this! A Christmas decoration that escaped us!! It’s a good thing I didn’t put those boxes away yet so I can add this to them!”

Day 10-12: Look at the Christmas boxes and hate yourselves just slightly for being the way that you are, and finally put them away. A process that takes about five minutes but you’ve successfully dragged out over a course of a few days.

As sad and depressing as putting away Christmas decorations are, as I was doing it, I was thinking back to the Christmas prior and I smiled because I felt grateful that this Christmas we did not have the same creature stirring this holiday season that we did the previous. Yes, last Christmas a mouse decided to Air BnB our home during the cold winter months. For a while I was too ashamed and embarrassed to say this publicly but I am tired of that mouse silencing and controlling us. WE DID NOTHING WRONG. We keep a clean house. We store our food properly. We wondered what we did to deserve such a thing. Mice will do that to you. They will make you feel bad about yourselves and keep you living in fear. The mice are gone now but every time Mike and I see a small shadow or something grabs our attention on the floor we jump a little thinking it might be a mouse.

We think the mouse moved in while we were away in Ireland. We arrived home from our trip on December 1st and soon realized we were not alone. We had squatters. It was a Saturday night and we were staying in, I had just made us a delicious meal of chicken nuggets and fries that I had spent A LOT of time taking out of the freezer and we were sitting down to watch “A Christmas Story” with some cocktails when the mouse first showed himself. We both thought we were seeing things when something scurrying across the floor grabbed our attention. Then he ran by again and I’m pretty sure all three of us let out screams.

Right from the start Mike was ready to fight to the death, but I wanted to go about it in a more humane way. I wanted him to maybe trap the mouse and let him go many miles away where he could live happily in a field somewhere? I didn’t want to kill the little guy. I mean, in my experience, mice were always pretty harmless, even cheerful and friendly-You have Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Stuart Little, etc. Plus what if it turned out we had one of the Three Blind mice staying with us? How bad would we feel if we killed a BLIND MOUSE?! Just awful.

Well my tune quickly changed when I started to feel personally victimized by the mouse. First, he got into the basket where we store our blankets and my heating pads and ate through all MY microwavable heat wraps. No one messes with things that keep me warm! NO ONE! Since this incident happened while my husband Mike was away on business and I was the woman AND man of the house that week, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. So being the independent woman that I am, I rolled up my sleeves, texted him a photo of what happened, and left everything until he returned:

This was the third heat wrap he ate that little fattie. Also side note but since I am such a strong and brave woman though, I did not end up crying.

Since I am basically Saint Francis of Assisi and love all animals, I let the heat wrap slide with the mouse. BUT THEN, one night, he somehow got into MY backpack that I take to work everyday and ate a packet of oatmeal I was going to have for breakfast that morning! (Quaker Apples & Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal in case anyone was wondering). That was the final straw.

It was after these vicious attacks from the mouse that I finally gave the order to “take care of the mouse” in a manner much like Pontius Pilate did to Jesus. “CRUCIFY THAT MOUSE, MIKE! I WANT HIM OUT OF HERE!” I yelled.

From there, Mike turned our house into a war zone against the mouse, setting all different kinds of traps everywhere:

Who needs presents under the Christmas tree when you could have a dead mouse?

I swear, Mike set up more elaborate traps for this mouse than Macaulay Culkin did trying to catch Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in the movie “Home Alone”. But despite his best efforts, this turned out to be a very smart mouse and somehow kept avoiding all the traps he set in place. The mouse and trying to catch him consumed us both. It was all we could talk about. We hardly talked about our excitement over recycle can pick-up garbage day anymore! (Which only occurs every OTHER week, super confusing). To make matters worse, I was starting to think the mouse was paying my nieces and nephews, who I nanny for everyday, to harass me. Each day during story time they “just so happen” to pick out a mouse-themed book. Coincidence? I think not:

As you can tell, after reading about the mouse, Bridie was Team Kill.

The mouse got more and more comfortable in our home the longer he stayed with us. On Christmas night as we were sitting in our living room, enjoying the Christmas tree and the glow of our fake fire from our broken fireplace, we both heard a noise coming from the kitchen. We paused the movie we were watching to listen again. It sounded like someone taking aluminum foil off something. We both jumped up and ran to the kitchen and quickly flipped on the light just in time to see the mouse eating the Christmas coffee cake that was wrapped up on our counter. I was grossed out but Mike was LIVID that the mouse decided to eat that specific coffee cake, one from the local bakery that he was really looking forward to having for breakfast the next morning. “OUT OF ALL THE LEFTOVERS,” Mike said fuming, “HE WENT FOR THE ONLY ONE I WANTED! He could have gone for the store bought donuts we left wrapped up on the counter but no, he just HAD to go for the good stuff! The Wolf’s Bakery Coffee cake. I am so disappointed!” Mike was angry and upset. Even though I too was not happy with the mouse, feeling the Christmas spirit, I did encourage Mike to think about how the mouse felt. The mouse was probably just as disappointed to not get his Christmas treat. He probably thought we had gone to bed and snuck in for his little midnight snack and we caught him before he could dig into his Christmas feast. It was a real tragedy all around. There were no winners in the coffee cake situation.

One night when out with friends, we finally confided in them about our mouse ordeal, sharing the big shameful secret we had been hiding for a while. We were worried how everyone would reacted (Would they still be friends with us?!) But it turns out EVERYONE’S life had been touched by a mouse in some way, shape or form. Everyone had their own mouse story to share and tips on ways to slaughter the thing. One friend even “had a guy” who could take care of the mouse for us.

After using everyone’s mouse tips and tricks, Mike got the mouse. We thought that was the end of our mouse journey, but no, there were more. I was the one to discover this and so I had to gently tell Mike, who was still celebrating his victory over getting the mouse, that there were others. “Mike,” I said with a sigh, “I think that mouse you killed had offspring, there are more mice in our house.” “Aww no,” He said sadly, “Please don’t say that.” “I know,” I replied, equally as sad, “I don’t like the idea of killing mice children either, I’m sad about it too but I think it has to be done-” Mike quickly cut me off “What? No! I don’t care about killing the mouse’s children!” He said sternly, “I’m just upset there are more mice!” “Oh,” I said with a laugh “I thought you were sad about killing a whole mouse family like I was!” “NO!” He said quickly, “These mice need to go!”

So after that, I don’t know how he did it because I don’t like to ask questions about it, but Mike got all the mice. We are now a mouse free household again. We no longer have to live in fear, but we still have some PTSD from the traumatic ordeal.

Recently, while nannying one day, I was telling my nieces and nephews our mouse story. They wanted to see a photo of the mouse, which I of course didn’t have and I told them that. But they demanded a photo and wouldn’t leave me alone about it until they saw photographic evidence. So, knowing that children are notoriously dumb, I used my quick thinking skills and showed them a stock photo of a mouse that I Googled:

Didn’t even take the time to crop this screen shot I took and yet they were satisfied knowing that this was the exact mouse that was in “Aunt Kath and Uncle Montag’s” House.

After telling them the story, the kids ask me about the mouse almost every day. I think telling it has helped me heal. I am happy that now, I have all new heat wraps/heating pads and my only roommate now is Mike.

Farmer Kath and Her Bountiful Harvest

The other night I made dinner for Mike and myself. Like all of my cooking attempts, we really weren’t sure how this dinner was going to turn out. (We always keep our medicine cabinet stocked with Tums, Pepto Bismal, antacids, etc so we are prepared for my dinners). Much to our shock, it actually tasted good! AND I made the dinner using fresh tomatoes from my garden in the backyard. Did I feel confident enough to be on the cover of “Good Housekeeping” Magazine after my one amazing dinner? You bet I did. Not only did I cook a dinner that was edible, but my summer project of “Having a Garden” turned out to be a success as well. It wasn’t an easy road to get those tasty tomatoes into our dinner though.

Honestly could not believe it ACTUALLY turned out ok so I had to text my Mom. Sometimes, I surprise myself.

My vision of a garden all started this past spring. It was another cold, rainy, dreary day in Chicago. At that time it seemed it had been raining every day for weeks! After so much time, weather like that started to affect both Mike and my mood and we were feeling a little down. I started thinking towards the summer and needed a project to keep me busy. That’s when the idea of having a garden popped in my head. At dinner that night I excitedly explained my plans to Mike. He was very supportive and on board with my big idea. But he did delicately question my project choice. “Sounds like a great summer project, Kath!” He said, trying to match my enthusiasm. “But, just curious…why are you choosing to grow a garden for your summer project… given your track record with accidentally killing most of our plants in the past?” He said it in the kindest way possible, but we both knew I was a plant serial killer. Not on purpose, of course, but it was the truth. Any plant someone would give me or I’d buy seemed to immediately die in my hands. It was as if my thumbs were poisonous and not green at all.

My Husband Mike sent out this Snap Chat. I thought I’d give one of my plants I was gifted a little more breathing room, “set it free” outside if you will, but it backfired on me.
I was able to get “the paddles” out on this plant and bring it back to life. It’s currently on life support though.

Anytime my Mom, who basically runs her own house plant hospital, came over to our house I could feel her looking around at my dead plants and judging me. My house was like walking through a plant funeral home to her. “Looks like your plants here could use a little water…want me to give this one a little drink?” She’d say and she walked around frowning at all the houseplant corpses I had. “I DID WATER IT BUT I THINK I ACCIDENTALLY DROWN IT SO JUST LAY OFF, MOM!!” I’d think as I’d watch her judging eyes scanning my plants.

I was determined to prove that I could keep something alive so I told Mike that I was going to, as my Grandma used to say “come Hell or high water” grow us some vegetables that summer. He, as always, offered his support and wanted to know how he could help. But I knew this was something I needed to try do on my own.

As I tell you about my journey, readers should know about a few of my many characters flaws. First, while I am a big “ideas” person, my follow-through could use some work. So when Mike cautioned me to “Maybe start out small” I basically shut him down and shared with him my plans to become a full-time farmer. I was going to grow any vegetable you can imagine, plus pumpkins and watermelon, different herbs and spices, etc. Why would we buy produce at the grocery store when I could grow it in our own backyard! The other thing readers should know is that’s while I come to the table with great project ideas, I tend to procrastinate a bit on starting, sometimes waiting until the last minute. But at this time, I was still riding high from this big project I was excited to start, so the very next day after telling Mike my plans, I went to Menards to check out the garden center and get my supplies. I got in the store, realized all the supplies I needed was in the “outdoor” garden center, and turned right around and left as it was a rather chilly spring day and I did NOT want to be outside looking at plants in the cold springtime weather. I went right home and snuggled up by my space heater and promised myself I’d go back when the weather was slightly warmer. (I mean the wind chill that day- no thanks. It was in the 50s).

A few weekends later Mike was going to Menards so I decided to join him and check out the garden center again since the weather was more conducive to garden center shopping (Unlike my last attempt!) But I ended up getting distracted by the basil section. My soon-to-be Brother-in-Law’s nickname is “Basil” so I had to take some photos with the basil plants and send it to him! It’s not everyday you see basil plants so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share the experience with other Basils!

It’s true, people were wondering why I was acting like the Basil plant was a celebrity and we got a lot of looks our way.

Most of the month of May I spent telling people about my plans for this amazing garden but not actually doing anything to make it happen. I talked about it to anyone who would listen-at family dinners, Bridal showers I attended, out at the bars. Pretty much everyone in the Chicagoland area knew of my gardening plans. I was taking vegetable requests from people and even told my mom I’d “lease her some of my land” if she wanted to grow some tomatoes of her own after I finished tilling the soil (which I hadn’t started yet).

A few weeks later on a Saturday when Mike was doing yard work I announced that I was going to start clearing my land for my garden. I made a big deal about it, acting like the town crier as I announced to him how I was finally starting work on my garden. If I had a bell I would have been ringing it throughout our backyard as I yapped away to him. Once I was done running my mouth and making myself laugh, I got out a shovel to start digging. Unfortunately for me, the first time that shovel hit the dirt it was like hitting concrete. Yikes! I didn’t say anything at first but in my head I thought “Oh HELLLLL NO! I am NOT dealing with this today!” It was a Saturday and I wasn’t in the mood for all that work and getting dirty. We had plans later and I already washed my hair the night before. (It was not a hair washing shower day for me, only a body washing shower day) But I couldn’t just say that out loud because I knew Mike was watching me with a grin so I turned to him and said, “You know what? On second thought, I think I’ll do this gardening later in the week. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow and the ground will be much softer after that.” And I put down my shovel and went right back inside.

The correct answer was none of the above because it was not a hair washing shower day for me, only a body washing shower day so I couldn’t not risk getting my hair dirty doing yard work.

As summers tend to do, the summer days somehow flew by and suddenly we were coming up on the Fourth of July. I had bought vegetable seeds but did no tilling of soil and no planting. I didn’t even have overalls. I’d say my land was barren but it was not, it was full of weeds and other wild plants that I was supposed to clear away in the spring. The vegetable seeds just sat on our kitchen counter starring me in the face every time I walked by.

But, lucky for me, a farming miracle happened. I got together with some old work friends for a little Fourth of July party and one of my friend’s asked how my garden was coming along. When I told her I hadn’t started, she told me her father had a surplus of vegetable plants that he would be happy to give me. All I had to do was plop them in the ground and water them. Talk about winning the vegetable garden lottery! Fast forward a few days and I am having a lovely summer afternoon with my friend Jan and my new friend “Papa” out in his backyard. Papa walked me through his amazing and expansive garden and taught me lots of things about growing vegetables. He then generously gave me all different types of tomato and pepper plants. It was a great day. And it finally lit a fire in me to clear that land and get those vegetables in. I did not want to let Papa down.

I was not playing soccer goalie here but clearing my farm land. I picked a nice sunny spot behind our garage.
I finished clearing my land and soon I had some lazy-ass birds hovering around me and my new garden looking to score a worm from my freshly tilled dirt. I told them to beat it. Where were they when I needed help shoveling and weeding? No free lunches at the Montag House.

Once I got my vegetable plants planted I took VERY special care of them. Full disclosure, there were a few weeks over the summer that the plants did not receive much water due to me “forgetting about my garden” (in my defense, a garden behind the garage is a forgettable location but it was sunny) but I think that made my plants stronger. So really I did them a service. Right around Labor Day my first crop came in. I was over the moon:

I will confess I did get a little jealous when I discovered another tomato farmer in the area, who also happens to be my three year old niece, was yielding more crops than me. But it wasn’t a competition, OK?!

Those tomatoes look genetically modified if you ask me.

While I think I could make some improvements for next summer’s garden, overall, I’d say my garden project was a huge success this summer. I learned a lot, made a wonderful new friend and even hosted a few farm conferences with some fellow farmers to discuss the challenges of backyard farming:

Farmer Ciara’s speciality is growing extremely large zucchinis.

Unfortunately at the conference we did have one disrespectful Farmer fall asleep during our discussion on the use of Miracle Grow. Clearly she’s in the wrong profession and was just there for the free lunch.

We think she’s a Dairy Farmer.
Here we had Farmer Michael leading the group in a discussion entitled “Zucchini: Tasty Vegetable or Dangerous Weapon?”
Farmer Ciara always handles giant zucchini with caution.

So put in your vegetable requests now, because its official and I am happy to report that after a successful 2022 season, Farmer Kath’s Garden will be returning for the Summer of 2023.

Dinner And A Show-Where Can I Leave My Yelp Review?

Last week my husband Mike was out of town on a business trip so my Mom invited me over for dinner. It was nice of her to invite me over but she definitely had ulterior motives-her and my Dad had just bought a new TV so they needed their “Tech Girl” to come over and set it up. (My family refers to me as “Tech Girl” as a way of putting an affectionate spin on to getting me to do their Tech ‘bitch’ work for them. Smart, right?) I finished setting up the TV but had to break the news to them that the new TV would no longer fit on their 80’s style TV stand. My Mom was just appalled and disgusted. “I bet the TV companies do this on purpose just so that you have to go out and buy a new TV stand!” She said, “It’s all a scam to get you to spend more money!” She was just shocked that a flat screen TV would not fit on a stand her and my Dad bought back when Reagan was in office, one that had compartments for a VCR and even storage for VHS tapes. “Mom, this TV stand is made for those old box-y TVs,” I said back, “This stand is older than I am. I don’t think the TV companies are trying to scam you, I think maybe it’s just time to get a TV stand made for TVs that have been made in this century.” I then told her I could order a new TV stand for her and it could be there the next day but instead she ignored me saying, “Hold on, let me get Dad from his office downstairs and see if he has any ideas.” So there I stood with the TV all hooked up on the floor as I waited for my Mom to get my Dad from his basement office. As they came back up the stairs I could hear my mom filling my Dad in “the problem.” As they made their way into the TV room my Dad looked at the new TV on the floor and the old TV stand and just said, “Oh Hell! This crappy new tv probably wasn’t even made in the United States! Well, let me see what I can do.” Then I just watched as he tried to make the TV fit on the TV stand without success. “Yea, like I said… you guys need a new TV stand,” I started to say, “They are pretty cheap at Target I can order you guys one-” And that’s when my Dad, who was not listening to me at all, abruptly cut me off and said to my mom “Hold on Mo I’ve got an idea.” I’ve heard my Dad say that before, so I knew I wouldn’t like what was coming next. That’s when my Dad went into the garage and got a piece of wood, came back inside to where my Mom and I were standing in the TV room with the TV, placed the board on the old TV stand, and then placed the new TV on the board. Then he took a step back, smiled and admired his work and said, “There! Problem solved!” I was stunned. I looked around the room, thinking ‘this cannot be happening right now,’ what is this crazy old geezer I call my father doing? And then, just when I thought things could not get any worse my Mom says, “What a great idea Mike! Good thinking!” My first thought was ‘Mom how dare you encourage this behavior’ and the second was ‘Have the Baby Boomers gone mad?!!’ I snapped out of my catatonic state and finally said “Absolutely not! No, no, no, no. This is not ok and I cannot be part of this! It looks like you are building an altar here and then gave up and decided to place a TV on it!” That’s when my dad tried to argue that the set up was “perfectly fine” and my mom tried to say “It would just be temporary.” But I was roommates with these two Baby Boomers for a long time so I knew their game.

The TV Altar. If any of you Catholics missed mass this weekend I’m sure Mike Sr. and Mo would be happy to move the TV over and call in a priest to say a quick TV Room mass for you.

I then texted my four siblings for emotional support:

Once I was done making fun of my parents, and after my Dad called me both a “little smart ass” and a “little brat” we eventually had dinner. Over dinner we talked about the grapes my Dad had bought at the store, whether it’s better to have “fair grapes” (meaning grapes that don’t taste very good) or “no grapes at all” (My mom, sister Jane and I voted no grapes and my Dad was team fair grapes) and then we went on to discussing the ungrateful “welfare birds” (As my Dad calls them), just the usual things. After dinner I drove home laughing. When you stop at Mike and Mo’s, they always provide you with dinner and a show. You never really know what kind of hilarious antics they are getting into.

Mo Money keeps buying “welcome blend” and Mike Sr. would prefer if she didn’t.

A few months prior my Mom kindly invited me for dinner while my husband Mike was traveling. (Mo Money and Mike Sr like to keep me fed). I was doing what I do best-sitting on the couch, going through their DVR, looking for a good Inside Edition or Dateline to watch while my Mom was in the kitchen prepping her meal. (I did offer to help but she told me I’d be on for clean-up). My Dad came downstairs from doing his favorite activity-emptying all the wastebaskets in the house- and into the kitchen/TV room area. Just as I was about to relax and settle in for a juicy “Inside Edition” with Debrah Norville, I heard my Mom say to my Dad in a rather serious tone. “Ok, Mike, should we do it now? Are you ready?” “I’m ready if you are, Mo.” He replied back. My head immediately turned as I could tell something was up. “Oh no…what’s going on?!” I said, rather frantic. They both ignored my question. I could tell they didn’t want to tell me but I persisted. “WHAT IS GOING ON WHAT ARE YOU TWO UP TO?!” “Well…” My Mom said rather quietly, “We didn’t want to tell you since we know how sensitive you are to smells, but the sauerkraut in the fridge has gone bad…turns out it expired a while ago, so Dad is going to help me dump it out right in the garbage outside. Then we are taking the jar right to the laundry tub in the basement so I don’t think you should smell a thing!” “OH MY GOD WHAT?!” I cried. I had so many thoughts running through my head I didn’t know where to start. Who eats sauerkraut in our family? Why have they come up with a whole mission to save this jar? What is sauerkraut exactly? What is it used on? (I later Googled this). My Dad chimed in “Well since you have a nose like a HOUND DOG and are over today we are doing this special procedure for you, you little brat!” “Ahh Thanks?” I said sarcastically “But I don’t understand. Just throw the whole thing out! Right in the garbage! Don’t even open the jar! If it’s expired it’s going to smell horrible!” “No!” My mom said firmly, “It’s a good jar and I want to keep it.” “I will buy you a new jar! I replied, “They sell them places!” But my Mom stood firm. “No, this is a good glass jar, I want to save it for when I make my mustard.” Wow. Shots fired. She KNOWS I also HATE MUSTARD so she was not messing around. “It’s a nice jar.” My Dad confirmed. I started laughing and said dramatically, “I’m gonna VOM all over the place!” Then I started doing an impression of our old dog Duke throwing up (I’m really good at that impression and it always gets laughs) “Mo, look at this weirdo!” My Dad said laughing. “You guys are the weirdos that are saving a sauerkraut jar!” I said back. “Um, don’t you need to go home soon?” My Dad asked. “Don’t lie!” I said, you know you miss having your little smart ass around.

Yup, I’ve been an old married HAG for a bit now but before that me, Mike Sr. and Mo Money used to be on and off roommates for quite some time. I used to experience incidents like the sauerkraut jar or TV altar daily back when I was living with them. The three of us would have some ridiculous conversation and banter and then we’d gather for dinner where we’d have more ridiculous conversation and banter. I’d make fun of my Dad, he’d call me a “little snip” or a “little smart ass,” my Mom would laugh and then my dad would make fun of me. After dinner, when my Dad had had enough of us he’d retire to the basement and watch his show in his recliner and my mom and I would stay upstairs, our heating pads set on high, and settle on the couch for a good murder show.

My Mom liked to multitask during shows because “they kill you with commercials on Dateline.” Pun intended by Mo? So she would put me to work helping her with her phone AND PUT ME ON REMOTE DUTY while she read the obituaries. But Maureen “Phone Calls” Kelly would have so many after dinner calls to make it would take us FOREVER to get through a show.
Whenever something happened with the TV my parents would just say “The TV is broken” and wait there until I fixed it. It was as if suddenly they could not move their arms whenever a tech issue arose.
My Mom once watched the world’s most depressing Dateline without me and then wanted to RUIN MY DAY by making me watch it too.

There was an incident when I lived with my parents that I thought my Mom was trying to make me the subject of the next Dateline-The “tortilla soup incident” when my Mom may or may not have tried to poison me. It was a normal day just like any other, my mom was preparing one of her famous “fend for yourselves” dinners, not to be confused with her “clean out the fridge” dinners. “Fend for yourselves” was when there was nothing in the fridge except probably that jar of sauerkraut and my Mom informed us to just heat up something in the fridge. My parents were “splitting a salad” and did offer me some but since I am not a bunny rabbit and it looked like my dad had mulched the lawn and then threw everything from the yard in the salad, I respectfully declined. That’s when my Mom informed me there were cans of soup that I could crack open and from there things took a dark turn:

Me: Yea, I’m just going to have soup, it’s freezing in this house anyway. Is the heat even on?
Mom: Well I keep telling you, the sweatshirts you are wearing are too thin! You need to put on a thicker sweatshirt!
Me: Mom! I keep telling YOU that I don’t own a sweatshirt factory! I can’t designate how thick or thin they make the sweatshirts! I just buy them.
Mom: Look at me, layers! See I have a turtle neck, sweater and my Columbia fleece on!
(During this time I had cracked open a can of tortilla soup and started heating it on the stove)
Me: Mom, this soup looks a little weird, are you sure it’s still good?
Mom: I’m sure it’s fine.
Dad: I don’t know Mo, how long have those cans been in there?
Mom: Here, let me taste. Taste fine to me, you can eat it.
(I finish heating up my questionable soup, pour it in a bowl and sit down, trying to force myself to eat it. My hand shakes as I bring the spoon to my mouth. After two spoonfuls I give up)
Me: Ok I can’t eat this, I have to dump this! This taste awful! I think it’s gone bad.
Mom: Yea, it didn’t taste very good when I tried it. Go ahead and dump it.
(Me and my Dad look at each other and start laughing)
Me: Well then why did you tell me that it was fine and that I should eat it?!
Mom: Well I don’t like that type of soup, so you shouldn’t have asked me to try it in the first place.
Me: (laughing) Well maybe you could have informed me of that to begin with! I’ll probably get food poisoning from this.

My mom just shrugged her shoulders. That night, despite the murder attempt, I was able to make it to the couch for our show time, but I did request we watch Inside Edition and not Dateline that night-it just hit too close to home. And I allowed a little more space between us on the couch, just to be safe. I almost went so far as to go in the basement with my Dad, but the thought of having to sit through one of his dumb shows was too much, so I risked it and stayed upstairs with my Mom.

My Dad never really watched any shows with me and my mom, not because he was scared of my Mom would murder him, he just preferred his alone time in the basement. Once during showtime my Dad just decided to go for a walk and I went down to the basement and I discovered that he had just left his show on pause when he left the house! Growing up my Dad would NEVER let us do this, and if he caught us he’d ask “Is the couch watching TV?” So I decided to give him a taste of his own medicine:

As you can see, I took photos at several angles so there was indisputable proof that he had in fact, left the tv on in an empty room. At least when my Mom went with him she had the common decency to turn the TV off and leave a note for me:

Mo Money is all business, she has no time to sign her full name of “MOM.”

My parents have always been so generous towards their five children and I am grateful that they allowed me to be their on again off again roommate for so long. Other than the one incident, the the service at Mike and Mo’s is always great. You can never leave their house in a bad mood, it’s nearly impossible. I always leave laughing. After I moved out it dawned on me though that I never left my Yelp review, like I always joked I would. So Mom and Dad, from your fourth child and “Little Smart Ass” you get a glowing review with five stars all around.

Auntie Kath Poppins

The other day I was watching my sister Maggie’s kids while she was working. As I and and my nieces and nephew, Michael, Ciara and Bridie, were sitting around the kitchen table shooting the breeze and having a brew – I mean having a snack – my sister Maggie came up from the dungeon she calls her basement office. “How’s everyone’s day going? Are you having fun with Aunt Kath?!” My sister asked her children excitedly as she came into the kitchen, giving each one a big hug and kiss. My day was going fine, THANKS FOR ASKING, MAG! I thought to myself as I got no hug. Maggie sat down and asked little Michael, Ciara and Bridie, “What have you guys been up to?” So far that day we had played in the snow, we’d read stories, played with kinetic sand (which was an absolute pain to clean up I might add). We’d danced to animal freeze dance, we drew pictures, we all ate a pretend breakfast at the kids’ pretend restaurant. (The service was TERRIBLE by the way.) I did so much with these children I thought the Babysitter’s Club was going to call me up and ask me to be their next president (I would have respectfully declined, but it would have been an honor just to have been asked.) But what do these kids answer back when their mother asks what we have been up to?
Ciara: Aunt Kath said we could make a smoothie and we haven’t made a smoothie yet.
Michael: Mom, when can we watch our show? Aunt Kath said we have to wait to watch our show and I want to watch “Octonauts.”
Bridie: **Says nothing.** (Now granted she’s only one, but her silence spoke volumes to me)

Wow. “Are these children serious right now?” I said to my sister, who just sat there and laughed. “Oh, ok, is this the game we’re going to play with Mom?” I said to the kids. “Are these the shots we’re going to take? Ok well I’m at the free throw line right now and I have a LOT of shots to take: not bringing plates to the sink, no please or thank yous, fighting. You know the deal – we make smoothies and watch a show AFTER the toys are cleaned up, and you two have not keep your end of the bargain.”

I wrote a SCATHING Yelp review on their Pretend Restaurant after they complained about me to their Mom. I RIPPED this restaurant apart.

It’s funny what kids choose to remember or not remember. I babysat for them in November and had to scold the dog ONE TIME for taking food off of the baby’s high chair tray, and ever since then Ciara reminds me every day of that time I called Winston a bad dog. “Aunt Kath, Winston’s not a bad dog; he just doesn’t know any better, so don’t call him a bad dog.” And then she repeats that same phrase to me about 17 times in a row. “Yes Ciara, I know Winston is not a bad dog,” I always say back. But then, since I am an Aries, the Ram, I always have to add in for my own satisfaction, “But as I’ve said before, I don’t regret calling him a bad dog because he WAS being a bad dog that day. So, say all you want, but I regret nothing.” The other day when I came over and she reminded me yet again that Winston was not a bad dog I told her parents that she will probably be sure to have this etched into my headstone when I die. “Loving Aunt… Once called Winston a bad dog and he’s not a bad dog.”

Here I am attending a walk with Winston. He didn’t want to be photographed (he hates social media), but you can see his butt (it’s the brown furry butt) on the left. Let this be proof that I do actually like Winston.

With my sister Maggie having recently gone back to work, she and her husband have been doing the balancing act that many parents do – managing childcare while both working full time on different schedules. It’s a tough act, and some may say they could use a Mary Poppins to come help out. But who needs Mary Poppins when you have someone better – Auntie Kath Poppins? So with my sister back at work I have been spending a lot more time with my nieces and nephew. It has been an absolute joy, and not just because I get to fulfill my lifelong dream of riding around town in a Honda Mini Van with 17 cupholders.

This was pre-swing through the Dunkin drive through, so that’s why Ciara wasn’t smiling yet. But as you can see, appreciation for cupholders runs in the family as Ciara would only sit in a carseat with ample cupholders.

It’s been a lot of fun hanging out with my nieces and nephew, and babysitting them more often has taught me a lot. Here are the top five things I have learned from spending my days with my buddies:

  1. Moms and Dads do not get enough credit!
    I’m not a regular Mom, I’m a cool Godmom, but after watching three children, I have so much more respect for all Moms and Dads. DAY TO DAY TASKS ARE SO MUCH HARDER WITH CHILDREN! As my husband Mike knows, I can’t, for the life of me, seem to be on time for anything, no matter how hard I try. And that is just getting myself somewhere on time. So trying to get myself plus three children anywhere on time has been a challenge. I learned this the hard way when trying to get the kids to their swim class and Ciara to Farm Camp (and yes there is a thing called “Farm Camp”). When I first started watching the kids, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that putting shoes and socks on to go outside took about an hour. And the kids take a really long time too! 😉 Buckling seat belts, packing snacks, extra diapers – going anywhere takes FOREVER. When my sister first trained me on packing for swim class I thought she was packing us up to send us off on a Florida beach vacation there was so much stuff.

Ever since I started babysitting I have gained much more respect for parents that get their children to events on time. To my husband Mike, if you’re reading this, just a suggestion here, but maybe you should be in charge of getting our future children to places on time because you know if I take them we will be late and it will give you anxiety.

To all parents reading this, whether you currently have young children or if your children are grown – I think you all are superheroes.

Even though there were six empty chairs, Ciara decided to sit right on her Mom’s lap while she was trying to work.
Superheroes

2. Mental toughness is key.
One day as I was crouched on the floor helping my two year old niece Ciara pull up her pants, her hands on my shoulders, our noses about two inches apart from each other (following COVID protocol of course) I noticed she was looking at my face with a concerned look. Finally, she opens her mouth and asks, “Aunt Kath, you have owies on your face?” What I wanted to say was, “No Ciara, it’s called adult acne, and dermatologists still can’t seem to find a cure SO STOP POINTING OUT MY FLAWS AND JUST LAY OFF, OK? But instead I calmly said, “Yes Ciara, I have owies on my face.” Then she asked, “Why don’t Montag put band aids on your owies, Aunt Kath?” I thought this was quite cute that she legit did not understand why my husband wasn’t putting band aids on my “owies” and almost made up for the terrible insult she just threw at me. Aww, I thought to myself, I guess I can subtract one hour from my “crying into my pillow time” tonight after that comment. But then she started counting the owies on my face so my self-esteem took a real deep dive and I added a few MORE hours to pillow crying.

That was the thanks I got after dealing with everyone’s bodily fluids? You really have to be mentally tough to deal with the whole… bathroom stuff. Auntie Kath Poppins tries to take her mind and her nose to a different place when those things are going on. When I lift one of the kids onto the toilet and I see their facial expressions shift from a smile to a frown, brows furrowed, teeth clenched, body shaking, that’s when I say, “Ok, Aunt Kath’s going to give you a minute. You just yell when you’re done.” And I leave the bathroom for a bit. Then I hear the call and I go in and they are ready for me, already in position like a football player in the three point stance ready to make a play. During these times I may be physically present, but my mind is elsewhere.

3. Repetitiveness is the name of the game.
I’ve learned that children are creatures of habit. They like to read the same books, watch the same shows, and listen to the same songs over and over… and over again. It’s like they purposely want these things embedded into your brain. Some of these children’s shows and stories are just plain weird too. I’m almost embarrassed my nieces and nephews like them.

When playing hide and seek they even like to hide in the same exact spots. Now, I have experience in acting. Not to brag, but In 7th grade I was in the Most Holy Redeemer production of “Newsies” starring as an extra newsie, AND I took ONE semester of acting in high school. So would I call myself a talented actress? Yes. But after a while it is hard to act like you don’t know where they are hiding.

4. They suck the life right out of you.
Children really keep you running around, and they always want what you want. I am always thirsty and need water, so I keep a water bottle with me at all times. I could give the kids 30 water bottles and they would still drink out of mine. The other day I turned around just in time to see my nephew finish taking a big gulp of my water. The afternoon sunlight was coming through the window so I could see all the backwash drift down into my water bottle just perfectly as he set it back on the table. It was really a beautiful sight to see. Also, do you ever want to stop and eat something? Well, kids don’t let you do that either. They could have a feast in front of them and if you take out one scrap for yourself to eat in a corner they will be on you in a millisecond, crawling on your lap stealing the food from your mouth. Each day I come home from babysitting, I basically collapse on the couch and say, “Ahhhh Mikkkkkeeeeeeeeee I’m so tired. Want to watch an episode of Breaking Bad?” Again, Moms and Dads do not get enough credit – they never get to rest.

Hugging Michael and holding on tightly to BOTH my drinks in this photo. It’s called multitasking.

5. Children are hilarious and will always leave you with a smile.
Having the opportunity to look after my nieces and nephew has really been awesome. They bring such joy and happiness to my life and each day have me laughing. They are “my buddies” and I’ve greatly enjoyed being able to spend more time with them. I think Dunkin has seen an increase in my coffee buying habits though, but this has been a win for everyone as Aunt Kath always brings the kids donuts when she gets her Dunkin. Already the kids have taught me so much, and my appreciation for all parents has grown exponentially! But I think overall, the most important thing I’ve learned so far is that Winston is in fact a good dog.

They always want my food and yet I take one Cheerio and they start crying. Bunch of babies.
Loading the kids up on sugar for their parents.
We were reading one of their messed up children’s books but I stopped because they weren’t listening. As I’ve told them before, Aunt Kath doesn’t like to read to an “empty room.”
FARM CAMP LIFE!!!!!!
The Three Cuties

Let’s play house

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!

I was TRYING to be helpful and do yard work and prove how strong I was but both backfired on me. we eventually found the key though.

And, side note, despite all my bad jokes I made through the home-buying process Mike still decided to propose to me!

Mike locked in the girl of his dreams and a low interest rate on our home all in the same year. What a year for Mike am I right?!
My niece, Ciara, made us this housewarming gift after we closed on our house. She cut the roof-line totally wrong our roof looks nothing like that, and the brick color is completely off, but it was nice of her to not come over empty handed.

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!

As you can see I was unhappy, chilly AND thirsty being displaced from my normal spot.
Pictured here was a light day for the tray having to only hold a tea mug, Body Armor, water and the remote. Normally more drinks are on the couch tray.

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 FAR FAR 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.

As you can see my Dad is just delighted with all his new tools to work and put his children to work painting and doing yard work. Everyone except Jane that is. I’m surprised there was room for her in this photo since my Dad’s sixth child, the broom is in here.

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.

Sent this SOS text to my brother, Michael, when he asked what we were doing over Memorial Day. He did not come save us.
Finished painting our bedroom just in time for our furniture delivery only to realize the furniture is rather tall for us. Whoops.
No one saved us.

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 day we closed on our house. Wish we got the tree in this one. RIP.
Hanging out in our Tree-less backyard. The lack of shade brings in more light and warmth though which I must say I do like.
Honestly could write an entire post about how much I love Menards-you just never know what you’ll find!

Five Blessings

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:

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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:

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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:

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“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.

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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.

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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!”

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The last known photo of us sitting on the couch before my parents used our college funds to redo the living room.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A rare photo of me doing homework. Drinking a Hi-C Juice Box to help take the edge off that stressful Math homework.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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I’m literally climbing a mountain running away and my Mom and Dad (the one taking this picture) couldn’t care less.

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Looks like we were running out of furniture we were allowed to sit on so we had to share.

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I wonder if my Dad thought about leaving us in that forest

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Bridget and me playing with our real life doll Jane again. That was a damn good sucker and I enjoyed it very much.

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Why did I button my top button like a psychopath?

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Hood up, attitude out. I had no time for pictures.

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Back With The Baby Boomers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I do love my Dunkin’ Coffee

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

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

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

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

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Thanks to everyone here EXCEPT OWL whoo literally did nothing.

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

 

 

 

 

School Days

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

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

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

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

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

Exhibit B: My sister Maggie’s school photo:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gotta love those awkward high school years.

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

Summer 2019

September 23rd marked the first official day of Fall. I seriously find that hard to believe because I feel like summer just started. Summer 2019 was a very eventful one for me, which is probably why it seemed to fly by. While it was a busy one filled with so many fun times, I was able to narrow it down to my top five highlights of the summer. So here, in no particular order, are my top five highlights of 2019:

1. We Solved the Case of the Missing Sock.

In early June, my Mom sent out a rather disturbing text to the girls in our family. Please see below:

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Yes, she had discovered a lone sock at our lake house in Michigan, and was trying to find its owner. I mean, Monday’s are stressful enough, so I could have gone without this very upsetting sock Amber Alert. Plus how sexist of you, MOM only sending it to the girls in our family just because it had a little pink on it! Boys can wear pink too, it’s 2019! Classic Baby Boomer. I tried to remain calm though, and sent my reply:
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As the replies kept coming in, no one claimed ownership. I felt bad for the orphan sock, I mean it looked like a great quality sock. It was no gold-toe sock, but it had nice coloring, and it looked to have a cushioned sole for ultra comfort and arched elastic for extra support. While I felt bad that the sock was all alone, I was able to go about my day and soon forgot about the sock all together. This was not the case for my mom.

A couple of weeks later I stopped at my parents house after work to find the sock (all washed and cleaned, thank goodness) front and center on the kitchen counter.

“Mom!” I said, half laughing. “You brought the sock home from Michigan?!”
“Yes, I did,” She replied, her eyes fixed on the sock in a perplexed gaze, “I just can’t seem to figure out who’s sock it is! It is just such a mystery!”

I honestly did not think it was that big of a mystery, and I really didn’t care about finding the owner of the sock because socks go missing all the time. But my mom was so determined I tried to help solve the case and come up with suspects of who it could be.

“Maybe it’s Aunt Maribeth’s sock?” I suggested “Hasn’t she been up at the lake with you a few times?” My Mom scoffed, as if I had just made the dumbest suggestion she had ever heard in her life. “No, no no.” She confidently said. “That is DEFINITELY NOT an Aunt Maribeth sock. It must be someone else’s.” Wow, did I feel foolish. My Aunt Maribeth is my Mom’s identical twin sister so how dare I even suggest this. Surely my Mother would know her identical twin sister’s socks, they have the same DNA after all. How stupid of me to even think it might be her sock!

Weeks went by and soon it was the fourth of July. While at a family party, the topic of the missing sock came up (Naturally, because who doesn’t talk about socks at parties?) and who ended up claiming the missing sock?! Aunt Maribeth! My Mom was shocked but the case was finally closed. I am still waiting for my apology from my Mom though…

But just as we thought our sock nightmare was over, we experienced a PLOT TWIST and ANOTHER sock mystery popped up in August! This time we had the opposite problem though-too many people were claiming ownership of the socks!IMG_6752

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I needed an accurate description of the socks to help me properly solve the case.

Currently, the case of the men’s socks remains open and under investigation. If anyone has any information, please contact me immediately

2. The Summer Spider Came Back

Every summer for the past couple of years we have a big huge spider that comes and makes a web on my parents’ front porch, right in front of the door, every single summer night. It’s pretty annoying because I always forget about it, walk into it, freak out, and then feel itchy for the rest of the day. No matter how many times we knock down his web, the spider rebuilds one the next night. He started out as an unwelcome guest but then we all started to kind of admire him for his persistence, resiliency and strong work ethic. He quickly became the hot gossip of the summer with my family. Below is an actual conversation we had at dinner one night:

Dad: I will say this, he’s a very hardworking spider. He’s out there every night for hours rebuilding his web. I give him a lot of credit.
Me: I agree. And he builds really good, quality webs. I’ve walked into a lot of spider webs through the years but his is definitely the thickest I’ve ever walked into. I almost feel like I’m walking into one of those fake spider webs people use as Halloween decorations his webs are so sturdy!
Bridget: Are you guys serious? Stop giving him credit! He may be hardworking but he is dumb! If he was smart he would stop building his web in front of the door and build it somewhere were it wouldn’t get knocked down every day. He’s wasting his time!

Love him or hate him, it wouldn’t feel like sweet summertime without him.

3. I Tried New Things

I’ve really gotten in touch with my adventurous side since my travels to Italy in the Summer of 2018 (I’m so cultured now) so I decided to try two new things this summer: Coconut water and Natty Light Pink Lemonade. One drink I loved and enjoyed all summer long, the other I immediately spit out and wanted to burn the inside of my mouth after tasting. Can you guess which was which? I’ll just tell you-I regretted the coconut water. It was disgusting. I don’t care how many health benefits it has or how hydrating it is, I will never make the mistake of purchasing coconut water ever again. I bought one 16 ounce container of coconut water in May and after I took that first sip I placed it back in the fridge where it sat the rest of the summer. I kept telling my roommates I was going to finish it, that I was just “drinking it slowly” but I think they secretly knew I had no plans to drink it, and it became a running joke in our apartment.

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I finally gave up and threw it out on Labor Day.

Natty Pink lemonade on the other hand, that was like sweet, sweet nectar. Having never tried it before, I took a huge risk purchasing an entire 30 pack of it at the liquor store, but it really worked out in my favor. Not only did I love the taste, I was basically their unofficial spokesperson, telling everyone about it and passing out cans at parties as if I was the Oprah Winfrey of Natty Light.

[Walks into backyard barbecue with 30 case in hand]: “You get a Natty Pink Lemonade! And you get a Natty Pink Lemonade! Everybody gets a Natty Pink Lemonadddddddde!!”

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It was the gift that kept on giving

4. I Enjoyed the Great Outdoors

I spent a lot of time outside this summer, whether it was at the lake or drinking on my deck or people’s patios. I even worked out a little outside this summer including going on a few runs through the neighborhood on nice afternoons. That last outdoor activity wasn’t very enjoyable though so I probably won’t do that next summer. So many people are outside during the summer, do you think I want people to see me while I’m huffing and puffing and sweating on a run? Do you know how many times I had to reroute my run just to avoid passing by a group of grade school boys coming back from getting slurpees at 7-11 or playing at the park or where ever they were coming from? And thank goodness I ran wearing headphones so I could pretend to NOT hear the younger kids screaming at me to purchase lemonade. IMG_6821

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Sorry Lemonade stand owners, I’m a Millennial, I don’t carry cash. Unless you accept Venmo or Chase Quick Pay I cannot purchase your warm, debris-filled glass of lemonade.

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This outdoor workout was especially tough because the lounge chairs did not have cup-holders so I had to physically hold my vodka lemonade the entire time I was sitting by the pool!

5. I Saved a Turtle’s Life

Yes, it is true that not all heroes wear capes because I definitely wasn’t wearing a cape when I saved the life of a turtle. I was just minding my own business, hanging out at the lake when I saw turtle headed straight towards a busy road. I would say I quickly sprang into action but I didn’t. Knowing turtles are notoriously slow, I was able to leisurely get up off my chair, go to the shed to grab a glove (Wasn’t sure if he was a snapper so wanted to be safe. Plus, I didn’t want to actually touch the turtle, who knows what kind of diseases those things carry and I hadn’t gotten my annual flu shot at this point), have my mom take my photo with the turtle, and save his life before he made it to the road.

I was very proud and so I immediately texted my family about my super hero moment:

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Borrowed Mike Sr’s heavy duty gloves.

This was a very emotional event for our entire family, as my sister Jane had “accidentally” killed a turtle driving up to the lake the year before. We were all still pretty traumatized from that, so it was nice to have some joyous turtle news for once.

I am still very suspicious as to if it was a real accident or not though. It used to be that I could never imagine a family member of mine could be a cold blooded killer. But that all changed this summer when I witnessed my own mother run over and kill a toad. The poor thing never stood a chance under Mo’s 2012 eight passenger grey Honda Mini Van with stow n’ go seating and 16 cup holders. Unfortunately I was in the passenger seat when the horrific accident happened. I couldn’t believe what I saw. When I confronted my mother about it, she tried to play it off like it was nothing:

Me: Mom! Oh no! I think you just ran over and killed a frog!
Mom: Oh no, no, I didn’t run over a frog! Do you have your contacts in? That was a toad.
Me: Well excuse me, let me re-phrase: Mom! I think you just ran over and killed a toad! Plus, does it matter if it was a frog or a toad?
Mom: Well, a toad is like the frog’s ugly step sister. It’s fine. I would feel a little bad if it was a frog, but it was just a toad.

That terrible accident will forever be etched in my mind. It’s taken me a while to get over it. I feel only my sister Bridget can relate to what I am going through, as she was a passenger in the car when our sister Jane ran over and killed the turtle. As Bridget recalls, “I’ll never forget the sound of the turtle’s shell getting smashed under Jane’s tire. It sounded like we had just run over a picnic table.”

RIP Turtle and Frog/Toad. We will never forget you.

So there it is, my summer of 2019. It was definitely a memorable one, filled with lots of laughs and fun. Looking forward to what the Fall has in store for me!

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Duke enjoying the dog days of summer