Living The Lake Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Simba backpack was a little camera shy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There was no room in the car to pack hairbrushes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I like to make sisters uncomfortable until they are comfortable.

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

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

Summer Where’d You Go?

As I was walking to my car in the freezing cold, snow hitting my face, lips and hands already turning purple, I started to think back to summertime. This summer was quite an eventful one for my family as my parents bought something they have been wanting for years: a lake house.

happy hourOn a sunny Thursday afternoon back in early June of this year I pulled up to Ma and Pa Kelly’s Old Maid Boarding House after a hard day’s work at the office and noticed my roommates (a.k.a my parents) were sitting out in the backyard enjoying a drink. This was not uncommon, as they often had a happy hour drink before dinner (HUGE Thirsty Thursday people, but they did seem to be starting a bit early on this particular Thursday). “You two drunks are starting the boozing a bit early today don’t you think?!” I yelled, loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear, as I walked up the driveway to join them. Just as I was about to grab a drink for myself I noticed my mom was filming me with her phone. In typical “Mom” fashion she had the phone angled at an extremely unflattering low angle with her thumb covering half the lens. “Whoa! Mom, why are you filming me? And remember what I said about the angle! Always angle above! You’re going to make me look like I have 17 chins. Don’t think I’m going to help you upload this to your Instagram when you film like that.” She ignored me and said excitedly, “Guess what Dad and I did today?!” Before I had time to guess she yelled “We bought a cottage!!” While my initial reaction was pure joy, I suddenly felt a pit in my stomach, for I realized this meant we would never, EVER get the washing machine fixed at home. I got over this rather quickly though and grabbed my drink to celebrate the new home purchase with them.

For as long as I can remember my parents had always talked about buying a lake house, but we never thought they’d actually do it. We had been going up to my Grandma’s cottage on Dewey Lake in Sister Lakes, Michigan for our entire lives. Besides the occasional sibling fights, we always had a blast spending time up there. Lots of great Dewey Lake memories through the years.

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Living my best life hanging with my boyz and reppin’ my favorite Native American friend, Pocahontas back in the day up at Dewey Lake

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Good times back in the summer of 2009 when I had to wear a t-shirt for a week because I got such bad sunburn the first day of our vacation. Had a super cool looking farmer’s tan though.

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When my parents told me they bought a lake house, at first I wondered how they were able to afford such a large purchase. Then I saw this photo and realized that they must have saved a substantially large sum of money through the years by feeding me mere compost scraps such as muffin wrappers and not real food. Really cut that grocery bill in half and I was pretty happy just to be licking a muffin wrapper so it was a win-win.

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Awful bangs + a blue Hawaiian Punch Mustache = 1994

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I still don’t think it’s fair that Mom and Dad got chairs and we had to stand.

Unfortunately, with this new summer home purchase, my parents were gone a lot living their best lives at their new summer home, leaving Jane and me orphans at home to fend for ourselves and basically be the backbone of the household. They would leave for long weekends at the lake, leaving us not sweet little love notes, but notes that said things like “Can someone please return my library book? It’s due tomorrow.” or “The dishes in the dishwasher are dirty. There wasn’t enough in it to run.” and “Please water the house plants while we are gone.” These may seem like simple tasks but do you know how many house plants Mo has?! Watering her houseplants is time consuming! She has a bad habit of taking in other people’s dying houseplants and nursing them back to health as if she’s running her own little plant emergency room. When her plants in the kitchen began to encroach on my seat at the dinner table, I finally had to confront her. “Mom, what’s with this indoor vegetable garden on the table you got going on here?” I asked one day as we were sitting down to dinner. “Oh yes!” She said enthusiastically, “I’m growing some fresh basil and parsley! Is it in your way?” “Not at all,” I responded, “I always loved eating at the Rainforest Cafe. I’m glad you could re-create the experience for me here at home with all this shrubbery surrounding my food so thank you.” “Well aren’t you a little smart-ass” was all she said back to that and the plants stayed exactly where they were.

All this new responsibility was a little stressful for me as I was also preparing to go on my SECOND business trip of my business career. When would I have time to buy a business woman briefcase to put all my important business files in for my business trip if I was tied up watering plants and returning library books?! No one takes you seriously if you’re on a business trip without a business briefcase. But, being the modern day Renaissance woman that I am, I did manage to maintain my image as a successful career woman and keep up with the demands of the household.

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She didn’t even have time to write out the word “thanks” we got a “thx.” Classic Baby Boomer.

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One time at dinner I asked the Basil to pass the salt and got totally ignored.

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Jane and started to become jealous of Duke-My parents always left food in the fridge for him.

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Didn’t have time to purchase my briefcase to put all my important business files in for my business trip but it was nice to have a vacation away from watering plants.

So, the summer of 2018 pretty much went like that. Mike and Mo spent lots of time at their new cottage, while Jane and I held down the fort back home. But if I have to continue returning library books or become a botanist in order for my parents to continue to live their best lives up at Dewey Lake, I’ll gladly do it. I can’t think of two people more deserving of some lake time than them. So here’s to you Mike and Mo. Thanks for working so hard, spoiling your five kids and just being the best. Cheers to many more years of good times at Dewey Lake.

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Mike and Mo celebrating the closing with my Dad’s 6th child, his Chevy Impala. 10 cup holders in that baby. 

 

Little Lambs go to Italy Part IV, the Final Chapter: Don’t Let This Be Our Final Song

IMG_5340After two days in Venice it was time to head to Milan. We checked into our hotel which seemed nice but smelled weird and then went on a little walking tour of Milan. After our tour we had free time to shop or walk around more. We decided to make the most out of our time in Milan by going to a restaurant with our tour group friends, eating, and sitting there for about three hours. Honestly we were so hot and tired sitting in that restaurant was a great decision. We saw enough of Milan, no regrets.

After a few hours of loitering in that restaurant we met up with the rest of our tour group to go to our dinner event which was called “A Taste of Milan.” It was a very unique experience where a local Milan chef hosted all of us in his home and cooked for us. The food was good but the room was very small for our large group and there were no chairs so you had to eat standing up. It was basically my nightmare. Have you every tried to hold a drink and eat off a plate that YOU are holding all at the same time? It’s very difficult. PLUS, the place was so dark I could barely see what I was eating. I felt like I was dining in a Hollister store or something the room was so dark and cramped. I was very tempted to turn on the flashlight app on my phone just to see what I was eating. I was not a fan. “What’s with this stupid hipster event?!” I said to Jane, sounding like a 72-year-old man as I struggled to eat the finger food off my plate WHILE holding my drink AND standing. “I’m not a table! I only have two hands I can’t do this! There’s not even a counter to place my items on!” No one was impressed with the dinner so we decided to all head back to the hotel.

Once we arrived back at our smelly hotel I showered and Jane laid on her bed because she was very tired, probably from standing and eating. Then we both packed up because we had to leave very early the next day. “You know what would be really nice,” Jane said to me as she was folding up her clothes. “Is if YOU dried off the shampoo and put it back in the bag this time.” Wow. I thought to myself. Listen to this little sassy McSasserson here. The whole trip we had been sharing many items, because we were basically an old married couple, including our shampoo and CLEARLY this sharing arrangement was starting to take its toll on us now as we were nearing the end of the trip. Little did Jane know that I did plan to put the shampoo back in the bag, I was just letting it air dry in the bathroom a little before I put it in her suitcase, as to avoid mold. Classic youngest child jumping to conclusion. Since no one “sasses the sasser” (I am the “sasser” in the family-which, by definition is “one who sasses others” so how dare Jane try to be sassy to me.) I responded with a sassy comment right back. “Well, Jane, you know what I think would be really nice? IS IF YOU STOPPED USING ALL MY PUFFS PLUS LOTION TISSUES!” I had bought a pack of the to-go packaged Puffs Plus Lotion tissues and Jane had LITERALLY used up just about every single tissue. I had yet to use even one. I mean, had I bought Kleenex brand, go for it girl, but these were Puffs Plus Lotion tissues that I had splurged on and my nose had yet to experience the luxury. Do you know how many tissues Jane packed? Zero. She packed zero.

The next morning we got back on our bus for our drive to Monterosso Al Mare where we ate some pesto paninis and walked around. Then we took a boat to Cinque Terre! That place was by far everyone’s favorite stop. We rented day beds on the beach and we were right by a bar that made delicious alcoholic slurpies with fresh fruit and played country music. What could be better? After a few hours hanging at the beach we took the train back to our hotel. That train ride was quite the experience-it was very hot and crowded. This Southside bumpkin would have much rather called an Uber. Our hotel was very old and creepy and very confusing to get around. Our room number was 133 but we were actually on the third floor which made no sense at all. But the shower was the best shower out of all the hotels we stayed at!  Plus we got there so late Jane had no time to put an extremely large towel on the bathroom floor to use as a shower mat so I could move freely around the bathroom without worrying I was going to trip and break my face.

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Pale White kids take on the sun

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Jane thinking about McDonald’s

After Cinque Terre we traveled to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower and it was honestly one of the most anti-climatic experiences of my life. By this point we had already seen like four leaning bell towers so the Leaning Tower of Pisa did not impress Jane or me at all. I was more concerned about the architectural industry in Italy and why they cannot seem to teach their architects how to design buildings that are straight. While other people took photos in front of the tower Jane and I decided to entertain ourselves by taking photos of all the tourists pretending to hold up the leaning tower. We laughed our heads off because they looked ridiculous.

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Jane and I are both going to Hell for taking these photos. But I think if we can travel together we will can manage spending eternity together.

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I call this one “Jane when she’s hungover.”

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Jane asked if I wanted my photo taken in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and I said I would rather have my photo taken with this garbage can. She laughed but then I actually made her taken my picture with the garbage can.

After Pisa we went back on the bus, drove for a few hours, and then stopped for a wine tour and tasting. The wine was good but then the lady was kind of a bitch and kicked us all out after she realized we were poor young people and weren’t going to buy anything else from her. After that we got back on the bus to make our way back to Rome. We checked into our sketchy hotel and then face-timed with our sister, her husband and their baby because it was baby Michael’s 1st birthday! It was basically a one way conversation since Jane and I did all the talking and baby Michael didn’t even ask us a single thing about our trip, which I thought was kind of rude and selfish-he just kept making classic baby noises so we hung up and went on our walking tour of Rome. It was around 8pm when we started our tour which turned out to be the perfect time to go-the streets were less crowded and the temperature was a little cooler. We saw a lot of statutes, lot of old buildings and then threw a coin in some fountain. After that it was time to hit the bars.

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Jane the boozer next to her favorite tower of the trip-the beer tower.

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“Kids! Do you see this heating bill?! Now do you understand why I keep the thermostat in the house so low?! Put a sweatshirt on you’ll be fine!”

The next day was the very last day of our trip! We got to sleep in a little bit (8:30am) and then we had a guided tour of the Colosseum. That place was cool but I thought it could use some tuck-pointing work. Looked like they had really let the place go. I really wanted to walk in the middle of the Colosseum and scream “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!” like Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator but apparently they don’t let people go in the center of the ring anymore. Maybe, if certain people had kept the place up and gotten it tuck-pointed YEARS ago tourist would still be able to walk around the center but, oh well.

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The place was a mess. Total gut job.

After the Colosseum we got lunch with our friends and walked around Rome a bit. Then we headed back to our hotel where Jane and I got into a fight about a thank you note. We had our Farewell dinner that we needed to get ready for but we were both so tired we decided to take a quick nap. Jane set a 20 minute timer for our nap on her phone and I don’t think she even finished setting her phone down on the bedside table before I heard her snoring away. As Sleeping Beauty snored, I spent my 20 minutes looking up the signs and symptoms of narcolepsy as I was convinced Jane has this disorder after traveling with her for two weeks.

A half hour later Jane was ready and well rested for our farewell dinner as I, the insomniac, rushed to finish covering up the bags and dark circles under my eyes from my sleep deprivation. After that, we headed down the stairs all dolled up for our fancy farewell dinner with our group. While walking down the stairs Jane and I got in to our last ridiculous argument of the trip, and it was a big one. Awe, the last fight-what a bittersweet moment. To summarize it, Jane asked me if I felt like it was graduation night, like I was “graduating from this tour,” to which I responded “no” because it did not feel like a graduation at all to me. Then she proceeded to get very mad at me because I answered no and told me I should have just been polite and agreed with her. I then yelled back that she asked me how I “felt” and I in no way, shape or form felt the slightest bit that I was graduating from something, but rather, that it was my last night on a trip to Italy because that’s what was happening. She was mad that I couldn’t understand why the night would be like a graduation, and I was mad at Jane for being mad at me for not feeling like it was graduation night. This fight continued on for way too long.

Our dinner was delicious and then it turned into our group having a big dance party. After that we went out to an American bar because how else would you spend your last night in Rome?! It was an awesome night and we were so sad to say goodbye to all our new friends.

We couldn’t believe how fast the trip went. Before we knew it the 12 day trip had come to an end and we were at the airport, looking for a McDonald’s, waiting to board our flight home. We saw so many cool places and met AMAZING people who we now are lucky to call friends! It was a trip of a lifetime we will never forget.

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Just a 12-year-old ready to head back to America-the land of free bathrooms and plenty of water.

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Our seats on the flight home were across the aisle from each other-probably the farthest we’d been apart in two weeks. (Jane quickly fell asleep after waving)

Little Lambs Go To Italy Part 3: And on the 7th Day, Jane Said, “I HATE Being on a Schedule”

IMG_5228After having a blast in Florence it was time to pack up and head to Verona. Our stop in Verona was extremely quick-only a few hours so we tried to pack a lot in very quickly. We stopped at some Romeo and Juliet thing, I don’t really know what it was but you went and touched the boob of Juliet for “good luck in love” which was weird but it was a tourist attraction so we did what everyone else was doing. Then apparently Verona is famous for having delicious strawberries so we got some of those which we smothered in chocolate. (Life hack: if you take something healthy and drown it in something non-healthy, you can’t even taste the healthy part! I practice this every time a bring a salad for lunch at work-throw some leaves in a container and then douse it in ranch dressing-I call it “ranch dressing with a side of salad.” Message me directly if you’d like the recipe.)  We walked around Verona but it was extremely hot and sunny and I was very thirsty AND I had to go to the bathroom so I was NOT living my best life. The one thing I didn’t like about Italy was that they charge you to use the bathroom and it’s very hard to find water. This was problematic for me because I am always thirsty and have the bladder the size of a peanut. So as we walked around Verona trying to find a bathroom and a place to buy water I was becoming more and more aggravated. “Ugh! I’m so thirsty! What does a girl gotta do to get some water in this country?! I’m straight up bout to turn into a raisin right now! And it’s not fair that they charge you to use the bathroom! I’m a human! I have to drink water and go to the bathroom, STOP CHARGING ME FOR BASIC HUMAN NEEDS, ITALY!” I said frustrated. “Yeah, well ya know,” Jane responded calmly. “You get charged to eat. You pay to eat at restaurants and you have to buy groceries at the grocery store. Eating is a basic human need.” “Well AT LEAST eating is enjoyable!” I said back. “Do you think using a public bathroom is enjoyable?! Do you like squatting above a toilet so your bum bum doesn’t touch a seat other bum bums have been on?! Do you think I ENJOY being thirsty all the time?!” So then that led into Jane and me having a heated debate over basic human needs and whether or not we should be charged for them.

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Jane being a perv. That’s assault, sister!

Once we finally found a bathroom and water we decided we needed to do something that would make us happy since we were still both a little tense from our human needs argument. So we decided to go find a McDonald’s. I was thrilled because while I had been to an American McDonald’s I had never been to an ITALIAN McDonald’s so eating there had been on my bucket list for quite some time. Jane was happy because like my mom, she suffers from severe “Fry attacks” where she immediately needs some McDonald’s french fries. We believe this condition is unfortunately hereditary, but luckily so far only my mother and Jane have been diagnosed with having fry attacks. They have encouraged the rest of us to get tested though.

A snap Chat I sent to my siblings of my mom in the midst of a horrific fry attack on our way to Michigan last October. It was very traumatizing for me to see my mother in that state.

Well unfortunately we never got to experience the Verona McDonald’s because by the time we got there the line to order food was too long and we had to be back at our bus ASAP. We only had time for Jane to take my photo outside the McDonald’s. While I was pretty content just to get a photo, Jane never got her McDonald’s fries so her fry attack began to escalate to a critical level very rapidly. “AHHHHHH THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TIME HERE! I’M STARVING I NEED TO EAT LUNCH!” Jane yelled at me. I tried to calm her down, letting her know I had crackers in my backpack I would give her and that we could get food in a few hours after our bus ride but nothing I said seemed to help. I was worried she might flip our bus over, but to my relief, she managed to calm herself down and we boarded our bus to start our ride to Venice!

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Me at an ITALIAN McDonald’s-I’m so cultured!

After a few hours on the bus we checked into our hotel and Jane and I COULD NOT figure out how to work the lights-and we really had no patience for this after the McDonald’s ordeal. Turns out you had to stick your room key in a slot on the wall to keep the lights in your hotel on? I was embarrassed that I didn’t know this, since I am an experienced business woman traveler having gone on two business trips, but I swallowed my pride and now I’ll know better next time! We only had about twenty minutes in our room before we had to meet back up with our group to take the ferry to Venice. The ferry took us around Venice so it was nice to see the city from the water, and our tour guide pointed out different landmarks and gave us a little history of Venice. While this was a very enjoyable boat ride, it did spark another stupid fight between Jane and me, what I like to call “The Winged Lion Statue Fight.” As we were boating around Venice our tour guide pointed out this Winged Lion Statue in Saint Mark’s Square and told us that would be our group’s meeting location for the next two days we were there. Everyone saw where she was pointing except Jane so Jane asked me to try and point it out to her. At this time of day the sun was low and blinding, and Jane can hardly keep her eyes open in the daylight anyway, her baby blues are so sensitive to the sun so I knew she was not going to be able to see the statue from the boat, plus we had already passed the statue so I told her I would show her when we got on land. Well Jane was not happy that I gave up in trying and she kept badgering me about it.

Jane: Come on just point it out to me now! I want to see it!
Me: Forget it, Jane! The sun is making it hard to see I told you I will show you when I get on land!
Jane: You’re being ridiculous I can’t believe you won’t just point it out to me now! You’re not even trying that hard!
Me: WE ALREADY PASSED IT! I’ve tried to show you! And it hurts my neck turning around that far I’m not an owl! My neck doesn’t move that way! And you can’t even keep your eyes open for pictures how do you expect to see that statue when the sun is directly behind it! I’m too tired for this!
Jane: If you just point it out to me one more time I can see it. You’re being dramatic!
Me: No! I don’t have the energy for this, I’m tired from my sun poisoning and now we are missing the other stuff she is telling us! I promise I’ll show you when we get there! It’s too sunny to see from here!

To prove my point, please enjoy this photo collage of Jane being unable to keep her eyes open for photos:

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My hair looks great in this one.

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I always had to be the one to take the selfies because Jane couldn’t even see the camera button to press on the phone.

We sat in angry silence for the rest of the boat ride. By the time we got on land we were laughing about how stupid our fight was and prayed no one in our group heard our ridiculous fight.

Once we got to Saint Mark’s square and Jane FINALLY Saw that stupid lion she made such a big stink about we met up with our friend Meg and then our group did a guided walking tour of Venice. Honestly I learned zero things from the guided tour-I couldn’t understand what our tour guide was saying because of her accent/I am just deaf and the headset was hurting my ears. Plus I was so focused on trying to dodge those stupid pigeons that where flying so low! The nerve of those Venice pigeons I could not even believe! After our good for nothing tour we had a drink, got dinner and called it an early night because everyone was hot and tired.

The next morning we had to be up bright and early to catch a ferry back to Venice to do more sight seeing and I thought Jane was going to blow a gasket. Immediately when our alarm went off she started ranting about how tired she was of having to get up early, being on a schedule and being rushed to go everywhere. I just stared at her in disbelief, I could not believe how mad she was over being on a schedule. For a second there I thought I was watching Britney Spears in 2007 until I snapped back to reality and realized I was watching my own sister in a hotel room. Once she finished her rant I calmly said “And on the seventh day, Jane said, ‘I HATE being on a schedule.'” That got her to laugh which was a relief because otherwise I thought she might take out a knife and stab me she was so mad about getting up early.

After Britney calmed down we took the ferry to Venice and attended a glass blowing demonstration which was pretty interesting. After that we had some free time so we walked around and then Jane wanted to get a coffee and something to eat so we sat down at a Cafe so we could get coffee, use the bathroom (WHICH AGAIN THEY CHARGED US FOR EVEN THOUGH WE BOUGHT FOOD FROM THEM!) and hook up to wifi so we could contact our friend Meg to meet up with her. Jane went to the bathroom first as I got a table outside. Poor Jane had a cold and was tired so she basically sat there like a zombie sipping her coffee and eating her panini. I wasn’t too hungry so I did not get anything so I just sat there while Jane ate, and hands down, Jane eating that panini might have been the slowest I have ever seen anyone do anything in my entire life. Pretty sure there was a tortoise at the table next to us that arrived AFTER us, ate his meal, got the check, and walked back home before Jane was even halfway done with that Panini. I figured I had a lot of time to kill so I told her I was going to go inside to go to the bathroom. When I got in the bathroom I was annoyed because there was no toilet paper, of course! Here I am paying to use this gosh darn bathroom and they won’t even stock the toilet paper. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider writing a strongly worded yelp review on that restaurant. But I took a deep breath to calm down and decided against it because at least I didn’t get trapped in the bathroom like I did at the other restaurant. That puts things in perspective for a person. When I got back outside I shared my frustrations with Jane. “Ugh, they didn’t have any toilet paper in that bathroom, I’m annoyed!” I said. “Oh yea,” Jane responded in a monotone voice. “I meant to tell you that when I got back from the bathroom earlier.” I stared at her for a minute before I finally said “Are you serious right now?! Thank you for always giving me great advice AFTER the time period of when the advice would have been useful to me. Also are we moving in slow motion? Has time stopped? How are you STILL EATING THAT PANINI?! Our flight leaves in five days do you think you’ll be done by then or should I get you a to-go box?” Jane just laughed and said, “You know, mom is right, you are a little smart ass.”

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Jane and the never ending Panini

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Me waiting for Jane to finish her Panini so I could continue with my life.

After ten years had passed and Jane had finally finished her panini, we left the cafe to meet up with our friend Meg. This process was a bit of a challenge because Jane and I are dumb and did not get any data for our phones for this trip. We thought about it and then remembered what a HASSLE it is to speak to those darn cell phone companies so we just decided to not do anything about it and hope to just hook up to wifi. It’s shocking, I know, since we were so meticulous in planning everything else out for this trip, but we really dropped the ball on this one because we soon discovered Italy does not have the best wifi. So we really had no way of contacting Meg so meeting up with her took longer than we expected, but we found each other eventually! After that we did some sight seeing and then attended a lace demonstration. I thought this was going to be extremely boring but it was actually very interesting! Then we went on a gondola ride which was awesome and relaxing. Our gondola driver definitely hated us at first but he eventually came around and even sang, danced and talked to us. Then he wouldn’t stop talking to us about fish though so we kind of regretted trying to make small talk and get him to like us.

 

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He sings, he dances, he talks fish and he has baller shoes-He was the ultimate Gondola driver

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I had to take a few different photos because Jane wasn’t sure what to do with her arms.

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Found this little gem while sight seeing (Talking about the American Snack Shop not the girl in the green). I made Jane take photos of me with anything to do with America because I am just so patriotic.

After our lovely Gondola ride we took a boat to this cute and colorful fishing village to eat dinner and enjoy some wine. After that we went back to our hotel-the Holiday Inn- and ended the night at the hotel bar!

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“We at the hotel motel Holiday Inn!”

Venice was fun but Jane and I had had our fill. Venice in a nutshell: Lots of people, lots of pigeons, lots of paninis, but only ONE Winged Lion Statue.

Stay tuned for Milan, Cinque Terre, Pisa and Rome in Part 4-Coming soon!

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We don’t look exhausted or overheated at all in this picture-rode hard and put away wet as my Grandma used to say!

 

Little Lambs Go to Italy Part 2: Let the Stupid Fights Begin

Our first stop on our tour through Italy was a visit to the Vatican. Unfortunately, we had to wait in line for about two hours in the rain before we could even get through the doors. This was a bit of a disappointment since I was already tired from being woken up in the middle of the night by the town nut job-aka Jane-so even the thought of standing that long was exhausting. Having gone to Catholic schools all my life and now working at a Catholic school, I thought I might qualify for some sort of “express pass” in getting into the Vatican, similar to those passes you can get at amusement parks to skip to the front of the line for roller coasters, but apparently the Vatican does not do that. So I ended up waiting in line with the rest of the lay people/peasants as my hair frizzed out. The wait was worth it though as once we got in we saw many beautiful paintings and statues. We stopped at the gift shop to pick up a crucifix for our landlords/parents because we are just the greatest daughters ever and don’t want our Mom and Dad hanging out with any vampires (I hear those vampires are bad news! Can’t let my Baby Boomers get caught up in the wrong crowd!). Then we grabbed a quick pizza lunch. Sadly, our lunch was a pretty stressful experience as the pizza lady was mean and rushing Jane and me to make our decision! Did she not know that deciding on a pizza is a huge decision that must be well thought out and cannot be rushed?! Did she not know that the worst remorse one can experience in life is food remorse?! It’s not a decision that can be taken lightly, like deciding to get into a dark van with a complete stranger or deciding to spend two weeks in a foreign country without doing any sort of research at all. Pizza decisions require lots of time and thought.

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Die-hard Catholics right there.

After our terrible lunch experience we got on our tour bus to head to Sorrento. The drive was a couple of hours long so about halfway through we stopped at a service station for a bathroom break and snacks. We were on a tight schedule so our tour guide told us we had a half hour break before we had to be on the bus to continue our journey. Jane decided to spend the first 28 minutes of her break sitting at a table like a zombie staring off into space before she decided she wanted an iced coffee. That coffee experience turned out to be almost as stressful as our pizza experience! First the line for coffee suddenly got long, then Jane went to the wrong counter to pick up her coffee and the coffee workers didn’t speak any English so they didn’t know what we were trying to say! “Wow Jane, I’m so glad you did absolutely nothing for 28 minutes and then finally decided you wanted an iced coffee with TWO MINUTES left of our break!” I said sarcastically as we ran to catch our bus before it left us in the middle of nowhere. Luckily we got back on just in time.

After a few hours on the bus we finally arrived at our hotel in Sorrento. Jane and I both really had to go to the bathroom but again, being the selfless older sister that I am, I let her go first. When it was my turn to go I stepped into the bathroom and tripped over an extremely large towel that was for some reason covering the entire bathroom floor. “Why the HECK is this gigantic towel on the floor in the bathroom?!” I yelled to Jane “I nearly broke my face tripping over it!” “Oh yeah.” Jane responded casually. “I put that on the floor. I thought we could use it as our shower mat.” “What?!” I said “Why did you choose the LARGEST towel that takes up the whole bathroom floor?! Why didn’t you just install wall to wall towel carpeting in the bathroom?!” “Oh well aren’t you sassy!” Jane said “I’ll have you know that I didn’t want to get the tile slippery when I showered.” “Are you planning on showering tonight before dinner?” I asked. “We only have like 15 minutes to get ready you know.” “Oh no, I’m not showering tonight I’m WAY too tired.” Jane answered, acting as if I had just asked her the dumbest question. “I don’t plan on showering until tomorrow after we go to the beach.” At this point I started laughing hysterically. I couldn’t get over the fact that we had not been in our hotel room for more than 4 minutes yet Jane’s immediate concern was making sure the bathroom tile stayed dry after a shower she didn’t plan on taking for at least another 12 hours or so.

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And it’s not even unfolded all the way.

The next day we got right into our swim suits and headed to Capri to go on our boat cruise! We cruised around the island, jumped out and swam a few times (Could have really used that gigantic towel to dry off with when we got back on the boat but unfortunately it was already assigned the role of shower mat so I had to air dry), and just enjoyed the sun and the bright blue water. It was a perfect way to de-stress after our pizza experience. Once we got back on the island we had a few hours of free time to have lunch and explore the island. Jane, a few of our tour friends, and I walked around trying to find a place to eat. We walked by a place with outdoor seating overlooking the water. The restaurant owner was standing at the entrance and was overly enthusiastic about welcoming us and wanting us to come in and eat at her restaurant so we did. She grabbed some menus and showed us to our table. The tables on the patio were packed so closely I was practically sitting on the man at the table next to our’s lap. That should have been the first red flag that it was going to be a bad eating experience. We placed our orders and then I went in to use the bathroom. When I went in to the stall I noticed the handle was a little funny but didn’t think too much of it. Then when I tried to open the stall door I realized it was jammed and I couldn’t get out.  I fiddled with the handle a little bit and banged on the door for a while. “Oh this is just great, I’m locked in the bathroom” I thought to myself. Had I been locked in a bathroom in America I could have just climbed out through the ten foot gap between the floor and the bottom of the stall door but nooooooo I had to get locked in a bathroom in Italy where they respect privacy and the stall door goes right down to the floor. Finally one of the restaurant workers came in with a screw driver and let me out. I then went back to my table as if nothing had happened and made no mention of my traumatic bathroom experience. Not long after our food came out which we all ate and then immediately felt sick. Afterwards we were talking about how terrible the food was and Jane said, “Yeah, ya know I was told by a few people before we left on this trip to not to eat at any restaurant where the owner calls you in because usually it’s a bad restaurant.” We all gave her a look. “Thank you so so much for that extremely useful advice, Jane,” I said. “It’s so nice of you to share this information with us now that we probably all have food poisoning and/or parasites from that disgusting meal.” Here I thought the owner was just friendly and really happy to see us.

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Thumbs up for food poisoning!

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Stumbled upon this shop called “Mike” while exploring Capri! Sent this one to all my Mike’s back in the USA!

After our lunch we walked around a bit to check out the island and then took the ferry back to the mainland where there were lots of cute places to shop. Our tour guide gave us all some time to check out all these great shops and local street markets but Jane and I wanted to make better use of our time so we found an Irish Pub and sat outside drinking Magners. I though we were having a rather enjoyable time just sitting in silence watching the people traffic, enjoying a nice drink on a nice day but apparently Jane was not enjoying her time as much and wanted to try to make conversation. Thus, this stupid fight ensued:

Jane: So, what do you want to talk about?
Me: Nothing.
Jane: You don’t want to talk about ANYTHING?!
Me: Nah, I’m kind of tired. Plus, I don’t really have anything I want to say right now. I think I’ve said everything I wanted to today.
Jane: I think we should talk about SOMETHING at least.
Me: Why? Are you uncomfortable with sitting in silence with another person?
Jane: Well yes, I feel like we should at least try to make some conversation, don’t you?
Me: Why do you feel awkward and uncomfortable with me?! Is this a meet and greet?! Am I on an interview? I think it’s polite to make conversation with someone you don’t really know but we are sisters so I really don’t feel like we need to engage each other in a forced conversation! I am VERY COMFORTABLE sitting without having any conversation with you. Honestly you should take that as a compliment Jane because it means I’m very comfortable with you.

This then led into us having a conversation about conversations which then led into us having a debate on the straw ban in the United States and whether or not it has made its way to Italy yet. So once again, Jane got her way. Classic youngest child.

Once Jane was done talking my ear off we met back up with our tour group, attended a pizza making demonstration and then enjoyed a delicious pizza dinner. We decided to call it an early night as by that point I had broken out in a full body rash due to the sun poisoning I got from being out on the boat and exposed to the sun too long. Classic pale Irish kid. But other than the food and sun poisoning, and being locked in the bathroom, our day in Capri was amazing!

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Teeth brushing then bed time for these beach bums! Sun poisoning is exhausting!

The next morning we traveled to Pompeii and did a guided tour there. To sum up Pompeii in a nutshell-very hot, lots of bricks, lots of broken clay vases and cups. This is also where Jane mysteriously picked up an Australian accent. The first couple of times I thought I had just mis-heard her or that the heat was getting to me, but then when she said “It’s hot out here today” in CLEARLY a fake Australian accent I had to put my foot down. “Why are you suddenly talking like Nicole Kidman?!” I said “We have literally been out of Chicago for 72 hours!” Jane apparently had no idea she was talking like that and we both started laughing at how ridiculous she sounded. Jane claimed she sometimes accidentally picks up on other people’s accents and since our tour group included lots of people from Australia, she was doing it without realizing it. Classic town nut job Jane.

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Me and some cleaning lady at Pompeii.

After Pompeii I got on the bus with Crocodile Hunter Jane and the rest of our group to begin our journey to Florence. We all watched the movie Mama Mia which I’m sure the boys in our group were thrilled about. I had never seen it before and I was extremely appalled at the ending (Warning: Mama Mia spoiler alerts ahead)! I mean seriously?! They just decided to NOT find out who her father really was?! They are really just going to “share” the father role?! She’s just going to go her whole life never knowing which of those three men is actually her father?! How is that OK?! I mean I’m no psychologist but, wow, seems like a great way to mess up that poor girl. I mean a simple paternity test would do the trick. Then after that depressing movie we had to watch this dumb boring informational video about Florence and Italy. It was so slow and outdated I literally had no patience for it and was starting to get fidgety. “Would you just sit still?!” Jane finally yelled. “I’m sorry Jane!” I yelled back. “I can’t sit through this, it’s too boring! I’m a Millennial I need constant stimulation, this is too slow for me! It’s too much text to read and not enough flashy images, I’ve check out. If I had data on my phone I’d probably be tweeting by now.” Somehow I was able to survive the rest of the video and make it to our hotel in Florence. Our hotel room was nice but the shower was weird-the shower head was like a garden hose and you had to hold it so when I showered I felt like I was bathing a dog. Jane also had trouble with this shower and basically flooded the bathroom. We really could have used that gigantic towel on the bathroom floor this time. Once we were done at the dog groomer’s-Whoops I meant showering-We headed out for a spaghetti and meatball dinner and then out to a karaoke bar where Jane and I absolutely killed it with out rendition of the 1999 Backstreet Boys chart topper “I Want it That Way.” It was a real crowd pleaser.
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The next day Our tour group attended a leather demonstration at one of the local Florence leather shops. Afterwards we walked around the shop and considered buying some purses, but then we saw the price tags, remembered we were poor, and decided against it. After the leather shop we had a guided tour of the city and then we were free to do our own exploring again. Jane and I climbed the steps to the top of this bell tower which was exhausting but the views were awesome.

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It was a nice bell but it was no Taco Bell that is for sure.

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Jane was clearly trying to seduce the bell. He’s too old for you Jane! Leave him alone!

After that we tried to find this one Panini place we heard was good but we never found it. Jane kept leading us in zig zags so we kept getting lost and confused. I kept suggesting we go back to the central square so we could get an idea of where we were and then look at the map again and see if we could pinpoint how to get to the panini place to which Jane would ignore and say “Well let’s just go down this little street and see where it takes us.” So then I would sigh and follow her, we’d walk for about ten more minutes, not find the panini place, argue a bit and then Jane would say “Well I don’t know why you’re following me! I don’t know where I’m going!” Then we’d both laugh at how dumb and lost we were. This little scene happened a few more times until we finally gave up and just got gelato. After having our gelato we walked past some artist doing some chalk drawings of famous paintings on the street and got into a minor disagreement about whether or not one of the artists was doing a drawing of the Mona Lisa or not. Jane was convinced it was the Mona Lisa and I was convinced it was not. It wasn’t until later that we discovered we were looking at two completely different chalk drawings so we were both right!

After our chalk argument Jane took me on an exhausting quest to-and I kid you not-help her find a RING that would “remind her of her time in Florence.” I swear we walked every inch of Florence looking for this damn magical ring but Jane was so specific on what she wanted we couldn’t find anything to her liking. She was VERY annoyed and upset. She looked so sad so I kept trying to appease her suggesting other shops. “Hey Jane what about this shop? You think this might have your ring?” I asked. She just kept walking, looking down at the ground like a four-year old child and said sadly “Probably not.” “What are you, Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh!” I said. “It’s a ring! Stop pouting and move on!” We both laughed at how childish she was being and just decided to give up and started to walk back to our hotel. About a block before our hotel we stumbled upon a jewelry shop and decided to try one more time. We walked in and it was as if we hit the jackpot-beautiful and affordable rings everywhere! Finally! So what did Jane walk out of the store with that day? Her perfect Florence ring you would think, right? Nope. SHE BOUGHT A NECKLACE CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT! SHE CHANGED HER MIND AT THE LAST MINUTE AND DECIDED SHE DIDN’T WANT A RING ANYMORE BUT A NECKLACE! “Are you KIDDING ME Jane?!” I said as she walked out the door with her purchase. “You just dragged me on a 30 mile walk for your magical Florence ring and you get a necklace?!” I nearly collapsed.

Later that night after we laid down for a little bit and I finally decided against having Jane take me to the hospital to have my legs amputated after the ring journey, we got all dolled up for our tour group dinner in Tuscany! The views were awesome, the food was good and the sangria was delicious. After dinner we all headed to a night club where we enjoyed more delicious drinks, dancing, and of course fog and seizure inducing flashing lights. It was such a fun night and a great way to end our time in the wonderful city of Florence!

Part 3 of our trip coming soon! Stay tuned!

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We tried to take a cute Insta-worthy pic of our drinks and the view but it just ended up looking like one person awkwardly holding two drinks so we never posted it.

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“Hi everyone! Look at us we are at a Club”-Us

Little Lambs go to Italy Part 1: Getting There

 

IMG_4800In July, my sister Jane and I took the trip of a lifetime-a two week tour through Italy. Most people, when preparing to go to a foreign country and spend a whole bunch of money on such an expensive vacation, might spend weeks or even months planning out every  detail-places to visit, hotels to stay at, transportation, budgets, etc., but not us. We were pretty last minute in everything. I mean, who has time these days to plan out a trip to Europe?! Definitely not two twenty somethings, who live at home with their parents, have no kids or family to take care of, households to maintain or real adult responsibilities to take up their time. We were ACTUALLY busy. Jane was halfway through The Office series on Netflix and I was trying to power through the last season of Nurse Jackie. Plus, if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute! That’s our motto! So, a few short weeks prior to our departure, at about 11:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night, Jane and I decided to finally book our flights and throw a couple of grand at a tour company we knew really nothing about except that they plan the trip details and logistics out for you, so we were sold.

We were pumped for this new adventure but our dad wasn’t 100% thrilled that his two youngest were leaving the good old USA and traveling abroad together. When he’s not calling us “Millennial snowflakes,” he often refers to Jane and me as “two little lambs”- young, naive, and too trusting of the world. “Oh great, you two will be traveling together,” my Dad said sarcastically. “I can just imagine you two walking down the streets of Italy ‘La-de-da life is beautiful, hey where’s the beer?! Where’s the party at?!’ I’m going to need to pray extra hard you two don’t get kidnapped!” I quickly tried to reassure my Dad and remind him that I was a young business woman with TWO SUCCESSFUL business trips under my belt, not one, but TWO. So I was pretty confident I could manage a trip abroad while caring for my younger sister. He had no reason to fret. Was I worried about spending every single moment for two weeks with my sister? No, not really. I have known her a pretty long time and we’ve vacationed together a few times before-Michigan basically every year and Disney World once in the late 90’s with the family-so I knew we would get into some extremely stupid fights, but we’d both come back alive. We travel well together for the most part.

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Jane being lazy and needing my help down the slide on a family vacation in Michigan.

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Special thanks to my mom for dressing me (far left) like a 45 year old father of four with that white bulls hat and blue and white windbreaker to ensure no one would want to kidnap me during this family trip to Disney World. I bet I was wearing ankle high white socks and gym shoes too.

After days of planning out our outfits and figuring out how to fit everything we needed for two weeks into two tiny suitcases, the day finally came for us to depart on our big trip. Our Dad drove us to the airport all alone because apparently our mom doesn’t love us and thought it was more important to go couch shopping with her other daughter. Being a gentleman he made sure we got into the airport ok, said goodbye and then left us at the terminal. We checked our bags and then got in line to go through security and that’s when we ran into the first few hiccups of our travel journey.

“Uggghhh man look at this security line, airports are the worst am I right?” I said. “What are you talking about?!” Jane responded. “There are like two people ahead of us, this is the shortest I’ve seen it in a a long time!” “Ugh well my carry on backpack is so heavy I’m getting tired of standing.” I said. “Hey wait,” Jane said. “Do you have room in there for the shampoo? I had it packed in my suitcase but thought it might spill so I took it out last minute and don’t really have room in my carry-on.” Well, being the selfless older sister I am, I responded, “Yea sure, let me just move around some things.” I took my backpack off and started to rummage through my items and rearrange them in my backpack. While doing this I pulled out the huge jug of contact solution I had in my backpack. I looked up and noticed Jane was looking at me like I had just pulled out a bomb. Before I could ask her why she was looking at me with such a frightened look on her face she whisper yelled at me, “What are you doing with that?! You can’t go through security with that!” I was still confused, “What are you talking about?! I need contact solution for my contacts! Not all of us can have perfect 20/20 vision, JANE!” Stupid healthy Jane, I thought to myself, always rubbing in that fact that she’s perfectly healthy and I’m not. “No you dummy!” she responded “Liquids have to be 4 ounces or less! You can’t carry that on the plane!” “Oh shoot!” I said, “I forgot that was still a thing! Ugh darn! Well, I’m just going to have to risk it, I’m not throwing out this jug of contact solution, I JUST bought it from Meijer and it set me back 15 dollars I am NOT just going to throw it out!” Even though I said this with confidence, internally I began to panic and question everything I knew about airport security. I started to bombard Jane with my questions as if she was head of the TSA. “Shoot Jane, can I go through security with my watch? What about my earrings do I need to take them off?! And my ring?!” She politely told me to shut up. A few minutes later, as we moved up in the line right before we were about to take off our shoes and put our bags on the conveyor belt, the TSA officer monitoring our line looked over at the two of us and called Jane over. Oh no, I thought, he knows about my jug of contact solution! To my bewilderment though he simply asked Jane how old I was. We both looked at each other confused as to why he was asking Jane about MY age. Especially since a lady NEVER reveals her age. Turns out he was asking because people traveling with children 12 and younger can skip taking off their shoes and go through the express security line and he thought I was 12. He was absolutely shocked to learn I was 27. Jane could not stop laughing. “Oh shut up Jane! You’ll be jealous when I’m 40 and still look 12!” Karma caught up with Jane though and her bag got flagged going through security and had to be searched. Turns out it set off the alarm because her bag was too “dense” most likely, they said, from having too many books in her bag. When the TSA agents told us this I laughed and said, “Haha Jane you dork!” I don’t think this helped my case in proving I was NOT a 12 year old but it was worth it.

Once we got through security we had plenty of time to kill because our flight was two hours delayed! So we found the nearest bar and posted up there for a while-making our dad proud! After what seemed like forever, we finally were starting to board the plane. While waiting in line Jane’s passport photo caught my eye and I became frightened, as I thought I might be traveling with a potential serial killer. “That’s interesting,” I said to Jane, “I had no idea they let people use their mug shots as their passport photos too. When did you do time in prison, Jane?” She gave me a shove and claimed they wouldn’t let her smile for her photo, yet I was allowed to smile for my passport photo? Very suspicious, JANE! Perks of being a 12 year old forever I guess-you get to take a smiling passport photo. She also assured me she never did any prison time so I’m glad we got that squared away before we were about to board a plane together.

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Typical Millennial snowflakes being dramatic over a minor inconvenience. As you can see, I used my extra time to perfect my Snap Chat editing skills. Jane was my first subject.

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Our delayed flight also gave us time to get a quick check-up at the airport shoe hospital. Those airplanes are full of germs so you can never be too careful.

We got two seats together, put our carry-ons in the overhead bin, and settled in for a very long flight. Jane immediately began to inflate her travel neck pillow like an 87 year old woman and passed out in seconds. I, on the other hand, knew I would not be able to fall asleep on this flight so I perused the movies and decided to watch the movie “Lady Bird.” I was excited to learn more about the life of former first lady, Lady Bird Johnson in this film until I discovered “Lady Bird” was not about Lady Bird Johnson at all! After I realized I had gotten my movies confused I kept waiting for Michael Keaton’s character to come on screen but THEN remembered he was in the movie “BirdMAN” and not “Lady Bird.” What is with all these movies with “Bird” in the title, sheesh! I finished the movie but honestly could not tell you what it was about because of all the bird mix ups.

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I was able to get this quick photo in before Grandma fell asleep with her fluffy neck pillow.

Later on they served us our delicious prepackaged and preservative-filled microwave airplane dinner. Jane rudely began to eat her dinner before I had even gotten my tray-had her parents not taught her any manners? She was nice enough to keep ordering and giving me her waters and juices. I’m literally thirsty all the time and those airplane cups are like shot glasses so I was tossing back the liquids left and right! Luckily, Jane is like a camel and can have a little bit of water and be set for days so she had no problem giving up her water and soft drinks to me. After our bellies were full we remembered the first item we forgot at home-Tweezers! We were both devastated that we forgot this major necessity. “Oh great!” I said sarcastically. “We’re both going to come back to America in two weeks looking like Bert from Sesame Street without any tweezers!” God forbid we actually buy a pair in Europe.

After what seemed like days on that airplane we finally landed in Rome. Me and prison Jane sailed through customs, grabbed our bags and then realized we did not know how to get to our hotel. We were told we could take the train to our hotel but figuring that out was a little harder than we thought. Jane and I mainly specialize in calling Ubers back home but we could not do that in Italy so trying to figure out public transportation was a bit of a challenge. We are south side suburban bumpkins, we are no city girls! We must have looked lost in the airport because a young Italian man came up to us and asked if we needed help getting somewhere. We told him we were trying to take the train to our hotel and he informed us the train workers were on strike but he had a shuttle service that he could arrange to take us right to our hotel for only 20 euro! “How convenient!” we thought. What a great idea for two young girls in a foreign country who have no idea where they are going and don’t speak the native language to take a ride from a complete stranger! So we agreed and he made a bunch of suspicious phone calls speaking Italian, then he passed us off to another Italian man who led us to a black van with tinted windows in a parking garage. Scenes from the movie “Taken” were flashing through our minds as we began to worry that maybe we were being kidnapped. We did notice other people in the van though so instead of running away and dealing with the absolute HASSLE of trying to figure out that public transportation nonsense we decided to risk being kidnapped/our lives and jumped right into the front seats of the van with our driver. Luckily, it turned out great and the driver took us right to our hotel! Phew!

We checked into our hotel room and discovered we had a room with two twin beds-just like our old room at Mike Sr. and Mo Kelly’s Old Maid Boarding House! Italy really knows how to make people feel at home! We dropped our bags and decided to walk around the area for a bit. We took some photos with all the Mopeds, scooters and motorcycles parked everywhere, saw lots of dumpsters and grabbed some coffee to try and ward off that jet lag we were starting to feel. Unfortunately, our walk was cut short as Jane had just eaten a gigantic cookie moments before we left the hotel for our walk and was now starting to feel sick. Her face was pale and she looked like she was about to blow chunks all over the place so I led us back to our hotel where we both took a very quick nap.

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Didn’t see ANY cup holders so I declined the offer to take it for a spin.

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Total dude magnet

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Could not get over this dumpster’s long, luscious eye lashes! The dumpsters in Italy really are beautiful!

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Our uncomfortably close twin beds in our hotel room. We even threw our junk all over the place just like we do at home! Our parents would be so thrilled!

After that we headed down to the lobby for a meet and greet with our tour guide and the 49 other people on our tour group. Everyone was very nice, friendly and seemed cool! We all went to dinner and then drinks afterwards but Jane and I were so tired we called it an early night and headed back for a good night’s rest in our twin beds. The beds were pretty comfortable but they were awkwardly close together. So close in fact that Jane smacked me right in the face during the night! (She has YET to apologize for this by the way) Then at three in the morning she woke up and turned all the lights on and started to get ready thinking it was time to start the tour! She was so out of it it took me a while to convince her to go back to bed. “You dodo bird! It’s three in the morning! I yelled to her (ever so politely of course) from my bed “Go back to sleep and shut off all those lights!” When our alarm finally did go off the next day Jane woke up well rested and ready to start our tour! I on the other hand, was feeling a bit sluggish from being physically assaulted in the face and being woken up at the crack of dawn by my lunatic sister. We checked out of our hotel and got on our coach bus for our first day of Italian adventures. We were ready and excited to start day one of what was to be an amazing trip filled with fun times, great sights and awesome new friends!!

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Little Lamb Leaves the Farm

Last week, my younger sister Jane left the United States to teach abroad in Prague for a year. Yes, our little lamb left the farm. For years, she had been talking about moving to a different country after she graduated college, but none of us actually thought she would do it. We just figured it was something she’d talk about but never follow through on, like how my mom talks about putting our family photos into photo albums, but we all know that will never happen. Of course we listened to Jane when she told us of her plan to move to Europe after graduation but in our heads we were all thinking, “Oh there goes the family nut job Jane rambling on about her ‘magical’ adventures again.” We all laughed because we all know there is no magic after you graduate college. Silly young and naive Jane! But when she booked her flight and paid the program deposit back in May, it was a reality check for all of us that this little lamb was serious.

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Me and Jane back in the day when she was content living in America. Mom: “Here Kathleen, hold your baby sister Jane and I’ll take your picture!” **Thinks it will be a perfect Kodak moment” Me: K. **Does not touch baby but just let’s her lean against me uncomfortably** 

We all reacted differently when Jane shared the news that she was officially going abroad. My mom was sad and told her she was not allowed to meet her future husband there, that she MUST move back to the States after a year. My dad immediately began to worry and asked if she had ever seen the movie Taken. He was not too keen on the idea that his youngest child was going to be so far away for so long. “Remember that little lamb, ‘Miss Kelly’ we saw in Dayton?!” My dad said, “That’s how I picture you in a foreign country! You’ll just be prey for all sorts of vultures! You’re too trusting of people!” It would be an understatement to say that he did not take this news very well. For my siblings and me, it was disbelief. “You’re actually leaving us?!!!!” I said, “I thought this whole ‘I’m going to move abroad’ thing was just one of your empty promises that you’d never actually follow through on! Like how you said you’d replace Bridget’s earrings that you lost a couple of years ago but you never actually did!” “HEY!” Jane responded, defensively, “I TOLD Bridget to pick out a pair and then I’d pay for them and she never did! Also, I’m offended that you thought I would never go through with my plan.” I just kept asking Jane the same question, quoting Gus Portokalos, the father in my favorite movie of all time, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “Why you want to leave me?!” I just didn’t understand why she was leaving me and fleeing the country.

After the initial shock wore off, Jane then announced that she would be a “miser” this summer so she could save lots of money for her big move. This was also very hard for everyone to believe and we all had a good laugh. We had no idea how much misers liked to go out to the bars and eat out on the weekends. Jane did get a job nannying over the summer so she was making and saving some money. She was able to do this because I, being the saint that I am, let her borrow my car while I sacrificed and walked to work everyday. My work is less than a mile from where I live but don’t try and belittle my sacrifice. It was tougher than people give me credit for. Do you know how many lemonade stands I had to avoid on my walk home from work everyday? Summer in suburbia means lemonade stands are on every corner like Starbucks downtown. It’s easy to avoid eye contact with children yelling at you to buy lemonade when you are in the comfort of an automobile, but when you’re on foot it’s a lot harder! And do you know how many sprinklers I had to walk around in the early morning hours on my journey to work? Sidewalks are for walking, not sprinklers! Plus, with all the extra exercise I was getting, I began to worry that I would get too jacked and people would not recognize me at the end of the summer! “Is that Kathleen Kelly or Jillian Michaels? I can’t tell.” People would say. I better get into heaven after all I went through. I will keep everyone posted on my canonization process.

Since Jane was living at home again over the summer, her and I got to spend a lot of time together. We no longer shared a bedroom but we still saw each other in the hallway and other common areas of Ma and Pa Kelly’s old maid sanctuary. We also had similar work schedules so we were usually up in the mornings at the same time and we went to bed at the same time. We had some great conversations while brushing our teeth together in our upstairs bathroom. Our “Kids” bathroom vanity has double sinks so we would stand next to each other chatting while brushing away, washing our faces or flossing. One night, after I had JUST cleaned our bathroom hours before, I watched Jane as I brushed my teeth and she washed her face. After a few minutes I paused my electric toothbrush and finally said, “Um, excuse me, Jane? I just had a quick question that I’ve been meaning to ask you.” She stopped washing her face and looked at me, thinking I was going to ask her about something very serious. “Yea, what is it?” She said, a little concerned. “Have you ever been to Splash Mountain in Disney World?” I asked. Her concern then turned to confusion. “No, why?” she said. “Oh, ok” I said, “I was just wondering. I wasn’t sure if you were maybe trying to relive your experience on that ride the way you are splashing away over there as if you’re Hayden Panettiere washing your face on a Neutrogena commercial, getting water all over the counter tops that I JUST cleaned.” She just laughed and rolled her eyes. “Aren’t you a little smart ass?” She said. She will definitely miss my sarcastic remarks while she is in Prague.
Another time while we were both brushing our teeth Jane was trying to talk to me about how she calculated the amount of time on average people spend on morning and night time routines. She was explaining how she came to her final number but honestly I could not hear her and I really did not care. I’m hard of hearing and I had just replaced the battery in my electric toothbrush so it was louder and more powerful than ever! I finally stopped my toothbrush and cut her off. “Jane, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to stop talking. I just came here to brush my teeth and go to bed, not to solve a math problem on the ACT.” It’s like we get it Jane, you graduated college with honors.

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Nothing makes you feel more like an adult than brushing your teeth everyday in a bathroom papered with hippos.

As the summer rolled on and Jane’s departure date got closer, my parents became more and more sad. It was crunch time for them to get everything in before Jane left. They threw her a going away party, we took our Christmas card picture and then we had NUMEROUS “Last Family” meals to the point where it was getting ridiculous. My Mom kept adding family dinners so everyone could say goodbye to Jane. It was starting to get awkward how many times we were all seeing each other. “Are we all going to have to meet again tomorrow for a ‘Family Snack’ between lunch and dinner as another goodbye meal to Jane?” I asked my mom sarcastically as we finished up our 800th family dinner. (She ignored my question and instead just called me a smart ass.) We even had a last family lunch at my parents’ favorite burger place in the neighborhood, Pappy’s. This lunch temporarily distracted Mike Sr. and Mo from their sadness about Jane’s departure upon their discovery that Pappy’s had switched from Coke to Pepsi products. Being die hard Diet Coke fans, my parents were LIVID that they could no longer drink Diet Coke with their lunch there. For the first time in many months we had a meal where the conversation did not center around Jane’s big move but rather how Diet Pepsi does not agree with my father’s stomach and how my mom thinks it tastes flat. Somehow they managed to drink the poison some people call Diet Pepsi, finish their meals, and make it home safely.

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We wore America hats at Jane’s going away party just as a subtle reminder to Jane that she was born in the USA.

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My very heartfelt and not passive aggressive at all sign I made for Jane’s party.

Before we knew it, it was time for Jane to leave us. My parents were sad but I reminded them that I will still be here and many people think I look just like Jane so there’s really no difference. Hours after she left, Duke moved his things into Jane’s room and took over her bed, but I’m sure he is sad that she is gone. (Don’t worry Jane, we told him about your “No eating Puperoni in bed” rule.) I was sad for Jane to leave me too. It was nice having another Millennial home with me to take care of the Baby Boomers and I will definitely miss our conversations while brushing our teeth. But I know that she will have the time of her life and I hope to visit her in the Spring. I’m sure the year she is gone will fly by and before we know it, our little lamb will be back on the farm.

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Wore my funeral dress to work and sent Jane this Snap Chat on the day she left. Unfortunately I could not find a black veil.