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January 20, 2019

road trip code & family dynamics

OK, so this is the great white, but obviously not a
 photo from the road trip to Gettysburg.  This
 is the great white looking quite fetching in Glacier
National Park back in 2016.  Doesn't
everything look fetching in Glacier
 National Park?  I don't have great pics
of the great white on the Gettysburg trip. 
Plus this was more my kind of road trip.
(crazy short post, but loads of retro photos)  We packed everyone's stuff in the car for Gettysburg (in case you aren't following - I am just now writing about our July trip to Gettysburg with my Dad) and got the group situated.  Pat (my brother) climbed in and asked me when Coach and I had last had our van serviced. 

Again, borrowing from Glacier trip.  I don't have
many pictures of the activity going on inside
 the great white while
 road tripping, so this one
of the kids peering out at animals
 might be more pleasant.
Really?  Does anyone find the timing of that question odd?  Like, Bro, we are backing down the driveway - schedules have been arranged.  But, now is when you ask if Coach and I are boneheaded enough to never service our van?  Are you with me people?  This was going to be a long trip.

I drove the first 5 hour stretch -without stopping.  Operative words here 'without stopping'.  Pat drove the next stretch.  Pat pulled into a rest stop like an hour and a half after he took over the wheel.  He required a bathroom.  While he went inside, I texted Coach my disbelief.  Coach and Pat went to high school together, so they go way back.  Coach did not hesitate to text Pat and tease him about his lack of manliness in not being able to 'hold it' for a road trip.  Pat admitted that he shouldn’t have eaten Mexican food the night before.  
The great white 2010, Yellowstone or bust. 
This is what the van used to look like
 during road trips back in the day.  I got
 lazy here - this is not a sunroof on our
 van - I took a pic of the photo while it
was still in the album, so you can
 see the bottom of the other photo.

On the way home (don’t worry, I will back up), moments before we pulled into Mom’s driveway to unload all the peeps, I admitted that I had needed to pee for like the last 2 plus hours.  Pat’s daughter, who is Mini’s age, was confused.  ‘What?  Why didn’t you just stop then?’  Well, because, that goes against true-road-trip code.  You don’t make everyone else suffer because you can’t hold your bladder.  Pat agreed with his daughter's sentiments, which made me question whether or not we had actually been raised in the same family.  What happened to the brother I had been stuck in the way-back of the 1976 red Chevy Impala station wagon with for all of our family trips?

Totally unrelated -
but this is the baby
 moose we saw
 in Glacier, on the
aforementioned
preferred road trip.
I suppose now that he and his wife can easily afford to travel in style, they see no use for the torture that die-hard road trippers like myself are committed to.
Mama and baby moose.

Road Trip Code:

1.  Do not stop unless absolutely necessary.

2.  Pack sufficient food so you don’t have to stop.

3.  Leave the house crazy early to avoid traffic so as to not make your already torturous road trip longer

4.  Do not drink many beverages so that you don’t have to stop until absolutely necessary.

Note this goes along with #5. 
This is a photo from
our drive out to Yellowstone in 2010.
 The kids thought I was taking a picture of them,
 when really I was focusing on the junk under the
 seats.  Crayons and dropped food everywhere!
5.  Pack board games, decks of cards, toys and coloring items that will keep your kids busy.  Little to no screen time will be tolerated.  This is the stuff family memories are made of.  

6.  Pray that you don’t encounter much road construction.

7.  I guess I should add on Pat's behalf - refrain from ingesting Mexican food the night before departing.

8.  Don't make hotel reservations for the drive out to wherever you are going - you don't want to be locked in to a destination that is either too lofty or too easy to attain.  Find a hotel when you have run out of gas - figuratively speaking, of course!

9.  Only invite along passengers who you can tolerate spending umpteen hours with.
See #9.  This is a photo of my dad in Glacier
taking loads of pictures while Coach sits
in the great white and  patiently waits.


10.  Don't bang on the restroom door at a gas station and shout at your kid to get out of there
now unless you are 100% positive that it is your kid in said restroom.  (Coach can speak to the necessity of this rule.  I can only speak to the fact that this little incident when Coach overstepped provided me with HOURS of gut busting laughs while we drove home from Glacier in June of 2016)

January 18, 2019

oh, brother

I wanted to get the Gettysburg trip over and done with last summer before my summer kicked into relax mode. (Let’s pretend for a minute that my 4th of July trip to Orlando was relaxing).

I tried insisting when Dad and I were planning this trip that we travel to Gettysburg BEFORE July 4th.  Both of my brothers balked.  They each had a son or two who play baseball.  Playoffs, blah, blah.  Um, these kids are like 10-12 year range.  It was one weekend.  I wasn’t asking them to give up an entire season or cut off their throwing arm.  We were all making sacrifices to help Dad realize his goal.  Besides, it was my car and I had more kids committed to making the trip, so I should have dibs on when we were going, right?  

We finally narrowed it down to the weekend directly following the only 4 days all summer that my immediate family could get away.  Guess what?  My family COULD have gone away for more than 4 days, but our 4 days butted up against the schedule for the mandatory Gettysburg trip.  (OK, to be honest, I don’t think we would have survived another night crammed into one hotel room with or without a potato-peeler-drain-assistant).

Guess what?  My brother, Mike, decided that his kids just couldn’t go.  He said they were never going to go unless he was going to tag along.  Really?  News to me.  And Dad.  He just couldn’t get off of work to join us, so his baseball playing kids now could not go either.  I was really, REALLY elated that we had waited until August to schedule this trip BECAUSE Mike had two baseball players who were now NOT even joining us - and apparently never were.  Are you following this?  We skipped over the May and June dates, because Mike screamed foul.  His boys couldn’t get away and skip baseball.  Well, shit.  They didn’t go in August either.  Delightful. 

There was still sand in the van when we hit the road for Gettysburg.  Like literally- lots of sand, because my immediate family and I arrived home Thursday night and the history-buffs-only trip departed for Gettysburg THE NEXT MORNING.  How do I get myself into these messes?

Well, hey, this was a short and sweet post.  You like?  Give me feedback in my messages about post length, or just tell me whether or not you enjoy history-themed vacations, or maybe what trip you've been dragged on, or if you have frustrating family dynamics too.  Come on, give me some little tidbit in the way of a comment.  Lots of options here.  Maybe your new year's resolution is that you should comment more!



January 16, 2019

and the rest is history

Our Gettysburg trip was awhile ago, but other things keep popping up that distracted me from writing about this little adventure . . . and by 'little' I mean a long, painful car ride followed by the second opportunity to be force fed lots of historical facts by my should-have-been-a-history-professor father.  

Touring Gettysburg is not my idea of a good time, so if you are reading this in order to ascertain my take on the pivotal mistakes made in the battle - or in hopes of seeing if the lot of us dressed in period dress while we toured the battlefields, um, spoiler alert - this post is gonna disappoint.  
I love this photo in the circular room
with the mural that lights up while
voices depict the battle.  I love how you can
 only see the outline of Dad (in the wide brimmed hat,
that we are pretty sure is supposed to be for a woman)
and the kids (aka the participants, the students,
the pawns in Dad’s must-give-
them-more-info-about-civil-war mission).


First of all, let me point out a few frustrations with the trip.  Last time (2011) it was just Dad and I - plus the 10 grand-kids.  Three of whom were my sons.  Dad first shared with me that he wanted to repeat this memorable trip while we were in Scotland.  He wanted to bring as many grandchildren (there are 22 total) to Gettysburg (10 had already participated).  I was like, ‘Let me survive Scotland trip first.’

‘Survive’ a key word here.  We were eating in a pub, well, I was trying to eat.  Have I mentioned how much I struggled to find gluten free food over there?  I digress.

If there was to be another Gettysburg road trip, I would need another driver.  Seven years ago, Dad shared the driving duties.  That was light years ago.  No way was he going to get behind the wheel of my big-rig now.  I put my feelers out.  My best friend since 2nd grade is a history buff.  She travels a ton, so her summer weekends were booked.  Bummer.  Really, because she already knows Dad and grasps our family dynamics.  I tried Coach’s former office manager.  She has always begged Coach and I to put a live feed in the van when we travel to a national park with our brood.  OK, so this wasn’t my entire brood, but my youngest three were scheduled to partake, and an assortment of cousins.  Close enough.  She couldn’t go either though.  Ugh.

Dad recruited my brother, Pat (If you are not sure about what our relationship is like, just click the link to learn more), to help drive.  Two of his 4 kids were coming along.  Swell.


January 14, 2019

practically cursed

I think it started when Coach was a full time student and we were newlyweds.  I was footing the bill for his physical therapy graduate school tuition on the salary of a nanny.

Gifts were major to us.  In a nutshell, we were:  budget-conscious, scraping-by, penny-pinchers.  We drooled over gift cards and new clothes.  Luxuries.  I appreciated hand-me-down maternity clothes when I was expecting Laddie and Coach had another year of school to complete.  His parents regularly gave us boxes of frozen, boneless, skinless, Tyson chicken breasts.  His mom was a big supporter of the Market Day program at their church or something.  Chicken?  Perfect.  We could eat . . . something besides pasta and bread I bought at the Hostess outlet.

While being budget-conscious became a way-of-life that neither of us can shake (well, if I am being honest, I have more success at spending a bit on non-necessities than Coach does), we aren't in the same boat as we were back in the 1996-1999 era.  Happily.

Coach's family doesn't gift.  In the 22 years since we have been married, his parents bought me a pair of ice-skates and a pair of workout pants.  In 1995- the first Christmas we were engaged.  They send a check for birthdays and Christmas now.  This is very much appreciated - particularly when you consider the progress they have made.

Shortly after we were married in 1996, they bought a house in Florida.  Our 'gift' every year was a flight to visit them.  Stipulations.  We had to stay with them.  Under their roof.  For an acceptable amount of time, or pay for our own flights.  During our visit most television was not allowed because it was considered immoral.  The weather where they live in Florida is typically dicey at best.  These were some painful uses of Coach's coveted vacation days.

Eventually I said ENOUGH.  There were other parts of the country to see and enjoy.  Real vacations beckoned.  If we didn't like our strings-attached gift, then we didn't get anything.  Nada.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Zero.  No Christmas gift.  Not even a pair of PJs for the kiddos.    Years later, they have opted to give us a check with the word 'fun' scribbled in the memo.  I guess they finally realized that staying with them did not translate to:  FUN.
Cute top that my mom gave me for
Christmas.  Not really excited about it.
 My girls deemed it an old lady shirt and
 want it to go back to the store. 
Would you keep it?

I digress.  I am the first to admit that I am hard to shop for.  I am particular about my clothes.  My much shorter sister once bought me an outfit in a size large.  I was in my 20's- about 5' 9.5" and 125 lbs.  Large?  My height confused her. 

There have been a few Christmases that have caused me to be underwhelmed by the gift that my folks got me.  I couldn't put my finger on it.  This Christmas I think I figured out why my gifts are never the show-stopping variety.

My mom buys me clothes for Christmas from the store where I always shop.  I can buy these clothes for myself, because it is my go-to.  I suspect that my overly practical years of yesteryear have carried over into the present day.  When Coach was in school, and the years directly after he was in school when we were having babies, I was so overly practical that I hoped for essential gifts.  Necessities.

Meanwhile, several of my siblings earn big incomes.  Mini once admitted to my nephew that she didn't think she would ever go on a Disney cruise.  His family averages a Disney pilgrimage every other year.  He looked at Mini dumbfounded, 'Why?'  Mini was speechless.  Ahem.  We aren't all millionaires.
A sweet memento to hang in his basement.

This year my youngest brother, Mike, opened a large oblong frame from my parents.  In it was a portion of a caddy towel with the name of the golf course where my brothers (and Coach) used to caddy.  It was a cool gift.  Thoughtful.  Unusual.  Something he would never buy himself.

That's when it struck me.  I rarely receive gifts that I wouldn't or couldn't buy myself.  Hoping you all have a New Year's resolution to leave comments.  So?  Do you think I am cursed for being practical?

January 12, 2019

Happy Birthday: here's a whole lot of nothing

By the time we got around to celebrating Reggie's bday Wednesday night, it was late.  I plugged in a big vat of chili that morning knowing everyone would eat at different times.  Dinner done. 

After school was crazier than normal.  There were dentist appointments and b-ball practices and of course Irish dancing.  Three cars and four drivers was hardly enough to get us everywhere.  I finally asked Coach to stop asking me where he had to be and at what time.  How many times could I review the SAME information?!  I know it was complicated, but dear God - listen the first time!

Ed and Tank did the dentist at 2:30 and returned for b-ball practice.  Noodle arms, aka Mini, agreed to use the 3:30 dentist appointment and skip her b-ball practice.  The night before when we were mapping all of this out, I thought it was big of her to say:  'I can just go at 3:30 because it probably doesn't matter as much if I miss my practice.'  Her brothers whole heartily agreed.

I brought my iPad along when I drove Curly to dancing.  I planned to use Whole Foods' internet service to work on my book.  Besides, I was ticked off at the entire family.  Like, seriously ticked off.  Nevermind that if I return home with the intention of sitting at my desktop, I will most likely be interrupted a gazillion times.  Who do you suppose will end up cleaning the kitchen after dinner? 

No, I thought it best to stay away and send multiple, hostile group text messages to the fools who live in my house but do nothing to make the house livable.  Suffice to say, I attempted to vacuum my  upstairs yesterday.  I asked the kids a million times over break to clean up their rooms.   Oh, the laundry.  It isn't possible that they wear all of those clothes.  Define 'dirty' people!  I will spare you the details of my frustration.  I think we have all been there. 

I picked up a b-day card from Whole Foods for Reg.  Whole Foods might offer lots of organic food, but their card selection for 13 yr old boys sucked.  We decided to tell Reg that he could take a friend to a Bulls game.  With no gift from us to open, I couldn't very well skip the card.   

Um, college kid . . . this is a jar. 
I am looking for a can.  'Like pie filling'
were my instructions.
We sang Happy Birthday at 9:45 pm.  Followed by inhaling of everyone's favorite dessert:  Cherry Dessert.  I usually go with a boxed cake mix, but I had most of the ingredients on hand so I decided to get a little nuts and make this dessert.  I sent Lad to the store the day before to get me a couple of cans of cherries and a few other ingredients.  Exercise in frustration.  I should have gone myself vs. answer a ton of text messages about how to find pecans and cherries. 

Lad came home with two jars of maraschino cherries- not going to work.  Later Coach stopped and got a couple of cans of cherries at a tiny grocer.  They weren't the typical brand I get, so it was more like mushed up looking cherries.  It would look weird, but it would certainly taste the same. 

This is what was left after Reg's bday.  You don't
know what it is supposed to look like, but it
 isn't like this.  This was like cherry bits.  It
usually has actual cherries.  I swear every single
kid walked into the kitchen a minute after
 the kid before them and asked the same
damn question:  'What happened?  Where are
 the cherries?'  I finally made a general announcement.
  Still edible.  Great, in fact.  Just a different kind of cherry
because the regular kind I buy couldn't be located at the store.  
After 'cake' Reg opened some gifts.  My folks got him some amazing Bulls basketball gear.  Coach passed me the Whole Foods suckie card after he signed it.  He had written nothing in it about the Bulls game.  His company had sent out an email a week or two before about offering discounted Bulls tickets.  Coach emailed me the info and asked if we should buy tickets for Reg's bday.  I was on board.  The kid needs nothing - especially since the Letgo lady kindly gave me back the money for the iPod that didn't work.  We replaced it with an MP3 player. 

I motioned to Coach about the lack of ticket mentioning in the card.  He non-nonchalantly shrugged.  'Oh, those dates wouldn't work.  Her initial email had the wrong dates, so we will have to go with plan B.'  I guess that's what it is like to be married to me.  Always know I can bounce back to my plan B - think on my feet.  I guess it is a compliment, but I just felt exhausted.  This time, we had agreed on THIS gift.  I asked him to pick one of the games that he could attend and get the details. 

Again with the shrugging.  'I just found out today,' he said defensively.  (Don't get me started on why he didn't ask yesterday?  Or the day before that!)  Today, as in sometime before NOW, the time when we are giving our kid a gift?!  'Oh, were the phones at work dead?  Your cell phone dropped in a toilet?  You couldn't have communicated that to me before 10 pm.?  I just spent 3 hours at a Whole Foods near the mall - I could have figured something else out.  You SAID nothing until NOW?!'  I asked him if he was OK paying full price for Bulls tickets.  He wasn't. 

I told Reg how our plan had been foiled.  Bad dates in an email.  We would figure something else out.  The kid shrugged - a good kind of shrugging.  'I just got an MP3 player.  It's fine,' he said. 

Reggie cried a lot when he was an infant.  A lot!  Maybe he is just making up for it now. 



January 10, 2019

And then there was one . . .

The cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone . . . well, in this case Curly stands alone.  Reggie turned 13 yesterday, January 9th.  So now, Curly is the only kid at home who is NOT a teenager.

Mini thought it was mean that I begged
Curly not to ask for any more legos for
 Christmas.  Mean, or practical?  She
DOES enjoy them, but it isn't like she has
an abundance of free time being little
Miss-Irish-Dance-till-I-drop
and how about some
 travel basketball thrown in there?!
Let me say that another way . . . Curly is the only one living under our roof who does not roll eyes.  She asks if it is OK if she opens a new package of food like chips or ice cream.  After opening said package, she refrains from eating the entire thing, or hiding it so that no one else can get any.  She would NEVER put an empty bag of chips back in the pantry.  She still helps up opponents who she accidentally knocks to the floor while playing basketball (this might just be a girl thing).  She does not take everything personally.  She rubs my back when she senses I am upset.  She pays attention to whether or not I am upset, and verbalizes that she hopes whatever is bothering me is quickly resolved.  She still likes to play legos.  She thinks what Coach or I say is important.  She does not take 35 minute showers.  She asks if she can use a towel that does not have her name embroidered on it (after her siblings have unceremoniously used her towels).  When she is upset she might cry, but her head will not spin around while she screams about irrelevant matters that have little to no bearing on why she is crying.  She says good-night to me at least three times before she actually goes to bed.  She really, really likes to spend time with me . . . for now.

She turned 11 on December 19th, so I have a solid 2 years to continue to enjoy the above behaviors. 

Last night as we were about to sing to Reggie, Coach commented on the fact that Reg showered in under 5 minutes.  So, his teenage tendencies still seem to be dormant.  I give him 6 weeks, 3 months tops before he begins to follow in the footsteps of the brave teens who have gone before him. 

Maybe 'brave' isn't the right term here.  'Dumb' seems more appropriate.  Let's take Lad for example.  He is technically no longer a teen, but his actions haven't matured at the natural rate.  We wait.  While we wait, we think about our water bill.  We ponder how long his showers last.  Speaking of waiting, no one wants to wait to take a shower after him.

Reggie at about 18 mos.  I took a
 pic of this photo that was hanging
 on the wall and it wasn't until
 just now that I realized that in
 order to avoid the glare I
 managed to take it at a weird angle
 that makes his hands look positively
disproportionate to the rest of his
 body.  Please don't worry, his hands
 are regular size.  He's a cutey, right?
A few weeks ago, he hopped in the shower in the kids' bathroom.  I had just gotten out of the shower in my master bathroom on the other side of the wall, so I was aware of the shower starting.  By the time I was done blowing my hair dry and dressing, he was STILL in the shower?  Why?  His hair is shorter than mine. 

I took action.  The kids' bathroom door handle is broken.  One of those home repairs that I am grateful has never been fixed.  If the door is locked, which it always is, then a firm jiggle from the outside will unlock the door.  Perhaps I should get a patent on this door handle and sell it to all parents of teens. 

Anyway I stuck my head in the sauna  bathroom and averted my eyes.  'YOU HAVE 3 MINUTES'.  Lad was like, 'What?  I just got in here!'  Define 'just', nevermind.  I don't want to know.  Needless to say I stood in the hall and timed the 3 minutes on my phone.  When 3 minutes was up, I went in.  Now who's brave? 

'WHAT ARE YOU DOING?'  Once you've seen a naked butt, you've seen all naked butts.  Besides, it was hard to see anything in there thru the steam.  Trust me, I was only focused on where the water handle was.  I threw open the shower door and shut off the water.  (which he promptly turned back on  - far cry from a victory, but I will not go down quietly).  I left the unlock-able door wide open on my way out.

Those who violate common sense water usage rules are not entitled to privacy in my book.  Tread lightly here, Reg.  This is not unfamiliar territory for your Dad and I. 

January 9, 2019

Why Coach is NEVER allowed to purchase a gift for me.

Let me set the scene:  Christmas 2005.  Reggie was due mid-January.  My cousin was killed in a car accident on Dec. 10th.  She was a month shy of celebrating her 36th birthday.  She had 3 young children and an ex-husband who was a lunatic.  Literally.  We were devastated. 

Coach had plans to take our three boys to Florida to visit his parents for a few days.  I was too pregnant to travel.  Darn.  OK, that part was by design.  Anything to avoid spending time with his folks.  Mini was about 20 months old and she was staying home with me. 

Coach's trip interfered with the wake and the funeral.  His getaway had been planned for a few months.  He still went.  Did I mention how enormously pregnant I was?  I thought he should cancel the trip.  My mom insisted that it might be easier for me with the three boys out of town.  It was going to be a rough weekend.  They were 3, 5, and 7.  Still.  It was a very emotional weekend.  I was pregnant and my husband was on vacation. 

To give you an idea of what my father-in-law is like.  I called the Florida house after the funeral.  This was before cell phones acted as life-savers helping to avoid contact with morons who were not the intended phone call recipients.  Coach's dad answered the phone.  'Oh, he tried to call you a little bit ago.  He wondered where you were.'  Wow.  Really? 

'I was burying my cousin,' I hissed into Mr. Sensitive's ear before I abruptly hung up.   Not even so much as a 'sorry for your loss,' just the standard:  'Just down here grilling.  Enjoying the boys.  Coach tried to call . . . '  PUKE!

Thank you Amazon for the image of the cover
of this book.  Of course he took the book back,
so I cannot snap a photo of my own personal copy.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks to a very emotional Christmas.  Coach handed me my gift.  It was a book:  'Happy Housewives:  I was a Whining, Miserable, Desperate Housewife - But I Changed and You Can Too!'   He sat there with a smirk on his face.  Then he acted like Lucy when she had lots of 'esplaining' to do.  'Oh, it's a funny book.  One of my patients thought you would like it.'

Oh.  Has your patient EVER met me?  Does he know that my cousin just died?  Suddenly?  Does he know that I am pregnant with your 5th child?  I tried to see the humor in the book.  I flipped thru a few repulsive pages.  This was not meant as a humor book.  This was a real-deal book.  She wrote about how to prepare dinner and hurry up and get some make-up on before the hubby walked in the door.  There was an entire chapter offering instructions on how to have an orgasm.  WHAT THE F???

I read a short excerpt from that book right there in front of the tree while our four little guys played with their toys.  'I am going to copy a few pages from this orgasm chapter and send it to your mother, so she knows what you got me for Christmas,' I whispered calmly.  Too calmly.  Coach's face fell.  Uh oh.  I was about to blow.  In more ways than one.  I had to put cold wash cloths on my face to hide the fact that I was crying before we went to my parent's house. 

The receipt gave me more ammo.  He had purchased the book while he was in Florida.  He could have left the boys with his mother and gone shopping, like FOR REAL.  Instead, he ran to the nearest book store and bought this piece of shit book.  He admitted that he had never even opened it up - never read one page of it to see if it was actually funny, or just plain RIDICULOUS!  All this 'gift-buying' while I was home grieving the loss of a dear cousin.  There are no words.  Well, maybe 'thoughtless.' 

And that, my friends, is why my husband is simply NOT ALLOWED to purchase gifts for me.  I buy myself a few things and wrap them up and slap a label on them.  The alternative is too risky!  Do you have a horrible gift that you were stunned to open?  Do tell.