July 27, 2022

A riddle: how many people does it take to get Mom to go to the hospital?

WEDNESDAY:  I accompanied my folks to get their drivers licenses renewed. That's a long story for another day, but Mom was very anxious about passing her test. 

No amount of: 

BUT YOU'VE NEVER HAD A TICKET (how are we related?), 




would ease her mind. 

As I mentioned, I'm trying to get over and visit my folks more frequently. When my sisters aren't present, we are able to visit and converse easily. We had my folks over for dinner the day after Ed flew home from Budapest. This was largely because I didn't see Mom for Mother's Day. We had a delightful meal and we were all here. Lots of laughs. My kids were like, we should do that more often. 

FRIDAY NIGHT:  As I headed out the door to Reg's travel game, I asked Curly to ride her bike over and spend some time with my folks. She did that and Lad walked over with Finnegan. 

Later Culry shared that when Nana went outside to pet Finn, Dad told her he'd only eaten a peanut butter sandwich for dinner because Nana didn't feel well. That might be the first sandwich Dad has ever prepared for himself. He doesn't make meals. Ever. 

SATURDAY:  Before I raced off to Reg's next set of games, Curly and I went to Costco. I got my folks a rotisserie chicken, a pulled pork meal to make in the microwave, and a bag of chicken strips for the freezer. Coach ran to the grocery store and bought them some easy potatoes and veggies. 

When we dropped it off, I told Mom THIS COOKS RIGHT IN THE MICROWAVE.

Mom:  Microwave?

Curly pointed to the world's greatest appliance and Mom sort of nodded. I marched into the family room and showed Dad the bag of breaded chicken strips and told him that he COULD make these himself if needed. "The directions are right here. You put them on a cookie sheet." I also told him that if they had no dinner to CALL ME, I'm a 2 minute drive away and I always have mountains of dinner food ready to go. 

SUNDAY:  I saw Dad at mass and I asked how Mom was feeling. He said she isn't any better, but when asked he said he wasn't sure what her issue was. 

Me:  Dad, on the way home from the DMV I begged Mom to go to the doctor. She said if she ever didn't feel well that she'd go. Remind her of that. 

Dad:  I'm trying. 

In other medical updates: 
Reg was prepped
 for his extended EEG on
 Monday. More about that soon.

MONDAY:  I was leaving for my writing group. Mini decided to come and meet my writing friends and listen to their comments about my writing. I asked Curly to go visit my folks again and Coach agreed to go with her. 

Right after Mini and I arrived, Coach called to tell me that Dad needed to talk to me right away. Coach and Curly were still at our house when Dad called our landline. 


I wasn't close to home, but Coach was. I told him I'd send Coach - besides, if Mom needed to be lifted into the car, he's the guy- he's stronger than me. (not by much, mind you, promise not to tell him that I admitted his superior strength). I think she'd already agreed to go by the time Coach arrived, but she kept stalling/arguing. 

Coach:  We can do this the easy way, with you walking to the car, or we can call 911 and all the neighbors will come running. 

Coach later imitated Mom when she FINALLY walked to the car. She followed Dad and Ann. Coach walked behind her with his arms outstretched because she was unsteady. He said she stuck her tongue out at Dad and Ann like a little kid. Goodness. 

Ann and my youngest brother, Mike, were at the hospital (2 visitor limit), so Mini and Tank and I went and hung out with Dad back at his house. One of my nieces was there too. Dad was watching Better Off Dead, finding it hilarious. 

Dad told me when he thought something was wrong he called Pat. In Ireland. Pat and Aunt Leprechaun are in Ireland visiting her family for most of July. Aunt Leprechaun is a doctor, but I LIVE A FEW MINUTES AWAY. He admitted that Mom told him a few days before that her hand and her foot felt heavy. I was like DAD, THIS WOULD'VE BEEN GOOD INFORMATION TO HAVE.

Dad's brother is a neurologist in Texas and he told Dad to have her outstretch her arms. If one hand curled up a little, she'd had a stroke. The hand curled. Dad called Ann, a nurse next. I do appreciate that I was called, not for my medical know-how, but for my heavy persuasion or heavy lifting skills, perhaps. 

Honestly, I believe this is a blessing in disguise. Mom is doing well and now she's being assessed. All the tests and blood work imaginable. The doctors asked her if she'd take a pill for things like cholesterol, if that was needed. She said no. Sigh. 

In the meantime, I must say that navigating a sick parent is a challenge, but I feel like navigating a sick parent with our family dynamics is really difficult. Whatever issues are present are magnified. 

There's a group text with my siblings. Marie insisted on coming in town from Milwaukee. This wasn't really necessary as any of us who are local could spend the day sitting bed-side watching Mom have tests done. When I texted to say that I had planned to go the hospital, Marie asked me to adjust the time when I was going to go. I went for a little while this morning, and left shortly after Marie got there. 

Marie's texts have included things like THE SOCIAL WORKER WAS HERE. I GAVE HER MY NUMBER, AND ANN'S, SINCE SHE'S LOCAL. Of course. 

I called Dad this afternoon to see if he needed help with dinner. He said Marie was picking up Culver's. I reminded him that I just bought them meals and that they are in the fridge. 

I continue to feel boxed out, but I'm trying to focus on my feeling of overall gratitude  -  that Mom is getting assessed and that this was not a massive stroke. 

July 25, 2022

travel: long overdue Prague (& photo dump)


Well, that was quite a sidetrack. I'm sure I had pressing things to discuss, but I came across a stack of flyers and ticket stubs and Coach's notes about what to see in Prague the other day and I decided to give you a recap of the last city we visited on our Europe trip. 

If you are just joining our long-paused program:  Coach and I visited Ed in Budapest when he studied there in the spring. Amazing place, highly recommend. After a few days in Budapest the three of us went to Vienna together - very cool, and very different from Budapest. Very artsy. The Habsburg summer mansion was a highlight. The loud pigeons on the windowsill all night were NOT. 

I believe that's were we left off- the pigeons. 

Coach and I said good-bye to Ed, whose train back to Budapest was hours before ours, and then he and I finished touring Vienna and went to catch our 4 or 5 hour long train ride to Prague. We paid for a seat in a four person compartment. It was nice and comfortable. We shared the space with a young couple who weren't interested in reciprocating my friendly attempt at conversation. They could speak English, but chose not to.

Ed bumped into strangers in bars, trains, and hostels and enjoyed becoming acquainted during his semester abroad. I would've enjoyed a similar experience, but that didn't happen. I'm going to blame our age and assume we didn't appear grumpy and unapproachable. 

We had to rely on Google Maps to get to our Airbnb and that was an adventure. It was late and we were starving. The path took us through a shopping center that was closed at the far end. There was a lot of retracing of steps and grumbling. 

The sweet Airbnb owner met us when we arrived. She oriented us to the place. After she left, I noticed that the thermostat didn't work. Dead batteries. She came back and installed batteries and I was practically gnawing on my own arm. 

The girls chose this moment to call us. They'd driven Reg to a bowling alley where his new AAU team was having a party for all family members. I'd urged the girls to attend, since they had to drive him anyway. This sort of event would've been right up my alley (get it?), but we were out of town. Bowling and eating free PIZZA, what's not to love? 

They were miserable. Someone's little sister cornered them and begged them to bowl with her and they felt out of place not knowing anyone. I was like THIS? THIS IS WHY YOU CALL US IN EUROPE? I barked at them to solve their own problem and to tell the girl that something came up and they weren't going to stay. Or eat the pizza and bowl and chill out. Goodness. 

Coach heading to the door
out of our Airbnb hallway. Or is he
 getting on the Pirates
of the Caribbean ride.

Am I the only person unpleasant when hangry? 

Our Airbnb, once the heat worked, was the perfect location. To get there we opened a large wooden, arched door, and walked down a dark cobblestone path - directly off the main square. It reminded both of us of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World. Coach was impressed with my Airbnb selections. I grinned and nodded, knowing I spent a little more on the accommodations than he would've. What one doesn't know, doesn't interfere with their enjoyment of said accommodations, right? Honestly everything in Prague and Budapest was so reasonable, I felt it was a good deal. Well worth it. The Vienna place was just plain pricey, but it certainly made things easy to be right in the thick of things. 

We saw much more than I saw when I visited Prague in college. We ate well. One meal I ate was fabulous and I ordered a 2nd glass of wine. How wild is that? Oh, have I mentioned - I drank wine with most of my dinners. This is not normal for me, but when in Rome Prague (Vienna and Budapest). 

I don't remember the name of this,
 but let's call it DELICIOUS. 

We thoroughly enjoyed a free walking tour with an excellent guide, who is an American. He was a cheerleader in college and moved over there to coach a cheer team, I believe. He loved it so much that he decided to stay. 

We took a scenic boat cruise. Hiked to the castle - this is the point when I threatened to toss the phone, if Coach continued to follow unreliable Google Maps. That day we walked over 10 miles. Traveling can be exhausting. 

Our tour guide is in the blue hat. We are
waiting for the clock tower to entertain us. 

Another day we took a tour of the Jewish museum. It ended up being several different buildings, which we didn't realize. We made it through some of the buildings and were saddened by so many of the stories. We also visited the Communism Museum. It was very interesting. I could have spent a few more hours there. 

Clock tower

The cobblestone town center /square with the amazing clock and the little figures that move around was beautiful. That part I remember from my '91 visit. The little winding roads between the buildings with the red-tiled roofs reminded us both of Disney World. It was all very picturesque. The morning our Airbnb host drove us to the airport it rained. He explained that we'd lucked out - the weather had been incredible while we were in Europe. 

None for me!

One day we decided to get lunch from a stand in the square selling huge chunks of ham. It also offered an enormous caldron filled with potatoes, cheese and what else I wasn't quite sure, but I KNEW I needed to have some. Fortunately the man selling it managed to tell me in English that it had bread in it. I wanted it SO badly, but alas that would've been disastrous. Coach ate it with his ham and pretended not to enjoy it, while I ate ham solo.  

St. Charles bridge
One day I wanted ice cream, but I wasn't sure if they would sell it in a bowl since I couldn't have it if it touched a cone. I approached and meekly asked my question in English. The worker kept saying AHOJ, which sounded like AHOY. I didn't understand. I was getting flustered, he finally told me in perfect English to say 'hello'. I was taken aback and Coach was equally confused. I wasn't trying to be rude and I'm pretty sure I started with:  "HI, EXCUSE ME -DO YOU SELL ICE CREAM WITHOUT THE CONE?" But he either didn't hear me, didn't understand me, or he was having a bad day. 

Eventually they made me a bowl of ice cream, but they made it in a cone twice first. I really do think I greeted them properly, but I'm sure I was hesitant and wincing while I inquired, because I often found it hard to explain my GF status. I was embarrassed at being corrected, but tried to enjoy my ice cream anyway. 

If I have time, I'm going to draft a post for Wednesday about how I wasn't quite sure we'd be allowed to come home. The story is hilarious. 

July 20, 2022

my folks: forgetfulness, doctors, and boxing out

Remember when I drove to Joe's funeral with my sisters? They were all a twitter about our mom's forgetfulness. I'd noticed it. They were borderline offended by it though, as if she was doing it intentionally to irritate them. I was like WELL, ONCE SHE CAN'T FIND HER WAY HOME FROM THE GROCERY STORE, THEN WE HAVE A PROBLEM. 

Well, she still seems to manage the grocery store route, but her forgetfulness is becoming increasingly obvious. She just turned 80 in March, and as of 8 months ago she was SO sharp. She's never had any health issues, but refuses to go to the doctor for checkups, or for ANYTHIHG. She probably hasn't been to a doctor for decades. Probably not since her knee replacements some twenty odd years ago. No joke. 

Shh! Don't tell Lad. The girls put one
of Curly's old bows in Finn's hair.
 He looks so pretty. In other words,
 I had no photos to go with this post.

One Christmas, pre-pandemic back when my folks always hosted, Mom had a horrible cough. Bronchitis or pneumonia? She still hosted and refused to go to the doctor. Aunt Leprechaun is a family practice doctor, and she can't convince Mom to get a checkup. 

As Coach says, "Your mom is the most stubborn person alive." He's not wrong. 

I find it odd that she still visits the dentist and takes care of her teeth, because what good are her teeth if her body is failing?

I'm not sure if she has dementia, but I do wonder if her memory issues stem from the time spent stuck in the house isolated during the pandemic. My dad has leukemia, so they really didn't go anywhere or see anyone for years in order to try to keep my compromised dad healthy. Back in the day, Mom attended morning mass daily and was out and about often. They are starting to venture out a bit now, but not much. 

In addition to her memory issues, she's lost weight. Like A LOT of weight. She wasn't overweight to begin with, but had just a little extra cushioning. If I had to guess, I think she's lost over 20 pounds. Her clothes hang on her frame. 

A few weeks ago, I went to a going away party for a woman. She's the oldest of 7 sisters who my sisters and I Irish danced with when we were growing up. These girls were pure fun and our families have always kept in touch, but we don't see them very often. 

Anyway,  I saw some of the sisters at the party. I learned that one sister, Fran, who is my age, suffered a few strokes in the last year. She's doing well now, under a doctor's care. Anyway, one morning when I was out for a run, I passed Mom on her walk. I slowed down (not by much, because remember what my kids say:  I run slower than I walk) and updated Mom on all the sisters. She was very upset and worried about Fran. 

You know what's nice?
Getting physical
 therapy on the floor of
 your very own
 family room. I didn't
 say it didn't hurt,
 but it is convenient.
 Coach working on
 my sore toe a few weeks
 ago. Lookie there,
 I did have a photo that
 could go with this post. 

Then we borrowed Dad's car and I had to drive him (in his car) to his physical therapy appointment at Coach's office. Overlap much? Anyway, I asked Dad if he'd heard about Fran's strokes? He hadn't. 

When I drove him home, I walked him inside and said hi to Mom. Before I left, he told Mom about Fran's strokes. "OH, NO! THAT'S AWFUL." Mom was upset all over again. 

I reminded her gently, "Remember Mom? We talked about this. Fran is doing well. They learned that cousins in Ireland around her age were struggling with similar issues and they believe it's hereditary. They've gotten it under control."

A day after we returned from Wisconsin, I called Mom and told her I was cancelling my flights to GA. Planning to drive. I explained that flights being cancelled was becoming common.


Me:  (I guessed each of Ann's children)



Mom:  YES. 

We'd just spent three days together and Marie never left Mom's side, but Mom couldn't remember her name. 


All of this to say, my heart is sad. I fear Mom is slipping away. There are things my parents have done and said that have hurt me over the years. I struggle with Mom's closeness with my two sisters. My sisters demand that closeness though, rely on it -  and I do believe I'm more independent, less needy, and ultimately stronger because of my original thinking, and clearer vision of reality. Still, knowing I'm left out of things hasn't been easy. 

I've decided that I can't afford to let anger and frustration interfere with my relationship with my folks. I'm choosing to move past it, fearing that when they are gone I'll regret allowing my frustrations to taint our interactions. My parents live closer to me than any of their offspring. I can walk there in under 10 minutes (running there in 12 min, I KID). 

I'm making more of an effort to stop by and see them, or to invite them over, which they won't always agree to. Because my sisters literally monopolize them, this is the only solution I can come up with - box my sisters out (this is a basketball defensive move where one blocks another with her body in order to get good positioning to rebound, lest you think I might be considering boxing with someone), so I can enjoy some time with my folks minus my hovering, controlling sisters. 

To be clear, I never stopped having a relationship with them or stopped talking to them. I'm just not great at planning out visits. Tis the nature of our busy life, while both my sisters are practically empty nesters. 

For example, on Mother's Day, I walked over to give Mom her card. No one was home. Coach and I finished our walk and I left the card on her porch. Later Mom called me, thanked me for the card. She told me that she saw me walk by with Coach from the window of the restaurant in their neighborhood where she and Dad were having lunch with Ann. It was Mother's Day, and Ann couldn't text me to say - HEY, COME INSIDE AND SAY HI. WE JUST SAW YOU WALK BY. 

Mom even pointed out that they saw me walk by at the start of my loop and AGAIN at the end of my loop. So, twice. Really? You couldn't walk to the door and say hi? Mom doesn't have a phone (remember? stubborn). 

Mom said she and Dad had gone over to Pat's house in the evening on Mother's Day to listen to an Irish band practice he was hosting. It was irritating to not get to see her on Mother's Day, but par for the course. 

I have a few funny stories of my recent encounters with my folks. You know what I've decided is the least elderly-friendly experience of all time? The DMV. One day soon, I'll explain. Dang, so much to talk about, and only two posts a week. 

Do your elderly relatives manage things like the internet, DMV, remote controls? Do your people visit the doctor? Do you know anyone who has gone down hill memory-wise since being confined by covid? 

July 18, 2022

last minute travel & fearing the fall

When we were younger my dad used to say, "What'd you do Friday night?" - a rhetorical question he posed to himself. This was his way of referring to an evening spent doing something mundane, or irritating. This might happen if, for example, we had to drive somewhere and we were stuck in traffic. 

Since February, Coach and I have done a lot of driving both out of state and in state to transport Reg and Curly to travel basketball games. June involved lots of local games when they played for their high school summer league two nights a week, not always the same two nights, and never in the same gym. Reg's school team also had weekend tournaments in June. Add to that the drive I took to collect Tank for Omaha in mid-May and the weekend in late April when I attended Notre Dame's admitted student day with Mini. Then our family spent that long weekend in Wisconsin in June with my side of the family. And last week, I was in GA with Reg for travel ball. 

I packed this box of toiletries for Georgia,
 and I ended up leaving it on my bathroom
vanity so it was ready for Milwaukee. 
I might just continue this
method of toiletry storage.

In a word:  busy. 

I wouldn't trade it, honestly. I could've stayed home this weekend. Coach was willing to take Reg to Milwaukee for his last out of state b-ball tournament of the season. Tank, Mini, and Curly were caddying in a big tournament, so the house would be quiet. Messy, but quiet. I could JUST write, but would I end up doing laundry and being distracted by stuff at home?

I was on the fence about going to Milwaukee. Ed was like WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO? Funny, sometimes I can't decide what I want to do, because I am busy thinking about what I should do. The house could use some attention, Lord knows. Coach texted me from work Friday a few hours before the departure time to Milwaukee. 



So, I'm drafting this post Sunday afternoon in my car between Reg's games. There's been a nice mix of getting some writing done and some social time- meeting the other parents out for a drink. While I've written so many chapters for my memoir (some forever ago), sometimes I realize that I've left something out. I finished up a chapter about some funny events from my freshman year of high school. I won't know if it's any good or not until I hand it off to Mini to judge read. 

Saturday between games, Reg was hanging out with teammates at a different hotel. I was typing on my laptop and Coach and I had a movie on in the background. The Proposal. Did you know? This is one of my favorite movies. It isn't deep or thought provoking, but I just love it. Any other fans of The Proposal out there? 

When we left our hotel for a game, we accidentally left the TV on and the movie had about 15 minutes left. No joke, when we walked back into our room the movie, which played repeatedly on the channel all day, was playing and was at almost the EXACT same spot as when we'd left. What can I say, it was like the universe was saying YEP, YOU NEEDED TO BE HERE THIS WEEKEND, PLEASE FINISH YOUR MOVIE NOW. 

So, all this to say that prior to this relaxing, almost-didn't-come weekend, I had a frustrating encounter with one of the new sisters that I'm going to babysit for in the fall. (insert dramatic, doom-day-ish music here: . . . dum, dum, DUM, dum).

While I was in GA, one of the sisters, who I'll call Chloe because it's close to Clueless, texted me to ask if one of my girls could babysit on Friday the 22nd. I reached out to my girls. Mini already had a sitting job. Curly was supposed to play b-ball in Indianapolis, but her coach decided they aren't going. Not enough girls could attend. I texted Chloe back saying Curly could sit.


Um, your address, what? 

In the chaos of packing the car and cheering for Reg I didn't respond to her. I needed to consult with Curly about her rate anyway. I decided to give Chloe the benefit of the doubt, she might've gotten my two girls mixed up and thought she'd lucked out and gotten Mini, who drives - thus, her text supplying her address. Since Curly doesn't drive, Chloe would need to come pick her up. Standard protocol for hiring a babysitter. 

After I got home from GA, Chloe texted and asked if Curly needed to be picked up. I texted her Curly's rate and apologized for the lag in my response, explaining how hectic things had been. (The day after I got back from GA, Curly played ball in downtown Chicago for 3 days.) I said, yes - Curly will need a ride, since we are limited on cars and Reg plays in a tournament that weekend and game schedules don't come out till a few days beforehand.  

Next she asked if Curly could get a ride home after babysitting. 

What now? 

Why would I be expected to pick up my kid from a sitting job? Before you answer that, understand:  I would be more than willing to help out if someone asked me as a favor, as a one time situation. As in, MY HUSBAND IS OUT OF TOWN AND THE BABIES/CHILDREN WILL BE IN BED WHEN I GET HOME. ANY CHANCE SOMEONE CAN COME PICK HER UP WHEN I GET HOME? 

There was no communicated 'favor.' A ride home? Seriously? 

Coach and I collect our kids from friends' houses late Fri/Sat nights regularly, until they can drive. We often fall asleep on the couch, or are nodding off and have to decide who's gonna stay up. 

Also, it's a Friday night. Given the Coach and I have done nothing but b-ball and travel, we would really, REALLY hope to meet another couple out for dinner or a drink that night - depending on Reg's game schedule. We've reached out to a few couples letting them know that our schedule is about to open up since b-ball is ending, and we'd sure love to get something on the calendar. Nothing has been set in stone, but should an opportunity arise - I'm not about to say SORRY, I HAVE TO PICK UP CURLY FROM A SITTING JOB. Shit, I'm not getting paid to give up my Friday night. I am not an Uber driver. 

I saw this t-shirt in Wisconsin and it was
 hard not to buy it for Coach. He could
 wear it when he meets Chloe,
 so she can have an 'aha' moment.
As in:  oh, I get it, Ernie knows all.

This woman has 3 children ages 2 -8 yrs. Can she really only have ever asked her mom to babysit? Has she always managed to hire a driving babysitter? Or a neighbor who can walk? Asking parents to drive their kid to and from a sitting job is unheard of to me. And, as you know, this is not my first rodeo. 

I texted her back and let her know that one of us might be able to get Curly, but I really wouldn't know until closer to the actual date. 

Chloe:  CAN YOU LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU KNOW? IT'S MY HUSBAND'S BIRTHDAY AND WE ARE GOING TO THE ADULT NIGHT AT THE POOL (I belong to that same pool, so I'm aware of these parties). I WILL BE HAVING A FEW BEVERAGES AND WON'T BE ABLE TO DRIVE HER HOME. I HOPE IT WORKS OUT. (I'm assuming they plan to stumble walk home from the pool - it would be a bit of a walk, but I guess that's their master plan).

I stared at my phone in disbelief. I've attended similar events with my spouse. One of us always has to stop drinking at a certain point in order to drive home, or drive a sitter home. Can one not refrain from drinking after a point in order to be responsible? Isn't this a universal concept? 

I'm not gonna lie. My visions of a smooth school year with normal families has become blurred. Is this just a one-off, or will these sisters be expecting services beyond the norm from my in-home daycare? Before our distracting and mostly relaxing trip to Milwaukee, I felt a little very down in the dumps, as in  WHY ARE PEOPLE SO STRANGE? Is my school year going to by challenging, again?



Coach just wanted me to text back, I GUESS YOU'LL HAVE TO FIND SOMEONE ELSE  (implied:  you can't drive the sitter home, then you can't have the sitter).

Chloe has not responded. 

Also, may I point out that I've never received SO many text messages about one babysitting job. When I responded to say what we've been up to, can she not figure out that life over in Chez Shenanigan is not the eating bon-bons on the couch type of lifestyle?

Depending on Reg's schedule (which won't come out until Wednesday and he plays really close to home, for once), we might be able to meet a couple out. I'd hate to have to ask myself, rhetorically, SO WHAT'D YOU DO FRIDAY NIGHT? . . . only to answer, I PICKED UP CURLY FROM A BABYSITTING JOB. 

Anyone with a crystal ball? Can you predict whether or not by school year will be a headache? I know it might've been awhile for some of you since you last hired a sitter, but do you find this strange? Who else loves The Proposal?

July 13, 2022

decisions, decisions. & layers

Remember back in April when we contemplated sending Curly and Reg to Catholic high school?

FRIENDS:  When Reg admitted that he doesn't really have friends at our high school (aka HS) and he'd consider switching, we ended up down a totally different path, unrelated to basketball. 

The lack of friends wasn't a total shock to us, but it was hard to hear him vocalize it. 

Unrelated:  How cute are these pies from
the 4th? I will share the baking fail that
happened prior to this in an upcoming
post. Um, and these are no-bake pies.

Reg needed to find a new group to hang with in high school. With most of his freshman year spent on zoom, he didn't meet a lot of kids. 

Then he found a group of kids to hang out with the summer before his sophomore year. They came over regularly. In the fall this group of about 6 girls and 6 guys all paired off and started dating. Reg was the odd man out, and the couples decided to hang out with each other because they liked to cuddle and watch movies. What now? 

In the spring, I asked Reg if the couples had split up. Seeing as they were all sophomores in high school, I was betting that their relationships weren't solid. 


He isn't alone. None of my kids have ever gravitated to what is considered 'the cool' or 'the popular' crowd. Too much drama and egos, etc. I'm grateful that my kids see it that way and don't try to conform. 

Because Reg played varsity basketball, he hung out with guys that were juniors on the b-ball team. He admitted to me back in April that those guys weren't always nice to him. At lunch one day, they wouldn't let him sit at their table. 

I found out that there is a table of sophomores that Reg could sit with, but there's a troublemaking kid at that table. We'll call him JT (just trouble). 

TROUBLE:  JT bought LSD when he was in 8th grade. He went to a different junior high, so we didn't know him. When his dad discovered him on LSD, JT ran and fell over a balcony. He landed on his head. He ended up losing a tennis ball portion of his brain. 

Incredibly sad. Mini played tennis with JT's sister, who told Mini the story, admitting that JT has changed so much since the accident. 

JT has lost all impulse control. He does and says whatever he thinks. Reg sees his behavior as problematic, but most of the boys their age find him downright hilarious. He'll do ANYTHING. 

When I described the situation to a friend, Jess, who teaches at the school, she was blown away. Jess' teacher friend must've had JT in her advanced class, because she experienced exactly what I was describing. The school isn't allowed, or isn't compelled to share with teachers what this kid's background is, so this teacher  spent the school year finding him insanely disruptive in her honors class. 

SMALL CLASS:  In my communications with Reg's school counselor, I learned that Reg's class is only about 250 kids. Most of the classes at HS are around 350. Mini's class was almost 400. Ed urges us to leave Reg at HS, thinking you don't really make your friend group until the end of sophomore year, and because of covid, Reg just finished his freshman year. 

I then asked Ed if he felt like he'd still have been able to find a group of kids to hang out with, IF his class had been 100 kids shy of a normal class. He admitted that he wasn't sure. 

IS FERRIS ALIVE:  In May, Reg opened his mouth and told a kid that he was thinking about transferring to another school. Well, it was like we were acting out Ferris Bueller. Mini's phone blew up:  IS IS TRUE? IS REG LEAVING SCHOOL? Reg, Mini, Coach, and I were grilled at every turn. The guy who has been given the varsity b-ball position pulled Reg aside, chatting with him for 15 minutes basically begging him not to go. Reg missed part of class while this guy tried to get to the root of things.

I'd suggested to Reg, DON'T SAY IT'S BECAUSE OF HIS COACHING. (we don't consider him varsity coach material, he doesn't have a b-ball background) SAY YOUR PARENTS MIGHT WANT YOU TO DRIVE TO THAT SCHOOL IN ORDER TO GET CURLY THERE. 

Reg did admit to the coach that the older kids were sometimes giving him a hard time. 


What in the actual hell? I know this guy has a screw missing, but this was mind blowing. 

During summer league, a mom asked me if it was true that Reg might transfer. I explained without going into too much detail because her son was at the lunch table where Reg was given a hard time. 

She asked me if kids were not being nice to him. I admitted that was part of the issue, but I told her not to say anything. At the next game though, she admitted that they'd had a family meeting. She said she and her husband wanted to know if their son was not sticking up for Reg. The kid admitted that he was NOT. The mom told him that sitting back and doing nothing when this other kid is constantly telling Reg "all you have going for you is basketball" is just as bad as being the bully. 

She also told me that her son said that Reg can act immature at times. This doesn't surprise me. That can happen when you hang with kids older than you. I think the year being in school on zoom didn't help. I also wonder if Reg tried to emulate his very funny older brother, Tank. If it doesn't come naturally to you, but you assume that you 'have it' - then that can get annoying. 

Her kid now understands that he can't let that crap happen, and that the conversation was not to leave their kitchen table. I didn't want her to confront her kid, but I honestly think she handled it really well. 

Still, we'd like Reg to have friends that are his age. He does really like a few kids who are a year younger than him, so if he stays then he will have a few older kids, assuming they treat him better, and a few kids who are younger. 

DISTANCE:  The distance is one of the hardest things to get past. Mini was just in a car accident. It makes me nervous to think of Reg driving on two expressways and then another road. It has been known to snow here in Chicago. 

Their friends would be far from our house too. 

CATHOLIC:  If we'd been successful at growing a money tree in our yard, we would've opted to send all of our kids to Catholic high school. They do like to eat though, and we couldn't have afforded both. 

Both Coach and I feel strongly that the kids would really benefit from a Catholic education. There are other schools that are closer. One is too rich for our blood. Another, where Reg's cousin and good friend goes, has a girls' coach who is a tyrant, which wouldn't make that team a good fit for Curly. 

WAIVER:  I FINALLY got in touch with the boys' coach end of May. He has 10 returning seniors. So, Reg might not play much as a junior if he transfers there. But  . . . they don't have as many players who are Reg's age. 

The coach explained to me that Reg would need a waiver in order to transfer unless we decide to move near the school. Not moving. If he doesn't get a waiver, he'd have to sit out his junior year season. The more we talked and the more I explained what the story is, the coach felt like Reg would possibly qualify for a waiver. 

He said he'd look into the waiver and call me back. Crickets. 

CURLY:  I consider my kids to be a package deal. They are good friends. I look forward to having them attend the same school. I know that if they go to the Catholic school, they won't be in the same building - but the schools are affiliated. 

Curly is adamant that she not go to the Catholic school. I get that she is familiar with HS, but as her parents we also agree that she'd really like the other school once she was there. Three girls on her travel team go to that school. Curly is crazy about them and they are the kind of great kids that we'd love for her to go to school with. She IS going to be on the AAU team with them for the next 4 years, at least. 

MONEY:  We haven't asked for the bottom line. Do we put the cart before the horse? We'd get a discount for sending two kids. We might get some money off for the basketball playing. Mini just got the Evans, so now we could probably afford it. But Tank, who says I LOVED HS, BUT HE DOESN'T - MOVE HIM, has asked me why I'd consider paying for Catholic high school when we just got this huge tuition weight lifted. He has a point. 


What should we do? 

Send them both to Catholic school (all boys and all girls - two different buildings)? 

Send just Reg (I don't like this idea)? Or send just Curly? 

Find out if 

    A. the bus, that picks up a bit past our house, could make a stop near our home (because it would go past us on the highway) - in which case we'd have to go pick them up every evening (bus only goes one way)?

    B. if we can get the waiver?

    C. what the tuition would be?

Do we wait another school year in hopes that his schedule will intersect with kids who he can befriend? 

Do we just stick with the school that is incredibly convenient, where Curly will most likely start on varsity as a freshman? Reg will have a good coach at his AAU team, so maybe it won't be the end of the world if he doesn't have a great coach for high school. He'll play more at HS than he will at the Catholic high school. We prefer the Catholic education, but the distance might complicate life too much. HS is a good school. 

July 11, 2022

milestones, fav book, a timeline that might make you laugh, or it might make you cry, & LOTS of photos

 Milestone:  I happened to notice that after this post, I'm six posts shy of 1,000. In some ways, it feels like I've already surpassed that, perhaps because I have a zillion partial posts in my drafts. At the same time, it feels like I just started blogging yesterday.

I'm now pondering what to do, if anything, to celebrate this upcoming milestone. I'm taking requests. You can suggest a topic that you'd like me to cover, or would you prefer I do one of those ASK ME (almost) ANYTHING posts? Or would you like to challenge me to keep under a certain word count (ha, good luck there)? Or shall I dig something out of my drafts? Or should I press onward, continue on my THIS IS WHAT'S HAPPENING stream of consciousness? Is there a story I promised to write and haven't done it yet? 

Please jump in and share your thoughts in the comments, even if your comment is unrelated to the 1,000th post suggestion request. I live for comments. I'd love to hear from you. 


New favorite book:  I don't usually mention books that I'm reading. I'm NOT a speed reader (speaking of speed readers, Hi, Nicole). I feel like by the time I finish a book, most people have already heard of it/read it, and it's old news. I read The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig for my book club last month and I loved it so much. The other women in my book club felt similarly. 

Think Little House on the Prairie meets Dennis the Menace. That comparison doesn't really due it justice. It is beautifully written and entertaining. The characters have a lot of depth and quirks. I often prefer non-fiction, but this fiction was still a big hit for me. If you decide to read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 


So sweet:  Tank came home the other day and told me that he'd just gone to pick up payment from a woman who he did some landscaping work for. The total for planting bushes (maybe pulling out old bushes too) was like $220. 

Lady:  Tank, sit down.

Tank:  OK.

Lady:  I just wanna tell you something. My dad died when I was 11. My mom raised four kids on minimum wage jobs. I appreciate hard work. You are a very hard worker. I'm giving you an extra $50, plus a pass to get your car cleaned. I'm a member there and I get these cards, but I never need all of them. 

How nice is that? 



2010 - we took our 6 very young kids to Yellowstone. Our tent flooded in the rain because we were rookies who didn't know that the fly isn't supposed to touch the tent. It was late May and there were no crowds or heat. We saw lots of wildlife, but were most excited by many bears sightings. We became hooked on National Parks. 

The drive home from Yellowstone, after our
visit to Custer's Last Stand, thus the hats.

I feel you, Curly. It was a great, but exhausting trip.

Back when Great White, GW, was 12 years younger.
Oops, we forgot to pack the kitchen sink.


Tank, Curly, and Coach.


The girls picked wild flowers and then shared them with each other. Whose mother is always cold? Hey, it WAS cold in the mornings, but I do have a tendency to over dress them. I have tons of videos of soccer games when my kids are running up and down the field, the only ones in long pants and hats. It pays to be prepared. 

2018 - while in Scotland for World Championships with my dad and the girls, he suggests that we go to Yellowstone, and he'd like to accompany us. This is two years after he barely survived being thrown from his horse while visiting Yellowstone with my brother, Pat and Pat's kids. I shrugged and told him I'd get us reservations. He believed I wouldn't get a room for the upcoming summer. Did that sound like a dare to anyone else, or was that just me? I got home from Scotland and reserved a few Rough Rider (bathrooms down the path) cabins. The dates weren't ideal and my dad wasn't interested in roughing it. We scratched the plan and agreed to try again the next summer. Sounded easy enough. 

2019 - the reservations I made were perfect, except that they conflicted with the big golf tournament the kids caddy in and we decided taking the whole family to Vancouver for a week when Curly Irish danced there was a once in a lifetime experience. We couldn't do both trips back to back because hello work and obligations and our money tree had yet to bloom (will it ever?), so we said LET'S DO YELLOWSTONE NEXT SUMMER. Again, sounds like a no brainer. 

Curly snapping photos at Butchart Gardens
 in Victoria

Remember this is a few months after I gave Mini the world's worst haircut.

Watching a street performer. I know all 6 of those butts.

Spotting a whale on our whale watching ride.

Also at Butchart. I used this photo of Coach and
 all the boys in our Christmas card. I realized
 afterwards that Reg looks like a peg-leg. The
way he's standing 'in' the shrubs makes it look
 as if he's lost part of his appendage.

*BTW we really loved Vancouver and have no regrets about turning that Irish dancing trip into one the entire family would enjoy. 

2020 - SORRY FOLKS, THE PARK IS CLOSED. MOOSE SHOULD'A TOLD YA OUT FRONT . . . pandemic closes the park. Couldn't have seen that coming. 

2021 - Roosevelt, the part of the park where we had our Yellowstone reservations, wasn't going to open because of staffing shortages as a result of the pandemic. Again, minds blown. 

2022 - flooding, natural disaster. For real? 

Fortunately we are a people who can be disappointed, but who are also good at laughing at situations that are downright LAUGHABLE. 

Hit me with requests for my 1,000 post. An unrelated comment will also make my day. Have you read The Whistling Season? Used a photo on a Christmas card and realized after that someone looked as though they'd had an amputation, or some other issue? Do tell. 

July 7, 2022

boasting about our critter birthing center, video clips galore

The deck underworld:  Perhaps the most interesting perk to living in our home, with all of its weird appliance and furniture arrangements, is the underworld of our deck. 

The morning after Mini's car accident, I was cleaning up the kitchen, a task I can spend an entire day doing and still not feel like I've made progress, am I alone? I blame teenagers. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted what I thought was a rat scamper by the sliding glass door on the deck. The tail was pink and long. What the what? We've had mice, but rats? This COULD not be.

Before I called a realtor, I raced to the deck door and realized it was a baby opossum. It stopped in front of a recycling bin left there since the party. *I handle much of the clean up duties after parties, but emptying coolers and shuffling garbage bins around is not in my contract. 

While I was filming the little guy, Reg looked out at the deck and saw another baby. He was less mobile, hanging where he'd obviously crawled out from under the deck on a bed of pine needles. If you watch the attached video, I was worried that Reg spotted the mother and she was sneaking up behind me, thus me saying in a panic-stricken tone:  THERE'S ANOTHER ONE - WHERE? We never did see the mama. It had been crazy hot, like 100 degrees. I wondered if the mother had not returned to the nest the night before and these guys were starving/dehydrated. 

Me checking out baby possum #1. Short video.

                                            Then there were two, but no mama in sight. 

Grateful that Mini's accident wasn't worse, I wanted to go to morning mass. I was about to walk out the door to church that's a stone's throw from my house when I saw the babies. I told Reg to keep an eye on them until I got back. I didn't want them to go under the deck and die down there. 

That would  not be good press for our world-class, very comfortable, highly sought after critter birthing center. I thought we might need to bring the abandoned guys to a rescue if the mother didn't come back. 

25 minutes later when I returned, the possum babies were no where to be seen. Reg was laying on the couch and had no idea where the babies went. We haven't seen them since. I assume that the mom returned, and herded them back under the deck, or somewhere else. I doubt a predator would've come along and snatched both of them at 9 am without Reg hearing anything. I'm going to continue to think they are safe here in my 'don't eat the babies' happy place. 

Clearly the area under our deck is a highly-rated birthing center. Critter word is out. 

10 second unrelated video that popped up when I searched for 'gazebo'. Taken during family backyard volleyball fest during shutdown, April '20. Ball in tree trouble. 

In case you haven't been here long enough:  we removed a mama raccoon summer of '18, not realizing it was a mama, but fearing it'd get on our roof and do damage. We were seeing her out during the day and thought she was a threat because raccoons are nocturnal. A police officer actually stopped at the house to urge us to borrow a cage from his department to move her after he saw her gigantic body on our patio table in broad daylight.

The day after we relocated her, I heard her babies under the deck, squeaking loudly. Thought they were birds at first. This was when construction had finished up on the house, minus the never-ending hood saga. The deck was peeled back for the addition and we got them out from the ever-popular birthing center with a broom and took them to a rescue. 

Then in '20 during covid when I opted to blow up a pool on my deck because our local pool was still closed, we discovered the now famous mama raccoon (could it be the same one we relocated to a forest preserve on the other side of the expressway?) and four babies who had a splash party in said spa. This time, I removed my spa, but left the 'coon and her babies alone.

While not technically in the underworld of the deck, in the spring I witnessed a mama squirrel move her babies from her nest in the roof of the gazebo that's part of the deck. I'd never seen a squirrel baby before. Weird, but they always seem full size. This mama made several trips carrying them to the neighbor's bushes one at a time in her mouth. She was methodical, taking the same exact route each time. I suspect Finnegan's presence was irritating her. Or maybe she couldn't afford the bill at our state-of-the-art facility. 

This squirrel video is 3 minutes, beginning is funny - check out Finn's reaction. Then check out last 40 seconds, Mini comes home from school, (you can hear her in the background), wondering what I'm videoing and being excited that I've just made cookies, and she shares my excitement over the baby moving- while chomping on a cookie. I apologize for the smudged  window. 

Should I set up the inflatable pool just in case the opossum family is bummed they aren't getting the spa treatment that the raccoons clearly bragged about? Weirdest baby animal you've had on your property? 

July 5, 2022

(somewhat) sleepless in Chicago, large party seating, and other unconventional perks of residing in the Shenanigan home

Sleepless in Seattle, sleepy/sleep late in Chicago:  My sleep patterns have been off for over a week. I don't know how to snap out of it. Suggestions are welcome.

I wake up at 4 or 5 am after maybe four hours of sleep, and then I lay awake for an hour or two. I read sometimes, or just lay there. Eventually I go back to sleep until 8 or 9 am. This isn't ideal as I'm not a lady of leisure. 

I cancelled our flights to Atlanta for various reasons. As you read this, Reg and I are driving to GA for his basketball tournament. Reg can drive a bit here and there, but I'm dreading the long drive. What if I don't get a normal sleep the night before? There's no way I can squeeze in a later-morning nap as is my new custom, as I plan to leave early. Plus, I'll be way too anxious about driving to nap. 

Prayers offered for our safe travels this week are much appreciated


Think 12 Days of Christmas, but our version is:  2 MICROWAVES, 3 REFRIDGERATORS, AND TABLES FOR 8 OR MORE EVERYWHERE:  

I still have Lad's college microwave, pulled from my crawlspace, on my kitchen counter. I filed a complaint with Thermador over the premature breakdown of our pricey, built-in microwave drawer a few months ago, and have heard nothing. Somehow including a reminder on my list of things to do hasn't helped me carve out the time to actually make that phone call. Maybe I'll call them on Bluetooth while driving to Atlanta. Multitasking is the only way, apparently. 

I still have a partially working, cold-drink-chilling extra fridge in my dining room. I love it there. If having a dining room fridge is wrong, I don't wanna be right. 

I have a dog, that doesn't belong to me, tied to my back door, or nudging my hand off of my keyboard when he wants me to pet him when he's allowed to roam the uncarpeted spaces on the first floor while not tied to the back door. 

Finnegan vs. my mouse - the struggle is real.

*(editing to add:  after reading about the passing of sweet Barkley, Nicole's dog at Girl in a Boy House, (HI NICOLE) I must admit that it is not lost on me that Finnegan is crazy about me, wagging himself silly when I come home from somewhere. Finn has stolen my heart despite the fact that I wasn't asked permission to add him to our busy, non-puppy-proof household. RIP Barkley).

And, drum roll, I have an extra, VERY old kitchen table and chairs in my living room. 

The day before the grad party, I spotted said kitchen table at a garage sale down the street. I went and checked it out. Ed, interning in the basement most days, texted his buddies to see if anyone had procured a table for their college house. They still needed one. I was busy getting ready for the party, so I sent Tank down with the $50 to secure it, saying we'd pick it up later.

The morning of the party, I woke up with a lightbulb moment. Does anyone else wake up with clarity, like things they remember they were supposed to do or just great ideas? I decided that it might make sense to pick up that table and set it up in the living room as extra seating during the party. 

You might recall that we, Hillbilly-wannabes, repurposed our living room coffee table to support Lad's bed - in combination with the bottom section of the dismantled bunk bed. This arrangement has left the living room, which we thought would be an excellent space to keep Lad's dog, fairly bare. The problem? Finnegan DOESN'T want to hang in the living room alone. He'd rather follow me from my laptop in the kitchen to my desktop in the study, tucking his nose under the palm of my hand and nudging my hand off of my mouse, begging to be petted. Never having lived with a dog, is this normal, or is Finnegan just exceptional? 

I paced myself fairly well with the grad party preparations. Mark this party as a turning point in my life. I'm not a rock star at pacing. I usually end up un-showered and panicked as people are arriving. There is a first for everything though, and while I wasn't 100% ready and eating bon-bons while reclined on the couch, I was basically in good shape. 

A few hours before anyone arrived, I saw a window of time - even though I was still sweaty and un-showered after my run, so getting to the push-the-envelope stage as far as how I was allocating my time. I tend to run off the rails with my I'VE GOT TIME FOR THIS mentality. What can I say? When push comes to shove, I start to believe I have super powers that don't necessarily exist. Am I alone? 

I grabbed Curly. We trotted down the block to the garage sale with my wagon in tow, turned the table upside down on the wagon, and hauled it home. The sellers offered to deliver the chairs in their car, which was handy. 

I never shared the stationary bike story. Ah, another day. No one will accuse me of having an HGTV-esque flair for decorating. We bought the living room couch, but the end tables, lamps, art, all hand-me-downs. I made the curtains. Come on over for dinner, I've got frozen pasta from the grad party, and plenty of seating. I thought I had a photo of us bringing the table home  on the wagon - the leaf wasn't inserted, so it was doable. 

No one ended up needing to eat at the extra table, because the threat of rain turned out to be a slight (albeit annoying, because large intermittent drops persisted for about 30 minutes) fat drizzle. The kitchen table and outdoor seating proved sufficient. Now, Ed has a table and I have available seating for a crowd that I don't expect to actually show up before the table departs with Ed in August. 

Coming up next is the exciting information we've gathered about the goings-on under and above our deck. I have video that you won't want to miss. Any guesses? Here's a tip, it's not a raccoon. 

Anyone have unconventional home setups, furniture-wise or otherwise? Are you good at party prep? Successful at mimicking HGTV decorating tips? Since I'm in my 50's, I do dream of one day being rid of hand-me-down furniture, but admittedly not a priority.