Elf

Andrew was (appropriately) and elf for this year’s kindergarten/preschool Christmas show.

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Andrew and his girlfriend, Molly (who was a star)

DSC_0024hung out after the show.

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It’s hard to believe that this little guy

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is 10 years old!

This year, on Luke’s birthday, the middle school was scheduled to perform a musical, so we made birthday plans around it.

On Saturday evening, we had dinner as a family at Red Robin (YUMMMMMMM!)IMG_0071

Then, because Tuesday evening was going to be mostly tied up with the musical, I suggested that Luke might like to open some gifts early, so he’d have time to enjoy them.

He opened the first gift on Sunday afternoon:

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It’s an AnkiDrive – super cool!  You use your iPod or iPad to race cars on a special track.  It’s almost spooky how it works.  Thanks, Aunt Maggie and Aunt Caroline!

On Monday morning, he opened the next gift.  This one from Grandma and Grandpa (and us).

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Of course, we had to put it together.  In the house.

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Tuesday – FINALLY – was the big day.  Luke turned 10!  Dan took him out to breakfast and Andrew and I visited him at school for lunch.

After Dan got home, we all headed up to school for the musical.  Both Maria and Luke participated.  (Little did Luke know that Maria and I had conspired with the music teacher for a little after-musical surprise!)

Immediately following the musical, the music teacher announced a birthday in the fourth grade – LUKE’S!  Everyone followed by singing happy birthday.  And I mean everyone – kids, parents, teachers and siblings.

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(His face is only beginning to turn red here!)

The grand finale gift and ice cream cake immediately followed upon our return home.  Luke was pretty excited about the gift he received from Gran and Maddog!

I think this birthday is going to be hard to top!

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Boo!

This year, with the exception of Andrew, the kids all made their own costumes.  (With a little help.)

Jack was the Ranger from the Ranger’s Apprentice series of books.

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Here is the first group of kids that went Trick or Treating together.

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Emma was a Minion.  Maria was Cleopatra, Lucy was an indian, Luke was an FBI SWAT team member, William was a ninja, Sam was a cowboy, John was Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andrew was a fireman (at this time) and Annette was a fairy princess. (Names in bold are my kids.)

Earlier in the day, Andrew was Batman.

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Toward the end of the evening, Andrew was visited by his fan club:

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Unfortunately, he didn’t cooperate.  Too much candy.  (Oh, and check it out – Cheerio had to get in on it, too.)

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One Organized Mama

Despite the usual chaos of the morning, I brilliantly remembered to write Jack a note and give everyone after-school instructions.  Jack has a doctor’s appointment this afternoon, so I made arrangements for Maria, Luke and Sam, since Jack, Andrew and I wouldn’t be back in time to pick them up from school.

I wrote Jack’s note on the back of an index card:

Dear Mrs. M–––
Please send Jack to the office by 3:10.  He has a doctor’s appointment this afternoon.

I handed Jack the note, which he set down on the counter.  As we were backing out of the drive, I asked Jack if he had the note.  Of course not.  So, I ran back into the house to get it and then hollered after him as he exited the van at school to be sure to turn it in.

Soon after 8, I received a call from the school.  Ugh.

“Mrs. H?  This is Mrs. ––– at the school.”  (At the same time I was wondering what could have possibly gone wrong during the first 15 minutes at school, she reassured me that all the kids were fine.)

“You sent a note with Jack this morning?” she said.  “It says that his teacher should have him in the office by 3:10 so you can pick him up for a doctor’s appointment?”

“Yes…” I replied.

“Well, the children get out of school at 3…”

“Ummm… could you just throw that note away?” I asked.

She agreed to toss it and, compassionately, didn’t even laugh.

For those of you that don’t have kids at the same school, take note that the kids ALWAYS get out of school at 3.  EVERY. DAY.

Clearly, I have too much going on right now.

 

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Television

I have no idea what I just bought.

You would think that with just one small child at home, I could make a phone call.  Ha.

I have spent an endless amount of time now researching how to get my internet/TV/phone bill down.  I do NOT need 3,579 channels.  I do not need a home phone – except for emergencies.  I DO need decent internet.  But that’s IT.  Apparently this is impossible to get for under $200 a month.

I, however, am determined to try.  So, I’ve researched online and finally decided to make a phone call.

Get this:  it would cost me MORE to downgrade to just 39 channels than to keep my current plan with 239 channels.  WTH?!?  I’m super tempted to just go off the grid.

Anyway, while some woman was explaining all this to me and offering a new promotion that will save me $10 a month, Andrew pulled a table over onto his foot.  And started SCREAMING.  (Clearly, having a gazillion channels is not keeping my child entertained long enough for me to have a conversation.)

Instead of hanging up, I just said “Uh, huh… yes… okay” as she talked a million miles a minute and I tried to apply pressure to stop the bleeding, Andrew hysterical.

I’m pretty sure before I hung up the woman told me what my new bill would be, but I have a feeling it didn’t go down as planned.  However, I had more pressing matters to attend to.  Dammit.

Andrew is now telling me he can’t walk, which means he can’t possibly go to school.  Which means I can’t possibly make another phone call to figure out what I agreed to.

This day is not working out as planned.  I’m going back to bed.

By the way, if you’ve read this far and have any brilliant ideas on how to get INEXPENSIVE Internet/TV/phone, I’m all ears.  Wait… you better email me instead.  That way you won’t hear the screaming in the background.

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The Power of Money

We gave him $5 to do it.

We are so mean.

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What a Night(mare)!*

Saturday was the Great Cub Scout Family Campout.  We have attended almost every year (if not every year) since we’ve been involved with scouts here in the Chicagoland area.  It gives the younger guys a chance to go on a “real campout”, something they don’t usually get to do.

I’m not sure why we keep going.  I guess it’s kind of like getting our family picture taken… after about a year, we forget how painful it was and sign up to do it again.  This year, however, I have finally learned my lesson.  I SWEAR.

Maria (apparently the smartest in the family) told me several weeks ago that she didn’t want to go on the campout this year.  She reminded me that none of her friends would be there.  I agreed.  Thankfully, her best friend was coming into town and I was able to save her from hell arrange for her to do something different.

In the meantime, Andrew was negotiating for the dog to come along.  He LOVES the dog.  We have never taken Cheerio camping, and other people bring their dogs, so I agreed.  She’d love it. He’d love it. How much trouble could it be?  Andrew couldn’t wait!

As the weekend approached my friend organizing the campout was obsessively checking the weather forecast.  It didn’t look good.  Rain and storms were expected.  But… only “scattered.”

As we packed the car, the rain began.  Dan and I discussed ditching.  The kids wanted to go anyway.  We decided that Dan would take the older boys ahead and decide upon arrival.  If it looked bad, we’d stay for evening activities and then head home.  Otherwise, we’d pitch the tent and stay.  In the meantime, Andrew and I drove Maria to meet her friend.

When Andrew, Cheerio and I headed to meet the boys, the sky was clearing up.  However, by the time we arrived, it was raining again.  In spite of the rain, when we pulled in we found that the tent was pitched.  It looked like we were staying.

Unbelievably, the rain quit a few minutes later and the sky cleared up.  More and more people (apparently waiting on the weather) arrived.  It was gorgeous!  My dear friend Nancy gave us a second, smaller tent, and we put that up next to our larger one to give us a little more elbow room.  This was going to be GREAT!

After eating some dinner, we headed to the common ground area for activities.  The kids launched catapults for prizes and searched for gold.  We ended with a huge campfire and s’mores.  Everyone headed back to their sites to settle in, build fires and play Ghost In The Graveyard (or whatever it was they were playing).  It was lovely.

By 10, it was quiet time and the kids were settling down.  Dan chose the smaller tent with Andrew and Luke, while I went with Jack, Sam and Cheerio (!?!) into the larger tent.  Once we were all arranged as comfortably as possible (ha!) and the fart jokes were out of the way, everyone fell asleep.

Until midnight.  That’s when the thunder started.  And the lightening flashed.  And the torrential rains came.  And the wind rocked our tent.

I texted expletives to Nancy, the dog rearranged herself on top of me and Dan texted (he couldn’t be heard over the thunder, rain and wind) that he and the boys were in a puddle of water inside their tent.  Jack, my fearless all-weather camper, was begging to ditch the tent and head to the car.  Sam was hiding deep in his sleeping bag.  I had to pee.  There was NO WAY, however, we were going out in that storm.  We were getting dripped on, but it was better than OUT THERE.

I prayed and obsessively watched the storm radar on my dying phone.  We were in the middle of it.  I was SO GLAD Maria was not with us.  If she had been, I’d have been cleaning up vomit on top of everything else.  She freaks in a storm, even inside a house.

Finally, it was over.  I made a break for the bathroom and Dan and the other boys moved into our tent.  When I returned, I found that there was not enough dry space for everyone, so the dog, two boys and I hit the van.  Only, it was too packed with crap for all of us to fit. Sam took the Accord instead.  After and hour, Sam knocked on my window and complained about being alone.  It’s not like I was sleeping anyway, so I got out of the van, leaving Luke and Cheerio to snuggle together and headed to share the car with Sam.

It was a long, cold, MISERABLE night.  I have never longed for the sun to rise as much as I did that night.

When the sun came up, it was gorgeous (of course).  You never would have known that we barely escaped being blown away.  Or struck by lightening.  Or drowned.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  After we all managed to find dry clothes, we headed over for donuts and (thank God) coffee.  I never thought I’d be warm again, but somehow the feeling eventually made it back into my fingers and toes.

We packed up in a hurry and headed out of the campground toward home.

Last night, I’d never been so happy to have a hot shower, a warm bed and a bathroom just a few feet away.  Screw camping.

My foolish little Andrew (who thankfully slept through most of it) can’t wait to go again.  With the dog.  Little does he know that by the time that happens, he’ll be able to drive himself and leave me out of it.

*Disclaimer:  this post in no way, shape, or form should reflect badly on my wonderful friend Nancy who organized and ran this campout.  She did an AWESOME job, despite the weather.  If it hadn’t been for her, it truly would have been a disaster.  Thanks, Nancy!!!  (But we’re still not going again next year.  I SWEAR.)

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They May Not Be, But I Am!

Please press the play button below!

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Now and Then

I think these pics were taken in ’75:

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My sisters, older brother, parents and me (in front). Before my little brother made his appearance.

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Mom, my sisters, older brother and me.

Last week, my husband and I traveled to DC with the kids.

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Luke, Sam, Maria, Andrew and Jack.

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Anyone notice the recurring theme?  Sam was a grump!  Maybe because he had just been in a plank after getting into trouble:

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Andrew was angry, too, minutes before:

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One other thing…  Check out the very first picture again… Notice anything?

Where are all the people?!?  Every picture I have (unless closely cropped) has millions of people in the background.  The mall was FULL of people.

Like here:

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In the picture from ’75, for as far as the eye can see, there are no other people milling around.  Not even way in the distance.  Weird.

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Keys to Happiness

Last Friday I spent the day cleaning the house and packing for 7 people.  Our summer vacation plan was to drive to Maryland to visit friends and experience a little culture for a week.

Instead of rushing to Maryland, I wanted to go slow, take the scenic route, ban all electronics and layover in Pittsburg.  We could then get up on Sunday and go to mass at the beautiful cathedral in downtown Pittsburg, enjoy a nice breakfast and then drive the last 4 hours to Baltimore.

The electronics ban lasted for about an hour.  Thank goodness, I had had the foresight to bring iPods and movies just in case my plan didn’t work.  When the yelling began and the blood started to ooze, I popped in a movie to get some peace.

We also didn’t take the scenic route.  We opted for the speedy turnpike instead.  It’s okay, the kids were glued to their screens anyway.

We arrived (finally) in Pittsburg around 4 p.m.  It was good timing.  I had made reservations at a hotel with an indoor pool, so the idea was to wear the kids out in the pool, grab some dinner and then hit the sack.

Dan went in to check us in and get our keys while I waited in the car with the kids.

It seemed to take a while, and I received a text from Dan with an explanation:  I had made our reservation for THE WRONG NIGHT.  The hotel was checking to see what they could do.

The only room available at the hotel was one with a single king bed.  There was NO WAY that was going to work.  They checked for other properties…  with no luck.  Finally, I went in and the wonderful woman at the hotel got me onto one of their computers so I could search for a place for us to stay.  There wasn’t a single place between Pittsburg and Baltimore that could accommodate a family of our size without me leaving my first born as payment.

I texted my wonderful friend, Kristina, and asked if we could invade her home one night early.  As my children sang songs about my being Mom of the Year, we pulled out of the hotel lot and soldiered on to Baltimore.

While in Baltimore, I received a few emails from Hotels.com asking me to rate our stay at the hotel we didn’t stay at.  Hahaha.  I was tempted to write a review with me as the butt of a joke, but I skipped it.

When we left Baltimore, there were no plans for a layover – we were driving straight through to Chicago.  After the hotel fiasco on the way, there was no question.

After arriving home yesterday and unloading the car, I could not find my car keys.  We all searched EVERYWHERE.  I never did drive during the vacation, but I was pretty sure I had brought my set of keys along.

Now, the (un)funny thing about my losing the keys is that I lost a set early in the summer while running.  After giving it a few weeks and checking in with the police department a few times, I gave up and bought a new set.  To the tune of about $200.  Gotta love our fancy remotes and computerized keys.

I wracked my brain and prayed to St. Anthony all evening.  I was sure I hadn’t used my keys while in Baltimore.  And, we only stopped at two places along the way – the hotel and then a restaurant in Sommerset, PA.

Last night I called the restaurant, but they had no keys.  I also called the hotel.  They told me I’d have to talk to housekeeping, but they were gone for the day.

After Googling the price of a new key fob this morning, I gave the hotel another try.  THEY HAD MY KEYS!!!!  Hallelujah!  Now… I just have to wait for a manager to come on duty so she can get them mailed out to me.

Unless someone out there is traveling from Pittsburg to Chicago soon?

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