Our Lady of Fatima... Pray for us.
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament... Hear us.
Our Lady of the Rosary... Strengthen us.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Another wedding day...

   My niece, Victoria, got married this past weekend.  She married a very nice young man who graduated from the Naval Academy. Quite a weekend for the new groom. He graduated as an officer in the Navy and started a life where he has to take orders all day long.
   My guess is that he will also have to take orders when he reports to his new Naval assignment. Ba dump bump!!
   I got a million of 'em. Don't forget to tip your waiters and waitresses!
   It was a beautiful wedding and a beautiful reception. Weddings are a big deal in our family. In fact, one of my favorite scenes in any movie is the wedding scene in The Godfather. Every time someone in our family gets married, I think of that scene. Everyone is happy. Everyone eats too much... drinks a bit too much... and has a great time. The only difference between The Godfather wedding and our family weddings is that nobody asks the bride's father to knock off some guy that beat his daughter.  At least I don't think anyone ever asked the bride's father to kill or beat anybody up.
   Anyway, anything that brings our family together for a few days is a great event, and nothing is better than a wedding. What can I say? We have a great family, and we enjoy each other's company. It is great to watch my adult nephews sit around and laugh and tell stories the same way that they did when they were kids. In fact, at one point, they were pointing over at me and laughing like they used to do when they were kids. When I walked over, they all stopped talking in mid sentence and got real quiet. My guess is that they did so, so as not to embarrass me with all their praise and God-like worship. At least I am pretty sure that's what they were doing.
    Do you think... that they may have... been making fun... of... me?
    No way, it was praise and God-like worship. I am sure of it.
    Anyway, no cousins enjoy each other's company more so than my daughter Grace and her cousin Katherine. They are like two peas in a pod... albeit a kind of weird shaped pod because Grace is five foot nothing and Katherine is almost six feet.
    Katherine lives in Texas, but despite their geographical differences, they manage to have constant communication. When they are not talking, they are texting. A fact that annoys Cheryl and me at times. We will be eating dinner and Noah will make a work of art with the vegetables on his plate and the second we stop laughing, Grace has her head down sending a text and a photo to Katherine.
   Thinking back to when I was a kid, I cannot imagine my brother making food art... or any type of art for that matter... and my getting up from the table to call my cousin (texting was not yet invented). My father would have told me, You get up from this table again, you are going to be picking up your teeth with a broken arm. 
   You know, now that I think about it, at my sister's wedding, a few people might have asked my father to beat someone up.
    The second that Katherine steps off of the plane, she and Grace begin plotting how they can spend every second together. They eat together, drive together, they even sleep in the same bed. The day after the wedding, I had the rare opportunity to sleep in until after 9 a.m.  I did not actually sleep the whole time, but I was lying in bed talking with Cheryl about the wedding when the phone rang.
    Will you make us breakfast?
    What, who is this? 
    Grace. Will you make French toast?
    Where are you?
    In bed. I am calling from my cell phone.
    I am in bed too... talking with mom. You go make it.
    I am in my bed and I am talking with Katherine. I don't want to get up. 
    I am not going to get up to go make you two French toast.
    Soooo... can we go out for breakfast?
     Katherine and Grace almost missed the cut on this wedding. Space was limited, so it was not as big a wedding as some past celebrations. The bride had some tough decisions and age was a factor. Fortunately, both Katherine and Grace snuck in under the wire. Good thing because I have learned over the years that if you have done something to harm, hurt or disappoint Katherine, you have done something to harm, hurt or disappoint Grace... and vice verse.
     They each have the stupid super power to transfer their feelings of anger and disappointment to the other. It does not matter that they live thousands of miles apart or may not even know the people involved... a harm on one is a harm on the other.
     Fortunately, neither one was harmed, hurt or disappointed on this visit, and both seemed to have a great weekend. Not to mention a great breakfast purchased the day after the wedding at the local diner.
     One thing that I tell people planning a wedding is that the success of the wedding has little to do with the food, the music or the cake. The success of a wedding has everything to do with the people that you share the day with. People make a wedding a hit or a bust.
     Victoria's reception was held in the backyard of a family for whom she worked. I must say it was probably the most gorgeous backyard I have ever seen and perfect for this event. There was a large built in fire pit, a huge bar with an outdoor kitchen, two hot tubs, a dining area and a pool with a large stone deck where people could dance. It was beautifully decorated and perfect for the occasion. The food was delicious and the event was a huge success.
     The following day, most of the family and friends went over to my brother's house for a post-wedding celebration. His backyard does not have a large built in fire pit, nor does it have a kitchen, two hot tubs or a large dining area. What it does have is a swing set, room to hit a whiffle ball, and a space to play corn hole. Late into the evening, long after all the food was gone, they pulled out their portable fire pit and we sat around and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. The food was delicious and the event was a huge success.
    So what was the common denominator?
    The people in attendance.
    Now I am not suggesting that you roast hot dogs and marshmallows as a wedding feast, but if you invite the right people, you could.
     But please do me a favor, invite Katherine and Grace to the weenie roast because I don't think that I could handle the dual hurt that would result if one of them is not on that guest list.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Where should we sit?

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So... I married a funny guy...
     If you are a regular reader of FGF, you know that our family likes to attend the same 10 am Mass every Sunday. And, with the exception of Cheryl, we like to sit in the same section (a.k.a. the late section, in the far back baptismal side of the church) every Sunday.
     You may also remember that, about once every month, Matthew serves on the altar. While we are grateful that Matthew has this opportunity to serve... it really does screw everything up.
     He rarely gets assigned "our" Mass, and despite the fact that we have seen him up on the altar... doing the same things... dozens of times... Cheryl always wants to sit in a different, closer-to-the-front section of the church. Let me be frank... we don't belong in that closer section. That section is reserved for the really holy people; we are just a little bit holy.
     Not that this is such a bad thing. I mean, I am not bragging or anything, but we are kind of popular in our late section.
     People know us there.
     People like us there.
     There is the woman who teaches violin, the family with the big kid who played football at DeMatha, our friends who always seem to have kids with broken bones, the judge with  his wife and daughter (for some reason, my kids always act up a little when the judge is directly behind us), the young mom who hands me her twin infant daughters to hold, the accountant with his wife and grandson, my best friend growing up, some families from our retreat group, and my brother and his wife.
     These are our peeps!
     When Noah was younger, we used to let him draw during Mass. The pew behind us was a hot ticket because everyone wanted to see what he would come up with next. One Sunday, it might be Jesus on the cross... and the following Sunday, it could be Phineas and Ferb on the cross. You never knew who was going to be on the cross, and that was part of the fun.
     You could never get away with that kind of stuff in the front.
     First of all, people up front don't use the missalettes provided by management. No, they all have their own personal little books with highlighted sections and dog-eared pages. It is as if they read the darn things during the week and not just on Sunday. Seriously, who does that kind of thing? And they would never put up with some kid drawing during Mass. Even if they did allow an artist to create, we couldn't actually let anybody draw up there in the front row because the priest can see what you are doing at any given time. It is downright uncomfortable.
     This past Sunday, Matthew served at the noon Mass.
     As a result, we arrived about ten minutes early. This may sound like a great feat for the family that is chronically late, but we were supposed to be there twenty minutes before Mass. So, although earlier than usual, yes, we were still late.
     After we arrived, we went through the process of selecting our seats. Grace was leading the charge for our regular location in the way back corner, and Cheryl was lobbying for the front, center row. The two were walking in opposite directions when Cheryl looked and me and said, You are the spiritual leader of the family... you decide where we sit. 
     Now, in all candor, Cheryl and I both know that I am not the spiritual leader of our family... she is. I am just a lowly convert.
     She often tells me that if the Catholics played the Protestants in the Super Bowl of Religion, I would root for the Protestants. That is not exactly true, but I would want the Protestants to cover. That is a gambling joke for you people in the front row!
     What Cheryl really means when she asks me to decide is Tell Grace that we are going to sit where I want to sit and let's get to prayin'.  
     My initial reaction was that I did not care where we sat, although deep down, I must admit that  I wanted to sit in our regular section, but knew better to say that. But then, with the wisdom of Solomon, I ordered that... We shall neither sit in the way back corner, nor shall we sit in the front row. We shall sit on the left side, in the middle pews.  Weezer, lead the way!
     There. I, as the faux spiritual leader of the family, made a tough ruling, and then delegated power back to Cheryl. I split the proverbial baby in half.
     Cheryl then took the lead... and promptly went to the second row, right dab in the middle section of the church.  Right behind the ladies with the highlighted, dog-eared books. Cheryl put the proverbial baby back together in a form more to her liking.
     Grace was disappointed with my ruling and even more agitated with Cheryl's interpretation and implementation of my plan. She nestled up to me, and, out of Cheryl's earshot, asked, When did left side middle become front row center? Now we have to try and avoid eye contact with the priest. 
     I told her to stop thinking about herself... I got only four hours of sleep last night, and now, not only do I have to stay awake the whole time, I have to lip sync every song and every group prayer.
     Besides all that fake singing and stuff, there is a lot of pressure when you sit in the front.
     I am pretty sure that I know the correct times times to sit, kneel and stand, but there are occasions when I might jump the gun or forget what position I am supposed to be in. You know, there are times when you stand when you should be sitting, and kneel when you should be standing. When you make these little mistakes in the back of the church with friends and family, no big deal. You do that in the front, it is there for the whole congregation to see.
     Hey, did you see that guy standing during the kneeling part of Mass... he doesn't belong in the front. What a buffoon!
     They didn't really say that, but I knew that they were thinking it. And they call themselves good Catholics! Whatever! You know... on second thought... I hope the Protestants put a hurting on them Catholics in the big game!
     Fortunately, on Sunday, the priest gave a great homily that, for the most part, kept me awake and engaged throughout the entire Mass. In addition, I only made a few minor kneeling/standing/sitting blunders. All in all, it was a good Sunday in church.
     However, I, as the spiritual leader of the family, can no longer allow us to sit in the front row when Matthew serves. I have discovered that Noah makes faces at Matthew while he is up on the altar and has become a distraction. This, I cannot tolerate.    
     I know what you may be thinking, why not stop Noah from making the faces?
     Please don't tell Cheryl, but it is all I can do to stay awake. There is no way I can keep track of all that other stuff!
     It is just easier to sit in the late section and call it a day!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... How cool am I...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark.  So, I married a funny guy...
     I abandoned Cheryl and Grace on Mother's Day.  That's right, I left town for the weekend and left them to fend for themselves. And worse, I took Matthew and Noah with me.
     Okay, technically, I did not abandon the girls. I actually drew the short straw and had to take Matthew, Noah, and a few of Matthew's buddies to the beach for the weekend for Matthew's birthday. This worked out for Matthew and his buddies because, ahem, and I quote... Dad, you are the cool parent.
     You got that right, Jack!
     I don't worry about the number of rides we ride on at the amusement park... I don't worry about what we eat... I don't have to check out the movie on www.youcan' WE ARE WATCHING IT,  BABY!
    We Don't Need No Stinkin' Mommies!
    The trip got off to a bit of a rocky start. Our vehicle seats seven comfortably, but I didn't account for the luggage, the sleeping bags, and the pillows for each of the seven comfortable riders. I don't know how we would have ever fit the other kids Matthew had wanted to add. No big deal, the driver was comfortable and the others learned what it feels like to be sardines. They did not seem to mind as they told story, after story, after story, after story,
    Funny thing when 12-year-olds tell stories... each one is the funniest story in the world. I know this to be true because prior to telling the story, they announce that they are about to tell the funniest story in the world. 
    One would think that the funniest story in the world would have a nice beginning, followed by a related plot, wrapped up with a logical conclusion.
     Not so, my friends. No... the funniest stories in the world typically start with a loud, unintelligible  beginning (I think it is loud and unintelligible because the loudest kid out of the gate seems to be the one that gets to continue with the next story), followed by a series of you knows, likes and uhmms. They then end with a confusing, I am not sure exactly what happened but it was the funniest thing ever. 
     Lots of stories were told in that two-and-a-half hour drive.  You cannot imagine how happy I was when someone suggested that we play the Quiet Game. I love the Quiet Game. It's so.......quiet.
     We arrived at 10:30pm and everyone was hungry. This, despite the stop at Dairy Queen. But I am the cool parent and the masses wanted pizza, so I was going to feed the masses. You would think it would have been easy to find a pizza joint open at that hour of the night in Ocean City but it was not.
    At one point, I asked the boys if I agreed to take them to Hooters, would they agree to not tell their mothers. This was met with wild enthusiasm but I knew these kids would throw me under the bus in a New York minute. So, we continued our drive up and down Coastal Highway before finding Billy's Sub Shop serving world famous pizza. Not sure if it was worthy of world famous but it was a good snack right before hitting the sack.
     The boys decided that they were all going to sleep in the same room. These sleeping arrangements were concocted despite the fact that there were two other bedrooms and a comfy couch available.  Despite my better judgment, I did the cool thing and let them sleep wherever they wanted. It was late, we had a lot to do on Saturday and they were tired.  How bad could it be?
     Here is how bad it could be... at 2:30am, I told them that we had a lot to do in the morning and they were going to have to go to sleep because if they stayed awake, they would wind up sleeping in all morning and then we were going to run out of time to do all the stuff we had planned. I was definitely not cool at that point.
     The good news is that despite staying up for another hour, they took half of my admonition to heart... they woke up at 6:45am. What the heck, they were not going to miss anything in the morning.
     Our day started off with a delicious breakfast of hot donuts. That's it... donuts. Donuts are great fuel for miniature golf. We went with the all-day pass, which proved to be a very fortuitous decision. The first 18 was played indoors with a second 18 played outdoors in the rain.  How cool am I? Let me just say this... rain does not dampen my coolness.
     After a full morning of mini-golf, we headed to the boardwalk at about noon. The rides were cheaper and unlimited from 1:00pm until 4:30pm. No problem, we will go eat and then head back to the amusement park. Pizza anyone?  In case you may have forgotten we have now had three meals since arriving at the beach... pizza, donuts and pizza. Keep that little tidbit tucked away for a few minutes.
     The boys got their tickets and it was off to the races. Every ride was empty so if they wanted to go twice, they just stayed on and went again, and again and again. Bumper cars went for fifteen minutes at a time. I tried to steer the kids to the bumper cars just to give them a break from the spinning rides. Those things made me dizzy just watching.
     After about the tenth spinning ride, one of the boys raced to the eleventh spinning ride looking a bit greenish. I suggested that he take a break. This young man plays baseball for me and whenever I ask if he can pitch another inning, he always responds with I got this, Coach. Typically, he does have it... so I let him press on. Again, I repeat, how cool am I?
     Remember the pizza, the donuts and the pizza that I asked that you tuck away in your memory banks a few paragraphs ago. Yeah, you guessed it. This young man reminded us all of that pizza, those donuts and that pizza as he exited ride number eleven.
     Now what would we do? We had one sick kid, five healthy ones and an hour and a half of rides still left on the clock. Fortunately, I had on two shirts so we did a quick change and then took a much needed break on the bumper cars. We took a vote and it was 5-1 that we stay. Sure it may not have been the most responsible thing to do, but five little boys thought it was the cool thing to do. One weak stomach cannot stop us.  
     We returned to the condo in time to take some much needed showers before going to see Iron Man 3. Before seeing the movie, we were able to squeeze in a 5:30 Mass. The boys were awesome in church. My guess is that they were exhausted, but I was willing to take it any way I could get it. One lady asked me if all six of these "angels" were mine. Yeah, sure lady, angels. That's right, angels. Go drive with them for two hours and ask one of them to tell you a funny story and then come talk to me.
     Once in the theatre, we ordered some popcorn and candy. This, I am sad to say, was dinner. I did offer to feed the boys after the movie, but they insisted that they were not hungry. One started to complain of a sore throat. In fact, I think his exact words were, Mister Mark, I have strep throat. 
     Okay, back to the condo. Oh wait a second, there is the mini golf course we played this morning. Can we play another round? I am feeling better, can we play.
     I was a bit skeptical of this miraculous recovery but what the heck, another round of golf isn't going to hurt, is it?  Seriously, how cool am I?
     It was an exhausting day and everyone got to sleep at a more reasonable hour. I know I was looking forward to a nice night of uninterrupted sleep. At 4:30 a.m., I was awakened with Mister Mark, my throat hurts so bad that I cannot breath. I am calling my mom!
     No need to call Mom. Take some Tylenol and I will get you some tea, and we will be heading home in a few hours. 
     Can you take me to the minute clinic? I think I have strep. 
     No, I can't, and no you don't, I said wishfully.  (By the way, he did not).
     The two of us stayed up for about an hour and then both headed back to bed. He fell asleep while I lay awake worrying if he were allergic to the Tylenol that I gave him or if he did actually did have strep. I spent the rest of the night getting up to check on him, making sure he was still breathing.
     Fortunately, the boy with the sore throat did wake up in the morning and we, er uh, I mean, I cleaned the condo and we headed home. Needless to say, it was a whirlwind weekend. The boys were exhausted and decided to watch a movie on the drive home. They selected The Hunger Games.
     Their movie selection reminded me that I had not fed them anything all day.  
     Look, I said I was the cool parent... not the responsible parent.  
     We made it home safe and sound just as Cheryl was heading out with Grace to continue their Mother/Daughter girls weekend. They had shopped, gotten their nails done, had sushi for lunch, watched a bunch of chick flicks, had their hair cut.
     How boring!  
     No funny stories... no late nights... no throwing up... no strep throat... no cleaning.
     You know, the more I think about this, the more I know what I want for Father's Day.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Matthew is growing up...

     Matthew turned 13 this week. I cannot believe that he is a teenager. We could not have been blessed with a better young man. He is a great son, a wonderful brother, a good teammate, and a complete dope. That's right. I said dope.
     Let me give you an example. We went to a friend's home for a First Communion party. They had a team handball game going on in the backyard, and both Matthew and Noah were entrenched in the battle. For those of you that don't know what team handball is, it is soccer...only, as the name suggests, you can use your hands.
     I sat and watched for about five minutes and noticed two things. First, Noah had himself perched at the opposing team's goal waiting for a pass so he could score a goal. Second, Matthew was shooting... a lot. And he was not passing to his brother who was perched at the opposing team's goal waiting for a pass from his brother so that he could score a goal. That pass never came.
     I gave the boys the two minute warning and Noah pleaded to let them continue to play until he scored. No problem. Having been the youngest of six, I recognize the need for the youngest to get his opportunity to shine. I gave Noah an assist by ordering that Matthew pass him the ball. Eventually, the stars aligned and Matthew passed to Noah, who managed to throw one into the back of the net. Game, set, match... at least for my sons.
     I had the boys follow me into the house to say goodbye to our hosts and then head out to the car. As I buckled myself up, I noticed that we were one kid short... no Matthew. We waited... and waited... and waited. I went back into the house and could not find him anywhere. I went around back only to find, to my surprise, Matthew in the thick of the game with ball in hand running down field. I yelled his name and he looked up like a deer in headlights and without missing a beat said...
     Hey, there you are. I was looking for you!
     You were looking for me, huh? Did you think that I snuck back into the yard and hopped into the opposing team's goal. 
     No, I mean you got into a long conversation with someone, and I lost track of you so I lapped back around and they threw me the ball. 
     My long conversation consisted of... Thank you for having us, Good bye... It took four seconds. 
     No seriously, I really thought...
     Please shut the hole that makes the noise because I am getting more and more irritated with every idiotic explanation of how you were looking for me in the middle of that game.

     He continued to try to explain the unexplainable as if all of the sudden, I was going to be proud of his efforts to hunt me down like the two dogs and the cat in the movie, Homeward Bound.
     I can't really lay all the blame on Matthew for this maneuver. Of course, as always, I lay part of the blame on Cheryl. That's correct, he learned from the best. In fact, this was not the first time during the weekend that I had to live through a permutation of this move.
     The previous night, Cheryl and I went to our good friends' 25th anniversary party. A lovely affair held at a mutual friends' home. On the way, I was so exhausted that I pulled over to buy a soda, which was kind of a big deal because I stopped drinking soda about a year ago. I needed some caffeine.
     After purchasing the soda, I felt so guilty about the prospect of drinking the soda that I just used it, unopened, as a cold compress and rolled it around my face and neck... much to my wife's amusement. Anyway, I was pretty tired.
     After a few hours at the party, Cheryl was in the middle of a conversation that involved, of all things, me being a hot head. During a break in the conversation, I managed slip in a subtle hint... I am tired, let's go!  
     Okay, not so subtle.
     No problem, she said, let me go say goodbye to our hosts.
     Twenty-five minutes later, no Cheryl in sight, and I was stuck making small talk with the bride's mother. I saw our hosts in the living room, but no Cheryl. I extricated myself from my own conversation and went looking for my lovely, albeit chatty, bride. There she was, standing in the kitchen with two ladies, who clearly were not our hosts, in the middle of a conversation. As I approached, Cheryl got that deer-in-the-headlights look, and without missing a beat said, Oh, are you ready to go? 
     Really, you don't remember that little face dance that I did with the Dr. Pepper on the drive down? YES, I AM READY TO GO!!
     Gee, maybe I am a hothead.
     I suppose there are worse things that my kids could learn from Cheryl... although nothing immediately comes to mind.
     When I tell people that Matthew is now a teenager, I keep hearing about how much trouble Cheryl and I are in for. I could be wrong, but I don't see it. Like any kid, he has his moments... but overall, we could not have asked for a better kid.
     Every Sunday, in church, I say a little prayer asking God to watch over each of my kids for that week and make them better sons and a better daughter, better siblings, better teammates, and better friends. I ask that He opens their minds and makes them better students and better Catholics. I told Cheryl, that is one of the many reasons I have to make it to Mass every week... I only have a seven day warranty on my prayer. Cheryl tells me that I can pray more than once a week. She could be correct, but who really knows.
     Matthew is growing up to be a fine young man. He is polite, respectful and kind. We could not be any prouder of him.
     Anyway, I think God answers my prayers. Perhaps, by only asking once a week, it gives Him more of an opportunity to answer just that one... ever think of that Saint Cheryl?
       Happy birthday, buddy!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Of growing families and first kids...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     One thing about being in a big family... it always get bigger.
     I am the youngest of six kids. My mother has twenty six grandkids, twenty-two great-grandkids, and, as of this very moment, there are four more great-grandkids on the way. By the time that I am done typing this FGF post, there may be one or two more in the hopper. We tend to move pretty fast.
     I bring this up because in the past two weeks, two of my nephews announced that they are expecting their first children. This is very tough on me because these two boys are... oh... I dunno... like 8 and 12 years old.
     What's that? They are actually 27 and 31 years old?... Not possible. I am... oh I dunno... like 27 or 31 myself... and I am way older than they are. You know, now that I think about it, maybe I am more like 27 + 31 years old.  Not quite... but closer than I would like to think. 
     In my opinion, there is nothing in the world that can match the feeling that you get when you find out that you are going to be a parent for the first time. It makes you want to laugh, cry and vomit all at the same time.
     You are suddenly going to be completely responsible for the life of another human being. You think about all of the stupid things you have done just taking care of yourself and then realize you are now going to be doing stupid things for yourself and a completely dependant baby. Despite the daunting task, Cheryl and I were always ready, willing and able... or so we thought... to take on the task of parenthood.
     Like many young couples, we just assumed we would hang out together for a year or two and then start our little family. Things kind of went according to our plans and Cheryl got pregnant after two years of marriage.
     Unfortunately, she suffered a miscarriage. Obviously, we were disappointed, but we had hope that children would soon be in our future.
     Funny thing about our plans... they don't always jive with His plans. After many baby-less months, we decided to seek medical assistance. This began the very "clinical" process of having a child. That process should not be clinical... it is not nearly as much fun. Not only was it not fun, it didn't work. After several months of trying, Cheryl was still not pregnant.
     We stopped the treatment and began to think that maybe we would just go through life without kids. Just Cheryl and I... alone... every night... just the two of us... quiet... alone... just Cheryl... and just me. It would have been... uh... fun?
     In December '95, I approached Cheryl about going back to the doctor to see if we could try again and maybe undergo some more tests. She agreed to make an appointment for sometime after Christmas. Before we could attend that appointment, Cheryl discovered she was pregnant. One phone call; that was all it took. That doctor was awesome.
     Gracie was born the following August. We finally had our little girl, and she was an angel.

     I remember those first few years. I used to sit around every weekend and devote every second of my time to her. It would start with snuggles in the morning, dancing in the mid-morning, wrestling before lunch, singing after lunch, reading in the afternoon, followed by a quick nap. Then we would wake up and we would start the snuggling, wrestling, singing and reading all over again. I think Cheryl was there for this stuff but I am not certain.
     I liked Gracie. I really, really liked her. What was not to like? She was the best snuggler, wrestler, singer, and reader in the world... and smart, too... oh... and beautiful... let's not forget beautiful.  I guess other parents thought that their kids were special, but I knew that they were just fooling themselves. I had the one.

     My feelings about our perfect little child made it difficult to leave her with other people, including her first teacher. The only thing that made it bearable was knowing that her teacher would have the pleasure of teaching the "perfect" child. I kind of figured that they would skip her right out of kindergarten because she already knew her letters, numbers and colors. Maybe they would decide to keep her in the class because maybe, just maybe, some of her awesomeness would rub off on some of these other loser... I mean... less perfect... children in her class.
     We looked forward to our first parent-teacher conference. I mean, who does not like to hear about how great their first kid is? It was really just a formality for us. Other parents had to do it, so we did too. Heck, maybe we could have given the teacher some pointers.
     We anxiously took our places in those tiny little kindergarten chairs and waited for the teacher to start singing Gracie's praises. I was ready to hear someone tell me how all of the time and attention that I gave that sweet girl was paying off.

     Good morning Mark and Cheryl. You know, everyone is aware that you love your daughter and that she is the center of your universe.
     Of course, she is, you have met her, right? Who would not think that she is the center of the universe?           
     Yes, well you see, she is the center of your universe and that is fine... but the problem is that she thinks that she is the center of everybody's universe. 
     Yes... and... is this some sort of problem?
     Well... yes it is. 
     How so? Are you sure that you are talking about the right kid? 
     Yes, I am talking about your daughter. 
     Every comment after "your daughter" was obviously directed at Cheryl. The teacher continued:
     I will give you an example of what I mean... I was talking to the other kindergarten teacher in the hall the other day when Grace poked her head out of the classroom and told us, "You two have been out here long enough... isn't it about time you got back into your classes?"
     Well, how long were you two out there talking? Maybe thou doth protest too much?
     You're missing my point. She oversteps her boundaries. She teases the boys with her potato chips... waving the chips in their faces before chomping down on them. 
     The boys or the chips? Why are there boys near her when she is eating, anyway? 
     Sir, I just think that you may need to discuss these things with her.
     Well, how is she doing academically?
     She is on schedule.
     That's it?... On schedule? When does brilliant get classified as "on schedule?" 
     She is doing fine, but we need to watch her behavior.
     When we got back in the car, my head was racing with all kinds of crazy questions. How can this teacher be so wrong? If the teacher spent more time in the classroom instead of the hallway, would she see what I see? Is it possible that all kids are as brilliant as ours? Why can't the boys' mothers give them their own damn potato chips?
     As my mind slowed, I had two final, very clear thoughts.
     How did we not see this coming? And more importantly... what did Cheryl do to Gracie while I was at work? She ruined her while I wasn't looking!
     As time went by, we thought about what that teacher had said... and we tweaked a few things. I am not bragging, but I stepped in and took a more active roll in her upbringing. I was able to get her back on track and turn the tide. The end result is that Gracie has turned out to be a pretty great kid.

     So all this leads me to my advice for my nephews as first-time parents.
     Make the same mistakes that I made.
     That's right. Devote every free minute that you have to them. Every weekend, take your babies and snuggle with them. Wrestle with them. Sing with them. Read with them. Nap with them... and then wake up and start it all over again. If you spend every moment of the day with them, it will not be enough. If you do this, your kids will turn out to be awesome.
     Finally, don't let Aunt Cheryl anywhere near them. She'll ruin them when you're not looking.
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