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

Friday, August 30, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... All grown up! Happy Birthday Grace...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     This past week was a tough one for me.
     The funny thing about little girls... they grow up.
     I recently had a front row seat as one of the sweetest little girls that I have ever seen grew up right before my eyes. Seems like just yesterday she was a cute little round-faced girl, singing cute little songs that stuck in my head for hours on end. Those little songs kept us together at all times. I remember days when I would be driving alone in my car, and I would turn off the radio and hum along to the songs that were rattling around in my head.
     Even though she was not with me, she was with me. We were always connected.      
     I considered making a CD of her music to keep with me, so I could listen whenever I wanted... but thought better of it. I mean, what if my brother found out? He has four sons and would not understand my love and my loyalty to my girl. I can hear him now... You have a CD of what?
     What can I say? Maybe it was just me, but I loved my little singer.
     That was then. This is now.
     On August 27th, everything changed. I was checking my facebook and I saw it.  Some crude comment about my little girl dancing in her underwear. I was outraged and immediately called Gracie to come and explain this obvious lie. Alas, she could not deny it.
     The facebook post that I read... it was true... and my heart was broken.
     Hannah Montana was all grown up... dancing in her underwear... making suggestive movements ...  with a foam finger... to a married man.
     What happened to her? Where did she go wrong?  Why would she do this? Do I have to state the obvious...
     Oh yeah, in other big news that same day, our daughter Gracie turned seventeen!
     That's right, my real baby girl is 17 and starting her senior year of high school. Not only that, she is taking a course at the local community college. She is a college girl. I am not old enough to have a college girl. You should have seen her on her first day, she was beautiful... and fully dressed, I might add... in a stylish tee shirt and skirt. I presume she had on underwear, but it was clearly under her clothes, and not in lieu of the actual outfit.
     Cheryl and I are very proud of her... and not just because she knows how to dress herself without looking like a tramp. Grace is becoming a wonderful young lady.
     I think about my little girl and compare her to little ol' Miley Cyrus.
     Why would Grace develop into such a beautiful person, while Miley plays "dress up" pretending to be an adult. Note: I have met a lot of actual adults and have yet to see one of them shake their stuff like that.
     I have a few theories:  
     First, one of these young ladies grew up with a handsome and popular father, who was used to being a star and the center of attention. Long before his daughter came along, he was a great success in his own career and was loved by his many adoring fans. On the other hand, I have no idea what Miley's dad did for a living. I know one thing, he wasn't home watching over his daughter. My guess... he was some kind of traveling salesman.
     By the way, the guy that Miley was jiggling around with is married with a young child. What are the chances that his daughters end up as big a train wreck as young Miley.
     On a side note: Cheryl always tells me that women often marry men quite like their fathers. She has said many times that I am a bit like my father-in-law. I can't really see it... I mean, I am way younger than Cheryl's dad. But I digress...
     Second, there was one episode of Hannah Montana where Hannah's evil twin cousin came to town, and the evil Hannah/LouAnne locked the real Hannah in her bedroom and then pretended to be the real Hannah. (From a pure acting standpoint it was Miley's most challenging role as she played a double dual role). Anyway... Perhaps, Miley has an evil twin cousin that locked the real Miley in her bedroom, and the evil Miley and her foam finger are pretending to be the real Miley!
     For the record, there is only one Gracie! She is always good... never evil!
     Third, one of these young ladies is talented, smart, has a beautiful voice and has all the riches in the world. Not sure what Miley has going for her! She does not appear to be very smart, her voice is okay, and yes, she has a lot of money... but when all is said and done, she does not appear to have any of the riches that really matter. As for talent, I am not sure that shaking your rear end in some man's lap really counts.
    Who knows why Miley Cyrus does the things that she does in her life. Frankly, who cares? I hope that she figures out what is... and what is not important... and straightens out her life.
     If she doesn't, God help her.
     Here is what I do know: Grace is a growing up to be a beautiful, decent human being. She is funny. She is smart. She is respectful of others and of her parents. Most importantly, she is respectful of herself.
     There may not be millions of young girls looking up to Grace, aspiring to be just like her. But I do know this... based on the alternative... we'd all be better off if there were.
       Part of what I wrote in the first few paragraphs is true. I did turn off the radio and hum Gracie's songs that were rattling around in my head. Sometimes I even sang them to myself just like I used to do when I was rocking Gracie to sleep.
    Oh, the Cannibal King with the big nose ring
    Fell in love with the dusty maaaid 
    And every night in the pale moonlight
    Across the river he'd waaade
    He hugged and he kissed
    His pretty little miss
    In the shade of the bamboo treeeee
    And every night in the pale moonlight
    It sounded like this to meeee
    Harummph kiss kiss, Harummph kiss kiss
    Harummph diddly yaddy yay!
    Harummph kiss kiss, Harummph kiss kiss
    Under the bamboo tree! 

    Gracie, you are the best... the B E S T... best.
    I love you... Happy Birthday!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Be nice... oh... and clean the kitchen...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     Let me start by saying that I have been blessed with three great kids and a beautiful wife that I often describe as the nicest woman that God has ever put on this Earth. However, they all have their moments... take tonight for instance.
     We just came home from dinner with some friends, and Cheryl asked the kids to empty the clean dishes from the dishwasher and load the dirty dishes that were sitting in the sink. Now we do not ask much of our kids, so you would think that this would not be a problem. However, it is a problem... it is always a problem.
     You see, when dishes sit in the sink day after day, they tend to get nasty and stinky. The kids could just load the dishes in the dishwasher after every meal, but that would require that they first run the dishwasher and then empty the clean dishes after it has run through the wash cycle.
     They don't, so as a result, they treat our kitchen as if it were a nuclear reactor leaking radioactive goo. No, I take that back... radioactive goo would be better than sour milk. My three kids would welcome radioactive goo.
     Anyway, they all went into the kitchen and Cheryl and I retired to the living room. There were some heated discussions coming from the kitchen, but I could not make heads or tails of it. Alright, truth be told, I was concentrating on level 96 in Candy Crush. On a side note, if you have not started that silly game... DON'T! It is like crack cocaine. Once you start, you cannot stop.
     Sooo, Cheryl had heard enough and called all three into the living room. She asked me if I wanted to handle this. I said that I would leave this one up to her. Again, truth be told... I had no idea what Cheryl was upset about, so I might have yelled at them for the wrong reason. Besides, I did not want Cheryl to know that I did not know what was going on because she thinks Candy Crush is a big waste of time. Obviously, Cheryl has never used crack cocaine.
    As they entered the room, Cheryl once again asked if I wanted to handle the discipline. I declined... but I did position myself in a prime spot so I could see the whole thing develop. I get a kick out of Cheryl when she calls team meetings to address stuff that I'm not even aware has happened. In fact, although I always side with Cheryl in these situations... so as not to show a chink in our unity armor... I do often wonder if Cheryl was ever a kid.
    Did she ever fight with her siblings? Did she ever curse? Did she ever scratch her name in her mother's new bar stools, and then in an effort to divert attention elsewhere, carve his brother's names into the other stools? I mean... who didn't do these things?
    By the way, my mother was not fooled, she knew I was the one.
    Well, it appears that our three little angels have not been treating each other very well of late. They have been mean and nasty and disrespectful to one another, and Cheryl has had enough.
    Mind you, there was no punching! No cursing! No destruction of property! Just not being nice to each other.
    Grace immediately lodged a protest that I quickly shot down. Although I was not aware of the aforementioned meanness. I am capable of recognizing a child interrupting a parent. But my irritation with Grace was quickly supplanted by shock. You see in the middle of Cheryl's lecture on niceness, Matthew was standing behind Gracie... making faces at her.
    Now I was fully engaged in the process.
    Grace was happy to be off the hook and was even supportive of my anger towards Matthew.
    As we ended our "discussion," the kids each went their separate ways. I ended up with Noah in the kitchen... ironically, doing the dishes that had never gotten done. He asked what I was going to write about in Funny Guy Friday. When I told him I might just write about mom's lecture, he wanted to know who was going to be the child least written about. 
    Of course, our sweet boy Noah avoided even one mention.
    So, I am happy to report that the kids have all made up. The kitchen is clean, and everyone is watching TV. My only concern right now is that my mother is coming to spend the weekend with us and she has always vowed revenge for my little bar stool stunt.
    If she is smart, she will carve Noah, Matthew and Grace into our bar stools.
    I would never suspect!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Funny Guy Fifty... I mean... Friday...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband, Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     Cheryl and the kids went to Newport, Rhode Island, last weekend, so I was home alone. I hate being home alone, so I did what I always do when I am alone... I try to find people to hang out with.
     On Saturday, I had a date with my mom. I called her and told her to pick any restaurant that she wanted, and I would pick her up and show her a good time.
    You may be thinking... any restaurant, huh? What a great son! This could cost him some big bucks!
    If you're thinking this, you don't know my mother. She was going to pick either the Outback or Panera. We always go to the Outback or Panera.
    Sure enough, she picked the Outback because she had a coupon.
    I said, No, Mom, we are not going to the Outback. We are going to go some place different. Do you like crab cakes? 
    Yes, but that can get expensive... I have a coupon for the Outback.
    No, we are going to a little place called Stoney's.  It's on the water, and I hear that they have good crab cakes. 
    Do you have a coupon?
    No Mom! No coupons. Get in the car.   
    But Stoney's is far away.
    We can talk. 

    As we started down the road, there was a short period of silence, but I came prepared with a great ice-breaker.
    Mom, isn't it hard to believe that your baby is turning fifty this week?  
    Well, I am your youngest.
    Your oldest sister is going to be 62.
    Whatever! Doesn't it seem like yesterday that you were taking care of me... cooking for me, cleaning for me?   
    You know... I never had to do your sister's laundry.
    Yes, I have heard that. I have heard that you never had to do Michel's laundry, Joe was your beautiful baby, Sheree was like a second mother, Paul is your favorite, Jeff is your best athlete, and I was adopted from the Indians. I have heard it all before. But I am turning 50. How does that make you feel?
     Oh, you were not really adopted from the Indians. Happy Birthday.

     That is right boys and girls: I am fifty years old today, and apparently, I did not come from an Indian Reservation.
     Ah, fifty.
     I have confirmed my age with my wife. A couple of years ago, I kept saying I was 48, and then on my birthday, Cheryl pointed out that I had only been 47, so I got to be 48 for two years in a row.
     See, you can cheat Father Time.     
     The thing is... I don't feel like I am 50. I still go out and do the same things that I did when I was 25. I can still throw batting practice for hours at a time.  I play basketball and softball each week. And I still wrestle with the boys. I do all these things and I feel great.
     Well, let me walk that "feel great" comment back a little bit. My neck and shoulder are both killing me... I get depressed thinking about how much better I used to be at basketball and softball... and most of the time when I am wrestling with the boys, I am lying in bed... hiding... under a pillow... playing possum.
     Oh, and let's not forget that I have to get up to... ahem... "evacuate my bladder"... three times a night. Other than that... I'm in pretty good shape.  
     But still... fifty.
     I was 14 when my father turned 50.
     He seemed so old to me. He didn't like any of my music. He didn't know any of the major league players, much less their batting averages, home run totals or how many runs they drove in. He insisted that I keep my hair short. He listened to talk radio before it was really even invented, and he wore thick-rimmed black glasses that were out of style even then.     
    Oh my gosh... I just realized: I don't like any of my kids' music. I don't know many of today's major league players, their batting averages or their home run and RBI totals. I make my boys get short haircuts. I listen to talk radio. 
     Well, at least I don't wear those silly black-framed glasses! That has to count for something.
     What's that? The dark-framed black glasses are in style now? You mean my Dad was uh... a... uh... uh... MY DAD WAS A TREND-SETTING HIPSTER? 
     Let me repeat that... My dad, with his thick black glasses, was a trend-setting hipster. 

     Well... my date with my mother went great. We enjoyed some delicious crab cakes, saw a beautiful sunset, and to cap off the evening... I smoked my last peace-pipe.
     My mom asked if she could come spend the weekend with me. I advised her that she probably didn't want to come home with me because I was just going to do some laundry and clean up before Cheryl and the kids came home.
     But then I thought... My mother can do five hours of laundry in fifteen minutes... She can still cook... She seems to like to clean... Who am I to deny her this simple request?
      Sure Mom, come on over... and as an added bonus... I will try not to wake you up when I get up to pee!
      So, the week I was turning fifty, my mother cooked for me, cleaned for me, and took care of me. Just like when I was a kid. What a great present!  
      Now, if I can only score some goofy black-rimmed glasses, I'll be set!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Keeping the Faith... and Korn Hole...

     Let's play that old game of what does not belong...Which of the following items does not belong: clothing, food, water, beer, wine, ice, fans, extension cords, sleeping bags, pillows, bathing suits, towels, more fans, scooters, korn hole, basketballs, baseballs, footballs, frisbees, more ice, art supplies, coffee makers, flashlights and rosary beads.
     If you guessed any of these items, you would be wrong. These are all items that make their way down to Camp Maria for our yearly Catholic family retreat. Every vehicle that arrives is filled from top to bottom with stuff. Every man has to be proficient in packing, and the expert packers are even able to carve out a sight line for the driver. The more cautious families pack two vehicles.
     We arrive on Thursday and leave on Sunday, and every minute is filled with some activity. We wake up to the rosary, take part in hourly group discussions, attend Mass each day, and go to adoration one night. In and among all of this, we swim, canoe, run races, have egg toss competitions, frisbee competitions, belly flop competitions and korn hole competitions. Unfortunately, I am not a competitive guy so none of these games really appealed to me.
     Okay, I may be a little competitive but not so much that it ruined my weekend when Cheryl and I lost to Tim and Nicole in the semi-finals of the First Annual Sacred Heart Retreat Group Husband/Wife Korn Hole Contest. Although the game is under protest due to what everyone...and by everyone, I mean I...would agree was a blatant foot fault by Tim on the last and decisive toss. They denied that they cheated...but God knows. After all, it was a Catholic retreat!
     This year we introduced a new activity...skunk hunting. That is exactly what it sounds like...hundreds...okay maybe not hundreds, but tens of skunks came out each night to terrorize the camp grounds. I liken it to the time that God sent the terrible plagues to punish the sinners...only these guys were bigger...and potentially stinkier. Now that I think about it, I bet He sent those skunks to punish Tim...and Nicole because she married Tim. I could be wrong, but I don't think so.
     This year, the first day's theme was evangelizing. How can we as Catholics evangelize to others? First of all, the opportunity has to present itself. Some people can create their own opportunities and others have it thrust upon them. Some people, including me, find it difficult to talk about their faith, and others come by it naturally.
     I think one easy way to evangelize to others is by the example that you set on a daily basis. How do you treat others, how do you raise your kids, do you attend Mass, do you pray on a regular basis, do you have a relationship with Jesus? Believe me, people notice these things. I know because I notice these things in the families that attend Camp Maria.
     Although it may sound simple to say, just go and live a good life and have a strong relationship with Jesus, it is not simple. Our culture often has a different opinion of what is right and what is acceptable. If you are not sure about that, watch the commercials that play at any given moment on TV. Should we really have to turn the channel or hit mute during most of the commercials aired during a baseball game?
     Perhaps, at a retreat, it is preaching to the choir. You would suspect that retreat-goers would be leading a lifestyle that would be an example to others. And I think you'd be correct. But it is great for our family to get away and be surrounded by these people and in some way get some validation that what we are doing in our family is the right thing. I suspect that most of us on this retreat feel the same way...with the possible exception of Tim...and Nicole because as I mentioned earlier, she married Tim. They just live their lives doing anything to win. There is a special place for them in Korn Hole Hell.
     You know, it is a good thing that these silly competitions don't really matter to me.
     In one way or another, each of these families evangelizes to me. I see it in the way they love their spouses and their children. I see it in the ways that they treat each other, whether it be listening to a friend's problem, sharing a personal story, or kneeling down and talking to a small child.
     These are faithful people and they are devoted to Jesus.
     The second day's talks centered around the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I am always moved when I look up at the cross hanging over our altar at church and I think about the suffering that He went through for us. I also think of the Blessed Mother and how she must have suffered. I know that if an angel came to me and said...Your son will suffer a horrible death so the whole world will be saved...I would have two thoughts.
     First, Mr. Angel, you got the wrong kid because both of my boys are knuckleheads. Saviour? I don't think so. I would be happy if they would just remember to brush their teeth every morning...with toothpaste. 
     Second, Mr. Angel, that suffering thing is only going to happen over my dead body!  I just don't think that I would have the ability to watch that happen.
     Mary was a strong and faithful woman. I am not...strong...or a woman!
     The other thing that I took away from the weekend was this: despite what He has done for us, Jesus really does not ask for much. In fact, it is we who ask the most from Him. He just wants us to love Him. Perhaps every once in awhile, we should treat Jesus as our friend.
     In most of our prayers, we ask for Him to intercede and we need Him to intercede. But perhaps, every once in awhile, we should request that He just join us. Join us in a game, a walk or a canoe ride. Join us as we look up at the stars and marvel at His creations. He is the perfect friend...if He is with you, everything is good...and as an extra bonus...he will never try to cheat you in Korn Hole.  
     On a side Korn Hole was fascinating how excited the wives would get when one of the other wives would have a good round, or how consoling they would be if one of them had a bad round. It was like they just wanted everyone to have fun or something, and winning the game didn't...really...matter. I don't care how silly that sounds, it mattered...the winners get to brag for a whole year!
     Oh, it mattered.
     It was another great retreat at Camp Maria. We will be back again next year. I am hoping that the theme will be...Forgiveness. I must learn to forgive Tim and Nicole...but mainly, Tim.
     Alright, full disclosure...a confession of sorts. We lost in the semi-finals because I gave up two points in my final round and Tim and Nicole did not really cheat. There, I said it.
     I can't even blame Cheryl; she was outstanding. In fact, I told her the next morning that I would not have traded her for any other woman in the competition...except for Maria, the wife from the winning team. Man, if I had only had Maria, I would not have had to score any points on my my final throw. Maria would have already won the stupid game for us.
     You know, a thought just occurred to me. If I could have just ignored the whole Korn Hole debacle in this week's Funny Guy Friday and just talked about the retreat, I kind of, sort of...would have been evangalizing.
     I feel good. I feel energized. I am ready to carry on.
     Most importantly, I have a renewed hope...that next year WE ARE GOING TO WIN the Second Annual Sacred Heart Retreat Group Husband/Wife Korn Hole Tournament.
     Hey, I admit it, I am a work in progress.    

Friday, August 2, 2013

Funny Guy Friday... Happy Birthday to the cute one...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     Just about every day, I snuggle up to Noah and try to cut a deal with him... if he agrees to stop growing, I will take care of him for the rest of his life. Sounds like a win win for both of us.
     He never takes me up on it, but if he were ever to say yes, I would do whatever I could to make it happen. Unfortunately, he just keeps growing up, and this week he turns nine years old.
     I am not sure if it is because he is our youngest or that it's because our Matthew and Grace have become more independent as they get older... or perhaps because I, too, was the youngest and cutest kid in my family... and I certainly do not mean any ill-will to my other two children... but Noah is just way cuter than the other two. I try not to play favorites, but it is hard when one out-cutes the others by such a wide margin.
     I will give you an example.
     I cannot stand when kids call other kids names... or tease them about what they eat, how they act, or how they look. I just don't like when kids are mean to other kids. The other day, Noah was on the verge of tears because Matthew told him that he was getting kind of chunky. I inquired of Matthew, in a mean fatherly tone, as to why he would say such a thing and why he would not stop when he saw how upsetting it was to Noah.
     Matthew explained that Noah calls him fat all the time and refers to Grace as a hippo (okay, maybe Noah is not as sweet as I think he is).
     I called Noah over and again asked, in a mean fatherly tone, why he would say such things. This brought him much closer to the verge of tears. He tried to tell me that he was only kidding, but he had a hard time getting the words out from behind the tears. 
     Look, as a lawyer, I am fully aware that the only kidding defense creates an absolute bar to any punishment... especially for the youngest/cutest member of the family... like Noah... and me.
     The only kidding defense is like a get-out-of-jail-free card. 
     His reaction broke my heart, so I did the best thing a dad could do for his young son.  I turned to Matthew and told him he was fat, and I turned to Gracie and called her a hippo. There, problem solved and the tears turned to laughter. My little boy's smile lit up the room.
     I had Cheryl smooth it over with the other two... um... the older boy and the girl. What are their names?  Oh yeah, Grace and Matthew.
     They often ask why I always side with Noah, and the answer is simple: he is still cute!
     Just to show that I do not really favor the cute one over the other two, less cute ones, I did explain to Noah that I was only having fun with Gracie and Matthew, and he needs to watch how he talks to them, even if he is only kidding.
     He understood... so we celebrated with some ice cream! I think the punishment fit the crime.
     So without any further ado, I give you the top nine list of things we love about Noah that you may not know:
     9. He works his hair until it is perfect with the flip in the front... even when he is going to bed. You never know when you might meet the girl of your dreams... in your dreams.
     8. He is a super-talented artist who encourages others... I can see how people might think that your picture looks like a pumpkin! I mean, I kinda see it.  
     7. He is funny. When Cheryl asked him if he remembered where he put her phone the day before, he told her that he remembers it as if it were yesterday!
     6. He is a great little brother... when he is not calling his siblings fat hippos.
     5. When he grows up, he wants to be a cartoonist at Busch Gardens or a door man at an apartment in New York. I am all for it, as I don't think either profession requires an expensive college education.
     4. He watches too many crime shows with his sister and brother, as evidenced by the fact that he points out great places to hide bodies... and he displays a keen ability to distinguish between murder and manslaughter.
     3. He turned an unassisted triple play this past baseball season. There was already one out when he did it, but we are counting it as a triple play anyway.
     2. He has the best "smolder look" that you have ever seen... when you see him, ask him to show you. Ladies... be prepared to swoon! Don't say I didn't warn you!
     1. He is smart. He is funny. He is talented. He is stinky... Noooo not stinky! He is a great son, a great brother, and one really sweet kid!

     I always ask Noah if he knows how much I love him, and he always answers To the Moon and Back, once, twice or three times. No matter how many times he says to the Moon and Back, I tell him he is wrong... I love him to the Moon and Back... at least one more time. 
     Happy Birthday buddy! 

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