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

Friday, July 29, 2016

Funny Guy Friday... Negotiating a trade...

     Funny Guy Friday is written by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     It is that time of year... the baseball trade deadline is fast approaching.  Every team has to make the choice whether they want to trade young potential talent for older, more established talent. A good trade will work out for both teams while a bad trade might set a team back for years to come.
     This past week we made our own trade of sorts. Noah was invited by my best friend and his wife,   PJ and Geraldine Smith, to go to an art camp in St. Michael's with their son and another friend. The Smiths recently invested in a home in Saint Michael's, so the boys would stay with them for the week. I have not been to the new home but I am pretty sure it is a small shanty, so the boys will be  suffering through cramped quarters. A little discomfort isn't a bad thing. I thought it would be good for Noah to see how some of the less fortunate kids live.
    Art camp does not seem very interesting to me, but my man Noah was all in. He went off with the notion that it would be fun being bored at art camp and roughing it on the Eastern Shore with his buddies.
     Anyway, the day after Noah left, Grace's boyfriend Brian came for a visit. Cheryl and I decided to take the week and see what, if any talent the kid might possess.  It was not a full-out trade because eventually, I would insist that Brian go back to PA and make Noah return to the bosom of our home, but we were open to giving the switch a chance.
     I have to admit that Brian got off to a good start.
     He recently returned from a missions trip to Mexico City.  While in Mexico, he picked up a few things at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He brought Grace a beautiful rosary made from rose petals and a framed painting of Our Lady for my wife.  Now he said it was a gift for "the family," but it was really for Cheryl. Cheryl gushed over his kind gesture, while Matthew stood behind him making kissing lips. Although nobody said it, we all knew what Matthew was thinking... What is your super power... butt kissery?    
      Cheryl rushed to get a hammer (actually a crab mallet because we can never find a real hammer) and nails. She picked out the biggest wall in the house and hung that 6 by 8 inch picture.  I am guessing the picture was so small because he was operating on a tight budget.  The picture now hangs on that big wall with a small spotlight shining directly upon it.  
      Gifts are good but Noah cooks all of our meals! There was no way that this trade was going to make our home better.
      Besides giving gifts, Brian also gets Gracie in a good mood... so that counts for something. But did I mention that Noah cooks all of our meals?
      But as the week wore on, there was a surprising turn of events. Something fabulous happened. Gracie and Brian went grocery shopping and offered to make dinner. They started out with a lime chicken dish with asparagus and rice.  I have to say that it was the... best... chicken... ever! Dare I say... cooked to perfection.
      The following day, Grace and Brian followed the chicken dish up with stuffed shells, caesar salad and Italian bread. After this meal, I forgot all about our young son... the one who draws a bit and recently broke his ankle. Moses... or some other biblical name.  We didn't really need him anymore so you know what they say, out of sight... forgotten! 
      Perhaps we could finalize this trade after all!
      The problem was, I began to feel sorry for the little guy that is related to us. He was suffering through an art camp on the hottest week of the year, living in a little cubby hole of a home. I am sure that he was missing us and suffering from home-sickness.
      Then the pictures and the text messages started rolling in.  What I saw was shocking.
      Who knew that they were staying a Five Star establishment... the Smith Carlton Regency Hotel. Complete with swimming pool, kayaks, ping pong tournaments, bike rides, and a week long monopoly game.  Would be nice if the Smiths ever invited Cheryl and me to their new palatial estate. I would say it has a beautiful view of the river, but it is smack dab on the river. I am not bitter, but I would point out to stupid ol' PJ that I can make friends with anybody... any day of the week... I don't need him! I never liked him.
      I suppose that is a story for another day!!!
      Anyway, Noah was having a ball and was not missing us at all. He loved art camp and even got asked to help the instructor with a project she will be working on in Virginia. He was swimming, kayaking, ping ponging and having a great time.
     That ungrateful little...! I bet he was trying to negotiate his own trade!
     And to add insult to injury... he made them Bang Bang Coconut Shrimp one night.
     I don't care how many gifts the boyfriend brings... or how many meals he helps make... I want my Noah back! Don't tell Grace, but Noah is younger and better than Brian.
     As I contemplated the week, I was really happy for Noah... and thankful to the Smiths. Noah is an eleven-year-old that has been doing a lot of grown-up things lately. Besides cooking our meals, Noah is a big help with my mother. He helps her get dressed, walks with her and calms her when she worries. He needed some time to just be a kid and hang out with his boys.
     Of course, I am still a little bitter that he did it at my best friend's new vacation home that I have never been invited to.
      All in all, I think it was a good week for everyone. Now if the Nationals could just trade for a closer, things would be perfect!  

Editors note: Apparently, Funny Guy is a prophet because the Nats got their closer!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Funny Guy Friday... Who loves Dad the best?

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So... I married a funny guy.
     This past weekend, we took a road trip to visit some friends in New Jersey. It is a relatively short trip... about four hours. Four hours is child's play for this family.
     We are great travelers. Matthew has his ear plugs in listening to music... completely unaware of anything around him. Noah watches some show on our iPad... barely aware of anything around him. And Grace texts with her friends or surfs snap chat stuff... giggling at her and her friend's inside jokes, unaware of anything else around her.
     Occasionally, all of the stars align and we find ourselves talking to each other. When this happens,  we have to strike fast and take advantage. On this particular occasion, about an hour into the trip, I decided to drop a very important question... If Mom and I ever get divorced, would you guys ever go visit her or would you be so mad at her actions that you would spend all your time with me? 
     You may have noticed that I made a few assumptions in my question. First, that the divorce would be Cheryl's fault. Second, that the kids would gravitate towards me.  This is a given... I am the fun parent.    
     This used to be an easy question to answer.
     Three years ago, had we gotten a divorce, Noah would have gone with Cheryl... Matthew would have gone with me... and Grace would have gone with her friends. Nowadays, the division of our children is not as easy to predict. I thought it important to get a feeling for what we would do in our hypothetical divorce.
     Noah was first to chime in... Okay, who has the best lawyer? I will go with the one with the best lawyer! 
     I was proud of this response... he has been paying attention to all of my stupid lawyer stories. I was irritated at Noah when he followed up with... Are you representing yourself, Dad?... because if you are, I'll be going with Mom! 
    Cheryl turned to Matthew and asked... You'd go with me, wouldn't you Buddy?
    I looked in the rear view mirror and what I saw was perhaps one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. Matthew made eye contact with me through the mirror and while saying... Of course, I would go with you Momma!... he was shaking his head no and pointing at me!     
    Try to do that. Try to shake your head no while saying yes when someone puts you on the spot. And he did it with complete sincerity in his eyes. He made the right decision and he did it with style!
     Grace never really responded. Well, that is not exactly true... she did say Hey check this out, some lady pooped herself when she found out that her daughter was pregnant! 
     Not exactly responsive to the question, but Grace is an adult... which makes her answer even sadder!
     Now, anyone that knows us knows that Cheryl and I will never get a divorce.
     This was just a hypothetical question... you know... to pass the time in the car... coincidentally made at the exact time when I've been redoing my will and trying to gauge who is with me and who isn't.
     Aah... we'll stay together. In fact, this past Thursday was an anniversary of ours. The anniversary of the day that I asked Cheryl to marry me. Twenty-five years ago.
     As I recall, it was the hottest day of the century. I asked her at Great Falls where we had had one of our first dates. I pretended to drop the ring into the rapids... and the rest is history.
     My mom and my sister were not too keen on the fact that I was proposing because Cheryl and I  had only been dating for six weeks. I am guessing that Cheryl's parents probably weren't so sure about it either. Like any good future son-in-law, I had gone to speak to her parents before I popped the question. For some reason, they thought I was there to talk to them about buying a car.
     Think about that... why would I ask complete strangers about buying a car?
     I was there to let her parents know I was going to marry their daughter. I had done my research and I knew Cheryl loved me... and that she would say yes.    
     Happily, the marriage has worked out.
     It was the right decision twenty-five years ago and there has not been one single day of doubt.
     And for those of you who think my question in the car was silly, I was just doing my research and seeing which of my kids love me the best.
     It worked once... why change now!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Funny Guy Friday... Miss Alabama and Me...

    Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So... I married a funny guy...
    The other day, I flipped on the television and saw a story about Miss Alabama. It would appear that she filmed herself giving an impassioned speech about the awful shootings in Dallas. She was crying and lamenting the fact that she had no feelings about the shootings and that she considered the shooter... a martyr!
    As I watched Miss Alabama's video, which she had posted on some social media vehicle, and then her attempt to explain herself and walk back her comments, I turned to Cheryl and expressed my disgust. In the course of my diatribe, I rhetorically asked Cheryl... why do people need to publish every single thought they have or event that occurs in their life on social media... and why do people think anyone really cares about their thoughts? I hate social media and want no parts of it in my life!
    Then it occurred to me… for five years straight, I have done exactly the thing I despise. Anybody… and I do mean anybody... can log onto my wife's blog and read about my every thought… and I'm pretty sure people do care about what I think.
     I was bewildered and confused by this realization and struggled to come up with some distinction between me and Miss Alabama (besides her high cheekbones and beautiful skin). There has to be something that differentiates the two of us. It took me a while to figure it out but eventually, I did.
     First of all, Miss Alabama is not very funny.
     I, on the other hand, am hilarious!  Modest and hilarious. I take some random event and with my formula of 80% truth, 15% exaggeration and 5% fiction. I spin a clever yarn making people laugh along the way. At least I think people are laughing. I hope that people are laughing!
     Yes, yes, they are laughing because I am funny!
     Second, my thoughts and ramblings don't ever offend anybody… with the possible exception of my wife… my sons… my daughter… my daughter's boyfriend… my sister Michel… my mother… my mother-in-law (whom I would stop offending if she would ever call me by my given name instead of always referring to me as Funny Boy)… my sister-in-law... my other sister-in-law... okay, all of my sisters-in-law… the lady at Toys R Us… the dude in my neighborhood that pointed at me… my law partner… my secretary… a couple of the eleven-year-olds on Noah's team… nephews… nieces… people that look like their dogs… a brown mouse named Reggie... an entire church choir assembly… an occasional priest… a few politicians… a judge… and a lawyer or two.
     Okay… perhaps I have offended a few people along the way... but never an entire nation!
     Third, I have never taken the time to write a FGF, rewrite that FGF, have it edited, reviewed the edited version, had Cheryl post it on Facebook and then declare that the particular post is not me! It is not who I am! It does not represent the way I was raised and I am a big fan of the person or the institution that I just offended.  I DON'T BACK PEDAL!
      I offend and I press on!
      Finally, I try to avoid the more controversial topics. In fact, I believe that if you went back and read a bunch of my previous FGF's, you would be hard pressed to figure out who I might vote for in the upcoming election or my religion or that my favorite sport is baseball or that I love my wife and kids more than anything else in this world.
      Okay, maybe if you read a few old FGF's real carefully, you could figure out all those things pretty easily... except for the President thing... I don't know who I am voting for. I do know who I am not voting for, so that might help you figure it out.
      I suppose the real question is will I vote at all. I digress...
      As easy to read as I am, you can pretty much figure out that I don't really give a rat's rear end what Miss Alabama thinks.  She is free to have her opinion... as misguided as it may be... and she is free to express that opinion any way she pleases.
      However, I do have one simple bit of advice. If you are going to express your opinions to the entire world... try to be funny!
      People eat that up!
      You know it occurred to me that I may have upset Miss Alabama and her supporters. That was not my intention. That is not me.  I was not raised that way.
      Roll Tide.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Funny Guy Friday... The Fourth of July...

    Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So... I married a funny guy...
    What an interesting Fourth of July weekend!
    It all started on the drive home from work on Friday. Grace was in a great mood because she was going to get up the next morning and get a ride to meet her boyfriend and go back to his parents' home near Philadelphia.
     I interrupt this regularly scheduled story about my Fourth of July Weekend to give a testimonial about today's common core math...
     Earlier in the week, Grace had asked Cheryl and me if we could drive her all the way to boyfriend's parents' home so she could surprise him.  I mentioned that I did not want to drive three and half hours up and three and half hours back on the first day of the long weekend. She insisted it was only two and a half hours each way.
     After much discussion of the matter, we decided it would be better to let boyfriend know that she was coming and meet him at the last rest stop before leaving Maryland going into Delaware (about an hour and fifteen minute drive from our home). Grace thought that this arrangement wasn't fair because boyfriend (I can't even say his name... and I like the kid) would have to drive nearly three hours and we are only driving one!  
     Okay, I am no math major but let's do a world problem... if a parent leaves with a daughter and drives one hour and fifteen minutes to meet boyfriend and that same daughter's boyfriend drives three hours to meet same daughter, the total driving time for all parties involved is... If you guessed four hours and fifteen minutes, you are correct. When I pointed this out to Grace, she just mentioned something about approximations.
    Back to my originally planned story about our Fourth of July weekend...
    The day before Grace left, on my drive home, Cheryl called to report that it was a rare night when everyone was going to be home. No practices, no games, no babysitting jobs, and no meetings. Cheryl announced that nobody was going anywhere and we were going to just enjoy each other's company. 
    In principle, that is a great idea. The fact of the matter is that we do eat dinner together almost every night. We either eat before everyone runs off to their various events, or we eat when everyone returns home from their various events.  We have been doing this for years.
    Practically speaking, once the meal is over, we're done. How did Cheryl plan on keeping everyone in the same room without cell phones or iPads. I had brought home some steaks and once they were grilled, we are talking 15 to 20 minutes tops for eating. Clearly, Cheryl had not thought this plan entirely through. It did not matter to her though, we are hanging out together and having fun come hell or high water. 
     At that very moment, I had a stroke of genius. What is the one meal that will keep everyone together for hours.
     If you are from Maryland, you should know the answer to this question.
     What is the one meal that all Marylanders know will last well into the night?
     If you have never been part of a Maryland crab feast, it is kind of hard to explain. The crabs are  the stars of the show but not exactly the main course. You either eat them before the other food, which is typically burgers or dogs... usually not something as great as steak but that was what we had planned before I hatched my brilliant plan... some corn and potato salad.
     Admittedly some folks will have the corn and the potato salad and just the crabs but that is wrong. You have to have some main meat course to fill you up. Crabs do not ever fill you up. You get tired of cleaning them before you ever get full from the crab meat.
     Cleaning a crab is a work of art. Our kids were taught at a young age and once they got past the age of four, it was every man for himself.  My position on this was made clear to the kids at a very young age. You eat what you clean... do not look to me to shell that bad boy for you... I am not your grandfather. You are on your own kiddo. 
     And heaven help the kid that didn't properly and completely clean all of the meat out of the crab because that was just wasteful. We used to check every pile of discarded shells to ensure maximum crab intake. We only have so many and if you can't do it right, step away from the table! There will be no wasting!
     There are several effective ways to clean a crab but only two strategies for eating. The best method is to eat as you go. Each tasty morsel goes from the crab to the mouth. The second method is to make a pile and eat it all at one time at the end of the picking. This method requires patience... which I don't have. In fact, we only have one stock piler and that is Noah. The risk you run with stocking your crab meat is poachers. I hate poachers. They sit away from the table and then swoop in to check on the goings on...  Oh, let me have just a little taste! 
    NO! You want some, you get your hands dirty!
    Poaching crab meat in our house is a hangable offense.
    While I am at it... another pet peeve of mine is when people pick a crab out of the pile to feel how heavy it is... and then put it back if it feels light. Eat what you touch... don't leave the light ones for everyone else. How is that fair?
     Anyway, crabs are delicious! So delicious that our kids are willing to sit and eat them for hours.
     As luck would have it, I passed a woman selling live crabs on the side of the road. I asked her how many I could get for eighty dollars, which was all the money I had in my wallet.
     Thirty.  Oh yeah, did I mention that they are not cheap! This also explains why we used to monitor our kids' discarded piles.
     My crab lady hooked me up with some beauties. Typically, I don't cook them myself, but this was just another opportunity to bond with the family. A little beer, a little sea salt and a lot of Old Bay. Old Bay is the mother's milk when it comes to crab eating. You douse them in it when you cook them and you keep a pile of it for dipping. Some people use vinegar for dipping but I only like vinegar when it is saturated with Old Bay!
     Needless to say, our crab feast was a huge success. We sat around the table until about ten o'clock. No phones and no iPads. The fact that our hands were full of crab goo ensured that nobody touched their devices.
     Honestly, the rest of the weekend was pretty uneventful. When the Fourth rolled around, Grace was with nameless boyfriend, Matthew and Noah were visiting at friends' homes and my mother went out to dinner with my sister in law. Cheryl and I found ourselves home with nothing to do.
     Wait a second... WAIT ONE SECOND... we found ourselves at home on the Fourth of July with nothing to do.  Can you say fireworks?
     Yeah... neither can I.
     We had an all American Fourth of July meal... sushi (Cheryl's choice) and watched a movie.
     On the one hand, we enjoyed our quiet time together but on the other hand, I really missed having the kids around.
     It got me thinking that next year, I am going to do something that will keep the kids home on the Fourth of July. Wonder what I could do?
     Hmm, if you're from Maryland, you should know the answer to this question.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Funny Guy Friday... My mom and Michel...

     Funny Guy Friday is written each week by my husband Mark. So, I married a funny guy...
     As many of you know, my mother moved in with us a year ago last November.
     At first, we thought she was just a little lonely after my father passed away; so, we encouraged her to come live with us. And as time went by, we discovered more and more that she is not immune from the common problems that plague the elderly... and then some.  She does her best, but she gets confused with fairly simple concepts, like scheduling and which kid is where; she frets over trivial matters; and she often forgets how to do the most routine of daily tasks.
     Without being too specific, her brain has suffered a lot of wear and tear. But she is still so pleasant, and she is a joy to have with us.
     As you can guess, my mom needs a lot of help and support, so we are truly blessed to have Cheryl at the helm.
     Cheryl is perfect for the job.
     When my mom gets frazzled, Cheryl is there to calm her. Cheryl often reminds her that her only job is to not worry. And when my mom gets confused or forgetful, Cheryl takes the time to explain every detail.
     Oh, how Cheryl loves to explain things. Queen of the Over-Explanation is how I often refer to her.  No matter how many I got it's that I give her, she plows ahead. For instance:
     Cheryl: Hey, can you get your mom's pills ready?
     Me: Sure. Where are they?
     Cheryl: Okay, they are up in the cabinet where we used to keep the glasses... not the coffee cups, they are on the other side... where we kept the water glasses...
     Me: I got it, the cabinet....
     Cheryl:  ...the water glasses and the juice glasses. Before we moved them to the drawer under the forks and knives.  
     Me: I got it. The cabinet above...
     Cheryl: Above the junk drawer... the cabinet with the happy birthday banner on the right side.
     Me: I got it!   
     Although at times these explanations can get... um... er... I don't want to say annoying because they are not annoying... okay maybe a little bit annoying.  Let's go with endearing... yeah... endearing is good.  Endearing is annoying but in a nice kind of way.
      Although at times these explanations are... ahem... endearing, they are perfect for my mom because no matter how many times my mom hears them, it is as if it is for the first time.  Cheryl never gets short with her, she never gets impatient with her, and she never gets tired of explaining and caring for her.
     Having said all that, occasionally we need help.
     This past week, my sister Michel came into town from Texas.
     You remember Michel... in a previous FGF, I may have referred to her as Nurse Kevorkian because she plugged my dad's oxygen tube into an empty oxygen tank. He was dying anyway so what the heck.
     Fortunately, her mistake was discovered, so we decided to give her another chance with Mom.
     The plan was for Michel to come into our home and take over mom's care for a week and give Cheryl a break. Two birds.
     We quickly discovered that Michel has her own style of management.
     We should have known this from the last time she visited. During that visit, Mom and Michel had discussions about foot massages. I was sure that Mom would love that. The next day, I walked into the house and heard them talking about how great it feels. How nice of my big sister to take such loving care of Mom... washing and massaging her feet like Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.
     Yeah.. not so much.
     When I walked in the room, I found my mom giving Michel a foot massage. I am not sure Michel really gets how this is supposed to work.
     Anyway, Michel is a tad less patient than Cheryl. For instance, Michel was making crab soup and Mom gently reminded her that she needed to take the time to chop the onions into smaller pieces. Michel responded by tossing her out of the kitchen.
     If Mom were to make such a comment to Cheryl, Cheryl would have gotten my poor mother her own damn onion and cutting board and lovingly asked Mom to show her how to properly chop that onion.
     This was not the first battle over food that Michel waged against our dear mother.
     Earlier in the week, Michel made some potato salad. The next day, Mom commented that the potato salad did not taste good (she has lost a little of her tact filter). When Michel asked her what the problem was, Mom complained about the ingredients. Michel went through every ingredient that she had included and Mom confirmed that she used to put in the same exact things.
     Michel did not let this go and the inquisition began... what could have possibly been wrong with  that potato salad?
      I could see that Mom was getting brow-beaten into agreeing that Michel's potato salad was yummy, so I came to her defense. I chimed in:  Love! Mom used to put love in her potato salad! You're missing the most important ingredient. 
     Under Michel's rigorous cross examination, it turned out that Mom was talking about some other food that we had eaten the night before, and it had nothing to do with the potato salad.
     Even still, Cheryl would have just agreed with Mom and thrown all the potato salad away! I still think we should have thrown it away because it really was missing love!
     But that little anecdote was just the beginning.
     Mom still likes to play cards but is pretty limited as to what games she can play. Go Fish is a big favorite, but she has a tough time remembering to ask for matches to the cards in her hand.
     One day... after waking up from one of her many naps in Mom's bed (it would appear that Michel treated mom's care as a union job)... Michel hustled Mom into a card game and took advantage of the old bird.
     You see, Mom had a handful of cards but kept asking Michel for nines on every turn. Michel had seen all of Mom's cards and was tired of being asked for that same old nine. Michel lovingly insisted that mom ask her for a seven.
     Okay Michel... Do you have any sevens?
     As God is my witness, Michel replied...
     No... GO FISH! HA HA HA!
     Okay, I may have exaggerated the Ha Ha Ha part, but I am not exaggerating the Go Fish part. She tricked our mom into asking for a seven so that she should crush her hopes and dreams. What kind of monster is she?
     Even for a family that is as competitive as ours, that was beyond the pale.
     Michel claims she was just trying to move things along.
     Why? I ask. Where did mom have to be? Is she dating now? Did she finally figure out how to work her cell phone?
     Let me tell you something... if that had been Cheryl playing with Mom and mom had asked Cheryl for a nine, Cheryl would have just flipped over a six and handed it to her and called it a match.
     All kidding aside... it was great having Michel and her daughter Katherine in our home for a week. Michel and Mom had plenty of time to visit and Cheryl got a much needed break. It is very difficult for my sister to leave Mom and go home to Texas, but I am sure that she leaves with the knowledge that Mom is loved and that she is getting great care here.
     And for some reason, Mom misses Michel.
     She even commented that since Michel had left, her bed was now going to be cold. I suppose she warms it up with all those naps she likes to take.
     Since my Mom has moved into our home, I have come to the realization that I married the most selfless woman in the world. Her only complaint has been that she can't do more.
     The kids are just as helpful as they take their cues from their mother's calm, consistent love. It is not always easy, and occasionally, after we have helped Mom in the bathroom, dressed her in her pajamas, and tucked her into bed with good night kisses from the whole family, Cheryl will ask me how I feel about my mom's condition and her dependence on us.
     My answer is pretty simple.
     For years, my Mom helped her six kids in the bathroom, she dressed us in our pajamas and she tucked us into our beds with good night kisses.
      I am happy to return the favor.
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