Category Archives: Family and Friends

All Saints Day

All Saints

St. Zita, Bl. Luke the Contrary, St. George, St Ursula (All Saints Day, 2006)

It’s impossible for me to celebrate All Saints Day without a deep sense of gratitude to my aunt Linda whose faith informed my own.

She introduced me to Mary in a way that made her seem motherly, approachable and real rather than holy and separate from us. I’ll always be grateful for that.

My aunt always had books on her shelf about certain favorite saints and the classic “Butler’s Lives of the Saints“. She also sent the kids books and cartoon videos about saints for Christmas and birthdays.

She loved hearing about how the kids celebrated feast days.

The kids were in charge of planning and preparing lunch (sometimes dinner-woot woot) on feast days.

Not gonna lie, the “feasts” looked a lot like “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”. Popcorn, toast or cheese sandwiches and Kraft macaroni and cheese when they got older (there was a lot of cheese going on). Just about anything they could handle on their own.

Thinking about it, there were probably just a couple of things on the table but back then, it seemed to take hours and looked like a real party on the kitchen table and everyone dug in like it was the last supper (pun intended). They used the good dishes because they were special occassions.

To all the Saints whose intercession I implored over the years….Thank you! For any new Saints in heaven (wink, wink) Pray for us! We love you!

Hannah new apartment

Update on Hannah’s Apartment Hunt

Remember when I was comparing the cost of room and board for college to Hannah’s apartment search? I knew Hannah was anxious to find a place and thought it might happen by end of summer.

She signed a lease May 1!

It happened SO FAST, I honestly didn’t know what hit me. But it’s all good.

Neither of us expected Hannah to end up in our home town but the apartment is charming and affordable (relatively speaking) and she has the loveliest, grand-parenty landlords. Her neighbors aren’t scary and she feels safe.

As you can tell by the photos, it exceeds her # 1 priority…..LOTS OF LIGHT! Even when it’s overcast outside or on hot days when she has to close the blinds so she’s not poached in there, that apartment is BRIGHT!

Hannah studio

Although Hannah was more anxious to move out than get her own vehicle, her work takes her all over the region and she was saving for a car. When my mom offered to give her an old one that she was trying to sell, it just moved the whole apartment thing to the front burner.

We gave Hannah a budget to help her buy some basics. She wasn’t expecting it and trust me, it’s a fraction of what we’ll end up spending out of pocket for Luke to attend Cleveland State in the first year, alone. The other thing we’re helping her with is the cell phone. It’s $10/month to keep her on our plan vs. getting her own plan starting at $80/month.

She’ll start paying for her own car insurance once she gets settled and organized. I think we added her beater to our policy (while she still lived here) for about $240/year. Not sure what she’ll pay on her own but we’ll do that in a month or two. I’ve easily spent more than that on deposits and enrollment fees already for Luke.

Otherwise, she is on her own and feels great about it. She’ll pay her own rent, utilities (electric, gas and internet). I haven’t bought groceries or toiletries, supplies or anything. I only mention it because I bumped into one of her classmates from high school who just finished her freshman year at an out-of-state college. The girl’s mom was buying her two carts full of groceries and supplies for an apartment she sub-letted for the summer. Not judging, just comparing.

I think there’s a mindset of dependence and continued parental responsibility when kids are in college that most people (society) just accepts. I’m sure I’ll be guilty of indulging Luke while he’s in school. We already have indulged his pursuit of tennis relative to the resources we’ve spent (time, energy and money) on anyone else.

It will be interesting to see the difference as Hannah pursues her career while Luke pursues a degree. This post doesn’t get into what people might think of her path compared to Luke’s more traditional one. I wonder whether it will even be an issue four years from now.

Celebrating Holidays When You’re Wiped Out

easy holiday preparation

Spaghetti Wednesday  is our favorite holiday around here. Mark was finally walking without crutches. It’s the first year since 2014 that I wasn’t also taking care of my aunt so I was happy to host the dinner for the 21st year in a row.

It was a late night and then a low-key, us-only Thanksgiving but I was wiped out. No doubt, the four previous months of intense caregiving contributed to my fatigue but I honestly didn’t expect it.

The question is: how to prepare for Christmas? It’s easy for me during Advent to prepare spiritually. I have no trouble slowing down and putting off the rush and crush, but when everyone around you expects holiday activity, it’s a little overwhelming.

I stopped sending cards a few years ago. It was getting to be a chore that I no longer enjoyed. The kids got ornery about posing for photos. It’s difficult to genuinely send “best wishes, peace and joy” when you’re resentful (never of the people, just the activity). So I don’t. I still think about and pray for people. I give others credit for continuing to send us cards. I still enjoy seeing the photos every year.

I love christmas lights in the house but Mark always takes care of the lights outside. The sweetest neighbor offered to help with that but we declined the offer. Mark was able to do most of his usual light hanging. My brother went up the ladder to hang the big wreath on the side of the house.

To be honest, Mark welcomed the non-strenuous activity, the weather was pretty mild and he finished everything outside in a couple of hours over two days.

Inside, I’ve just been taking my time and getting one project/area out at a time. I have the time and have enjoyed doing it at a leisurely pace. Little Mark is elf-like. I have referred to him as joy boy, which is still true. He’s always up for holly and jolly. I find myself waiting until he’s home for certain tasks just because they’re more fun with his help.

So, my advice for facing the holidays when you’re tired or overwhelmed is to abbreviate and get out one thing at a time. You’ll probably realize that a little bit of glow is enough.

Remembering True Honor and Courage after Election 2016

WWII Veteran Walter J. Phillips

1st Lt. Walter J. Phillips

Mark and I have referred to Walt’s experience of surviving a plane crash during WWII many times these past 3 months as Mark has recovered from his injury.

In some ways, it’s helped Mark to remember his dad’s courage and the extreme conditions in the first 24 hours after the crash (before the morphine).

Remember a hero today.

Dark and Quiet-Glad I’m Home

election 2016 aftershock

I’m stunned but not surprised if that makes sense. When some were so sure that there was NO WAY IN HELL that Trump could possibly be the next president, I worried that there WAS A WAY in this country.

I feared what some wouldn’t admit out loud but would freely express in the privacy of the voting booth.

When the no-brainer, game-overs were not ending Trump’s game, I knew it could be possible. But I’m still in shock.

Here we are. Thoughtful people are wondering what they can do.

My son, who voted for the first time and who might have written in Harambe had the GOP selected a human, asked a few times last night, “What are we supposed to do?”

Truth is, I don’t know. I have no idea how to convince my friends who are truly and systemically invisible under a Trump presidency (you know, minorities, non-Christians, women, girls, immigrants, the poor, the jobless, sane people) that this country or the world is safe.

I don’t feel safe.

But here’s what I plan to do in the next few days:

Besides medicating myself with all the leftover Halloween candy in the house and praying the Rosary incessantly (there is palpable calm and peace there), I’ll be….

Keeping the TV off. I’ve had enough of the chaotic ratings-chasing, soap-selling, vertigo-inducing “news” media that helped create this mess. Clearly, the talking heads and experts don’t know any more than I do. They did not see this coming.

I don’t care how it happened. It happened. I’m filtering and censoring what plays in the public spaces in my home. It’s not informative and it’s not entertaining.

Second, I’ll do my best to encourage civility in the family. We are all on edge and stressed about this terrifying  and depressing turn of events. Last night found us snapping at each other.

election night tweet

Exhibit A

I’ll try to be positive and calm and see if that rubs off. I’m hoping my kids (or Jodie) will make me laugh about something. See exhibit A, above.

Third. I’m declining to engage about this topic in the next few days, except to the extent that my kids need to talk about it to calm their own anxiety.

Outside of my family, no offense. I can’t talk about it. It’s too depressing. But really, what is there to say? Most people I know are reasonable and we all feel the same so do we really have to pontificate? No.

It sounds selfish and maybe it is but I need to regroup. It’s my way of staying out of the soup of despair. Total self-preservation move. Eventually, I’ll reengage but I’ll wait for the aftershocks to settle.

Finally, I’ll encourage my kids to double down on their gifts and interests and not to rely on gatekeepers, institutions or conventions to move them forward.

Two political parties were disrupted last night (though, if you read this prophetic piece by Naval Ravikant, it was really one). Get used to disruption and maybe take Jay Samit’s advice.

It’s time for me to go dark and quiet for a while. #blessup.

That Was Easy (Update on the College Visit)

 

CSU-vikingI mentioned last week that Luke went on his first college visit.

He liked everything about the weekend, including the tennis coach, the other players, the team’s prospects for winning the conference in the next few years, the campus and the brand new, indoor tennis facility a few blocks from the dorm.

Bonus for us is that it’s only a couple of hours away which will give us an opportunity to see some matches. YAY!

If the athletic + academic scholarship offer stays the same, I feel comfortable with the finances. He’ll probably have to borrow some but he can offset or eliminate that by brainstorming and saving a bunch of money. I’m not expecting grants but you never know. He might bring his SAT score up enough to qualify for another $1500 per year. Every little bit helps.

It’s great to have the search process behind him and there are definitely perks to being recruited (admission, priority for classes, job at the tennis center, etc.). Luke’s ready to focus and now he has something to work toward.

In the next post, I’ll tell you what he’s doing to bring his SAT score up.

Opting Out of the Awful School Pictures

 

school-pictures

4th grade me with my Dorothy Hammill haircut

I’ve had it. I used to feel guilty that my kids didn’t have school pictures since they were homeschooled.

This year, I’m opting out.

I’ve purchased a “package” for each of the kids for each of the years that they have been in school. I never display them. I rarely share them. They sit in the cellophane window envelope in a drawer somewhere.

To be perfectly honest, none of them are any good. Not one school picture actually looks like the kid in it. Bad smile, pasty face, awkward angle. They are just bad.

The photo packages are too expensive and they’re purposely designed to NOT include the sizes you might want.

I thought Mark would be offended that I didn’t want to buy them this year but then forgot that he’s a boy and doesn’t care about stuff like that. I knew Kate wouldn’t care. The only year she let me buy photos, she wouldn’t let me see them. She wasn’t interested in doubling down on her humiliation by getting the “retake”.

 

 

 

 

 

In Sickness & In Health

wedding

So, Mark and I are celebrating our 23rd anniversary today. Just shy of 3 weeks after his physical catastrophe.

I’m not an overly emotional or sentimental person but I clearly remember my voice cracking only once during our vows…”in sickness and in health”. In an instant, I was overwhelmed by the thought of him being sick and vulnerable.

He’s had some minor surgeries (that dual hernia operation just before our 10th anniversary wasn’t too fun) but nothing as challenging as this.

The thing is, as challenging as this is physically, emotionally and probably financially, I know it isn’t even close to the worst that can happen to a couple. Not even close.

So I’m thankful that we work well together because just about everything he does, we do together. I’m thankful that we enjoy each other’s company (as long as he doesn’t try to tell jokes). I’m thankful that we trust each other to get through this. And yes, I’m thankful that we love and trust each other and even on our worst days, there still isn’t anyone I would rather spend time with (no offense to my children, who come second in that category).

I don’t feel all that much different than that day 23 years ago. Marrying Mark felt like the rightest, most natural thing. Helping him do just about everything feels just as right and natural (though, I have to keep reminding him the kids can fetch the this or the that when they’re here).

Happy Anniversary. Oh and Happy Birthday to Luke who was our 5th anniversary gift!

Curing Heartburn Naturally

30-day-heartburn-solution-craig-fear

Kate has suffered from chronic, sometimes unbearable, heartburn for nearly 3 years. I’m guessing the sudden onset was hormonal and chemical. As my most adventurous eater, it’s been depressing for both of us.

I talked to her pediatrician about trying to alleviate symptoms with food. When I mentioned avoiding gluten as an experiment, she dismissed that with a speech about gluten-free being a popular fad and how gluten-free only helps people with Chron’s disease or IBS. And anyway, even a trace of gluten in the manufacturing process could trigger symptoms in the truly allergic. In short, the doc discouraged us from trying this. She rattled off the typical list of trigger foods (spicy, tomotoes, carbonated beverages-Kate doesn’t drink those, etc.) and suggested that Kate avoid those. Since Kate was down to eating eggs, potatoes and antacids and still was experiencing symptoms, the pediatrician agreed to order some tests.

Kate was scoped (no evidence of damage or distress), poked, prescribed Nexium, Zantac supplemented with Gaviscon and Tums and tried to manage as best she could for the next 2 years.

A friend told me that her teenage daughter noticed improvement in her heartburn symptoms after going gluten-free so it sparked my interest in that route again.

I turned to Amazon and found “The 30 Day Heartburn Solution” by Craig Fear. The reviews were encouraging. (I’ve never seen a book on Amazon with no 1 or 2 star reviews). Most reviews are from long-time heartburn and acid reflux sufferers who were pain-free after implementing the plan laid out in the book. Craig Fear wrote the book after curing his own chronic heartburn.

Fear designed an incremental plan to stop acid reflux through nutrition, basically avoiding the typical Western diet. It’s well-researched and explains why antacids (prescribed and OTC) contribute to the problem and are problematic long-term. The book is well-organized and thorough and lists all the foods you can eat under the plan. Approved foods include meats, dairy (if tolerated), eggs, nuts and seeds, vegetables and fruit and berries less frequently.

Kate noticed significant improvement just a couple of days into the plan. The first 2 weeks of the plan calls for eliminating all grains. Her willingness to try new foods in order to keep from feeling like a starved rabbit helped her get through the first couple of weeks.

After two weeks of grain-free, you can reintroduce non-gluten grains (corn, rice, oats, etc.). During this stage, you’re also encouraged to eat cultured and fermented foods to restore the natural acidity and health of the digestive system.

Cultured foods without added sugar are hard to find (sugar can be inflammatory and throw off the ph balance of the gut). Fermented foods in the grocery store (sauerkraut and pickled things) are packaged under high heat (which kills most of the beneficial bacteria). I found a simple recipe for sauerkraut that’s delicious and plan to try some other fermented vegetables. The cultured foods are a little trickier but we’ll track some down.

It’s hard to tell whether sticking to the plan 100% for a while would completely cure Kate (restore her digestive tract to allow her to enjoy any food any time~or even problematic foods occassionally without suffering). At her age, I feel like she’s old enough to decide whether to eat a certain food and suffer the consequences. Even when she eats a food that triggers symptoms, they are milder and short-lived.

One thing I learned is that we automatically blamed foods like spaghetti, pizza and tacos on the tomatoes or spice for Kate’s heartburn after eating them. There’s as good a chance that the culprit was the noodles or flour tortilla in those cases. Since some form of grain (usually gluten) is a part of nearly every meal, and in our mind, those foods are bland when served plain, I never considered that they were causing the problem.

One unexpected benefit that I noticed after Kate was on the plan for a couple of months was a decrease in the severity of PMS symptoms. When I pointed it out, she thought so too.

I highly recommend “The 30 Day Heartburn Solution” if you or someone you know suffers from chronic heartburn or acid reflux disease. It’s worth a try.

 

Notice: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through a link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting the blog and I hope the book helps.

 

Summer Jobs and Boot Camp

Breakfast-in-PPG-Plaza

Photo credit: Kate Phillips

How’s your summer going? Mine has been SLOW so far and I love it.

I’m enjoying a much-needed respite from caregiving (s/o to my mom).

Hannah and Luke are both working. I thought that would be challenging with the car situation but it’s worked out for the most part and I can always borrow my mom’s car if I need to.

Mark and I almost bought a granny car (Toyota with 50,000 miles in pristine condition for $4,000-but didn’t scoop it up in time). I always wanted a granny car.

Kate signed up for a week-long acting boot camp. Five days, downtown from 9-4. She’s taking the bus every day so it’s like a job. She and I took a ride on the bus the day before her class started so I could show her where to catch it to get home.

As much as I would love Hannah to take a bus to the restaurant once in a while just to get familiar with it, so far she hasn’t had to. It’s a valuable skill but Kate will likely be the only one of my kids who regularly takes public transportation before she flies the coop. She has no interest in driving yet so she’ll need public transportation.

Sometimes I daydream about how autonomous cars would have been great for activities a few years ago. Shuttling for the better part of an afternoon has been my least favorite thing about parenting. Now that Hannah and Luke can drive themselves, I’ve been relieved of it a little but then you have the worry. I’m not an excessive worrier but am always grateful when everyone is home safe. That was a random aside, but this is my blog and nobody reads it, so whatever.

Back to Kate and the boot camp. I knew she would like it and learn a lot but I also knew that it would be tiring. She’s pretty wiped out at the end of the day. It’s just a little longer than school but I think being in summer mode has a little to do with it. It makes me wonder how she and Hannah survived the long days at the charter school. The commute was 3 hours round trip. They left the house before 7 and didn’t get home until after 5.

I know some kids love going to activity summer camps but they never appealed to me for my kids. I guess the break would have been nice but I couldn’t imagine the kids being anywhere all day long in the summer-even for a week. I just pictured them being sweaty and tired all day and exhausted when they got home so I never even asked whether they wanted to do it.

It’s different for Kate. She’s old enough to handle it and I completely left it up to her whether she wanted to do it. I think she’s glad she did and next week she can get back to being bored. She’s trying to get a job but so far no luck. I’m surprised that so many mall stores won’t hire kids younger than 18. When did that happen?