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Summer’s Over

The nanny has been back at her real job (full time teaching) since Aug. 15, so Dan and I have been doing a mix of WFH, children to his office, and help from MIL to keep the children cared for. I am grateful my MIL is willing to watch the children even just one day a week.

Michael and Kate have new school orientation tomorrow.
Michael, my baby, is starting kindergarten!
School starts next Wednesday.

Sports activities will be starting up next week, too. Stay tuned to see if I end up being a soccer coach.

I am back to being the primary cooker, cleaner, and shopper. Ah, well, it was good while it lasted. The children are getting better about doing their part. Kate even cleaned both bathrooms this weekend, and cleaned well. Toilets and all!

We haven’t told the children about our decision regarding the tablets yet.

I did start talking with the children about some changes regarding snacks and “night time treats.” I am going to phase in more healthy choices for packing lunches and snacking, and we are going to move away from daily night time treats. I’m not even going to buy cookies or other sweets. Snacks will be fruit, nuts, yogurt, and string cheese. We have to reduce the sugar intake in the household. Sweets will be for special occasions. Or we can bake cookies on weekends.

Of course, there was some push back about this idea. Michael kept saying he didn’t like nuts. I kept pointing out pistachios were nuts. “Oh, yeah, I like bistachios.” I know, little buddy. Flora proposed rice rollers, apples, and peanuts. I told her I was fine with those choices.

Kate just sang, “Nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts” over and over again.

I think mealtime may need to move or be flexible, which is one reason night time treats need to go. The race home, cook dinner, and get people to their activities by 6 p.m. — three times a week, mind you — was simply insane last year. A solid after-school snack while they do their homework, then the activity, then dinner at home afterward (then bed!) will work better.

This remains to be seen. But that’s the loose idea for now. That combined with maybe the girls cooking? Or me doing a better job of figuring out freezer meals, and prepping on the weekends? So many options!

What do you do to manage the after-school runaround?

Copyright for image: natavkusidey / 123RF Stock Photo

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I Blame Netflix

One of the reasons that I am not reading much is, in part, because of Netflix, as I mentioned. TV on demand is hard for me to resist. (Also, I am lacking in time to go to the library. I have to fix that.) (Also: Netflix is making some damn fine television.)

I couldn’t tell you what exactly made me watch anyone of these shows. Maybe friends of mine were talking about them, or they were trending on Twitter, or a combination of the two. Dan and I usually pick shows to watch together, but I confess to watching Stranger Things and Jane the Virgin on my own. He watches The Walking Dead. To be fair, he did ask me to watch TWD with him, but I can’t do zombies.

Here are the shows that I am letting keep me away from books. (Spoilers are possible.)

1. Stranger Things

If you haven’t heard of this show yet, I question if you even Netflix. The night I decided to start it, Dan was out with a friend. Within the first five minutes, I was curled in a ball on my couch with a blanket clutched to my mouth. Hooked from the get-go, pretty much. To sum up, it takes place in 1983 in a small town. Stranger Things involves a group of four boys, one of whom goes missing, the boys’ families, a mysterious government building, a weird girl, and a terrifying monster.

Or, to put in another way: Stephen Spielberg directs Stephen King, with a little John Carpenter thrown in.

The story-telling is non-stop. You barely get time to breathe throughout each episode (or was that just me? I felt like I was holding my breath the whole time). Even as the episode careens from plot point to credits, character development builds. The 1980s references, look, and feel are spot on.

But what made this show an absolute stand out for me was the trio of Winona Ryder, Millie Bobby Brown, and Natalia Dyer, as Joyce Byers, Eleven, and Nancy Wheeler, respectively. Yes, the four boys were great actors, with Finn Wolfhound simply heartbreaking in his boundless loyalty and optimism. David Harbour made Jim Hopper incredibly layered and complex.

But, damn, the ladies. Joyce Byers could have been a one-note character: bereaved mother loses her mind. Instead, Ryder gives us a nuanced portrait of a hard-luck mom who loves her boys, and even as she confronts the impossible and horrifying, is going to do her damnedest to protect them. I almost dismissed Wheeler from the get-go — I even wondered “aloud” on Twitter if the teenage romance storyline had any purpose.

It does. Hoo boy does it. #RIPBarb

But as far as I am concerned, Brown stole the whole entire show. At turns fierce and vulnerable, she brings such a touching humanity to a specially gifted, and fairly terrifying, girl. Every flicker of emotion across her face was breathtaking. She knows her life has not been normal, and while her character reaches for normalcy, she also strives to protect her new friends from some bad truths.

2. Jane the Virgin

When I first heard the premise of this show, I thought, “No way they make that plausible.” But of all the things in this modern day telenovella, Jane’s unexpected pregnancy is the most plausible. This is a delightful show, again lead by an amazing female cast, with real touches about what it means to be a daughter, a mother, and a woman, all at the same time.

3. Daredevil / Jessica Jones

I enjoyed the heck out of the first season of Daredevil.
I felt obligated to watch Jessica Jones at first, and in the middle of the season I was frustrated, wondering if the plot was going anywhere. And then it switched into high gear, and was completely mind-blowing. Solid characters, all amazingly flawed yet human (except for Kilgrave, of course, that guy was a whackjob). Hoping season 2 (there is a season 2, right??) is just as good.
Season 2 of Daredevil is disappointing. Too violent, too graphic, too profane. I am totally over Karen Page, Murdock/Daredevil’s martyr act, and the relationship angst – and I mean *all* the relationships: Murdock and Nelson, Matt and Karen, Daredevil and Electra, Electra and Stick. My current favorite character is Marci. I’m not even sure I care what’s in that sarcophagus. Dan and I have two more episodes to go. I doubt the series is going to redeem itself in my eyes.

4. Person of Interest

Formulaic, ridiculously violent (but not graphically bloody), the characters take themselves a wee bit too seriously, but still a pretty good romp for a network show. We’re currently waiting for Season 5 to get to Netflix. A satisfying watch.

5. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Dan and I have to rewatch the last two episodes of Season 2, so we can get on with Season 3 (we’ve forgotten everything). I’ve really enjoyed this Marvel Universe creation on the small screen. Clark Gregg has too much fun as Agent Coulson, and I would watch it just for him. But I do enjoy the implausibility the various super powers and of secret organizations both sanctioned and evil, the interplay between Fitz and Simmons, and checking out Mack’s physique. (I ain’t gonna lie.)

What are you watching?

Image credit: Copyright: enki / 123RF Stock Photo

Kids and screentime

Cold Turkey

I am seriously thinking of taking my children’s tablets away from them when the school year starts.

Not totally away from them. But completely denying access Monday through Friday when they are in school.

The girls did not do as well as they could have done in school last year, and their engagement dropped horrendously after Christmas. (Worst Christmas gifts ever. EVER.) Even after making new rules, the constant enforcement was exhausting and frustrating. And summer’s completely thrown any concept of limits right out the window.

I have to talk to Dan about this, and I will.

Here are some things I am considering:

1. They don’t get their tablets at all on school days.
2. They get their tablets from 7-7:30 on weeknights to veg or check on texts from friends.
3. They get their tablets to do some forms of homework when necessary, and that time is closely supervised by me.
4. Limits need to extend to other screens, but won’t be as total. Homework done by 5 p.m.? Chores complete? Minecraft or a show is fine for a bit.

This is going to make me very unpopular around here. So that’ll be fun.

They can have the tablets on the days they don’t have school, but again, I need limits to be set and enforced (and not just by me!).

And if they do well in school? As well as I think they can do (As and Bs; not losing privileges)? If homework is done daily without the complaints, extra curriculum obligations are fully participated in, instruments are practiced, and bedtimes are respected? We will renegotiate terms over the Christmas break.

What do you think?

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It’s National Book Day, and I’m Not Reading a Book

My reading habit has tanked this year.

I made the resolution this year to only read minority authors. I have read exactly eleven books by minority authors, which is not impressive. And I’m not currently reading anything! I have no half-finished book at home!

I blame Netflix.

Here are the books by minority authors that I have read so far this year:

  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates — Amazing. A must read, especially in this turbulent, messy election year.
  • Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, Marjane Strapi — An interesting look at a different culture
  • Home, by Toni Morrison — Not one of her better novellas. But not terrible.
  • A couple of essays from Bad Feminist, by Roxanne Gay — I wanted to like this collection of essays a lot more than I actually did. Maybe I’ll try again.
  • Push, by Sapphire — This was good to read. Challenging, difficult to think about. Necessary.
  • Who Asked You?, by Terry McMillan — Meh.
  • Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese — Beautiful, lyrical, stunning, moving.
  • I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai — It took me three tries to get all the way through this book. Not because it was badly written, or not compelling. I struggle with non-fiction, and this story didn’t help me overcome that. This book is a definite must-read, though. The view into the foreign culture is important.
  • We Should All Be Feminists — This slim volume, based on the TED Talk, especially in conjunction with books like I am Malala and Push, did leave me thinking, “Wait a minute. Why aren’t we all feminists??”
  • Flight and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie — WOW. I had never read Alexie before. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is probably the most affecting fiction I’ve read in a long time. This will go on a summer reading list for my children at some point. Flora wanted to read it, but I told her she needed to wait a couple of years.

I also read Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides. Sides in not a minority writer, but the book is about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his assassin, AND it was non-fiction, so I’m putting it on my minority subject shelf.

I also read two books by the whitest male author in America, and I can’t apologize for that. (End of Watch and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.)

What are you reading?

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Nothing to Lose

So, here’s a thought, an addendum to my last post: I have a feeling that the people who are choosing to vote for Trump are people who haven’t benefitted from the last eight years under Obama.

They are still disenfranchised and their economic situation hasn’t changed, or changed very much, or their situation has continued to worsen due to the financial crisis of 2008.

They are not benefiting from improving family leave policies, or raising the minimum wage.

They aren’t benefiting from the extension of marriage equality and knocking down the walls of discrimination.

They haven’t gotten healthcare through Obamacare, probably because they already had it through their employers, and so they’ve only seen their premiums go up. They don’t have pre-existing conditions that prevented them from getting health insurance, or they don’t work for low wages or at a job that doesn’t provide health insurance, or have 20-year-old children whose benefits have been extended through Obamacare.

They aren’t immigrants, legal or illegal, and so they resent the idea that immigrants should have the same rights and benefits as American citizens – protection under the law, education for their children, access to jobs. They don’t want illegal immigrants to have a path to citizenship, they want them to “go home.”

They certainly don’t want refugees to come into this country.

The extension of these benefits and rights to other people, including LGBTQ, women, black and brown people, people who don’t speak English as a first language, poorer people – even through it doesn’t infringe on their current benefits and rights, and, yes, privilege – is cause enough to want “change”, to want something different in Washington DC. They feel lied to and excluded — never mind the fact that Clinton is the most honest politician that’s run for President in 12 years, and Trump acts like he’s allergic to facts; never mind that Washington DC is FULL OF PEOPLE who look just like them for the most part.

I hesitate to call these voters stupid, or cruel, or mean. I hesitate to call them small-minded or uneducated. I know some of these voters! They are friends and family and co-workers. I don’t think they are mean, sexist bigots; their candidate is, which is problematic for me. It’s like the old line Christians use about gay people: Love the sinner not the sin.

Trump voters feel besieged and endangered. They feel their way of life is under attack. The dystopian landscape of Trump’s convention speech is what they see – a place where Others are coming for their jobs, and marriages, and children, and guns, and religion, and money. They truly feel threatened.

And I don’t know that there’s anyway to change that for them. Pointing to the most exclusionary GOP platform in years doesn’t matter. It doesn’t exclude them! They don’t lose anything under a Trump White House. Although independent sources think he’ll tank the economy.

“Here is Trumponomics, in a sentence: Create an unnecessary economic downturn by deporting 7 million workers while cutting taxes for the rich and requiring the United States to borrow trillions of dollars from creditors, whom Trump has now threatened to stiff, if he feels like it. It would be the greatest, dumbest recession in American history.”

(For comparison, here’s a article about both candidates’ policies.)

And except for the fact that Trump will probably destroy America as we know it.

They are willing to take those risks.

And I’ll be honest: I don’t know what to tell people who have already decided to vote for Trump. Their reasoning is so flawed, or their denial of his flaws so complete, or their belief that “Congress can control him” so strong, that the arguments to be made against him go unheard.

And, or course, they simply don’t like Clinton and aren’t going to vote for her. They aren’t looking beyond her to her policy and how it benefits America. They don’t care.

But the bigger issue is that they aren’t looking beyond themselves at what other people will lose if Trump is elected. This, for me, is the biggest disappointment of all.

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I’m With Her

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton in November. I cannot wait to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton in the fall.

I’m not voting for the lesser of two evils. I’m not voting against Donald Trump (I mean, obviously, I’m voting against Donald Trump). And, no, I’m not simply voting for Hillary because she’s a woman.

Hillary is a smart, politically skilled public servant. The version of America she presented in her speech at the Democratic National Convention is the version of America I believe in. A country on the right path, a country that is great now, not that needs to be great again. A country full of diverse people who will learn to work together for success for all. A country that still has hard work ahead of it to extend its benefits to all.

Do I think Hillary is perfect? No, I do not. I am clear-eyed about her faults as a candidate — the emails, the imperfect rhetoric, the wonkishness of her personality.

And listen, I’m not going to give you a run down of why she’s better than the human Cheeto the GOP has put forth. As far as I’m concerned, it’s no contest. Trump is in no way fit to be President of America. I’m not going to compare or contrast the two.

Clinton in the White House continues the work begun under President Obama to extend success to the most people in America. Clinton in the White House continues our positive influence on the world stage. Clinton in the White House continues the work of “liberty and justice for all” that we pledge as school children. She understands the principles on which American was founded; she understands and will uphold the constitution of our country. And she will work for every person who lives here.

I honestly believe in my gut that Hillary Clinton will work for all of us: women and men from every race and class. I believe in the Democratic platform, that it will benefit people of color, people in poverty, LGBTQ people, veterans, police, immigrants, and women and families. It will do this without taking away other people’s rights. It will do this while recognizing privilege, and using it to extend protection to more people.

If you have misgivings about voting for Hillary Clinton even through you really, really, sincerely have no intention of voting for The Human Cheeto, please ask yourself why that is.

Do you not trust her?
Do you not like her?
Do you think she’s too aggressive?
Do you dislike her voice?
Do you dislike her pantsuits?
Do you think she’s a shill for Wall Street?
Do you think she’s a liar?
Do you think she’s too progressive, or not progressive enough?

If you think those things, question your sources. Do your research. Recognize that the media narrative as well as the GOP attack is to an extent based in systemic misogyny as well as lies. Listen to people who want to vote for Hillary. We have good reasons, and we have done the legwork on this just so we can talk with you about it.

I don’t know what to say to you if you want to vote third party; I’m sure you’ve heard the rhetoric about how dangerous it is, how it’s throwing away your vote (if you live in a swing state); how it’s a vote for the other candidate. If you haven’t changed your mind about it yet, I’m certainly not going to change it for you.

But, think about it. Do your research. Do I think the two-party system is fair? No, no I don’t. But either Hillary or Cheeto is going to be President. If you want to go third-party deeper on the ballot, do it! But it’s a two-horse race for President. And only one presidential candidate truly knows how and will be able to get things done in Washington.

Also, as much as I dislike reducing a person with namecalling, here’s the thing about that: Donald Trump has no respectful language for anyone. I should feel bad calling him a Cheeto. But he’s such an awful caricature of a human being. I can’t think of one redeeming quality for him. Me calling him a Cheeto is me being NICE.

I want marriage equality to stand, and Citizens United to be challenged. I don’t want Obamacare to be repealed. I’d like to see the $15 minimum wage, common sense gun control, and free public college tuition at least start to be legislated. I’d like to see some workplace policies that put employees ahead of the bottom line. And while I don’t like Clinton’s hawkishness, I think her foreign policy skills and her standing on the world stage are miles above anything the GOP has in mind.

I can’t imagine there are any undecided voters out there, but if there are, come chat with me. I’ll be happy to tell you why I’m with her, and you should be too.

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A Eulogy for Katherine Patton

These are the words my father wrote when his mother died in 1984. I remember him delivering this eulogy. I have reproduced it here, nearly word for word. I may have added a comma for clarification, corrected a spelling or two, but other than that, it is true to what he wrote, and what he said at her funeral.

I have asked permission to speak to you this morning about my mother, Katherine Patton, to shed a little insight upon the very special person that she was.

I am sure that my brother and sisters could tell little stories about mom, special moments that occurred very briefly, but had that special quality about them that made them very easy to remember, or, more importantly, impossible to forget. It’s as if they occurred only yesterday. In my stories this morning, I’d like to tell you about lessons that she taught me that have helped me cope with this life we live.

But first, a little about my mom. I don’t remember Mother talking a lot about herself. Over the last few years, I would spend time with her in her apartment, and ask her about her past. She would speak briefly about it. The stories were almost always short, as if she didn’t want to draw attention to herself by talking about herself for too long. They always ended with a little laugh or smile, and that statement, “Well, that’s enough about me!”

She told me about growing up on a little farm in Ireland. She remembered walking to school down the road in bare feet, along with the rest of the children. She told me about one of the first jobs she was given on the farm: She had to get up early in the morning and make sure the chicken and geese did not go onto the pond before they laid their eggs. When I asked why that was so important, she looked at me, surprised. “Timmy, if they laid their eggs in the water, that’s one less egg for the family!”

I once asked if she felt poor. She said, “No. You are only poor if you want things that you don’t or can’t have.” Everyone she knew had as little as she did, so she couldn’t remember a feeling of “being poor.”

We talked about school. Here was a woman who encouraged me, pushed me, and prayed me through college. I asked her how long she went to school. She said, with a tone of pride, “As far as I could.” When I replied that I didn’t understand, she told me about her last day. She remembered the teacher calling her up to her desk. Mom figured she was going to get her report card like the other children. The teacher said, “Katherine, we have taught you all we can. You now know all you need to know to go out and get a job, and it’s time for you to get on with your life.” That was Mom’s graduation.

I asked why she came over to this country, and she explained that some of her brothers had come over first. When they sent back letters and pictures, in the pictures they wore shirts with collars. That was a measure of success, so she felt that America offered her an opportunity to work hard and achieve a degree of success. So she decided to give it a try.

I am sure that everyone has a different idea of what a parent should do for his or her children. One of mine is the responsibility of the parent to teach the children as much as he or she can about coping and adjusting to all the things that can happen in life. There are many things I remember about Mom, but I was truly impressed with her wisdom. My mother gave me my faith, taught me about love and about keeping things in perspective, and explained to me how to deal with death. She always lived what she believed.

I once asked Mom how she had the strength and courage to raise seven children in this world. She told me that it wasn’t as hard as I thought. She said, “Every morning, I ask God for his grace and help, and then I would go and do what had to be done. At the end of the day, I would thank Him for His help, ask forgiveness if I failed, and begin all over the next day.” She placed her children in God’s hands, and did what she had to do. She explained it was a partnership: God would do His part, and you had to do yours. She said, “Timmy, God may give you the brains, but you still have to study to pass the test.”

When I was in eighth grade, I fell off the roof [of the house]. [Editor’s note: My dad actually fell out of his bedroom window. He bounced between houses before hitting the ground, and although he didn’t break a bone, he was gravely injured.] I asked her later what she thought about on the way to the hospital. She told me she prayed that I would be normal, free from permanent injury. If I couldn’t live a normal life, it would be best if God would take me [to Him].

I said, “How could you stand to bury another child? Wouldn’t you suffer a lot of pain?” She answered, “Timmy, if I had to suffer pain so that you wouldn’t, that was the way I wanted it.” That’s love, that she prayed for me and not for herself.

I remember one evening on Spahr Street, sitting on the front stoop, feeling sorry for myself over something, and Mom came out and sat beside me. She asked what was wrong, and I told her what was on my mind. She looked at me, and said, “Timmy, if everyone in the world put their problems in a big pile, you would be the first one to take yours back and go home.” With that, she got up and went back into the house. That’s called keeping things in perspective.

When I was very young, my brother Tommy died. What I remember most about that event was my complete, overwhelming feeling of anger! I was angry I had lost my big brother, and angry that people were in my house laughing, eating, and talking as if nothing had happened – one hour after we had buried Tommy. The next morning, I came into the kitchen, and my mother was going about her business.

That’s when I let her have it. Now here is a woman who just did the hardest thing a parent could do – bury a child – and I’m yelling at her for acting as if nothing had happened. Mom stopped what she was doing, walked across the room, picked me up, and set me on one of the hard, wooden, straight-backed kitchen chairs. She knelt before me and spoke in a soft controlled voice.

I’m sure if Mother could have gathered all her family into her room before she died, she would have told us what she told me over thirty years ago. She said, “You know, Timmy, I lost a child that I love very much, but I also have six children that I must live for. All you can do for those who have died is remember them, and pray for them, and miss them. But you must live for the living.”

We have all been blessed with people who love us. We have been blessed with friends and with children who need our love. We must always live for them. My brother and sisters, and cousins, will, because that is how she taught us. But I think it is important for our mental well being that as we do what we must do, we admit to ourselves and all of you, that we will miss her, we will pray for her, we will always love her. Our mother is special.

Caption for featured image: My father with his mother, circa 1978.

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Remembering My Irish Grandmother

My grandmother Katherine Patton (nee Connolly, or Conneelly, depending which family member of mine you ask) came to America in either the late 1920s or the early 1930s. She married my grandfather Timothy Michael (aka Pap-Pap) in 1933; they had met at the Irish Centre in Swissvale. From 1933 until my father was born in 1945, she had nine pregnancies, and seven live children, of whom my father was the youngest.

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Here are a few things I remember about Grandma Patton, in no particular order.

1. Her brogue. Although my grandmother had lived in America for more than 50 years, she never lost the soft, lilting brogue in her speech from Ireland. It’s a sound I always love to hear, a good Irish brogue. It makes me think of her.

2. Her house. Now, my father and his six siblings lived in East Liberty (S’liberty if you’re from here) until that house burned down. Then they moved to Hastings Street in Point Breeze, and when we visited from Erie, that’s where we went. I recall walking into the house, the way the staircase was immediately in front of you, steeply dark, slightly foreboding. Off to the right was the hallway that lead back to the kitchen, and turning to the right, was the wide open front sitting room, where Pap-Pap reigned in silence (and butterscotch candies).

3. Her mashed potatoes. We would arrive on Friday, just in time for dinner. In my childhood memory, the dining room table filled the entire room, and was laden with food. We had the same dinner every time: pork chops, corn, and mashed potatoes. (There may have been a green vegetable; I don’t recall.) I loved my grandmother’s mashed potatoes. They were smooth and buttery, the perfect texture and taste. Whenever my mother was going to make mashed potatoes, I asked her to make them just like grandma’s. Who was her mother-in-law, mind you.

4. Her blueberry muffins. I also loved my grandma’s blueberry muffins. Whenever we visited, she always made sure she had some to hand for us. It was years later that I learned they were Jiffy brand blueberry muffins, and thus came out of a box, but it didn’t diminish my love for them.

5. The pictures over the bed. When we visited, my siblings and I slept on a mattress on the floor at the foot of the grown-up bed, which is where my parents slept. Over this bed hung two paintings that to this day strike fear into me. In one, Jesus regards us mournfully, his eyes on our faces, his head lowered. Thorns from his crown of thorns bite into his flesh. In the accompanying piece, Mary looks at us, also mournful. Her heart floats outside of her chest.

And there are swords piercing it.

Every Catholic child in the world has seen this image. It was terrifying to me then, and I’m not sure that it’s not terrifying to me now. Dan inherited a set just like it when we were married. “We’ll put this above our bed,” he enthused. “Not if your parents want grandchildren,” I replied. They hang in our dining room, instead.

6. Her stature. My grandmother was tall and graceful with piercing blue eyes and black hair. When people meet the rest of my immediate family, they often ask, in so many words, “Why are you so tall?” My Irish grandmother stood five-foot-ten-inches in her heyday. She is why I am so tall.

I often refer to my grandmother Patton as the matriarch, and I don’t think I’m too far off. My grandfather died when I was just 6, but the clan continued to grow and flourish the whole of my life – it continues to this day. My grandmother had six children who survived to adulthood: my father, his brother, and their four sisters, who are known collectively as The Aunts. They each married and had children. I have 17 first cousins, referred to as the second generation, most of whom married and had children, who are the third generation.

Grandma Patton and the beginnings of the clan.
Clockwise from center: Pap-pap, Tommy, Kathleen (Kay), Mary, Noreen, Judy, Grandma Patton, Timmy (my father), and Jimmy. If I have misidentified someone in this caption, rest assured I will catch hell. And I will correct it.

Why am I telling you this? A couple of reasons.

Reason the first is because I am on vacation this week with my family, on what is basically the annual family reunion. The Patton clan convenes on a little resort in Pennsylvania, where we eat and drink and swim and play, and reminisce.

Grandma Patton with my generation of Pattons. This was one of our first years at Seven Springs. Bonus points if you can identify me (non-relatives only).
Grandma Patton with my generation of Pattons. This was one of our first years at Seven Springs. Bonus points if you can identify me (non-relatives only).
Reason the second is my parents gave Dan and me some furniture, and as I was cleaning it, I found the eulogy my father gave at my grandmother’s funeral. She died when I was 13. She was 84 years old.

That’s my next blog post.

I feel blessed to have known my Grandma Patton. She taught me about quiet dignity and strong faith. She taught me that family is everything, and love is stronger than death.

What lessons did your grandparents teach you?

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A Birthday Tribute

Today would have been my father-in-law’s 77th birthday. And I am sad he is not here for us to celebrate.

All Dad ever wanted on his birthday was his family around him, chicken vesuvius, and lemon meringue pie.

Chicken Vesuvius
One bottle Italian dressing
6 chicken breasts, cut into strips
8 potatoes, peeled and cut into long chunks
2 to 6 banana peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips

Toss everything together and bake. Probably 400 degrees? Forty minutes to an hour. (I never made it. Bella always did. And my SIL, pictured above, did too.) Serve with bread, a green vegetable, and salad — endive salad, if possible. Lots of vinegar.

I am almost positive that my FIL was the only one who liked lemon meringue pie. My MIL usually made a different dessert for the rest of us, or had store-bought cupcakes and ice cream for the children.

It’s been a hard week for my husband. Please offer him love and light.

We miss you, Tadone.

M writing words!

Trust Your Gut

Yesterday, I hustled my children outside to go for a walk. They protested, so I just guilted them into it. “I don’t get to go outside and go for walks at work! This is the only time I get to spend with you!”

I’m awesome.

Michael complained of soreness in his leg. I asked where it hurt. He indicated a spot near his groin. I quizzed him: “Did you bump something?” “I don’t think so.” “Did you get hurt swimming?” “No.” “Did you fall?” “No.”

I took a look at the spot. It did look a little red.

I told him he must have pulled a muscle. He wasn’t limping or anything, so we just headed out the door, and went for a walk.

I had to explain pulling a muscle.

This morning, I asked him how it felt. “Still sore,” he said, matter-of-factly.”

“Did you ever pull a muscle?” he asked.

“Oh, sure,” I said. “I’ve pulled muscles lots of times.”

“Like three or four?”

“Oh, more than that.”

“FIVE?”

I went to work. The nanny took everyone to the Aviary (Flora’s at Aviary camp this week).

Kim called around 1 p.m.

“Michael feels really warm,” she said.

Little alarm bells started going off in my head.

Sore low on the body.
Red skin over the sore spot.
And now a fever.

Maybe it wasn’t a pulled muscle.

So, she took Kate and Michael home, and took M’s temperature. In the meantime, I talked to our pediatrician’s office, and made an appointment. By the time M was home, his temperature was normal, but at the doctor’s office, it was elevated again — only a little bit.

The PA palpated the spot. It was definitely sore and red. M was a trooper, flinching from her touch and confirming it hurt, but not crying and not pulling away. She said it seemed like a lymph gland, but usually when lymph glands get infected, something else is going on: a cold, a urinary track infection, an STD — obviously, we could rule that out. She decided to consult with one of the doctors to rule out a hernia. And it definitely wasn’t appendicitis.

They wanted to take a less aggressive approach with warm compresses, and I said that was fine… except for the part where we were leaving for vacation Friday night. “Of course you are,” said the PA with a smile. She asked if we would be back by Monday. “Nope,” I said. So we decided to put M on antibiotics and keep an eye on it.

I’m glad it was nothing serious, but I’m also glad I listened to those alarm bells. It’s probably no big deal in the long run, but it’s better than having a feverish 5-year-old in pain up in the mountains on Saturday or Sunday and looking for the nearest urgent care center.

When’s the last time you had to listen to your gut?