Friday, October 28, 2022

Week in Review: Things That Make Me Happy

My lunch break walks... 

Walking a few miles in the middle of the day while listening to an audiobook makes me happy.

Dog walks with Declan...

Walking by our house...

New England in Autumn makes me happy.

I was driving home with Maggie after volleyball practice and we got rear-ended.  Boo.  I got out and the other driver got out and there was bumper damage and we exchanged info and I got her phone number.  When we got home, Phil said it was just scratches to the bumper which is plastic and won't rust.  It's also a ten year old Honda Odyssey with lots of other scratches all over, so we decided not to get it fixed.  I sent the other driver this text and I thought her response was sweet and full of relief.

Being kind to strangers makes me happy.

I am in utter disbelief that October is almost over and Advent is right around the corner.  These candles always seem to sell out, so here's you're friendly reminder.


Christmas prepping makes me happy.  

One of my coworkers always has a bowl of candy in her office, and sometimes you just need a little chocolate after lunch, ya know?  I had never had a Reese's Take5 but wow!  These make my mouth happy.  My thighs, not so much.

Declan's (age 8) prayer this morning was for "JP to be safe and have fun in Ireland this weekend" and Brendan (age 6) prayed for "God to change the weather on Halloween because it's supposed to rain" and Xander (age 11) prayed for "Mom to not blast Halloween music when she drops us off at school because it's so embarrassing" .

These thoughtful and funny little boys make me so happy. (As does embarrassing them!)

Phil made Giada's White Bean and Chicken Chili for our lunches for the week and isn't food just always more delicious when someone else does the hard work of making it?  He always makes me happy.

Eamon got his permit yesterday!!  Having an *almost* extra driver in the house makes me very happy. 

We have a lot on tap for this weekend, but we also have a pretty free Saturday which makes me soooo happy!  I hope you all have a wonderful LAST OCTOBER weekend.  Get those Halloween and All Saints Day costumes ready :)

Monday, October 24, 2022

Weekend Wrapup: Food, Friends and Festivities

After work on Friday, I picked up Alexander from Campus Ministry Club at his school, where he had competed in pumpkin destroying events (what did the pumpkin ever do to you?)

Then we drove home and walked over to Maggie's volleyball games as she was playing at the public high school around the corner from our house.  Varsity lost but JV won!  We had to leave her game a little early in order to drive to our high school to walk Andrew out for a fall Senior athletes recognition before the big Homecoming football game.  The three teens stayed for the game and got home after I was fast asleep.  Phil helped out at our elementary school's Harvest Fest by running the cornhole tournament that night.

Andrew's soccer team at the pep rally earlier in the day:

Meanwhile, In Mallorca, Spain....JP and friends explored the island and cliff-jumped.  I can barely watch the video, but he is a brave kid!

Friday, October 21, 2022

Week in Review: Too Busy, Too Spooky and Too Good

What a busy week!  We have had an event every single night this week, which I detest.  And it's not over!  

Tonight is the elementary school's Harvest Fest (a fun outing for parents) but the three high schoolers will be at the Homecoming Football game, so Phil will go without me (he's running the cornhole tournament) and I will *sacrifice* and stay home with the little guys.  Before that, Maggie has a volleyball game which we will watch, Andrew & Eamon have soccer games away, Declan & Brendan have friends coming over after school, Xander has Campus Ministry Club, and then we all have to go out to the high school because they are recognizing Senior athletes tonight before the football game, so we need to walk with Andrew and get our photo taken.

Meanwhile, halfway across the world, JP has been hiking all over Europe.  He went to Turin and Pollone, Italy last weekend, seeing Blessed Pier Giorgio's home and hiking in his footsteps.

He said this 7 hour hike was the most physically demanding thing he's ever done.

And he's currently in Mallorca, Spain this three-day weekend which he told me is like "Europe's Hawaii but cheaper".

Fall sports seasons are coming to an end with a bunch of final games and rescheduled rain outs happening this week and next.

Andrew #11 killing it on defense

Maggie (blond ponytail) killing it at net

Xander killing it in the pool

Brendan killing it his first time as goalie

All of them collectively killing their parents slowly with their insane schedules ;)

Meme from the week:

I made pumpkin muffins last weekend, but I think I overcooked them a bit as they were a little dry.  Nothing a cup of coffee or coffee milk couldn't fix.

My spooky halloween drink when Phil whisked me away for lunch on Sunday.

My little troopers who get dragged to watch their big siblings' games and eat picnic dinners and don't complain.

We don't do jack o'lanterns at our house (I have visions of knives slipping - see above meme) but the teens went to Praise and Play held by their Campus Minister (adoration, food and fun!) where they made jack o'lanterns and proved that God provides :)

I hope you all are having a more relaxing fall than we are, but if you're in the busy - but good, all good - trenches too...solidarity fist bump.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Seven Things Our Kids Do (or Don't Do) That Surprise Us

I grew up with five siblings, as did my husband, so we thought we knew what raising seven kids would be like, but sometimes our offspring still surprise us.  For instance...

1) Shotgun

My kids have never called Shotgun.  When we get in the car, the oldest gets in the passenger seat, and the rest get in the back, and nobody fights about it.  Isn't that weird?  I remember always trying to run out to the car first to get the precious front seat.  Our younger kids just defer to their older sibling.

2) Food

My kids ask permission to eat anything in the house.  They ask if certain leftovers are off limits, they ask if they can have a snack, they ask what's for lunch, etc.  This absolutely floors me as I remember just going into the fridge or pantry whenever I wanted and eating whatever I wanted.  I think this started because our firstborn was such a people pleaser & rule follower and the rest of the kids followed suit.

3) Sleepovers

I know why our kids don't do friend sleepovers (family sleepovers are fine), and it's because we say no to them.  But they don't seem to mind the rule very much at all!  Both my husband and I can remember begging to go on sleepovers all the time when we were kids.  We both regretted those sleepovers after, feeling sleep-deprived and sick the next day, and it makes me happy that our young kids don't seem to miss it.  Our oldest did sit us down before his senior year of high school to discuss the sleepover rule, and we agreed with his points that senior year would be a good transitional year before leaving home for college to allow our kids to have friend sleepovers.

4) Independence

I'm pretty sure most parents feel this way, but our kids are so much less independent than we were growing up.  We would ride our bikes around, meet up with friends and not come home until the street lights went on.  We would go into stores and spend our money, head to the beach or park, go to the library and check out books, all sorts of things on our own.  My kids are nervous to ride their bike on the bike path or buy something at the convenience store alone until they are much much older.

5) Hanging with Friends

Hanging out with friends was LIFE for us growing up, but my kids don't do it nearly as much.  We used to make friends with anyone even close to our age in our neighborhood, but our kids don't even know who lives in the neighborhood.  Instead they can play xbox with friends/cousins or text them on the phone, but hanging out in person happens extremely infrequently until they get their driver's license.  

6) Saint Life

I give credit to our kids' Catholic elementary school and our parish where they learn and celebrate saints all year long.  Because of this, they grow a true desire to become a saint, and it is easy to help them navigate their choices in life.  Does this help you get to heaven or not?  What did St. Francis teach us about helping the poor?  What would a saint do in this case?  I just remember not wanting to get in trouble, but not necessarily trying to become a saint, which puts a much more positive spin on choosing certain behaviors.

7) Stage Presence

Phil and I used to both have horrific stage fright.  He outgrew his and became a teacher and I didn't and became an accountant :)  Again, I give credit to their school and our parish where my kids are all very involved, but they seem to have no fear to get up in front of people to speak or volunteer to get on a stage/altar or even say yes to playing the role of Sparty (the high school mascot) when asked:

Hey Andrew!

These kids certainly keep us on our toes, and simultaneously make us feel old and while keeping us young!  But in general, it seems like our kids are better than us, and that's really the hope of all parents everywhere, am I right?

Monday, October 17, 2022

Brushes with Fame

 Have you ever met anyone famous?  Some of these I didn't get to "meet" per se, just saw them in the same room and didn't have the nerve or chance to talk to them.  Here are my brushes with fame:

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold married into the Kennedy family, and spent time on the Cape in the summer at the Kennedy Compound.  He came into our family's ice cream store multiple times and always ordered rum raisin.  The cone looks so teeny in his hand!!  We had this photo hanging up in the shop with a sign saying "I'll be back."

Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi also came into the ice cream store.  I'm sure a lot of famous people came through our stores over the twenty years, but most went unnoticed.  Cyndi however, stood out!

Bob Vila

When I was a teenager, somehow Bob Vila heard that I was a trustworthy babysitter in Osterville and asked me to babysit his daughter a couple times.  He came to pick me up at the house, and famously mentioned that the brick walkway needed to be fixed.  My dad built custom homes on the Cape, so it was very embarrassing!

Franciszek Gajowniczek

Mr. Gajowniczek, the man that St. Maximillian Kolbe saved, came to our house when I was a teenager and stayed overnight because he was giving a talk at our church.  Hanging around with him felt like hanging around a living saint...surreal.

Pope John Paul II

When I was 16 years old I won a contest to go to New York with fifteen other teens from across the country to see Pope John Paul II during his visit.  We were all supposed to attend his outdoor Mass in Central Park but another guy and I were asked to provide commentary and be interviewed during his mass, and our "compensation prize" was to attend the rosary he said inside St. Patrick's Cathedral later that day.  Ummmm, a much smaller venue with the Pope, yes please!  The guy next to me was able to grab the Pope's hand as he walked down the aisle, and then I grabbed his hand for a second-class Pope touch.  Seeing Pope John Paul in person was life changing, and I got to see him two more times after that.  The next time was during his Wednesday audience at the Vatican on Ash Wednesday with the other 100 Franciscan students who were studying in Austria with me that semester.  The third time was when he said the Easter Vigil Mass in 2000, which Phil and I attended with my parents and sister who had flown over to visit me that semester.  I told Phil our first born son would be named JP and luckily, he was fine with that.

Geena Davis

Geena ate at the same restaurant we were eating at, and I remember that everyone around us seemed to know who she was, but we didn't have a clue :)

Don Sweeney

When I was in 4th grade, my family took a vacation to Disneyworld in Florida, and my parents agreed to get bumped in order to get 8 free tickets to fly somewhere else within the continental US within the next year.  In order to make the best use of those tickets (aka fly to the furthest and most expensive place we could) we went to Disneyland in California for Christmas the next year.  On that flight, we happened to be flying with the Boston Bruins hockey team, and one of their players shared the same last name as us and ended up sitting in a row with my siblings, as if he was part of our Sweeney family.

Matthew Slater

Matthew Slater, a long-time Patriots player, came to speak at our diocesan fundraiser and I managed to interrupt him between the salad and entree course of his dinner to get this awkward photo with him and his signature and was able to tell him how much my boys loved him.

Trey Kennedy

I kinda feel like I discovered Trey, as I have been following his comedy for a long time before he became as popular as he is now.  I definitely went to one of his shows and pretended to be coming out of the bathroom right at the same time he was walking off stage and got this super-awkward photo with him.  I literally squealed and told him that I was his biggest fan. I just cannot keep calm and carry on.

OK your turn!  Who did you meet and how did you act?  Much more professionally than me, I'm sure.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

The Sweeneys and the Drummeys

Story Time...

My mom had a friend in high school named Jim Drummey, and while my mom was certainly popular with the boys (sorry Mum but you know it's true) I don't *think* they ever dated.  Eventually she married my dad and became a Sweeney, and Jim married Terry and they all had a bunch of kids.  I think there were 14 children between the two families. 

Well of course, all of the children grew up together and became friends and the large Irish Catholic Sweeney and Drummey families were well known in Norwood, MA.  They even vacationed together each summer in Popponesset on Cape Cod, where my parents had a beach house.  Jim and my mom used to lead a Religious Ed class and lead the rosary each morning on the screened porch for all the kids because, as Jim would say "There's no vacation from God!" and then everyone walked down to the beach and had a blast all day.  Jim and Terry are my godparents but sadly I didn't see too much of them once we moved to the Cape permanently when I was six.  They sent me cards on my birthday (always with cash inside, so exciting!) and we would see them at family weddings and funerals and the like.  While my four older siblings had deep friendships with the older Drummey kids, my sister and I played with the youngest two Drummey kids, John-Paul and Meg, but lost touch quickly as we were young.

Summer Sweeneys and Summer Drummeys (Meg on right in second row from top)

Back in August my mom told me that Meg was in the hospital, after having suffered a brain aneurysm while watching her son play hockey and it wasn't looking good.  I started praying for Meg, mom of four boys, and donated to a GoFundMe set up by her sister, who had recently lost her husband unexpectedly.  Meg's husband started a journal here.

In September, my family went to a friend's house for dinner.  We were talking about where we grew up, and stories from our youth.  The husband, after hearing I was born in Norwood, said "Wait do you know the Drummey family?" and I said yes, that Mr. and Mrs. Drummey were my godparents!  He said "Well then I'm sure you've heard about Meg?" and I said I had and he and his wife (a doctor) expressed concern since she had been in a coma for so long.  I asked how he knew Meg, and he said that he grew up next to and was good friends with her husband, Walter Corcoran.  What a small world!

But wait, it gets even smaller.

In the car on the way to school, the little boys and I were saying our prayers and talking about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati because JP is going to Pollone, Italy this weekend to visit his summer home and hike where he used to hike.  I was telling the kids that he was known for being very athletic and hiking to and from mass each morning before his parents even woke up.  He was also known for being really joyful, and I said that's how we should all be as christians, because we love Jesus and we want to share his love with everyone, and nobody wants to be around mean and negative people.

Xander (age 11) pipes up "Yeah like Blessed Carlo Acutis was joyful too and started a website to tell people about eucharistic miracles.  Oh that reminds math teacher said that his daughter-in-law has been sick and in the hospital for a long time and they were praying to Blessed Carlo Acutis for a miracle, and then she was able to go home yesterday ON HIS FEAST DAY!"

I nearly crashed the car in excitement.  "Wait.  What?!  Is his daughter-in-law's name Meg???"  Xander didn't know her name, but he knew that she was at a hockey game when something happened to her brain and she had to go to the hospital.  "That's her!  That's Meg!" I yelled.  I asked him who his math teacher was (he is new this year and I have too many kids to know everybody's teacher's name) and when he said "Mr. Corcoran" I squealed with excitement!  It was Meg!  She came home!  

She still has a long way to go to heal fully, but I am so thankful to God, through the intercession of Blessed Carlo Acutis, that she is home with her family.  If you are able, can you please spare a prayer and/or donate financially to help this beautiful family?  If anything, Meg's story has taught me that this is a very small world, and we all are in it together.

Oh and that's my godmother in the photo, on the left :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

A Montreal Recap and Another Birthday Boy

Happy Birthday to Mr. Martin today!!  I could gush and gush about how much we all love him so, how selfless and dedicated he is as a father and husband, how easy he is to get along with and how we would all choose him over and over again, but instead I'll tell you about our weekend away to Montreal.  I think that's what he would want :)

Is there a more beautiful time to drive through the Northeast than in the fall?  Methinks not.

Phil and I took Friday off from work, dropped the kids off at school and headed up to Canada, eh?  I always thought I hated long car rides with a passion, but it turns out that when it's just him and I in the car, it's more like a long date :)  We drove about 4 hours to Burlington, Vermont and stopped for lunch while being completely underwhelmed by the city.  Then back in the car for another 2 hours to Montreal!  Of course, we had to go through the border first, which was extremely nerve-wracking.  It made me feel like I was hiding something even though I wasn't.

We drove straight to a nordic spa, and God provided beautiful weather for us after a rainy day.  The spa had hot springs and cold plunges, a sauna, and plenty of places to relax.  It was very nice, but too expensive and a one-and-done type of experience.  Hey, you only celebrate 20 years of marriage (belatedly) once :)

Friday, October 7, 2022

Week in Review: Germany Hiking, Meal Workaround-ing, and Inappropriate Flattering

JP went to Germany last weekend, which we assumed was to attend Oktoberfest, but then I got his weekly email and photos (he's such a good kid) and I was pleasantly surprised to find out he was not drinking beer at Oktoberfest all weekend!  Instead he was hiking in Berchtesgaden, Germany to Eagle's Nest (one of Hitler's secret retreats) and then the next day to the tallest waterfall in Germany.  He said this group of friends was so fun to hang out with, they all stayed in an airbnb together (4 guys in one bedroom and 4 girls in the other) and cooked and played cards and watched movies.  Man, if I could turn back time I'd go right back to this Austrian semester at Franciscan University, but instead I am so so happy hearing about JP's adventures.

Lately, we have been not eating big family dinners.  Between the three high schoolers' sports teams and Phil and I *trying* to eat lower carb than our growing kids, I find myself making a meal for the kids who are home, putting leftovers away for the big kids when they get home, and then eating a salmon burger or tuna salad or something easy after I work out.  I was feeling guilty that my little kids weren't having the big sit down family dinners that my oldest kids grew up with, but then I learned a little workaround.  When Phil and I sit down to eat around 6:30, the little kids sit down with us and eat their dessert and drink their milk, and we catch up on the day then.  We play Hi Lo and it's actually really nice to bond while they are eating something they like instead of trying to bond while yelling at them to eat their veggies ;)

On Sunday I made these Apple Cinnamon Pancakes for breakfast which were yummy!  If you are still making pancakes in a pan on the stove, might I suggest you get an electric griddle?  Maybe wait until Black Friday to score one even cheaper, but we use this alllllll the time.  You can cook 8 pancakes at a time, or fry 8 eggs at a time, or cook hot dogs AND grill the buns at the same time, or make 6 grilled cheese sandwiches in a flash.  You get it, it's great.

Registrations for Catholic Familyland opened a few months early, so we booked our camper and will be attending Family Fest 4! The kids are so excited and so am I as we have had the best family experiences here.

An introvert on Friday afternoon:

I like to buy Halloween costumes that can have more than one purpose, like the Blippi pajamas we got lots of use out of or costume character hoodies they love to wear year round. In that vein, I got Brendan a Bluey sweatshirt to wear to the school's Halloween dance, and Declan a Bingo one and Phil and I got the mum and dad sweatshirts as well.  Brendan was trying his on, and Eamon took this photo and sent it to me saying "Brendan in a Bluey costume and Bluey is in a Brendan costume".  

If you don't know who Bluey is, well I admire your state in life :)

And how about a "That's What He Said"...

Alexander (age 11): Mom, my friend D said he has a crush on you!

Me: What?  He's just being silly!

Alexander: No, he is for real.  I told him you were already married, which is why I'm here.

Phil: Wait, who has a crush on mom??

Alexander: D does.  And then I told C about what D said, and C said "Oh yeah, your mom is pretty cool."

Is it weird to be so flattered by eleven year old boys?  Ha!  I'll take what I can get :)

I hope someone pays you a nice and unexpected compliment this weekend!