My Poison Ivy Rash and Recovery

My poison ivy is on the mend. It sure has been an interesting couple of weeks. Then again, weeks here with me, Wife and all of our miracles of Christ usually are interesting.

Doctors and nurses did a good job of taking care of me and making sure I was as comfortable as I could be with this onset of poison ivy. Rashes and itching weren’t fun. I’m glad I was able to provide a nice topic of conversation for people at practices and impromptu meetings with family and neighbors. Everything seems to be going away. I’m very happy for that. I’m definitely not going to miss this. The itching and discomfort was bad enough. Worse was the medication they gave me. This stuff was known to give you some stomach pains. Another side effect of the medication was increased appetite. I don’t need that. My appetite is healthy enough without the medication. I don’t need any more help in that department, especially since I spent all summer trying to lose weight, and I was losing weight. Trips to Six Flags (or any amusement park) usually include pizza, ice cream, fried dough, and other staples that are required eating when you’re at a fair or an amusement park. Now that we are in September, it’s almost time to check out local fairs and the delicious fare being offered at the fair (See what I did there?). The point is, I was doing a good job if controlling my weight until I was prescribed these medications and now my appetite is coming back. I’m hoping my willpower will be able to hang in there while the medication runs its course and does its job.

Itchy

I’ve been told to take it easy since I came down with the rash. That’s hard to do. I’m coaching The Boy’s flag football team. I take The Oppressed to cheerleading practice. Pickups and drop-offs at school. Sports practice for The Gaggle. Things are busy. Medication had side effects. I’m hoping being busy will take my mind off of eating and the schedule will give me other things to do besides eat.

Speaking of eating, I got a nice fruit basket from an aunt who wanted to make sure things were alright here. Some of the fruit was covered in chocolate. Again, I’m trying to control my appetite, but there always seems to be other things popping up in front of me when I’m trying to walk the straight and narrow, or slim and lean. There’s always something here. If there isn’t something requiring out attention at home, there’s something away from home that requires our attention and efforts. On the plus side, I have a few more good stories to tell. The people watching at the hospital was interesting. Sometimes, I thought there would be authorities involved. People telling hospital staff they didn’t know what they were doing or they were wrong. I kept my family looped in with the drama that occurred as I went from Emergency to my room. I was also glad to have my books and phone with me so I was able to keep up with my work while waiting to be looked at by the GSH staff. Thanks to all those who had a hand in my recovery. And to the nice people at the walk-in clinic at the start of this adventure, I’m sorry if what I had on my arms and legs creeped you out at all.

Something nice from my aunt and uncle to forget my suffering.

Basketball (and a Mix of Hockey) in the Summer

Boys playing basketball on the court.
A nice day with the family.

One of the Gaggle has taken a liking to sports, especially basketball. This is most welcome news to me. When I was a teenager, sports was a focal point of my life. Even if my favorite teams weren’t in the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA, or Stanley Cup Finals, it was an obligation for me to follow the playoffs and watch or listen to the final round or game. This particular child has taken a particular interest in basketball and has signed up to play in an organized team this season.

This new activity means going to games. This is nothing new to me or The Boy, as we have spent many Saturdays going to games and bonding. My favorite part is when we talk about the game and whatever else is going on in his life over chicken fingers and french fries after the game. For the record, when I ask, he does “nothing” at school, with his friends, and “nothing” is happening with his life.

Back to the Gaggle. This child has games that stretch over the weekend. It’s usually one game on one day and two on another. That’s fine with me. It means a chance to get something to eat and catch up with the other children who are at the game with me. It’s a nice little bonus for me. I get to watch sports, eat with my kids, and talk with them and find out how their life is.

Speaking of bonuses, there was one nice little surprise that happened for us, or me, on one day we were enjoying a day of basketball. The Gaggle had a game at a prep school one weekend. This school just happened to have a hockey rink across from the basketball gymnasium. This hockey rink just happened to have a hockey game during the time between the two basketball games. It was too good to be true. I recruited The Boy to go with me to the rink to check out the game. He lasted about 30 seconds before he decided it was too cold and he couldn’t stay there. The Oppressed, on the other hand, didn’t seem to mind the ice and cold and watched the game with me. She seemed to like hockey, especially the hitting.

It was a great day for me. I got to see one child play in one game and got to see another game with another child. There have been other games that I have watched the child play in. I look forward to all of them. I like to watch the games and then talk to them about the game and what they thought about how they did. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, there will be another game for me and someone else to watch.

Boys playing ice hockey.
A nice little bonus between basketball games.

Family Fun at Fenway Park

There was another recent milestone for The Gaggle. They saw their first game at Fenway Park. This was a special moment for everyone because their first game was against the New York Yankees.

Wife wanted me to pick the seats. I knew this would be a special moment so I knew the seats had to be just right. I picked bleacher seats behind the bullpen. I knew this would give the children, all children a special experience and it did… But more on that later.

We drove into Boston that night and parking wasn’t as bad as you would expect. We made it to Fenway Park with time to spare. We got food. I got a score book because I like to keep score when I go to a Red Sox game. There wasn’t a lot of time to get to our seats and we wanted to get our food and get settled. I grabbed a pre-made Italian sausage. Don’t buy the pre-made Italian sausage.

A few innings in and The Boy already had to use the bathroom. It was the first of multiple trips to the bathroom during the game. I stopped keeping score. I was missing too much to keep up.

It also rained. Usually, when sitting in right field, I am under the porch where the retired numbers are. I picked seats that were directly behind the bullpens with no shelter. I was so occupied with finding good seats, I didn’t think about the weather. This was a lack of foresight and I assume full responsibility for this. My family got wet because I did not plan. Luckily for my family, my wife planned and provided ponchos for us.

Fenway Park

Another trip to the bathroom for The Boy. Another episode of standing up, making other people stand up so we can get out. Finding our way through the crowds getting food, finding their seats, standing in line. Fenway Park is small and I would like to see the Red Sox play in a bigger park with room for people to move around without walking into each other or having to walk through a line of people waiting for their food. Yes, I said it. I would like to see Fenway Park replaced.

The game went on. The Boy and I returned to our seats. I got a refill on my drink while I was up. Just Coca-Cola tonight. The boy and I returned to our seats. We were in the middle innings. Things were getting a little tense between the Red Sox fans and the Yankees fans. People started chanting their standard slogans. I thought the Red Sox winning World Series lately would put an end to razzing the Yankees and their fans. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve been to a Red Sox-Yankees game.

More rain. This time it was enough to cause a delay. Rain ceases. Play resumes. More chanting. More razzing. Yankees fans yelling. Red Sox fans yelling. Things escalate. Security comes. Police come. Fans are escorted out of the park. Fans cheer and now I feel like Wife and I have truly given our children a real Fenway experience.

Some of the children aren’t feeling well so Wife leaves with them. I offer to go and suggest we should all go. Wife disagrees. Children have been looking forward to this and it’s their first time there. I remain with the other children. The Red Sox win, 5-4 in 10 innings.

The Red Sox celebrate a win. My kids were there.
US_UK_Apple_Books_Badge_Get_CMYK_071818.pdf
My new book “Down on the Farm” is now available on Apple Books.

Car Trouble and New Neighbors

Me, Wife, five kids, a dog, and a cat. Between all of us there are two schools, four jobs, and countless extra-curricular activities. We, like you, have a busy family and life throws us plenty of curve balls and we deal with those curve balls the best way we can.

A look at the parts under the hood of a car.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Sometimes the curve balls lead us to new things. That’s what happened to me recently when I was running around trying to get things done one particular day. I ran into a little trouble with the car. Luckily for me, everything was still under warranty. I just needed to wait things out a bit for a courtesy vehicle to come. The weather here in Massachusetts has been oppressively hot or rain and more rain. On this particular day, it was oppressively hot. I wasn’t far from home; just a few blocks away. I took this opportunity to answer emails from work and words of praise from adoring readers and social media followers. I’m good like that. I was standing outside the car since I was told it wouldn’t be long before the courtesy vehicle would arrive. I kept a keen eye up and down the street looking for the nice person who would come to my aid. While I was standing outside, a nice lady came out to check on me. She had noticed my car parked on the street for a while. In our neighborhood, no one parks on the street and if they do, it’s only for a minute or two before continuing on their way. I explained to her what was going on and she invited me into her family’s house with central air for a bottle of water while I waited things out.

I appreciated the invite. I went in and we started talking. I explained I lived a few blocks away. She immediately knew which house I was talking about. She and her husband liked what our house looked like and they were considering putting an addition on their house. I told them the work we had done on our house. They loved the lending library we had outside. I told them that was the brain child of my daughter, The Oppressed. We both had dogs. Our dogs run around a fenced-in yard. We talked about our children and the unique challenges they present.

A black minivan sitting in the driveway.
Back on its feet (wheels) and ready for more.

The courtesy vehicle arrived and it was nice of the couple to invite me in because the vehicle arrived over an hour after they said it would. It was hot that day and I’m delicate. The most random things can happen and that day was an example of that. We made preliminary plans to meet up on night for beers and a fire pit. On that night, Wife can meet the nice people who saved me from oppressive heat and gave me another story to tell on what otherwise would have been a routine day, even though “routine days” with this family can be exciting ones in their own right.

Later that day I saw a post on social media. Someone who was my age was wondering how they can meet people. They were lamenting about how no one talks to anyone anymore. I explained to them I met someone through virtue of some car trouble. Totally random and unexpected. With me and my family, that’s just another day in life.

My new book, “Down on the Farm” is now available on Apple Books.

Well-behaved Adults and Grocery Shopping

(Language in this post has been watered down for the purposes of proper decorum.)

Being a parent means being responsible. Not all the time, just when the kids are around. It means eating healthy instead of eating junk or sweets to set a good example for your children. It means Continuing on your way when someone is making a scene in public because it’s not polite to stare at people.

There are some people who don’t watch when something is happening in public, regardless of whether they’re alone or their children are with them. I’m not one of those people. If something is happening, chances are I’m standing off to the side pretending to do something or look at something when the truth is I’m watching the drama unfold out of the corner of my eye. Some people like reality TV. I like reality.

There was one recent episode that took place while I was out shopping one morning. My children were all at school, so it was another trip to the store by myself. A chance to take a little drive, play a little music, and get some things done and out of the way.

As I was making my way through the parking lot, my head turned in the direction of someone who was shouting. I saw a man walking with a cell phone in one hand. The other hand was fending off a woman who was walking with him, visibly (and audibly) upset over something that involved whoever was on the phone.

I went into the store like a mature adult who, “wasn’t interested in other people’s drama.

The woman was trying to maneuver past the fending hand. She stretched her neck as far as she could to the phone. “What the heck did that lady say about me? Come down here and say that to my face, you bawd!”

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

“Ignore her,” the man said on the phone. “She’s upset.”

“You’re darn right I’m upset,” the woman screamed. “I’m more than upset. I’m hopping mad! Tell that woman to come down here. I’m right here in the parking lot, you hag! Come on down here and say that to my face!”

The woman continued to shout past the man to the phone. The man still had the phone to his ear, trying to prevent the woman from getting to his phone. A part of me wanted to know the backstory. It was entertaining, to say the least. If I had children with me, I would have hustled them through the parking lot faster than I was moving by myself, but there were no kids with me so I was able to watch the entertainment during my stroll to the store. On my way to the store, there was another woman who was walking with her daughter. The child asked, “What’s that?” The mother said, “Nothing,” and ushered her along so the child wouldn’t be caught gawking. I exchanged glances with the parent, who was trying to answer her daughter’s questions as vague as she possibly could. Meanwhile, I was wondering what parts of the conversation I had missed as I went into the store like a mature adult who, “wasn’t interested in other people’s drama.”

My new book “Down on the Farm” is now available for purchase on Apple Books.

What Shall we Play?

Friends, relatives, readers and other compatriots know I love playing games, especially with my children. It’s hard to find a game we can agree on. I tried to convince my children to try Cribbage, especially when they were younger and starting school. I thought teaching them how to add up to 121 would help them out with math and help to kill a little time here and there. They were against that. Anything that involves cards is usually boring. They might occasionally tolerate a game of Fish or War, but playing cards is mostly boring.

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Kicking a soccer ball is also boring. Batting practice in the backyard? Boring. Seems like everything is boring. I never thought my children would turn down the chance to have someone pitch a whiffle ball to them, but here we are. Even video games is a struggle. I feel like I’m trying to negotiate something huge with my children. I also feel like I need Scott Boras or Gordon Gecko to hammer something out with my children.

Sometimes, we can agree on something and by “agreeing” I mean playing a game the children want to play and if I don’t agree to play the game, there will be no game. The Boy likes to play “Call of Duty” on PS4. This would be fun if I new what I was doing. We play a game where two people are out in the field and try to find and “neutralize” or “eliminate” each other. Both players start at different parts of the playing field, track each other, and… well, try to win. I’ve been playing games like these for a long time, since “Medal of Honor” came out for Playstation. PSOne. Whatever people call it today. I’m pretty good at it. Not great but I win some. I lose some. In this PS4 installment, I lose all the time. It doesn’t matter where we are. It doesn’t matter what weapons I have with me. I lose. He finds me. He gets me. He “eliminates” me. He loves it. Me? Not so much but The Boy loves it. I try to get him to play other games. I try to get him to play a baseball game on a console. I figure if playing baseball is “too boring” than maybe a faster-paced video game version would be better for him. It’s not. Still boring and he just wants to play “Call of Duty”.

This was the last time I explained ANYTHING about the game to The Oppressed.

I also try to convince The Oppressed to play a game with me. Again, this involves a little negotiation on my part. Usually the only negotiation involved is what game we’re going to play. The Oppressed agrees to play with me if I agree to play a Harry Potter version of Trivial Pursuit. I love Trivial Pursuit. Do I like Harry Potter. Let’s say I don’t hate the franchise. The Oppressed, on the other hand, LOVES Harry Potter. We went to Universal Studios a few years ago. We drank butter beer. The kids got wands. The Gringotts ride was incredible. The whole time there was fun. I may have watched 30 or 60 minutes of Harry Potter out of the entire 8-film series. The Oppressed has read the books and watched the movies. She knows a few things about what happens to who and the tools and spells and enchanted items utilized. I know there’s a kid named Harry Potter. There may be an owl somewhere in a scene and I think someone who was in “Die Hard” is in the movie.

If you are a fan of Harry Potter, buy this game. You will love it. The questions cover spells, characters, production, quotes and magical charms. All things The Oppressed knows and loves. I was out to a pretty good start. I got two wedges before she got one. I liked my chances. I also remembered what it was like in 1986 when the Red Sox won the first two games against the Mets. I tempered my excitement. Those two pieces of the pie I got? Those were the only pieces I got in the entire game as The Oppressed ran the board on me and filled up her Slytherin token. She was happy and excited as she answered the questions and then explained to me where in what movie these things took place. I have no idea what she’s talking about and I’m honestly surprised I got any questions right, let alone earned a wedge. I will say my worthy opponent was very graceful and helped me out with a couple of hints when it came to the questions. Not for the wedges, those I did earn on my own but there were times when my daughter helped me out.

A look at the Hogwarts action.

So, my performance wasn’t ideal. It usually isn’t when you are looking at subject matter you know almost nothing about and your opponent is a walking encyclopedia on the subject matter. Oh well. What matters is my daughter and I got do do something together and my daughter was away from a screen for a little while. I had fun playing with her and, somewhere in Britain, I hope J.K. Rowling appreciates the additional royalties.

A Quick Note of Thanks on Memorial Day

An American Flag
Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

Memorial Day has been called the unofficial beginning of summer. It is usually a time when people pack up the car and go somewhere for the long weekend. I feel that over the past few years, people have been getting back to what Memorial Day was originally intended for: honoring those who served and are no longer with us.

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate Memorial Day. Those reasons can be found marked with gravestones and American flags.

I’m not saying there’s something wrong with taking a trip. Whatever you’re doing, you should be mindful of why we celebrate Memorial Day. The United States doesn’t have a draft. Every last man and woman who serves in the Armed Forces does so of their own free will. These people know what they’re signing up for and they go ahead anyway. To say it’s not an easy thing to do is an understatement. Our men and women knowingly and willingly go into danger when everyone else’s first instinct is to avoid it. Unfortunately, some who do this don’t make it back.

A grave with an American flag in a cemetery.
Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

There are veterans in my family (Army and Marines) and Wife’s (Air Force). My grandfathers (Army and Navy) and Wife’s (Army) served in World War II. Every Memorial Day, we visit the resting place of Wife’s grandfather. We don’t forget, but The Oppressed likes to ask every year if we’re going. We do, and on the way there is some ceremony taking place, usually downtown, to honor the dead. We make that ceremony, no matter how small or how quick it is.

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate Memorial Day. Those reasons can be found marked with gravestones and American flags. The Oppressed was happy one year when she and a group of friends got to put the flags at the spots occupied by those who served. It’s a way of reminding herself why we have Memorial Day. There are a lot of brave daddies (and mommies) who left their families and didn’t make it back. For Wife and me, our grandfathers, our other relatives, and our friends made it back. Today, we remember those who didn’t. We remember those who knew what they were signing up for and left their homes and their families for that greater purpose that called them. Today, I hope your day allows a moment to pass through a cemetery and see the graves marked with flags. Some towns have a memorial in the center with a statue or a flag to honor those who made the Ultimate Sacrifice. Remember those who didn’t make it, and if you one of those who did, Thank you.

Teen Drivers (Part 2)

Our family of seven has just welcomed our fourth driver. Wife and I are hoping to delegate some of the errands to the children very soon should there be a time someone or something need to be picked up. This child has just received her learner’s permit. We patiently wait until she can get her license and drive on her own. In the meantime, we continue with our diligent parenting and errand-running, waiting for that moment when Wife and I can just sit back and let one of the cherubs handle it. Until then we sit… and wait… and hope.

Another one of The Gaggle is the latest one with the learner’s permit. She and I went out to the driveway she she could get a feel for what it’s like to be behind the wheel. She made it abundantly clear she had no intention of actually driving the car. She just wanted to get in the car and see what it was like.

I gave her the keys and we got in the car. She started the engine. She was ready. She didn’t think so but I informed her she was. I told her she had prepared for this day. She took a test and passed it. I reminded her she really had prepared herself.

She put her foot on the brake and put the car in drive. She never took her foot off the brake. She just put the car back in park. She released the brake and the car rolled an inch, maybe two inches. She let out an excited cry. She wasn’t expecting the car to move at all. I patted her on the shoulder and told her how proud I was. It was a small step, especially for someone who was more than a little apprehensive about driving. We went back inside and told Wife about the big first step taken. Later that afternoon, we drove to a parking lot. The Gaggle refused to drive there, even if it was just a question of making three or four turns without really leaving the neighborhood. She didn’t care. She didn’t want to and I wasn’t going to kill what smoldering confidence there was from our driveway venture.

I drove us to the parking lot. I killed the ignition and switched seats with her. I wanted her to to it all, including starting the car, as simple as that may seem. She got in and adjusted her seat. She adjusted her mirrors. She started the ignition and made a face like she was operating a loaded tank. Driving and firing. She wasn’t ecstatic about this. I was excited for her and didn’t understand why she wasn’t feeling the joy. I think I may have been excited enough for the two of us.

A car dashboard with the speedometer reading 9 mph.
This is about as fast as
she was willing to go.

She took her foot off the brake and we rolled forward. She wasn’t interested in picking up any speed. We did 5 mph. I’m not exaggerating this. She did a couple of laps around the parking lot and practiced parking a few times. She did well. Towards the end of the session, I asked her if she was feeling dangerous. If so, she could bump it up to 10 mph. She did. It was exhilarating. I don’t think she had ever been in something so fast before in her life. The driving came to an end. I asked her if she wanted to drive home. She emphatically refused. I drove us home. She spent the night recovering from the adrenaline rush. I’m looking forward to our next driving lesson.

It’s Time for Coffee

Children are learning things every day. Sometimes they learn on their own and sometimes Wife or I need to teach them.

We had one such teachable moment with one of The Gaggle. They wanted to get a coffee. I stopped at a drive-thru so they could get one. The order was a little difficult as they kept changing their mind as to what it was they wanted. God bless the poor person taking the order. They never lost their temper or raised their voice once. Upon receiving the coffee, I drove away. I could see the look of disappointment in The Gaggle’s face as we made our way home.

“This is black,” they said.

“Yes. You wanted a black coffee,” I reminded them.

“They don’t put cream in a black coffee?”

I put my hand on the child’s shoulder and said no, they don’t put cream in a black coffee. That’s why they call it a “black coffee”. If the child had wanted cream, they should have said, “coffee with cream.”

“That’s dumb,” they said. “I should sue Starbuck’s”

I tell the child to go ahead and try, but Starbuck’s doesn’t care what just happened where we were.

“I mean McDonald’s.”

“Again,” I say, “Knock yourself out, but it’s not McDonald’s fault.”

“Wait,” they say as they look behind them, hoping to catch a glimpse of where we were. “Where were we?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I’m driving. I need to look forward so I can see where we’re going.”

“Well, wherever we were,” they say as they turn back and get settled. “We should sue them. They screwed up my coffee.”

Of course they did.