Thursday, July 23, 2015

I like it here in the land of sunshine and lollipops

When you have a baby, you are (usually) convinced it can never get more challenging than it seems at the beginning. The sleepless nights. The worries that something is wrong with your kid. The anxiety that she will stop breathing in the middle of the night. I certainly felt that way the first few months or even years with J.

At some point, though, even when things continued to become challenging in different ways, somewhere deep down I knew things were going to get a lot harder. I knew that eventually my little kid would grow up and have bigger issues. After all, my mom was fond of saying, "Little kids, little problems; bigger kids, bigger problems."

As my baby grew into a preteen, there was the stress of grades. Too much homework. Trouble with girls ignoring her. The disappointment of a boy not liking her. Now that she is entering 7th grade, I know that in addition to those challenges, all the "big" scary things are not too far away.

Recently on FB, I wrote about how I was surprised a family comedy from the mid '90s showed 7th graders thinking that other 7th graders had sex (they did not actually). A few friends told me that, yes, it does happen (and I am sure they were laughing at how naive I am). Knowing my child as well as I do, I think I can safely say it won't happen to her that young. But I am also not fool enough to think I can feel this safe for years on end. After all, I saw some 8th graders making out at the school dance a couple of months ago. Lord knows what else goes on!

The same with drinking and drugs. I am 99 percent sure that when I was in Catholic school (through 8th grade) only one person drank. It just never occurred to most of us. I think the same is true for most of the kids in J's class. But, again, I am sure some kids in the school do drink. And I know the kids who start 7th grade sure as hell won't be the same kids leaving 7th grade.

Then there is my biggest fear of all: drugs. I have a 30-something cousin who has been off and on drugs for 20 years. I have seen him strung out. I have seen circles under his eyes that were so black, that I can never get the picture out of my head (10 years later). I have read about him in the paper. I have seen him connected to tubes and machines in intensive care. I have heard a nurse tell me that his heart stopped and he did chest compressions to save him (spoiler alert: paddles are not really/so much used like you see on TV). But I have also seen him fight his way back to sobriety. I am writing here, for the very first time, that I don't have a lot of faith that he will ultimately win. I put his chances of "complete recover" at about 5 to 10 percent. But not 0 percent. 

I like to think that J, who has never seen said cousin at his worst, but knows a little about what has happened to him, will keep his life in her thoughts the first time someone offers her a drug. Even marijuana (which is still not legal in PA, and certainly not legal for a minor). But who among us does not know someone who complained bitterly as a child about her parent smoking who now smokes a half pack a day?

I know I have a little time to enjoy the innocence. A lot of parent lost that when their children were much younger.

So I am going to continue embracing the land of sunshine and lollipops for as long as I can. I am going to be glad my child has never kissed a boy (though sad for her that she has never had a "boyfriend" by grade school standards). I am going to thank the Lord and my lucky stars that drinking at this young age seems ludicrous to her. I am going to be glad that she is not on FB and Instagram (though at almost 12 and with most of her classmates having been on there for years, I might give in to the latter.). And I am going to try to be less annoyed when she gets mad at me when I cuss, because it reminds me of how innocent she still is.

Because before too long, those bigger-kid, much bigger problems will probably surface with a vengeance.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A lot of times I suck at living in the moment.

Well, maybe my title is not entirely accurate. I mean, I can find joy in little things. I don't need to be part of something that is big and spectacular. But yet I sometimes (maybe closer to often) find myself becoming sad because those little moments are going to end, and I focus more on the loss (and trying to capture the moments).

A few hours ago, we returned home from a week at OC MD. When we went last year, we stayed only four nights, and I honestly thought we would not be back for years. But one year later, there we were, and staying longer to boot.

Yet during the last couple of days, which would be more days than we had last year, I found myself almost panicking. I felt as if I had to grab a hold of the final days and fill them with as much beach and ocean as I could. I kept worrying that we were not doing enough things or that I was going to regret doing nothing.

Thursday was the first bad weather day we had. Before the storm came, I managed to get a run in on the beach around 8 a.m. (something that is on my mental list of must-do things). But within an hour, rain came like crazy and kept going for hours. A little after 1 p.m., when the rain had finally stopped, I decided to head out into the gray skies. I did not care that weather.com said there was a 100 percent chance of rain at 2 p.m. I was going crazy in the house just watching TV.

I first headed to get a milkshake (I had gone several days without sweets at that point; it was amazing I was not going through some kind of withdrawal). Then I sloshed through some flooded streets (where I, of course, took pictures), and I found myself at a park. I spent some time wandering around that and taking a bunch of pictures of the waterways and ducks, before I eventually headed back to the place. By then weather.com decided there was now only a 20 percent chance of rain, and by the time I got home, the rain seemed to be gone for the day. I managed to beg my child, who by that time was almost sick of the beach, to go to the ocean with me (our place was on the bayside and about a 7-minute walk to the ocean). We ended up being only 2 of about 10 people there. It was quite chilly, very overcast, and we lasted only about 15 minutes. But I just had to make it to the beach. And I just had to take some pictures.

The next day, even though I had gone running the previous day, I figured I would get another one in, this time, by the bay. Soon after that, a friend from college/high school came down, and we spent about 3.5 hours at the beach. I was getting burnt and hot, but knowing that was our last full day, I soldiered on. We ate a late lunch at a restaurant on the bay, where I had a crab cake sandwich (two more things I could "check off" from my must-do list) and where I preceded to get more burnt. Then she and her son dropped me back to our place, and I hung out with my family. Where I proceeded to go stir crazy watching TV for almost two hours.

I once again managed to convince the kid to go back to beach, because this was our last night. It turned out to be a good decision. We ended up catching the end of a beach wedding, where, of course, I cried for two complete strangers. Then we walked around the edge of the ocean, I took a bunch of pictures, and after an hour, I sadly walked away, continuing to snap just one more picture. Which turned into way more than one. Of course.

I cannot fully explain why I get this way. Maybe I was this way last year, fully believing that I would not get back to the beach for years. Then again, maybe I was just so grateful to be on our first vacation in 5 years, that I was actually able to enjoy it.

I am happy/relieved to say that after listening to the people above us party until 3 a.m. last night/this morning, I was ready to come home. And the thought of sleeping in my own bed, and not the world's most lumpy mattress and squeaky bed, makes me happy.

While I was writing this post, I downloaded the 200-plus pics I took this past week. Some of the best "moments" follow.

I think I am okay now. :-)

My first glimpse of the ocean, last Saturday

Bloody Mary with crab

Crab soup
The kid looking at the ocean one evening
The sun setting on the bay (I do remember regretting not seeing this last year, so I made sure to do it the second night)
The lagoon/bay during my run around Northside Park

Just a cool pic of the foamy ocean

J and I at the top of a lifeguard chair/stand the last night
Our last minute in the water Friday night (I was trying to capture our pedicures, but, man, do my feet look pale and rather hideous

The final beach/ocean pic I took, as we headed back to our condo

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I hate cars (Part 125)

If I did a search on "car" or "cars," I am sure that would turn up a lot of posts. I can't seem to go more than six to eight months without having to put money into my car(s). And in the last 10 months, I have spent around $1,500 among tires, a couple of oil changes, an inspection, brakes and rotors, an AC quick fix (not what I really need for it to actually be repaired), and some oil pan or plug. Looking on the bright side, if I had a new/not-yet-paid-off car, I would have spent more on car payments during that time. But still.

I tend to go through a set of brakes and rotors every two years. In fact, every other June/July for the past six years, I have replaced my front set. You might be wondering what in the h-e-double hockey sticks I am doing. I kind of am too. But I guess when you speed up to a stop sign and then slam on your brakes, along with sitting in rush hour traffic in general twice a day, five days a week, well, that can do it. Plus I recently discovered Waze, a navigational/traffic app, and I tend to be on streets that I have not been on, which results in a lot of sudden turns. [Side note, I love Waze. Some days, I want to make out with Waze. I have cut 5-7 minutes off my 35-40 minute commute.]

Somewhat ironically, I just paid off the hubby's truck. Technically, it will be paid off by 6/26. But I felt so good when I made that electronic payment on Monday. That feeling quickly dissipated when my mechanic informed me of the rotor-brake thing. If only I had won my church's raffle. Of course, I say that every year.

I really think in the next six to eight months I will get a new car. I am not sure I will get that much for my Vue, since Saturn no longer exists, but I don't want to keep putting money into this car. But since I have put so much into it in the last 10 months, I would like to keep it for a bit. But it never hurts to start my research.

Here's hoping Silver (what I sometimes call my Vue) gets us to the beach and back, all nice and cool, in the next couple of weeks. If not, I guess my car shopping will start a little sooner.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Each t-shirt tells a story.

This evening I was trying to find a t-shirt to take to my mom's. I have a deep drawerful of shirts that I wear when I want to go extremely casual, as most of them are old, and at least a third are ill-fitting. 

Since I can barely close the drawer, and I had no idea of half of what is buried there, I decided to take everything out and see what I had. Surprisingly, I had remembered almost all of them, and many brought back memories, which is unfortunate as it makes it tough to give them up.

Here are some of their stories: 


This is probably my oldest tee. Twenty-two years ago this past February, I stayed awake and on my feet for 48 hours (plus about 10 more before and after) for Penn State's Dance Marathon. I am proud of that feat and being a part of something that helps so many pediatric cancer patients. The hallucinations I could have done without. Regardless, I wear this tee some years during THON weekend.


Depeche Mode was the first concert at the Civic Arena I went to without my parents. A couple hours prior to the show, my then-boyfriend and I were waiting at a McD's for our friends from Penn State, who had our tickets. They got lost, and never showed up, so we headed to the Arena, and walked around for quite some time until we found them (this was before cell phones). It was a good show; DM was one of the few groups I have seen several times (I am not a big concert goer). How can I get rid of this?!


 I think I bought this shirt at a resale/record store, either towards the end of college or a year out. I still remember being there with my friend Beer, who was bummed he had not seen it first. NIN is one of the other groups I have seen a few times. I have not worn this in years, but it represents a wilder time in my life (as well as a time when I wore a lot of black).


I bought this shirt at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, sometime in the early 90s. I loved tie dye (still kind of do), and even though it is big on me, I just can't part with it. I vow to wear it this summer!


I ran my first Great Race in 2001. It was a few weeks after 9/11, and patriotism was high. I ran with a tiny flag; some people ran all 6.2 miles with a giant flag. It was a great experience. I last ran it 13 years ago, and I hope to do it again, but the 5K version. 


For several years, I walked the 10 miles for the MS Walk, in honor of my now-late aunt who had MS. The walk took us all over Pittsburgh, which was really cool. The year of this shirt, I did the shorter 5 miles, as I was pretty sure the 10 miles would be too much thanks to having a baby eight months earlier and no longer being in awesome shape. Unfortunately, I have not done the walk since (and they no longer do 10 miles). I can probably part with it.


I have run the Race for Pace more than any other 5K (four times, I think). The year of this shirt, 2012, I had taken a couple years off from racing, and in this particular race, I ended up in 3rd place in my age group, for which I was recognized after the fact in a little ceremony with my friend Diane. I sadly have not seen Diane since. 


I bought this tee at Kohl's a week or two after the Pens won the Cup in 2009. I can still remember how soft the shirt felt. In fact, when I picked it up for the pic, I was surprised it was still a little soft. Unfortunately, many wearings of this shirt has worn it out (not to mention the unsightly deodorant stains). But I just can't give it up until I can replace it with another Stanley Cup shirt. I had my ones from the '90s for almost two decades. Let's hope I don't repeat that for this shirt!


Finally, I give you this shirt. For several years while I was underemployed, I went to this coffee shop at least once a month. A lot of the same people came week after week, and it was just nice to chill out there, drink my cappuccino and read the P-G. The shirt is not particularly comfortable or great fitting, but I actually still wear it from time to time because I have not only uttered "I'll sleep when I'm dead" various times, but also Vince closed the place about two years ago, so I keep it as a memento.

Note that for this post, I did not include any of my "nice" Steelers, Pens, Pirates, Penn State, or Pitt shirts. Sadly (or not), I have more than two dozen of those altogether.

But those shirts above? They tell a story. I bet some of yours do too.

Monday, June 1, 2015

THIS will give me the motivation

Because I have over 300 "friends" on Facebook (at least half of whom are not really friends at all) and only a handful of readers here, I tend to be more open in this space. Today will continue that trend.

If you know me well (or even if you don't know me at all), I can tell you that for the most part, I feel pretty good about myself, both physically and as a person in general. I think it started soon after I had a child, and really solidified once I hit 40. I just have been able to accept who I am, know that I don't have to be perfect to be a good person, and pretty much am okay with my body, even though it is not as thin and tight as I would like it to be.

Unfortunately, in the last six or so months, I gained a few pounds. Going to Baltimore almost a month ago and eating non-stop for several days and hardly moving put me a few more pounds ahead, and I am now the heaviest I have been for only the third time in my life. Unfortunately, because I walk a lot and I started to run again, I still feel decent about myself, so I was lacking the motivation to stop eating all the time.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday late afternoon, as I was getting dressed for my kid's performance at school, the hubby walked in to me in my underwear. And he said this: "I'm glad I am not the only fat guy in this house."

What?!

Are you freaking kidding me?!

What married man says that?!

He tried to back-peddle, saying I was the only person he wanted, he still found me sexy, etc. As if that would somehow make that awful comment be okay. In fact, before he found his way to that sort of compliment, he made another idiotic comment like, "Well, you are not a guy." Thanks for that!

I did not ask him how I looked (I know that is generally a no-win situation for a man), so there was no need for him to share his opinion. And I realize (oversharing again) that the underwear I was wearing kind of pushes things up. But still, dude, keep it to yourself!

The good news is that I had one beer at dinner yesterday instead of two. That evening, I broke out the free weights to do some arm work. And today I actually did not eat every 1.5 to 2 hours at work, as I do most days. [Coworkers often wonder aloud why I am not huge. I am fortunate to have a fast metabolism, but, eventually, it does catch up with me a little.]

I don't want to care about a number on the scale, because I don't. Too much. But when I couple that number that I don't want to be with the slight love handles I know have, well, I do care. So you can take this to the bank: When I go to the beach in a few weeks, I will be thinner.

I know I needed to get back on track; I was going in the wrong direction. Even the thought of being in a bathing suit was not enough to get me to stop stuffing food in my face. So here's to righting a wrong, even if it's delivery was, well, wrong.

Wish me luck. And you don't even have to wish the hubby luck. I am a forgiving person. :-)

But I sure don't forget...


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Random Ramblings

I have a handful of thought in my head (and by a handful, I think I mean about 30). So rather than try to pick one topic, I am going to bullet point some. Let's see how many "some" actually ends up being...

  • When the Penguins are done with hockey, so am I. I am not even sure who is still playing and if we are down to the final teams. I think the Rangers are or were in it. But that is all I know. I really like hockey, but as a true Pens fan who watches pretty much every single game, starting in October, once the Pens are done, I typically have had enough.
  • Let the record show that I rarely complained this winter. So many people talked about how hard/bad the winter was. I did not see it that way. I am guessing that is because I drove to work this winter, unlike last winter, when I found myself waiting for the bus in frigid temps quite a bit. Even 5 or 6 minutes in windchills at -5 or even 0 degrees tends to bring you down. So this winter was like a picnic in comparison. In fact, I said at least a half dozen times that I wanted that one nice (as in 8 to 10 inches) snowstorm; we never got more than 6 inches at a time.
  • Not surprisingly, I don't love the heat. Temps in the 70s are great. Temps in the low 80s when the humidity is low are also good. Beyond that? I tend to complain. Sorry.
  • I can't stand when people act holier than though or complain about others when they themselves are guilty of similar things. I honestly thought the Duggars, unlike Jon and Kate Plus 8, were a decent family. They were way too conservative for me, and I did not agree with their views of having children (i.e., not using birth control), their courtship "rules," and the wives' place, but they just seemed like good people. My view has completely changed after it has come out that one of the sons molested some young girls, including his sisters. Sigh.
  • I believe in having fun when you can. That is why last week, I convinced two coworkers to  moonwalk past another coworker's desk with me, flash-mob style. It was not rehearsed or well thought out, and two of us did run into each other. But it was fun. So much so, that I convinced the coworker that we "flash mobbed" to join the three of us to flash mob a fourth coworker to "Uptown Funk" the next day. I, not surprisingly got into it a little too much. 
  • Even though I still regret having one child (and I think about it at least once a week), I have found a (slight) way to (almost) make peace with it. Our new dog, Bailey, is pretty crazy. She is full of energy and comes at us (mostly me) full speed and jumps on us quite forcefully. As a result, I am often bruised and scratched. And I have told her no fewer than 50 times that "You are nothing like Sadie" or "Why can't you be more like Sadie" or "I love you but I don't like you like I liked Sadie." Although I really don't think I would compare a second child to the first (or vice-versa) in that negative of a way, if I tell myself I would, well, then I can feel that much more okay about having just one kid. :-)
  • There are good people in this world. I know this. I have always know this. But sometimes when I get down and see so much bad and negativity, I can almost forget that. Fortunately, the little things that people do remind me of this. And these things remind me that I need to continue to do the right thing (knowing that I am not perfect and will sometimes fail). Doing the right thing or even just a little "good" thing may not matter to 100 or even 10 people. But even if it matters to just one person (and even if that person is only I), well, that is something.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Worry

Lately, I have had some anxiety. I have been waking up within an hour of when I fall asleep (partially because my bladder has its own timetable). And then I lie awake, worrying about various things. Mostly I worry that I am failing as a parent. I worry that I allow my child to be disrespectful to me more than she should. I worry that I am not forcing my shy child to do more things. And I worry that the few things I am pushing her to do will make her resent me. I worry that she gets stressed about school. I worry that she is bothered because she does not have a lot of friends. I worry because I don't know why that is.

I worry that we will be stuck in our house in our bad school district, a place where we would not send our child to high school when she graduates in two years (two years!). Then I worry that our somewhat introverted child will have to go to cyber school. Because there is just no way that we could afford to send her to Catholic high school, for which tuition is currently over $12,000. In two years, I am certain it will hit $13,000. I worry that if we do move, that I won't know her new friends and they won't be "good" people. I so worry about drugs and other scary things.

I worry about losing my job. I worry about my husband losing his job.

I worry about that next big expensive thing. I have to get my car looked at before we go on vacation next month. I am nearly certain that will result in a big bill. I worry about our old roof. We can't keep putting that off. I worry about several other things, some impending and others completely unknown.

I worry that I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I work for a university which will pay 90 percent of my tuition (and all of my child's tuition when the time comes, presuming I am still at the U). And yet I have not a clue for what I should go back to school. I am 43. Why is it that I have not figured it out yet?!

I worry that I did not learn enough in school. And what I did learn, many of it I forget. I worry about being forgetful, and I I worry that I am not smart enough.

I worry that my husband and I argue too much about silly things. We both seem to have to always be right. I worry that we are not better champions for each other. And I hate that my kid has to see that.

I worry that my husband does not take care of himself. He is overweight, does not exercise regularly (yard work and snow shoveling are better than nothing, I suppose), and he refuses to go to the doctor. I worry that he does not care more.

I worry that although I do exercise regularly, I eat more than I should and not as well as I should. And I also worry about my knees going because I run sometimes.

I worry that my mother does not have many years left (she is in her mid 70s). I hate that realistically we don't have decades left together. So I worry that I don't spend as much time with her as I want to. But going back to work FT makes it challenging to see her as often as I did when I was hardly working. I also worry about what happens if either of my parents get sick.

I worry that I don't see my siblings enough. A few times a year means we are missing out. But I worry about the money and time it will take to get me to those places to see them (and I worry about flying and driving far).

I worry about what is going on the world. There seems to be too much violence and hate and intolerance and apathy. I worry about others' priorities (even as I worry about some of my own).

I worry that I care about what some people think of me, when it should not matter. And I worry that I care too little about what others think of me, when I probably should.

I worry about our poorly behaved, extremely active, and overly rough dog. As much as I/we love her, we kind of regret adopting her. But I worry about taking her back to the shelter. We would be the third family who rejected. I worry that the third time would not be the charm.

I worry that I have just over-shared. But the worry is there all the same. 

I worry.

I just worry.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I'm sure this will get me into trouble!

As I contemplated writing this post, I could hear my mother saying, "Stop putting everything on Facebook" or "Your whole life does not have to be on Facebook." I don't put everything on FB. I typically do post something nearly every day. Mostly, I post pictures of things (Phipps gets a posting pretty much every month since I am there that often). I also try to include whenever I get together with a friend (after asking them if it is okay if I post the picture), and my family. I don't post nearly the number of pics of my kid as I used to, mostly because she hates my taking her picture (the dog hardly sits still, so forget that). I also complain about something and/or make some topical comment on average once a week. I guess thanks to the Pens' early, but not surprising, exit, there won't be any hockey posts for awhile (though I had really cut back on those this season).

Most notably, I rarely post things about my kid's school, other than I end up complaining about a snow day or delay once or twice a winter. I am FB friends with a couple dozen parents, so I would not want to say something negative or that can be misconstrued, particularly because I don't consider myself more than acquaintances with those people (and some of those FB connections are not even that).

I really wanted to post the picture I am about to on FB, but, for the reasons I stated above, I did not. I don't think parents come around these parts anymore (a couple of years ago, at least one did, although not because I had ever told anyone about the blog). But if they do, well, so be it.

I think the note I am posting below is funny, and honestly sounds like something that I might have gotten when I went to Catholic school 30 years ago, except we never had dances.

So, without further adieu, I give you the note that came home, which made me chuckle.


A few things:
  • Another note came home about the 6th-8th grade dance, which listed a set of rules for the kids to follow, including a bullet point that the dance was semi-formal and that girls should to refer to the "girl" note (which is above) that came home. That comment instantly took me back to 4th grade when letters came home to girls' parents telling them of the movie on menstruation the girls would be seeing. Our teacher at the time told us not to talk about it. I think I even got in trouble for doing so because I was so naive.
  • I don't pretend to be a fashion icon, so maybe I have this wrong, but I did not realize showing a bra strap was that bad. Obviously you should strive not to (I think), but if a girl's dress allows a sliver of a strap to be shown, should she have to wear the scarlet letter B?! And didn't clear straps go out years ago?! I fear this may have more to do with the boys than anything else...
  • And speaking of the strap, that has caused me some grief. I bought the kid a white-gold Easter dress (liturgically correct!), with thick (about an inch) straps. She wants to wear said dress to the dance. Unfortunately, the straps (which, again, are much thicker than any bra strap) are angled in a way that no bra angles, so a little bit of the bra straps are exposed. For Easter, it was a non-issue because the kid wore a creamy-sheer jacket over it. But I know there is no way she will wear that thing to the dance. So we had to find a strapless bra today. I won't go into details of that fun-filled 30 minutes. But let's just say, by fun, I mean I wanted to bang my head against the wall.
  • Can you really require a girl to wear a bra (not sure what an "undergarment" is)? Yes, some need to. But there are some small girls in that school that may not even own one. I was so skinny and little that I did not wear a bra on a regular basis until I got to high school. The good, ol' days... [If this is about the sheerness of a dress, I'm afraid sometimes a bra or "undergarment" is not enough. But you can't exactly ask girls to wear a padded bra to remedy that.]
  • I will say I am completely on board with the dress not being too short rule. Honestly, I cannot believe how short the skirts of some girls are (or at least were; for a couple of years I did weekly lunch duty, and I have seen skirts that exposed inches of thighs while said girls wore ankle socks in 30-degree recess weather).
In any event, I just cannot help picturing random middle-school-aged girls hanging out on the street corner in their short, short skirts with their bra straps showing. I mean is this what is happening that caused that letter?! (And, in case any parents come here, no, I really don't think girls in the school are doing that.) Then again, thanks to s coworker's gif, I can now also picture Madonna dancing around in one of her bra numbers, although I think it is a safe bet "Like a Prayer" won't be played at the dance...

If nothing else, Mom, I want credit for not sharing this on FB. (Not that my mom comes here or there.)

:-)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

My happy place

Phipps spring flower show came to an end almost a week ago. As usual, it was beautiful, calming, and delightful. I wish I could come up with better adjectives, but that's all I have right now.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Ah, spring!











Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I forget the great title I had for this post!

I had a pretty good title for this post, but it escapes me, probably because I actually wrote two different posts for what this will end up being. Which is loooong.

I was in NC from Thursday afternoon until Monday morning. And man, did we fit a lot into those few days.

It started off pretty smoothly. Because flying stresses me out and we had to go through two tunnels, J and I left the house, 30 miles away, about 2.75 hours before our flight was scheduled to leave. Even though it took us just under 40 minutes to get there, I still felt nervous, so I decided not to wait for the airport van/shuttle that takes you from a shelter in extended parking to the beginning of the airport. I was afraid the next one might not come for 30 minutes (I did not walk up to a shelter to actually confirm this). After dragging several bags for over 10 minutes, I regretted that decision. Fortunately, we made it through security pretty quickly, although clearly the novices we are at flying, we had a full water bottle. Fortunately again, the security guy did me a favor and dumped the water out so I could keep the J's beloved water bottle.

Once we got to the terminal (is that the right word?), we ran into my mother and nephew, who were already supposed to be on a plane to somewhere (they fly standby because my little brother is a pilot, and they sometimes have to take two flights to get somewhere). They did not make it on that flight, and Mom was without a working phone to plan when and where she would go next. So she asked me for my phone. I did not give it up willingly or cheerfully. But eventually I did say good bye to my beloved appendage. Since I had not confirmed exactly where my older brother was picking me up once I got to Raleigh, I was somewhat unsettled by this, but I figured we would work it out.

We eventually made our way onto the plane, which, as usual, started off with my ears tearing up. Fear always sets in for me. But because J said she was worried about the plane crashing, that actually helped to calm me (I did not let her see me teary). I told her chances were so slim that anything would happen, and although I could not make any promises, I was pretty sure we would be fine. Clearly we were, because I am writing this. :-). Worth noting is I could not help but think if our plane was crashing or hijacked, I would not be able to call the hub to say our final good byes, since I was sans phone. That bothered me. Yes, I know that makes me slightly warped.

We arrived on time, my older bro did not (which is pretty typical), and we fairly quickly made it to his place. After spending about 20 minutes decompressing, my bro and his youngest and I set out for a walk on various trails and through many neighborhoods. Two hours later, we were finally back! Within an hour of that, my bro dropped J and me off to see a college friend I had not seen in 21 years as well as her family. We had a nice evening together; it was hard to believe it had been that long.

The next day, J and her three cousins went to a morning soccer camp while bro and I watched. J was not happy. Every water break, she told me how much she hated it, me, her life, etc. Good times! Eventually she settled into tolerating it, and I even saw her smile and hustle a few times. Still, I just don't see her wanting to play the sport.

We had pizza for lunch, attended a long Good Friday service, and before long, my little bro's four kids and wife, along with my mother (and phone!), arrived (Mom and the one nephew had to fly to TX, where lil bro and family live, and fly out the next day). Craziness and chaos ensued and pretty much stayed that way for the next 48 hours! About the only time it was quiet was when the kids were on electronics.

Saturday after a couple of errands, most of us went to the Hurricanes game. My older bro had taken me to one about 14 years ago (I think), but since it had been about seven or eight years since my last game (Pens), I was excited. I proudly wore a Pens tee, but was all in to root for the Hurricanes and particularly happy to root against Philly!

Our seats were pretty good, club (2nd) level, complete with a server. I had J and my two nieces, my mom was down lower with three nephews, and older bro and wife were in a suite. J was particularly excited to see her (former) favorite player, Jordan Staal, get a goal and an assist. Unfortunately, we left after the second period to get to an egg hunt, which was nice, though J is a little old for that.

Here are a few shots, taken with the crappy iPhone 4.

I appreciate that PNC is in the name, much like it is in/at PNC Park.
I have no idea if the Pens do anything like this, but there were also a bouncy house.
This one was taken without my zooming. It is a shame how empty the stands were about 15 minutes before puck drop.

I zoomed in on this pic, hence the poor quality.

Had to get the pic of Jordan Staal after he scored a goal!

That evening all 14 of us (little bro finally arrived) ate in a courtyard/outdoor play area of a burger place. We pretty much froze, but the kids were entertained with various games, including Connect Four and giant Jenga. See pic below. Sadly all that fresh air and activity did not help those eight kids go to sleep at a reasonable hour or without various chaos. 


This picture brought such a smile to my face; the kids were so cute running around in a circle holding hands.


The next day, a mere seven hours later, the kids patiently waited until all the grown ups woke up to find their Easter baskets. There was more chaos. Eventually, we made it to mass, there was playing outside after, and after Mom and I took a walk, we sat down to dinner.

The TX group realized they would not be able to fly out the next day, so they and my mom rented a car (for which little bro and I waited about an hour), and around 9:30 that evening drove a couple hours to Charlotte, so they could fly out from there early Monday. It was hard to say good bye.

The chaos left with them, and somehow the quiet was deafening. I finally got a good night's sleep, but when I woke up, I knew our trip was just about over. After a leisurely breakfast, older bro drove me and J to the airport about 1.25 hours before our flight was to leave (we are very different in that respect!), and we said our good byes. Fortunately, I had sunglasses on, to mask those tears.

Before long, we got on the plane, and just over an hour later, we were back in the Burgh. As per usual, as soon as we got near the Burgh, I was overcome with a mixture of relief and Pittsburgh pride. I got a couple of cool shots. This was my best, since it captures the heart of the city while framing part of the pic with a plane wing. (The muddy Allegheny River is odd to me.)


All in all, it was a great trip. It had been years since we were all together. Maybe even before little bro's youngest was born (he is almost three now). It was well worth the money for flight tickets, and I am sure I will eventually catch up on sleep after getting about the 25 hours over four nights. I am not sure when we will all be together next, but I am pretty sure I won't be flying anytime soon for that to happen...