Sunday, April 23, 2017

150 Days of Adventure, etc.: Volume Three

The whirlwind of last weekend kicked our collective patoots. We are only now recovered. Here is the recap:

Friday, April 14, 2017 -- Day Thirteen:

We spent nearly all day in anticipation for the puck drop. Auntie and Uncle Steve arrived at our home, and we all headed downtown on the T. We stopped by a hotel tailgate for a beer/ginger ale, and then headed into PPG Paints Arena.

                                       Get in the fast lane, Grandma! The bingo game's ready to roll!

We were all too ready for as awesome a game as Game 1, so I naturally prepared myself to be bitterly disappointed. Because that's how I do. Ol' Scotty P. went full-on financial amnesiac and purchased us great seats, pretending like we could actually afford it a few days before tax day. (He's either a prince charming or straight-up lunatic, depending on my state of sobriety when I make the call. And only I make the call.)

He did a great job. We are now sufficiently spoiled.

                                                 Warmups. With Fleury in the cage. Perfect.

The Pens played an amazing and exciting game, Sid and the kids showed up and showed off, and we won, making the series 2 games to none. All in all, we had the most fabulous time. Franco added to his cheer of, "Keep on suckin' suckers! We're unstoppable!" by pointing to the Penguins logo on his chest and screaming, "See this? This is professional hockey!" I don't even know where he got that. It sounds professional wrestle-y, and I most certainly NOT wrestle-y, professional or otherwise.  But, we're keeping it. Feel free to pay homage yourselves.

Afterwards, Franco stared at the scoreboard reading Pens 4 -- Jackets 1 and proclaimed, "I could just stare at that score all night long."

                                                                 Same, Buddy. Same.

The walk through the city to the T station was filled with cheers and the buzz of champions. After a very eventful ride home on the T, where we had to listen to some joker complain about teenagers using the F-word ("Heavens to Betsy!!"), we made it home to revel accordingly.

Saturday, April 15, 2017 -- Day Fourteen:

Everyone took naps. (Although Franco resisted until 7:00 PM. Most kids call that bedtime. We clearly have no structure. Carry on.) Then, we put out our baskets, laid out a lovely carrot, and dyed eggs in anticipation for the guest of honor. Franco stayed up well past 1:00 AM because his excitement would allow nothing otherwise. (Also, see his aforementioned "nap" time.)

                    I can't be 100% sure it is not technically Easter Sunday at the snap of this photo.

Sunday, April 16, 2017 -- Day Fifteen:

Easter Sunday! Franco woke up to find that, indeed, the Easter Bunny had come to bestow upon him a ridiculous amount of candy, a remote-control Mickey and the Roaster Racers car, and The Good Dinosaur on Blu-Ray, for which he was especially grateful because, as he stated, "My mum's too cheap to buy that because it's never on sale." (All true.)

The only rule on Easter Sunday is there are no rules and you can eat candy all day long, if that's your thing, as long as you drink some milk along with it.

                                                             Don't mind if I do.....

Later that morning, Franco and I went upstairs to take a rest before our next big holiday outing that afternoon.....

                                 I've been waiting since "Ring of Keys" on the Tony Awards!

We got dressed up to meet Gram and Pap for dinner downtown and all sauntered over to see Fun Home at Heinz Hall. Franco critiqued at the end, "Well, that was a heckuva show!" His favorite parts were when the little kids hid in the coffin, the dance number under the disco ball, and when the set got "fancy." (He also found it remarkable that Gram took off her coat AND fleece during the show.) The night did feel pretty overwhelming.

We had a grand evening, only marred by the knowledge that Game 3 of the Pens' first-round series happened simultaneously. Thank goodness for DVR.

Once home from a wonderful, heartfelt musical performance, we all settled in to watch the game. It took a while -- and especially took us a while, since we were on a substantial delay -- but the Pens pulled it out in overtime, and thus another holiday centered around a Pittsburgh sporting event went our way. Thank heavens.

***Around this point in time, it crossed my mind that this little "project" of mine, which I made up and participate in purely on a voluntary basis, could be a tad ambitious. Too late now because of the blog. If I had only kept my big mouth shut. Story of my life.

To be continued.....


Thursday, April 20, 2017

150 Days of Adventure Yada, Yada, Yada: Volume Two

Adventures still going strong! Sometimes we might be exhaused. However, we persist.

Friday, April 7, 2017 -- Day Six:

Ol' Scotty P. had to take a tooth class downtown, so Franco and I had the whole day to ourselves. We did this:

                                                             And it was awesome!!

Afterward, we spent the rest of our Chuck E. Cheese tokens and bought a cotton candy.


Saturday, April 8, 2017 -- Day Seven:

Another day to ourselves because teeth. Auntie, Uncle Steve, and some of their friends (on their way to the ballgame) invited us to lunch on the North Shore, so we obliged. We rode the T (and played our traditional game of "I Spy") to the Carnegie Science Center for a few hours of playtime.

                                                        Future engineer? Obviously.

That afternoon, we took a sunshine walk along the river to meet at Bettis' Grille. We ate, drank beer (or, conversely, Shirley Temples) and reveled in the Pirates' opening weekend energy.

When we parted ways, Franco and I walked over to a Pittsburgh sports store and bought the book Good Night Pittsburgh as a companion to Good Night New Orleans. Our two favorite cities together at last!

Franco slept on the T on the way home. Once there, we watched baseball and played and relaxed. The Pirates won. We all did.

Sunday, April 9, 2017 -- Day Eight:

At the end of the morning tooth session, we all headed out for a collective life goal:

                                                         Beauty and the Beast. Splendid.

We laughed, sang along, Scotty P. definitely cried, and we soaked up a lovely afternoon. On the way home, we stopped by BRGR for burgers in the cool evening breeze. Not bad for a Sunday.

Monday, April 10, 2017 -- Day Nine:

Franco and I made a Peep Diorama a few weeks ago, and the library held the second annual
"Peep-le's Choice Awards" this night!

                                                We made this. We had fun. We did not win.

But everyone got a Peep-shaped smelly soap and a certificate anyhow. Luckily, Franco is not James Harrison's son and I allowed him to take home his "prize." Appropriately, we "won" this:

                                 Franco's excitement at our "Best Dog!" superlative continues.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 -- Day Ten:

Unfortunately for literally everyone, we had to spend a good deal of this day on tax stuff. It made some of us anxious, and others just bored. But, Franco and I did manage to take a side trip to Toys 'R Us to stroll around in awe of all the stuff out there we could buy if we did not have such a large tax bill. (Joking. Kind of.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 -- Day Eleven:

On Wednesdays, Franco takes an ice skating lesson in the morning and heads to gymnastics in the afternooon. It is quite grueling, and also a good built-in adventure. He enjoyed both activities, and afterward, took a well-deserved nap.

After work, Scott had to go to sprawlingly un-appealing Cranberry township for a meeting. Once Franco awoke, he and I made tuna melts and talked about our day. Luckily, Scott emerged unscathed from the northern concrete abyss. Once home, we all watched the Penguins playoff beatdown of Columbus together, as a family. As it should be.

Thursday, April 13, 2017 -- Day Twelve:

I am not even joking that I received two texts at precisely the same moment (12:44 PM) from separate folks.

Scott: "Check your email, surprise"

Rebeccah: "will you guys be around friday/tomorrow? Steve managed to score pens tickets....."

Suffice it to say, Scott forgot all about any financial tax burdens and bought playoff tickets for Game 2! And we obviouisly were to have house guests as well! Later in the day, Franco and I had lunch at Panera, shopped for groceries, and put in all the important weekend requests to the main bunny.

                                                                Chillin' with the EB.    

The following weekend ended up to be a whirlwind.
To be continued.......


Friday, April 7, 2017

150 Days of Adventure, Give or Take a Few Days: Volume One

W. Franco Stark Poling is officially registered for kindergarten. So, we have approximately 150 days to get him mentally prepared for the structure of a half-day curriculum. We practice letters and numbers when we get around to it, we play-act scenarios about which he may be anxious, we talk about social skills and being in a classroom, and we stress -- daily -- that he absolutely has to clean up his dirty, filthy trash mouth. More or less, we are going to need those 150 days.

Most importantly, and onto the fun point, we have vowed to have at least one adventure a day for the next 150 days. This is the last haul before his life changes forever. He and I have determined to soak up the memories. There are no rules for what the adventure may entail, who may participate, or how lavish or simple the event.

I realized that, while we embarked on this plan, we did not tell anyone or post it on social media. Which means, it may or may not be real. Pics or it didn't happen, right? So, I have decided to share, for you. Also, kind of, for us. Here goes....

Sunday, April 2nd -- Day One:

Scott, Franco, and I attended the Penguins hockey game at PPG Paints Arena. It was Franco's first live Penguins' game, and just so happened to be against the Carolina Hurricanes. That opponent is not cooincidental. We did not just stumble into a possible beatdown of a team which hails from our old homestead. (Because Scott and I attended a playoff game in Raleigh and were heckled and we wanted sweet revenge on our home turf. But, we only saw, like, three whole Canes fans in attendance and just felt bad.)

Anyhow, the Pens made it super exciting and we had a blast. Franco screamed, "Keep on suckin' suckers! We are unstoppable!" every time we scored, and I swear that he made that up on his own, despite the conspicuous lack of cuss words. The Pens won, and we left perfectly elated.

Monday, April 3rd -- Day Two:

We went all the way up the road to Barnes & Noble so Franco could play on the train table, and I could finally get my hands on The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin' Dixie Outta the Dark. ('Cuz I am a damn Yankee through and through, but I love me some Trae, Drew, and Corey. Them fellas hit for me in a big, big way.)

Tuesday, April 4th -- Day Three:

Franco and I have become addicted to the public library. Or, more technically accurate, I have successfully indoctrinated Franco into my addiction. The library has historically been one of my happiest places, and this library takes first place honors for most awesome. Every Tuesday, the children's library hosts "Crafternoons" where kids hear an art-related story and then make something related to the tale. (Did I mention how much I adore this place??)

This day, they heard Klimt and His Cat about Gustav Klimt's work, and then they all made a work so inspired.

Wednesday, April 5th -- Day Four:

Scott texted me from work to say, and I quote: N Vermin the Mess.

Followed by: Wanna see Bin Jovi tonight?

Ol' Scotty P., master of the English language. Anyway, I understood the first to mean, "Nevermind the medicine." And the second to mean, "Hell yes I want to see Bon Jovi tonight! I mentioned this for months, but you said 'No' because Richie Sambora is not with them, and I said, 'Well it's not my problem he can't get off his drunk ass.'"

So, we last-minute decided to go to the Bon Jovi concert in Pittsburgh. And we do not regret it.

We did not, however, decide to let Franco know that without Bon Jovi's New Jersey album and a copious amount of Bud Light, his parents would likely never have gotten together and he would not exist. (What can I say? I have always been one classy lady.)

Thursday, April 6th -- Day Five:

Franco woke up sniffly and congested, so we took it easy. We then headed out to Chuck E. Cheese in the afternoon. After careful consideration, we parceled 15 tokens from our stash. Once those were depleted, he I decided to throw caution to the wind, grabbed another 20 tokens, and we tore. It. Up. Afterward, we hit Trader Joe's for some samples, a pretzel roll, and some blood orange soda.

A better alternative to a rainy, blistery Pittsburgh Thursday simply does not exist.

*****To be continued.......

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

High Tolerance

I've read that this election, or rather its outcome, has caused some people to drink more than usual. Well, the joke's on all of you, suckers! Because I've been drinking like this for the better part of 20 years, and I'm super well prepared!

I went to WVU for undergrad AND law school, lived in Morgantown for 14 years, am a die hard Steelers fan, and come from Czech and German heritage. One might say I was born ready. On top of that, I spent countless hours honing my craft. My list of drinking achievements is long, if not entirely distinguished. Tolerance is not my problem here.

Unless, of course, you want to talk about intolerance. Because that kind of really is my problem. All my life, I have listened to racism and bigotry. (Thankfully, not from my wonderful parents, who taught me to stand up and speak out when confronted with hate, and who subsequently may have had thoughts that I took the speaking out part a bit too far. Thanks mom and dad!'re welcome?)

Some of this speech was outright, some of it couched in euphemisms and double-talk, all of it hateful and disturbing. In high school, I used to leave the classroom when the teachers refused to shut down my classmates' slurs and my loud assertions to do so caused a commotion. There was a couch outside the office, and I would just go sit there until class ended. Quiet. Angry. And alone.

Because, I guess, it seemed easier to remove me from the equation rather than the hateful rhetoric? It got to the point where I would just stand up and say, "I'm going to the couch now" and leave without any real acknowledgment from anyone. This did not happen daily. But it happened more than once. And that is too many times.

Since then, I may have tempered my outbursts (at times) to blend in. I bit my tongue so often in so many situations to keep the status quo. But, I heard and remembered and made mental notes of how others talked. Of how many off-handed racist comments I heard. And from whom. When I did choose my battles, I kept a tally of how often I was shut down, condescended to, waved off. And by whom.

As a typical young person, filled to the brim with righteous idealism, I assumed that as the years passed and I became a "real grown-up" this would all shift into balance. The cream would rise to the top, the bigotry would fall to the wayside where it belonged, the smart people would win, and everyone would understand how hurtful and stupid and wrong it is to hate.

Years have passed, I don't know what a "real grown-up" is or how to become one, and the balance certainly has shifted. Just not exactly the way I pictured it would. In some moments, I feel a little like I did on that old couch. Quiet. Angry. And alone.

But most days, I am that loud-mouthed teenager causing a ruckus. Only now, I will not be forced to leave the room. There has to be a time when it is not me who is shushed for speaking up against the hate. There has to be a time when bigotry is simply not tolerated. Ever. When no excuse is tolerated as a reason to discriminate against legions of human beings. When no matter what, we find our voices and we stand up and we demand that it be stopped. For once and for all.

No matter how prepared I felt, I still have work to do. My high tolerance does indeed have its limits, at tailgates and in real life. But I'm not on the couch anymore. I'm still angry. But I know damn well that I'm not alone.

And you know damn well that I am. Not. Quiet.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Iden Toady Oh

Translated from a four-year-old's mangled, yet adorable, speak: 90210. As in, Beverly Hills 90210. As in, possibly the best. As in, absolutely. The. Best.

Yesterday, as we were watching together, Franco told me he loved the beloved original series as much as I do. Be still my heart. There's no way this can be true, but I admire his life goals. We stumbled upon Seasons Four and Five while unpacking our basement and are making our way through from that point. Right now, Dylan is hooking up with Jonesy to try and get his stolen fortune back, Kelly's joining the Evolution cult, Andrea's flirting with Doctor Peter, and Donna's a few episodes shy of getting thrown around by Ray Pruitt. Shit's about to get real -- as nighttime soap opera reality goes.

Some poor unfortunate souls have no idea of what I speak. I pity them. (In return, they might pity me. Whatever. Only one of us is right.) Much of my life has its reference points traced directly to this series. If not for these kids' unfortunate second sophomore year, we would have been on exactly the same plane in life. Graduating at the same time, going to college at the same time, discovering oversized flannels and Doc Martins at the same time, renting that beach house at the same time, going to rehab at the same time.... Okay, mostly.

One of the best decisions I ever made was skipping law school classes my first year because they conflicted with Kelly's Colin-induced drug haze and all the delightful downfall. These episodes are my FAVORITE. This fact can not be overstressed. Back in those days, before TIVO and on demand and DVD releases, you had to watch episodes rerun on TBS in the middle of the day like any self-respecting American or not at all. What classes did I skip? I have no idea. Did I miss anything useful? No. Do I to this day defend my choice? Hands down and absolutely. Nothing I learned (or didn't learn) could ever compare with the happiness I felt in those afternoons.

You might think I am being facetious or dramatic or both. However, for better or worse, I am dead serious in my commitment to this show. It made me incredibly happy every single week for many, many years. (Though, not at the end of it. Even my loyalty has its limits. Blech to the final two or so seasons.) When the DVD's came out and I re-watched it, I could relive all the memories -- both theirs and mine. I might have gotten nostalgic, looked at old photos of old people no longer in my life, and pined for a simpler time when I truly felt hopeful for the world around me. I may have drug out a few babydoll dresses from the recesses of my closet and worn them like it was 1995 all over again. (No, you shut up.)

I might have even been optimistic about the reboot a few years ago. ( One can dream.) However, my idealism apparently lives on. Even now, as I watch these crazy kids go through some serious craziness, I long for that time in my life when I thought our progressive ways would only go on and on, my own life would only get better and better, and all the world's problems would eventually be solved through, well, whatever. I didn't know then and I don't know now, but I believed more then than now.

But, I have a four-year-old counting on me to show him the way. Maybe 90210 isn't the best role model. Or maybe it definitely is not. I am okay with that. Just like my past, it's messy and dramatic and not entirely believable.

And I love it. And I would not trade a thing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I Need An Intervention

Actually, a personal hero of mine (Eminem) said that in a famous song that Franco and I may or may not enjoy hearing at full blast in the car on repeat. It may or not be the edited version. (Hashtag: SorryNotSorry.)

Every time I take a picture or video of Franco, I think about how cute he is, and how glad I am for this Apple technology to document his funny little spurts of genius, and, most importantly,  all the future fluff pieces in which said picture or video may be used. Swimming solo across the pool at three years old?  He is absolutely the future Michael Phelps and I am the future Debbie. So cute. Singing a solo at theater school? He is absolutely the future Lin Manuel Miranda and I am the future rich mom of Lin Manuel Miranda, and I am not throwin' away my shot. This?

Ummm...well, you never know. He looks like, okay, he has a vision here and what I think of it is unimportant anyhow. He steps to the beat of his parasol and necktie. (Hashtag: NoJudgment.)

Sometimes, I just take the footage and silently hope it does not end up on whatever is the future incarnation of Intervention. There could be varied reasons for this. For one, I watch, and have watched, an inordinate number of Interventions. I mean, a LOT. Sometimes, I like to watch it while drinking a ton of wine. (Hashtag: ShutUpAndMindYourOwnBusiness.) In fairness, it is not the only thing I enjoy watching while also drinking a ton of wine, so I don't discriminate.

For another, Franco just loves to role play being a teenager. As a teenager in Franco's world, you can drink beer, play kissy-face with girls at parties, and get "sloppy drunk" on "vodkwa" which you hold by the neck of the bottle while taking handfuls of pills. (Hashtag: TooManyEpisodesOfNashville.) He sure is creative, and apparently pays attention to his surroundings, so I give him credit for that.

Furthermore, I do correct him by asking, "Who gets sloppy drunk around you?" And he can't say because it doesn't happen, and this is why we don't need preschool and all those fancy worksheets because the real world can be its own teacher. Life lessons one-on-one. (Hashtag:ThankYouAndYouAreWelcome.)

But, really. Maybe I need an intervention from my own catastrophic brain sometimes. Seriously. The kid is four years old. Yeah, he might end up a train wreck. But, so far, he seems to be able to navigate the world fairly well, and I give him enough rein to do so within reason. (Hashtag: CrunchyNotThatCrunchy.)

At home, he tells me he'll "kick his dad's ass" and yells that when the Penguins lose a game, it's "bullshit" and lets me know that he knows that "son of a bitch" is not nice to say out loud. Out in public, he asks politely for the dessert menu and personally sends his regards to the chef for the tasty wedding soup. (Hashtag: TrueStory.)

So, probably, there is nothing to worry about. We are in the clear. Or we're not. Either way, he is his own little guy. And while I don't take that many photos or videos, due to my love of just living in the world and enjoying my life as it happens, I do have enough to contribute to whatever fluff pieces Franco's future may hold.

And that is the way I personally choose to do it. He's not perfect. I'm not perfect. He's just my only son, and I'm his only mom, and I know he's mine by the eccentric workings of his mind, and the intricate way that we get each other. One time, we were telling stories, and his was, "My mom and I just do the greatest things together."

Of course, I don't have footage of that. (Hashtag: SeeAbove.) But it's okay because I was there and I witnessed it. Sure, he's only four years old. Things will change and, as Franco will likely soon tell me, "shit will hit the fan."

But for now, here we are. Intervention or no, I'm doing my best and so far, it is working. And that is...


Saturday, August 27, 2016

You Move Your Way, I'll Move Mine

So, we decided to move to Pittsburgh a few years ago because this is where all the ball games are played and we are usually here anyhow.  In late May, we did it. We bought a little house on Washington Road in Mount Lebanon and here we are. Lickity split and just like that. Easy as pie.

Turns out, pie is effing hard to make. We still have a garage filled with unpacked boxes and I can't find the shower curtain and I am far too practical cheap to buy a new one and also, I moved that thing 500 miles and I am not giving up now. My plantar fasciitis is worse than ever, just from the massive nightmare that is moving across state lines. I contacted a nasty dermatitis around my eyes because I spent a good part of the past three months sweaty and dirty and hauling material goods here and there, and my skin is apparently far too sensitive for that noise. Upon checking myself out in my new mirror in my new bathroom, I found a few gray hairs and I do NOT think that is a coincidence.

We (and I mean Scott) had to personally drive three loaded U-Haul trucks from NC to PA because we have entirely too much crap and obviously did not purge effectively. This, despite the fact that I gave away at least five stuffed garbage bags of perfectly good clothes prior to what I refer to as the apocalypse: the packing, and subsequent unpacking, of my closet. Sweet baby Jesus you have no idea. Talk about self-harm. I am traumatized. To the point that it has taken me until now to emerge from the fog of this horrid and ridiculous ode to consumerism to purchase anything new to add to it. Which was worth it for the glittery silver pair of TOMS, vintage-looking-but totally-new saddle shoes, orange hippie dress at H&M, and Franco Harris jersey I bought with my birthday money. Thank heavens I am healing, one step at a time. (Hashtag: Blessed.)

But, here we are. And it is glorious. Our new home is just about as unglamorous as our old one was impressive. We don't have a pool or a hot tub or a sprawling yard or a knockout view of the mountains from our living room window. What we do have is a busy thoroughfare that runs right beside our home, with more traffic in an hour than Jack's Creek Road probably saw in a week. Sometimes, people walk along and throw stray cups and cigarette butts in our yard. (That never happened in Burnsville unless I was the one doing it.)

And it is, in my opinion, a complete trade up. Just seeing the cars, and the hustle and bustle, gives me a sense of comfort that I have not felt in my own home for a decade. We can be in downtown Pittsburgh in twenty or so minutes, and we take full advantage of our proximity to urban living. Franco and I can walk to his theater school in our neighborhood, which is a nice perk, and we can also walk to a full mall and movie theater and Primanti Brothers restaurant -- which we have yet to do because it has been, on average, and don't quote me on this, roughly 99 degrees and/or raining profusely every day since we got here.

I don't miss North Carolina. I miss people I knew and loved there. I miss Asheville and its crunchy charm. I miss my old swimming pool. But, I am so glad to be home. I lived in my old house for ten years. I called it home. But, it never felt like home. I know I am now where I belong, and I don't know if I will ever move from this house, let alone this county.

Still, I am not perfect here and all my problems did not disappear into thin air once I set foot in the south hills. My foils traveled with me and must be dealt with just the same. It is okay, though.  Because when I go outside to my first therapy appointment, I will be splattered in the middle of a four-lane road if I am not careful. And that is kind of how I always wanted it to be.

At home.

About Me

My photo
Steph's days are complete with little Franco/Mr. Buddy Pants, Pittsburgh Steelers football, Penguins hockey, all things WVU, cold beverages, new handbags, shoe-shopping, pups, and lots and lots of movies. And, of course, her glorious, nutty family.