Monday, June 19, 2017

150 Days Rapidly Dwindling Down: Volume Ten

June 8, 2017 -- Day 68:

Well. Talk about a scheduling pickle. We planned on Star Wars night at the Pirates game for months. Franco and I bought new themed shirts at Target and carefully planned our outfits. (That, as you can imagine, quite put us out.)

And then, the Penguins decided to play the pivotal, all-important, literal do-or-die Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. On this very night. Damn it.

So, along with Auntie, Gram, and Pap -- who were all a part of the plan -- we made the crucial decision to go to the baseball game, eat, watch a few innings, and then book it to Lebo to (hopefully) enjoy the Pens game. Franco and I donned our Star Wars jazz, took the T downtown, tailgated at Atria's on Federal Street, saw some Storm Troopers, and headed into the ball park.

Who's stalking whom?

We had great seats and the weather could not have been better to enjoy a night at PNC Park. But, the Bucs were already down three runs in the middle of the first inning. Also, the plan. We stuck to it.

First, we did this.
Once we got back to the South Hills, we set about the stressful task of Penguins hockey. At this point, it really felt like a job. And.....on this night it happened to be the best job EVER! One shut out, six goals, and all is once again set right in hockey land. Wheeeew. Only one more win to go. So close, yet so far away.

June 9, 2017 -- Day 69:

Ol' Scotty P. headed to the cabin for something called "Ole Man's Weekend." Okey doke.

Before Gram and Pap went home, we had lunch at Eat 'n Park. Then, they dropped Auntie, Franco, and me at the T station for our planned Three Rivers Arts Festival outting. Because we had never been, we decided to go! "No day but today!" (Shameless Rent reference. SorryNotSorry.)

We had a glorious afternoon. We walked through the city and enjoyed all the vendors. Franco especially loved the different artists. We ate fried Oreos. We stopped at a cool bar for refreshments. Once back in Lebo, we ate a delicious Mexican dinner at Totopo, then walked home at dusk. The air felt cool and we could take our time. Franco only fell down one time. When we got home, we played games and laughed and listened to music.

Whatever the crap an "Ole Man's Weekend" is, it could not be better than our day.

June 10, 2017 -- Day 70:

Once we got up and around, we set out for lunch at Mindful Brewing Company. But, we I made a wrong turn and instead decided to try out Carbonara's. (Franco chimed in, telling us we could go to "Panera's" and it took me a few instances to realize he was actually telling us to go to "Carbonara's" instead. Thank you, Franco.)

A few times in the past, Scott, Franco, and I had tried to eat there, but the crowds would not allow it. We were pretty excited that at noon on a Saturday, we could walk right in. Straight away, we knew we'd made an excellent choice. Our waiter was a human embodiment of Pittsburgh. He mused about his sleepless nights, anxious about the Pens possible Stanley Cup repeat. He gave us awesome recommendations, and the food lived up to all the hype. We truly had a wonderful time.

After stuffing our faces, we loaded Emma into the car and headed for Gram and Pap's. We all (well, not Emma, who stayed at Gram and Pap's) went to a high school graduation party for a dear family friend's son, where we luaghed and reminisced and again stuffed ourselves with delicious treats.

When we returned, we played some epic board games. Gram, thoroughly frustrated over her station in the mansion, threw the Mystery Mansion die at Pap, and a moment of sheer family bliss was born. We partied into the wee hours, as per usual, and fell asleep completely, delightfully happy, if not subconsciously anxious about tomorrow's hockey game.

June 11, 2017 -- Day 71:

When we woke up, we all became painfully aware that we only had ten or so hours until the puck dropped for Game 6. This final series is getting ridiculous. And, if we lose this game, I don't entirely know if some of the city's population will be alive for its inevitable conclusion one way or the other later in the week. Please, for the love, can we just finish this out? (These are tidbits of actual conversations had in the house all morning long.) The mood fluctuated from nervous excitement to plain nerves to just wanting to throw up. (That last one is all me.)

Before we left for home, we headed for some ice cream, which we had to eat as quickly as possible due to the temperature being roughly 150 degrees Farenheit.

Challenge accepted.

And.......well, it can't properly be described as "fun" or entirely "enjoyable." No one scored at all for nearly the entire game, leading us to believe it might actually go into overtime tied at nothing. (Forget about the actual players for a minute --does anyone think I could even remotely handle that scenario? Come on.) I did not even jump or muster further talismans because the tension prevented all rational thought and movement besides labored breathing and hand-wringing. Scott stomped up to bed, not knowing how long into the night this could go, so he could just go to sleep if it all became too much. That left Franco and me downstairs, standing on our step, panicking, and muttering to ourselves.

And then, like a Christmas miracle in June, Hornqvist took an ugly, yet spectacularly beautiful, shot at a puck and it landed in the net. Mayhem ensued. (Also, the Penguins appeared happy as well.) Franco and I screamed and hugged and ran upstairs to high-five Scott and we bounced around for the last several minutes of the game, simply hoping that this score would hold and we would repeat as champions. Thankfully, with less than a minute to go, Hagelin scored an empty-netter, and we could finally exhale. We won the Stanley Cup. AGAIN!

The celebration in the house was a fraction of that on the ice, or in the South Side, but nonetheless, we did our best. We watched some post-game reveling and then crashed out, elated and exhausted.

June 12, 2017 -- Day 72:

Unfortunately for Franco, he did not sleep peacefully. He woke up sick in the night, and the poor guy spent hours awake, desperately trying to settle his stomach. He never gets sick, so it seemed brutal to end the wonderful weekend this way. But, alas, such is life.

We spent the day napping and watching TV, and later in the evening, he felt good enough for a game of Old Maid and some Stanley Cup highlights and recaps.

June 13, 2017 -- Day 73:

Franco desperately wanted to skate at his lesson, and he genuinely seemed okay to do it, so we did. He had fun and played in the gameroom afterward with his pals.

Once home, it became clear he was not out of the woods yet, and he spent the night sick again. He cried and cried because the Stanley Cup parade was the next day, and this state of affairs made it clear we could not attend. I vowed to make it up to him somehow, which did not really help anything in the moment, but calmed him down eventually. Poor little fellow.

June 14, 2017 -- Day 74:

We snuggled up on the couch to watch the parade live on television. Which ended up okay because this day was hot as tamales and our house was as cool as an ice surface upon which the Penguins WON THE STANLEY CUP. Still obviously bummed not to be there, after our tremendous time last year, we decided that life does indeed go on.

So sad and pitiful. Also, a true example of first-world privileged kids' problems.

We enjoyed the celebration, and afterward Franco told me that we could just "go next year, when they win again." (I like the way that kid thinks. Sounds like a plan to me!)

Later in the evening, he did perk up and want to play, marking a good end to a decent day.

June 15, 2017 -- Day 75:

Another day spent mainly at home, recuperating. Franco and I decided in the evening that we would go out, but it rained very hard and we decided to pass.

He did start to have an appetite and wanted fish sticks, so do you know what this terrific mom did? I booked it to Trader Joe's for fish sticks and other goodies. Because going to Trader Joe's, as we all know, is a sacrifice that will be made anytime, anywhere, for anyone, for anything. (Seriously. I love Trader Joe's.) Later, we played together and it seemed Franco was one day closer to being himself again.

June 16, 2017 -- Day 76:

We had to get out of this house. We had to buy Stanley Cup champions merch. We had to go to Dick's.

And, though I did know the Stanley Cup was scheduled to be displayed this evening, I really and truly believed that we had not planned accordingly to be able to see it. I did not even mention it as a possibility.

Which made this adventure all the more special.

Lord Stanley, Lord Stanley....

I did tell Franco I would make up to him our absence at the Penguins parade. He has since told me that this may have been "the greatest day of his life."

Mission accomplished.

***To Be Continued.....

Thursday, June 8, 2017

150 Days Flying By Continued: Volume Nine

May 30, 2017 -- Day 59:

Franco's Kindergarten Evaluation Day! Not to be confused with the previous Orientation Day or the upcoming Popsicle Playdate. Kindergarten now officially has more lead-ins than my freshman year of college. The teacher said he is in good shape overall, knowing quite a bit, and needs to work on learning his address and a phone number by memory. (Come to think of it, these tips might also have been helpful at college orientation.)

Afterward, he told me he knew a lot of numbers and letters, and he did not say any bad words at all. So, we know he can keep it together for roughly 15-20 minutes. I'll take it.

We headed over to buy the kid some ice skates because that is where we are now. He adored seeing all the hockey gear displayed in the store, and told me it will be no time at all until he gets a stick. We'll see. I did not come right out to the salesguy that I am a self-avowed penny pincher and wanted the absolute cheapest pair of skates that would work, but he may have seen right through me anyhow. We did get a great deal, but I still think the cost for a five-year-old is obscene. I have been told to get used to it if hockey is his thing. We all know that's not a thing that will happen.

He was so excited to try the new skates out, so it is good that tomorrow is skating. His dad was impressed and happy for his improvement to this point.

May 31, 2017 -- Day 60:

For the first time on the new skates, he did really well. By the end of the lesson, he was barely tumbling head-first at all due to there being no toepick on hockey skates. His coach was happy, and he had fun. All the skating parents talked about the Pens and that stupid catfish joker at the last game and whether the refs are ever going to do anything but be nimrods. Good stuff.

We took a break and then attended gymnastics, which also hit. At home, we cleaned up and then I headed to a Zumba class while the boys debated food options for the upcoming hockey game. When I arrived home just in time for the last few minutes of pre-game talking heads, Scott informed me that Riley and Franco were upstairs playing. I popped in to see ordering at a food cart and Franco only being slightly bossy about it. They had a really great evening, and she went home right before the first period started because obviously.

The boys had agreed upon Nick's Pizza for dinner -- a staple around here for hockey nights -- and so we all settled be pleasantly surprised by a real stunner! Despite some of the biggest bullshit calls/non-calls I have ever seen since the last time I watched an NHL playoff game a few days ago, the Pens really ran away with it. It was something to remember forever. Or until Saturday.

June 1, 2017 -- Day 61:

A year ago today we closed on this little house and changed our lives forever. Clearly, a move to Pittsburgh was the best idea I ever had. And it was the best idea Scott ever heard me mention and subsequently put into motion with his Type A personality. We make a good team. Luckily, we are unpacked this year as opposed to last. Franco and I did muse about how many boxes were packed into the living room last year and how, frankly, that mess ain't ideal.

The Lebo pool opened a few days ago, for evening hours, and Franco and I vowed that the first sunny day, we were there. And today, we were there! It was not all that warm and if you happened to get out to go down the waterslides it was downright chilly, but come on. It's the pool! We had a good evening swim and then went home to chill.

June 2, 2017 -- Day 62:

So, tomorrow we leave for New York's Finger Lakes to see a Dave Matthews/Tim Reynolds concert. I have had to remind Franco no less than ten times that we are not going to New York City, even though we are going to New York. (The kid is clearly afflicted wiht his mum's "Love of Big Cities" syndrome. And, no, I will not apologize.)

Ol' Scotty P. took Emma to Gram and Pap's for the weekend and brought the gosh-darned camper back with him, as we are ostensibly taking with us if it actually works. Franco had a blast helping his dad fix it up, clean it up, make sure we have a working satellite to watch hockey tomorrow, and check all the systems. So far, so good.

Then, Scott and Franco made their grilled favorite -- a rack of ribs. When Franco saw his dad with the groceries, he proclaimed, "Awwwww yeah!! This is gonna be awesome!" I absolutely congratulated him on his strong commitment to a menu and his lack of cussing.

We watched the Buccos and prepared for our weekend trip. I decided a part of "preparation" was "drinking" so -- cheers!

June 3, 2017 -- Day 63:

We set off for New York, and to everyone's total shock, the camper actually functioned and we all made it! Franco rode with his dad in the camper and I drove my car. When I pulled into the campground, Franco had already convinced his dad to buy him a toy car with tow-behind camper from the overpriced gift shop, proving once again who is the easiest mark in the family. He was so tickled that I was not around to put the kabash on the purchase, so I had to laugh and remind him he is lucky. This time.

Once we (Scott) set up the camper, Franco and I set out to explore. He jumped on the jump pillow, he and I rented a pedal boat for a half hour (and did not tip it over) and then we played on the playground.

An old-fashioned metal slide? Heck yes!

After all that, we made a unanimous family decision. Ice cream before dinner. And we set out to the ice cream shop to make it happen.

There may have been a hockey game that night? Honestly, I believe it has been erased from my memory, so that is literally all we will say about that.

June 4, 2017 -- Day 64:

Good thing we shoved all the fun in last night because we woke up to rain, rain, chilly air, and also rain. Boo. Franco and I took a drive to the local Dollar General for Oreos, a coloring book, and crayons. A little later, we braved the weather to play a few games in the gameroom. Then, we holed up in the camper to play and nap before the show.

Miraculously, the rain cleared and the sun appeared just in time to head over to the concert. Thanks, Dave! We enjoyed the venue, with all the local food trucks and interesting beer choices. Franco and I braved a ridiculously long line to buy our swag, and then settled in for a lovely evening of music.

Celebrate we will....
Dave and Tim did not disappoint. My soul is filled for another year. Franco fell asleep at the very end, but enjoyed every minute of his time. The rain held off until we were safely in our car, proving once again that Dave Matthews is the center of all good things in the universe.

June 5, 2017 -- Day 65:

We had to pack it all up and drive back to PA. On the way, we stopped for lunch at Eat 'n Park beside the Grove City Outlets. After we ate, Scott headed out to pick up Emma at Gram and Pap's, and Franco and I explored the outlet shops. We found a Steelers Store, where Franco pointed out all the things he already has, and the things he still needs. (I mentally did the same.)

We piled into the car to drive the rest of the way home together and blasted Lady Gaga's Joanne CD all the way down I-79. We agree on all the best tracks and replay them over and over. Once we got home and unpacked all the crap, we snuggled Emma and welcomed her back into the fold.

Later that night, there may have been some kind of televised contest, wherein men skate around on ice and try to shoot a hard, rubber mass into a net? I honestly can't recall it. So, that is all we will say about that.

June 6, 2017 -- Day 66:

Dreary day outside. Franco used his imagination to create some elaborate concoctions in the house, and I left him to it. Until we had to clean it all up and head to the gym.

On our way home, Scott called and informed us that Riley was waiting for Franco to play in the backyard, which he did until dusk. Then, he ate a bunch of fish sticks and passed out on the couch. (Don't judge. We've all been there.)

June 7, 2017 -- Day 67:

Franco had an exceptionally terrific ice skating lesson. (Something a few professionals in this city might look into.) Afterward, he joined one of his friends in the gameroom adjacent the rink for an epic tabletop hockey battle against his friend's dad. The kids had so much fun, and really hung in there, until they lost.

We headed right over to the gym for a short playtime, and then ate lunch. Franco began a few episodes of Ninjago on Netflix, at the suggestion of one of his skating buddies. (If you don't know, it's Ninja Legos. Duh.) I pulled him away from the TV for gymnastics, which went very well, and then he returned home to binge-watch his new addiction. He is hooked.

Later that evening, we played cards and Scott slipped Franco cookies and we all enjoyed the end of a darn good day.

***To Be Continued.....

Friday, June 2, 2017

Countdown of 150 Days of Awesomeness Continued: Volume Eight

May 23, 2017 -- Day 52:

Franco and I decided to venture back to the gym today, so we can all get some serious exercise. We both left sweaty and refreshed, and got home in time to ready ourselves for the Penguins' wrap up of the Eastern Conference Finals. Time to put away the Ottawa Senators once and for all...

HA! Joke's on us! We all sat in the right spots, drank the right beverages, used the right cheers, and somehow the Pens managed to blow it all to hell. Onto Game 7, whether our hearts need it/can take it or not.

May 24, 2017 -- Day 53:

Whether the fault of the terrible hockey game or something else, I woke up feeling absolutely awful. Sadly, we did not even make it to skating. We did manage to get to gymnastics, but that just about took it out of me. We crawled into bed and watched the iPad before taking a very long nap.

Later in the evening, the boys decided to order BRGR for dinner, and we all watched the Pirates game. After Franco ate his hot dog and poutine, he put away two bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios for dessert. We stayed up to see the Buccos lose, which did not hit, and then called it a day.

May 25, 2017 -- Day 54:

All was right with the world when we woke up, and we set about calming our Game 7 nerves straight away. We diverted ourselves with a trip to the library, where I convinced Franco it was high time we introduced him to Little House on the Prairie. We came home with Season Two complete on DVD, but we could not watch it because we had to get ready for hockey euphoria or despair, depending.

We all settled into our step-sitting/drinking routine in the basement, knowing it would be a long night. We were blissfully unaware at that point just how loooooong.

Here's one way we coped earlier on:

Stressed? Who, us?
Later on, as the Pens continued into the first overtime, some more coping strategies emerged:

Fairly healthy....
By roughly 11:30, the so-called adults in the house were just about going crazy. And then, as the clock nearly struck midnight, Chris Kuuuuuuunitz mercifully won it in the second overtime and sent the Pens to the Stanley Cup Finals!

I drank that. And I own every bit of it.
Yes, that is an accurate picture. Scott later remarked that it was impressive that I put all that away. (He totally did not put it quite like that, but that's what I heard.) I truthfully remarked that, given the circumstances of the game, it could have been far worse. My mom saw this photo and said, "Eh. Not that bad, really." So, thanks mom. For everything.

Holy moly!! Pens win!! Lord Stanley, Lord Stanley................

May 26, 2017 -- Day 55:

We all awoke on a cloud of excitement over a Stanley Cup rainbow. I showed Franco the winning overtime goal on the DVR and we cheered all over again. But, we had some big plans for this day, too, that went beyond just sitting around re-watching Chris Kunitz score.

We went to get current passports, where the passport lady told us how tired she was from staying up into the night watching the Pens, and we agreed. Fun!

We then headed to Kennywood to spend some time as a family, where most people casually remarked  how tired they were from staying up into the night watching the Pens, and we again agreed. Super fun!

Franco had a great time showing his dad all the things he rode with Drydie, and we ventured onto some new rides, too. Although it was breezy and cool, Franco and I decided to take the Pittsburg Plunge and get crazy soaked -- because he and I share roughly the same emotional intelligence inside of an amusement park, and it is clearly not all that high. (Scott opted out because he claims to have some sense, or something like that.)

We had a blast!

Family fun! 
When we got home, we played games and danced around to music. A celebratory Friday in the books!

May 27, 2017 -- Day 56:

Today, we ventured to Altoona to visit Auntie and attend a birthday party. For Teddy. He's a dog. I'm serious.

Gram and Pap were there, along with Uncle Steve's family, and Franco had a great time playing with the kids.

Kids, look at the camera.....

We ate tons of food and cake and generally enjoyed a simply lovely Saturday afternoon together. At a birthday party. For a dog.

Teddy's dog cake, made of dog-friendly ingredients. He loved it. The humans had an ice cream cake to ourselves.

This is the face Uncle Steve makes when we sing Happy Birthday. To a dog.

Teddy slept well that night, to be sure. I think, all in all, he rather enjoyed his lavish birthday party. The humans did as well.

May 28, 2017 -- Day 57:

After spending the night at Auntie's (What? Did you think we stopped partying when everyone else left? Psssshhhhhhhh.......) we drove to Gram and Pap's to spend the day with them. Franco and Pap found an old loopty-loop battery-powered racetrack in the basement, which no one can even remember and which does not entirely work. Nonetheless, it shall become a fixture at 1394 Washington Road. Pap's vision of sending us home with all the old crap is slowly but surely coming to fruition.

Later on, we visited some dead people at the graveyard (they didn't seem too impressed) and I showed Franco all my favorite graves from when I was a kid. (It's a macabre tradition to be kept alive, if you will.) We ate dinner at Ruby Tuesday and then rummaged around to find the best card game ever invented: Busy Bee. It took some doing, and we also uncovered about a hundred other "treasures", but we did it. We found the elusive game, along with Old Maid. We set about teaching Franco all about these classics from my childhood, and he's now verifiably hooked.

We ended the day on a high note for certain.

May 29, 2017 -- Day 58:

Memorial Day. While packing up all our stuff, Scott discovered a coiled snake under the porch and we (i.e. Franco and I) ran around the yard screaming like a bunch of lunatics on our way to get into the car. Good times. (Pap threw that snake into the woods with his shovel. This is one of endless reasons I live in the city now.)

When we got home, we got out all the crap that we had schlepped from Gram and Pap's, and Franco had a big time. We made hot dogs, ribs, and corn on the cob for the big holiday, and settled in for Game One of the STANLEY CUP FINALS!

The Pens did not disappoint, putting us through yet another round of late-game stress. But, they won, keeping the "Drive for 5" alive. And we could all rest easy, for another night, at least.

***To Be Continued...

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Counting Down 150 Days of Awesome Awesomeness: Volume Seven

May 15, 2017 -- Day 44:

Since our vacation turned suddenly into a staycation, we set about to make the most of it. We started by cleaning up the house and doing some odds-and-ends. Pretty exciting stuff!

But, the standing rule for house-cleaning days states that Franco can make the biggest mess EVER before it all gets "red up." This day, he did this:

I'm not sure I signed up for this...
Hey Emma --  I signed you up for this!
After we finished our chores, we all settled in for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals -- and the Pens managed a win!

 (All of our good luck/superstitious/crazy traditions are clearly behind this  
 success, so you're totally welcome.)                                

May 16, 2017 -- Day 45:

We took advantage of this beautiful day to go vote, and then take a walk in the nature preserve that Scott and Franco discovered a week ago. Even though some of the grass looked quite "snake-y" we all made it unscathed and had fun.

Hey girl....
Afterward, we had a late lunch at Mindful Brewing Company (quite delicious and also quite Asheville-ish) and then watched a matinee of Gifted. Once home, we played board games on the deck, and Emma barked at the neighbors' cats. Happy Tuesday!

May 17, 2017 -- Day 46:

Franco felt so glad that Scott could see all his ice skating progress, and Scott left genuinely impressed. After the lesson, we had lunch at BJs Restaurant and Brewhouse, then headed to gymnastics. After that, we went to the grocery store and made dinner, so we could completely settle in, relax, and enjoy the Pens' game.....

Which did not last long. After the first period, Franco and I turned off the TV and coped with some epic games of Mystery Mansion. Following the second period, amid much disgust, Scott joined us. And we made the best of a very sad hockey night in Pittsburgh.

May 18, 2017 -- Day 47:

We decided to take the T to the Pirates game on a clear and bright Pittsburgh afternoon. What a tremendous idea! We decided not to take any sunscreen with us. Parenting fail!

Whatever. We had a blast, except for the random splotches of sunburn. We had great seats behind home plate and the Buccos scored ten runs en route to raising the Jolly Roger. These things do not always happen, folks, and we all appreciated the perfection of this experience.

Once back in the South Hills, we picked up a Mexican feast and headed home for some additional Mystery Mansion fun. Life on a staycation probably does NOT get any better than this.

May 19, 2017 -- Day 48:

Our dear North Carolina bosom friends Mary Katherine and Drydie decided to surprise us with a weekend visit! (The drive time from Charlotte to Pittsburgh was almost too much for poor Franco.) We tidied up our home and stocked up on Trader Joe's snacks for their arrival.

Once they FINALLY GOT HERE, Franco and Drydie set about catching up on a year's worth of playing together, and Mary Katherine and I picked up our chatting right where we left off. Emma did not even bark when they walked in....proof that they are truly a part of the family. While we all made up for lost time, we watched the Pens bounce right back from that awful Game 3 performance to redeem themselves. Nice.

May 20, 2017 -- Day 49:

Mary Katherine and Dryden had never been to Pittsburgh before, so we bandied about some ideas of how to best acclimate them. And, if I do say so myself, we nailed it:

Everyone had an absloutlely fantastic time. (Obviously. I mean, it is Kennywood after all!!) Franco and Dryden rode everything in Kiddieland and we all enjoyed some of the big-kid rides, too. (Except Drydie did not enjoy the Pounce Bounce. The adults, however, reveled at the hilarity of Drydie's non-enjoyment. No regrets.) We ate Potato Patch fries and dip cones, walked all over the park, bounced around on the Kangaroo, stopped for fudge on the way out of the park, and stayed until closing time and the Good-Night heart.

As soon as we loaded the kids into the car, they jabbered on about their wonderfully fun day together, and all their favorite rides, until they suddenly fell out. Drydie perked up for pizza once home, but Franco snoozed on. Mary Katherine and I chatted until the wee hours of the morning. Suffice it to say, I think we all slept very well that night.

May 21, 2017 -- Day 50:

It rained and felt lazy. So, we decided to just be lazy, too. Franco and Drydie played, and then we all watched the hockey game and/or battled each other in Wii Carnival games. Literally, everyone won!

That evening, we ate dinner and relaxed and played games together. Ol' Scotty P. lamented his last day of vacation/staycation, and the rest of us knew our company had to leave in the morning. We did what we could to salvage the last, sweet moments.

May 22, 2017 -- Day 51:

Scott went to work, Mary Katherine and Drydie went on their merry way, and Franco and I went to bed for a long, well-deserved nap.

In the evening, Riley from next door asked Franco to play outside, a request he gleefully accepted. They played tag, had running races, drove the battery car into the wood pile, and generally filled the backyard with screams of pure delight. I watched them from the deck, sipped a beer, and read the newspaper.

Not all the adventures have to be grandiose. Some of the best are just like this one.

***To Be Continued....

Sunday, May 14, 2017

150 Days Continued: Volume Six

May 7, 2017 -- Day 36:

Auntie ran the Pittsburgh Marathon. In roughly the same amount of time that it took her to do that, I was able to sleep in, have leisurely coffee, get dressed, walk to the T station, ride downtown, stroll the city with Steve until we found the finish line, and then watch the runners for over an hour until she finished. I admit that her doing this is a huge, monumental achievement, the likes of which you will never see me even attempt in this lifetime. (Also true? I had more fun and hurt less.)

While I spent time there, Franco and Scott headed to a local nature preserve. They had a super time in the cool morning air, and have vowed to include me next time around.

                                                       Who says it isn't easy being green?

Once Auntie, Steve, and I returned home, where we met the boys, we all headed to BRGR for lunch. I am proud of Auntie's accomplishment, and glad that we were able to celebrate such a time with her.

Also, as impressive and amazing the race atmosphere, I still am not about the running. I am, however, all about burgers and beer after someone else does the running. I feel that's more than fair.

May 8, 2017 -- Day 37:

Poor Franco felt all stuffed up and sniffly. We played games and watched cartoons and took a nap. Then, we all felt completely sick about the Pens game, but tried to remain positive.

It failed, as they played possibly the worst game of the playoffs so far and forced a dreaded Game 7. Apparently, not all of these adventures are going to be awesome. Awesome.

May 9, 2017 -- Day 38:

Now, this is going to come out of left field and shock the stuffing out of you all. Today, against all odds, we went to Target. (I warned you. I sincerely hope you were sitting down.) Franco and I were preparing for our upcoming beach trip to Alabama's Gulf Shores, so we needed provisions. (Read: new clothes.)

While perusing the aisles, Franco informed me that he heard Mother's Day is upcoming, and he needed to buy me a present. I told him that is sweet, but unnecessary. He insisted, and told me that he would look around the store with me and, if he saw something perfect, he would let me know and maybe he could give it to me.

Well, boy howdy, does that kid know the way straight to my heart.

                             Is there a more perfect Mother's Day gift than Ryan Gosling in a musical?

I'm not trying to toot my own horn here or anything (I totally am) but someone is raising that kid up right.

We also did buy some new clothes. And, as per usual, Franco did this.

                                     You're my best friend....beause I see you all. The. Time.

May 10, 2017 -- Day 39:

Skating. Franco did a fabulous job in his lesson, and then decided to skate another thirty or so minutes with his friend and classmate, McKenna. (Just like The American Girl Doll. And the gymnastics movie based on The American Girl Doll. That Franco and I watch all the time on Netflix. You know, where Steve Sanders from 90210 plays her dad? That one.)

On the way home, we bought a new game at a consignment store, and I managed to convince Franco to finally "trim" his hair. And he did "trim" it. (Not "cut." Don't say "cut.") We came home to snack, then headed to gymnastics. Franco took his obligatory nap. (Maybe I did too. I will neither confirm nor deny.)

We then went to the library for Chess Club. The library offers it once a month, and this is the first time we have been able to attend. It turned out to be highly informative, and Franco learned a whole lot to improve his game. I learned a little bit more than I knew before, which brings my grand knowledge about chess to.....more than nothing. (Clearly, we have ol' Scotty P. to thank for this whole chess thing. Unless you count my love for the movie "Searching For Bobby Fischer." Which I personally do not.) It is truly a neat thing to be a part of, and Franco met some older kids who have quite a grasp on the game. He even hung around long enough while playing with them to make a lot of moves before he lost. He wants to keep learning and going to the club, and so I think it's a win.

On the drive back home, I literally felt like I might throw up. Franco told me, "Just don't throw up in this car." Sage advice. It was all due to the impending Game 7 hockey game. If I weren't crazy, I guess I would be nothing at all.

We watched downstairs in the game room/basement. I stood up and/or jumped for the entire thing. Franco found a seat on the steps. He then had to keep that position for the whole game. He kept adding accoutrements to the steps, until it literally became a safety hazard. (Which, naturally, we made him keep exactly the same, since we were winning at that point. Just watch your step?)

Photo taken right before he added coasters, Penguins programs, a stick and puck, and used beer caps to the collection. Whatever works, we say. Just don't fall down and hurt yourself because we are not taking you to the ER. No matter what. Until the game is over, anyhow.                    

Somehow, and to our great joy and relief, the Pens played literally (and I am not being a tad dramatic whatsoever) the best game EVER against the Crying Crapitals. And sent Ovechkin packing for the postseason. Wheeeeeeew. When I look back, it sure was fun. In the moment, fun is not exactly the word I might choose. But, here we go to the Eastern Conference finals!

May 11, 2017 -- Day 40:

Scott had to go back to tooth class for the whole weekend. Franco and I gathered stuff for our upcoming trip. When Scott returned home in the evening, he told us he had to not only attend this class, but study in the evenings for tooth tests. It sounded super, but, reluctantly, I decided to pass on this round of fun. Let's leave tooth studying to the master, shall we?

Franco and I instead decided to give him some quiet time and headed to Famous Footwear (where I got new Vans and a sweet pair of Steve Madden wedges) and Burlington (not Coat Factory.) And Kohl's. And maybe Fine Wine and Spirits. Who knows.

We played games and puzzles once home, and eventually Scott joined us for a few rounds of Crazy Eights to get his mind right for his test the next day. Doesn't everyone?

May 12, 2017 -- Day 41:

Scott went back to tooth class. Unfortunately, I woke up afflicted with an awful head cold which just didn't let up. In the evening, Franco and I sojourned to Fat Head's for dinner. I tried to knock back my pounding head with tasty food and beers. It did not cure me, but it didn't hurt either. So.

When we got home, Scotty studied, and Franco and I lazily lazed about. Not a bad Friday at all.

May 13, 2017 -- Day 42:

Scott's official vacation starts Monday, and we had planned our trip to the Gulf Shores to visit Grandpa Mark and Susan's new beach house. And goof off. But, Scott called from his tooth class to say the trip is off. Grandpa Mark is in the hospital, and so we can't meet up after all. Franco broke down in dismay. Luckily, we had already planned a built-in adventure for today, and Scott promised something fun for his vacation time, so all is well. (And Grandpa Mark is going to be fine, so that is a relief.)

Daniel Tiger is at the PA Trolley Museum in Washington. Franco and I have talked about this for quite some time and, despite my nasty cold, we headed out for a day of fun.

                                                           Who doesn't love Daniel?

The whole place was a blast. We rode a Philadelphia trolley to the trolley museum, where we saw Daniel, and then rode a Pittsburgh trolley back to the main building. There were games for the kids, crafts, snacks, and a gift shop. Franco's love for all things Daniel and trains and trolleys made him geek out for real, which made me really happy all the way around.

After, we were so super ready for the first game between the Pens and the Sens. Franco and I even scoured the shelves of Giant Eagle for some Bryan Rust root beer, and right at the end of our hunt, Franco's eagle eye spotted what I swear was the last bottle in the store! We set Franco up on his step, I set about drinking a massive quantity of beer (it can't hurt) and --

We watched as the Pens completely blew it in overtime. Oh, well. It's only Game One. That's what I tell myself, anyhow.

May 14, 2017 -- Day 43:

Even though Mother's Day is a made-up Hallmark holiday of sap, it still sucks to be sick. Scott spent the morning in his class, and returned to tell us he passed his tests and can begin his vacation! To which I replied, "Great. I'm going to lie down."

And I did. Franco and his dad managed to play some baseball outside, and build his Playmobil city. He and I watched some movies on the iPad and ate pizza together in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the head cold zapped the rest of my energy, so adventures today were not extreme. But, we enjoyed one another's company. Franco told me, " I could not have a better mom than you, and you could not have a better kid than me. And, so, you are lucky for that."

Ummm. All true...I guess? Happy Mother's Day indeed.

(Edited to add: He is 100% right. Obviously.)

***To Be Continued....

150 Days Going Strong Continued: Volume Five

April 28, 2017 -- Day 27:

We drove to Gram and Pap's to hang out and decided to have dinner at "The Mariner" in Kittanning. This is one of our collective favorite places to eat together, and everytime we do this, we all have a super fun time. This turned out to be no exception.

April 29, 2017 -- Day 28:

We basically waited all day for the Penguins to continue their winning ways. Franco and I did a few errands in the meantime. (i.e. We went to Target. I am beginning to think we should receive a sponsorship. It might be fun to count how many adventures in these 150 days include Target. Alternatively, that could be construed as just sad.)

We were not let down, and I never even had to pick Franco up once to ensure a victory. Winning.

April 30, 2017 -- Day 29: 

Our little family spent a gorgeous day at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Franco has waited almost a year to see Dippy the Dinosaur, and all the rest of the dinosaurs. Also, the dinosaurs. We had a lovely time on an absolutely perfect Sunday afternoon.

And we're digging....

After a thoroughly educational and fun experience, we headed for dinner at Fat Head's. Franco fell deeply in love with the black and yellow chicken wing sauce, and I felt much the same about the Hefeweizen. The sun shone, the breeze blew, and, even though we were in the Southside, we saw no one get arrested. Perfection.

May 1, 2017 -- Day 30:

The first thirty days down! I think we are all incredibly fond of this new experiment, except maybe Scotty P., who may or may not even realize this little experiment is a thing. I'd ask him, but where's the fun in that?

Franco and I decided to hang out at home, clean up, and then head out to Target. (SEE??!!)  
We made tacos and settled in to watch the Penguins clean up the Capitals in this series, making it virtually impossible for a comeback....

Only to be rudely reminded that we are talking about a Pittsburgh sports team addicted to drama. And the stinking Capitals. We lost the game and, in so doing, many of us in this house lost our minds. All in all, this day's greatest adventure may have been curtailing the already filthy language to its usual totally filthy levels. A feat not to be downplayed, to be sure.

May 2, 2017 -- Day 31:

Because of the move last year, my natural gym routine became woefully interrupted. Then, I just made a conscious decision to be rather lazy all the way around. Now, the time has come and I must remedy this situation. 

Franco and I jaunted right up to LA Fitness because of the all-important (and oh-so-coveted) Kiddo Klub. We wasted no time taking full advantage of this decision. Franco bounced right into Kiddo Klub as I did to a Zumba class. He left so incredibly happy, and thanked me for allowing him to play again in a gym environment with all the other kids. I just left sore in places I had forgotten all about.

May 3, 2017 -- Day 32:

Franco showed up for skating lessons, only to find out that ice maintenance at the rink would not allow for it. So, he and a few of his buddies settled on an hour at the playground instead. Which just about made his day. We went home, ate lunch, and headed back out for gymnastics.

Then, a well-deserved nap. Maybe for both of us. Afterward, Franco was able to play with his beloved Riley from next door, and they made the most of a spring evening in the backyard. I took old Sweet-Sweet Emma for a long walk around the neighborhood, which she handled quite well, and which helped me deal with my hockey-related stress levels.

We ordered Nick's pizza and, even though we dreaded it, we watched the Penguins. And it actually renewed all hope. They rebounded nicely, and we capped a truly good day with a truly great win.

Also, Franco made this masterpiece. And placed it on his dad's head:

                                                   Why? Because he's Franco, that's why!

May 4, 2017 -- Day 33:

May the Fourth be with you! Franco and I went to the library for the Star Wars-themed pajama story time. (It starts at 6:30 in the evening. A lot of kids wear pajamas, which is encouraged. Because they are likely on normal schedules where 6:30 PM is closer to their bed times than their nap times.) 

We had a lot of fun. When it finished, Franco attempted to teach me chess. 

                                            Bobby Fischer -- where is he? I don't know, I don't know....

Bless that child for trying, though it's totally hopeless. I'm a lost cause. He ended up playing both sides of the board himself.

May 5, 2017 -- Day 34:

Kindergarten Orientation Day! Franco felt appropriately nervous, but it faded as soon as he entered the classroom and saw some blocks. He sat right down and told us to go on. So, Scott and I left him there for his hour-long pretend class and headed upstairs for the parents' portion of the program. 

Although it did not occur to me at the time, later Scott said he had serious Big Little Lies flashbacks. And in hindsight, I don't disagree. The school is lovely, all the mothers and staff members are perfectly coiffed, the principal is young and polished, the PTA mom is peppy and hip. So. Yeah. (No one mentioned an Elivs and Audrey themed trivia night. Yet.) We are excited for Franco to begin his new journey at Markham Elementary, and feel good about all the things he can accomplish.

                            A flower in a cute little pot for Franco, courtesy of kindergarten. 
                            Hair style apparently courtesy of The Beatles, circa 1964.

Later in the afternoon, Scott and Franco rode up to Gram and Pap's for something or another to do with the dirty rotten camper. I stayed home to do my nails. (Yes I did. And I have no regrets.)

That evening, Franco and I checked out the Mt. Lebanon high school production of The Pajama Game. The high school is impressive, as was the talent on stage. We really had a great evening and the drama department deserves a full standing ovation for a job well done. Bravo.

Also, Franco took his first picture in the high school, and I told him I would put it in his senior yearbook. I reiterate: his potential knows no bounds.

May 6, 2017 -- Day 35:

It rained. ALL DAY. We ate lunch at Eat 'n Park, then strolled Giant Eagle for fruit and hockey game snacks, and then popped into the beer distributor. (After re-reading that sentence, it occurred to me that this may be the most Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon ever.)

We sat around most of the day and waited for the puck drop. Then, we went to bed bitterly disappointed and sad. The end.

**To Be Continued.....

Friday, April 28, 2017

150 Days of Awesome: Volume Four

April 17, 2017 -- Day Sixteen:

Gram and Pap spent the night, so once Pap awoke (around noon -- his normal time) we ate lunch at Eat 'n Park, and then headed to Burlington (Not Coat Factory) to peruse the vast, endless expanse of stuff nobody really needs. Franco found a remote control car on sale, so of course Franco took it home. (Don't look at me. I didn't buy it.) He did tell Gram she would not have any money left over after the weekend because she will have spent all of it on toys. Pretty prophetic, that one.

Sadly, Gram and Pap went home that evening. And Franco fell asleep roughly ten minutes after they pulled out of the driveway. Then, we ordered Nick's Pizza and chilled.

April 18, 2017 -- Day Seventeen:

Effing Tax Day. The greatest adventure had to be one great experiment of how well "someone's" Lexapro worked to combat "someone's" pernicious anxiety. (Verdict: Fair.)

Later in the evening, Franco gave me a tutorial on every one of his remote control cars, new and old. He deemed it necessary as a precursor to our Remote Control Car Race 2017, to take place later in the week. Then, the Penguins lost their playoff game, forcing a Game Five. This day is not going down as the greatest adventure ever.

Effing Tax Day.

April 19, 2017 -- Day Eighteen:

Ice skating and gymnastics day. Franco did really well at each lesson, and he had fun doing so. Afterward, we stopped by Target. Because of course we did. Among the actual items we needed, we found DVD's on sale and came home with Spy Kids 1, 2, and 3 in a multi-pack. (Which means Franco went one entire day without a new item. Good for us.) Then, he watched Spy Kids 1, 2, and 3 and ate a chocolate donut.

Later that night, we commenced Remote Control Car Race 2017 and Franco won six rounds to my three. A rematch is TBA.

April 20, 2017 -- Day Nineteen:

We dodged a nasty downpour to run into and out of the library. We borrowed a new Star Wars Wii game and Despicable Me 2. The rest of the day, Franco waited for his dad to get off work so we could drive to Gram and Pap's for the weekend. To bide his time, he mastered his new game. And asked me when his dad would be home already.

Once at Gram and Pap's, we celebrated the Pens' win and simultaneous clinch of Round One. Whew.

April 21, 2017 -- Day Twenty:

A weekend at Gram and Pap's means a slew of activities. Franco arrives with a mental agenda, and a pox upon us all if he does not meet said agenda. He and Pap played Gabe and Garrett outside in the car (normal) and we taught him new games (normal) and he stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to party (normal.)

April 22, 2017 -- Day Twenty-One:

We all took a sojourn to eat at the awesome restaurant Country Junction in the Amish country of Smicksburg. For dessert, Franco and I tried the most delicious thing ever to be invented: a pumpkin gob. To quote Gram, "Oh, my word." Too delicious.

After stuffing our faces, we walked over to one of the Amish stores to peruse the wares. Much to our surprise, Franco and I found something for which we have searched far and wide for many eons:

                                Not kidding. Not even a little bit. Baby corns are our everything.

(I did mention that not all adventures would be earth-shattering, correct? This might qualify as one such example.)

We returned to watch baseball and enjoy our last night at Gram and Pap's home-away-from-home-which-used-to-actually-be-my-home.

April 23, 2017 -- Day Twenty-Two:

Scott had to drive the mother-bleeping camper to Washington PA to be inspected and who knows what else. We met him there and, once back in the 'Burgh, watched the Buccos on TV.

In the afternoon, Franco and I strolled to the Galleria mall to look around. Then, we took a long walk around the neighborhood. We decided to figure out which house on Ordale Avenue, which runs parallel to Washington Road, shares our yard. We had fun walking the street and peeking through the trees to find our home from its back. (Answer: 95 Ordale Avenue. You can rest easy tonight. You're welcome.) Along our way, we giggled as much as we exercised.

It kind of was the best.

April 24, 2017 -- Day Twenty-Three:

Today, we had the privilege to drive to Washington PA and give our PA license plate to the Mercedes dealer, so the camper could be inspected and who knows what else. Franco looked like this:

                                                Rainy days and Mondays can't get me down...

On our way home, we stopped by Five Below and TJ Maxx. But, the rain made us lazy, and so we just headed home to goof off the rest of the day.

April 25, 2017 -- Day Twenty-Four:

So, I decided (unilaterally, mind you, and without being prompted by anything other than my insanity) to rearrange Franco's room. I don't know why I do this to myself, but here we are. I roped Franco into helping me lug all his toys out of his room and then cart containers up and down from the basement, until we were both sweaty and messy and sincerely as far away from organization as we could get. Thank heavens Ol' Scotty P. isn't as OCD about coming home to an uncluttered environment as I am because if I had walked into the madness we had created, I would have lost my damn mind.

Anyhow, the project which I thought might take an afternoon had clearly morphed into a week-long adventure. Yippee.

As a bonus, though, we did get to use the extra bedroom (AKA Gram and Pap's room) until we can find Franco's bed again under the immense pile of nonsense....

April 26, 2017 -- Day Twenty-Five:

Skating and gymnastics awesomeness, obviously. Franco had two extremely great, fun lessons, and left both proud of himself and exhausted.

Afterward, we headed to the rec center to buy our pool passes for the summer, which is bittersweet when you used to do this instead:

Just remember how much cheaper it is not to have a beautiful pool in your backyard. Tell yourself that. Again and again. It's not really working, is it? I didn't think so.

The Lebo pool does have two waterslides and a rock climbing wall, though, so there is that.

Once done, Franco played on the playground for a while before we went home to lament our still disorganized state of affairs which is Franco's room. Ugh.

April 27, 2017 -- Day Twenty-Six:

Have I mentioned that our house is torn apart? I did? Oh, well, then, I guess you know what we did today!

And then......the Penguins' first game of the second round, against none other than the dreaded Washington Capitals. Uncle Dr. Chad texted Scott beforehand that "Ovechkin is a dirty little bitch" and then added "but Franco probably already told you that." (Touche.)

We all held our collective breath through much of that one. Yikes. But, somehow, Bonino-Bonino-BONINOOOOOOOOOOO came through at the end! It just so happened that I had put a 50-pound Franco on my hip (to quell some anxiety) right before that third goal, and so clearly had to keep him there for the rest of the game. Because logic. We are toying with the logistics of how I can hold him throughout all the rest of the games in the series. We will do what we have to do, believe you me, if that's what it takes.

Scott texted Uncle Dr. Chad to tell him that Franco screamed an absolutely filthy, expletive-laden cheer (which he spelled into the text, but which I will leave to your imagination) about that AWESOME game, to which Chad replied, "Wash that kid's mouth out with soap. My kids are in bed."

Permissive parenting? Check. Penguins' victory? Check. We're all winners.

**To Be Continued....

About Me

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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.