Tuesday, August 15, 2017

150 Summer Days Sliding Away Continued: Volume 15

July 24, 2017 -- Day 114:

Today, we totally unpacked from our beach vacation, finished the laundry, and cleaned the house in preparation for some very special visitors arriving tomorrow. (Stay tuned!) Franco enjoyed his usual habit of making a complete mess of the house all day long, prior to the final tidying spree.

Later in the night, after Scotty P. went to bed, Franco and I started in on season one of ER. It felt almost too nostalgic for me, and a little too realistic for him. After the first episode, we packed it in for the night.

July 25, 2017 -- Day 115:

We woke up bright and early to wait for our company. Franco chose to do so like this:

Doesn't everyone start out the day in a tie and fedora?
Later that afternoon, the prized guests arrived -- Vance, Erin, Zane, and Kaya! Hooray!! It has been entirely tooooo loooooooong since our last visit, and we marveled at having them here with us. We chatted a while before taking the T downtown to ride the incline up to Mount Washington, and then ate ice cream and bought books at Station Square. We made a run to Trader Joe's and ordered pizza and the kids played outside.

I love all these kids so much....
Later on, we spent the evening on the back deck drinking beer and solving all the world's problems. Just like in the old days.

July 26, 2017 -- Day 116:

Franco woke up early so he could have time to hang out with the Collings Crew before they headed home. He and Vance brought havoc in the form of Harry Potter spells, and we watched the big kids' show choir concerts on YouTube. 

"Wingardium LeviOsa" -- or something!
We sadly said our good-byes and planned for another visit in the near future. As soon as they were gone, Franco told me that Kaya is the "prettiest girl he's ever seen in real life" and might even be "prettier than Mal from Descendants." (High praise, to be sure. Also, deserved.)

We headed to gymnastics and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon together.

July 27, 2017 -- Day 117:

Today, we recouped from our last few days of fun. We headed back to the gym for Kiddo Klub and a much-needed Zumba class, respectively. Once Scotty P. came home, we watched TV and goofed off for the evening.

July 28, 2017 -- Day 118:

We woke up bright and early to head into downtown Lebo. Scott had an appointment in the morning, and we all had eye exams in the early afternoon. So, Franco and I romped around in grand style. We bought cookies for breakfast at a cute little bakery, perused the awesome local hardware store for goodies, found treasures at a boutique, and visited the turtle mascots in the green grocery.

We met Scott for our eye appointments, then headed to lunch at Aladdin's Eatery before taking the camper to storage. Once home, Franco and I went to the mall for some quick window shopping, and stopped at Target for all the things we really need but don't really need. (I'm sure you understand.)

Good stuff.

July 29, 2017 -- Day 119:

Today, I had a brilliant idea to buy Franco an early Christmas gift because said gift was on sale and a good deal. I thought, "Hey! You are really getting ahead of the game here. Good for you!"

Then, Scott told me to just buy it and surprise him with it. Like, today. So, after much arguments about him coming with me, I headed out to get him the special surprise.

Once I got home, Franco told me that he knew I had gotten him something awesome, and he guessed it might be the coveted Thomas' Sky-High Bridge Jump train set that he has been going on about since before Christmas of last year. (Also, we had just seen it in Target the night before, where be begged me to buy it. Also, you should know that Scott is rubbish at keeping secrets.)

I told him I had no idea of what he spoke, but that I did indeed need help with the groceries in the car. He almost cried. He very reluctantly put on flip-flops to meet me at my car.....where the gigantic box awaited him. He was so excited! He really got on me for my trick, too! It was amazing.

And, true to what Franco told us, there really were about "80 hundred pieces" to the thing.

Spoiled. Rotten.
And now you know what the entire family did for the rest of the night. The end.

July 30, 2017 -- Day 120:

In the morning, we collectively decided to spend a few hours at Kennywood as a family, so Scott and Franco could ride some roller coasters together. (Why should we have all the fun while Scott plugs away at a job??)

At the official rider servicing station, where they officially measure one's height, Franco got the all-important 48 inches stamp, allowing him to ride a whole host of new things! His joy was infectious.

Although he is tall enough to ride some truly outrageous things, all he really has wanted all summer is this:

Mission accomplished. Day made. Successful summer.
We rode the Grand Prix (aka Bumper Cars) three times in a row. We basically had to tear him away to do anything else. On our way out, he convinced us to go on one more time, which of course we did. What a good day for Franco!

Once home, we headed to the pool for a quick dip before grilling and chilling on a lovely Sunday night.

July 31, 2017 -- Day 121:

In the morning, we hit up the gym, and then came home for snacks and playing. In the afternoon, we walked to this awesome playground, which allows for part of our journey to go right through the Galleria mall. What could be better than that combination? (Don't even try to answer. Because the answer is nothing. Nothing compares to that.)

If at first you are too scared to slide down the fireman's pole, try and try again.

On our way home, we stopped in to the mall and bought Franco a new pair of sunglasses, socks, and a very cool Spiderman button-down shirt.

This is my kind of playground excursion, to be sure.

August 1, 2017 -- Day 122:

Today, we went to ice skating lessons. After snacks at home, we drove back to the terrific playground before trying out a new gym location.

It turns out, the new locale is a big hit for both of us! I loved my new class, and Franco adored the fancier and "funner" Kiddo Klub. So, everyone had a pleasant surprise in the evening!

August 2, 2017 -- Day 123:

After gymnastics, Franco and I met his friends, Theo and August, and their mom at the pool. The boys had a blast tackling and kicking each other in the face. They completely wore each other out.

After a good long swim, we got snow cones and snacks and hung out beside the pool while Theo explained to Franco that they eat corn dogs at home for dinner, a fact that completely blew Franco's mind. Theo's mom kindly shared her cool mom tips, and I told Franco we would get on that right away. (Franco directed me to do so immediately upon leaving the pool, but I am too lazy for that.)

Scott met us at the pool for a minute, and when we got home, we made hot dogs. Which is the next best thing if your parents did not realize corn dogs were a viable option.

Franco dealt with it quite well. Thank goodness for his first-world privileged adaptability.

August 3, 2017 -- Day 124:

SorryNotSorry for this "adventure" ---- but today, we lazed about like the laziest lazies in the history of lazy. We goofed off on the iPad watching videos of roller coasters, skeeked around to dig up Kennywood's secret new plans, listened to music, napped, ate, played, and then did a whole lot more nothing.

We did, however, get our sorry booties up to the gym in the evening, and then Scott grilled ribs while we played around listening to favorite songs on the Roku.

Sometimes, adventures can come in mysterious packages....

***To Be Continued....

Thursday, July 27, 2017

150 Days Give or Take Continued: Volume 14

**  I think it prudent to point out that, from this point forward, we have exactly 50 days of adventures left before kindergarten officially begins. So, our count of "150 Days Give or Take a Few Days" is almost correct! We have done nothing so far to prepare for the start of school except order supplies to be delivered on his first day (complete with a personalized message and a raffle entry for an authentic autographed Jake Gunetzel photo) and pick up the Kindergarten Readiness folder to promptly stash on the desk.

We have some grand adventures already planned from here on out. I hope to make each of these fifty days one to remember, in a good way!!

July 17, 2017 -- Day 107:

We packed up the car and drove south to Virginia Beach. It took almost nine hours, mostly because we sat in DC traffic on the beltway for over two of those hours. Ouch. But, compared to the scope of our previous lives' traveling schedules -- piece of cake!!

We arrived to our oceanfront hotel, The Sandcastle, to find it much improved from our last visit over ten years ago. (This is the same place the Starks have stayed for VA Beach vacations, going way back to last century.) Franco and I unpacked our jazz and dashed right out to the ocean to get our feet wet. And sandy.

We ate a light dinner at one of the hotel's oceanfront restaurants, Oceans 14, and enjoyed our first night of vacation with fancy cocktails (some with booze, some without) and seafood, complimented with a side of salty ocean air. Perfection.

July 18, 2017 -- Day 108:

Today literally was a day at the beach. Scott schlepped our tent out bright and early to "claim his spot" because he obsessed about it all morning and could NOT even eat breakfast until he completed that chore. (Wheeeeew. We did not have to hear anymore about that, then. Thank goodness for small miracles.) We ate at the hotel's breakfast buffet, then headed straight outside.

We enjoyed perfect weather, Franco picked out some sand buckets and toys, Scott had a bag of Cheetos all to himself (kinda) and I "sipped" ice cold Coronas as if being paid a sponsorship. (I also drank PBR in a totally unironic way. Because I genuinely like it. Thank you.)

SorryNotSorry about shamelessly honing in on those Cheetos, Dad....

We stayed out there swimming and laughing and chilling until mid-afternoon. Franco caught some great waves and turned into a little beach bum before our very eyes. We then spent some time swimming in the indoor pool before a much-needed shower and nap.

That evening, I promised Franco we could check out the carnival rides on the boardwalk. A giant ferris wheel commanded the most attention, and the most anxiety, as that is about the only ride that scares me to death. (A slow climb high into the sky and that's it? No thank you.)

However, we I determined the prices to be ludicrous and put the kabash on all that. I told Franco he could have the fifteen or so dollars it would have cost us to both ride one (!!!) ride and use it to buy junk in the junky beach stores. After some subtle aggressive cajoling, he caved to my awesome idea.

He picked out a cute little US Navy plane and a sweatshirt, and we met Scott for a seafood feast at a joint called Jumpin' Shrimp a few doors down. Delicious. After dinner, Franco and I walked the beach and one of us ran furiously up and down these man-made sand dunes until completely sweaty and exhausted. We got our feet wet, tracked sand into the bed, and fell asleep.

As you do when at the beach.

July 19, 2017 -- Day 109:

For daytime activities, see above. (Though Scott did chill out about "claiming his spot" so that's good.)

For dinner, we decided on an oldie-but-goodie, Ocean Eddie's, on the pier directly across from our hotel. We loved it. Our table on the deck happened to be the closest you could get to the ocean, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

That is pure joy right there. Also, Franco is happy, too.
After stuffing ourselves with seafood, we ate ice cream, and Franco and I made our way through a few more awesome beach shops, where he bought a literal bag of weapons. Pirate swords, bow and arrows, ninja star, plus I don't even know what else. He headed back to the hotel room to torment his dad for the rest of the night. Good times.

July 20, 2017 -- Day 110: 

Last day at the beach. (Insert sad face here.) Prior to going outside for the day, I made the most treasured discovery of maybe the entire week: a Jersey Shore marathon playing on MTV2.

Be still my heart. I don't know if you are aware, but there is not a day goes by wherein I don't miss that show and those kids. No hyperbole. I'm being honest. It brings me simple, unabashed joy. And I will never apologize, no matter what.

We enjoyed several episodes before heading out for the last full day. In between riding ocean waves, I informed my family that if we got back to the room to find the Jersey Shore marathon ongoing, I unilaterally delcared this trip the best vacation ever.

A carpet picnic with a "big thing of cheeseballs" while Ronnie confronts Sammi about her deal with Arvin?  Yes, please.

Guess what? Best. Vacation. Ever.

After the marathon ended (another sad face) we napped before our last night out on the town. We went back to Oceans 14 because we did not get to try all the yummy food last time and, in so doing, made an excellent choice.

Photo credit: Franco
Franco and I went on one more shopping excursion to buy souvenirs for Gram and Pap and Auntie for their caretaking of Sweet-Sweet Emma while we played at the ocean, and then we went back to the room to enjoy our last night on the balcony.

July 21, 2017 -- Day 111:

Time to pack it up, pack it in, and drive home to PA. We stopped at Cracker Barrel on the way, something we haven't done in a long time since we don't drive nine hours every weekend anymore, and took the route through my old stomping grounds in WV's eastern panhandle.

We picked up Emma at Gram and Pap's, regaled them with a few stories, and showered them with their treasures, so lovingly chosen by Franco. (I'm serious. He picks out some sweet swagg.) Pap seemed to be getting along in his recovery, so we loaded up our sweet Chessie and made the last leg of the journey home to Lebo.

We piled all our crap inside the door and set about doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the night -- except, of course, watching the Disney Channel premiere of Descendants 2. Which is certianly not nothing if you are us!! Franco and I have waited a good bit of summer for this. (Seriously. I have tried to implore that I am immature in many, many ways.) We loved it, even though Mal spent a good bit of the movie with the wrong hairdo. (Thankfully, Dizzy fixed it for her. Hard core fans will know what I'm sayin' here.)

Even though the trip is over, the fun continues around these parts!!

July 22, 2017 -- Day 112:

No rest for the weary! I tidied up somewhat, sorted through all the dirty laundry (literally, not figuratively) and then we primped for another afternoon at the theater!

Seize the day!
A spectacular time, especially for me because of my gleeful Newsies fandom. It was everything.

After the show, we stopped for dinner at Pork and Beans, a little bistro for which Scott has pined a while now. If you love huge slabs of meat, especially meat that comes from pigs, this is the place for you! Which is to say, the boys adored every savory bite. (I had fun, too, and certainly did not starve!)

Apparently, Scott found the meal photo-worthy. Yes, I am eating a kale salad. No judgment.
We made it home through a nasty rainstorm to commence being super lazy. And it was awesome.

July 23, 2017 -- Day 113:

I would like to say that on this rainy Sunday, I came up with some crafty ideas for Franco to use his brain and challenge himself. But, I don't intend to lie. We used this rainy day to watch TV and play games on the iPad and watch TV.

Later on, Franco and I played Busy Bee and Go Fish before calling it a night. He crawled into bed and told me he'd had a really good day.


***To Be Continued....

Monday, July 24, 2017

150 Days of Adventures Continued: Volume 13

July 7, 2017 -- Day 97:

We had a free weekend of family time. So, Franco and his daddy spent some adventures together. They swam at the pool, napped, played the Wii, and generally relaxed together. In the evening, Franco and I went grocery shopping to get some necessities, as well as some treats, and then came home to make dinner.

Franco liked the laid-back time at home, in both a rest from the whirlwind of the last week's fun and in preparation for upcoming busy schedules.

July 8, 2017 -- Day 98:

After some time at the pool, we decided to finally break out the fire pit that we hauled all the way from NC and which has, to this point, sat on the back patio unused. Well, not anymore suckas!

Beforehand, Franco and I headed to Target to ensure we had all the fixin's for S'mores, including S'more sticks, and to walk around the mall for a while. This usually would be enough of an adventure for any day, but on this particular outing, two very odd things occurred which must be shared.

     1.  We headed to Forever 21 to return a skirt I don't like, and Franco selected some outfits he thought I might enjoy, along with many we both correctly labeled hideous. (This is not the unusual part. We frequently spend time in such a manner. Also not unusual that I still shop at Forever 21 because I am intellectually not a grown-up.) While toward the back of the store, the blaring music abruptly ceased and a man with a headset quietly approached us to whisper, "There's an emergency in the store. Everyone must leave."

Well, you don't have to ask me twice. But, oddly, the doors remained open and other people continued to walk in, although many of us leaving warned them of the situation. Franco and I mused as to what could have caused it, and came up with no reasonable conclusion. So, mystery unsolved.

     2.  Next, after our Target rendezvous, we exited the store to find a souped-up Mercedes squealing tires through the parking lot, speeding at a ridiculous rate, and causing a commotion amongst the other patrons just trying to get to their vehicles. Truly bizarre.

We felt glad to get home, and after dinner, we started the fire. Franco ate two S'mores and then crashed out. Good times.

July 9, 2017 -- Day 99:

We drove to Gram and Pap's for some stuff to do with the camper which is not a good adventure and upon which I refuse to elaborate because I want to keep the cussing to a minimum. But, we did have fun at their house, playing a new game they bought for Franco and watching the baseball game. And, we celebrated Pap's birthday a few days late.

Happy Birthday!!
Later in the afternoon, we ate dinner at The Mariner, where we saw some cool boats and enjoyed a delicious meal before heading back to da 'Burgh. Sunday goodness.

July 10, 2017 -- Day 100(!!):

Yesterday, Gram and Pap suggested we meet them at Kennywood today, an idea Franco separately had as well, so the plan easily developed. The weather did not look great early in the day, so we agreed to meet later in the afternoon. Franco and I arrived, and Gram and Pap came shortly thereafter. We rode the Kangaroo and the Carousel, and then, despite our best laid plans, it began to rain. Hard.

Blissfully unaware of the bitter disappointment on the stormy horizon...
We waited it out, and then Pap allowed Franco to play some "games of chance" since his mummy is obviously too cheap for that on a normal day. The rain continued to fall, so we ran to the indoor cafe for a snack/dinner. While eating, the announcement came that the park would close at 7:00 due to impending storms. Bummer.

Franco cried because he'd waited all summer for a Kennywood day with Gram and, especially, Pap. Boo. We did book it to the fudge shop for some sweeties before a hasty exit. Yay.

July 11, 2017 -- Day 101:

Gram called early in the day to inform us of Pap's unfortunate under-the-weather-ness. Auntie had a vacation planned, leaving Teddy the Puggle with Gram and Pap. Because of Pap's illness, they asked if maybe Franco and I could help them out. We finished some errands at home and drove up there.

Poor Pap. Franco and I kept him company and helped out with the puggle that evening. Also, Franco hauled out a bunch of old toys, as per usual.

Future engineer?
July 12, 2017 -- Day 102:

We hung with Gram and Pap to do errands, get them food and medicines, help with the garbage (quite the adventure right there!) and assist Pap in getting better. Franco and I went to the Dollar General, which is literally the only store around, and he picked out a police training pack, complete with two guns and a badge and handcuffs and a bunch of other jazz. That made his week right there.

We ate dinner together, played games, and entertained Teddy all evening.

July 13, 2017 -- Day 103:

Pap seemed to be on the mend. Auntie and Uncle Steve returned from their trip, so after hearing all about their time, Franco and I hit the road. We got home to Ol' Scotty P. to formally begin his vacation! Yippee! We talked and ordered pizza and chilled, to regain our energy for the following awesome week to come.

July 14, 2017 -- Day 104:

We spent the morning in debate about whether Franco could get a small guitar on which to learn to play, since he has a desire to make music in all forms. I, of course, lobbied for the least expensive version possible, and his dad found a great option on Craigslist. He made plans to pick it up in the morning. Franco's excitement surged. He adamantly insisted he use his own money to buy it, too.

Then we headed to the pool. Franco got very chilly and came home to take a nap. Later in the night, he woke up and complained of a headache. He had a bit of a fever and had a stuffy head, so we loaded him up with some medicine and laid around to watch TV and play some games. He could barely stay asleep all night, in anticipation of his new guitar.

July 15, 2017 -- Day 105:

Scott trekked to Squirrel Hill for the guitar while Franco slept in. Once awake, he strummed throughout the house for hours, learning one chord in the process. Later on, so we gathered all necessities for the beach trip. What fun to plan out snacks, drinks, and new outfits for Virginia Beach!

Auntie arrived in the afternoon and we ordered BRGR at home before our evening excursion to see Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor live in concert! We all looked quite forward to this!

Some excited fellas right there!
We loved the show -- I mean, come on! Those are two talented performers who wowed us all. Excellent all around.

July 16, 2017 -- Day 106:

Auntie decided to join us for today's activites as well. We had tickets to In The Heights at The Bededum Center because we love Lin-Manuel and can't get to Hamilton just yet. (Oh, but we will, somehow. "Just you wait.")

Well, the show -- and the entire day --was awesome in every single way.

We ate dinner at Jose and Tony's, and came home to goof off and reminisce on our wonderful weekend. We also all (and I mean every single person in the above photo, whether they will admit it publicly or not) watched The Unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 Story on Lifetime, so we could see the absolutely true recount of Shannen and Jennie's fight outside the studio. Which 100% happened exactly the way depicted. So shut up.

Golly, everything about the past few days turned out to hit. Tomorrow we hit the road to VA Beach!

***To Be Continued.......

Saturday, July 15, 2017

150 Days of Adventures Winding Through Summer: Volume 12

June 26, 2017 -- Day 86:

Today, the Smokers, our good old friends from Burnsville, dropped by for a visit! When they got to da 'Burgh, Britt asked Franco what the adventure happened to be for this day. To which we gleefully replied that they got to be today's adventure! How lucky for them -- and for us!!

We sat around on our deck and chatted. Some beer might have been drunk. It almost felt like old times, except we could not swim in the backyard. Also, despite the Smokers being present, no meat smoked in the smoker. Other than that, we did not skip a beat in our camaraderie and laughter. The kids enjoyed catching up, and we ordered pizza and wings and had a lovely evening.

It can be green, even in the city!
It's been a long time, but we vowed to meet again in football season, preferably at Heinz Field. It will be here before we know it!

June 27, 2017 -- Day 87:

Today, Franco skated and had a terrific lesson. Afterward, he played games in the game room with his buddies, which is always a highlight.

On the way home, I may or may not have been pulled over for speeding. But, I definitely did not get a ticket. So, there. The officer reminded me that, "We're always runnin' speed dahn here, so slow dahn." Given Franco's love of police-people, that was quite the highlight for him. Not so much for the rest of us. I did receive quite the lecture from Franco, so our adventures from there on certainly slowed, as you might say, dahn.

June 28, 2017 -- Day 88:

We headed to gymnastics class and then, because we are us, we booked it to Kennywood. It certainly made for quite the fun evening. We ate Potato Patch fries, rode the Log Jammer twice in a row without waiting in line, and ran from the Racer to the Jack Rabbit repeatedly before closing the park down. While we did not have exactly the same luck as regards to the crowds as the last time, we still got darn lucky in that department.

Our privilege does not escape us, and we truly appreciate our ability to enjoy the park as our playground.

Summer is the best....

June 29, 2017 -- Day 89:

Because we had such fun last week with Brad, Alyssa, and Ryan, we accepted their invite for a playdate at their house. Franco counted down all week on his calendar for this special day.

And it did not disappoint. The kids played hard for over four hours, and they had several Nerf guns, which officially put them at the top of the list! They had snacks, went outside and ate cherries, battled with various weapons, joined in some kind of tag, and basically all yelled at the top of their lungs to communicate. As they are want to do.

On the way home, Franco talked incessantly about all the cool toys he got to share and how much fun he had with his friends.

That is a good day.

June 30, 2017 -- Day 90:

I had to clean the house and get some things in order. So, Franco and Scott decided to take advantage of the rainy day and watch Cars 3, followed by a delicious lunch at BRGR. Later in the afternoon, I met them for a matinee of Wonder Woman, which turned out to be better than the hype and maybe  the best movie I've seen all year. It kind of made everyone's day.

Franco and I walked around Charming Charlie for a while and picked out a bunch of sparkly gems for Auntie and me, and then the boys went home to do something other than that. I stayed at the mall and shopped before joining them at the homestead.

July 1, 2017 -- Day 91:

Auntie arrived in the afternoon to attend the best event of the year -- The Total Package Tour: New Kids on the Block, with Paula Abdul and Boyz II Men. Franco initially felt left out because, when Auntie and I made the plans, we never thought he would want in. (We invited Scott, who turned us down emphatically. Who woulda guessed?) I told Franco he could come to the next Total Package Tour, and he said he certainly would and we better not forget him. Alrighty then.

Anyway, before we headed downtown, we had dinner at Jose and Tony's. The food and atmosphere there is always a huge hit. Auntie and I went on our way, and Franco and Scott spent the evening playing the Wii and watching movies in a typical boys' night.

July 2, 2017 -- Day 92:

Auntie was around for a few days, so we all went to the Pirates game in the blazing hot sun. Sundays are kids' days, so Franco got to bounce on the inflatable obstacle course and stroll around for freebies. While getting a balloon sword, we happened upon Jesse, Brandi, and Franco's besties -- Ryan, Brad, and Alyssa. If we'd planned this meeting, it definitely would not have happened, making it extra fun! The kids battled each other with balloon swords for a long time before we went into the ballpark.

Although the sun felt merciless, we managed a great afternoon. The Buccos did well, right up until Tony Watson went into the game and we took our cue to vamoose. (Sorry, Tony. You are a really awesome guy and we are pulling for you, but you need to get it together if you think we are sitting in the 400 degree heat to watch you close it out.)

It's hot out here!!!!!!

When we arrived in Lebo, we ordered food from Jade Grill, stuffed ourselves silly, played games, and  watched Kennywood Memories until bedtime.

July 3, 2017 -- Day 93:

Auntie, Franco, and I planned a full day at -- you guessed it -- Kennywood! (Scotty P. planned a full day at -- wait for it -- work! Sorry, ol' Scotty P.) We got to the park around noon, with plans to stay until closing. Despite the upcoming holiday, it was not too crowded to enjoy all the things we hoped to do.

Having Auntie along made the day even more special and enjoyable than usual, and Franco loved showing her all the things he loves. Because Auntie and I have spent our lives growing up with/at Kennywood, it felt nice to see the next generation revel in the history and elation.

It did rain briefly and we sought shelter in the Penny Arcade. It's been maybe thirty years since I've been in there, and it turns out it's filled with the same old games I remember. It even has the old fortune-telling machines from the old days, and we played one for fun. The card we got could be described as "fun." Alternatively, it could be described as "creepy" and "too deep for a five-year-old."

I can't speak for anyone else, but I love crap like this.

With all the years and numerous visits under our belts, on this occasion, we actually got to see a new area we've never seen before: the First Aid station. Due to an unfortunate decision to wave at Auntie from The Paratrooper with both hands, Franco banged his mouth on the metal bar, biting his lip and causing quite the bleed. (If you know nothing else about me, know this: I don't do blood.) He insisted on going to First Aid to make sure he could continue his evening unscathed, and I didn't disagree. Because, as you may or may not know, I don't do blood.

It turns out the First Aid is pretty nice and, after a bag of ice and a few kind words, we jaunted back into the park until the Independence Day fireworks were set to begin. (From the people gathered, you might think no one in Allegheny County had seen fireworks since, like, ever.) We made a choice to leave before the other million and a half folks, and still got to see the fireworks perfectly from our parking lot. So, win-win for us.

Once strapped in the car, Franco fell asleep almost immediately. He woke up once home to tell his dad all about his day, and we stayed up a bit before falling into bed, tired and happy.

July 4, 2017 -- Day 94:

Auntie left super early for a picnic and we all slept in super late. We had no real plans for the holiday because who puts a holiday square in the middle of the week? Someone should talk to someone about that timing.

In the afternoon, we did go swimming for a bit, then made hot dogs and corn on the cob. We discovered that we could not see the Lebo fireworks from our porch, so we just soothed poor Emma on this not-dog-friendly holiday and snoozed.

July 5, 2017 -- Day 95:

Franco enjoyed his gymnastics class and then we both enjoyed a lovely afternoon nap. Once we awoke, Scott and Franco decided to make pizzas and watch movies. Franco managed to play some sorts of battles with his dad, which made him happy.

It might not have been the grandest day, but sometimes even the best of us need a respite.

July 6, 2017 -- Day 96:

Today, Franco decided he wanted a lazy day at home, and I could see no reason to object. He played Legos, sold insurance (that's a thing around here) and made a huuuuuuge mess all around the house.

Being a kid is cool.

***To Be Continued.......

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

150 Days Give-Or-Take A Few Days of Adventures Continued: Volume 11

June 17, 2017 -- Day 77:

The sun shone on this gorgeous day and that meant one thing: swimming! The three of us headed to the Lebo pool for a lovely day of splashing in the water and slipping down waterslides. Franco practiced his freestyle and gleefully ran through the splash zone. We absolutely had a blast. It's not quite the same as having a pool in the backyard, but it certainly is easier!

When we got home, we commenced the usual activities of games and music and dancing in the kitchen.

June 18, 2017 -- Day 78:

Happy Father's Day! Franco had picked out his dad's card and gift (the newest version of Beauty and the Beast on DVD) all on his own. Scott loved it. We relaxed all morning, which these days means Franco watches Kennywood Memories on DVD over and over and over. And over.

Then got ready to meet Pap, Gram, and Auntie for dinner at Hoffstot's in Oakmont. We enjoyed a trip to Oakmont Bakery before a delicious dinner filled with laughter.

Prior to our excursion, we talked about going from the restaurant directly to Kennywood to enjoy the evening. However, an ill-timed downpour foiled our occasion. Franco, while super disappointed, took it in stride. We drove home in blinding rain and Scott went straight to the recliner.

Isn't that what dads are supposed to do on this day?

June 19, 2017 -- Day 79:

Scott works late on Mondays, so I had a brilliant idea for Franco and me to go to Kennywood, to make up for yesterday's weather-related cancellation. It turns out my brilliance knows no bounds.

We arrived to discover the park not crowded at all, allowing us quite able to ride soooooo much. We started with our favorites, like the Raging Rapids and the Whip. Franco has been on the big roller coasters in previous years, and he's become a little skittish. But, on this day, we walked by the Jack Rabbit, and he decided to be brave and try again.

Well. He loved it so much that we went right back into line and rode again. And then again. Because the crowds were scarce, we barely had a wait at all. We ran to the Racer for Franco's first experience there. He adored it. We rode again. We alternated between these two classic coasters for hours.

We ran around the park like the two amusement park junkies we are. The only reason we finally left is because the good-bye music played and all the rides closed down.

There is only one word to properly describe the absolute marvelous day we enjoyed: Epic.

June 20, 2017 -- Day 80:

We awoke still elated from our previous day's adventure. Franco had a great skating lesson in the afternoon. In the evening, we headed to the gym for Kiddo Klub and some much-needed exercise.

After Scott headed to bed, Franco and I chatted about Kennywood. (Duh.) I received a text from Brandi, whose three kids Franco had so much fun with at Teddy-the-Puggle's Birthday Party at Auntie's a few weeks ago. (Brandi is married to Jesse, who is Uncle Steve's brother. The more you know.)

Anyhow, she asked if maybe we wanted to get the kids together to play the next day. To which Franco answered with a total freak-out. (That meant yes.) We shored up the plans, and Franco struggled to get to sleep in light of this new exciting plan. (His playmates -- Ryan, Brad, and Alyssa -- were soundly asleep like normal kids at that time of night. Obviously.)

June 21, 2017 -- Day 81:

Usually, Franco has gymnastics today. But because of the awesome adventure, we decided to just make it up another day. We headed north to New Castle for our "Living Treasures" experience.

We met up with Brandi, Ryan, Brad, and Alyssa at the park. It is a zoo-like place where you can feed and interact with most of the animals. The kids went goofy, and we all had a very fun time. The giraffes were undoubtedly Franco's highlight:

How fantastic!

After we had thoroughly run around the park (and the kids had been completely terrified of some actual bully goats) we stopped for a snack and ice cream together. The hilarity of the kids interacting can not be adequately put into words. Suffice it to say, Franco may have met his vocal decibel match with this crew! They honestly had a blast together, and before we all parted ways, we made plans to try and meet every week.

Franco talked about this possibility the entire ride home. Then, he called Auntie, and Gram and Pap, to regale them with his tales. Then, we talked about our day together until he finally fell out for the night.

June 22, 2017 -- Day 82:

Mamaw came for a weekend visit today, for which Franco COULD NOT contain his excitement! We cleaned the house and when she arrived, Franco monopolized her to play cars and play ball outside. He and Mamaw stayed together to catch up while I went to the gym.

We made spaghetti with homemade meatballs and sauce Mamaw had brought, and Franco stuffed himself silly. We watched the Pirates game together, and later had some delicious Oakmont Bakery cakes. Nice.

June 23, 2017 -- Day 83:

Scotty P. somehow convinced me to head to his dental office for a cleaning and some other dental fun. (Note: I do not count anything to do with teeth as an "adventure" of any sort. That is a new rule.)
We did this, planning on lunch afterward. It rained all day, which made our gluttonous excursion to Bado's feel perfect. After we ate everything possible, we went home for a rainy afternoon nap. It might have been kind of perfect.

In the evening, Franco taught Mamaw how to play Mystery Mansion and we all had a big laugh about  how intense that game can get. Much laughter ensued.

June 24, 2017 -- Day 84:

Once up and around, we drove to Oakmont Bakery and Hoffstot's to show Mamaw what a good time that can be. We succeeded. On our way home, we stopped by the playground so Franco could jump around a bit.

After we got home, we enjoyed the cool, clear night on the deck and chatted. Franco had a good time drinking lemonade and playing with cars, and all seemed right with the world.

June 25, 2017 -- Day 85:

Even though the calendar said June, the day felt more like September. Regardless, we went to the pool and shivered our way through a chilly, but entertaining, afternoon. It didn't last as long as it should, being June and all, but we made the most of it!

In the evening, we decided to teach Franco how to play UNO, and we had a good time doing it. In the middle of our game, Riley asked if Franco wanted to play and so commenced a long evening of backyard fun together. Riley even shared her McDonald's snack and cupcakes with him, so we know they must get along.

Once it got dark, Franco came inside dirty, covered in mosquito bites, and scraped up. As it should be. We proceeded with our game of UNO until it was Scotty P.'s bedtime, and we hung it up to be finished another day.

***To Be Continued.......

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 in...to 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.....

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.