My Real Life

August 21, 2015


When I was a kid, we didn’t find out who our teachers were until the first day of school.

We would get to school, assemble in the gym, organized by buses, and the lists would be posted on the wall. They’d read off the names of the teacher and you’d listen eagerly for your name to be called, and hope beyond hope that it was called off under the name of the teacher that you had been wishing for all summer long.

You’d go to school that first day with a backpack that had a pack of pencils, a notebook (denim Trapper Keeper, if you were awesome, like me), and your lunchbox.

Your teacher didn’t know you before you got there, and it would take him or her a week or two before they knew everyone’s name.

You’d get to class, and the teacher would go over the class rules, which usually consisted of “Keep your hands to yourself” and “Try your best” and you’d hit the ground running.

Your homework, the first night, would be a sheet of math problems and some spelling words, and you’d run home to do it as fast as you could, so you could head outside and ride your bike or climb some trees, trying to grab hold of those last, fleeting moments of summer, as the cool breezes of fall were already sneaking in.

Your parents would have homework, as well. One, rectangular emergency card that asked for your address, phone number, and the name of one other person, in case of emergency.

You’d fall asleep that night, exhausted, but happy, and ready to go the next day.


My kids start school in a few weeks, and already, the beginning to their year is different than mine ever was.

The schedules for the middle school were mailed this week, and the high school and elementary schedules will come next week.

What follows their arrival in the house is a flurry of photo taking and schedule sharing via text, Instagram,  and SnapChat (no SnapChat in my house, but I guarantee it’s everywhere else).

By the time school actually starts, they will know the name of almost every child in their classes.

As soon as they get their schedules, I’ll go to the school website and download the supply lists.

And they will be endless.

We’ll go to Walmart or Target or Staples and spend my first paycheck of the year on school supplies, because a pack of pencils and a notebook aren’t gonna cut it anymore.

On the first day of school, they’ll head in with a backpack loaded with supplies, their lunchbox, the BoxTops for Education we’ve saved over the past few months, and 50,000 papers that I filled out over the summer.

In that packet, there was the emergency card, the Home and School directory papers, the school lunch forms, the insurance forms, the user agreements for the school internet, the harassment, intimidation and bullying forms, the donation forms, and a variety of other papers, specific to their school.

They’ll go right to their classroom, and the teacher will already know them, because in that mountain of papers I filled out, was a “Getting to Know Your Child” form where I told the teacher what kind of student my child was, how he or she learned best, how he got along with others, what his or her hobbies were, and what I would like to see my child accomplish over the year.

Their first days will be spent going over the packets of classroom rules, grading policies, dress codes, school handbooks, and having assemblies to discuss the rules of the school.

And then their homework will be assigned.

When my kids get home, they’ll likely sit at the kitchen table working on their first day of school homework and assigned reading until it gets dark out, and then it will be too late to go outside and play, so they’ll veg in front of the television or hop on an electronic device until it’s time for bed.

That won’t be the end for me, though, because I, too, will have homework.

More papers from the teachers and the school that I need to fill out in order to ensure that my kids get everything they need to be successful this year.


Times have changed.

Some things for the better.

Some for the worse.

But what will never change is that night before the first day, where everyone goes to bed, fresh and showered, new school haircuts resting on their pillows, tossing and turning, brimming with excitement for that first day and the promise of a new year.

A new year full of possibility and fresh starts.

For all of us.

Photo on 8-20-15 at 9.09 AM


August 20, 2015

Gone Country

I have an on-again/off-again relationship with country music.

I think it’s safe to say that I hated country music for a good 37 years.

Then, I decided to give it a listen, and I found that the country music of today isn’t quite like the country music of my childhood.

It had a beat, it had a story, and I found myself liking it more and more, until it is now one of the most listened to stations in my car.

However, every now and then, I’ll have my fill, and stay away for a few months, if only for the fact that there aren’t as many country artists as there are mainstream, and so if you listen for a few hours, it all begins to repeat itself.

But, it’s safe to say, I’m a country fan.

So, imagine my delight when some of my fellow teachers approached me and asked if I’d like to channel my inner Miranda Lambert for the student/staff Talent Show, this past spring.

I said yes, they said they’d sing back-up, and here’s what we did:

That. Was. Fun.

I love to perform, I love an audience, but more than anything, I loved playing with my colleagues.

We had a blast practicing, changing things, refining the act, and when it was over, the talk turned to “What should we do next year?”

Life is so much better when you enjoy the people you work with, and they embrace your weird.

Which is lucky for me.

Because most of me … is weird.

August 19, 2015

Half-Year (and then some) Check-In

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

In January, I posted my 15 goals for 2015.

I probably should have taken a look at my list in June, when we were actually halfway through the year, and then used the summer to take care of some of the things on the list, but I didn’t, so I’m taking a look today.

Let’s see if I actually accomplished anything, so far, in 2015.

  1. Take the family to DisneyWorld. No time, no money, no way. Didn’t happen.
  2. Participate in at least one random act of kindness per week.  I believe that I have followed through on this one. I probably got too wrapped up in my own stuff every now and then, but it’s always been a priority to me to be good to others, and so I think I can say with some certainty that I most likely achieved this goal.
  3. Exercise at least twice a week.  Yes! Success! I have definitely exercised at least twice a week, so far this year.  Some weeks, it may have only been twice, but others it was more. So, now I’m feeling a little better.
  4. Watch less tv.  I think I did this. The dvr is full of a lot more stuff that the kids have recorded than things that I have recorded, and there are quite a few shows I’ve let go. So, yes, I’m watching less tv. Hey, three in a row! I’m doing great!
  5. Make $1,000 by selling on eBay, consignment, etc.  Talked too soon. I’ve made $10 this year.  Only $990 to go! 🙂
  6. Blog at least once a month.  So, I did this for a few months, then I didn’t for a few, and now I’m back and committed to finishing out the year strong.
  7. Read 50 books (and keep track!)  I’m at 56 right now, so YES, I have done this! School starts in two weeks, so I don’t know if I’ll make it 100, but I’m shooting for a new goal of 75.
  8. Really go through my closet and be ruthless with getting rid of what I don’t wear.  I’ve donated seven bags of clothes to the Salvation Army and I feel great about it. I still have some more to go, but it’s a good start!
  9. Play piano at least once a week. I didn’t start this until this month, so as a yearly goal, not so much.
  10. Write in my journal more often.   Didn’t happen. Wrote at the beach last week, but that was the first time in years.
  11. Get published, again.  Workin’ on it.
  12. Re-edit my novel.  Haven’t even picked it up. Two weeks left in the summer…probably won’t.
  13. Shred and pare down all of our files. Actually hoping to do it next week. Wish me luck!
  14. Entertain more.  Um, no. Haven’t entertained at all.
  15. Be kinder to myself.  I’ve read over 50 books, I’ve gained 10 pounds, I’m smiling more. I think I’m being kinder to myself. And I think I’m good with that.

August 18, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

Every summer, we take a week to go away with my parents and a week to go away with my extended in-law family.

The weeks with my parents are just the six of us and my parents.

The weeks with my in-laws are a bit more chaotic, with 20+ of us descending on the beach each day.

This year, half of my in-laws decided that they were going to take a two week road trip together, out west, and so another full week off for them wasn’t a possibility.

Instead, it was decided that we would be visiting a dude ranch for three days and two nights.


A dude ranch?

My initial reaction was less than thrilled, as I wasn’t exactly sure what on Earth I was going to be able to do with a 4 year old to keep him entertained on a dude ranch, but I wanted to be with the family and I knew the kids wanted to be with their cousins, so we were in.

Turns out…it was great.

We went to the Pinegrove Ranch in Kerhonkson, NY.

Think Kellerman’s, from “Dirty Dancing.”

Just, less clean and less 1950’s.

It was a blast.

The big kids were pretty much on their own for the entire time, with plenty to do to keep them busy.

Tiny and I went to the pool, to the petting zoo, to the bounce pillow, to the snack bar, to the playground, and round and round we went.

For the adults and big kids there was a pool, archery, horseback riding, tennis, shuffleboard, family dodge ball, bocce, horseshoes, etc.

I have always wanted to try archery.

It’s one of those things that I’ve always imagined I would be really, really good at, even though I’ve never done it.

You know those fantasies.

Turns out, although my visions of greatness at some things are not accurate, I’m a pretty darn good archer.

I think I totally could have taken Katniss in the Hunger Games.

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The horseback riding was an extra fee, but well worth the money.

They have a beginners route and an intermediate route.

We chose the beginners route.

I’ve been riding before, and have loved it, but it was many, many years ago, so I will admit to being a little bit nervous.

Once we got started, however, it all came back to me, and there were points on the trail through the woods, when I would see an open field through the trees and imagine just giving the horse a little nudge, pulling those reins to the side, and taking off into the wildnerness, as fast as my horse could go.

Then I remembered that I had the old horse who actually slipped and fell on his butt in the mud, twice, while I was on his back.

So, I didn’t leave the trail.

But, man, was that some amazing scenery.

And the kids loved it.

My horse and I rode behind two of my nieces and their horses and listening to their chatter, I am assured that it was an unforgettable experience for all of us.

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For the whole family, on one night, there was a magician comic and the next night we saw the juggling comic.

One of my sisters-in-law was called up on stage while the juggler juggled a machete over her body, while she lay on the floor.

Of course, afterwards, she admitted that she wasn’t as scared of the machete flying over her face, but the filthy blanket that he had her lay on might give her a few nightmares.

The jokes were corny, both nights, but you kinda didn’t mind.

We were busy every second and had a great time.

Sometimes, the unexpected is pretty darn good.

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August 17, 2015

Name That Tune

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

I’ve written, frequently, about my love for music.

It’s playing in our home, in our cars, in our ears, all the time.

It’s just a way of life for us.

Along with this goes conversations about music.

Why one song sticks in your head, and another you can hear once and never think of again.

Sometimes, the answer is “I like the message it sends.”

Sometimes, it’s “Because I can dance to it.”

Sometimes, it’s “It reminds me of a time in my life when…”

And sometimes, I don’t know…

Until I do.

Recently, one of the monkeys asked me, “What is it about this song that you like so much?”

Without thinking, I responded, “Because it reminds me of “Whiter Shade of Pale,” which is one of my top 5 songs ever.

Here’s the song, and if you don’t want to hear the whole thing (although it’s a great song) move to 2:10 and listen:

Then, listen to “Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum. Right from the beginning.

Hear it?

I know it’s the whole electric organ thing, but it takes me there every time I hear it.

Kinda like “Uptown Funk” brings me right to “Get Your Head in the Game” from High School Musical.

Don’t believe me?

Go to 1:29 and listen:

And then go to 1:20 and listen:

That one may not be as defined, but it still takes me there.

I mean, it’s not as scandalous as the whole Vanilla Ice stealing David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” but then, what is?

August 16, 2015

I Wear My Sunglasses at Night

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

Today, I’d love for you to go back and read about some completely wrong lyrics I thought I knew, and hear what some of my readers had to say in an old post, which you can find here: WrongLyrics Contest.

However, I feel like I would be cheating in my 21 day blogging challenge, so I’ll tell you a little story that reminded me about that post, to begin with.

We were in the car the other day and “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night” came on and as I sang along, at the top of my lungs, Real Man looked at me and said “What song are you singing? Those words don’t even make sense!”

“I know,” I replied. “He must have been on crack when he wrote this song.”

Of course, when we got home, I immediately looked up the words, and I wasn’t even just sorta wrong.

My lyrics were WAY off.

But, I like ’em.

Listen to the song and read my lyrics. I think you’ll agree, they are not so bad.

I wear my sunglasses at night

So I can, So I can

Watch you weave and breathe to story land.

I wear my sunglasses at night

So I can, so I can

Keep track of visions in my eyes.

While, she’s deceiving me.

She cuts my security, and

She got control of me,

I turn to her and say.

Don’t push the play on the sky and share the war

Don’t masquerade with the sky and share the war

I can’t believe it

You got it made with the sky and share the war.

I wear my sunglasses at night

So I can, So I can

Forget my name while you collect your fee.

I wear my sunglasses at night

So I can, So I can

See the love that’s right before my eyes.

While, she’s deceiving me.

She cuts my security, and

She got control of me,

I turn to her and say.

Don’t push the play on the sky and share the war

Don’t masquerade with the sky and share the war

I can’t believe it

Don’t be afraid of the sky and share the war.

Cuz you’ve got it made with the sky and share the war.

I wear my sunglasses at night


You can look up the real lyrics, but I think mine are better.

I mean, it’s a song from the 80’s.

Everything was about the Cold War.

Corey Hart just wanted us to share it.

With the sky.


Now, go read the old post, and come back and tell me about some of your misheard lyrics in the comments below.

I bet you, like me, are a way better songwriter than any of these so-called “musicians.”

August 15, 2015

Scenes from the Beach

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

We hit the beach for a week with my parents this week and it was so much fun.

Here are a few scenes from our week:

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August 14, 2015

Still Amy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

The movie, Still Alice chronicles a relatively young woman and her descent into Alzheimer’s disease.

I haven’t seen it, as watching my Grandfather battle the disease was hard enough.

I don’t want to watch someone else go through it.

So, I title this post, with a bit of tongue in cheek, a bit of humor, but a bit of real fear, as well.

I know my father worries that he will develop the disease, as his father did.

But, I worry, too.

And not just because I seem to have inherited every health issue trait that my parents had to share with me (diabetes, asthma, migraines, legal blindness in one eye) but because I’m forgetful.

I don’t mean, like, run-of-the-mill, “Oh, I lost my keys” forgetful, although I do lose mine at least once a day.

I mean, like, I used to be the collective memory of Kim, Erin, Michaela, and I, able to recall things that had long ago fallen out of their brains, and now I find myself struggling to find words and saying things like “You know…the thing you use to roll around on the carpet to pick up crap,” when I can’t remember the word “vacuum.”

I thought about writing this blog post about four months ago.

I never got around to it.

Wanna guess why?

I forgot.

I actually started a little notebook where I was writing down the things I forgot.

Here’s how far I got:

Day One:

  • thought I forgot my keys in Kim’s apartment in the city…checked my bag three times, because I kept forgetting that I had already checked.
  • left my portable charger plugged into the wall at Kim’s apartment, despite saying aloud “Don’t forget the portable charger” four times.
  • why I walked into the family room at home (this one happens multiple times a day)
  • my credit card number, which I have had memorized for twelve years…I went to type it into a website for payment and drew a complete blank

Day Two:

  • why I had opened up a blank email screen – couldn’t remember who I was going to email or why
  • to change the laundry from the washer to the dryer, despite the fact that if I didn’t dry those clothes, I’d have nothing to wear
  • to close the garage door
  • that I had already eaten dinner

Day Three:

  • how to get home from our doctor’s office…the office she has had for the past ten years
  • to buy sunblock, despite that fact that is the reason I went to the store

On the list, each of those days, I could have written “To write what I’ve forgotten in this notebook” because I had many more things that I forgot to write down.

And then, I eventually just forgot the notebook.

And this post.

People tell me it’s just a normal side-effect of aging.

That it’s because I’ve got so much freaking nonsense in my brain at any given time, it takes the neurons a little longer to fire and get to where they need to be to retrieve the info I need at that exact moment.

That it’s “Mom-Brain.”

And maybe they are right.

But when Monkey Boy runs in the house and says “I found it!” with my Dad’s cell phone in hand, for which we have been searching for over an hour, with me actually calling three different stores to see if anyone found it,  because I completely forgot that I had tucked it into the back pocket of the passenger car seat so we didn’t have to take it into the store with us, it feels a little scary.

August 13, 2015

Fantastic Four – A Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

We were at the beach, on vacation, and as it happens every year, there was a rainy day, and we took the kids to the movies.

Well, some of the kids.

Monkey in the Middle and Tiny didn’t want to come, so we just took numbers 1 and 3.

There were some amazing previews, and Baby Monkey kept saying “Ugh, when will it start? I just LOVE the Fantastic Four!”

And then it started and he was literally shaking with excitement.

When it was over, he said “That was the best movie I’ve ever seen.”

For me…


I mean, it’s a movie, and what’s not to love about a movie, but it didn’t wow me.

In fact, I didn’t like it as much as I liked the one that they made a few years ago.

I didn’t feel like the characters were as likable or as sympathetic.

Good action, sure, and Dr. Doom was pretty cool, but overall, not so great.

Maybe it’s also because I really wanted to see “Pixels” and got outvoted.

But that would mean that I’m petty and bitter and we all know that’s not true.


Like Baby Monkey, I am a huge fan of the super hero genre, and there aren’t many movies in the genre that I don’t like.

Heck…I even enjoyed “Daredevil.”

But this one…

You know how, sometimes, you have an author, and he/she is a great author, and you love his/her books.

But then they become a little too prolific, and you find the latest books to be not as good as the earlier ones, and you realize it’s because they are just writing books for money and not for the story any more?

Yeah, this was like that.

I mean, who remakes a movie that just came out 10 years ago?

So, to sum it up, save your money, because, while the special effects are cool, the movie, overall, is a bore.

August 12, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

When I was a teenager, the youth group at my church traveled for one week, each summer, on a “mission trip.”

We would go to an impoverished area of the country and build homes, fix fences, serve meals, and do whatever needed to be done.

It was always an amazing experience, and along the way, we worked with youth from other churches around the country, some of whom we are all still in contact with, today.

Monkey Girl is now in that same youth group, and this summer, they were heading to Niagara Falls for their mission trip.

Coincidentally, Niagara Falls is the first mission trip that I went on as a teenager.

About a month or so ago, the youth leader sent out an email stating that one of their chaperones had backed out at the last minute and they needed someone to fill in.

Now, while I’m not the strongest in the religion department, my main goal in life is to help others as much as I possibly can, so after making sure Monkey Girl would be on board and that Real Man had no issues with me leaving him and the boys for a week, I signed up.

I’m sure when I say “Niagara Falls” the description “an impoverished part of the country” isn’t exactly what comes to mind.

However, the Niagara Falls of our imaginations and the Niagara Falls of daily life are two very different places.

The trip was coordinated through YouthWorks, which is an organization that finds areas that are in need, and then spends the summer coordinating church youth groups to come together and work within those communities.

The leaders of the Niagara Falls YouthWorks group, Miss K, Blake, Mia, Rachel, and Ryan were wonderful at placing each group (there were about four other church groups from around the country there at the same time we were) with members of the community who needed their help, and being a liaison between the community and the youth.

The entire trip was wonderful.

I was able to build relationships with some pretty amazing youth, and we had a fun time together as we took care of the community.

My group was tasked with three different assignments.

The first was at the Niagara Falls Meals on Wheels.

The Niagara Falls branch of Meals on Wheels is run out of a church, and while Lori, the coordinator is paid for her time, the cooks, the packers, the deliverers…are all volunteers.

While we didn’t cook the food, we made sandwiches, buttered bread, packaged food, and did a few deliveries.

It is amazing how efficient these women are, and how the whole operation runs like clockwork.

There were approximately 65 people that were receiving meals the week that we were there, and the coordinator has to be on top of who is in the hospital, who is out of town, who has what dietary needs, etc.

If one of our youth had a question about what a marking on a paper was, the volunteers were able to pull the information right out of their heads.

“Oh, Betty? She’s low sodium, no milk, only juice, only wheat bread.”

It costs a lot of money to run Meals on Wheels, and it is all done through donations.

It is more than just the purchasing of food, as well.

They need to pay bills, they need to purchase supplies, etc.

Our youth got to interact with some of the recipients, as they made deliveries, and all reported not realizing how hard it must be to rely on others for your meals, and how often, that would be the only human interaction these people would get all day.

It was a very humbling experience.

Our second assignment was serving food at The Magdalene Project.

Our youth worked as servers, waiters, and clean-up crew as they served a hot lunch to approximately 100 walk-ins.

While half of the youth prepared the meals, the other half and I drove to a hospital to take delivery of 15 mattresses they were donating to the project.

We drove them back to the church, and then carried them up a few flights of stairs to be stored in the attic until they were able to be put to use.

We also unloaded a garage full of bags of clothing donations and organized them for the church.

We had a great time serving the food, alongside the other volunteers, pretending we worked in a restaurant, making up names for the meals.

For example, if someone wanted an adult plate with everything, we called it a “biggie.”

If they didn’t want the string beans, we’d call for a “biggie – no strings attached.”

No thank you on the rice?

“Biggie with a Chinese detour.”

Five kiddie plates?

A “playground.”

We served with smiles, but again, the conversations in the cars focused on how does this happen in a town where so many people around the world come to visit?

One of the statistics we learned was that 20-30% of the houses in Niagara Falls are abandoned.

What was once a booming tourist town became a town where industry vacated in the 90’s, but the people stayed.

As kids grew up, they left town to search for something better, leaving their parents behind.

People who were middle aged when the businesses left lost their jobs, and then their homes, accounting for the abandoned houses.

The elderly whose children had moved far away were the Meals on Wheels recipients.

And the people who had lost their homes?

Where did they go?

Niagara Falls has terrifying winters, and the number of homeless people in a town that had more feet of snowfall than ever before, last year, is horrifying to consider.

Which brings us to our third assignment.

One of the abandoned buildings in town was a YMCA.

The YMCA association sold the building to the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission for $1, and they are working hard to turn it into a homeless shelter.

Again, working through donations and volunteer labor.

Our task was to clean out some of the rooms in order to begin to prepare them to become living spaces.

Our kids scrubbed, swept, mopped, scraped, and worked up a sweat as they began the work of converting the abandoned space into one that would be welcoming and safe for those in need.

The youth really seemed to get it…that this would become someone’s home…a small room to us, but the entire world for someone who was, that night, sleeping on the street, and they put their all into the process.

Throughout the entire trip, the thing that stuck with me the most was the fact that all of the volunteers were people who, themselves, did not have much, and that it was the people with little who were giving all they had to the people with nothing.

We weren’t working with wealthy people.

These were people who were working other jobs, scraping together to make their own ends meet, but they saw that there were others out there who were struggling more than they were, and they were determined to make life better for these people.

I want to carry that with me and remember, always, that what I have is nothing if I can’t share it with those in need.

So, I share all of this with you, today, for a few reasons.

One, of course, is to share my experience.

The other, though, is to ask for your help.

If you have the desire and the means, pick one of these places, and help.

Send money.

Send supplies.

Send whatever you can.

Because people are in need, and who are we if we don’t reach out to those who need us?


Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission

The Magdalene Project

Niagara Falls Meals on Wheels at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church

Main Contact: Lori Gantt

1920 18th Street Niagara Falls, NY 14303

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