Tag Archives: New Jersey

Why I Am Blessed to Teach: Three Vignettes from My Montessori Experience

Not long ago I took a job as a teacher.

That being said, I have been a teacher for well over a decade.  But, wishing to expand my portfolio and branch out, I accepted a position in a new school.  Now I can say that I have the following variety of teaching and/or administrative experience: large school, small school, co-ed, single-sex, diocesan, private-independent, mid-sized, teacher, vice principal, secondary, and elementary.  Why not toss Montessori into the mix?  It couldn’t hurt to learn a new way to teach and beside, my own children attend a Montessori school.  This could be both beneficial to my resume and fun!

That entire last paragraph could be rewritten thus:

But, having temporarily walked away from the insanity of working in “industrial” schools I had accepted my new life delivering blood samples and lab mice for a courier company.  One Sunday night the director of the school where my children are students texted to say: “Look, dude, I’m desperate.  Your daughter’s teacher quit.  I’m not entirely convinced it isn’t the girl’s fault.  Since it’s nearing the end of the year we’re scraping the barrel, pal.  Can you handle a dozen 1st-3rd grader’s?”  Also, she texted right after I had consumed a few gin and tonics so there’s that.

There is a line in Scripture that says “You have put into my heart a greater joy than they have from an abundance of corn and new wine.” (Ps.4)  I don’t know who “they” are but I do believe Our Blessed Lord has infused me with a great love for teaching and for the children (and sometimes adults) I get to teach.  It’s twisted, really.  I don’t know many other people who get excited about working with children and teenagers and yet I can’t help myself.  And you know it must be real when it’s a greater love even than wine or an abundance of corn for that matter.  By the way, the New American Bible translation from 1970 sucks.

And since it wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t share some of the scenes of this life with you; here now a brief sketch of this past Friday morning and my interactions with three particular students.

Student X, boy, 7 years-old

black bunny

Sure looks like a “Thunderclaw”, doesn’t he?

The morning was off to a smashing start.  One of the families had brought rabbits to school.  As in, they brought actual bunnies.  And the bunnies were to remain at school.  “We’re donating them!” the mom said lovingly.  “It’s a great way for the kids to learn about stuff and it’s very Montessori.”  Perhaps I don’t know enough about this Montessori method.  And “stuff?”  Yes, it’s a fabulous way for them to learn about reproduction.  Come to think of it, my son’s getting to be about that age.  This might be more straightforward then having “the talk” with him.  I’m getting rabbits for the house.  Anyway, one young man rushed me on my way in the door.  “Hey look!  It’s Thunderclaw!” he shouted as he tossed a black dwarf rabbit in my face.  “Ack!” I shouted in return as Thunderclaw almost took a mug full of black coffee to the face.  It’s a good thing I have the patience of a saint – St. Augustine, pre-conversion.

A little while later I found myself sitting at a table that was about two feet off the ground across from Student X.  We had just covered a lesson on honeybees.  X was diligently tracing a hexagon over and over onto a sheet of paper.  He had already composed five sentences about these insects (in cursive) and was now illustrating the hive.  Burning the heck out of a yellow colored pencil he put the pencil down momentarily in order to suck his thumb.  The teacher in me stepped aside and the dad moved in.  “Son, you don’t want to do that,” I said gently yet firmly.  “Um, yeah I do,” came his reply without glancing up.  He was still admiring his honeycomb.  “No, no you don’t.  Do you know what will happen?” I asked.  “Yeah, um, it calms me down.”  I had to fight with everything I had to stop from saying “So will a Xanax” but I managed instead “First, you answered a question I had not asked.  I asked what is likely to happen in the future.  You responded with what is happening now.”  Crickets.  “But I like it,” came X’s reply in the cutest high pitched voice.  “You’ll need braces, son.  It’ll mess your teeth up.”

I thought I had won the argument based on my stellar logic.  Unfortunately I was arguing with a kid.  “I’m already getting braces.  My dad told me so.”  Well, you can’t beat that reasoning, I suppose.  “Plus, um, plus…  Uh… Oh yeah, my orthodontist told me I was a very lucky boy and I would have to get headgear!”  “Sounds like your orthodontist is the lucky one,” I shot back.  I smiled at X and marveled at his certainty and confidence.  He, of course, picked up his pencil in the other hand because apparently he’s ambidextrous and continued his masterpiece.

Student Y, boy, 8 years-old

A short while later I had just stepped out of a tiny bathroom where I had gone to scroll through Instagram and generally catch my breath when Student Y ran up to me.  Where he came from I could not say.  The kid’s a ninja.  He’s about the size of a capuchin monkey and just about as wiry.  And I love this kid.  That’s why I almost didn’t mind when he practically pulled my 200 lb. frame down to the floor by trying to climb up my leg to tell me something.  “HEY!  Can I read to you?”  This is one of the most rewarding aspects of working with little children.  He’s just learned to read in the past year and is still inching toward a milestone they call the “reading explosion” or something like that.  I may have made that term up but the point is he’s teetering on the brink between sounding out some words and racing through a paragraph.  And he’s excited.  And he wants me to be the object of his new-found skill.

We sit on the reading carpet (invented by a Nazi, for no adult ever said “Yay! Let’s get down on the floor for this!”) and he proceeds to a thin, purple-covered book.  It’s a leveled reader.  It is not his level.  His is red.  The purples are for a different stage, like two stages above him.  But, I admire his pluck.  Go for it, kiddo.  The stories in these books all follow a phonetic theme.  Unfortunately that means they sometimes give the characters names that have never been used by real people.  This was the story of a terrier named Sollie.  Y struggles with this.  “Solo was a timid puppy.”  “No, son, not Solo, Sollie,” I correct him.  “Sally was a timid puppy,” he tries again.  “No, son, not Sally, Sollie.”  “Sully was a tim-”  “Oh for God’s sake.  Sully was the Miracle on the Hudson pilot and, you know what?  Yeah, let’s just go with Sully.”

He continues.  I come to learn that Sully was indeed a timid puppy.  His owner Shiela had to carry him around.  He wanted to be brave like his dad.  He liked to eat meat.  Except, Y read that as /mat/.  “Y,” I said gently yet firmly, “in English, when two vowels go walking the first one does the talking.”  Crickets.  “OK,” he said, “/meet/”.  Good.  This happened a few more times.  The theme here was vowel clusters.  Then Y came to this sentence.  “They went to the pier.”  He read this as /pyre/.  “Y,” I said, “that’s /peer/.”  “But did the first vowel not go walking that day?” he asked most sincerely.  “Damn English,” I thought to myself.


When two vowels go walking, a terrier eats a toddler.

Finally Y reached the climax of the story.  “When Sollie ran down to the beach, a toddler held out her hand with some cookie pieces.  Sollie ate them.”  First, Y read that as “cookie /pi-cees/” and I did not correct him.  Second, I noticed that Y was looking most confused.  “Why would he eat them?  He must be a mean dog.”  “What are you talking about,” I asked.  It turns out Y thought Sully ate the toddler, that rat bastard.  I clarified the story for my young friend.  And then I laughed at the thought of a terrier eating a toddler who would obviously be three times his size.

Student Z, boy, 6 years-old

I have saved the best for last.  Student Z is a young man who has only recently joined our class.  He had previously been in the “younger division”.  He was starting to outgrow that classroom so I agreed (happily) to let him come over to my class.  I’m friends with his parents and he’s such an awesome kid.  When I’m at their house he’s bouncing off the walls, full of energy, typical little boy.  In school, he is studious, reserved, almost shy.  I can tell he is eager to please and to do a good job.  Z is on the cusp of getting the hang of reading.  And hats off to anyone who has ever taught another person to read.  It is NOT easy.  Sidenote: In complete seriousness, the lady who runs this school is truly gifted.  I watched her sit down with a child last week and, in the most loving and gentle way, teach that child, encourage that child, and celebrate that child’s accomplishment.  It is a gift.

Thunderclaw?!  Who named that bunny?  Crazy Horse?

I extricate myself from the reading carpet and head to a ledge that reminds me of a bar only without alcohol.  Z follows in tow holding onto one of the manipulatives we use in Montessori.  It is a wooden tray containing flash cards with three and four letter words.  Other than the wooden tray I’m not sure how this differs from other schools.  Our goal is to pull six cards and sound them out.  Then Z will write those words in his notebook.  “Z,” I say, “Let’s toss in a few four letter words!”  Then I laugh at what that sounded like to my own ears.  He was game.

First word: “puh… ahh… puh.  POP!”  He smiles broadly.  He got it.  “Great job, Z!  And that was super fast!  Let’s do another one.”

Next word: “luh… ahh… tuh.  LOT!”  Another huge smile.  “Yay!  Amazing!  Ready for the next one?”  He nods excitedly.

Third word: “juh… ahh… muh.”  Only this time I must stop him.  “Sorry, Z,” I say holding my hand up.  “Not every A sounds alike.”  He looks puzzled.  “Let’s try it again.”  I hold the card up.  “juh… ahh…”  “Nope,” I say.  “Um,” he asks, “How does this A sound?”  “I’m glad you asked, Z.”

“Juh…aeyh… muh.  Say it with me.”

And in that moment I realized I was teaching him New Jersey English.


You gotta’ problem wid dat?  I’ll see you on Bloomfield Ave.

When his mom and dad start wondering why he’s suddenly started speaking like Joe Piscopo (or me for that matter) they need only look at my upbringing.  Garden State’s finest spreadin’ the Jerz.

Proud to be spreading my heritage in this sleepy Texas town, I turned from the bar with no booze, put the cards away, and clocked out for the day.

My work here is done.


Them’s Fightin’ Words

I’ve never been in a fight.  Not a fist fight anyway.  I know, this somehow makes me less of a man.  Believe me, I have an older brother who once told me those exact words.  Fun, right?  I’ve been in the verbal variety plenty of times.  Given my family’s background, that should be a given.  Let’s see…  Irish, Scottish, English, New York/New Jersey, large family.  Yes, the knock-down drag-out’s of my world have all been of the cerebral kind.  In fact, it’s one of the impeti for my sense of wit.  That and unimaginable tragedy.  These two factors tend to spur on development of a strange sense of quickness and dryness.  Unfortunately for me, this type of humor is a blessing and curse.  I’ve been able to make many people laugh uncontrollably in my lifetime.  I’ve also sometimes used humor to hurt people.  The key is in learning to control it.

By the way, I’m borrowing from the Daily Prompt for this stream.


That being said, I’ve always wanted, as the headline in The Onion once screamed, to land just one good, clean punch.  Seems like that would be a phenomenal rush.  Most men I know have at least had fights with their brothers or school pals growing up.  Not I.  My brothers were all older, the living ones, and I guess I’m just too practical to ever let impatience over any situation resolve itself in a  manner that could have left me, not bloodied, but with a single hair out of place.  Remember, I grew up in the Garden State.

This morning at work I had to fight.

I fought the urge to steal this cute little lady and take her home.

A coworker brought his dog with him today.  Boy that was fun, being able to pet the little gal.  Something about a dog that really tends to lower one’s blood pressure and bring a smile to one’s face.

Let’s get back to brawling.  As much fun as I think it would be to knock someone out I also imagine I’d embarrass myself tremendously.  My punches would probably not connect and I’d end up slamming my poorly formed fist into a wall.  That would suck.

Other men wouldn’t trust me to be on their side in a bar fight.  I would be outcast from social circles.  This would make me belligerent and likely lead to more fighting.  Perhaps I would then have enough practice and eventually get good at it.  Much scarring and bruising later I might finally be able to say “Yeah, I been in fights, tons of ’em.  You gotta’ problem with that?  Wanna’ dance, bitch?”

On the other hand, if you ever need to cut someone down to size in the kind of way that leaves more damaging mental scars than physical; I’m your guy.  Why I can make you believe the worst in yourself and you’ll laugh while I’m saying it.  It’s only when you’re at home that you’ll begin to ponder what I’ve said.  Then, you’ll feel even worse about your diminished mental state when you have to look up half the words I used.  But I’m also good at words with vague double meanings so you’ll doubt the whole thing ever happened.  Years from now when you’re in group at Hazelden, you’ll eventually learn that you must let go in order to find true peace.  Those kinds of scars will never fully heal.

And every one of my remaining hairs are still in place.

Go Jersey.

Honey, Can You Come Take a Look At This?

I pronounce this.  Do you?

I pronounce this. Do you?

Ever since moving to Texas, this Jersey boy, normally so sure that my flawless diction and impeccable inflection are both flawless and impeccable and not at all accented — because they’re not and I will cut you if you suggest otherwise — I have had occasional moments where I begin to doubt myself.  For instance, I know that I pronounce the hard “r” at the end words like father and mother.  This is called a “rhotic” pronunciation and most American speakers of English use it.  Note that I said “rhotic” (from the Greek letter rho) and not erotic.  Gee, that wasn’t a clever way to drive traffic from search engines…  And yet, some of the people in my life (OK, my students mostly) try to mimic me by slipping into some kind of bizarre Dallas twist on a comical Brooklyn accent.  Sad, really.  Still, I sometimes doubt myself.  I drive home from work, burst through the door, kiss my kids, pet the dog, and yell out “Honey, it is pronounced /wahw-derr/, right?”

And this brings us to tonight’s Daily Post prompt.

What are some (or one) of the things about which you usually don’t trust your own judgment, and need someone’s else’s confirmation?

I’m sure most people looking at that prompt would not automatically jump to the way in which a person pronounces common words but it happens.  What happens even more frequently, though, here in the Lone Star State, at least for us Yankee transplants, is the choice of words and phrases.  Let me explain what I mean.  Recently one of my wife’s cousins was performing with his band at a restaurant out in Fort Worth.  He and his mates are all in their 50’s and sing exactly what you’d expect middle-aged, wannabe rockers to perform.  Touch Me In The Morning by Diana Ross.  No.  Actually they sing standard classic rock tunes.  On our drive out to see the show I turned to my wife, not knowing exactly who these people were or what they’d be singing, and asked “Is this place more of a BBQ joint or a cabaret?”  “A what?!” she asked.  Well, it seems that here in Texas the word cabaret can only refer to what we in New Jersey like to call a strip club.  However, in the New York City sphere of influence, where true showmen abound a cabaret is a restaurant with a small stage for a singer and accompanist.  I could see how the thought of her aging cousin singing Mustang Sally at a strip club might scandalize her.

And that brings me to another turn of phrase.  The Big Apple.  Not going to spend a whole lot of time on this one since it’s so painfully obvious I’m talking about NEW freaking YORK!  Come on, right?  In class one day I mentioned the Big Apple and was met with stares of confusion from the 25 teenagers sitting in front of me.  “Mr. H. where are you talking about?”  I started to second-guess myself.  “Kids, it’s New York.”  “Are you sure,” they asked, “because the Big Apple is Las Vegas.”  Really?  It took me ten minutes to convince them I really did know what I was talking about.  Even then most of them insisted that New York’s adoption of the moniker must have come after Vegas’.

Josephine Baker.  She sang at a cabaret in the Big Apple in a  teddy.

Josephine Baker. She sang at a cabaret in the Big Apple in a teddy.

Finally, let’s talk about a common article of clothing.  Earlier this evening as I was preparing to get my kittens ready for bed I told my daughter the following.  Keep in mind that she’s 4.  “Sweetheart, go get ready for your shower and Daddy will get you a nighty from the laundry.”  Again, my wife began to question my sanity (nothing new there).  “A nighty?” she said.  “What is it now?” I replied, second-guessing myself.  She looked me straight in the eye and said “You mean a nightgown?”  Of course I meant a nightgown.  But growing up with 8 sisters (yes, 8!) I had always heard little girls’ nightgowns referred to (lovingly, I might add) as nighties.  “And the problem is?” I asked her.  “Well,” she said, “a nighty is like lingerie, like… a teddy or something.”  Exactly.  First my dear, don’t ever say “teddy” in front of me again.  It creeps me out.  Second, did you really think I was implying that we give our precious daughter a bath and then dress her up in a Victoria’s Secret neglige?  How ’bout we go whole hog and get her something from Frederick’s?  Nighty.  Meanwhile twenty minutes later Baby Girl was comfortable dressed in one of Daddy’s old tee shirts so the point was moot.

I think from now on I’ll stick to second-guessing pointless things like whether a precancerous mole has changed color or whether I’m losing my hearing.  But then I wouldn’t have the fun of bantering with the people I love and learning new things about the world around me through our shared experience of our language.  Until then, you can find me, my wife, and our beautiful children (our daughter in a teddy) at a strip club in Las Vegas drinking wahwderr, generally enjoying life.

Finally Crashing: Father and Son Hit up Jersey, Day 5

Not much going on today.  We did get a chance to rest a bit this morning.  Then we went to visit another sister around the corner and enjoyed a lovely dinner with her and some of her family.

Apparently, though, Sonny Boy did not get quite as much sleep last night as I had thought.  He completely crashed on the ride home from dinner, waking only as we approached a Dunkin’ Donuts to ask for a donut.  He’s crazy.  I love him.

Tired, son?

Tired, son?

How Many Layers Does YOUR House Have?: Father-Son Hit Up Jersey, Day 2

This morning my son and I awoke to a beautiful day.  The weather here has been incredible.  Though some people are complaining that it’s been on the hot side, I am not missing waking up to 90 degrees at 7AM.  I can handle the heat (and the Jersey humidity) but this is just perfect.  So what’s with the title?  Well, one of the (to me) peculiar things about living in Texas is that almost all of the houses are limited to one, single floor.  Most of us have no basement and no second floor.  Having said that I’m sure some people will point out to me that I’m wrong.  I’m talking about my experience in North Texas.  But I grew up in the Garden State where the houses are old and the soil strong enough to hold several floors (and a full basement).  Everyone I knew growing up had a basement and we all used them to varying degrees.  For us, the basement contained our laundry room (an old wine cellar) and, because it was dry and well-lighted, our toy room.  But son has never seen a basement (and only rarely a second story)…

For a good portion of the day he kept telling me that he wanted to watch TV in his cousins’ room upstairs.  Wanting him to mingle with the family he doesn’t see much of I finally asked him if something was wrong.  At first he offered an excuse.  “Daddy, it’s just that sometimes I like to be alone.”  Yeah, that’s not reassuring.

“Son,” I said, “I just don’t want you to be by yourself when we came all this way to visit people.”

When I finally threatened to forbid him from the TV for the rest of the trip he spoke up.

“OK Daddy, here’s the thing,” said he, with perfect conviction.  “It’s just that whenever I’m in a house with three layers I like to visit the other layers.  OK, Daddy?”

It does sort of look like one.

It does sort of look like one.

That made a bit more sense.  After correcting his use of layer in lieu of floor or story (but secretly vowing to use it that way myself from now on) I explained that I would show him around the house so he could see the other layers.  And that’s when he explained that he had already been to the third layer on his own earlier in the day.  So I explained to him the importance of not going up to the attic on his own (there are corner stairs) his cousin and I walked him up to take a look.  We looked around at some Christmas items in the storage room.  That’s when he found an old roll of 110 film lying undeveloped on a ledge.  For those of you born after 2000, film was this stuff we used to use when taking pictures.  But before I could explain that this stuff had to be taken to a pharmacy, dropped in an envelope with your name written on it, and left for several days until the 24 pictures you took were developed he decided to make me laugh.

“Oh look, a tiny telephone!” he exclaimed.

Indeed.  A tiny telephone.  And with that I walked him back to the first layer where dinner was waiting.

Mary of Manhattan Takes on the Lone Star State

Who, you might ask, is Mary of Manhattan?  Well, short answer: she’s my mom.  Long answer?  Several years ago, while sitting around the kitchen table having our coffee, my mom, my sister, and I got to talking about royal titles and how much fun it would be if us ordinary folks had them.  We determined that she (Mom) would naturally be “Mary of Manhattan”.  Even though she was born in the Bronx and lived the vast majority of her adult life in the Garden State, the woman was raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  “Back then, it was just Amsterdam and 95th,” she once told me.  “There was no ‘Upper West Side’.”  No matter what they called it, there’s no denying the woman’s a native New Yorker.

Grandma's coming!

Grandma’s coming!

And there’s no denying I’m her son.  True, since the Operation Wilma head-shave last week, I’m looking a whole lot more like my dad.  Still, there are many instances where I can see the mother-son resemblance.  I guess it’s just one of those things, though, where the genetics played out just so.  You see, many people who know my family would scoff at the idea that I look like the woman.  That’s probably because many of my more prominent facial features are very much my father’s.  But I definitely inherited her coloring.  Even when he had hair, my dad’s mane was dark where as Mom and I are both blonde (to varying degrees) and very fair skinned.  And then there are the eyes…  It’s a very unique shade of the very unique-er (yes, I just made that up) hazel that she gave me and I passed on to my baby girl.  Not only the shade, but also the shape, are identical.  It doesn’t bother me either way.  I think both of my parents are very distinguished looking people.  I also think I look like a decent blend of the two of them.  So let’s talk personality, huh?

In many ways I am like my father.  I should say, in many ways I still hope to be like my father.  He worked very hard his entire life to ensure that my mom could devote herself full-time to the toughest career of all — being a mom.  He also went to mass every day of his life as far as I know.  Although I’m putting in my hours as a teacher of the faith; that doesn’t pay the bills alone so I’m also working my tail off to get a second master’s degree in the hopes of being a principal.  Please God, my wife will one day feel secure enough to take the leap and let me work myself into the ground for her sake.  Believe me, if I’m going to work myself to death anyway, I want it to be for her and the kids.  As far as daily mass, well, Dad, you certainly had an influence; and not just on me.  I know many of my sisters are also daily communicants.  I’ll never forget the time you answered the question “why?” with a “because there’s nothing greater I can do in my day so why not do it?”  Made sense then.  Makes even more sense now that I have children.  Like him, I keep a little calendar.  His is on a pocket planner in his breast pocket.  Mine’s on my iPhone.  They both contain the same information.  And from that information I can tell you that, sadly, I missed mass seven times in the month of October.  Tell me how a 77 year-old man can get himself to mass more frequently than I can?  OK, I swear I’ll catch up.  But I do have to say, I’m not quite as competitive as he is.  And given that I was already older than him when I got married and that God sees fit not to have sent us any more little ones these past four years, I don’t see myself catching up in that department.  Your record’s safe, Dad.

Baby girl and her Grandma.

Baby girl and her Grandma.

How did I even get onto this topic?  Oh yes!  Mom’s here visiting and we’re having such a good time.  You see, those areas where I am like my mother are the areas of the heart.  When I was a boy of 4 and my twin sister died in a house fire, I immediately felt a deep kinship with my mother.  This was a kinship of spirit and not of blood.  Even at that age I knew that I had in her another person who understood exactly what I felt and how much I had lost.  She had lost, too, and in a way no mother should ever lose — not just my twin but my next two older brothers.  From that moment we have always been close.  When I got married, I had to pick out a mother-son dance song.  Being the goofball I am I opted not for the traditional Paul Anka or Barry Manilow (though they would have made good choices).  Instead I picked the Andrew Gold 1970’s (somewhat obscure) Thank You for Being a Friend.  If the title sounds familiar, that’s because it was used as the theme to The Golden Girls in the 1980’s.  That show in and of itself was something over which we bonded.  During those difficult months preceding my spinal surgery, when the pills made it impossible for me to sleep at night, when the same pills coupled with fear and uncertainty brought me to the verge of an emotional train wreck; Mom would stay up with me so I wasn’t alone.  What’s on TV in the middle of the night?  You guessed it.  To this day she and I can quote Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia like the best of them.  When the episodes would end, we’d hit the town.  On more than one occasion, she and I would drive in the middle of the night in search of perpetual Eucharistic Adoration (and a diner).  How do you not love someone like that?

That’s why when we moved (first to Virginia and then to Texas) over the past few years, I sometimes get sad.  As you by now know I love my mother-in-law dearly and my wife’s brother and sister and all the aunts and cousins truly welcome me as one of their own.  From Jane down in Austin to Vicki in North Carolina and all the Pat’s and Lisa’s in between, I have been blessed with an extended family as beautiful as the one from which I came.  But when my wife’s father died suddenly 18 months ago I began to really fear that when the end came for the people I left behind, I wouldn’t be there.  There are some things we have to accept in love and prayer as the will of God.  Poor Mother Teresa set out to do her missionary work and lamented that she never again got to see her mother or sister in Albania.  Fortunately, American Airlines runs a couple of daily flights from EWR.  I just wish we all had greater resources and could do this more often.  For instance, some of my sisters will probably never make it here and that makes me sad.  I would love for them to see where we live and the fun stuff we’ve done with this house.  I also feel sorry that my kids don’t get to really bond with the Jersey cousins the way they do with their Texas relatives.  But such is life.

That’s why I am really cherishing these days right now.  It’s so wonderful to have Mom here in our home, to be able to show her around Texas (or at least Dallas-Fort Worth), for her to visit her friend Wilma (Go say a prayer for her right now!) and spend time with her grandchildren.  In a week she’ll return home and my sisters will rejoice and some of them will even scold her and admonish “Don’t ever leave us like that again!”  But for the moment, Mom, we’re (I’m) so glad you’re with us!


Note: I’ll try to post more regularly over this next week so as to provide some pictorial proof of this visit.  When she and I get together we usually wind up with some “fun” pictures.

Benedict and Rita Surprise New Jersey: Day 14

Almost forgot…  Last night we had a surprise of our own.  Our son, who is all of five years-old, came to us and mentioned that he had “popcorn stuck in my tooth”.  We hadn’t had popcorn since our trip to the movies two days earlier.  My wife looked and realized right away it was a loose tooth!  I must include this, son, because I’m writing this all for you and your sister.  Now you’ll be able to pinpoint this momentous event in your life, or something like that.  Explaining the whole tooth fairy thing, we put the kittens to bed and stayed up late catching up with my sister and her husband and kids.  In fact, I fell asleep watching Easy A (very funny movie).

This morning, I walked in to where my son was asleep.  *Son, don’t read this part until you’re older.*  I realized he was about to wake up and the tooth fairy had forgotten to pay her visit.  She’s a pain in the neck.  I quickly searched my pockets for anything money-wise.  Not happening.  I glanced at the dresser next to me and said: “I don’t know who’s bill this is, but I’m taking it!”  Instantly I slipped the bill under the pillow and then my son woke up.  All was well.

OK, so it rained most of the day but, being used to Texas summers now, we actually enjoyed just watching it through the plate glass windows.  By the afternoon we were ready to head off back to the big city to pay a visit with my parents with whom, unfortunately, we just didn’t get a whole lot of one-on-one time this trip.  After a quick stop at mass, we picked up my parents and headed to one of my favorite places, the DINER!!!  It’s a Jersey thing.  We love our diners.  While there we got some great pictures of the kids and their grandparents.  It’s really cute.  My son, especially, has a great connection with my mom.  He doesn’t see her but maybe once a year but he loves her to death.

And then we drove around the neighborhood and said our goodbyes because it was time to leave.  That only took about two hours.  Finally, it was time for everyone to go to sleep while Daddy drove us the hour and a half down to Philadelphia where we checked into our hotel and went to bed.  Our flight’s in the morning.