School’s Out: House Guests and My Big Beautiful Family

Unannounced House Guest

Cozy spot to snooze. Photo credit: kateschannel

If you’re like me, house guests sometimes drop in unannounced. This one showed just before Fourth of July festivities. He/she decided an outdoor storage cabinet was the place to sleep for a spell. Perhaps he/she learned our patio is a prime location for watching firework shows. Fortunately, I discovered him — and not Issa or Riff — before retiring for the night. Issa and Riff love all creatures. But, some do not survive due to overzealous curiosity.

My Big Beautiful Family

Good times in the middle of beautiful Michigan with cousins and in-laws. Photo credit: Joe Duris

Several members from my big beautiful family reunites in the middle of beautiful Michigan each summer. Thanks to the generosity of my Aunt Kate (my namesake), we all meet up — with plenty of beverages and food — at her lake house near Clare, Mich. Kate is my mom’s sister and is one of six. My mom also has three brothers. For up to seven days family members race kayaks, have water gun fights, fish, watch my cousin Kyle do cannonballs into the lake, play euchre, drink and eat.

My cousin Jen bonds with her mom/my aunt Linda. Jen lives in Florida. The two appreciate time together. Photo credit: kateschannel

This year, highlights include …

Crack.My Aunt Gerry made these fabulous, highly-addictive, chocolate-covered saltines. Who knew crack could taste so good?

Warning: Highly addictive substance. More habit-forming than crack. Wait a minute. It is crack.

Water wars. My late grandparents used to host a mini-version of the Olympics — during annual reunion parties — at their home in Cohoctah, Mich. In their memory, we still partake in the water portion of these games. There are no teams. It is a free-for-all. Each competitor is responsible for their own protection.

One of our valiant water warriors takes aim. Photo credit: kateschannel

James Bond-style water guns.Take a look at this kick board. Swimmers beware. When you see someone entering any body of water with one of these, be prepared with some kind of weaponry. Not only this be used as a swim aid, it also unleashes a torrent of water at innocent bystanders.

This stylish kick board doubles as a water gun. How genius is that? Photo credit: kateschannel

Big vs. little. Too bad I missed this fishing expedition. My cousin Joe took Issa and my niece out on the lake to fish. After waiting patiently for a bite, a little bass finally took Issa’s bait. Just as she started to reel it in, a big bass ate the little bass; and then escaped.

Cannonball run. My cousin Kyle shows off his extraordinary cannonballs each year. Look at the eyes. Olympic hopefuls cannot compare to this level of focus and mental readiness.

No stunt doubles here, people. This is the real deal. Kyle is going for it.
Sunk like a brick. Photo credit: kateschannel

The water depth is less than four feet.

Lots of characters. We are a mix of families, genders, ages, personalities, ideologies, political leanings, athletic abilities, beverage preferences, and more. But, the unique traits we all bring to the lake make the times we spend special. Plus, it’s pretty awesome to see how carefree everyone can be for a few days in the middle of beautiful Michigan.

My cousin Jen visits with aunts Susan (my mom) and Gerry. Photo credit: kateschannel

Nine Irish Kids and the Power Codes

My mom is one of nine Irish kids who grew up in Howell, Mich. The tight connections among her siblings — my aunts and uncles — make for mega family reunions and for volumes of stories.

One story is about family population tracking and keeping peace during family meetings. My Aunt Kate — a mentor in all things Kate and the youngest of the nine — generated and assigned — in descending numeric and alphabetic power codes — to help everyone remember their “pecking” order in the family.

Numeric codes were assigned — from eldest to youngest as follows:

  1. Diane
  2. Susan (my mom)
  3. Gerry
  4. Betty
  5. John
  6. Steve
  7. Julie
  8. Dan
  9. Kate

Single, alphabetic codes were then matched to the number of offspring or pets each of the nine introduced to the family. For example, my Aunt Diane has four children. Their codes are 1A1, 1A2, 1A3, and 1A4. My mom had just two — my sister and I. So, we are 2B1 and 2B2. My cousins and I have learned our power codes do little to help trump discussions, decisions or euchre contests.

How do in-laws and future generations fit into this power code scheme? I am sorry to admit this. But, I lost the memo at my Aunt Gerry’s in Melbourne, Florida. It’s probably matted to the bottom of that empty keg we drank on St. Patrick’s Day 10 years ago.

So, how much of this story do you think is blarney and how much do you think is fact?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!