Why I Love Summer Vacation…part 2

Will this be the last part? I have no idea…but here we go:

5. Jeff is home.

Full time. He still occasionally picks up work for his dad or his brother or restaurant work, but it’s not a consistent thing so he’s available for beach trips and pool days and the like. We always work better as a team rather than two individuals running around with separate agendas which sometimes happens during the school year when he’s balancing lesson plans, his regular work day and life in general. Fun days out are more fun when we’re all together and I have a back-up so I can, you know, pee if I need to.

6. The Liberating lack of routine.

Routine is good and I normally love it. But, I really love to shake it off occasionally. The routine of the school year means I have to be available to get kids off the bus and if something took too long (or at least longer than expected during the day) I sometimes don’t get to something I wanted to (ie–a special cleaning project or reading time). The lack of routine is liberating because I do not have as many things depending I be there at.that.exact.moment.in.time. and so more things actually get done. I know, I know, it confuses me too. Don’t think too much about it.

7. The garden.

I married a man with two green thumbs which is really luxurient when there aren’t enough of them to go around, but I really enjoy seeing him work his magic in our postage stamp size back yard (we’ve laid new sod!) and our small front plot. When we moved here we loved having a smaller yard because our huge gorgeous lot was just simply too much to keep up, especially with Jeff doing the bulk of the work, so this size is perfect and manageable. And lovely this time of year.

8. Classical Music and Reading Time

New to this summer! I started using Snapchat recently and I follow Retta on there. She is hilarious and she snapped last weekend about a tradition she used to have of having Sundays where she wouldn’t watch tv or surf the web but listen to classical music and read. Color me inspired. So, now, in the afternoons, we turn on classical music (either online streaming or on the classical Music Choice tv station) and read for about an hour. It’s relaxing and it’s growing our brains. #Winwin

That’s all for now folks!


Father’s Day 2016

I’ve found I get my best response to “what do you want for Father’s Day-your birthday-Christmas-etc?” to be let Jeff pick an activity he wants to do.

This Father’s Day was no exception. Jeff decided he wanted to take the family to Hammock’s Beach State Park near Swansboro. We’d never been before so this would be a “fact-finding mission” or as Jeff called it “surveillance.”

The park is only reachable by boat which means either you take your own boat, kayak or canoe; or you pay a small fee to ride a state-run ferry. There is a large parking area on the mainland (it’s the kind of ferry that transports humans, not cars) and an education center about Bear Island (where the beach is) and picnic tables and a big lawn. We ate lunch at the education/visitors center before taking the ferry over to Bear Island.

boys on ferry

The boys sat right in front of Captain Tom on the ferry ride both to and from the island.

Shelby and Daddy on ferry

Shelby loved the ferry. The picture taking, let’s just say she was not impressed.

A few things to note: no pets on the ferry. I’m sure they probably have an exception for service animals, but I’d call first to find out how that is handled. Also, no strollers unless they are fully collapsed on the ferry (same with beach “carts”). And there are no trash cans on the island. They do provide bags but you have to bag your trash and carry it back to the mainland. There is a bath house and also a concession stand (cash only). And, yeah, it’s a pretty decent walk from the ferry pier to the shore. My kids were fine with the walk, but it could be rough for the three and under crowd (and some four-year-olds). As a state park, it’s a leave only foot prints (and none on the dunes!) and take only pics and memories place, if you find shells, make sure there’s nothing in them and that sea stars and sand dollars washed up on the beach are actually dead before bagging them!

That all being said, you do have life-guards and covered picnic areas there and the island is pristine without all the “development” and they never have to pump sand in.

The water was rather rough yesterday so we were glad for the lifeguards (even if we didn’t so much “need” them, it was reassuring). We had tide pools too which everyone but Shelby enjoyed (she’d rather be thrashed by waves, sensory issues ftw). It was unseasonably cool in the air and water so we didn’t stay as long as we might have but we did have fun. We scoped out the primitive camps sites. They were all sandy which we’re not a huge fan of but we may try at some point.

We really enjoyed it though and we’re even considering at some point the investment of a boat as the ferry is congested and somewhat limiting. And with our budding fisher-people it is definitely an awesome destination.

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father’s Day from Hammock’s Beach State Park

After we got home, Jeff enjoyed watching the US Open even with all the controversy. And later the NBA Finals.

It was a really great day and we enjoyed the trip and spending time together. Hope that Father’s Day was awesome for all the dad’s out there!

Why I’m not blogging about politics…

because the situation for Catholics in this election cycle can be summed up in one phrase:


And anyway, we vote by secret ballot here and I’m not interested in how your conscience has led or mis-led you (whichever the case may be) so I really don’t care what you think of my choice.

The Israelites begged God for a king and they got what they asked for. We’ve done the same thing. We’ve made our bed, time to lie in it, shut-up, and take it like Americans.

The End

The Boys are Home!

Last evening the grandparents returned Joseph and William after having them for five nights and six days.

During the week, the boys attended a day camp put on by the local parks and recreation center called “Spaced Out.” It was run by two local teachers and had about 20 kids participating. The focus was fun and educational, primarily science. The first day the kids went to Wilmington and had a pool day which was mostly getting to know you games etc. Tuesday they traveled to Myrtle Beach to the Wonderworks Science Center at Broadway at the Beach. The boys said they played lots of games and had a blast. Wednesday they went to Ingram Planetarium and the science center in Ocean Isle Beach. Joseph and I went with his first grade class last year when we lived in that county. Thankfully he got a different presentation than last year’s (which included Zula Patrol, blech!). They really enjoyed all the exhibits and shows that day. Thursday they traveled back to Wilmington to Defy Gravity Trampoline park (since gravity is part of space!). Joseph had a blast but William rolled an ankle. Despite that, he mostly enjoyed himself. Friday they had water fun and slip and slides.

My in-laws had their work cut out for them with entertaining during “off-hours.” We did not allow the boys to bring electronics this week :). Monday and Tuesday nights they played Sorry and Trouble, games we don’t have at home. Wednesday, they got Zootopia on Amazon Prime which my kids and in-laws had not seen before. Thursday, opening night, my in-laws braved the crowds and surprised the kids with Finding Dory. Everyone loved both movies. They also did Taco Tuesday for the boys and convinced William to try a soft taco (which he liked!).

I had to work last night but today we let them enjoy electronics because they never once claimed to be bored all week with their grandparents. We also had rented Zootopia (not realizing the grandparents had watched it) but the kids were excited to watch it again.We really missed them this week and the house was crazy quiet. So thankful God allowed them a great visit with their grandparents and a fun first camp experience.

7 Quick or Slow Takes


You guys…this week…


Sunday morning I woke up with the ugly beginnings of a cold. I mean, really? This week of all weeks? It’s the first full week of summer this week AND the boys have been at their grandparents’ going to camp all week. (I get them back tonight, well, Jeff and Shelby do too but mostly ME, I get them back.) We went to early Mass, came home and packed, and then made our way almost 2 hours south to my in-laws. They planned for us to meet them at one of their three community pools. That was all good except they were shocked to find out that the pool would be crowded on a 95 degree weekend day with 100% humidity (we will NOT speak of what my hair looked like). My father-in-law wanted to abandon ship and take us to a different pool (which, no doubt in my mind, would be just as crowded). Jeff’s step-mother, however, had found a couple of chairs and predicted we may have a similar situation. After we finished at the pool, we sent our boys with their grandparents (there was no shortage of tears from William). It turns out the reason we’ve never been to the other pool is that my in-laws felt lie it was too deep with the shallow end being  3 feet and deep end 5 feet. And no wade in. I let them know that that was the exact situation at our community pool (which my kids learned to swim proficiently in–including Shelby–last summer) so in the future, not a deterrent.


This is the boys’ first summer camp experience of any sort. It’s a day camp run by the parks department with the theme “Spaced Out” which included field trips to Wonderworks Kids Science Museum in Myrtle Beach, Ingram Planetarium in Ocean Isle Beach and Defy Gravity trampoline park in Wilmington. Monday was a pool day and Friday a beach day. Exciting week for them so guess what this is the week I’ve given up…


…facebook. Well, my personal facebook. You know, the one with all the “friends?”  (As opposeed to the shell account I keep for my blog page to stay active when I need persnoal breaks.) The one that Jeff’s step-mother would post any pictures to. Last Thursday I deactivated because it was a serious near-occasion-for-sin. And that sin would be primarily wrath but then there was also the spiraling depression and lack of faith that accompanies it after the initial waves of wrath roll in. So I’m on summer vacation too. From facebook. I still instagram and snapchat. And this is vacation so when I’m in a better head and heart-space (which may not be til after this stupid election), I’ll be back. (If you want to read a great post about this spiritual need to scale back, check out Domenico Bettinelli’s post on it from this week. Dom and I are facebook friends and share many mutual facebook friends and came to this conclusion miles apart within hours of each other.)


I gave Dom a shout-out and now I’m going to give my other most-inspiring-blogger of this week one. Jenny Uebbing blogged actually, ahem, a month ago about going grain free and being too connected online and since there’s no personal facebook to chase around (did I mention that I started thinking in status updates? super annoying), I caught up on blog reading. If ever I was convinced the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me something this was it: get off facebook and clean out feedly…there’s good stuff there. Grain free, I’m not going to lie, is going to be a struggle but oddly, not as difficult as being gluten free because if you’re eliminating entire foods (bread, rice, tortillas, pasta…) it’s easier than trying to ensure the alternatives are actually gluten free. No, my whole family isn’t doing it, just me. That’s because my kids don’t eat vegetables. And Jeff won’t give up beer. As for the being off social media, I’m going to focus more on family as the transient nature of our community and the fact that no one living around us is anywhere near the same stage in life (nor really cares to be exposed to our current stage) really has me in a fix as to if irl community can be a thing for me or my family in.this.moment.


It’s taken me over six hours to get to a fifth take..cue unexpected stomach drama that hit hard after brunch. Ugh. A cold was bad enough! I guess I go ahead and get all this over with now vs the week Jeff will be at conference later this summer.


We thought we’d take lots of day trips this week with Shelby. Unfortunately weather and the fact that sod was ready for us to pic up and  apply to the back lawn de-railed that plan. Hoping weather is good tomorrow and we can take the boys with us to one of the places we had planned for this week.


We’re about an hour from the boys’ arrival now. I may be sick, but color this mama happy!

Join the people with less whiny much better takes over at Kelly’s.

The Commandment, the Difficulty

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may become children of your heavenly Father,

Matthew 5:44-45

Would you believe that is one of the few Bible verses I’ve committed to memory? Probably because it’s one I struggle with the most. Jesus tells us that even the evil love their own but true perfection is found in love for one’s enemies because they too are children of God. And that’s the truth whether they believe it, whether we want to believe, or even whether they’ve warped God’s love and words into blasphemy and violence.

And this is probably the hardest part of the greatest and second greatest commandments:

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22: 37-40

It’s interesting to note that the first verse was said during the Sermon on the Mount and the second was in response to a “test” from the Pharisees.

And if you’re confused as to who your neighbor is, who you’re supposed to be loving as yourself, well Jesus has cleared that up too:

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10: 29-37

Our neighbor isn’t just the person who literally lives next door or down the street from us. The Samaritans and Jews did not associate. It was abhorrent for a Jew to contemplate having to even look at a Samaritan. The divide was such that if encountering a Samaritan town, Jews would walk around it rather than through it adding much time to travel. Samaritans were ritually impure to Jews.

Jesus is clear, we don’t just get to love the people we like; the people we want to love. Everyone is our neighbor, enemies included, and so we must love everyone as ourselves. None of this is simple or easy. It is exactly what our parents signed us up for at baptism and we agreed to at Confirmation.

We live in times where we have enemies of all kinds. We have friends who wound with words and betray to the point that reconciliation appears impossible. There are people attacking the Church and Her infallible teaching through the law of man, even trying to warp the words of Jesus to suit their agendas. And there are terrorists who shoot victims down in night clubs hoping to further expand the divide between God’s children by exploiting religion and sexuality, holding those things up as reasons for hate, while denying the humanity that lies within us all deserving dignity no matter where we worship or which sex we are attracted to. We are surrounded and it is tempting to feel defeated sometimes. It is even more tempting to lash out in anger and violence ourselves.

But that’s not Jesus’ way. When men came for Him with swords and clubs, He did not fight back. In fact, He instructed the Apostles to put their swords away and ask those arresting Him why they come after Him like a robber. He even admits He has the power to to ask His Father to send legions of angels to protect Him. He tells us that those who live by the sword, will die by it. (Matthew 26: 41-56)

We don’t see His love and mercy as cowardice but triumphant. We tell ourselves this is our motto. Jesus isn’t even angry at Judas. He is pained but not angry. And He builds His church on Peter, a man who denies Him THREE times in His worst hour.

Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you… Jesus did it on the Cross (Luke 23:34), the first martyr, Stephen, did it in his dying moments being stoned (Acts 7:60). We’re called to do it from the comfort of air conditioning and often when there is no real physical threat. And we stumble, we fall, we make excuses, we flat out refuse. Our words say one thing, our hearts hold resentment and anger and our minds do not let go.

In a time of pain, it is so easy to fall into Satan’s trap and become angry, obstinate and even prideful. See that image of Jesus on the Cross and know that love, mercy, forgiveness: they are not cowardice, they are true strength, they are following God’s law and love in fullness. I struggle with this every single day. Without the Holy Trinity, I am lost and would descend even further into anger, distrust, and all kinds of foul things. Let us take Jesus at His word in today’s Gospel reading. Let us live truly as His children and become perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

Why I Love Summer Vacation…part 1

I don’t know if there will be a part 2, but here we go anyway…

Wednesday officially started summer vacation. Even my homeschool mama friends have some form of summer break because, unfortunately, more structured learning cannot be sustained for an infinite period of time without a few breaks here and there.

While I hate the heat and humidity of summer, I really love being out of school during this time of year. And this post aims to start saying why.

  1. I love having my kids home full time

When Shelby and Joseph were babies, I really wanted to homeschool but after Shelby’s diagnosis and the realization that she would need specialization beyond my expertise and then the experimental pre-pre-K homeschool with the boys crashed and burned pretty dramatically 99% because of my lackings…we moved to other options. So, I don’t get my kids to myself all that often. And my kids are freaking awesome.

I really enjoy the summer as a time we get to focus on family in fun seasonal ways like almost daily pool outings and now that we live AT the beach as opposed to merely NEAR the beach as we used to, we’re there two times a week or more.

But even days we don’t go to the pool or beach are fun. If the weather forecast includes rain (SoCal this ain’t) the boys plan movie marathons complete with multiple snack choices and re-enacting favorite scenes. We’ve also had Mario-Kart tournaments. For anyone who is sitting smugly saying, “My kids don’t need electronics!” well, good for you and mine don’t either but they serve their purposes. We also have board game night, field trips, and…

2. Family Vacations

The rule is no electronics on vacation. But we try to jam the days so full anyway there’s not time if you wanted to. We have our annual beach week with my family at Emerald Isle which we’ll be doing a bit differently this year than in years past but will still attend to. We’re also going to upstate NY this year for a weekend to see my grandparents. This will be Jeff and the kids’ first time visiting where my dad grew up and will also will be our first time sleeping in a tent all five of us. I haven’t been in 20 years, so it will be a fun trip for me as well. Traveling with kids can be stressful, but my kids travel well so I’m planning for more fun than hassle.

3. I actually read during summer

Every blogger seems to be doing a summer reading list post. I’m not because frankly there’s enough of that out there already and because I’m really not that well planned out in my thinking. But I tend to have lots of unstructured time that simply is not there during the school year and I like to fill that with books. Thank God we have an awesome library within five minutes of our house.

4. Music

Sounds dumb but last summer was the first time I’d had cable in about 10 years and I found that Adult Swim (what Cartoon Network turns into at 8 pm) has 25 free downloads starting Memorial Day (they release one per week) and I’ll be honest I don’t lurve every single song (there’s more death metal than I would have expected) but I’ve gotten some great tracks there including an amazing Sia remix.

Well, that’s it for part one…stay tuned…

Listening in a Very Loud World

Have you ever watched television evangelists preaching to a congregation? Regardless of race and denomination, often you hear them so frenzied with excitement, they are yelling. And many times the congregation is whipped into the frenzy as well as witnessed by shouts of “Amen” and often when the camera pans the crowd people stand heads tipped back, arms raised, eyes closed in seeming ecstasy. Would their reaction be the same without the emotional appeal of a raised voice? Surely THIS is God’s voice coming through this man? And God led the people of Israel in the desert as a column of cloud during the day and fire during the night (Exodus 13:21-22) so of course He would speak in a loud, booming voice and have a firm command.

But read further in the Bible, take, for example, Elijah:

There he came to a cave, where he took shelter. But the word of the LORD came to him: Why are you here, Elijah? He answered: “I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have destroyed your altars and murdered your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.” Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.

When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah?

1 Kings 19:9-13

God didn’t speak to Elijah in the wind, earthquake or fire but in the silence that followed. And Elijah heard because he was actively listening for God. That’s how God chooses to speak to most people who are listening for Him today, in the places of silence. In the tiny whispers.

We live in a loud world now. There is a 24 hour news cycle, multiple social media websites, screaming on talk radio, arguments with strangers in online forums and comments sections, billboards, and you can’t not notice how the volume cranks up with no one touching the remote when a commercial comes on television. And that’s to say nothing of the demands of our personal life where husbands need us to listen about stressful days at work, children need that glass of milk RIGHT NOW, school requires immediate action on that field trip form, the dog is trying to hold it til you can get the door open, and even church needs us to remember to collect spare change for CRS Project Rice Bowl and name brand soda for the festival. Yeah, I’m sure God screaming in all of this to get our attention would have to come natural-disaster-style to really get our attention.

We have to make our seeking out of God an active thing. We can’t sit there and wait for Him to show up like the Jewish people did for 200 years after the Prophet Malachi passed. We have gifts He gave us, after all, that they didn’t have. Namely His Son and the Holy Spirit. We have Jesus’ life and words at the ready in our Bibles as well as the teachings of the Prophets, but we have to actively set aside time to read and reflect on what is there. We have to mentally, spiritually, and sometimes physically step away from the noise of the world to hear what is written there. We have Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and when we are able to visit Him in Eucharistic Adoration either in person or virtually, we must force ourselves to tune out of the world around us. Turn off our cell phones, shut other browser windows and focus our eyes and hearts on Him. We have the Holy Spirit. As Catholics, we sometimes forget about this Third Person of the Holy Trinity despite invoking His name each time we pray the Sign of the Cross. I’m here to tell you it’s time to remember and to not just remember, but to engage. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit for discernment in hearing God’s voice and strength to truly listen and follow. We should be seeking the Holy Spirit as actively as we do the Father and the Son.

God can show up in big ways, but I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have a hurricane or earthquakes, or forest fires every time God needs to make His presence known. God only did that kind of stuff for people who were wavering in their faith, straying far from the flock or actively disobeying His direct orders (ahem, Jonah).  We should be seeking Him beyond Sunday services and we should be making sure we’re listening. In this time of loud, we should be finding Him in the Silence.


Binge-Watch: 30 Rock

The Friday before Mother’s Day I decided to get myself a present and that present is Netflix. We’ve never had the service before because when it was just dvds, I dreaded losing them and once it changed to a streaming service we only had a Wii to stream through and that thing was on its last legs brand new (we also had horrible internet service at our old house). So after living here a year and having a Smart Tv, I decided to take the plunge and with one month free…even better.

I’m not a tv-nut but I’ve always had “my shows” and one of them was/is 30 Rock. Getting to re-watch the series, I am reminded why I loved and continue to love it.

I don’t know that Tina Fey had the idea for 30 Rock the entire time she was a writer/head writer/cast member of Saturday Night Live, but it is pretty obvious she had something special in mind when she left SNL. Fey’s new show was not about writing for a weekly late-night live “variety” show of sorts, it was about a woman who was the head writer of a show and her struggles in her life and career and with the crazy people she worked with. And it worked.

Fey gained fame on SNL as the first (and thus far only) female head writer. And while people lauded her breaking the glass ceiling and further proving that “women aren’t funny” to be a myth, the show continues to this day to struggle under the scrutiny of the make-up of its performers.


Previous to Fey, writer turned US Senator Al Franken has reminisced that when original cast member Garrett Morris left the show, Franken and fellow writers realized a lot of missed opportunities to utilize the African American actor’s talents.With the notable exception of Eddie Murphy, African Americans cast on the show tended not to be front and center in most sketches. Chris Rock, Tim Meadows, and Ellen Cleghorn had their moments but they were too few and far between and in the interim mutliple actors of color made brief appearances before disappearing altogether. Since Fey’s departure from SNL, not only have the women increased in number and opportunities to perform but African American males led by Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson have taken center stage. Alas, the lack of minority women has continued to plague the show’s diversity although in the past few years Sasheer Zamata and Leslie Jones have been cast and made their presence felt (keep this diversity theme in the back of your mind).

Enter Tracy Morgan. Like Morris, Rock, Meadows and Cleghorn before him, Morgan felt more like a background character in other actors’ sketches. I have to believe Tina Fey knew he could be more and if SNL couldn’t show his hilarity, well, she could in her own show. Part of Tracy’s appeal in humor is his natural persona and Fey cast him as a character based on himself, Tracy Jordan.

Fey also made other important connections at SNL like with multiple time host Alec Baldwin who she cast as up-and-coming GE turned Kabletown exec Jack Donaghy. Baldwin was able to play a suave and dapper gentleman type with a ruthless business streak but who had a weakness for underlings not reaching their full potential  leading his character to become a mentor to Fey’s Liz Lemon as well as advising Tracy, Jenna (Jane Krakowski), Kenneth (Jack McBrayer), Pete (Scott Adsit) and others.

Fey had personal connections with most of her cast which led to brilliant casting moves like her former Second City-ers Scott Adsit as TGS’s producer Peter Hornberger and Jack McBrayer as NBC Page Kenneth Parcells (both Adsit and McBrayer then went on to have starring voice roles in Disney Animation studio productions: McBrayer as Fix-It Felix in Wreck-It Ralph and Adsit as Baymax in Big Hero 6). For smaller recurring characters like Pete’s wife Paula she cast SNL writer/producer Paula Pell and hilariously as everyone’s doctor Dr Leo Spaceman (pronounced Spa-che-men by everyone except Tracy who calls him Dr Space-Man) former SNL performer Chris Parnell. Her title cast was rounded out with stand-up comedian Judah Friedlander as the writer with the trucker hats with funny things written on them Frank Rossitano and as Jenna Maroney actress Jane Krakowski (the only two leads not friends of Fey’s before the show and whose characters were not written with them in mind).

It’s impossible to create as series that is set in NYC without including famous people nor in the NBC building without running into some NBC personalities. Fey was well aware of this fact and so we saw NBC News‘ Brian Williams, Lester Holt, Ann Curry, Meredith Viera and Andrea Mitchell (among others) make cameos as themselves. Some of the familiar faces were those of Liz’s boyfriends: Floyd (SNL alum Jason Sudeikis), Dennis (former SVU co-star, current Brooklyn 99 recurring character, and All-State’s Mayhem Dean Winters), and Drew (the one and only Jon Hamm). Some of the cast members’ mothers have Broadway pedigrees like Jack’s mother Colleen Donnelly played by the late legendary Elaine Stritch and Frank’s mother Mrs. Rossitano  played by Patti LuPone.

Even Fey’s real-life husband and co-creator/producer and show composer Jeff Richmond had a role as TGS musician Alfonso.

But casting was only part of the equation. After all, plot matters! Just the antics of the writers who get into frequent prank wars or Tracy and Jenna’s antics as stars or Liz’s personal disasters or even the sweet, albeit unusual, friendship of Jack and Liz would make for a great show. But Fey didn’t want great, she wanted to hit it out of the park and so she did. Each episode was chockful of all of the above.

Take, for example, the season five episode, Mrs Donaghy, it is revealed that Jack managed to accidentally marry Liz at his destination New Year’s wedding to Avery. When this comes to light, Liz’s response is to say she’s sorry he “got caught up in another of Liz Lemon’s adventures.” This adventure then leads to a stand-off between Jack and Liz over the company’s profitability, her own show’s profitability, their personal relationship as friends/mentor/mentee and comes to a head when Liz appears on television as Elizabeth Lemon-Donaghy and pledges $5 million to a program for the arts in schools. They resolve their issues in a human resources office meeting about personal relationships in the workplace and nepotism (after all, at least on paper they were married!).

The show also wasn’t afraid to take risks. They poked fun at their own network’s policies with episodes about product placement in primetime shows (Snapple and Verizon were targets) and NBC’s “green week” where Liz dares make fun of the green peacock on the screen, among other things. They drew back the curtain of the back-biting and competitiveness of network news when Avery went up against multi-ethnic reporter Carmen Chao (Vanessa Lachey) for an open spot as an economics correspondent for NBC Nightly News (this particular episode also highlighted discrimination against pregnant women for promotions as the chief thing Avery’s competition held over her was Avery’s pregnancy). They even exposed stereotypes for what they were when Jack and Liz traveled to Georgia to find new talent and met Jeff Dunham and Bubba J (called Ron Wayne and Pumpkin for the episode). And remember how SNL struggled with diversity? Fey found a way to deal with that too by having a US Representative (played by Queen Latifah) accuse NBC of lacking diversity and Jack trying to use TGS’s writer “Toofer” (Keith Powell)- a play on “two-for” because he’s African American and attended Harvard (it is later in this episode is is also revealed he is gay) and promoting him to “co-head writer.”   And then there were the two episodes shot live in front of a studio audience.

The risk taking took off in the series’ second episode when Liz comforts Jenna by reminding her that “it’s still called The Girlie Show and you are the girl.” This is immediately met by new posters going up calling the show “TGS starring Tracy Jordan” and replacing Jenna’s image with Tracy’s. Fey established early on that women in the workplace in entertainment, particularly comedy, was a risk that didn’t always work or at least not the way some want it to. Double standards became a theme that the show tackled in multiple interesting ways.

To top all that off, in knowing the background of the show, it had multiple setbacks to overcome off screen including a writer’s strike and Tracy Morgan’s health issues (he required a kidney transplant). While  writer’s strick simply had to be waited out, there was creative writing that solved the issue of Tracy’s absence (after having him EGOT, he cracked under pressure and went into hiding…he then had to be found). The real-life pregnancies of the two female leads, however, were dealt with in very different ways. While Jane Krakowski’s pregnancy was carefully hidden through the magic of tv (ie having her shot from the chest up mostly) with the exception of the 100th episode when during a gas leak in the NBC building when for a brief moment Jenna is shown pregnant as a “hysterical pregnancy”, Tina Fey’s pregnancy was more complicated. It resulted in a mid-season start for the show as Fey’s character is the main character. Fey and Richmond had not planned on having a second child but the pleas of their oldest for a brother or sister meant they carefully planned out all the details because for them, they had too many people depending on the show’s success. (Jenna did not have a pregnancy because that character would have been a truly terrible mother, Fey revealed in interviews after Krakowski’s pregnancy became known.) The final season of the show only happened after Alec Baldwin volunteered to take a pay cut.

Yes, you could say I’ve fallen in love with the show once again.

It’s reminded me that creative, talented people are complicated and strange stuff can totally happen but it’s nice to have ridiculous stuff to take our brains on vacation as well. And this show is a great reminder that what shouldn’t work on paper, with all the right elements can shine.

I laughed at the same scenes years later and the same moments that touched me at the first viewing were still poignant. Although it’s only been a few years, 30 Rock is showing signs of being a show that will stand the test of time and, thanks to services like Netflix, will be discovered by a whole new generation of viewers.

High Fiving a  Million Angels

We Made It

Tuesday was the last day of school for the 2015-2016 school year. For the un-initiated, my kids attend public school and are not immoral hooligans and this is not a form of child abuse. Ahem.

We’ve been slack when it comes to “teacher gifts” in the past, which, as a family where the parent is a teacher is pretty bad. This year though, we’ve been so incredibly grateful for every part of our experience, it seemed downright sinful not to give end of the year gifts in appreciation. I considered giving each teacher a single flower with a note. Jeff and Joseph, were light years ahead of me. Joseph saw our potted plants and announced to Jeff that we should definitely give each teacher a plant. A plant, in most cases, will certainly last longer than a single cut flower. comes in a re-usable planter AND bonus, we already had them so they were free.

Teacher appreciation

So, Monday morning I drove the boys to school with their plants and I took Shelby’s. We delivered all three plants to absolutely delighted teachers. I had written on the planters, “Thanks for helping me bloom” and then each child wrote their name (yes, even Shelby).

Tuesday afternoon the kids came home. Jeff has this boffo tradition of blasting Alice Cooper’s School’s Out for the last day of school (nevermind that it’s kind of cliche and that he still has to report in for five additional days). The boys were not impressed.

The last two days of school were cleaning days in Joseph’s classroom (his teacher will be in a new room next year as she moves to teach kindergarten). William’s teacher had board and card games on Monday and Tuesday was rated G movies (but no Disney, Pixar or Dreamworks…something about it being a school-wide ban?).

And just to make life fun, Tuesday morning we had a tropical storm come ashore.


In case you were wondering how that turned out…

We finished our first school year in our new home and we are so happy how things turned out. Nothing was perfect all the time, but it was amazing nonetheless! Now onto summer!