July 2016 archive

Perfect 10

We are a mere nine days from the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Rio. The summer games are always my favorite. I can watch the swimmers, divers and gymnasts for hours and be in the purest state of awe as their bodies move in ways that seem almost humanly impossible. They are truly glorious athletes and I will sit, in my own personal glory, and eat lots of snacks and drink Diet Coke while watching them all go for the gold.

I never had aspirations of being an Olympiad, which I am sure comes as quite a surprise. I was far more concerned that the blue and gold ribbons in my hair matched my uniform to get too caught up with the actual sport that I was participating in. I attended Catholic school from K-12 and in grade school, I played all of the sports, excelling in none of them. During the summer, we belonged to Mackenzie Swim Club, a fond but distant memory, and of course, I was on the swim team. There was also a diving team, but I was never a part of that. I think the summer that a member fell through the bars on the high dive, crashed to the ground and broke both of her arms (totally sounds like this should have been me) killed any thought my mother may have had of getting me signed up for another adventure.

swim

 

For as many summers as I can remember, we were at the pool every day. My parents had four kids and for a few hundred dollars a year, this kept every single one of us happily occupied for hours and hours. All of my brothers and I grew up to be decent swimmers with no fear of the water. Our parents bought the house that they live in now when we were all young adults and lucky for us, there is an enormous pool in the backyard. As we have grown up, gotten married and had children, Maurmi and Pop Pop’s house is the perfect summer spot to take our kids for hours on end.

The Handsomes love to head over to their house when The Grillin’ Fool and I get home from work at night. I normally stay home with Darling, our sweet baby girl, but a few nights ago, he had some evening work to do for a client, so I took the boys for an adventure. It’s averaging 600 degrees here in the STL, so the water feels like a freshly drawn bath, perfect for evening swims. Maurmi and I spent our night floating and chatting with frequent interruptions of, “Mom! Watch this!” “Maurmi, look at me!” and “Hey, this is my best one yet.” Over and over they were in and out of the water doing tricks off of the diving board and calling us out instantly if we happened to blink.

Handsome #1 made his way over to Maurmi and I in the shallow water and started doing handstands. He went up and down barely keeping his skinny little legs together before toppling over and splashing us.

“Shoot! I just can’t keep me legs up,” he complained.

“You’ll get it buddy, you just have to keep practicing,” I reassured him.

“Can you just show me?”

“Oh, honey, I haven’t done a handstand in 30 years.”

“Please!”

When your child, who is so very much like you not only in his looks but in his manipulative ways, begs you to help him, you move your aging, expanding and somewhat sagging body to the deeper water, hold your breath and give it your best shot. I went under, hoisted my body up on my arms, attempted to put my legs together and flopped over on my back. I splashed with such gusto that I imagined the water to be far below the skimmer when I resurfaced. I was a bit embarrassed, but figured, I would give it another shot. Once again I held my breath, said a quick Hail Mary and went under. This time, I got one leg up and plunged forward. I came up for air feeling defeated, a bit light headed and determined to get both legs up and together. Third time’s a charm, right? I took a deep breath and made a final attempt, but never got my legs fully extended. Instead, my left arm slipped and I went crashing down, think Shamu Show in the big tank. I came up for air and was suddenly extremely nauseated.

The head rush from my failed attempts at showing my children that I could master something as an adult that I was never even kind of good at as a kid, was too much. I began gagging and headed for the steps.

“Colleen, what is the matter with you?” Maurmi questioned.

“Nothing, gag, I am fine, gag, gag, gag.”

“Mom, mom, are you OK?” Handsome #2 yelled from the deep.

I moved from the steps to the side of the pool dry heaving and laying my head on the salty, hot concrete. I was positioned on the ground like a beached whale, wet, flailing and disoriented, just hoping that someone would direct me back to my proper place. The fuzziness in my brain rivaled any morning after the very best nights of my life in my early 20s. I was breathing slowly in through my nose and out of my mouth. I was afraid to open my eyes, for I was certain that the world was not just spinning, but also on fire and laughing at me.

“Colleen, are you alright? What in the heck is going on?”

“Mom, I am fine! I just got a little dizzy, I’ll be fine.”

“I can’t imagine how that happened? Your form was just lovely,” she smirked.

This coming from the woman who breaks into tap dancing at Hobby Lobby, but I digress. It took a couple of minutes, but I finally gained my composure and was able to get back in the water, my handstand days clearly over. I grabbed a noodle and floated effortlessly, not a care in the world. Then, Handsome #2 yelled from the deep,

“Hey, mom! Can you show me how to do a back flip off the board?”

8 High Hopes I Have for My Girl

Handsome #3 stood on the deck in nothing but his Underoos, his chubby little belly protruding and a big smile on his face.

“Look at him. He is so sweet and happy, letting it all hang out, not a care in the world. Can you imagine having that kind of self confidence?” I asked The Grillin’ Fool.

“What do you mean? I do!” He said with a smirk.

He was only half joking. If he didn’t think anyone would call the cops, he’d be on the deck in his underwear too. But instead, he parades around the house in his boxer briefs and a t-shirt with his bird legs dancing and doesn’t think twice. I, on the other hand, feel like I should have on Spanx under my nightgown just in case the door bell rings in the middle of the night.

My husband has no shame when it comes to his body. He’s a forty-something with four kids just trying to make it through the day like every other man supporting a family. He purchases zero self-care items and will use any bottle in the shower. He has never in his life looked at a nutrition label for sugar, fat or calorie information. As long as it doesn’t smell too bad he will wear it. He is so happy in his own skin, that nothing phases him.

I have birthed three sons who are exactly like him. Handsome #1 is thin and lanky. He loves to brush his hair over to the side and lather himself up in body wash. He doesn’t care one bit about what his clothes look like and will let me pick whatever I want from his closet. Handsome #2 is a bit more of a fashionista. He has a very particular opinion about what to put on,and will fight for a win. Even if that means a sweater vest and a pair of athletic shorts. He’ll wear that combination proudly. Handsome #3 has more confidence in his little finger than the rest of them combined. They are precious, perfect little boys and I want to be just like them.

For years, I worried about what would happen if God ever gave me a daughter. How could I possibly set a good example of body image and confidence if that is the one thing that I truly struggle with on a daily basis? For my first seven years as a mom, I parented my three boys knowing that their father would have a profound impact on the type of men they will become, but not worrying that my self image would affect them.

Then a surprise pregnancy brought the biggest surprise of my life, a daughter. I was thrilled beyond thrilled, but equally terrified that I would screw her up. I am the one who she will look to for strength and guidance. She will come to me for advice and help. I will be her example of self confidence and womanhood. I want to do it right.

DMT

Thankfully, she is only a few months old and I have some time to get my act together. Gone are the days of looking in the mirror and listing all of things that I hate about my body and face. The insecurities that have plagued me for years have to die before they begin to rear their ugly face in my daughter’s eyes. When I look at her, I feel inspired to be better. She is innocent and pure and beautiful. She is so beautiful. I never want her to doubt that. I do a lot wrong, don’t we all? But, there are a few things that I have picked up along the way that I hope that she might think are worthwhile nuggets of advice.

1. Laugh- Laugh Loudly and raucously even if you are the only one who gets the joke. Most importantly, laugh at yourself and know that everyone makes mistakes. Make others laugh and know that there is no better medicine. I would also be extremely proud if you were the third generation class clown at a certain all girls Catholic high school, but I will not put unfair pressure on you to be anything that you are not.

2. Fall Hopelessly in Love with a Boy Band- There is nothing better than covering your bedroom walls with pictures of the men that you are certain you will marry one day. I will happily download all of their music, buy crazy expensive tickets and sob with you when you see them in person for the first time. Trust me, you will want to keep your t-shirts, earrings and every overpriced accessory you can even when you think you are over that part of your life. I will gladly help you hoard them, and hide them from your father, so that when your favorite band goes on tour in 20 years, you can squeeze your postpartum body into that shirt and feel like a kid again.

3. Be a Friend- Not just to the cool kids or the popular people, be a friend to everyone who needs it. The shy little girl in the back of the room wants to play in the game too, invite her. Always be the nice girl, not the mean girl. Years from now people will remember the slightest bit of kindness that you have shown them. I’m sure at some point, you will feel the wrath of a mean girl, and it will hurt, but please do your best to be kind, to watch your words and to walk away with a smile on your face, it will make you stronger.

4 . Listen- This is a tough one, because you come from a long line of people who love to talk. But, trust me as much as you may want to speak, wait your turn and let others talk. It isn’t always about what you have to say, sometimes it is about what you don’t say and the time that you take to hear someone else that makes all the difference.

5. Pray-Every single day of your life take a moment to talk to God. Thank Him for what you have, who you are and where you are going. Ask for forgiveness and guidance. Your faith will guide you in life’s most difficult times. When all else fails, close your eyes and whisper, Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in thee. This has gotten several generations of women in our family through tougher times than I could ever imagine.

6. Wear Red Lipstick- Wear bright lips, shabby overalls, plaid high heel shoes, or pink gloves. Your friends may tell you that it is too bright, or too bold, or too much, but if it makes you feel good, do it! If it makes you feel pretty, then wear it, use it and flaunt it often, no matter what it is. You will develop a signature style that screams your name, make sure to scream it back.

7. If You Can’t Do it in Front of Me, Don’t Do It- This isn’t a threat, and it isn’t meant to be scary, it is just something for you to always think about. I learned this from my own mother many, many years ago. And to this day, it still rings true. The older you get, the more time you will spend on your own and you will be faced with challenges and choices to do things that you may not feel right about. If you would be comfortable doing it in front of me, you are golden. If not, it’s probably not the best idea.

8. Be Happy With the Skin You Are In- You are not fat, not today, not tomorrow, not ever! You are gorgeous and perfect and exactly as you were meant to be. Don’t ever let anyone dim your sparkle, especially not someone who wants you to fit in to some kind of mold. They aren’t worth your time if they think a single freckle on your nose needs to change.

As I read over my words, it was very clear to me that this advice is just as important to my boys as my girl. All I want is to raise children who are kind, loving and respectful members of society. Each day I try to be a good mom and I realize that parenting will never end, it will never get easier, it will always change. And it is the greatest challenge I have ever accepted as it forces me to set an example and thoughtfully work to be a better person. To my children, I am so grateful and I love you.

Airing Our Dirty Laundry, All Over Saint Louis Hills

 

My first reaction to this video was to be critical of myself. The horrendous screen shot of a five-week postpartum mother, couldn’t they have chosen something better? I wanted to point out my errors, the way that I look and the way that I sound. But, I am throwing all of that out the window. I am so incredibly proud of this accomplishment. I stepped completely out of my comfort zone, put my heart and soul on the line with an original piece and the audience loved it. I am so incredibly thankful for the support of my family, my three brothers and my dad, who allowed me to bring a little laughter into the world at all of their expense, but particularly to my mother, who has always been my biggest supporter. I am also grateful for my husband and children who allowed me to take this time to be completely selfish and to do something just for me. I love each and every one of you!

The Listen to Your Mother experience truly was life changing for me. It helped me to realize that God has blessed me with a talent and that I need to take advantage of that talent. I am currently working on a collection of essays from my childhood, very similar to the following, that I hope to publish soon. I appreciate all of your kind words and your love. You will be seeing a lot more from me soon!