Archive of ‘OMG’ category

The Spark in the Dark that Almost Killed Me

 

I was sitting down to enjoy those bonbons everyone talks about when I heard the call from the top of the steps.

“Mom! Come quick,” my handsome son implored.

His face was pale and his brow glistening with sweat, like he’d seen a ghost.

“Something just happened to me in my bed. I wasn’t expecting it and I don’t know what to do.”

Oh, God. I knew eventually this would happen, but I was not prepared. I vaguely remembered a few terms from family life class in fifth grade. Yes, I have three boys and am well-versed in the equipment, but I would never pretend I actually know how it works. And, of course, his father wasn’t home. He’s never home for the good stuff. He missed the slammed door, resulting in fingernail removal. He conveniently lost out on the insane diaper blowout that ended with me cutting the baby’s clothes off. He was missing in action when I was showering and saw four-year-old eyes creeping at me, became startled, and shaved off enough skin to require stitches. He never gets to have any fun.

I took a deep breath, strapped on my best Dr. Ruth, and got ready for, “the talk.”

“Come on down and we’ll chat.” Now I was the one covered in sweat.

“OK. But mom, I think dad would be a better person to talk to. I mean, I think he knows more about it than you do.”

Astute observation, but dad was enjoying the good life, the kind with beer, somewhere else.

“I know more than you think,” I lied. We Catholics invented confession for moments like this.

“Alright. I am just going to say it. I know I was supposed to be sleeping, but I was in my bed playing.”

My pulse was racing. My entire adolescence flashed before me.

“I quickly moved my fingers across the blanket. It felt funny, like it never has before,” he continued.

“Uh, huh.” My eyes were like saucers. I hung on his every word. I could only mumble incoherently, and that was giving it my very best.

“And then, suddenly, blue electric shocks started coming out of my fingers. The more I moved my hands, the more came out. I couldn’t believe it, mom! Do you know what this means?”

This is the part when I briefly blacked out.

“No, baby, what does it mean?”

“It means that I am starting to get my powers. It means that I am officially Justice League material. It means that super heroes are absolutely real. When is dad going to be home? He is going to freak out.”

For the record, Benjamin Franklin, I think we know what really happened.

My Funny Valentine

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A time when men spend ridiculous amounts of money on candy and flowers and women kill themselves making sure that their child has the most Pinterest-worthy creation of the bunch. I prefer to show up at Target on Valentine’s eve with cranky kids and a very specific character wish list and hope for the best. This year was no different.

I should have known I was in trouble the second I got there. Handsome #3 had just gotten out of school and he was entirely too exhausted to walk. I had a list a mile long, so sitting in the back of the cart was out. The only option was grabbing the two seater wagon, you know, the one that resembles an 18-wheeler, and forging through. I didn’t have my purse, just my clutch wallet and I didn’t want to throw it into the cart because it was so far away from me and I wouldn’t be able to stop the would-be muggers from snatching it, so I laid it on the handles closest to me and began my shopping.

I handed both of my friends a granola bar when we walked in hoping that if I plied them with food, we could avoid the toy department. It didn’t work. We walked every aisle compiling birthday and Christmas lists for the next ten years. I grabbed diapers and wipes, checked out the clothing department and finally made it over to the valentines, the sole purpose of this expedition.

I walked into what appeared to be a battlefront. There were cards and candies and flowers scattered throughout the aisles. The savages has been there and they didn’t leave much behind for us last-minute moms. Thankfully, Handsome #3 isn’t picky and we were able to make a quick selection. I checked my list and saw a few more food items, so we took a leisurely stroll through the grocery department.

I had just marked the last item off of my list when I looked down and realized that my wallet was gone. My first thought was, “Holy $h!+, the Grillin’ Fool is going to kill me!!!” This wallet was a nice wallet, an anniversary gift,t and I knew that he would be really mad that it was gone. My mother has taught me that in a situation like this you need to forget any advice about taking a deep breath and staying calm, rather begin the five alarm panicking immediately.

I maniacally rummaged through the cart, hoping that I had just dropped it. No dice. I got sick to my stomach. There were 500 store employees stocking grocery items,so I asked every one of them in my most hysterical voice, “Have you seen a wallet?!?!?!?!” They looked at my like I was crazy, most saying no and going back to work.I ran to the front of the store driving the cart as big as a bus, and yelled to the customer service manager, “Has anyone turned in a wallet?” She seemed confused. A man told me to calm down and said, “Don’t worry, We’ll find your daughter.” My panic was clearly misunderstood.

After customer service failed me, I retraced my steps. I rushed through the store dodging customers and making quick turns. It was just like Supermarket Sweep but without the cheers and giant hams. I made it to the toy department and got down on the floor, crawling and peeking under all of the shelves. I felt a tap on my shoulder and a, “Ma’am, can I help you?” Finally, someone was taking this seriously.

“I can’t find my wallet. It was on the top of the basket. It’s gone. I think someone stole it. I would have heard it hit the ground. Jesus, my husband is going to kill me!”

He got on his walkie-talkie and started some official business.

“Can I get someone from LP? We’ve got a E345 in Toys. I repeat, E345 in toys. Ma’am, were going to do everything we can to help you, but you have to remain calm.”

I’m not sure why he thought I wasn’t calm . Perhaps it was the heavy breathing, or the tears, or the fact that I was laying on the floor. He acted like he’d never seen this before.

“OK, I’m going to check in diapers, you head back toward the valentines,” he directed.

After assessing the situation, he knew that it was in his best interest to stay as far away from me as he possibly could. I charged back through the toy department, headed to seasonal. Piece by piece I tore apart the entire grocery section, in hopes that I had accidentally placed the wallet on a shelf as I shopped. My heart was racing. I felt like I was going to throw up. I called my husband and told him that someone had stolen my wallet and that I was going to have to call the police. We’d review the security footage and hopefully the whole story would land on the news and I’d get the wallet back. All he could say was, “calm down.”

Unsatisfied with him, I called my mother crying. I ranted and raved like a lunatic. She said, “Calm down. Say a prayer, you’ll find it.” Who the hell was I talking to? This is the same woman ready to call 911 when she can’t find the glasses that are sitting on top of her head, and she wants me to call down?!?!?!

I could feel my stomach turning as I searched every aisle and crawled along the dust-covered floors. After 45 minutes and several sweeps of the store, I gave up. My wallet was gone and I wasn’t going to get it back. My credit cards would have to be cancelled, I was out cash, I’d have to get a new library card. This sucked. I cried as I accepted defeat and headed to the front of the store. I had no money to buy the filled-to-the-brim cart, so I thought it best to leave it at the front and hang my head as I walked out the door.

I got ready to unload the kids when I saw a tiny beige strap peaking from the side of Darling’s jacket. This time, it was cold sweats. This couldn’t possibly be happening. I moved her forward and there it was, right under her sweet little buns. It laughed at me, you big stupid idiot, if you’d just remained calm and opened your damn eyes, you would have spotted me an hour ago.

I started the walk of shame, apologizing to everyone in the store, customers and employees alike. I wanted to ditch the cart and run, but they would all know it was mine. I had to face my demons. I walked to the checkout and was greeted by a sweet young man.

“How are you today, ma’am?

“Much better now. I lost my wallet, but thankfully it was just in the cart.”

“Oh, you’re the crazy lady they’ve all been talking about on the walkie this morning?”

I’m never going back…….

Got Milk?

“Look, Colleen, here’s the deal. When you’re a kid, your mother is an idiot. And then she becomes OK for a while. And then, well, she just falls again. You are just back to the time in your life when your mother is an idiot.”

This profound, and mostly true, quote didn’t come up in conversation at after school pickup. I didn’t receive a text from my bestie explaining my life. Nope, wasn’t a meme on my Facebook feed either. These words were astutely spoken by my own mother as we reminisced over coffee about an incident earlier in the week.

Typical day for Maurmi and me. We were headed on an adventure with Handsome #3 and Darling while the other Handsomes were in school. It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood and we promised Handsome #3 the finest cuisine at McDonald’s and some time on the swings at the park. He barrelled through his nuggets and fries, but had no interest in his chocolate milk. As we gathered our things, I noticed his bottle left on the window sill. I headed to the car with Darling and called out to Maurmi, “Grab that milk and toss it.” She heard, “Grab that milk.” This is where the trouble began.

There are two rules in my home that are infallible. A boy may never show up at my table with his armpits exposed. We do not do breakfast shirtless, there are no tank tops allowed, period. We keep the offensive body part, that will one day be covered in hair and hanging balls of deodorant -yep, I just threw up too-covered at all times. The other rule that we do not break? Under no circumstances is milk ever allowed in the car. One sippy cup that dripped on the floor mat of my luxury sedan and caused the car to smell like the foulest of bodily functions for the remainder of my ownership was the end of to-go dairy products.

I finished loading Darling and Handsome #3 in the car and went to buckle myself in when I saw it. A half full bottle of death with no lid staring me in the face as it made its descent into the cup holder. Then in slow motion I screamed and grabbed for the bottle, “Nooooooooo!”

Just as my arm reached down, so did Maurmi’s. I unintentionally hit her in the head, knocking her sunglasses off of her face and turning her hair into a bird’s nest. As our arms collided, the bottle went flying and milk spilled right in between the seat and the arm rest. You know where I mean, right? The most difficult place to reach in the entire car. The place that collects pennies, french fries, dust and when you were in high school the tell tale ashes that you could never quite vacuum up and subsequently blew your Marlboro lovin’ cover when your dad got in. Yeah, that’s the place.

“OMG. OMG. OMG. Milk! Seriously, milk? Holy $h!+, mom! You know that is a rule! That is the number one rule,” I screamed.

“You told me to grab the milk,” She yelled.

“No I said grab the milk and toss it.”

“You said grab the milk!! Holy Jesus, Colleen. What in the hell are you talking about? My head really hurts. OMG! Am I bleeding? I am serious, you could have given me a concussion. Damn it, Colleen. It is extremely painful,” she said.

“I am sorry. I never meant to hurt you. Really, I am sorry. I would never hurt you!”

That’s when I started to cry. I was crying partly because I hurt my mother and partly because my car was drowning in chocolate milk. The two of us grabbed wet wipes and every fast food napkin that she has hoarded in my glove box for the last three years and started the massive cleanup.

“I’ve got it, Colleen, just get out of the way,” she demanded.

“No, you don’t know where it is. I’ll get it. OMG, milk. I can’t believe this milk,” I moaned.

“Colleen, I swear to Christ if you don’t calm down I am going to call your father to come and pick me up. Get yourself together!”

We bickered back and forth for what seemed like an hour as we detailed the ole Odyssey. Since it was peak lunchtime hours, the drive thru was packed. We walked back and forth through the cars dumping sopping wet brown napkins in the trash. Driver’s gagged as they attempted to order lunch and looked at what appeared to be vomit trailing from my car to the trash can over and over again.

We cleaned it up as best we could and I started the Hail Mary hoping for divine intercession from the Blessed Mother that I would not be knocked out by the smell of spoiled milk when the temps hit 90! We got back in the car, me sobbing and her rubbing the top of her head and checking her fingertips for blood.

Handsome #3 was hell bent on going to the park and despite the fact that she never wanted to speak to me again, she would never disappoint him so we continued on in silence. We got to the park loaded Darling in the stroller, got Handsome #3 out of the car and headed to see the animals. Once again, not a word was spoken. Maurmi broke her silence momentarily to tell me that she needed to go to the bathroom. I acknowledged her request and followed behind with my kids in tow.

She said hello to a man passing by and headed in the door. Immediately I yelled, “Mom! Mom!” Silence and then I hear her distant call, “Oh! Oh! OMG! Colleen!”

She came out of the door and we both collapsed in laughter. I could not breathe I was laughing so hard and tears rolled down her cheeks. We had to take turns running to the bathroom as we both wet our pants standing there.

“Everything was fine. It was all fine. And then I saw the urinal. Then I realized I was somewhere  I shouldn’t be. I think I have a concussion from when you hit me in the head. I was very confused in there.” She said through the tears.

Just as it always does, our day ended with laughter. My mother is my very best friend and she brings out the best and the worst of me. But even when she is more angry at me than she has ever been in her life, she will let it all go for a laugh. And despite what she believes I think of her, the only idiot that day was me. Life is too short to get worked up over spilled milk. Even if it is in your car and will make it smell like a landfill in just a few weeks. That’s what Febreeze and Yankee Candle car fresheners are for, right?

We headed to pick up the older Handsomes from school. We asked how their days went and they asked about ours. Maurmi said, “Listen to what your mother did to me today?” They always love to hear her stories and immediately had their listening ears on. I quickly interrupted and asked, “What is the number one rule in my car?”

Handsome #1-“That’s easy, no milk in the car.”

Handsome #3-“No milk in the car.”

Handsome #2-“Um, no guns in the car. Well, at least that’s the rule for me, right?”

Just like Meatloaf said, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

 

 

 

My Barbies Taught Me How to be a Good Mom


When I was a kid I played with my Barbie dolls every day. I had Barbie and the Rockers, California Dream Barbie, I even had those knockoff Maxie Dolls. I was a Barbie Girl living in a Barbie world long before Aqua came around. My Barbies all lived in the Dream House and dated the New Kids on the Block and Michael Jackson, who were way cooler than Ken. I spent so much time with my Barbies that by the time I had children, I considered myself prepared for all kinds of things. As a matter of fact, Barbies taught me so many lessons I never even cracked a single What to Expect about anything book.

First and foremost I think we can all agree that you should not cut your children’s hair, right? This one is a given. We all took our Fiskars to that beloved blonde hair and thought for sure that she would end up with a chic bob afterward. Instead, Barbie was forever taking the walk of shame with a lop-sided reverse mullet. The same lesson applies to kids. Unless you have a license with your picture on it, your sweet little child does not deserve the psychological torture that comes from taking a whack at her bangs with safety scissors. We all remember that girl in the year book with the hat on because her mother was sure she could save $8, God bless her.

Let’s move on to number two, don’t leave your children unattended on the floor. Your mother always told you not to leave your dolls laying out when you left the room or the dog would eat them. No, I don’t think the dog will eat the baby, but the baby sure as hell will eat anything off of the floor if you’re not looking. I have screamed in slow motion watching my daughter eat the most minuscule speck of leftover wood chip that remained on the hearth from the winter gone by. I turned my back for one second and she was eating the most organic meal ever prepared in our house. Just like my mother said, we should always pack up our things, dolls and babies, and take them where they are out of harm’s way.

Next, we need to be super careful when we are dressing our children. Barbies came in two varieties, the ones with the smooth legs who could wear anything and the kind with the rubber legs that took forever to dress. So much time was spent pulling and stretching that half of my Barbies’ wardrobes went from high 80s fashion to trashy street wear in a single, way too hard tug. This is the same with a toddler who is lanky and one with a little more fluff. Don’t bother trying to stuff a 25lb one-year-old into some skinny jeans. Give that little girl some stretchy leggings and let her breathe! If you insist of having a mini fashionista on your hands, you’ll just end up pulling too hard, stuff will get ripped, and there will be lots of tears.

Let’s move on to the shoes, shall we? Barbie was loaded with heels, boots, and occasionally a pair of sneakers. Sometimes those shoes just didn’t fit right, causing you to jam them on leaving her feet to stick out kind of funny. A lot of times it was simpler just to throw them on the wrong foot. Have you ever fought with a three-year-old over just about anything when you are 20 minutes late? There is nothing better than talking to a child with his shirt on backwards, his pants inside out and his shoes on the wrong feet when you are headed to mass where you will certainly be judged by every old bitty in the church. No matter how prepared you may be to talk him out of his questionable attire with reverse psychology and bribery, it is a battle of will and more often than not, you are going to lose. Do yourself a favor and throw those Crocs on the wrong feet and the whole family is happy.

Remember when your Barbie’s head popped off and you totally freaked out for a millisecond but then remembered you could just put it back on? Apply that same logic with your kids. If their head pops off, just stick it back on. You know when I say head, I totally mean hat, right? If your kid’s hat falls off, just put the darn thing back on and keep moving. There is absolutely no need to have a complete and total mental breakdown about something that is fixable. We all spend too much time focusing on perfection for ourselves and our kids that we lose sight of the big picture. It will really all be OK even if your family isn’t a Norman Rockwell painting.

Sometimes the best listeners are those who remain silent. I encourage you to keep talking to your children even if they don’t talk back. I had more conversations about important things with my dolls than I have ever had with my husband. Granted he rarely listens to what I say anyway, but I don’t want to take a chance and let anything important slip. That’s why I tell my baby about my new shoes or the dress that I hid in the closet when my husband wasn’t looking. My son was 14 months old and the first one who knew I was pregnant with his brother. It is nice to share the most salacious secrets with your best friend who will never tell a soul.

And finally, love them more than anything. My Barbie dolls were my favorite toy growing up. I never wanted to let them go. But, I got older and it was time to put them away. No matter how old I get, they will always be a special part of me and hold some of my most precious memories.  I know that as my kids get older they will begin to outgrow me, too. Even if they don’t want me to, I will always clothe them, protect them, talk to them, and cherish them just as I did my dolls. But I promise I will never do to them what I did to poor Swedish Barbie’s flowing locks…..ever…..

Five Reasons Why I am a Guilty Catholic

When I was a little girl I stole a pack of Rolos from the grocery store. I use the word stole cautiously because there wasn’t any great premeditated plan. The brown roll with the golden edges looked delicious to my three-year-old eyes, so I grabbed them and headed out of the store with my mother. Once we were in the car she noticed the silence and realized that my mouth was quiet because it was filled with chocolatey caramel goodness. I was immediately marched back in to the store where I proceeded to return the half-eaten stolen merchandise to the cashier along with a long, drawn our apology. Certain that I was faced with eternal damnation, my Catholic guilt was born that day.

I am not uncomfortable in my guilty Catholic skin. As a matter of fact, I kind of like it. I am always double checking what I do or say so that when I have to answer to St. Peter at the gates of heaven, I will have a decent story to tell. Make no mistake, I am doing things wrong all of the time. If you’ve read anything else that I have ever written, you know that. I have learned from my mother, St. Mary Maurmi herself, a few things in my life. I have gladly passed these tenants on to my own children so that they will grow up to be a bit more decent…ish……

My mother had this picture taken an entire year after I made my First Holy Communion….Not that she should feel badly about that……

1. Do not discard anything religious- My mother has boxes of broken rosaries at her house because she is sure that lightening will strike her dead if she dares put one in the trash. “These are blessed, Colleen. You can never get rid of anything blessed.” This one statement is why I have an Infant of Prague statue with no hands hidden in my secretary. I also have funeral cards of the parents of kids who my mother went to grade school with in my memory boxes. I have never met any of these people. Not a one. I have no idea how in the hell (I am going to hell for just typing that) I got them. But I sure as hell (back down to the firey abyss I go) can’t get rid of them. I say a quick may God bless you to Mrs. Mary Jones, b. 1921 d. 1994, every time I pass that Rubbermaid tub in the basement.

2. Make the Sign of the Cross when you pass a Catholic church- I live in St. Louis, you sneeze and you’re outside of a Catholic church. That’s a lot of signs of the cross and plenty of time for reflection. Very often when I am driving alone I listen to 90s gangster rap. As soon as I pass the church, that quick sign of the cross turns into a Hail Mary seeking intercession from the Blessed Mother so that I will not be condemned for listening to music filled with curse words, violence and that objectifies women. I really like rap music so I am often overwhelmed with thoughts that I probably shouldn’t be listening at all. Oh, and if I miss a church, then it is a double sign of the cross followed by a, “$h!+” and an “I’m sorry for cursing.” I get so worked up that I am sinning like crazy, I shut the rap music down and end up listening to Barry Manilow for the remainder of the day.

3. Make Sure you are Giving Back- I feel like every single time I go to the store I am asked if I would like to donate a dollar to a cause. Sometimes I say yes. Other times I really just don’t have the extra cash, so I decline. I am instantly overcome with shame knowing that when the cashier says, “Receipt with you or in the bag?” She is really thinking, “Come on lady, you can’t donate just one dollar? Don’t you know that the cure would happen if you just gave one dollar? But instead, you are enjoying that People Magazine with Richard Simmons on the cover and that Diet Coke, which, by the way, isn’t helping. So, please, take that flaming red hair and matching lips and go on about your business knowing that you have just let down the entire effort. Thanks. Thanks a lot!” I reply, “Bag is fine.” And walk out with my head hung in shame.

4. Don’t Forget the Poor Kids- I hold on to every piece of clothing, toy and book knowing that there is a poor child that needs them. Shirts, shorts, coats and anything worthwhile is bagged up and headed to those in need and the poor kids are thrilled. But what about the leftovers? The problem is, the poor kids don’t want tennis shoes with holes or stained onesies, but I feel so badly about throwing away anything useful that I keep it in bins in my basement. Just in case. My fear that the poor kids will go without is not limited to the hoarding of my children’s cast offs. I bring my sadness for the poor kids into the kitchen, too. If I experiment with a recipe that no one will touch, there is no way that we are throwing it out, because people are starving. So, my husband ends up eating the same casserole for lunch every day for a week. Or, he throws it away when he gets to work. Those decisions are on him. He’s the one who will go to hell for lying….and wasting….not me.

5. Look out for Your Guardian Angel- There is always someone watching you and it isn’t Santa Claus. Sure, he sees you when you are sleeping and knows when you are awake, but the guardian angel isn’t limited to the holiday season. He’s with you 100 percent of the time. That angel will protect you when you need it, but he will also give you a quick reality check when it’s deemed fitting. Have you ever smarted off to your mother or slapped your brother and then walked away and tripped, or banged your elbow on the coffee table or spilled something on your shirt immediately following the infraction? That is your guardian angel giving you a shove. Just ask my mother. She has terrified her four children and eight grandchildren with this little fact for years. Next time you do or say something unkind, you’ll fee a swift kick to the back of your knees and fall right over. Mark my words!

There are a lot of things in life that I am guilty about, but my Catholic guilt is not one of them.  My mother has forever said, “If you can’t do it in front of me, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.” That statement has rung true my entire life. My Catholic guilt does not make me a paranoid basket case. Instead, it helps me to make better choices because I am concerned about what will happen to me if I don’t. They say (I don’t know who they are but they are filled with helpful nuggets of information) good things happen to good people. Lots of people call it guilt, others call it Karma, some say it is blind faith. To me, that guilt is like a warm comforting blanket that makes me feel secure in my choices. But I am not too naive to realize that blanket has the ability to spontaneously burst in to flames in case I get off course, so I always keep a bottle of water close at hand to fight the flames…. Just in case……

My Mom’s Original Gangster Parenting Hacks Would Never Fly Today

My kids are coddled like every other child on the planet. They get participation trophies. They have gigantic water bottles so that they won’t ever dehydrate. They get stickers at Target for being in the cart, even though their behavior is so deplorable I often threaten to leave a few behind. That is the way of our world. We as parents have become soft. The second you attempt to assert tough love you are labeled an a-hole parent by the rest of the pearl-clutching mothers at pick up.

We thirty-something moms were raised by a different pack of wolves. If we didn’t follow the rules, it wasn’t about a gentle consequence like losing a marble from the good girl jar. Our parents pulled out the big guns. Today’s sweet and loving Grannies and Grandpas, whose grand babies can do no wrong, were not kidding around thirty years ago. They taught us lessons that we will never forget.

I am a mother of three boys and one girl, a mirror image of the family that I grew up in. Having four kids is often chaotic, but I guess because I am from a large family it isn’t the ginormous challenge that the world assumes it is. Having said that, I certainly have my fair share of, “What in the world have I gotten myself into?” days. But when I am at my worst, it is comforting to know that my mom was in the exact same place and somehow she made it through. I will often reflect on my own childhood experiences and think how lucky I was to have been raised in a loving family in the 1980s because if I pulled any of my parents’ OG child-rearing hacks today, I’d be in jail. Or at the very least, the confessional…..

Clean up, or else

Today’s child has a chore chart on the wall outlining their daily responsibilities with a corresponding magnet that they can move from one side to the other so as to earn their daily sticker and, ultimately, a prize at the end of the week. In the 1980s you had the, “I swear to God if you don’t clean up this room, I am throwing all of your crap out the window,” method. Parents didn’t just threaten, they followed through. The entire contents of my brothers’ bedroom went flying from a second story window and when my mom said she wouldn’t pick one thing up, she meant it. No,the family’s dirty little secret was never shared with anyone; but the lesson was learned and nothing took flight again. Today, the neighbors would whip out their iPhones to capture video, post it on Facebook and my mom would end up on Dr. Phil defending her boot camp-style parenting.

If you want to leave, go

If a child today threatened to run away, parents would have a mental breakdown. Why are you unhappy? What can I do better? Is there something that we can do to improve your living conditions? When I was a kid if you wanted to move out, your mother would help you pack. As a matter of fact, if you were lucky, she’d grab the gigantic Samsonite from the basement. There were no wheels of course, but it was nice and hard and made a great seat when you needed a rest. She’d pack up all of your clothes, something fancy for church on Sunday, perhaps a swimming suit in the summer, and you’d be on your way. It’s unlikely that you’d make it too far past the front stoop carrying all of your worldly possessions. However, you’d have plenty of time to think the plan through, just as your mother had intended.

You will eat this or starve

If you were a kid in the 1980s you probably had the pleasure of culinary delights like Chicken Tonight, Manwich or if it was a special occasion Bagel Bites and Totino’s Pizza Rolls. No matter what was placed on the table, that was the only option. No one was concerned that you didn’t like the way it looked, smelled or how it felt in your mouth. Dinner was served. And if you were hungry, you would eat it. If you refused, you would be forced to sit with your cold chicken and dumplings, under dimmed lighting, while the rest of the family went to watch ALF without you. If you didn’t eat said dumplings, there would be no other food offered until breakfast. You would legit go to bed hungry and live to tell the tale the next day

Do as I say, not as I do

Going out to dinner was a luxury when I was a kid. Sure there were plenty of fast food joints with outdoor play places that caused permanent scarring from their metal joy rides, but a sit-down meal was a treat. When dining out, party manners were expected, and so help me God; you had better never let anyone know how old you were. Even if it meant keeping your coat on for the entire meal to hide your blossoming chest or ducking down really low in your seat, under no circumstances should the establishment ever question whether or not you were 10 and under. There was no kids eat free with an eligible adult in the good old days. Everyone had to pay their own way, but fathers in the know had a plan. Children were prepped in the car. You are never older than the age limit for a kid’s meal. Is that clear? You will graciously accept a kid’s menu. Do you understand? Only water and soda have free refills. Don’t even think about ordering chocolate milk. Got it? Once you were clearly too old, your father became “Mr. I look so young for my old age” and would start ordering off the senior citizen’s menu to balance things out.

Don’t make me turn this car around

Vacation was a time for the whole family to pack into the station wagon and hit the open road while your mom yelled directions from that, “damn Rand McNally,” she could never fold, while your dad took long angry drags from his Salems. There were no five point harness personal utopia’s containing tablets preloaded with educational videos and apps. You played the license plate game and beat the hell out of one another for a window seat. You’d hope for a quick nap in the car before you checked in to the hotel and spent the next six nights sharing a double bed with all five of your siblings. Vacation came with no itinerary, no day trips or jaunts. Your trip consisted of the hotel pool, third-degree sunburns, bee stings and you cried when you left because you couldn’t wait for next summer.

It was a simpler time with fewer distractions. Families were big and weird and so many of them were unbelievably happy. And aside from that one summer when my brother fell from the brand new swing set and probably broke his foot, but we’ll never know because it was the 4th of July and no one was going to the ER because, “it would be loaded with idiots who’d burned themselves with firecrackers!” I think that my parents and the rest of the neighborhood moms and dads were really on to something…….

Tell ‘Em that it’s Human Nature

It's fine, I don't need sunglasses you all just protect your eyes. Let the child go blind.

It’s fine, I don’t need sunglasses you all just protect your eyes. Let the child go blind.

If you can’t do it in front of me, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. My mother spoke those words when I was a young girl and they stuck with me through very difficult times. There were moments in my life when I was tempted to do not so great things like smoking in a bathroom, underage drinking in a field, or that time I was with friends listening to a bootleg copy of a 2LiveCrew tape and I was certain that the neighbors could hear and would call the police because we were completely and totally ignoring that parental advisory. But never fear, my mother’s cautionary wisdom was always with me.

I had a blog post all ready to go about a recent adventure with my boys and I let her preview it, as I always do, and she said, “I don’t like it. Sorry.” At first I thought, well forget you, I don’t care what you think. But then I had to dig deeper, because even at 37-years-old, I seek parental approval. She was concerned that I was casting my Handsomes in a negative light. Part of my decision not to use their real names on my blog is for that exact reason. I never want what I believe to be funny to be hurtful, shameful or embarrassing to them years later. I likened her distaste for my post to a pair of her jeggings that are on my own personal worst dressed list. Her response, “But I can defend myself.” Mic drop!

As they get older, I suppose that I will need to be a bit more discretionary with what I choose to post. Not that I would ever purposefully embarrass my children, but they may not love every detail of their lives shared. Back when I was a kid, I didn’t have a clue about the world around me and had no idea if my mother was telling all of her friends about the silly things that I did.

Since there was no Internet way back then, stories were beloved because they were told over and over and over again. We have many tales from our own childhood that my brothers and I love to recount. I am certain that this will happen with my own children as they get older as well. Some have been shared with the world, some have been untold for 27 years…….But who’s counting?

Once upon a time, I was in to Michael Jackson. Not like I kind of liked him, more like I kissed the poster on my closet door goodnight, obsessed.  I wanted nothing more than to win tickets to see him when he performed in St. Louis. It was 1988, I was nine, and the only way to win anything back then was to call in to radio and TV stations during various contests. A local television station was running a promotion that involved video clips of popular Michael Jackson songs. When the video ran, you were to call in and say the name of the song being performed and you won. This was a dream come true! I could totally do this.

For days, I watched and dialed in a futile attempt to spend an evening listening to the King of Pop live with thousands of other screaming fans. I would hit the redial button over and over and over, only to be met by the fast busy signal, my archenemy. The clips played once per 30-minute show, so there was quite a bit of lag time, but I kept busy. And when there are six people living in your house, there is constant chaos. Surely someone was crying, someone was screaming and someone was just trying to keep her sanity. It was Girl Scout cookie time and my mother had been taking last minute orders from family and friends throughout the day. These final additions had to be called in by that evening. She was making dinner, but had just enough time to make one quick call for Thin Mints.

The last promo spot of the day aired and I was ready. Human Nature, one of my most favorite songs. It had to be a sign from God that this was my shot. I grabbed the phone, hit redial and it began to ring. The butterflies in my stomach were in overdrive. The moment I heard a hello on the other end of the line, I couldn’t speak. I stood motionless, my eyes and mouth open. My Nani, realizing what was happening, grabbed the phone and began to scream.

“Human Nature! Human Nature! Michael Jackson’s Human Nature!”

I was in awe. She had done it. We had done it. All those hours of Diff’rent Strokes episodes had paid off! I was going to see Michael Jackson. I began to pick out my outfit for the evening and what autographs I wanted when the needle was ripped from the record.

“Oh my God, mom! Who are you yelling at?” My mother asked.

“She won the tickets. We got the tickets! I just redialed and I got the tickets. We’re going to see Michael Jackson,”I announced.

“I said Human Nature! Michael Jackson’s Human Nature” she continued to yell.

“Hang up! Hang up! Hang up the phone! That’s not the TV station. That’s the Girl Scouts!”

The two of them proceeded to laugh to to the point of no return, tears flowing down their cheeks and tinkle down their legs. It was the 1980s. There was no caller ID, no *69, and absolutely no way for anyone to ever know that very strange phone call came from our house. The three of us swore to secrecy that night, all for different reasons. I was devastated, they were embarrassed and the poor person on the other end of that call was confused.

My mother was looking out for my best interests then, not wanting me to be humiliated or disappointed and she is still looking out for those interests today. No matter how old I am, I will hope that I am making her proud. As a mother, I can only pray to instill the same caution and love in my own children. My biggest dream for them is to find laughter in the little things. Every time Human Nature comes up on my iTunes I can smile knowing that it brings such a wonderful memory for me and a completely different, and likely terrifying, memory for someone else.

Mother's are always right...Ugh....

Mother’s are always right…Ugh….

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?”

Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah……Stayin’ Alive…..

“Yep, the test is positive,” the doctor said to me with sad eyes.

OMG, I thought. This is all I need right now. I have four kids and I don’t have time for this! Ugh, no! I am not pregnant, God help us all.  Strep. Handsome #2 tested positive for strep. The nasty little bug that for my children means not only a high fever and sore throat, but we get the added bonus of vomiting….awesome! Perhaps I should have believed him when he said he didn’t feel well.

I cannot go to school today, said Handsome #2, Hooray!

I left the pediatrician’s office to grab Maurmi, Handsome #3 and the baby and headed to the pharmacy to pick up Handsome #2’s prescription. We made it past the checkout line when all of a sudden I heard the horrifying screaming.

“Ouch. Oh. Ouch. I am so hurt. Ahhhhhh! I have too much blood!”

I looked down to see Handsome #3 on the floor and huge droplets of red all over the bright white tile.

“OMG! What happened?” I screamed.

“Maurmi hurt me so bad,” He blubbered as tears poured down his cheeks and blood ran from his finger.

“Colleen! I would never hurt him. OMG, my baby. Never. I would never hurt you.”

Duh.

He got the finger caught in the cart, how, we may never know, and somehow ripped a ginormous piece of skin in the process. I thought that we were headed to the ER, I mean, So.much.blood. I always react well in emergency situations.

“Jesus, mom! OMG. What do we do?”

“Colleen! He is hurt.”

“I realize that. What am I supposed to do?”

“Colleen! He is hurt!”

“What do I do?”

This game of moron who’s on first went on for much longer than it should have, extremely loudly and neither one of us really doing anything. Maurmi took off to grab napkins when a helpful young man in uniform appeared to inform me that they had a first aid kit available in case I needed it. Nice offer, but I needed something immediately as my child was becoming more and more hysterical.

Maurmi returned with her contribution to the ER effort and I ran to the pharmacy area to grab a box of Band Aids, hoping that he would sit still long enough for me to put them on. As I returned to the scene with a box of Paw Patrol bandages, there stood a big man with a walkie talkie acting very important.

“Yep. I’ve got them. I am here. Yep. Blood. There is blood. Yep. Yep. Got it. Bring on the clean up crew.”

By the look on his face, I was certain that there would be a hazmat team approaching soon. Maurmi did her best to wipe up the floor while big red stood there doing a whole lot of nothing.

“Excuse me,” I said trying to get to my baby.

“Ma’am, we have a first aid kit for these kinds of the things.”

This is now the second time that the first aid kit has been offered, but nothing has been produced. Perhaps they wanted me to sign some kind of permission slip, but instead I ripped open the box and started to tend to the wound. Thankfully, my baby boy sat still and I was able to attach the bandages tightly enough to stop the bleeding.

“Oh. Ewe, gross,” Said the walkie talkie man.

Thankfully for him, I bit my tongue and went on about my business. I wanted to get Handsome #2’s medicine and get the heck out there. I headed to the pharmacy, still covered in blood myself and looking like a serial killer, and requested the prescription. Not ready….awesome…. Since the bleeding had stopped and I needed a few more lunchbox items, I pressed on with my shopping.

We wandered through the toy department, the grocery area and the baby section when I noticed that Handsome #3 was starting to act funny. His eyes were drooping and he was nodding off.

“Colleen, what is the matter with him?” Maurmi asked.

“I don’t know. This is really odd, ” I replied.

“My God, did he hit his head? Or is he in shock from the pain?”

“Handsome #3, wake up! Wake up!” I demanded.

“Stop talking to me. Don’t look at me. I am so hurting,” he screamed.

Certain that he had some kind of concussion, again, I started to panic. Maurmi and I stood next to the cart discussing our next course of action, but neither one of us touching him, not wanting to disturb him. Had we reached out to comfort him, perhaps we could have saved the conspiracy theories and realized a few minutes sooner that he was hotter than a firecracker. God help us, another one bites the dust. Strep is ugly and mean and contagious as hell!

Thankfully he had tried to amputate his finger a few minutes earlier and we were still at the store so that I could call the pediatrician and get his medicine called in before I left. I checked in at the pharmacy to make sure they had received the new order and grabbed Handsome #2’s medicine and gave him a dose right there in the store. The sooner we attack the bug, the better, right? Ten minutes later, Handsome #3’s medicine was ready, so I dosed him up too and we headed to the cafe for a quick drink and a pretzel.


The fever had taken its toll on my buddy and he had enough trauma for the day, so we headed home to get everyone comfortable and in bed. As I unloaded my bags to put away the groceries I found that I was one bottle short. Handsome #2’s medicine was somehow left at the store. Come on! Seriously?!?!!?

I waited until the Grillin’ Fool got back from work before I headed back to the store, with Maurmi of course, to pick up the newly ordered medicine because no one could find it in the store. Maurmi looked through every cart.


We retraced our steps, searched the aisles and shelves, but it was nowhere to be found. I returned to the pharmacy for the third time and promised not to lose it, even putting it in my mother’s purse to ensure it would stay with me.

As we left the store to head home, we walked past the scene of the crime and noticed there was still a bit of blood left. Interestingly, the large fella with the walkie talkie was also still there, still hooked up to the walkie….Having a snack…..

 

Ain’t too Proud to Brag……….

March 16, 1992 I turned 13. I also got the chicken pox. In all of my newly-crowned teenage wisdom, I picked the first spot that appeared on my face, despite my mother’s warning, “leave it alone or you will make it so much worse.” The pimple turned out to be the first of about 5,000 pox that made the next two weeks among the most miserable of my entire life.

I laid on the couch day after day certain that death was impending. The fever and itching and just plain discomfort made each breath resemble my last. Perhaps it was my flair for the dramatic, or the fact that she had three other plague-stricken children to take care of, but my mother didn’t seem to think that my situation was quite as dire. Luckily for me, my then 80-something-year-old Nani disagreed and tended to my every need.

As my three brothers healed and went back to school, my mom went back to work while I lay convalescing for the second week with Nani at my side. She brought me Seventeen Magazines, made me Lipton Cup of Soup and watched endless hours of Press Your Luck Reruns. She was my best friend not just when I was sick, but always. There was nothing that she wouldn’t do for me and I simply loved to be with her.

When Press Your Luck turned to the less entertaining Card Sharks, I would flip the channel to VH1 which played an endless loop of Vanessa Williams’, “Save the Best for Last” and TLC’s, “Ain’t too Proud to Beg.” I don’t know if it was the colorful overalls or perhaps the condoms pinned everywhere, but she just, couldn’t, “understand those dirty girls.” Why would they put on such a “performance?” And they would look so much nicer in a, “pretty dress.” For a solid week every time it came on, she laughed and said, “There they are again. Those crazy girls with those dirty pants on.”

Last Friday night while going to see Push the Limit, a friend’s band, perform at Jungle Boogie at the STL Zoo, I spotted one of those crazy girls. T-Boz was there, in the flesh and I was suddenly 13 and starstruck. I can’t lie, I totally followed her, from afar, certain that it was her, but still too shy to approach. With Handsome #3 in his stroller, I pushed toward the Fragile Forest where she stood admiring the animals. Suddenly, Maurmi strikes up a casual conversation with her as if she is a volunteer zookeeper for the day.

She was so kind, so friendly and so far from anything ostentatious. I made eye contact and blurted out with tears in my eyes,

“OMG?!?!? Are you who I think you are? You are so beautiful. I just saw you in concert a few months ago. You are just. I am having a moment. Your music. I just. OMG, can I get a picture with you?”

She graciously said, “yes,” ignoring my verbal diarrhea. We exchanged pleasantries and she was on her way. I spent the rest of the evening reveling in the excitement and the fact that my celebrity friend list is no longer just Richard Simmons!

Ain't Too Proud to Brag

Crazy, Sexy and so insanely Cool

I attended a work event on Saturday morning and made it home just in time to head to Mass before Handsome #1’s evening soccer game. As I sat in church, I saw the date on the bulletin, August 8. It was the eight-year anniversary of my Nani’s death. My heart broke a little, as it does every time I think of her, but I found strength in my faith, knowing that she is with God and her family in heaven.

I smiled to myself as I prepared for communion and the organist began to play, “Here I am Lord.” It was the song played at her funeral and the one that always happens to start the moment that I need it most. I felt her hands on mine and rubbed my thumb over her knuckles just as I had thousands of times in our 28 years together.

As a tear ran down my cheek, I began to laugh. I could see her in the blue recliner eating a bowl of ice cream and giving her disapproving dissertation about T-Boz and her clan. I realized that she had been with me the night before, that she approved of the nice young woman that T-Boz has turned in to and that she still loves me the most. And if she had been there, she would have dispensed the following advice…….

Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you’re moving too fast

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