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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…….

Dear Darling, I Need a Big Favor

Dear Darling,

You are my only girl and it is my responsibility as your mother to talk to you about important things. From the time I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of being a mom and having these conversations. One day we’ll pine over Pinterest Boards as we plan your dream wedding. I look forward to seeing your face when you find the perfect prom dress. I’m even training myself to be prepared when you have your first period, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here. I have big dreams for you, my beautiful girl. I want you to be strong and smart and happy. I want you to fight for what you believe in and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. I want you to wear the brightest red lipstick you can find and blow kisses at the haters. But right now more than anything, my darling, I need you to fall in love with a boy band. And I need you to do it quickly so that I can start stashing away memorabilia for your midlife crisis.

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to have all kinds of cockamamie ideas throughout your adolescence. You’ll have an invention idea that you’ll want to send to Shark Tank. You’ll probably have a self-image crisis and decide to have a throw back fashion identity and will hope I saved something from the 90s. You are going to think that I am crazy and embarrassing and the most uncool mom in the world. These things, I will probably not love, but boy band obsession, this is one phase that I will get behind. You see, my dear, it is inevitable that you will fall down this particular rabbit hole. You come from a long lineage of women who have fallen in love with a musician. I had my boy band, your grandmother had The Beatles and your great grandmother had her everlasting love, Liberace. Perhaps that last pick was a bit misguided, but I digress. I promise, to give you my whole heart, and bank account, when you decide on the one that will be yours forever.

I solemnly swear to emotionally and financially support this habit. I will donate my 401k for shirts, pins, buttons and a Fat Head for your wall. I will buy all of the iTunes gift cards so that you can pre-order albums and instantly download singles. I will even subscribe to the YouTube channel so that you can watch the same videos over and over and over again. I commit to buying magazines, I’m not sure if they still make magazines, but if they do, they’re yours. As time goes on you will begin planning your wedding, coming up with baby names and decide whose family to spend Christmas with. The devastation that will come when you see him on TMZ with his new gal pal will be palpable. That day, we will cry together and eat crappy food and talk about how much better you would be for him. Once our sob session is over, I will help you to eradicate any memory of that low life from your mind. Together we will pack up your collection and ready it for trash day. But here’s where I am going to go rogue. I’m not really going to throw away anything. Nope, I’m going to pack it in a box in the basement and hide it among Christmas decorations and baby clothes that no else even know exist. Trust me, one day when you are yearning for your youth and an escape from the pressures of adulthood, you are going to want these things.

You see, my own life has recently come full circle and I’ve realized how important my mother’s support of my fan girl dreams was. In 1989 I fell in love with five boys from Boston. It was more than just a crush, it was an obsession. The New Kids on the Block posters covered my walls. My boom box constantly played their tapes-I’ll take you to the Smithsonian someday and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I wore t-shirts and giant buttons and I was sure that one day I would marry Donnie Wahlberg and live happily ever after. Well, your father’s name isn’t Donnie, your uncle isn’t Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch are nowhere to be found. I am not; however, disappointed. The fact that I never married a boy bander means that I can still hang on to a bit of my childhood fantasy.

This past summer, I pulled out my Hangin’ Tough t-shirt, it still fits which says a whole lot about how we were wearing our clothes in the 80’s, and headed out to see NKOTB, their more mature moniker, in concert. I walked into a venue that seats 20,000 and saw that many women who are exactly like me. These woman are the ones who are suddenly finding chin hairs that pop up two inches long overnight. These same women have given birth to babies and are wondering how did we all get here and why is time moving so fast? Long ago these women had crimped hair and frosted eye shadow and sobbed uncontrollably when five boys hit the stage. These women are my people. We are all the same. We’ve hidden our seventh-grade yearbook in hopes that our husbands will never discover the old us. We have worn breast pads that slipped and sprung a leak in the middle of the grocery store. We have had bad job interviews and terrible relationships. We have lived parallel lives and grown up together, although most of us have never met.

We gathered together, almost 30 years later, and soaked up every minute. We didn’t want to hear new songs. We didn’t want to see new dances. We wanted Step by Step with all five steps, all five boys and seamless choreography accompanied by pyrotechnic magic. And that’s just what we received. These guys know exactly what they are doing. Being able to watch 40-something men sing the same songs and perform the same moves three decades later is nothing short of magic. They came back just as their fans are coming of age. We are getting married and having kids and starting to feel old. We are disconnected from our youth and this has brought us back. If only for one night, we were those same crying girls with black hats and overalls that could take on the world.

And guess what? We did take on the world. We are moms and daughters and friends and doctors and lawyers and CEOs and teachers and waitresses and mechanics and whatever else we ever wanted to be. We all started as young girls and have grown into women stitched together by a common thread. And I wouldn’t change one bit of that. I want that same kind of happiness for you, my sweet girl. In 30 years, you will be living a grown up life filled with pressure and challenge and frustration and you will need an escape from reality, too. When the time comes, you will open the box that I have saved for all of those years and the memories will flood back. You will feel a pit in your stomach for what was, but flutters in your heart in anticipation of the reunion tour. You will belt out your favorite tunes, dance the familiar moves and swoon at their older, yet, sexier bodies. It will be worth every one of the hundreds of dollars you paid for the ticket. Trust me, if you allow yourself to get away from diapers and deadlines and sleep deprivation and you selfishly indulge in one night with 20,000 woman in your tribe, you’ve got the right stuff!

Love,

Mom

Mama Said There’d be Days Like This

Today was picture day. Now before you get all concerned that my kids showed up at school in white polos already stained with chocolate milk and week-old bedhead, rest assured, I remembered. As a matter of fact, everyone was up at 6am, in the shower, had a delicious breakfast poured right out of the cardboard box with love and in the car with time to spare. I gave my final farewells and watched my handsome boys frolic into school not a care in the world. I also saw several of their classmates headed into the building holding picture order forms. The same order forms that were sitting in the basket of papers that I had no intention of looking at for at least six months. $h!+!!!

Living in a Jack Butler world of North to pick up and South to drop off, there was no turning around, so I had to head down the street and make a U-Turn. Upon my return, the parking lot was full and there was no way for me to sneak in and out without anyone noticing. Instead, I got to take Handsome #3 and Darling, still in her pajamas, through the obstacle course of senior citizens sure not to miss the early bird parking for 8:15 mass and the throngs of parents who couldn’t wait for their arguing children to finally get out of the damn car! We made it through to the school office where I grabbed the envelopes ready to place my order when I saw that they only take checks. Since I had just forged my husband’s signature on the last check from the book at soccer uniform pick up, that wasn’t an option. Instead, I had to take the walk of shame, envelope in hand, with my disheveled children and order my prints online. Thankfully, that part went off without a hitch.

Handsome #3’s school day starts 45 minutes after his older brothers’. We have a daily ritual that includes him refusing to eat the breakfast that I have just prepared, crying that he hates school and an absolute refusal to let me help with any shoes or buttons. We live less than five minutes from preschool and we are late every.single.day. Once we get there it’s all smiles and high fives and how are you friends? His performance at home and the entire way there should garner him a daytime Emmy.

We walked Handsome #3 to class, but there was no time to dawdle. Darling and I were in a hurry this morning. As I mentioned, it was picture day and Handsome #2 really wanted to wear his favorite black glasses. One slight problem, they were broken. I promised him that I would go to Lens Crafters first thing and get those quality crafted specs back to school in an hour, before he saw the photographer. Darling was strapped in, my coffee was still hot and we were right on time to be waiting at the door when the store opened. I put the key in the ignition a little sputtering, a few lights flickering on the dash, but the engine would not turn. Perfect. I called AAA and they said it would be 30-45 minutes before the technician would arrive. Even more perfect.

Darling was done being strapped into her carseat about 45 seconds into our stranded state, so out she went ready to explore the front seat. She did a dandy job pushing every button, pulling every knob, finding my secret stash of tampons, gum and expired insurance cards. By the time she was finished it looked like a tornado had ripped through the front seat. The AAA man finally showed up, replaced the battery and $129 later, we were on our way.

Due to our little bump in the road, there was no way I was getting to school on time, but I figured I’d get the glasses taken care of as long as I was out. Handsome #2 loved those glasses. They were his first pair and he was super excited to get them back. Well he would have been excited, except that they’re discontinued and unavailable in the state of Missouri. Excellent! Mr. Extremely patient Lens Crafters Man, who wanted to kick me through the window after 30 minutes of total indecision about new frames, and I picked out a perfect new pair. They whipped those puppies up in no time and we were on our way.

I had just a few minutes before picking up Handsome #3, so I decided to run into Aldi to grab a few essentials. One thing on my list that I have be meaning to get the last 10 trips is that $.39 container of salt. Remember that, it’ll come back to haunt me in the later rounds. There was a child losing its ever loving mind somewhere in the store, I never saw it, but the whole city could hear it. Thankful it wasn’t mine, I said a quick Hail Mary for the poor mother and headed out. Once again, we were back on track ready to get Handsome #3 from school.

Handsome #3 was beaming at dismissal, happy to see his sister and me. “He had a great day, ” called his teacher. Of course he did, he only puts on the spitting pea soup show for me. We got home, had lunch, watched a little Elmo and were all just ready to relax for a minute. It was peaceful and happy and serene. Like the perfect little family in an antidepressants ad.

Since the morning was such a train wreck, I figured it could only go up, so I got creative. Sometimes I like to think that I’m June cleaver in a modest polka dot dress with a half apron and plastic-covered furniture. Today was one of those days and I decided to take my stay-at-home mom game to the next level. Oh the boys would just love a pumpkin bundt cake as an after school surprise, wouldn’t they? Of course they would, I’ll just whip one right up!

I got out my pan, I preheated my oven, pulled out the 800-lb-Kitchenaid and gathered my ingredients. I opened the cabinet to grab my sugar and flour canisters when that $.39 salt appeared, clearly unhappy with its new accommodations. In what can only be described as a suicide attempt, the salt took a free fall directly into my face. Caught completely off guard by the incredible pain throbbing in my nose, I dropped the freshly-filled with 5 pounds of sugar container that subsequently broke into 6,000 pieces the second it hit the granite. I would have taken a picture, but I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of any of the 4,656,000 sugar granules that dispersed themselves throughout my entire kitchen if they didn’t make the shot.

I was on the verge of tears when Handsome #3 ever so kindly distracted me.

“Mom! Darling pooped and she stinks so, so bad!”

I changed the diaper, put her down for a nap and came down to survey the damage. It was bad. I was defeated. Handsome #3 went to watch a show, Darling was sleeping and I needed my favorite rap playlist and a Diet Coke. I took a deep breath and tried to put things into perspective. I am thankful for my four beautiful children and a loving husband, who works his butt off, so that I can have these $h!++y days at home with our kids. I rolled my sleeves up, turned the speakers on high and got to work. “Hot n Herre” on my lips, I scrubbed the cabinets, the floors and the counters, and suddenly caught my reflection in the mirror and thought, Damn! I think my butt gettin’ big……..

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…..

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…….

Because You Loved Me…..

I went back to work last week. I wasn’t kicking or screaming. I wasn’t even really crying, but I had a lump in my throat as I kissed my four babies goodbye. I know deep down that in order to keep up with the lifestyle that we have become accustomed to, I have to work. Our life isn’t extravagant or fancy, despite the fact that I am married to a celebrity, but it makes the six of us happy. And knowing that I contribute to that happiness makes me feel validated. And the icing on the cake is that I actually love my job.

My first day was long, because I was fixated on what was happening at home. I had spent the last 12 weeks with my children every single minute and all of a sudden, I felt lonely. I missed their hugs and kisses. I missed their screaming and yelling. I missed their tattles and their stories. I missed my best friends and I missed my mom. She had been with me from the minute I gave birth to my baby girl and stayed with me my entire maternity leave.

As I walked in the door after the first day, I was greeted by four smiling faces and eight arms embracing me. I looked up at Maurmi and smiled, so thankful that she had been there with them that first day. They adore her as much as I do and I knew that I probably wasn’t missed too terribly much. I looked around and noticed that the house was spotless.

“Mom, you didn’t have to clean my house,” I said, feeling utterly guilty and so incredibly grateful. Maurmi knows that I hate to have things a mess, but that I am not a Martha Stewart-type housekeeper either.

“I just didn’t want you to come home and have to do work anymore. You are my baby girl and it is my job to take care of you,” She said with tears in her eyes.

She has always told me that parenting never ends. No matter if your child is six or sixty, you will always have an overwhelming urge to take care of them. I want to think that I can do it all. I want to believe that I am some kind of super mom who can work full time, keep my house under control, feed my children nothing but nutrient-rich foods and always have a full face of makeup. It just isn’t real life. At all…Ever….I can’t do it all all of the time. Well except for the makeup because, let’s be honest, Carly Simon probably could’ve written that song about me!

I am honest about the fact that I make mistakes all the time. I try to find laughter every day because many days if I didn’t, I would cry. I don’t have it all together, and I don’t think that anyone else does either, no matter what their Instagram feed says. No one’s kids look at the camera 100 percent of the time. I know just as well as you do that the perfect pic you just posted was shot number 44 after you screamed a few times, perhaps cursing, to get them all to look. I also know that you are cropping the hell out of your family room because you don’t want anyone to see your kids’, or maybe your husband’s, socks and underwear randomly on the floor. And date night is not always that much fun! You have gotten in a huge fight on the way to the restaurant and spent the night texting your mom all about how much of a jerk your husband acted like in the car but you are staying out because, hello, you have a sitter!

The voyeuristic world that we live in today isn’t real. Rushing home when you are 37 because you just want a hug from your mom is real. Putting on your nightgown, smelling the detergent and crying, because the fresh laundry that your mom does always smells better, is real. Having your kids accidentally call their grandmother mom, not because they love them more but because they love you both so much, is real. Being a career woman, a wife and a mom is all hard. Having a mom who has done it all, who knows how you feel and who is well beyond having to parent but wants to parent you, makes it all so much easier.

I hope that when my children have children that they will allow me to continue to help clean up their messes, to hold their babies, to make them dinner and to wrap my arms around them so that they can feel my love. Right now, even when I am the most tired that I have ever been, there is nothing in the world better than tiny hands on my cheek and little lips whispering, “Mommy, I love you.” As those hands grow bigger I hope that they will still love me as much as I love them and know that no matter how tough life my seem, that I am always in their corner, just like Maurmi…….

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Put Me in Coach….

I am not particularly athletic, unless you include Sweatin’ to the Oldies, but as a mother of a lot of boys, sports, currently baseball, have infiltrated every part of our lives. I love to watch little kids get a hit, or make a catch and to see the pride beaming from their faces. There is nothing like watching your child smiling from ear to ear after making a great play and knowing that not one bit of that athletic ability came from you, and your pretty sure not your husband either, but hoping that it might last a few more years.

Recently, Handsomes #1 and #2 had weeknight games, at different locations, that overlapped; therefore, The Grillin’ Fool and I had to divide and conquer. It’s barely mid June and already 1000 degrees in St. Louis, so a full day at the pool followed by an early evening game, that I kind of forgot about until about an hour before hand, is about as much fun as I could possibly handle during the last week of my maternity leave.

In typical fashion, we couldn’t find hats, socks or cleats, despite the fact that every single person in the house swears that they put them away in their proper places just like I asked. Handsome #2 and I were headed out for the early shift. He was clad in head to toe black and grey polyester, bright blue and yellow soccer socks and tennis shoes due to the fact that we couldn’t devote any more time to the scavenger hunt for proper equipment. All the damns that I gave had melted in the heat.

The game started at 6pm and was located at least 15 minutes from home. We left at 5:51pm. I barely made it out of the subdivision when I noticed this in the rear view mirror.

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He hadn’t just nodded off, this child was snoring….loudly. Rather than poke the bear, I figured I would let him rest until we got to the field. We rolled in at 6:03pm and I noticed that every player on the field was female. Perfect. I had driven to the wrong place, miles past where we were supposed to be. Suddenly, Chief Meteorologist Maurmi comes in with this warning.

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I check my calendar, find the right location and get to the field at 6:17pm just in time for Handsome #2 to wake up with a seat belt crease across his face that could easily be mistaken as a failed attempt to gauge his eye out.

“Are we here? Oh good, my team is up to bat!”

He runs to the dugout and after missing the top of the inning somehow finds himself on deck. Seems fair that all of the other soon-to-be first graders who have battled the seventh circle of hell in the field should move aside for someone who just finished his beauty sleep, right?!?!?! He gets a hit, the kids finish out the inning and head back out to the field.

Handsome #2 didn’t seem particularly thrilled to be out in the heat and each time the thunder would clap, he’d look up as if God was talking directly to him. The other team got a few hits, scored a few runs and it was time for our boys to bat. Once again, there he stood with a helmet on, seemingly undeservedly high up in the batting order, when the coaches spot lightening and the game is called….at 6:31pm. In just 40 minutes, Handsome #2 had taken a nap, visited two Catholic Church fields, batted and gotten a hit, and played an inning in the field. This kid has done more with his athletic career in less than an hour than I have my entire life!

We headed for the car and he looked up at me and said,

“I need a nap, that was exhausting!”

 

 

 

 

Hangin’ Tough

Not a single soul had spoken to me for the last two hours. I announced to every person in the house that I was going upstairs and would be back in 20 minutes. Clearly, this was a rookie mistake. Never make your presence known lest you want the predator to devour you. I had barely turned the water on when the door opened the first time.

Handsome #2- Mom! Can you make me something to eat?

Me- Can you please give me a few minutes?

Handsome #2- Yes, but hurry!

I shampooed and almost conditioned before the next interruption. A naked from the waist down light saber-wielding child appeared and opened the shower door. 

Me- Honey, I am in the shower. What do you need?

Handsome #3- Um, nothing. I don’t need nothing.

Me- Where are your pants?!?!?!

Handsome #3- I lost them. But, I could find them. Mom! Can you wipe me, please?

Successfully wiping a child with one hand while putting the rest of the conditioner on your head with the other should at the very least come with a cash prize.

Once he was gone, I thought I’d try shaving my legs. Then I heard the screaming from the other side of the door, the only one of my children to give me any privacy.

Handsome #1- Mom! The baby is crying!

Me- Put the binkie in her mouth, I’ll be there in five minutes.

I wanted a few minutes of uninterrupted time, but instead I got to speak to all three of The Handsomes and got a status update on the baby. As I stepped out and caught a glimpse of my face in the foggy mirror, I cried. I cried big ugly tears because all too soon, it will be over. I will miss the screaming and yelling and constant emergencies. I will miss the hugs and the kisses and a chubby sweaty hand grabbing mine. I will miss my little loves needing me as they become more independent and self-sufficient.

As much as I wanted to wallow in my sorrow, I decided that my husband finding me in a heap on the bathroom floor wouldn’t be the best way to kick off his weekend. My mother always says that a little bit of fragrance and a fresh coat of lipstick can alter your mood instantly, so I figured I would give it a shot. Despite the fact that I am now a mother of four, nearing forty with a road map of stretchmarks and other badges of life’s experiences, The Grillin’ Fool still likes me and he deserves me at my best.

And today, the very best I could do was my signature red lips and a New Kids on the Block T-shirt that could likely find a home in the Smithsonian. I snapped a selfie, because no one would really believe that I not only still own this shirt but wear it often. And just like that, as if on cue, from the first floor I heard, “MOM!!!!!!!!!!!!”

 

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