Posts Tagged ‘Boys’

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.”

 

 

 

I Want to Hold Your Hand

I was sitting at the kitchen table talking to my mom when my nearly nine-year-old placed himself on my lap.

“What’s wrong, bud?” I asked.

“Nothing, I just wanted you to hold me,” he responded as he leaned back and rested his head on my shoulder.

I automatically assumed that he felt bad or was starting to feel bad or thought he might feel bad, because this just never happens anymore. My baby, my first born, my Handsome #1, the boy who made me a mom, is beginning to outgrow me. He has friends and interests that I am no longer dictating. And in all reality, that makes things a bit easier. Often my attention is diverted in many other directions. He is the oldest of four with three younger siblings ranging in age from seven all the way down to a year. To say that my focus tends to be stolen by others is an understatement.

For the first two years of his life, it was us against the world. We would sing, dance, and play all day long. His white blonde hair and piercing blue eyes lit up the room. He was a very early talker and would readily strike up a conversation with any stranger that caught his glance. His playful grin and irresistible charm had me wrapped around his finger from the word go.

As our family grew larger, my focus shifted to the new babies as they arrived and he became my greatest helper. Being the oldest is a birth position that I share and completely understand. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being first. You have to set the example, you have to behave, and you have to be the one who grows up while everyone else gets to be little. That growing up happens so fast and before a mom knows it; her baby is not a baby, nor a big boy trying to get even bigger. He becomes a young man in a blink.

It use to be that I could pick him up and carry him up the stairs without a second thought. Today it would be a struggle, but one I would happily challenge myself with if he asked. Sometimes, I catch a look at his profile and see the same pointed nose that he had as a newborn baby. As he has grown, his chin has become more chiseled and his cheeks a bit thinner, but his eyelashes are still any model’s dream. If I brush his hair away from his forehead I can still see him lying in a crib.

Sometimes when he doesn’t even know it, he will grab my hand in a store and I get a little lump in my throat. I realize that time is fleeting and I want to hold on tightly for as long as I can. All too quickly he can feel my grip tighten and he is gone running down the aisle laughing, smiling, and carrying on the way that a nine-year-old boy does.

Bedtime routines have transformed from singing songs, reading books, saying prayers, and more hugs and kisses than I could count to a quick, goodnight and a, “Can you please close the door?” That little boy who wanted me to read his favorite book just one more time is now reading novels on his own. Occasionally he will ask me to stay and tell him a story. He likes to hear about when I was a kid and funny things about his grandparents. He will lay on his belly and let me rub his back as I talk. I take full advantage and even sneak in a kiss or a snuggle before he asks me to leave.

He no longer wants my help getting dressed and locks the bathroom door for added privacy. He has never been a high-maintenance kid, but there has recently been a shift in what he cares about. Brand names are important and so is his hair. He comes into my bathroom in the morning and asks me to style it for him. I breathe in his little boy smell and stare at him in the mirror. I quickly turn my head as the tears begin to well so that he doesn’t notice and grumble, “Mom! Please stop.”

As he begins to exert more and more independence, I am taxed with ensuring the he is making the right decisions. We are still in the, be nice to your siblings and don’t say bad words, phase. We talk about being kind, loving, and faithful. I reiterate that we should only treat others the way that we want to be treated. Soon our talks will transform to more serious subject matter like alcohol, drugs, and sex. It is mind boggling to me that I even have to consider these conversations, but the world that we live in necessitates the seriousness of our discussions because kids are facing adult choices entirely too young.

I want him to continue to love Minecraft and Transformers. I want his imagination to run wild about wizards and faraway lands. I pray that he will always come to me with his fears and concerns and not ever be too embarrassed to talk to me. I know that I can’t keep him little, and I don’t want to. He needs to explore every bit of the world that he can. But while he still wants me around and finds comfort in my arms, I will keep him close and safe and protected. Who am I kidding? If he wants me to hold his hand when he is 35, I’ll do it. By then, I will be well into my sixties and will likely be looking for a little help from his younger and stronger arm. I have no doubt he will extend it with a smile. But until then, I will hold his hand tightly and he will hold my heart.

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…….

Guess What kids? It’s not my fault!

kidsYour baseball uniform is still damp because I forgot to put it in the dryer last night. It’s time to go so I hang it out the car window on the highway for a little line dry action, that is my fault. You have to take your lunch in a plastic shopping bag from Target instead of brown bagging it because I didn’t buy them on my last trip, you can blame that on me. Your oatmeal mixed with paprika instead of cinnamon, I am responsible for that. I will not; however, take credit for any of this.

You are exhausted

“Well, mom, if you just put us to bed on time I wouldn’t be this angry and crying every morning!” Oh my little Handsome, how quickly you forget that I sent you to bed on time last night, and every other night of your whole life because when the witching hour arrives I am ready to jump out the window. You decided to laugh and wrestle and do everything else you weren’t supposed to be doing with your brother for an hour and a half while I yelled from my bedroom to go to sleep. You didn’t listen. Not my fault.

You are covered in something

“Mom, I have toothpaste all over the back of my neck!”  Well, when you insist on sitting on the toilet in the downstairs half bath, even though there are three other bathrooms in the house, while your brothers are also brushing their teeth in said bathroom towering over you because, why would we ever not be together in the smallest bathroom in the house? Someone is probably going to spit on you. Not my fault.

You can’t find your shoes

“The last time I wore them, I put them away.” Your Grandpa loved to use this one on your uncles and me when we were kids. It’s my favorite. I share this little tidbit with you every single time you can’t find your Nikes. They are supposed to go by the front door so that we can avoid being 15 minutes late, instead of our traditional ten. Of course, you ignore me and throw one upstairs the other in the basement and have no memory of either. Now you’re wearing penny loafers and gym shorts to Mass. Not my fault.

You are starving

“Um, what is that? It looks basgusting.” My cooking may not be on par with Julia Child, but give me a break! I can crack open and thoughtfully prepare that jar of Ragu that you asked  for a mere 30 minutes ago. The fact that you have decided that anything red will induce vomiting and there is absolutely no way in hell you will touch the fork that I put in the bowl instead of on the table takes crazy to a level that I am not prepared to deal with. Not my fault.

You are not ready for bed

At the end of the day you need a drink of water, another hug, one more kiss and a short story. Bedtime is here and you need to go to sleep. And even when I am the most tired that I have ever been, there is nothing like little hands on my face and little lips whispering, “Goodnight, mom. I love you.” I don’t want these days of you needing and wanting and loving me more than anyone to end. So, I indulge those last little requests because from the moment you were born, you stole my heart. Not my fault.

Perfect 10

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

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

swim

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Can you just show me?”

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

“Please!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 High Hopes I Have for My Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DMT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!!!!!!!!!!!!”

 

NKOTB

An Open Letter to the Lady at Church

To the hateful woman at mass,

Today, I was a few minutes late and snuck in to the second to last pew with my nearly three-year-old son after stopping at the bathroom. He is very newly potty trained and the thought of tinkling in every toilet in the city is appealing. He was excited that he had made it to mass and saw his favorite priest on the pulpit. Naturally, for a child his age, this caused chatter and waving and even a bit of crying and complaining when he couldn’t see.

He was loud, as most small children are, but that is why I chose to stay close to the back. I try not to use the cry room or stand in the vestibule because I feel that if my children are going to behave, they actually have to be in the church to learn that lesson. Sadly, you disagreed and were incredibly outspoken and judgemental. The moment he began to squawk, you immediately started with the huffing and puffing and disparaging glances. I tried to ignore you, but in time I had enough and explained that he is just a baby. This is when you took it upon yourself to advise me that I shouldn’t have my children in the church if they cannot behave and that I should take them elsewhere.

Here’s the thing, lady, you have absolutely no idea what we were dealing with this morning. I was gone all day yesterday and never saw him. He was asleep when I left and in bed when I got home. He has had the rare opportunity to spend a lot of one on one time with me lately, that he has never had before. He was the youngest of three boys for the last three years and his world was turned upside down eight weeks ago when his baby sister was born. Luckily, I have been able to soften the blow during my maternity leave, but he still wants all of my attention all of the time. And that can be exhausting. I am also a bit more lenient with him because he is adjusting to a tremendous amount of change that you know nothing about.

Perhaps you never had a child, because I cannot imagine what they must think of your behavior if you did, and are truly ignorant to how this whole parenting thing works. Let me give you a bit of insight. Children are completely and totally 100 percent unpredictable. If Jesus Christ himself had a scheduled appearance this morning and I had prepared my children to meet him and how to act in the presence of the Lord, at best we are working with 50/50 odds in my favor. Kids are constantly talking and asking questions, and you guessed it, misbehaving. But they are also always learning. And I want my children to learn to be kind and loving and faithful and to live their lives as God wants them to. Funny, when it was time for the sign of peace, you completely ignored my mother when she tried to shake your hand, so incredibly Christ-like.

What if my child had autism, or a brain tumor, or some other kind of illness that caused him to act out? Thankfully, he is healthy, but I am certain that you would have still cast aspersions on his behavior and my parenting because for some reason you feel entitled to judge others. Sadly for you, you missed the entire message of today’s homily. Had you been paying attention to it, and not my child, you would have heard the priest preach about how important it is to treat others with kindness, love and respect. It’s about what happens here on earth, not what will happen after you die. But instead of soaking the message in and reflecting, you are likely sitting at home tonight with an ice pack on your neck from all of the head shaking.

Until next weekend my friend, when I will be back in that same church with my four children, I hope that you are able to feel good about what you did, how you acted and what message you walked away with. Remember, if you want the church to continue to grow, we must engage the youth and keep the pews filled. And I will always have my pew filled with children, fruit snacks, screaming and yelling and more love than you will ever know.

Sincerely,

Your worst nightmare that will come back over and over and over againimg_7572.jpg

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