Posts Tagged ‘comeoncolleen’

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…..

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.

Keep Smiling, Keep Shining……

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Since the dawn of social media the world has become obsessed with sharing. Our lives are open books of photos and text written for everyone to see. Many of us have connected ourselves with large groups of people, that if it weren’t for these sites, we may not have kept up with at all. On any given day I can tell you what people who I went to grade school with had for lunch. I can spot a friend’s husband, who I have never met in my life, at a gas station but I won’t introduce myself because that would be weird. I can name hundreds of friends’ children’s names and tell you wonderful stories about those children because I have read all about them, but they don’t even know I exist.

I, myself, tend to be an over sharer. I like to think that my kids are funny and so I write down their quips and I publish them. I am lousy at baby books,. Those 0-12 months pictures always happen a day, or a week late. And, shh, I totally throw away papers when my kids go to sleep at night. But, I will absolutely Instagram a quote about the time someone told me they hoped they could throw up just to stay home and play with an iPad. That’s my life, day in and day out, and it’s the real life of so many parents.

When I was pregnant with Darling a few months ago, we decided to keep the gender a secret until the end. We did this with all of our pregnancies, so it was nothing new, but boy did the world want to weigh in on who was growing in my womb. I thoroughly documented my pregnancy and the excitement that our entire family had during this special time.

When my Darling was born, I proudly shared her birth story and the amazing surprise that she was for all of us. I was so thrilled to announce my beautiful baby, I never really took the time to think about how my posts and pictures, so many silly and often trite, could be affecting others.

And then this note appeared in my mailbox and stopped me in my tracks.

So I never wrote you- I was going to but it seemed too strange, but you are a strange gal and will probably appreciate this! I was due with a baby last March 2016… exact same time as you! I was busy holding my breath hoping and praying that this little one would stick when you announced #4. Of course I love your posts and was thrilled for you! My sweet little one was just passing through and for some reason I had a REALLY hard time recovering emotionally from that loss. I sought out support from all different healers – therapist, energy work, etc. I KNEW it was a little girl!

I sort of lived vicariously through your pregnancy updates on Facebook! I just KNEW you were going to have a girl too!

I had a dream the night you went into labor that you had a little girl and woke up to the news on Facebook announcing the arrival of your Darling! I cried. I was so emotional because I was so happy for you and so sad for me – it was really cathartic for me to experience the joy you felt welcoming your daughter! Just so beautiful! So super dog random that you had NO IDEA that you and your pregnancy played such a role in my healing process!!!!! THANK YOU!

This message from a real-life friend from school, who lives a few states away and is a mother of three herself, was an eye opener for me. It made me realize that just being me, just being silly and just sharing what happens, made someone else feel good. It made her smile during a really hard time in her life. I find such pleasure in reading others’ updates, too. There are a few select people whom I religiously check on because they make me smile, laugh and realize that I am totally not as bad of a mother as they are. I kid, I kid. The reality is, we are all just trying to get through the day and we all serve as great blessings to one another. I am grateful to play that role for some of you and equally thankful that you are there for me.

And while we may not always care about what that girl, who totally told a nun that she hated her math class and walked out sophomore year (this was absolutely a fever-induced dementia) did over the weekend, keep her on your friend’s list. She might be just what you need when you least expect it.

To My Nani Nine Years Later……

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Nine years ago today was one of the most emotionally thrilling and equally devastating days of my life. Just the day before, I had an overwhelming urge to take a pregnancy test, something that had never even crossed my mind before. I was home alone and stared down at those two pink lines knowing that my life was about to change in the most profound way, but having no idea what that really meant. My first inclination was to tell my Nani, even before my husband or my mother. She had been my very best friend for my entire life and I always shared my biggest news with her.

She was very ill, in the hospital, and I knew that my time with her was likely coming to an end. But she was a cat with nine lives and I hoped that she would give us all one more miraculous recovery. After sharing my news with The Grillin’ Fool, we decided to head out to see her and tell her about our baby.

For the past few days the hospital had been filled with our extended family, visiting, praying and loving our Nani. There wasn’t a single moment that a cousin, Aunt or Uncle wasn’t keeping vigil over her bed. Because of the constant flow of visitors, I had not had a chance to tell my own parents that we were expecting. I felt a bit guilty, but knew that ultimately they would understand why I chose to tell her first. I opened the door to her room and waiting inside were my three brothers, my parents and Nani laying peacefully in her bed. Just my immediate family, no one else. I knew that God intended for us to share this news right then and there with all of them.

I leaned in, kissed my Nani on the forehead and said,

“Nani, I have something to tell you. I am going to have a baby.”

You could hear a pin drop. There were looks of shock on the faces of my family, but no one said a word. She opened her eyes, ever so slightly and smiled.

“Oh honey. I am so happy about your baby. That makes my life complete.”

The next day, she passed away. My heart broke in a way that I had never experienced. But even in my sorrow, I took solace in the fact that my final conversation with her was to share the most amazing news of my life and I knew that she would watch over me throughout my pregnancy.

I believe in God, I believe in miracles and I believe in signs. I have felt her presence in my life many times in the last nine years. As I was preparing for Handsome #1’s baptism the May after she died, Maurmi brought over the silver cup that Nani had given to me as an infant. It was horribly tarnished and the inscription was illegible. Maurmi scrubbed and polished that cup until it looked brand new. She handed it to me and as I read the engraving, my heart skipped a beat.

Colleen McKernan Dilthey

April 22, 1979

Most infant cups have the baby’s birth date on them. My Nani had mine inscribed with my baptismal date. That seemingly benign date also happens to be Handsome #1’s birthday, the boy whose baptism we were preparing for. She was there the day he was born, she was there the day he was baptized and she was with us in my kitchen as my mother and I cried staring at that cup.

Life has moved on in nine years and mine has changed so very much, but I don’t think that she has missed a thing. Sure, I wish that she was still here with me, but as I have grown older and wiser, I use that word very cautiously, I realize that you have to live your best life while you are here on earth and your guardian angel will take care of you. When I need a little boost, I think of her and the wonderful things she did for me. I could write a book just about her and the Friday nights that I spent at her house watching Love Connection and eating peanuts and drinking Sprite in bed.

While I miss her like crazy and I wish she was here, I watch her daughter and she has embodied the very best of her own mother and is becoming her. My Nani was at every game, every performance, every thing that she could be for her grandchildren. She was the ultimate cheerleader and we could do no wrong. If you look out in the stands at St. Simon today, you will see that same fierce defender of her grandchildren with a smile on her face and more love in her heart that anyone I know. Her name is Maurmi and her grandchildren adore her.

For the first 28 years of my life, I watched my Nani and my mother with envy. They had the kind of relationship that many mothers and daughters dream of having. I was close to my mother, but nothing like the two of them. My Nani had been my very best friend and it wasn’t until she was gone that I truly began to appreciate my own mother for the woman that she is. I used to be a bit jealous of the way that my children’s faces light up when she comes in the room, but then I remember my own childhood and realize that is the way it is supposed to be.

As a mom, I admire her. I know that she learned from the best in the world and I want like hell to be like them. No words can accurately describe the way that I feel about my mom. She is my best friend, my partner in crime and the source of more laughter than any person on the planet. Every minute that we spend together is cherished. She loves her family, her faith and her friends and will drop anything to help others. I cannot imagine what I would ever do without her. Many women dread hearing, “You’re turning into your mother.” To me, it is the ultimate compliment.

God surprised us last summer and gave my husband and I a fourth baby. Like always, we decided to keep the gender a surprise, truly wanting nothing but this blessing. I prayed for a smooth pregnancy. I prayed for a safe delivery. I prayed for a healthy baby. God granted me each of these. Unlike my previous deliveries that all began in induction, with baby #4 my water broke in the middle of the night and we headed to the hospital despite the fact that I was scheduled to deliver via c-section a few days later.

After painful contractions in the hallway, even worse pains in pre op and miserable pains before the spinal block was in, the surgery started.

Before I knew what hit me, my doctor cheerfully announced,

“Oh my God, Colleen, it’s a girl. It’s a girl!”

As I looked at my gorgeous pink bundle of love, I knew that my life was forever changed for the fourth time. I was once again inspired to be a better mother. I looked at my husband, both of us with tears in our eyes, and fell in love with him all over again. My heart was so very full. Together we have created an incredible family and I am so very proud.

That beautiful girl, Darling, was named after my Nani and Maurmi in the hopes that she will posses their special breed of moxie. I know that she is destined to make her mark on this world. Every day, I look at her sweet little face, and I hope that she and I will have the kind of relationship that my mom and I and she and her mother had.

Nani, nine years has literally been a lifetime for me. I was just a girl when you left me, now I am a mother of four trying to get it right. You certainly left an impression on the hearts of those who knew you. Believe it or not, people still talk about you and your constant presence when we were growing up. It has not gone unnoticed the impact that you had on your baby girl as she has truly embodied your spirit and continues to make you proud continuing your legacy as the best grandmother out there.

I miss you more than ever and I wish I could have you back for just one day to laugh and smile and eat of loaf of jelly toast in your kitchen. I know that you will continue to watch over us all and to bless each of us in your special way. I love you so and appreciate what you have helped me to become more than I could ever explain. She is a fireball with smiling Irish eyes and I promise that your namesake will do you proud. I can’t wait to see you back in two and two……

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.

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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?”

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