Archive of ‘Funny’ category

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…..

Five Reasons Why I am a Guilty Catholic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clean up, or else

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

If you want to leave, go

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

You will eat this or starve

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

Do as I say, not as I do

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

Don’t make me turn this car around

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

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

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?”

Airing Our Dirty Laundry, All Over Saint Louis Hills

 

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

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

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, What’ca Gonna Do?

I have learned all kinds of things in my last eight years parenting boys. Frogs, bugs and reptiles are a regular part of conversation and I am expected to listen intently and care about the stories being told. Clothing will be filthy by the end of the day and no amount of hand washing, wet wipes or napkins on the lap can prevent it. Boys will beat the crap out of each other one minute and hug it out the next and there are never hard feelings, at all. No matter how much I preach about lifting the seat and aiming, my bathrooms, despite an inordinate amount of bleach and vinegar used, will always have a slight uriney smell. I have come to accept, albeit begrudgingly on the urine thing, all of this. It is a way of life in my house and that house is filled with happy, handsome men….and a couple of girls.

For the most part, my Handsomes are well behaved, have decent manners and do what they are told without much trouble. Sure, they all have their moments, but I can honestly say that I don’t worry too terribly much about how they will act when I am not around. I am not a huge list of rules kind of person either. We have the basics, be kind to one another, don’t talk back, put your dirty laundry in the basket, please don’t pee on your brother while you are both in the tub, all that kind of stuff. But, there is one thing in our house that my sons will unanimously announce as being the ultimate don’t cross mom on this one or she will lose her mind rule. I can handle any of the aforementioned and hand out a quick, knock if off, but when it comes to the Golden Rule in Come on Colleen land, there is no exception.

Picture if you will a lovely breakfast, lunch or dinner table. You are perfectly famished and could eat just about anything. Thankfully, there is a delicious spread before you, the company is equally as divine and you are feeling just delightful! Then, out of the corner of your eye, you spot a man at the table in a tank top. He could be the richest, kindest, funniest and most handsome man on the planet, but the second he lifts his arm to reach for the rolls, you see it. His sweaty, straggly, nasty armpit hair is dancing in the breeze. Pieces of dried deodorant are hanging on like the last bit of snow on a rock after the weather warms up. No matter how hard you try, you can’t look away and now you have completely lost your appetite and are resisting the urge to barf all over the table. Just, me? No, probably not any more…….

Did you get your tickets for the gun show? Nope, no way, not at my table. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. The Handsomes know that they absolutely must have a shirt on when we are eating. Often times they sleep in their underwear so that they can be like their idol, The Grillin’ Fool, who incidentally is the only person in our house with actual armpit hair, and will wander down the steps blurry eyed and half naked. I don’t even have to say anything. A victory in and of itself, I have mastered, “the look” that sends them scurrying in to the laundry room to find coverage.

And before you get all, “But Colleen, Handsome #1, your oldest, is only eight years old, he doesn’t even have peach fuzz in those pits.” I gagged just typing that. No, you are right, he sure doesn’t, but, I wouldn’t hand him a Salem Slim Light and a Budweiser, two of my old favorites back in the days when I was fun, so why let him engage in other risky behaviors that could lead to his mother’s premature passing from gagging on her on vomit at the table later on in life? Just not worth the risk.

This rule is infallible at our home. As a matter of fact, even when I was potty training my youngest boy, opposition was quickly squelched my by eldest.
Me- Boys, you know the rule, you must put on a shirt before breakfast.

Handsome #2- Why? Handsome #3 isn’t even wearing any underwear!

Me- No, he isn’t, but he is also tucked under the table and no one can see that.

Handsome #1- Why are you even arguing with her on this one? You will never win.

Yes. A victory. I won! I won! I won! I felt so validated. They respect me and love me and know that this is important to me and a firm rule in our home. My handsomes are allowing me to mold them into strong, respectful and respectable young men that will make me proud. I was on cloud nine for exactly 11 seconds and then I got this series of pictures from Maurmi. Remember that whole, I don’t really worry about their behavior when I’m not around bologna? Well, well, well, apparently at my house the minute I leave it’s a great big, naked, let your arm pits hang out all over the place buffet……

 

wow

 

They are lucky they are cute…….

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