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42 Years and I’ve Never Missed a Picture with Santa

Santa Claus is real, but it’s not just a jolly, fat man in a red suit. He doesn’t live in the north pole and he isn’t just flying around with reindeer. The true embodiment of Santa Claus has been with me all of my life. In all of that time, my mother has taken the magic of Christmas and unselfishly, and without expectation of anything in return, brought that to her family year after year.

Growing up, our halls were always decked. Trees in every room, candles in every window and a display of nutcrackers lining the mantle that could rival any department store window. She even won a neighborhood lighting award for her exterior illumination complete with a family of white-lighted deer and a dancing Santa. Christmas cookies in more varieties than I can count delivered to family, friends and all of the teachers at school.

This was the 80s and 90s, so her holiday wardrobe was on point. They weren’t ugly sweaters, they were high fashion. Paired with stirrup pants and elf earrings, she would make Beverly Goldberg swoon. And don’t get me started on the homemade puff paint sweatshirt that depicted her four children staring out the front window on a snowy day. It still comes out during Christmastime and the tiny little bells still jingle.

But it wasn’t just cookies and sweaters and lights, it was about others. Being raised Catholic, we went to mass every weekend and lit the Advent Wreath every night at dinner. Our church had a giving tree and she was sure that each of us chose ornaments with gifts for children and took us shopping so that we understood the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas Eve meant dressing up in our fanciest clothes and attending mass. We made it to midnight mass once, but a few kids fell asleep in the aisles. Christmas Eve was to celebrate the birth of Christ and allowed the morning to be all about the magic.

When Christmas morning came, she never disappointed. Cabbage Patch Kids, Care Bears, Guess Jeans, Adidas Jackets, and every incarnation of Nintendo, she never missed a thing. She made sure that we had what we wanted and even threw in a few things that we needed. Her face on Christmas morning as she watched our dreams come true is something I will never forget.

She has always done everything for us. Without question, she is the most giving person that I know. Giving of her means and her time, she is always there. She has never asked for anything in return, except one teeny tiny little thing. She doesn’t want jewelry of an expensive bag. She’s not interested in the latest greatest technology. For her, it’s a gift of love that means the most. This year marked the 42 year that my three brothers and I have had our picture taken with Santa. From the time I was nine months old, I have sat on Santa’s lap and smiled.

This wasn’t always fun. Imagine being in 8th grade and praying that no one saw you in line. It would have been mortifying. But, I never put up a fight, I never said no, it made her happy. So we did it. No questions asked. As we got older and lived apart, things had to be coordinated. Work schedules, kids and activities all take second place the night that we schedule our picture. Once a date has been chosen, it doesn’t change and we’re all on time. This is a tradition that will never end.

It is magical to look back at these pictures year after year. It is fun to see how styles have changed and how we’ve grown. I’ve been pregnant in four shots and my hair has had more changes than I can count. These photos show how close my brothers and I have remained all of these years. We truly love one another and the smiles you see are real.

As a mother of four myself, I often wonder how she did it. How did she balance being a mom and a wife and a dream maker? I struggle. I can’t do it all. And I don’t know even if I could, I would want to. Certainly not the way that she does. They extra special ingredients in her cookies. The carols on the radio. The fancy sweaters that all have wonderful memories. And Hallmark movies in the kitchen. It is always perfect. We are all so incredibly blessed to have her.

So when people say, do you believe? It is a resounding yes. I believe that Santa is real. I have seen Santa in action my entire life. The spirit of Christmas and of giving were integral in my growing up. It continues today. But now, this magic is shared with grandchildren. That is the best blessing. My children will grow up with the real Santa Claus in their lives too. I just hope that as a humble elf apprentice, I can live up to the magic myself someday.

I Think I Might be a Stereotype?!?!

I’m a stay-at-home mom. That in and of itself isn’t that remarkable. There are lots of us killing it out there on the daily. But there are some stereotypes that go along with the job. There’s the mini, and the Pinning, and the yoga pants. I’m checking it all off my list and I’m like WTF happened to me?

When I worked, I was in an extremely image-conscious industry. It was all about the clothes, the makeup, and the hair. I wore all black, red lipstick and a royal purple faux hawk that was on point. Today, I’m flexing high waisted yoga pants that have never seen a studio. I still slap on the red lips, but I’ve decided to let my hair go gray in sharp contrast to the hairstyles of the past. That didn’t last, but I’m still more about an easy, on-the-go look, than anything that’s turning heads.

I have Ugg boots. Lots of them. I’ve even got the slippers. The second it dips below sixty, those furry friends are replacing my Birks and will stay on until the first flower of spring. Where did my heels and knee-high boots go? They’re so far in the back of the closet, I’d need a search party to find them.

For the love of Christ, I bought a shirt that says, “Pumpkin Spice is My Favorite Season.” And it’s true! That’s basic AF! My house is decorated for all the seasons. I currently have a giant red sign on my porch that says, “Joy to the World.” It’s positioned next to my bright teal door with a giant monogram on the front. I even change the cases on my family room’s throw pillows to match my holiday theme.

I drive a mini van. I’m never going back. This I freaking love. It’s spacious. The kids can safely open the doors themselves. There’s plenty of room for car seats and all of our on-the-go gear. That’s what we all say to justify the fact that we’ve settled into our position as carpool queen.

I have an Instant Pot. It sits next to my air fryer and crockpot in the pantry. They come in handy when I’m whipping up the delicious meals that I’ve been busy pinning. I love to organize my boards so that they’re easily accessible with pasta, soup, and chicken options.

I’m in those mom groups. You know, the ones where people ask a bunch of strangers about the weird rash their two-year-old woke up with. I refrain from giving advice on when you should flip your kid’s car seat or whether I think Orajel is safe. I may just be creeping, but you know I’m reading that shit on the daily.

While I have changed a lot since I made the move from the working world to the stay-at-home lifestyle, I’m happy. I feel extremely lucky that I have had the opportunity to be with my kids as they are growing up. I don’t take that for granted. And if that means that you can spot me a mile away midday at Target with those tummy tucking yogas and a PSL in hand, I’m OK with that. But please for all that’s holy, take the “This is my Hallmark Movie Watching,” sweatshirt out of my cart!

That one Time at Kohl’s

It was cold. It was raining. It was late. We both needed to make returns, so we headed to Kohl’s. Just the two of us. These types of adventures are rare. There is often a third wheel, and she takes most of the attention. This night was different. It was calm. It was uneventful. Well, until it wasn’t.

We headed to the back of the store, where Maurmi attempted to make her first-ever Amazon return. Two shirts. Two different sizes. She quickly started in with, “This is my first time. I’ve never done this. What do you need from me?” Behind a sheet of plexiglass stood a teenage employee, who undoubtably hates his job on a normal night. This rainy eve, he was less than enthusiastic to walk her through the process. Lest I forget to mention, her hair was a mess from the rain. Her clip just wouldn’t stay still and with each new question, she went in for a restyle.

“Ma’am, I need to see your barcode?”

“I’m not sure which is which.” She laughed and adjusted her bangs.

“Ma’am, if you just let me scan it, I can figure that out.” Stone faced

“Let me grab my glasses. Oh this hair! Thank you so much for your patience.”

She’s always polite and kind and cheery. He wasn’t returning her holly jolly attitude.

“OK. That’s the small. Let me see the other code.”

At this point, I thought we might have to resuscitate him. He was fading fast.

“Here’s the large.” She presented the package and gave her bangs an adjustment.

“Your hair looks fantastic,” I remarked. In an effort to make her laugh and to see if our friendly Kohl’s associate was still breathing.

Nothing……

As she wrapped it up with Mr. Happy Holidays, I wandered off to the children’s department. I was gone exactly 10 seconds when she came running down the aisle, stopping to cross her legs and wipe the tears from her eyes.

“I swear to God! I thought it was a mirror! But it was him! I was right up in his face! This damn hair!”

It wasn’t computing. What had happened? What mirror? There was no mirror! And then I realized what she had done!

After saying their goodbyes and her attempt at exchanging pleasantries, she had taken a step to the left, put her face right up to that sheet of plexi and went after that do. What she didn’t immediately realize was that it wasn’t her reflection she was seeing. It was the employee of the month and he was shook! They almost shared a kiss and she didn’t even catch his name.

Instead of just walking away, as if nothing had happened, she tried to fix things!

“Oh! Oh! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you there! I thought this was a mirror! This damn hair!”

That’s when she turned around to catch me in the aisle. As soon as I realized what had happened, I lost all control. Control of my tears, my laughter, my bladder. It was all gone. We were so loud that I’m surprised we weren’t asked to leave. Once we gained a tiny bit of composure, we finally walked away…..In the distance I swear I heard him say, “Mirror, mirror on the wall…….”

 

To My Middle Child, I See You

To My Sweet Middle Child,

When you are always the one who has to share a room because there is one brother above and one brother below. When you sit in the backseat because your older brother is bigger than you and he beats you to the car. When you wear your older brother’s hand-me-down sweatshirts because they “still have plenty of wear left.” When you share with your younger brother because he just wants to be like you. When you close your eyes and say a prayer every single time you see an ambulance or hear a firetruck go by. Even when you think that I don’t, I see you.

Being in the middle can be tough. Sometimes you get less of me because I am worried about your older brother making good grades, and good choices, and setting a good example for his younger siblings. Often times, I have to spend more time with the younger one because he is still learning to do math, and about subjects and predicates, and has to work on his spelling words. He needs more of me than you do. But when you are quietly doing your homework alone, eating a snack, and working as hard as you can. I see you.

You may not realize it, but you are the most important sibling to each of your brothers. They both look to you as a mentor, confidant, and friend. Your older brother has known you the longest. You are his very best friend and he will tell you his deepest and darkest secrets. He looks to you for advice. He values your opinion. And the baby brother, he looks up to you. He loves sharing your room because he gets to stay up later and he has access to your Dog Man collection. He thinks you dress and act cool. He wants glasses so he can look like you. It takes a special person to switch hats and be so many things for different people. When you share your things and your time. I see you.

When you are feeling unloved, underappreciated, and generally underwhelmed. When you think that no one has it as tough as you. When no one understands you because they don’t carry the weight of being an older and younger brother. When your feelings are hurt. When all you want to do is spend five mintues alone in your own space. When you are trying your hardest to keep it all together, but you just need to cry. I see you.

When you are laughing at a great joke. When you come running out of school with a smile on your face. When you get the remote first and get to decide what to watch on TV. When you get a great grade on a test you studied so hard for. When you push your glasses up on your wrinkly little nose. When you smile and give me a hug for no reason. I see you.

Thank you for being our peacemaker and our voice of reason. Thank you for making sandwiches while I am on a call or working under a deadline. Thank you for carrying down a laundry basket or grabbing the trash and taking it out. Thank you for watching TV with your brother when you’d much rather be playing Minecraft with your friends. Thank you for always remembering to take a shower and to brush your teeth. Thank you for being agreeable and kind. And thank you for being so special to all of us. We need you. We love you. We appreciate you. We’d be lost without you. And never forget, we all see you.

Love,
Mom

The Spark in the Dark that Almost Killed Me

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the part when I briefly blacked out.

“No, baby, what does it mean?”

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

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

My Funny Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How are you today, ma’am?

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

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

I’m never going back…….

Dear Darling, I Need a Big Favor

Dear Darling,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Mom

Mama Said There’d be Days Like This

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got Milk?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Handsome #3-“No milk in the car.”

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

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

 

 

 

My Barbies Taught Me How to be a Good Mom


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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