Archive of ‘Uncategorized’ category

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

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

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

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

Clean up, or else

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

If you want to leave, go

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

You will eat this or starve

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

Do as I say, not as I do

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

Don’t make me turn this car around

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

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

Because You Loved Me.….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_8454

Put Me in Coach.…

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

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

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

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

h21

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

h22

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

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

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

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

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

I need a nap, that was exhaust­ing!”

 

 

 

 

Hangin’ Tough

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

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

Me- Can you please give me a few min­utes?

Hand­some #2- Yes, but hur­ry!

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

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

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

Me- Where are your pants?!?!?!

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

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

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

Hand­some #1- Mom! The baby is cry­ing!

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

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

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

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

 

NKOTB

Vacation, all I ever wanted.….

Last sum­mer, super new­ly preg­nant, we trav­eled with my par­ents, broth­er and sis­ter-in-law, also preg­nant, and our nephew to Hol­i­day World in San­ta Claus, IN. If you haven’t been, you need to go. It’s fam­i­ly friend­ly, clean, afford­able and there is a ton to do with lit­tle kids. My boys love it and talk all the time about when we can go back.

Recent­ly, Hand­some #2 was given an assign­ment in his kinder­garten class to bring in a pic­ture and a brief write up about a recent trip. The­se pic­tures would be shared with the class in a show and tell for­mat. Obvi­ous­ly, he was super excit­ed about this par­tic­u­lar home­work and couldn’t wait to recount his adven­ture with the class. 

We talked about the rides, the food, the water park and even the car ride there. He was proud as a pea­cock to tell his friends all about it. He wrote three sen­tences on the paper and I found a pic­ture on my phone and sent it to Wal­greens. Done and done. Weeks have passed and the assign­ment was all but for­got­ten. 

Today after school the boys burst through the door soak­ing wet from the tor­ren­tial down­pour that hit this after­noon. I ran upstairs to get clean clothes for each of them retun­ing with a Hol­i­day World t-shirt. This opened Pandora’s Box.

Hand­some #2- Mom! I am not wear­ing that. I’m not even going back there.

Me- Why not? You love Hol­i­day World.

Hand­some #2- Nope. Not any­more I sure don’t. Do you want to know why?

Me- Please, tell me.

Hand­some #2- Remem­ber my vaca­tion home­work?

Me- Yes.

Hand­some #2- Well, that’s why! 

Me- I don’t under­stand.

Hand­some #2- That pic­ture you got of the trip, well guess what? You can’t even see me. Hand­some #1 is hold­ing up the park map right in front of my face! 

We took approx­i­mate­ly 5,000 pic­tures on that trip.….naturally, I chose this.…..

If only I had Listened to My Mother.….….

ltyn

I love to write. Love it. Love it. Love it. I tru­ly believe in the fact that God gives each of us very speci­fic gifts and tal­ents that He wants us to use. He hap­pened to make me a pret­ty good sto­ry­teller, a tal­ent that I cer­tain­ly inherit­ed from my moth­er, and I chron­i­cle those sto­ries on Face­book and here on my blog. I have often been told to write a book by friends and fol­low­ers and near­ly dai­ly by my moth­er. They tell me how much they love my sto­ries and would absolute­ly buy my book and share it with their own friends and fam­i­ly. This is where my crip­pling fear takes over. This is when my com­plete and total lack of self con­fi­dence comes in to play and I imme­di­ate­ly sec­ond guess myself and want to run and hide. Sur­prised? Don’t be. That’s the real me.

I know that I make you laugh. I know that I have made you cry. I know that I have made many of you feel bet­ter about your­selves by liv­ing vic­ar­i­ous­ly through my mis­ad­ven­tures. Through­out my jour­ney on this site, social media and shar­ing my life with you, it has always been easy for me to hit post and then hide. While I know many of you per­son­al­ly, I don’t inter­act with you face to face very often. I love to read your com­ments and reac­tions, but if you see me in per­son, you will often find that I become very embar­rassed by the atten­tion. I have a total and com­plete lack of self con­fi­dence that has plagued me my entire life. This may come as a sur­prise because I put on quite a show, but the fact of the mat­ter is, I always feel like I am just shy of being good enough.

Recent­ly, I took a plunge, a leap of faith. And I did it in com­plete and total secre­cy. I had read about the Lis­ten to Your Moth­er Show on Face­book the last cou­ple of years and thought that it was an amaz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty. I envied the sto­ry­tellers with their con­fi­dence and mox­ie. I just didn’t have it. I stalked the web­site and knew exact­ly what it entailed, but I nev­er could pull the trig­ger. The pro­ce­dure was sim­ple enough. All I had to do was sub­mit a sto­ry about moth­er­hood, that I had writ­ten, to a pan­el to be reviewed. If they liked it, I would be called to read my sto­ry at a live audi­tion. Cer­tain­ly I would nev­er real­ly be called upon to audi­tion, so what is the harm in send­ing an email?

For those of you think­ing, wait a min­ute, aren’t you the same per­son who was in like 100 plays in your life­time, often play­ing pret­ty big roles? Yep. Why in the world would this be a prob­lem for you? True, I have had a life-long love affair with the stage. I have nev­er had a prob­lem speak­ing in front of a crowd. I haven’t got­ten par­tic­u­lar­ly ner­vous, it has always come nat­u­ral­ly. But nev­er in my life have I actu­al­ly pre­sent­ed my own work. Some­thing that came from inside of me. Some­thing that I was allow­ing total strangers to read and then decide whether or not they thought it was good enough. The thought was tru­ly ter­ri­fy­ing.

I didn’t dare run it by Mau­r­mi or The Grillin’ Fool because I knew that they would instant­ly encour­age me, which would make me even more uncom­fort­able and resis­tant. Instead, I penned a tale about a tru­ly stand out mem­o­ry from my own child­hood that depicts exact­ly the kind of moth­er I want to be and I hit send. Not expect­ing to hear a thing. A few weeks went by and then this.….……

CONGRATULATIONS!!!! We are thrilled to inform you that YOU have been select­ed to AUDITION your writ­ten sub­mis­sion piece for Lis­ten To Your Moth­er, St. Louis!”

Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph! They want­ed me to read. They want­ed me to tell my sto­ry in per­son. They want­ed me to audition.…at 37 weeks pregnant.….this would be no problem.….no prob­lem at all?!?!?!?! I could no longer keep it to myself, so I shared my excite­ment with my moth­er, who sad­ly was attend­ing the funer­al of Jus­tice Anton­in Scalia, in her kitchen, at the time and may have been caught a bit off guard.

image1

Once it hit her, she was thrilled and encour­ag­ing and insis­tent that I fol­low through. I sched­uled my audi­tion and promised that she could come along if she swore on her life that she wouldn’t say a word. I didn’t want her telling any­one because I was cer­tain that it would be a bust and I didn’t want to not be cho­sen and have to explain it to any­one. Plus, since the sto­ry was about her and what may or may not have been, prob­a­bly was, a total ner­vous break­down dur­ing her mid thir­ties, I thought it only fair that she hear it first hand.

image2

We arrived at the audi­to­ri­um, I signed in and was imme­di­ate­ly tak­en in to read. I hadn’t been to an audi­tion since col­lege, but it just felt right. Despite the fact that I was read­ing my own words, I felt com­fort­able. I felt hap­py. I was at home.The pro­duc­ers laughed and they cried and they clapped. For the first time in a very long time, I felt real­ly, real­ly good about what I had done.

I walked out with my head held high tru­ly believ­ing that no mat­ter what hap­pened, I had accom­plished some­thing big that day. I had a fingernail’s worth of self con­fi­dence and it felt great. But I can’t lie, I want­ed it. I want­ed it bad­ly. I want­ed to be a part of the cast to prove to myself that every­thing that I had been hear­ing was true. That I am good enough. For the next 10 days I ago­nized over the silence. I checked my email over, and over, and over again. Noth­ing.….…

I had decid­ed that it was a lost cause that it was time to give up and then the email arrived.

CONGRATULATIONS!!! We loved your sto­ry on “AIRING THE DIRTY LAUNDRY”, and you have been cho­sen for the cast of the 4th annu­al Lis­ten to Your Moth­er St. Louis. Whoo Hoo! We applaud you for hav­ing the courage to share your sto­ry with us, and you are one of 13 peo­ple in the cast this year. We promise, it’s going to be an expe­ri­ence you will nev­er for­get!”

I cried. I cried big ugly tears. This is real­ly hap­pen­ing. This is huge. I feel so hon­ored. This has ignit­ed a fire inside of me and I can­not wait to write more sto­ries and to share them with the world. This is all hap­pen­ing because I lis­tened to my moth­er. I just wish that I would have done it soon­er.

12107729_10153774521983620_9183426770265648986_n

Merry Christmas, Richard Simmons!

I am so behind in life right now it’s embar­rass­ing. We are get­ting ready to move in less than a week, it is Decem­ber 17, my Elf hasn’t even shown up yet. There is no Thomas Fam­i­ly Christ­mas Card. I am a mess. But, not too much of a dis­as­ter to wish a very Mer­ry Christ­mas to the man who has made a dif­fer­ence in my life. Slow your roll friends, this is not a sap­py shout out to my hus­band and the father of my Hand­somes, my amaz­ing dad or even any of my broth­ers. But if you know any­thing about me, you know that this sil­ly lit­tle sprite made an impres­sion on my heart 20 years ago and I have nev­er been the same.

June 1995. No Inter­net, no cell phones, a few dozen cable chan­nels and a stack of ads clut­ter­ing the kitchen table. There were no text alerts or emails offer­ing 20 per­cent off a pur­chase in the next 10 min­utes. If you want­ed to know what was hot and on sale, you mulled through page after thin, grimy page of glossy ads. Sec­ond only to the Have You Seen Me? cards that I painstak­ing­ly stud­ied just to be sure that no one in my class was liv­ing with a group of secret psy­chopaths, I loved those ads. I liked to look at Tar­get and Wal­greens, but my very favorite week­ly was Ven­ture. There was some­thing about the black and white stripes that was sort of mem­o­riz­ing.

Richard simmons

One par­tic­u­lar Sun­day as I watched Zach and Kel­ly head to the Max and break up, again, I mind­less­ly scanned the Post Dis­patch. When I got to the mid­dle of the Ven­ture ad I near­ly had a heart attack. There he stood tanned and flash­ing those pearly whites like no one else could. His brown locks posi­tioned per­fect­ly on his head and his brown eyes pierc­ing a hole right into my heart. I was so tak­en aback that his pic­ture was right there in the mid­dle of the women’s cloth­ing spread that I near­ly missed that he would be com­ing to vis­it St. Louis the next week.

Holy hell in a hand­bag! There was no way that my six­teen-year-old self was going to miss this. It was a dream come true and I could hard­ly con­tain myself. In order to make this a real­i­ty, my moth­er had to take the day off of work. But, she too, knew that this was a once-in-a-life­time expe­ri­ence and want­ed in. We recruit­ed two of my three broth­ers and my Nani, who nev­er missed a good time, and we were off.

The appear­ance was sched­uled for noon, but I knew that if we weren’t there when the store opened, there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in fiery hell that we would even be able to get near him. Secu­ri­ty would cer­tain­ly be beefed up for such a big celeb, so we couldn’t risk it! As I round­ed the cor­ner to make my way down the long aisle to the Women’s Depart­ment, I was in a total state of shock. There was only one per­son there! It was the best moment of my life. I was going to be up close and per­son­al and in the front of the line.

After what seemed like hours. It was seri­ous­ly like four, the crowd had mul­ti­plied over and over and it was just about time for him to arrive. I could feel the but­ter­flies in my stom­ach. What would I say? What would I do? OMG, what if he doesn’t like me? Sud­den­ly, there was a burst of sound like a huge thun­der clap. I turned as he appeared at the end of the aisle. It was as if he was sur­round­ed by angels singing and a burst of light beamed from his wings as he began to prance down the aisle. I was over­come, awestruck, I thought I would faint. There was noth­ing that I could do to con­trol myself, the tears just start­ed to fall.

I wasn’t the only one. Legions of fans sur­round­ed him, tot­ing signs, books and VHS tapes. The all want­ed a part of the man who had changed their lives. They want­ed to thank him for mak­ing them smile when they need­ed it the most. They want­ed to hug him and give back the feel­ing of uncon­di­tion­al love and accep­tance that he had shown them. Some even want­ed to rip his short shorts, but their wasn’t enough time. As quick­ly as he had made it down the aisle, he was up on stage singing, laugh­ing and sweat­ing.

The con­sum­mate hap­py man with encour­ag­ing words and a pos­i­tive atti­tude that could rival any man­u­fac­tured tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ty was there to do what he did best, make peo­ple smile, and smile we did. Well, some of us ugly cried before we were old enough to tru­ly under­stand what an ugly cry is, but I digress. In that store, in that moment moment in time, we were a unit­ed front of hap­py fans. There was no judge­ment about who we were, what we looked like or what we stood for.One sin­gle per­son was able to make so many peo­ple feel good about them­selves just by being him­self.

As I walked out the door that day I felt blessed. I was hum­bled by the out­pour­ing of love by one per­son for every­one in that line. It was gen­uine car­ing, gen­uine con­cern, the kind that is absolute­ly impos­si­ble to fake. It was a hap­py day for so many, one that we will like­ly nev­er for­get.

Today, I read some­thing that made me sad. Real­ly, real­ly sad. The kind of sad that makes you hurt a lit­tle. Richard Sim­mons has not been seen in near­ly two years. He is suf­fer­ing in some way and is appar­ent­ly no longer leav­ing his home, accord­ing to a sto­ry on TMZ. This man has devot­ed his entire life to mak­ing oth­ers smile, but for some rea­son, his joy is gone. It’s trag­ic, real­ly.

Sure, peo­ple make fun of him because of the way he looks, the way he dress­es and the way he acts. Yep, he is flam­boy­ant. His shorts are short and his tanks are tight. But, his heart is huge. Richard has devot­ed his life to mak­ing oth­er peo­ple feel good and to live a hap­pier and health­ier life. I chal­lenge any one of us to sim­ply treat our own fam­i­ly mem­bers with that kind of com­pas­sion and kind­ness, not an easy task.

I am one fan. One insignif­i­cant per­son with a sto­ry even more insignif­i­cant. I was nev­er mor­bid­ly obe­se. I haven’t been hos­pi­tal­ized because of my weight. I have nev­er been des­per­ate seek­ing help so that I don’t die. Many of the hearts that Richard has touched have been in worse predica­ments than this. I was just inspired by some­one who cares about oth­ers and has a pos­i­tive atti­tude.

When I update my blog, which is embar­rass­ing­ly infre­quent­ly, I nor­mal­ly just talk about my kids and the fun­ny things that the say. Of course, I also point out all of the dumb things I do too, just to be fair. But today, I have a mis­sion, I want to Ral­ly for Richard. He needs love and hugs and prayers. Whether you have nev­er been Sweat­in’ to the Oldies or had to Deal a Meal, I would be will­ing to bet that at the very least, you laughed until you cried when he was on,‘Whose Line is it Any­way?’

 

For the record, the above account, total­ly hap­pened. I cried like a baby, like, I could bare­ly con­sole myself. It was so bad that the only thing that I could do to calm myself down was walk across the Ven­ture park­ing lot to Wendy’s for a quick burg­er, fries and a Frosty to wash it all down.

collrich

Years lat­er Hand­some #1 had his first celeb encoun­ter at Wal­greens

Ain’t too Proud to Brag.….…..

March 16, 1992 I turned 13. I also got the chick­en pox. In all of my new­ly-crowned teenage wis­dom, I picked the first spot that appeared on my face, despite my mother’s warn­ing, “leave it alone or you will make it so much worse.” The pim­ple turned out to be the first of about 5,000 pox that made the next two weeks among the most mis­er­able of my entire life.

I laid on the couch day after day cer­tain that death was impend­ing. The fever and itch­ing and just plain dis­com­fort made each breath resem­ble my last. Per­haps it was my flair for the dra­mat­ic, or the fact that she had three oth­er plague-strick­en chil­dren to take care of, but my moth­er didn’t seem to think that my sit­u­a­tion was quite as dire. Luck­i­ly for me, my then 80-some­thing-year-old Nani dis­agreed and tend­ed to my every need.

As my three broth­ers healed and went back to school, my mom went back to work while I lay con­va­lesc­ing for the sec­ond week with Nani at my side. She brought me Sev­en­teen Mag­a­zi­nes, made me Lip­ton Cup of Soup and watched end­less hours of Press Your Luck Reruns. She was my best friend not just when I was sick, but always. There was noth­ing that she wouldn’t do for me and I sim­ply loved to be with her.

When Press Your Luck turned to the less enter­tain­ing Card Sharks, I would flip the chan­nel to VH1 which played an end­less loop of Vanes­sa Williams’, “Save the Best for Last” and TLC’s, “Ain’t too Proud to Beg.” I don’t know if it was the col­or­ful over­alls or per­haps the con­doms pinned every­where, but she just, couldn’t, “under­stand those dirty girls.” Why would they put on such a “per­for­mance?” And they would look so much nicer in a, “pret­ty dress.” For a solid week every time it came on, she laughed and said, “There they are again. Those crazy girls with those dirty pants on.”

Last Fri­day night while going to see Push the Lim­it, a friend’s band, per­form at Jun­gle Boo­gie at the STL Zoo, I spot­ted one of those crazy girls. T-Boz was there, in the flesh and I was sud­den­ly 13 and starstruck. I can’t lie, I total­ly fol­lowed her, from afar, cer­tain that it was her, but still too shy to approach. With Hand­some #3 in his stroller, I pushed toward the Frag­ile Forest where she stood admir­ing the ani­mals. Sud­den­ly, Mau­r­mi strikes up a casu­al con­ver­sa­tion with her as if she is a vol­un­teer zookeep­er for the day.

She was so kind, so friend­ly and so far from any­thing osten­ta­tious. I made eye con­tact and blurt­ed out with tears in my eyes,

OMG?!?!? Are you who I think you are? You are so beau­ti­ful. I just saw you in con­cert a few months ago. You are just. I am hav­ing a moment. Your music. I just. OMG, can I get a pic­ture with you?”

She gra­cious­ly said, “yes,” ignor­ing my ver­bal diar­rhea. We exchanged pleas­antries and she was on her way. I spent the rest of the evening rev­el­ing in the excite­ment and the fact that my celebri­ty friend list is no longer just Richard Sim­mons!

Ain't Too Proud to Brag

Crazy, Sexy and so insane­ly Cool

I attend­ed a work event on Sat­ur­day morn­ing and made it home just in time to head to Mass before Hand­some #1’s evening soc­cer game. As I sat in church, I saw the date on the bul­let­in, August 8. It was the eight-year anniver­sary of my Nani’s death. My heart broke a lit­tle, as it does every time I think of her, but I found strength in my faith, know­ing that she is with God and her fam­i­ly in heav­en.

I smiled to myself as I pre­pared for com­mu­nion and the organ­ist began to play, “Here I am Lord.” It was the song played at her funer­al and the one that always hap­pens to start the moment that I need it most. I felt her hands on mine and rubbed my thumb over her knuck­les just as I had thou­sands of times in our 28 years togeth­er.

As a tear ran down my cheek, I began to laugh. I could see her in the blue reclin­er eat­ing a bowl of ice cream and giv­ing her dis­ap­prov­ing dis­ser­ta­tion about T-Boz and her clan. I real­ized that she had been with me the night before, that she approved of the nice young wom­an that T-Boz has turned in to and that she still loves me the most. And if she had been there, she would have dis­pensed the fol­low­ing advice.……

Don’t go chas­ing water­falls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or noth­ing at all
But I think you’re mov­ing too fast

Time is on my side.….maybe.….

Where the hell are my Swatch Watch­es?” I am guess­ing that not a sin­gle one of you spent the bet­ter part of an hour repeat­ing that phrase as you fever­ish­ly tried to find your child­hood stuffed in a box, like me.

Tomor­row, in cel­e­bra­tion of Catholic Schools Week, Hand­some #1 is able to dress out of uni­form in cloth­ing inspired by his favorite decade. Since he is six and hasn’t even been on earth a decade, find­ing a favorite is tough. But, he does have a cou­ple of pastel polos, skin­ny jeans that can be tight rolled and loafers which make him an instant prep­py heart­throb and me a last-min­ute suc­cess. That was, of course, until I had the bril­liant idea to grab a few clas­sic acces­sories to com­plete the look.

I have had a tough time part­ing with many of my child­hood favorites, some call it hoard­ing, I call it, “take my friends away and I will stab you.” I have sev­er­al Rub­ber­maid totes filled with play­bills, book reports, passed notes and cher­ished Bar­bie and Hot Looks dolls. You will also find the occa­sion­al funer­al card from some of grandmother’s friends, who I nev­er met, that I found on the floor as a child and knew that I would be going straight to hell if I tossed them in the trash, so they have found an eter­nal rest­ing place next to my eighth birth­day invi­ta­tions.

I also have my Caboodle, still in tact from 20 years ago, filled with trea­sures from my youth. I ran up the steps to grab my three Swatch Watch­es for Finnegan to wear and was stunned to find that they were not where they should have been. OK, that’s a lie. I wasn’t real­ly stunned. It would be stun­ning that they were lost if I was a metic­u­lous house keep­er and orga­nized my life with the detail of some­one suf­fer­ing from OCD, but that is just a lie that I want to live. Instead, I find great solace in stuff­ing as much %h!+ as I pos­si­bly can into draw­ers, bags and box­es then shut­ting the clos­et door.

Soooo, they should have been in that Caboodle, but they were hid­den some­where else. I began my search in all of the like­ly places. I start­ed in jew­el­ry box­es, no dice. Moved on to mem­o­ry box­es, noth­ing. How about in the boys’ clos­et in the blue con­tain­er with my name and Geese stick­ers that my BFFs mom made me for my birth­day in first grade? Nope! With all of the usu­al sus­pects elim­i­nat­ed, I start­ed to dig deep.

I rifled through beau­ti­ful vel­veteen box­es that look love­ly and orga­nized in my clos­et, but are tru­ly filled with mis­matched socks and unfin­ished needle­point projects. I ven­tured under my bed and found a box con­tain­ing my CT100 final, an envelope of pic­tures from some weird event that I couldn’t iden­ti­fy and my blue Blos­somesque hat, but no watch­es.

I then moved to my dresser and searched among the cos­tume jew­el­ry trays and over­whelm­ing­ly fluffy scarves that filled the top draw­er. Sud­den­ly, my hand felt some­thing plas­tic and my heart skipped. I pulled the trea­sure from the bot­tom of the draw­er and my eyes filled with tears. I held it tight­ly not want­i­ng to let go of the mem­o­ry.

The long white stick with the pink lid had long since lost its two lines. It was utter­ly use­less, even to me, but the feel­ings that it had once given me all came flood­ing back. I was scared, I was excit­ed, I was filled with emo­tions that I had nev­er felt before and I couldn’t bear to toss it then or now. I’ve hid­den that bag from my hus­band, from my kids and from myself. Per­haps it’s gross, per­haps it’s weird, but it’s real and it’s me and it’s what I do and I think more of us than are will­ing to admit it do the­se things too.

I cried a lit­tle, think­ing that I may nev­er see two pink lines again, real­iz­ing that anoth­er stage of my life may be over. God’s plan is always big­ger than mine, so He ulti­mate­ly decides what my fam­i­ly will be, and I’m OK with that. Plus, I am tru­ly excit­ed about first grade, learn­ing more, los­ing teeth and becom­ing inde­pen­dent. I love PreK and those snug­gles and hand holds that come along with that last year of real­ly being lit­tle. Don’t even get my start­ed on not quite two. When some­one runs full speed ahead at your legs, leaps into your arms and cov­ers you with choco­late hugs and kiss­es, life is com­plete.

So as I stuffed that Ziploc back of ten or so EPTs to the back of the draw­er. Yes, ten. I mean, for real, you didn’t think that if I saved one I didn’t save all of them from all three preg­nan­cies, right? I say, if you’re going to do crazy, go big or go home. I con­tin­ued my quest for my hot Swatch Watch­es, but alas, it was time to get kids ready for din­ner so I called the search par­ty off.

Even if I had found the Swatch­es, I am one hun­dred per­cent cer­tain that time is stand­ing still on the faces. But, had Finnegan put them on his arm, it would still be 2015; there is no mag­ic tak­ing us back to 1992. That’s OK. I like it here, right now with my life filled with boys and lots of love sans Swatch.….

I am also hap­py to leave that white mock turtle­neck under a den­im shirt topped with an icy glare in the past, because, well, damn.…..

 

Liar, liar pants on Fire!

Tonight, I, err, Hand­some #1 and I, fin­ished our first real deal school project. He is next week’s star stu­dent and along with oth­er priv­i­leges comes a chance to let the class learn a bit more about you. There was cut­ting, past­ing, col­or­ing and my all-time favorite activ­i­ty to do with a child, hand­writ­ing. To be fair, he has come a long way from the hiero­glyph­ics that he was turn­ing out in kinder­garten, but holy Moses, it is a strug­gle! The pro­fes­sor, as he is most lov­ing­ly referred to by his Mau­r­mi, can tell you any­thing in the world that you would ever like to know about rep­tiles, insects, Sponge Bob or Woody Wood­peck­er. He would love to recount the times that his father has allowed him to flip his steaks on the grill, or the time that I called a wom­an a b!+ch at the mall, which by the way, she ABSOLUTELY deserved. Just don’t, under any cir­cum­stance, ask him to write it down. You might as well be ask­ing for a kid­ney, as his reac­tion is just about the same. He will do what­ev­er he can to get out of it. He is shrewd, once telling me that he will nev­er need to learn to write because every­one just has com­put­ers and texts each oth­er any­way. He is six.…. And yes, I real­ized about a mon­th after he was born and he start­ed talk­ing that we were like­ly in trou­ble.

Sad­ly for him, the rest of the first grade won’t be allowed to use their iPhones in class, so he had to do things the old fash­ioned way. His teacher pro­vid­ed us with six stars that had to be incor­po­rat­ed into the project, things like his birth­day, favorite school sub­ject, his favorite book etc. The answers to the ques­tions had to be writ­ten inside of the stars which were then put on the poster board and dec­o­rat­ed. We sailed through. Life was great! Things were going well and then.…
Me: Hand­some #1 what do you want to be when you grow up?
Hand­some #1: Mom! You know what I want to be, a her­petol­o­gist.
Me: Oh, yeah, right. Of course, the lizards. Go ahead and write that in the box.
Hand­some #1: OK. H.e.r.p.…H.e.r.p…H.e.r.p..H.e.…..ugh, for­get it! I am just going to be a fire­fight­er! At least I know how to spell that!

1 2