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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.….

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.……

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Put Me in Coach.…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I need a nap, that was exhaust­ing!”

 

 

 

 

Hangin’ Tough

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

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

Me- Can you please give me a few min­utes?

Hand­some #2- Yes, but hur­ry!

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

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

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

Me- Where are your pants?!?!?!

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

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

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

Hand­some #1- Mom! The baby is cry­ing!

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

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

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

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

 

NKOTB

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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