To My Nani Nine Years Later……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colleen McKernan Dilthey

April 22, 1979

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect 10

We are a mere nine days from the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Rio. The summer games are always my favorite. I can watch the swimmers, divers and gymnasts for hours and be in the purest state of awe as their bodies move in ways that seem almost humanly impossible. They are truly glorious athletes and I will sit, in my own personal glory, and eat lots of snacks and drink Diet Coke while watching them all go for the gold.

I never had aspirations of being an Olympiad, which I am sure comes as quite a surprise. I was far more concerned that the blue and gold ribbons in my hair matched my uniform to get too caught up with the actual sport that I was participating in. I attended Catholic school from K-12 and in grade school, I played all of the sports, excelling in none of them. During the summer, we belonged to Mackenzie Swim Club, a fond but distant memory, and of course, I was on the swim team. There was also a diving team, but I was never a part of that. I think the summer that a member fell through the bars on the high dive, crashed to the ground and broke both of her arms (totally sounds like this should have been me) killed any thought my mother may have had of getting me signed up for another adventure.

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For as many summers as I can remember, we were at the pool every day. My parents had four kids and for a few hundred dollars a year, this kept every single one of us happily occupied for hours and hours. All of my brothers and I grew up to be decent swimmers with no fear of the water. Our parents bought the house that they live in now when we were all young adults and lucky for us, there is an enormous pool in the backyard. As we have grown up, gotten married and had children, Maurmi and Pop Pop’s house is the perfect summer spot to take our kids for hours on end.

The Handsomes love to head over to their house when The Grillin’ Fool and I get home from work at night. I normally stay home with Darling, our sweet baby girl, but a few nights ago, he had some evening work to do for a client, so I took the boys for an adventure. It’s averaging 600 degrees here in the STL, so the water feels like a freshly drawn bath, perfect for evening swims. Maurmi and I spent our night floating and chatting with frequent interruptions of, “Mom! Watch this!” “Maurmi, look at me!” and “Hey, this is my best one yet.” Over and over they were in and out of the water doing tricks off of the diving board and calling us out instantly if we happened to blink.

Handsome #1 made his way over to Maurmi and I in the shallow water and started doing handstands. He went up and down barely keeping his skinny little legs together before toppling over and splashing us.

“Shoot! I just can’t keep me legs up,” he complained.

“You’ll get it buddy, you just have to keep practicing,” I reassured him.

“Can you just show me?”

“Oh, honey, I haven’t done a handstand in 30 years.”

“Please!”

When your child, who is so very much like you not only in his looks but in his manipulative ways, begs you to help him, you move your aging, expanding and somewhat sagging body to the deeper water, hold your breath and give it your best shot. I went under, hoisted my body up on my arms, attempted to put my legs together and flopped over on my back. I splashed with such gusto that I imagined the water to be far below the skimmer when I resurfaced. I was a bit embarrassed, but figured, I would give it another shot. Once again I held my breath, said a quick Hail Mary and went under. This time, I got one leg up and plunged forward. I came up for air feeling defeated, a bit light headed and determined to get both legs up and together. Third time’s a charm, right? I took a deep breath and made a final attempt, but never got my legs fully extended. Instead, my left arm slipped and I went crashing down, think Shamu Show in the big tank. I came up for air and was suddenly extremely nauseated.

The head rush from my failed attempts at showing my children that I could master something as an adult that I was never even kind of good at as a kid, was too much. I began gagging and headed for the steps.

“Colleen, what is the matter with you?” Maurmi questioned.

“Nothing, gag, I am fine, gag, gag, gag.”

“Mom, mom, are you OK?” Handsome #2 yelled from the deep.

I moved from the steps to the side of the pool dry heaving and laying my head on the salty, hot concrete. I was positioned on the ground like a beached whale, wet, flailing and disoriented, just hoping that someone would direct me back to my proper place. The fuzziness in my brain rivaled any morning after the very best nights of my life in my early 20s. I was breathing slowly in through my nose and out of my mouth. I was afraid to open my eyes, for I was certain that the world was not just spinning, but also on fire and laughing at me.

“Colleen, are you alright? What in the heck is going on?”

“Mom, I am fine! I just got a little dizzy, I’ll be fine.”

“I can’t imagine how that happened? Your form was just lovely,” she smirked.

This coming from the woman who breaks into tap dancing at Hobby Lobby, but I digress. It took a couple of minutes, but I finally gained my composure and was able to get back in the water, my handstand days clearly over. I grabbed a noodle and floated effortlessly, not a care in the world. Then, Handsome #2 yelled from the deep,

“Hey, mom! Can you show me how to do a back flip off the board?”

8 High Hopes I Have for My Girl

Handsome #3 stood on the deck in nothing but his Underoos, his chubby little belly protruding and a big smile on his face.

“Look at him. He is so sweet and happy, letting it all hang out, not a care in the world. Can you imagine having that kind of self confidence?” I asked The Grillin’ Fool.

“What do you mean? I do!” He said with a smirk.

He was only half joking. If he didn’t think anyone would call the cops, he’d be on the deck in his underwear too. But instead, he parades around the house in his boxer briefs and a t-shirt with his bird legs dancing and doesn’t think twice. I, on the other hand, feel like I should have on Spanx under my nightgown just in case the door bell rings in the middle of the night.

My husband has no shame when it comes to his body. He’s a forty-something with four kids just trying to make it through the day like every other man supporting a family. He purchases zero self-care items and will use any bottle in the shower. He has never in his life looked at a nutrition label for sugar, fat or calorie information. As long as it doesn’t smell too bad he will wear it. He is so happy in his own skin, that nothing phases him.

I have birthed three sons who are exactly like him. Handsome #1 is thin and lanky. He loves to brush his hair over to the side and lather himself up in body wash. He doesn’t care one bit about what his clothes look like and will let me pick whatever I want from his closet. Handsome #2 is a bit more of a fashionista. He has a very particular opinion about what to put on,and will fight for a win. Even if that means a sweater vest and a pair of athletic shorts. He’ll wear that combination proudly. Handsome #3 has more confidence in his little finger than the rest of them combined. They are precious, perfect little boys and I want to be just like them.

For years, I worried about what would happen if God ever gave me a daughter. How could I possibly set a good example of body image and confidence if that is the one thing that I truly struggle with on a daily basis? For my first seven years as a mom, I parented my three boys knowing that their father would have a profound impact on the type of men they will become, but not worrying that my self image would affect them.

Then a surprise pregnancy brought the biggest surprise of my life, a daughter. I was thrilled beyond thrilled, but equally terrified that I would screw her up. I am the one who she will look to for strength and guidance. She will come to me for advice and help. I will be her example of self confidence and womanhood. I want to do it right.

DMT

Thankfully, she is only a few months old and I have some time to get my act together. Gone are the days of looking in the mirror and listing all of things that I hate about my body and face. The insecurities that have plagued me for years have to die before they begin to rear their ugly face in my daughter’s eyes. When I look at her, I feel inspired to be better. She is innocent and pure and beautiful. She is so beautiful. I never want her to doubt that. I do a lot wrong, don’t we all? But, there are a few things that I have picked up along the way that I hope that she might think are worthwhile nuggets of advice.

1. Laugh- Laugh Loudly and raucously even if you are the only one who gets the joke. Most importantly, laugh at yourself and know that everyone makes mistakes. Make others laugh and know that there is no better medicine. I would also be extremely proud if you were the third generation class clown at a certain all girls Catholic high school, but I will not put unfair pressure on you to be anything that you are not.

2. Fall Hopelessly in Love with a Boy Band- There is nothing better than covering your bedroom walls with pictures of the men that you are certain you will marry one day. I will happily download all of their music, buy crazy expensive tickets and sob with you when you see them in person for the first time. Trust me, you will want to keep your t-shirts, earrings and every overpriced accessory you can even when you think you are over that part of your life. I will gladly help you hoard them, and hide them from your father, so that when your favorite band goes on tour in 20 years, you can squeeze your postpartum body into that shirt and feel like a kid again.

3. Be a Friend- Not just to the cool kids or the popular people, be a friend to everyone who needs it. The shy little girl in the back of the room wants to play in the game too, invite her. Always be the nice girl, not the mean girl. Years from now people will remember the slightest bit of kindness that you have shown them. I’m sure at some point, you will feel the wrath of a mean girl, and it will hurt, but please do your best to be kind, to watch your words and to walk away with a smile on your face, it will make you stronger.

4 . Listen- This is a tough one, because you come from a long line of people who love to talk. But, trust me as much as you may want to speak, wait your turn and let others talk. It isn’t always about what you have to say, sometimes it is about what you don’t say and the time that you take to hear someone else that makes all the difference.

5. Pray-Every single day of your life take a moment to talk to God. Thank Him for what you have, who you are and where you are going. Ask for forgiveness and guidance. Your faith will guide you in life’s most difficult times. When all else fails, close your eyes and whisper, Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in thee. This has gotten several generations of women in our family through tougher times than I could ever imagine.

6. Wear Red Lipstick- Wear bright lips, shabby overalls, plaid high heel shoes, or pink gloves. Your friends may tell you that it is too bright, or too bold, or too much, but if it makes you feel good, do it! If it makes you feel pretty, then wear it, use it and flaunt it often, no matter what it is. You will develop a signature style that screams your name, make sure to scream it back.

7. If You Can’t Do it in Front of Me, Don’t Do It- This isn’t a threat, and it isn’t meant to be scary, it is just something for you to always think about. I learned this from my own mother many, many years ago. And to this day, it still rings true. The older you get, the more time you will spend on your own and you will be faced with challenges and choices to do things that you may not feel right about. If you would be comfortable doing it in front of me, you are golden. If not, it’s probably not the best idea.

8. Be Happy With the Skin You Are In- You are not fat, not today, not tomorrow, not ever! You are gorgeous and perfect and exactly as you were meant to be. Don’t ever let anyone dim your sparkle, especially not someone who wants you to fit in to some kind of mold. They aren’t worth your time if they think a single freckle on your nose needs to change.

As I read over my words, it was very clear to me that this advice is just as important to my boys as my girl. All I want is to raise children who are kind, loving and respectful members of society. Each day I try to be a good mom and I realize that parenting will never end, it will never get easier, it will always change. And it is the greatest challenge I have ever accepted as it forces me to set an example and thoughtfully work to be a better person. To my children, I am so grateful and I love you.

Airing Our Dirty Laundry, All Over Saint Louis Hills

 

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

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

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, What’ca Gonna Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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They are lucky they are cute…….

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

An Open Letter to the Lady at Church

To the hateful woman at mass,

Today, I was a few minutes late and snuck in to the second to last pew with my nearly three-year-old son after stopping at the bathroom. He is very newly potty trained and the thought of tinkling in every toilet in the city is appealing. He was excited that he had made it to mass and saw his favorite priest on the pulpit. Naturally, for a child his age, this caused chatter and waving and even a bit of crying and complaining when he couldn’t see.

He was loud, as most small children are, but that is why I chose to stay close to the back. I try not to use the cry room or stand in the vestibule because I feel that if my children are going to behave, they actually have to be in the church to learn that lesson. Sadly, you disagreed and were incredibly outspoken and judgemental. The moment he began to squawk, you immediately started with the huffing and puffing and disparaging glances. I tried to ignore you, but in time I had enough and explained that he is just a baby. This is when you took it upon yourself to advise me that I shouldn’t have my children in the church if they cannot behave and that I should take them elsewhere.

Here’s the thing, lady, you have absolutely no idea what we were dealing with this morning. I was gone all day yesterday and never saw him. He was asleep when I left and in bed when I got home. He has had the rare opportunity to spend a lot of one on one time with me lately, that he has never had before. He was the youngest of three boys for the last three years and his world was turned upside down eight weeks ago when his baby sister was born. Luckily, I have been able to soften the blow during my maternity leave, but he still wants all of my attention all of the time. And that can be exhausting. I am also a bit more lenient with him because he is adjusting to a tremendous amount of change that you know nothing about.

Perhaps you never had a child, because I cannot imagine what they must think of your behavior if you did, and are truly ignorant to how this whole parenting thing works. Let me give you a bit of insight. Children are completely and totally 100 percent unpredictable. If Jesus Christ himself had a scheduled appearance this morning and I had prepared my children to meet him and how to act in the presence of the Lord, at best we are working with 50/50 odds in my favor. Kids are constantly talking and asking questions, and you guessed it, misbehaving. But they are also always learning. And I want my children to learn to be kind and loving and faithful and to live their lives as God wants them to. Funny, when it was time for the sign of peace, you completely ignored my mother when she tried to shake your hand, so incredibly Christ-like.

What if my child had autism, or a brain tumor, or some other kind of illness that caused him to act out? Thankfully, he is healthy, but I am certain that you would have still cast aspersions on his behavior and my parenting because for some reason you feel entitled to judge others. Sadly for you, you missed the entire message of today’s homily. Had you been paying attention to it, and not my child, you would have heard the priest preach about how important it is to treat others with kindness, love and respect. It’s about what happens here on earth, not what will happen after you die. But instead of soaking the message in and reflecting, you are likely sitting at home tonight with an ice pack on your neck from all of the head shaking.

Until next weekend my friend, when I will be back in that same church with my four children, I hope that you are able to feel good about what you did, how you acted and what message you walked away with. Remember, if you want the church to continue to grow, we must engage the youth and keep the pews filled. And I will always have my pew filled with children, fruit snacks, screaming and yelling and more love than you will ever know.

Sincerely,

Your worst nightmare that will come back over and over and over againimg_7572.jpg

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……

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