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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mama Drama

The other day my youngest had my phone. Because he's three and knows how to operate it better than I do. It was a typical day. I was just trying to get stuff done and he was begging me to take him to the park. I kept saying, in a few minutes, as soon as I finish this up. So of course I give him my phone to buy me more time. The next thing I know, he's on the damn phone asking Suri to take him to the park. Ouch. That hurt. Okay, we can go to the park now. Although it would be really awesome if Suri could take him. But this isn't an episode of the Jetson's. This is my life. And I don't have a smart-talkin' robot maid.

When I was pregnant with my first, I remember reading somewhere that as a mom you need to put yourself first. It's a hard concept to comprehend when expecting a new baby, but after the baby was born, I began to understand. If you don't take care of yourself, how can you possibly take care of your kids? It does make sense. It's exactly what the flight attendants instruct you to do on an airplane if the oxygen masks are needed (thankfully this has never happened to me, more on my fear of flying later) but they always tell you to put the mask on yourself first then help your kids. Say what? Seems a little selfish. I always picture George Castanza knocking over kids and old ladies trying to escape a fire. But when you think about it, it makes total sense. If you can't breathe, how are you supposed to help your kids breathe? Now if you're one of Kate Gosselin's kids, your chances of survival are about one in eight. We'd find out really fast who her faves really are. Now that would be a reality show.

See?
Since having kids, I have worked full-time, part-time, and no-time, and I still don't know which is best. I do like working. Especially with four kids. I need to do something for myself where I actually use my brain and interact with other adults. And I like putting my education to good use. But when I am working I think about everything that needs to be taken care of at home. And when I'm at home, especially now being laid off, I feel amazing guilt for not contributing to our income. I have come to realize it's impossible to have it all. I really can't have my cake and eat it too.  After all, I'm a woman, not a man.

When my oldest started school, I missed everything. I could never go to any school events. I felt bad. Until the time came when I was able to participate. It was Halloween and I just started working part-time and was going to be off on the day of the big Halloween parade. Yay! Finally! I would be the mom at the school function. Swapping recipes with the other moms. Cause that's what happens there, right? My son was so excited I would be there, or so I told myself. So I get there, get out of the car and watch him walk by in costume. I waved. He waved. That was it. That was what I had been missing? That was what I had been feeling guilty about? I felt robbed. He barely even noticed me. He was happy to see me, but what if I wasn't there? He would have been fine. I had built this all up in my head that I was cheating him by working and missing his activities. When I was offered to go back full-time, I took it. And I didn't feel bad about it.

It was then that I began to realize it just doesn't matter. They have a nice life surrounded by amazing people. They have two involved parents. One of us is normally here when they wake up and to kiss them goodnight. They are loved probably more than they will ever know. If the kids ever ask why we have to go to work, we say to make the money to buy the toys. That's all they want to hear. And then they actually push us right out the door.

Now that I am home all day, everyday, the only one I feel bad for is me. I interact with women on the buy/sell pages of Facebook more than my own family. It was a long winter. But things are beginning to perk up along with the temperatures. And soon the kids will be off for the summer and I won't have to even think about missing stuff at school. Or making their dreaded lunches. Because when it really comes down to it, the worst part of being a mom is having to make the lunches. No one tells you that. It's not in the books about what to expect. But I swear to you it's the worst. I long for summer to begin so every meal can be a judgment-free pop tart. And I won't feel one bit bad about it. Because I'm going to put myself first, like the flight attendant instructed me.

 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Misery Loves Company

When you are orphaned in your twenties, there are not a lot of people who understand what you are going through. The only other people who may be able to comprehend it are your siblings. I don't think I'd be as close to my brothers, Juan and Dat, if we didn't experience the death of our parents the way we did. It made us who we are today. To some degree it defines us. We had to stick together like Willis and Arnold Jackson, except we didn't have a wealthy Phillip Drummond to adopt us. Even though I had my brothers, what I really longed for was an orphan friend. Then, one day, my wish came true.
Juan, Dat, and I, in happier times.

I had an acquaintance by the name of Flora. Her mom died when she was really young and I heard her dad was now sick. We shared a very similar story. I ran into her one night at a local bar. She told me that she was getting married soon, so her Dad could walk her down the aisle. Just like I did the year before. We chatted for a bit about how much life can really suck. But all the while I was trying to contain my excitement. I was going to have an orphan friend! This was going to be awesome. So I just sat back and waited patiently.

Soon, the inevitable happened. Flora was now an orphan just like me. We had a special bond. Finally, someone who knew what it was like! My first friendship based solely on death. My first, of many friendships, based solely on death. A few years later, another acquaintance was suddenly orphaned. And being the good orphans that we were, Flora and I welcomed Fawn into our triangle of orphans, with open arms. Together we help each other get through each parentless day. Their friendship has been a true blessing.

One particular Mother's Day, I found a bottle of Death's Door vodka on my front porch. The note said, "Love, Mom". It was so awesome to laugh instead of cry. Another time, after a particularly hard day, I was welcomed home with a liquor store gift certificate simply signed, "Orphan Triangle". And yet another time, there was a bottle of wine in a monogrammed thermal wine bag. Notice the theme?

During the same time period, I also had other friends who were experiencing the loss of a parent for the first time. So a few of us got together and started a group we named DPS, or Dead Parents Society. The only qualifications needed to join was to have one dead parent. As per usual, I was over-qualified. Our first meeting, in Flo's man garage, was a smashing success. It was a great place to get together and drink, laugh, and cry. Not necessarily in that order. That was a few years ago and we continue to hold meetings about once a month. To say these gals mean the world to me is an understatement. Since we started our group, four more members have been orphaned. It's really sad to watch your friends go through this experience, especially when you know exactly what hell it is.

But just like Dolly Parton's character in Steel Magnolias, laughter through tears is our favorite emotion. We laugh. A lot. Not about things normal people laugh about. Not about anything particularly funny. Mostly about extremely morbid things. Things only people who have lost parents would laugh about. We have seen a psychic and an medium together and we have had a meeting where we came dressed as our dead parent. We got a lot of looks that night.

Here are the DPSers dressed as our beloved.

Our meetings do revolve around drinking. Or sharing meds that our terminally ill parents left behind. We've all dealt with hospice so we know the drill by now. It's all about numbing the pain and being there for one another. We count ourselves lucky to have one another. We also count ourselves lucky because Carah was trained to give B12 shots when her mom was sick. So one night, we were all the beneficiaries of one of those bad boys. Still have the bruise to prove it. Anything to not feel the actual pain that we have inside of us. We all have lives that have to go on. We all have husbands, we all have kids, we all have jobs. But one night each month, we get to feel sorry for ourselves and drown those sorrows. And it feels good.  I know what you're all thinking, "but now I want to be an orphan!" Don't worry, you will be. Soon enough. Just make sure you surround yourself with the best damn orphan friends you can possibly find.

I have had friends say that they know someone who is also an orphan, or even half an orphan, but they don't think it's funny like I do. Let me just say, I don't think being an orphan is funny at all. I wish my parents were alive. But these are the cards I was dealt and I can't do a damn thing about it. If I didn't laugh about death, I would never laugh.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Drinks+Pool=Baby

One day Beau and I woke up and it was hot out. It was June. In Chicago. We did not have kids nor did we even know if we ever wanted to. We were LIVIN'. So we went out to our barren backyard and had a convo that went something like this. Wow, it's hot out today...Yeah it is... We should go buy a pool... Yeah we should. And that's exactly what we did. Just got in the car and went to the closest pool store and bought a freaking pool. With cash. Because we were hot. We don't have convos like that anymore. God do I miss those days.

Memorial Day is one of my favorite weekends of the year. We like to remember the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice, many from right here in our own neighborhood. And it's normally the weekend we open our pool for the summer. And when I say we, I mean Beau. I do put on my bathing suit and watch. But I'm normally busy rearing the children. And when I say rearing, I mean yelling across the yard for them to stop fighting or to refill my beverage of choice.

I am always so thankful that we had the foresight to buy the pool when we did. I love having it and can't imagine summer without it. Everyday is a party and I wouldn't want it any other way. So many awesome nights with family and friends have resulted from our spontaneous purchase. And for certain, one of our children is a direct result of a drunken pool party. Again, wouldn't have it any other way.

One particular summer will always hold a special place in my heart. In May of that year, Beau was laid off. It sucked. But not as bad as finding out that I was laid off as well. So we had no income, no health insurance, three babies, and a pool. It could be worse. We decided there was nothing we could do about our situation, so we might as well enjoy the hell out of the summer of us. And we did. Everyday was a flipping party. We had people over all day, everyday. It would start mid-morning and go until we fell asleep, sometimes before the kids. I am sure we will never have another summer like that. It was a gift.
 
Thank God we had this doorway jumpy thingy to babysit for us that summer.

Around this time, we started the discussion about having another baby. After all, our youngest was almost six-months-old. We wanted to have a fourth and obvi had some weird fetish about having them as close together as possible. And Beau's back was on the mend. It was as if all of the stars were aligning. Now you may be thinking, but wait, you were both unemployed. You had no health insurance. Why in God's name would you purposely bring another life into this mess? It just made sense when we were drinking in the pool. It's a different mindset. Our rationale was, in nine months we would surely be working again. It would be fine. And it was.

The only real obstacle was our besties, Lion and Julissa, were getting married in August. I didn't want to be preggo for that. You know, because I like to get drunk. And I really tried not to drink much while pregnant. So, we decided to wait until after their wedding. It would be perfect. I could be pregnant all winter and be ready to whoop it up again next summer.  Yet, still be able to enjoy the rest of this summer. What could possibly go wrong? We were really pleased with ourselves. I believe we ended that convo with a high-five. Or perhaps something a bit more intimate, because a few days before the wedding, I started feeling funny. Not haha funny, just funny. A funny I was very familiar with. Math has never been my thing and with all of the alcohol I had been consuming all summer, I decided to take the old let's wait and see approach. Besides, I have a strict rule when it comes to taking a pregnancy test. Always do it on a Monday morning. Enjoy the weekend, because it could be your last, for a while. So that's exactly what I did. One of the best weddings ever. And Monday morning my suspicions were confirmed. Baby number four would join us in April. Summer was officially over.

Here I am trying to conceal my baby bump with a beer.
 
When the baby was born, our other kids were three, two, and fourteen months. The only thing I remember being concerned about was, would the pool be big enough? For the record, we did find new jobs just as summer came to an end. I went on to lose that job at the end of the following year. But that's how it is when you work for one of the biggest and saddest school districts in the country. As we embark on another summer of pool parties I can only imagine what the future holds for us. Tons of laughs? For certain. Cold drinks? Always. Baby number five? You never know.

*This blog is dedicated to our friend Devin Dillen who had the absolute greatest reaction when we told him we were having another baby. It was a strange mix of disgust, shock, and sadness all rolled into one look. Thank you, Devin.

*Some of the names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bereaved


Each year I participate in a Celebrity Death Pool run by a genius named Lanny. Yes, I know, it's not for everyone. But it really is fun. Basically it goes like this. You pick ten celebs that you think have a good chance of dying that year and if they do indeed meet their maker, you get points. Their age at the time of death is subtracted from one hundred and that's how many points are awarded. So the younger the celeb, the more points. Most people who participate like to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons, so everyone participates under a pseudonym.  They're really hard to decode, much like the ones used in this blog.

When a young celeb does die, it's not always a surprise. I'm sure everyone can come up with a few off the top of your head right now that wouldn't be a total shock. Some celebs make the list year after year because they're that big of a train wreck. When a young star of Hollywood dies way too young, it's tragic. These are living beings, after all. But when it happens to someone that not many think it's going to happen to, it's miraculous. Especially if you have them on your list.

I actually won the pool a few years ago. It was enough money to buy a flat screen television for my living room before the eight-hundred pound one we had fell on top of one of our kids. So it's some nice cash.  It was a great feeling being the one to predict the demise of so many celebrities. I felt special. Even smart. Definitely superior to all the other poolers. My big pick that year was Amy Winehouse. Of course she was a favorite, so I wasn't the only one to have her. But I had a nice mix of other dead celebs of various ages, and it was enough to put me over the top.

One of my life's biggest regrets will always be not having Whitney Houston. I took her death really hard, because I didn't have her. I'm pretty sure only one person did have her that year. But I will always think of what might have been. She was always number eleven on my list. If only I had made her a finalist. I could have won two years in a row and would have been a legend in the Celebrity Death Pool world. If only.

There have been two amazing picks in my experience with this pool. One person had the foresight to choose Phillip Seymour Hoffman. One person. I will call her Mamie. I barely knew who he was when he was alive, let alone that he had a fancy for heroin.  But, like most celebs, I know him more now, in death. It was an impressive choice to say the least. But by far the all time best celeb death pick goes to a guy I shall call Timmy Ditz. Timmy picked Randy the Macho Man Savage. A former WWF Wrestler. He didn't have any known medical conditions and was only fifty-eight. He no longer wrestled and had no history of substance abuse. He died in a car accident.  I am still amazed every time I think about it. Forty two points for a completely random pick. Ah-may-zeen.

But that's how it goes. You just never know. Sometimes it pays to think outside the box. I try to be more random with my selections now-a-days. Timmy Ditz has taught me a lot about life. And celebrity death.

*Some of the names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Grandparent Day (Singular)

Since having kids, the days I really dread are the ones that involve grandparents. Our kids have been robbed in this department. Our kids never knew my parents, or Beau's dad, so they didn't have to experience the heartbreak of losing them like so many of my friends are going through with their kids now. But I think I would still rather them all just be alive. Call me crazy. Because only having one live grandparent really sucks. For everyone. Especially for Beau's mom, Madeline, because she is everything to them. No pressure. But everything falls on her. She has to be grandma and grandpa. She is all that they know. But she has nine grandkids and it's not always easy to spread yourself so thin. But she does. All the time.

Today was Grandparent's Day at my daughter's school. That's what they do instead of a kindergarten graduation. Grandparent's Day. What an awesome idea. For kids with living grandparents. For the kid who had four sets of grandparents there. Four sets. That's eight people this kid refers to as grandma or grandpa. All of the grandparents were divorced and all remarried and all have an active role in this kid's life. They didn't even have enough seats. But it was okay, because we had some to spare. I actually felt bad for this kid. It must be really hard scheduling all of those sleepovers and sorting through all of those Christmas gifts. In the school's defense, they do say you can bring a "special friend" if you're running low on grandparents. At least that's what they wrote on our invite. So that's where Aunt Batsy comes in. You know, because she is special.

Last year when my son was in kindergarten, he invited Aunt Batsy to grandparent's day. They give each kid two invitations. So naturally one went to his grandma and one to the next best thing, Aunt Batsy. She refers to herself as their "almost grandma". They just look at her really confused when she says this. I just pretend I didn't hear it.
So Aunt Batsy knows this day is coming again this year. And she's prepared. She's knows what to expect this time around. And as luck would have it, they perform the same songs as last year. Apparently she's been rehearsing because she sang every song louder than any kid on that stage. She's a performer. Loves the spotlight. She also clapped along, even though neither was encouraged.  People were actually turning around to look at her. She waved at them. Or gave a little wink. But it was fine. Everyone there was in a great mood because they had a special someone on that stage singing to them.

Uh oh. Suddenly, out of no where, smiles turn to tears. The grandparents song. Every single person in that room starts crying. Again, just like last year. I'm the one who should be crying. I'm the only parent here on grandparent's day. It's not even a good song. The lyrics don't even rhyme. But it didn't matter to anyone there. It was as if each kid was a soloist singing just to their special person. Luckily they ended on a high note. With You're A Grand Old Flag and everyone was able to regain composure. Not as fast as Aunt Batsy. She was able to turn off the water works and jump right into that song without missing a beat. It's a gift.

Afterwards, we are invited for some light refreshments. And I mean light. My daughter was as happy as can be. She was very proud of herself and loving every second of her grandma and special friend being there just for her. She has no clue what she's missing. And for that I'm grateful. Heartbroken, but grateful.

*Some of the names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Mangover

Hangovers suck. Everyone will tell you. The nausea, the puking, the headaches. The point when you have to take a Xanax to calm down when you start to remember what really happened the night before and have a major case of the creeps. But the Mangover (mom/hangover) is worse. Way worse. It's hell right here on earth. It is something no one can ever prepare you for. 

When you have your first baby you're living in a cloud of sorts. You're really not sure what the heck is going on. You have a drink here and there but you're just too exhausted and too gaga over your little miracle to really get down and dirty. But then it happens. You're not expecting it to happen. You don't even know it's happening until it's way too late. But it happens. You get knee walking drunk and have the time of your life, but when you wake up in the morning you realize, probably on the bathroom floor, probably still clothed from the night before, that you are a parent and have another life to care for. It's almost as shocking as the day you found out you were pregnant, but not nearly as joyous. Back then you had nine months to prepare. Right now someone needs you to feed and change them. This second. It's an awful realization.

 

The Shame. The Embarrassment. The Rage. The Denial. It's all there. I'm a mom. How could I have let this happen? It really doesn't matter how. It happened. Now you have to deal. If you're lucky, the hubs didn't drink the night before or hopefully not as much. If this is the case, you're going to be okay. You can go back to bed and just have to live with the guilt he will bestow on you for years. Easy. But if you both went out and are both insanely hungover, you're in real trouble.

After we had our first there was a night we were over served, probably right here in our own living room. We woke up in the morning and couldn't believe the baby slept through the night. For the first time ever. I was so excited I called my bestie Shelly. Shelly's kids were a few years older than mine. She politely suggested perhaps the baby didn't really sleep through the night, maybe we were the only ones who did. Hmm. Now that did make more sense.

There was another time when Beau and I went out for a few drinks with friends. No big deal, just a few beers. So we thought. When we woke up in the morning we could not function. We had two babies at the time. Two little babies. I can remember us both laying on the kitchen floor feeding them bottles. It was so bad we couldn't even make it to the couch. We also had a Christening we were supposed to be at. I took one for the team and took one baby and went. Beau stayed home with the other baby. That's our marriage. Not 50/50, we give 100/100. That's love. We still count that as our worst Mangover/Dangover combo of all time.

The good news is, the babies grow older. The bad news is, they start to talk and ask questions. A few weeks ago my brother, Dat, invited us over to watch the Hawks game. It was a big game. It was also the first warm night of the year. I was excited. I'm not that big into sports, but I do like drinking while sports are on television. And we were finally going to be outside after a long winter of inside drinking. Long story short, I over indulged. I let the weather and the excitement of the big game get the best of me. I was surrounded by family and friends, so that wasn't a problem. The problem was the next morning when my 5-year-old daughter did a reenactment of me from the night before. It was a new low for me. But it was funny. She nailed it. Perhaps it was not the first time she's seen this show.

Today, I am actually on day three of my three day Mangover. When you're young you're hungover for a day. Maybe not even that long. Then you get a little older and you start to experience the two day. Then after thirty-five it turns into a three day marathon. I'm in the last leg. Almost at the finish line. Almost back to normal. Almost able to consider drinking again. Just tired. Even though I went to bed last night with my kids.

On Saturday night we went to a parish function. A fundraiser for our soon-to-be kids' catholic school. These are always a good time. It's all parishioners. All people you know. All people just like you. All parents just out for a good time to support the cause. The great thing about a school function is that everyone can walk there. No one has to worry about having to drive after a few drinks. So you know going into this what it's going to turn into. And it always does. This night was no different.

We get there and meet up with our family/friends/neighbors. It was a lot of fun. Great people, great drinks, great dancing. Just a good time. The fundraiser ends and we decide we'll go to a bar in the neighborhood and keep the party going for a bit. Not a bad idea. So we continue on with many of the same people. All of the sudden, it's time for that bar to close. But I don't feel like going home just yet. There's more party in me. Never a good idea. Responsible Beau calls it a night and walks home. I go to the late night bar with some friends. Who all happen to be related to me. We close that place and it was all downhill from there.

My cousin Devin walks me home, but it seems Beau forgot to leave the door unlocked for me. Oh that Beau. So I knock. I ring the bell. I shout obscenities. Nothing. Then I think, oh wait, my neighbor Huck has a key! I'll just go bang on his door. It's 5:19am at this point. Devin doesn't think this is a good idea. The voice of reason that he is. He talks me into coming to sleep at his house. Because if there's anything more fun then waking up hungover with your own four kids, it's waking up hungover at your cousin's house with his four kids.

So I wake up around noonish. I check my phone. Seventeen new messages. Wow, I'm popular. Perhaps I made some new friends last night? Nope, just Beau and some friends looking for me. I was quick to point out if Beau hadn't locked the door in the first place I would have been home in my own bed and everyone should just be thankful I'm alive. Devin drives me home the three blocks, thankfully, because I really wasn't up for a walk of shame through the neighborhood I live in with my husband and four children. We pull up to my house and beloved Beau has made a welcome home sign for me and hung it right in the front window. "Welcome Home Mommy". For the entire neighborhood to see. Beau is a real wit. I'm biding my time before I repay him that favor.

Day one of this Mangover wasn't too bad. I quickly showered, trying to wash off the shame. It only helped a little bit. At least I didn't smell like smoke anymore. I was struck by waves of nausea. I did have a headache. I ate a nice greasy lunch and laid in bed the rest of the day. I can honestly say, day two was worse. I was dying. It was such a long day. I was in bed by eight o'clock. Day three is coming along. I'm feeling better and might just be able to muster a glass of wine tonight. Just kidding. Sort of. I'm just looking forward to tomorrow. When I will be me again. Just a loving, caring, nurturing, sober, wife and mom. Until next weekend.

*Some names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.



Monday, May 19, 2014

An Eggcellent Idea

One night after a couple of glasses of wine, I decided to buy an incubator so that we, as a family, could hatch us some chicks. So I ordered it up. Right there from my phone. One little click is all it took. I had visions of all the fun and laughs we would all share while enjoying this learning experience. It warmed my heart. A few days later my buddy the UPS man rings the bell. What could possibly be in the box? Did someone send me a gift? I opened it up and the visions I had a few nights prior come swirling back in my head. The kids were all excited. What is it? What are we going to do with it? Beau just sat back listening to every last word. Well kids, since I'm a great mom and an educator, we're going to hatch some chicks right here in our very own home. Actually hearing the words spoken aloud, it suddenly didn't sound as fun as it did the other night. When I was drinking. Once again, Beau was rendered speechless. But that wasn't going to stop me. Let's get this bad boy plugged in and make some chicks! The kids could hardly contain themselves.

Turns out the eggs were not included. I must have missed that bit of info. So I just had to get my hands on some eggs and figure out how to turn them into chicks. No biggie. I got the eggs from a farmer and Beau pretty much took it over from there. We set up the incubator in the kids' room. Because that's not gross. But they were excited and I wasn't going to have it in my living room where I'd have to look at it all day. The process took about twelve days. I got a little nervous. What if the eggs didn't hatch? How was I going to explain that one? But they did. Because I'm a great mom. I have to admit it was pretty cool. It was amazing to watch. The kids were really into it. Just when I was thinking about how great I was for drinking wine and shopping online, I realized I had never thought of what would happen when there were actual live chicks in my home. Now what?


All the neighbors came by to meet our newest little additions. I'll never forget the look on my neighbor Gwen's face. I took pictures to post on Facebook. You know, so the world could see first hand what a great mom I was. All the kids took turns holding them. It was adorable. But the excitement started to wear off. The chicks were getting bigger and uglier by the second. They weren't nearly as cute as they had originally been. The kids were scared of them now. No one wanted to hold them. They looked as if they carried disease. One morning Beau found one of the little chickies in bad shape. He had to take it out to the garage and do whatever the hell it is you do to a dying chick to put it out of it's misery. This wasn't part of my original vision. This was starting to feel a little too Little House on the Prairie.

What would I tell the children? I had to prepare a speech. Death is a part of life. The little chick was in chick heaven with all the other little chicks that had gone before him. Turns out the kids couldn't care less. Oh, did that chick die? No tears. No unanswerable questions. They were over it. And now that I had these creatures living in a box on my dining room table, I too, was over it. I was evicting them. It was time. So Beau built them a nice little coop in the yard. And we also had to buy a heat lamp and food. It was turning into quite the little investment. I had already called some farms to find the perfect home for them. But this would have to due for now.


Days turned into weeks. We even had a birthday party here for my brother Dat. I tried wrapping up the chicks as his gift.  He wasn't having it. So close. I finally found a farm that would take them off of our hands. It was not an emotional farewell. More of a good riddance. But the fond memories we'll have forever. I wanted this to be a learning experience and I think it's safe to say we all learned a lot. Now when I start drinking wine by myself late at night, I turn my phone off.

*Some of the names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Uninvited House Guests

When I was in eighth grade my mom took me to get my hair cut at her salon. It was a real treat. She was also getting her hair colored and cut. The girl washed my hair and when she was combing it she kept looking at it real close. She then called another girl over and together had disgusted looks on their faces. Turns out I had a nice case of head lice erupting on my scalp. They made me stand up and walk out of the salon while they followed spraying some sort of disinfectant after me. I had to sit outside of the salon. Now don't you worry, this didn't interfere with my mom getting her hair done. She let me sit outside scratching away as she got all glammed up. A few weeks prior, a note came home from school about an outbreak of head lice. I read the letter and told my mom I thought I had it. She blew me off by saying, you're crazy, you don't have lice. Never even giving my head a once over. So that's what I thought about while sitting there outside of that salon. Humiliated. Watching my mom through the glass.

So what could be worse than being thirteen and having lice and being treated like a leper? Being a mom and finding lice on your own kids' heads, that's what. Last year lice was going around the neighborhood. Spreading like wildfire. It was only a matter of time. Shelly's kids got it. Our days were numbered. Of course, when Shelly's kids got it, instead of staying away, we all went right over there to check it out. Shelly and I cut out a head and some bugs from construction paper and made a "pin the louse on the head" game. My kids look up to Shelly's kids and want everything they have. Everything. Even lice. So when my kids finally did get it, they were excited. I was not. I had been doing daily checks for weeks. And one day there they were. They were not invited, but we'd been expecting them.


Washing that lice right out of my hair.

Beau and I are generally pretty calm people. And we were calm at the beginning. We went to the drugstore and spent a fortune on those lice removal kits. We bought the top of the line gold-plated nit comb. We came home and got down to the business of de-lousing the shit out of this place. We were pumped. High fives all around. We treated everyone's heads and combed everyone out one strand of hair at a time. Washed everything, sprayed everything. Threw out every stuffed animal in the house. Apparently when you're a louse, the next best thing to a living being is a stuffed animal. It's really the only silver lining to getting lice. We threw away every last one. We repeated this routine for a few days and I'll be damned if I didn't see a freaking louse run right across my daughter's head, again. So I took to the internet. I read that Listerine is what really does it. Information we could have used a week earlier. So off to the drug store we go to spend a mere five dollars for the mouthwash and shower caps. I soak everyone's heads and comb everyone out again. Including myself. I was convinced I had it too.

We kept checking everyday for any more signs of life on everyone's scalps. It seemed we were in the clear. Until I had Beau check my head. According to my beloved, obviously sight-challenged, Beau, I was still ridden with lice. And of course I was itching like crazy just thinking about it. Enough is enough. I was losing my mind. I picked up the phone and called an agency that comes to your house to get rid of the lice for you. Experts. They even guarantee their work. Money was no object at this point. Just get here and get rid of this lice once and for all. Great news, they'd be out later that day. So we sat around scratching until they arrived. They came in and checked all of us. I braced myself. Shockingly, we were told we don't have any louse in this house. I'm sorry, I know you're the expert, but Beau saw lice on my head just this morning, so just go ahead and take another looksy. She assures me, again, I am lice free. So I calmly turn to Beau and lovingly ask him, then what the F did you see on my head that you thought was lice, darling? Beau was speechless. Which is good because we didn't talk for a long time after that. Oh my Beau. Sweet, loving, blind Beau. Telling me I have God damn lice when I really don't. What a doll.

It's impossible to understand the hell living through lice is until it's actually happened in your home. I do live in fear that it will be back again someday. But I will be ready. With my fine-toothed terminator comb and plenty of booze.



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Not Yo Mama's T-Ball

This Spring I only have two kids participating in an organized sport. Two kids too many, if you ask me. It's baseball season. We live in Chicago. It's pretty much still winter here. Unless it's blazing hot. I can't tell you how many times this week I have had my air conditioning and heat on in the same twenty-four hour period. I got sunburn one day and literally almost froze to death another day. Then there's the rain. The t-ball kids have to tough it out and play in the rain, as long as there is no lightening, but yet every game ends in a tie and at the end of the season everyone gets a trophy. We're sending some mixed messages here.

My four-year-old daughter plays regular old t-ball. A park district league. All games at the same place. All games over in one hour. Uniform is a t-shirt and hat. Half the kids wear jeans. More than half the kids have no clue what they're doing there. But all of them are there because they know they get a sucker at the end of the game.  Not too bad. I can handle it. It's cute. She plays with all of her cousins and the woman who runs the league is an actual saint. I don't know how she does it. She must really like suckers.


I used to think t-ball was bad. You never know what you have until it's gone. My six-year-old son plays in a serious league. No tee. Games at different parks. Real uniforms. Spikes, cups (not the kind you drink out of), batting gloves, bat bags, the whole nine yards (that's my fave baseball term). Because he's six. Practically a major-leaguer. But he really, really likes baseball. So I'm really, really happy for him. The only one I'm not happy for is me. The games are so long my phone can't even hold a charge for the duration. I have to conserve the battery, which means I have to find something else to occupy my time. Like watch the game. Hey, mom, did you see that? Oh, who me? Oh yeah, of course I saw it, babe. I was capturing every last memory right here on my phone. So we can relive it later when we get home. Because it's so fun.

I know sports are important. I know they are learning teamwork and a bunch of other skills to prepare them for the "real world". But I have a pool. And I like to be in it. Especially when it finally gets hot enough and cold beverages will be served.

Now I usually have my other kids with me. So that means spending the equivalent of their college tuition at the concession stand. Two dollars and twenty-five cents for an ice-cream bar of a has-been cartoon character? A cartoon I've never actually seen them watch. With black gumballs for eyeballs. I know my youngest is going to end up with some major stomach issues with the amount of gum he has swallowed already this season. Seven years! And what is that stuff made of? It stains their clothes and their skin. Is it a special chemical? Are the ice cream bar companies in cahoots with the stain removal companies? If they're not, they should be.

I love the days when the weathermen and weatherwomen are calling for storms. I try not to get my hopes up but it's impossible. It's sunny and eighty degrees at noon, but the storms, they are a comin'. I can hardly contain my excitement. Oh no, honey, your game is rained out? What a bummer. I don't know why God is making it rain and I really don't know why you think God is responsible, but neither really matters. All that does matter is that there is no game tonight. Let's get tacos.

It's all fun and games until those rain outs have to be made up. A double header? Excuse me? Come again? Two games in a row on the same day? On a Saturday? That's like five hours of baseball. In. A. Row. What the hell is going on here? Can't we just call it a tie and just give them all trophies? Oh how I long for the mundane days of t-ball. I should have appreciated what I had when I had it. I can only imagine what next season will bring.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Busy Body

 
Since I've been unemployed, I like to think of myself as the neighborhood watch. A modern day "Pearl" from 227, if you will. I especially like to keep tabs on my block. We have a lot of kids on this block and lots of people who actually get up and go to work everyday. So I make it my personal business to take care of everything while everyone else is leading productive lives. And even though no one really ever mentions it, I know they all appreciate it. Especially my neighbors directly across the street, Huck and Gwen.

From where I am sitting right now typing, I can see clear into Huck and Gwen's living room. It's a little dusty today and from what the cleaning lady tells me, it's like that everyday.  But I can keep an eye on all the comings and goings. I know when the mail is delivered. I know when UPS drops off a package. I usually go get the package and bring it to my house for safe keeping. And to shake and look at the return address to guess what's inside. I would hate for them to have it stolen. When the lawn service comes by I make sure they do a thorough job and shoot Huck a text to let him know. I usually get a nice "thanks Babe" reply. Huck's Italian so that's how he talks. But I like him anyway.

One particular morning as I still slept, about 8:30ish, my phone rings, so naturally I think someone must be dead for my phone to be ringing at this unGodly hour. But no, it's Huck. Seems his fire alarm went off and sure enough the fire department is outside ready to put an ax to his front door. Not on my watch. I run over there, in a really cute pair of matching pajamas, because I'm always prepared, and put a stop to it. I jumped right in front of that ax-wielding fireman to save Huck and Gwen's front door. It's like those stories you read about, you're just running on adrenaline. You're not thinking about how you're putting your own life on the line to help a neighbor. It was all instinct.  It was scary, but I'd do it again. In a heartbeat. After I offered the fireman some coffee, we all shared a good laugh and a few hugs. I assured them I had it from here. After all, I have seen every episode of Rescue Me. One fireman remarked they could use more people like me on the job. Naturally, I was flattered. And I'd be lying if I said that was the first time I have ever heard that.  But I prefer to do my heroism behind the scenes. You guys can be the ones with all the glory, I'll just be the beautiful face without a name. Now go on. Get back the firehouse to your chili-eating and nap-taking. I got this. High fives all around.

Now not everything is hunky-dory between Huck and I. Huck has a key to my house, not that I ever really leave. But Huck prefers I do not have a copy of his house key. Odd, I know. One day Gwen was locked out of the house. Huck calls to see if I can open the door. With what? We've been over this. You won't give me a key. I don't have one. See how I'd be able to save the day if you'd just give me the key? Another time I see a guy having a smoke on Huck's front porch. So I sit here and watch him as I call Huck. Turns out it's his friend from out of town who spent the night and just locked himself out. Again, I have no key to help the poor sonofabitch out. So I do the neighborly thing and invite him over to lay on my couch and watch tv. With my four kids. He kept insisting he could just wait on Huck's porch for three hours. No way, not on my watch.  You sit right there and play with my kids. I don't mind.

I did finally get my hands on a key a few weeks ago. Huck needed me to let the cleaning lady in. So not only did I have access to a key, but also the coveted alarm code, which I can only assume has been changed by now. But it was one of the happiest days of my life. Until Huck asked for the key back at the end of the day with this note attached...
 
Now Huck never said he was just joking, he didn't have to. I knew he was. That's just the sort of relationship we have.  And Huck has a great sense of humor. Like the other day when he was talking to a guy on his front porch. From across the street it seemed as if he was going to have some sort of landscaping done. So I went right over to find out what was going on. Huck introduced me, with an eye roll, (see I told you he was funny) and explained they were trying to decide how to better cover his front windows with trees to keep nosey neighbors out. I winked at Huck. I said, I know who you're talking about. Then I asked the landscaper for his card, I think I'll do the same. If it's one thing I can't stand, it's a nosey neighbor.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It's Wine O'Clock

My love affair with wine began with a big box of Franzia. White Zinfandel. I was in college with a great fake ID and it was cheap and I loved everything about it. How drunk it got me. How it had a little tap and was always chilled and ready and waiting for me in the mini-fridge. No cork to mess with. Not that I had any idea how to open an actual bottle at the time. Or do I now, for that matter. I do prefer a nice twist off. I liked how warm and fuzzy it made me feel. And it made me feel so sophisticated. Oh, you're going to do a keg stand? Um, yeah, I'll be over there drinking my boxed wine out of my red solo cup. Because I'm classy. 

After college, when I had an actual paycheck, I stepped up my game to Pinot Grigio. When I was really living the high life, it would be Santa Margherita. So crisp and clean and didn't stain my teeth. Again, I'm all about sophistication. I did eventually graduate to red wine. Once I tried something besides merlot, I was in heaven. A warm Red in the winter, a cool White in the summer. Nothing made me happier. Nothing.

Now that I'm an advanced maternal age, I have reverted back to boxed wine. Because, again, it's affordable and gets me drunk. Funny how life works. But I am no longer limited to Franzia. Nothing against my first love, but now that there is such a variety of trendy looking boxes at Target, I like to feel that I'm really treating myself when diapers and formula are the only other things in my cart. I love nothing more than filling my thermal coffee mug with it and taking the kids to the park. Or plopping on the front lawn with the neighbors. It's so convenient. Just pick it up by the handle and you're off. But nothing is as convenient as the little wine juice boxes they now make. Fits right in the cup holder of my double stroller. Judge away, folks.

It's no secret I like wine. I'm easy to buy for. So when my friend Lion Gown gave me some of his home brew for Christmas, I was thrilled. Like I said, I'll drink anything. This was a very special wine and I was honored to receive it. And Lion knows me, so he gave me two bottles. He's smart. He understands me. He knows one bottle is never enough, yet two bottles is always too much. It's a slippery slope that I go down often. A slope Lion has accompanied me down many times. I wish I could say Lion was my Gusband (gay husband) like Tori Spelling has, but unfortunately he is straight. For now. But he is the closest thing I have to a gay friend so I'll take it. So Lion brews up this wine and painstakingly prepares the label.


Yes, that is him lying naked in a pile of grapes. He didn't need to be naked. He totally could have worn pants, but he didn't. He's an artist. Who do you even ask to take such a picture? He makes his family feel an embarrassment few people will ever feel. He makes everybody uncomfortable to be in the same room as him. But he makes me proud.

Here's a clip of what the label says, "each individual grape endures a rigorous journey: one by one, each nectar filled globule cascades the length of Lion's back, running the gauntlet of a follicular jungle before coming to rest in the pungent posterior channel." I have to stop there because this is not a pornographic blog. I appreciate how seriously Lion takes his wine making. Needless to say both bottles are empty, long gone. But the hours I spent blacked-out will haunt me forever.

Wine has been the one constant in my life. It's been there for me through the good times and the bad. My triumphs and my failures. Wine is my best friend and, on occasion, my worst enemy. I love that when people think of wine, they think of me. My cousin, Lil' Fanny, bought me some napkins that say, "Wine, how classy people get shitfaced". Pretty much sums it up. Pretty much sums me up. Classy.


*Some names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.
 

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Martyr

Giving birth to my third child was an experience I'll never forget, for many reasons. The days leading up to my delivery we had a squirrel living in our attic. It scared the hell out of me. A guy came and set up a trap and everyone reassured me that there was no way it could get to any other part of the house. I was skeptical to say the least. If it wasn't nerve-racking enough to hear the damn thing all day long, one day I went down to throw some laundry in and guess who jumps out at me? Little Mr. Squirrel who could never ever escape the attic. I lost my shit. I grabbed the two other kids and went down to Shelly and Quint's and ever so calmly called my husband, Beau, at the office and informed him if he ever wanted to see us again he would get that damn creature out of our house once and for all. I also called a reputable company that handles this sort of thing and told Beau, in an extremely calm tone, to meet them at the house. Turns out the big, strong, tough, animal catcher was a lady. This did nothing for Beau's masculinity. Long story short, the squirrel was gone once and for all. And I went into labor the next day.


I was very excited to go to the hotel, I mean hospital, to have my third. I had done this twice before and knew the drill. It was a vacation of sorts for me. I had a 2 year-old and 1 year-old at home so I couldn't wait for a little R&R. We get to the hospital, I spit the kid out, fake some pain, get my vicodin, take pics with the kid and Beau, send kid to the nursery and I'm in heaven. All alone in a room by myself, in a bed by myself with a nice little buzz. It was perfect. And Beau was perfect. Asked me if I wanted something to eat. Even though I start my post baby diet the minute I deliver, I figured a little turkey sandwich wouldn't hurt. So off my beloved Beau goes down to the cafeteria to get his glowing wife a sandwich. Beau was gone a while. I was getting worried, but really, just annoyed and hungry. Finally I get a call. From the ER. Seems Beau collapsed in the elevator on the way back up with my food. His back went out and he was in a crazy amount of pain. Eye Roll. I just gave birth, I know pain. So I asked the nurse on the phone, oh he was on his way back up? Did he happen to have my turkey sandwich? I'm not sure if you know but I just gave birth and I'm hungry. The nurse said Beau was very concerned that I get the sandwich and they would send it up. That's what I love about Beau.

It was just an average turkey sandwich, at best, but the vicodin helped. So I'm sitting there thinking well now what the hell do I do? So I call my mother-in-law and tell her what happened. She was hysterical. Why was she so upset? I had to politely remind her that I was the one who had just given birth. This is about me, not Beau. A few hours later I get a call from my brother-in-law who is now in the ER with Beau. Beau wants to talk to me. Mind you, Beau is hooked up to a dilaudid drip. I give birth and get vicodin, Beau goes for a turkey sandwich and gets a dilaudid drip. Seems about right. Beau can't speak because he's so drugged up. I have never been so jealous in my life. I go back to sleep and think ok, he'll sleep it off and we'll all be home tomorrow. No big deal.

The next morning I'm just sitting there. I don't know what the hell is going on. I start making some calls. Turns out Beau was released and was home. Um, hi, remember me? The baby and I were going to be released as well. So I shower and get my face on and put on my pre-pregnancy jeans. Now it's just me and baby. I made several phone calls and no one was around to come pick me up. I called everyone I knew. I allowed myself a little pity party because if I had parents surely this would not be an issue. But I don't have parents and this was an issue. Then I hear the nurses talking smack about me. No, she still doesn't have a ride home, I don't know what she's doing. Is this an episode of "Sixteen and Pregnant" or my life right now? Finally my cousin Shelly had her mom, Lonna, come babysit her kids so that she could come pick me up. Shelly was my actual last choice. I don't care for Shelly's mad driving skills, but desperate times call for desperate measures. So now it looks like Shelly and I are lesbian lovers leaving the hospital with our miracle baby. Never you mind who the father is!

Thankfully we live close to the hospital. Shelly only jumped one curb on the ride home. In the house I go, carrying the baby. I had to actually step over Beau as I walked in. He was on the floor and couldn't move. Yes, this is what I need. Two toddlers, a new born, and Beau laid out on my floor. What about me? I just gave birth! I'm supposed to be resting with my feet up with Beau at my beck and call. Not gonna happen. Beau was in serious pain and couldn't move. He eventually graduated to the couch and was able to get around with the help of a walker. Like an old man. He tried helping with the kids, but he would lose all feeling in his arms and drop whatever he was holding. So after the first kid came-to, we decided him holding the kids wasn't a good idea.

Days turned into weeks and Beau was finally feeling better. So one day I think, you know what, I'm going to take a nap. What the hell? So I tell Beau my plan and he's thrilled or at least he should have been. I go to bed and fall fast asleep, only to be awakened by Beau a short time later. Seems our one-year-old drank some nail polish remover. For the love of God! I just gave birth. I just want to sleep. And what does this have to do with me? Call poison control and ask them what the hell to do. And be sure to tell them this happened on your watch. I don't want them to be all judgey the next time I have to call.

Turns out nail polish remover tastes so bad that's it's nearly impossible to drink much of it. Flush the kid out with some juice and you're good to go. And yes we ended up expecting another baby just a few short months later. But that's a blog for another time.

*Some names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Wind Beneath My Wings

In kindergarten the very first friend I made still remains one of my best friends till this day. Karen Barrell and I hit it off from day one and still do. We've been through everything two friends can possibly go through together. We've endured more pain and loss at young ages than most people will in a lifetime. Her losses were my losses and my losses hers. That's how it is when you're best friends.

Being friends with Karen has been a gift. Because being friends with Karen means being friends with her twelve siblings. Yes twelve. Karen is one of thirteen children. And I count all of them (well most of them) as a good friend. At the root of all of these kids is the one of the strongest and most influential woman I have in my life, Mrs. Barrell.

As you can imagine, Mrs. Barrell has seen it all. I always thought a reality show on her raising these kids would have been awesome. Except there wasn't such a thing back then. But going to the Barrell house as a kid was a reality show, we just didn't know it. It really was the greatest place ever. You might think that with all those kids, Mrs. Barrell wouldn't be up for having "play dates". Nope, that's not how she rolled. Every damn kid in the neighborhood was over there. Always. The pool in the backyard seemed like Lake Michigan to a little kid. It was always a guaranteed good time. And sleepovers there were even better. I mean when you have 13 kids who the hell notices when there are a few extras?



I can remember my mom telling me that my brother Juan went over there one day and Mrs. Barrell called her to make sure Juan liked chili because that's what she was making for dinner. My mom said she has thirteen kids of her own and she's worried my kid won't like what she was making for dinner. That's just Mrs. Barrell. She had thirteen of her own, but always made you feel like you were number fourteen. It's a great feeling. Another time, Devin Barrell was over playing hockey in our basement and cut his head open. When Mrs. Barrell got there the first thing she said was, you better not be getting blood all over this house. Not, oh poor baby, are you ok? Don't worry. Mommy is here now, I'll take care of you! She didn't have time for that.

Another memory of mine was having lunch over at their house and Mr. Barrell whipping up some Spam sandwiches. I was in heaven. I had never had such a delicacy. Nor had I ever seen a dad cook. I must add here that I thought the Barrell's we very wealthy. I mean you had to be to have thirteen kids, right? And they had an upstairs in their house, the only people I knew that did. So that meant they had the big bucks in my eyes. Anyway, after eating this amazing sandwich, I went home and begged my mom to buy Spam. She never did. So I thought it must be really expensive and we couldn't afford it, like the Barrell's could. You know, because they were rich.

Now that I have kids of my own I think of Mrs. Barrell on a daily basis. How the hell did she do this? Last year, I finally asked her. The first thing she said to me was she had a great man beside her every step of the way, just like I do. Whoa. Now that's a compliment. Mr. and Mrs. Barrell had a great marriage. You just wanted to be around them. After my parents died, it brought me great comfort to be around them. They reminded me so much of my own parents and the love they had for one another.  I remember asking them both if they had always planned on having thirteen kids. Their answer? No we planned on twelve. Oh, only twelve? Yes that's much more realistic.

Now that I'm a mom, I look at Mrs. Barrell in a totally different way. She has lived through plenty of heartache. She had to do the unthinkable and bury one of her own children. Every mom's worst nightmare. And it was her youngest, her baby. After an insane battle with cancer. I watched her every step of the way in total amazement. She even gave the eulogy at his funeral. I knew that day that I wanted to be just like her when I had kids. It was no doubt the worst day of her life, yet she had the strength to get up and eulogize her son like no one else could. My own dad died the very next day. And even though they had just buried their son, they walked right into my Dad's funeral and came up and hugged my brothers and I to let us know they were here for us. Hugs that really meant something. We had them in our lives no matter what. Even though we were now orphaned, we were not alone. We knew we were loved.

When Mr. Barrell died a few years ago, Mrs. Barrell lost her bestie. It was hard to watch. She was alone. After the funeral, everyone went back to the Barrell house. When I saw Mrs. Barrell I said, wow that was a great funeral. The eulogy was awesome. Her response was perfect. It would have been a hell of a lot better if we could have just said all of those things at his birthday party this year. Um, yeah, that would have been cool too.

Last week, Mrs. Barrell moved out of the house so many of us called home over the years. A very emotional day for sure. All the memories in that house. All of the legendary St. Patrick Day parties. The singing, the dancing. The laughter, the tears. All memories that will stay with so many of us forever. It truly was a gift to be part of such an amazing family. And even though my mom is not here again this mother's day, I count myself lucky to have Mrs. Barrell in my life. Thank you for everything.


*Some names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Community College

In my late teens/early twenties I experimented a lot. With colleges. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. So I hopped around from college to college with a stint at my local community college. This is a period of time in my education that I was serious about everything except education.

SNL skit. Community College Bowl.

My cousin Larry and I were in the same situation. Living at home, working part-time jobs, no real goal or ambition in life. So naturally we took some classes together. Really more so to get our parents off our backs. We didn't really go to most of the classes. It turns out pretending to go to school is a lot harder than actually going to school. I like to think of it as a time where we were just making memories together. Lots of them.

One of my all time fave memories is of Larry almost getting us killed. We were in this one class together and all I really remember is the teacher wore so much lipstick that her water bottle was covered in it and it really grossed me out. That and this other thing that happened one day. We were sitting in class next to each other. I was half listening and apparently Larry was not listening at all. We liked to write notes to each other and smear Cheetos all over each other's books. Because we were really mature. Anyway, the teacher is all fired up and calls on Larry. She says, what would you do Larry? Larry has not a clue what this woman is talking about. He looks at me and I just smiled. This was going to be good. The teacher says, come on Larry, what if this was one of your sisters? How would that make you feel? Larry was so nervous, he developed a stutter. Umm, umm, umm, well I don't know, I guess I'd be all for it. Yeah I think it's great. OMG. He did not. Yes he did. The entire class was up for grabs. Yelling at poor Larry. What do you mean you're all for it? This one girl was relentless. How would you like it if someone put your balls in a vice and squeezed it as hard as they could, huh, how would you feel about that, Larry? Larry was mortified and I couldn't catch my breath from laughing so hard. Larry was not happy. He said what the hell are they talking about, under his breath. It took me a minute to gather enough self-composer to tell him the topic was Female Genital Mutilation. The teacher asked you how you felt about young girls having their genitals cut so that they could never experience pleasure from sex and you said you're all for it! Especially if it was your own sisters! Pretty sure Larry was still confused with all the big words, but he knew enough to know he stepped in it big time. You would think we would have never gone back to that class after that day. But nope, it was one of the few classes we actually got credit for that semester.

When you are a broke college student who is trying to avoid going to actual classes, the number of places you have to go are limited. So we spent a lot of time at our grandma's house. We would eat all of her food and watch TV. She knew what we were up to, but loved us and our secret was safe with her. Until one day she started asking some questions. What are we going to do with our lives? When are we going to get our acts together? That sort of thing. So I start by saying I have no clue and I just don't know what the heck I'm going to do. The disappointment was evident. Larry's turn. He takes the bold-faced lie route. He tells dear old grandma that he's actually going to graduate from community college after the next semester. My jaw hit the floor. Grandma turns to me and says, now see why can't you be more like Larry? And if that wasn't bad enough we overheard her later that day telling her friend on the phone how Larry has his act together, but that other one, I don't know what the hell she's going to do. If this was my E! true Hollywood story, I believe this would be what's referred to as rock bottom. Or the time I applied to a bagel shop and didn't get the job.

Later on, I asked Larry what he was going to do when "graduation day" came and he didn't really graduate? How are you going to explain that to Grandma? He didn't know. But as luck would have it, our grandma died a few months later. Died thinking Larry was a soon to be community college grad and I was a loser. Thanks Lar-bear.


*Some names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.








Thursday, May 8, 2014

You Get What You Pay For

A good babysitter is hard to come by. Once you find one, you turn into this crazy possessive stalkerish boyfriend. You become very secretive and vague when talking to friends. Did you guys get a sitter for Saturday night? Um, yeah we did. Oh really who? Oh no one you know, just a friend of the family. What's her name? You know, I'm not really sure. Can I get her number sometime? Oh she doesn't have a phone or else I totally would.

After we had our first baby, getting a sitter was never an issue. People were calling us to see if they could babysit. Everyone wanted a piece of this kid. It was awesome.  Little did we know, just 12 months later when we had our second, that would all come to a crashing halt. No one wants two babies. No. One. No grandparent. No Godparent. No aunt. No uncle. No single friend. No high school girl. No. One. We very quickly realized we needed to find a professional and we needed to open our wallets...wide. And by professional I mean a responsible college-aged girl who could drive and didn't have a curfew. We have very high standards.

We were very lucky to find Betty. She fit the bill. Not only could she handle two babies, we would also come home to a clean house. No dishes in the sink. Kids asleep in their own beds. It was amazing. And when two babies quickly turned into three, then four babies, Betty was there every step of the way. We could go out whenever we wanted and didn't have to worry about a thing. Just when we thought we had this, we were blindsided. Looking back, we should have seen this coming, but we were too busy enjoying the high life. Betty was having a baby of her own. She was no longer a college student at our beck and call, she was a college grad with her own responsibilities. What do you mean you're having your own baby? Who the hell is going to watch ours?

So there we were. No one to watch our kids. Sure we could find someone new, but there was only one Betty. Our kids knew Betty. They loved Betty. They didn't want someone who wasn't Betty. We tried to replace her, but to no avail. Betty was not replaceable.

Anyway, our kids were getting older now. It wasn't so imperative to have the best of the best. Any warm body would do. So my cousin Shelly and I decide to start swapping our kids. We'll take yours whenever you need us and you can take our when we need you. We'll save a ton of money and knowing our kids are with family was reassuring, sort of. Our kids are all besties and loved the idea more than we did. It was perfect. What could possibly go wrong?

Just ask my youngest. He wasn't quite two when we started the exchanges. Too young to appreciate that there would be two adults for seven children aged 2-8.  And this was actually an overnighter. Shelly and Quint not only bought us a night at a hotel downtown, they were also going to watch our kids. It was amazing. The greatest thing that had ever happened to us really. When we asked what time we could drop them off, they said 2 o'clock. We were there at ten to two. We aren't usually so prompt getting four kids out the door, but we're not usually dropping our kids off anywhere. For twenty-four hours.

Off we went. Not a care in the world. My plan was to have a nice dinner and then go back to the hotel room by 9pm so that I could really enjoy my first night ever of actual sleep. Best laid plans. We ended up partying like we were rock stars and got even less sleep than I normally do. Before you know it, we're on our way back home to get the kids. It was good to see them. I felt like I had to say that. Upon our return, I immediately notice my youngest is missing part of his front tooth. Front and center, I saw it from across the room. When I said ever-so-calmly, "Oh my God, did my baby chip his tooth? I leave him for the first time ever with people I know and trust and this is what happens. What the hell is going on here? Come here, baby. Let mommy hold you. What did these monsters do to you?"


That's when it got good. Shelly seemed as shocked as I was. She puts on a good show. She said, what? what are you talking about? oh I don't know is it? What do you mean, you don't know? Look! Then there was an awkward pause, lots of ums, lots of eyes on the floor, then eyes on the ceiling. Then full on denial. Are you sure it wasn't like that when he got here? Yes, I'm sure! Turns out Quint saw the whole thing happen. The little guy just fell and didn't get his arms out in time. And Quint had the piece of tooth in his pocket, in hopes he could plant it at our house when we weren't looking. I did appreciate the fact that they were hoping we wouldn't notice until we got home and would assume it happened on our watch. I would have done the same thing.

Turns out we should have just paid a sitter because after we received the bill from the dentist, a specialist, mind you, it would have been cheaper. Waaaay cheaper. But I did get a video at the dentist office of my poor little guy withering in pain as they repaired his tooth. Couldn't wait to show it to Shelly and Quint. And keep as a reminder, just in case I drop the ball while watching their kids next time.

*Some names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Brothers Who Are Sisters

When you are the only girl in the family, it can be tough. Girls tend to be the ones who have to handle everything important when it comes to your parents. The good and the bad. That's why when I had kids I made sure I had two girls 18 months apart. So when shit got real, they'd have each other.

Like I said, this tends to be the case. But not in my family. When I got married I should have had my brothers as my bridesmaids, but then again, who would have walked me down the aisle?  They are more like sisters to me than an actual sister could ever be. We've been through a lot together and I wouldn't change it for the world.

I'll start with Juan. Juan takes care of business. When our parents died he handled everything and let Dat and I drink ourselves sober on a nightly basis. Usually with Dat wearing our mom's full length fur coat. He's the first-born and he takes that birth-order seriously. He has always taken care of us and puts everyone else first. It's awesome.

Did I mention how funny he is? A few years ago I was starting a new job at a new school. It was in a questionable area of the city, where Juan happens to work as a policeman. Juan said he'd be there in the morning to make sure I got in ok. I thought jeez Juan, not necessary, but appreciated. Starting a new job in a new school is always nerve-racking. You know, what's the protocol for the teacher's lounge refrigerator? Which bathroom doors have locks that work? Where's the best place to hide out and check Facebook? All the most important things teachers care about. (You know what I'm talking about Rahm). Anyway, the point is, I was nervous. So when I saw Juan, I was relieved to see a familiar face. For about 3 seconds. I pull into the parking lot, full of teachers and students and parents, and Juan follows me. My first thought was, wow that Juan takes his job as big bro seriously. Until, to my horror, I saw the lights and heard the sirens. Then his voice over the loud speaker. "Attention please, if everyone could take a minute to welcome your newest counselor..." and that's where I blacked out. I was mortified. But Juan was in his glory. Rambling on, as Juan tends to do, over the loud speaker. I can honestly say I have never seen him happier. And I was at the hospital the day his kids were born. So I get out of my car and go over to personally thank Juan and he says, that's for the joke you played on me on my 21st birthday. That was fifteen years ago. Whoa. Someone holds a grudge. But well-played Juan.


Now for Dat. Dat and I got into a lot of trouble together and definitely could be to blame for our mother's premature death. My mom kept a ledger of all the money we owed her and when she died the first thing Dat said was, does this mean we don't have to pay all that money back? And that's exactly what it meant. We all like to see the bright side of things. Dat also has kids. Same age as mine and we live very close to one another. Dat is Mr. Mom. He works nights and his wife works days, so Dat has been doing the daily routine since the beginning. And he's good at it. He is the best mom I know. Like a pintrest mom, except he doesn't know how to work a computer. He handles the carpool schedule every week and takes his job seriously. He checks in with us every Sunday, we tell him the days that work for us and he organizes everything and sends us a text with our assignments. It's awesome. Until you screw it up. Like today. I'm still shaken by the experience. I got all my kids up and out in a timely manner, showered and with my face on, because I'm a grown ass woman and I don't wear pajamas to carpool. As I'm thinking about what a great organized mom I am, my cell phone rings. It's Dat.
Dat: Um, where are you?
Me: I'm across the street, psycho. I'm picking up here and I'll be there in a minute to get your kids.
Dat: Why aren't you at home? I'm in your driveway.
Now I'm confused and panic is setting in.
Me: Is it not my day to drive? I thought it was my day to drive. No?
My head is scrambling. I'm not even sure what day today is.
Dat: Why would I be in your driveway if it was your day to drive???
Me: I don't know. I'm so sorry. I thought I was driving today. Do you want me to come there and get the kids from you?
Dat: Stay where you are. Don't move. I'll be there in 2 minutes.
Yikes. So I hurry up and explain to my kids to get out of the car because Uncle Dat is coming to get them. There are lots of questions. But I can't answer them. There's no time! Just get out. Get your bags and get out. My kids know Uncle Dat don't play. So out they go. Waiting in the street for Uncle Dat to save the day.

A second later, I get the carpool schedule text he sent on Sunday, again. I'm driving Friday.

*Update, after letting Dat read this before I published it, he suggested I end that last sentence with a question mark.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Eternal Fit

Allow me to introduce my Aunt Batsy. She is my Dad's oldest sister. And it would be impossible to truly ever explain her to anyone. But I'm going to try.

The other day I left my cell phone at her house. I didn't realize it until I got to the grocery store. So it was about an hour before I got back to her house to retrieve it. When I knocked on the door I heard her yell.  You left your phone! Your phone is here!  Yes, that's why I'm back. She told me it kept ringing the entire time I was gone. That's odd, I normally don't get many calls. Upon further investigation, I see all the missed calls were her trying to get ahold of me to tell me she had my phone. Nine missed calls. From Aunt Batsy. Nine voicemails. From Aunt Batsy. She had my phone.

Modern technology is not her thing, like many people of her generation. I can't bring myself to tell anyone her age.  I'm not even exactly sure I know it. She is the oldest of five siblings and the only girl, but she always told us she was the youngest. So, of course, I believed this. When I was in high school I had my friend over at her house. She asked how old Aunt Batsy was and I answered 35. I mean that's how old Aunt Batsy told me she was.  Why would she lie? My friend looked right at me and said, she's not 35. Not even close. That was the first time I really looked at Aunt Batsy and thought about it.  My friend was right. Not even close.

Shelly, Boo, Aunt Batsy, and me, in more recent years.

Aunt Batsy lived with my Grandma and took awesome care of her, and that's why my Grandma lived till she was 89. When my grandma died, Aunt Batsy wanted to get her a nice new dress to spend her eternal life in. So my cousins, Boo and Shelly, and I, took her shopping. This is where it got weird. We arrived at the store and Aunt Batsy didn't want to tell anyone why we were there. Just a couple of college-aged girls and their aunt shopping in the old lady dress section. We find a nice peach-colored, bedazzled dress that screams eternity. So then it happens.  She looks at us and asks, ok, which one of you are going to try it on? Um, excuse me? Try on the dress our dead Grandma is going to be buried in? Gross. No thanks. Immediately, Boo and I take a step back and there's Shelly, front and center volunteering. Turns out Shelly didn't really have a problem with this. She rather enjoyed it. She came out of that dressing room and rocked that old lady dress. The rhinestones made her eyes sparkle. Shelly even went as far as to lay down in it, so we could get a glimpse of how it would actually look on Grandma. Now that's a granddaughter.

I like to write on Facebook about Aunt Batsy. Just a pic of her and my kids. Something funny she said or did. She's great material. Little did I know she knew about all this. Turns out, she gets calls from people who see the posts. So I'm over there one day and she has something really important to tell me. So important I can't even remember what it was. But she looks me right in the eye and says dead seriously, now this is between me and you, don't go posting this on ebay. I promise I will never post anything you say on ebay. And I never have.


*Some names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them

Monday, May 5, 2014

Soul Tan

Looking tan just feels good.  It makes you look healthier and skinnier.  I feel as though I've come full circle when it comes to achieving a tan.  As a teen I would lay-out in the backyard with the baby oil and tin foil. I never sprayed sun-in in my hair because I didn't think that looked natural. You know, like sunburn does. One time I even went up on the roof because it was so damn hot up there it had to be a great place to catch some rays.  I was right.  My mom didn't like that idea and made me come down.

As I got older, I started to frequent tanning salons to get that fresh orangey glow I so desired.  I put an end to that about 10 years ago.  Only a year before that did I start covering my face because I was worried about getting wrinkles. But I'm sure the damage is done. 

When I decided perhaps the experts are right and tanning might not be the healthiest thing to do, I bought some lotion that promised to make you glow. And it did. In a very strange sort of way. But it turns out I had some sort of reaction to it and it made me itch uncontrollably. That doesn't mean I stopped using it.

Nowadays it's all about the spray tan. I mean spraying God-knows-what all over my body has to be healthier than a tanning bed, right? The first time I got one I was 9 months pregnant and standing up in my brother's wedding. I still feel bad for the girl who had the unfortunate job of spraying me. Like a beached whale. But it did look great and made me feel better. The only problem I have with it is the way you look and feel right after you get sprayed.

I recently got sprayed again. For no reason other than it was a long winter and I needed to do something to make myself feel better. I was treating myself for my birthday. I made the appointment for 1pm. I figured OK, I'll get sprayed, then finish my errands and go out to dinner as planned. I took one look in the mirror afterwards and didn't even recognize the person in front of me. I was so dark! I could not be seen in public like this. I was even embarrassed to walk back to my car for fear someone would see me. On the upside, my teeth never looked so white.



Naturally, the first thing I did was take a pic and send it to all of my friends. Everyone got a good laugh and thought I was joking. Nope, no joke. They were quick to point out I looked just like C. Thomas Howell's character in the hit 1986 movie, "Soul Man". And I did look just like him. It's just an unfortunate coincidence that we actually have the same hair cut as well. Dinner reservations would have to be canceled.

When I got home my kids were afraid of me. My nephew was here and kept backing away from me. He was so confused. They kept asking me to wash it off. I just spent 40 bucks on this bad boy. There was no way I was showering until it had fully absorbed deep in my skin. My daughter was appalled. My son came into my room the next morning and the first thing he said was, "Mom do you still look weird? You said you wouldn't look like that anymore!".

After a shower, I looked like I just got home from a Caribbean vacation. I was a healthy golden bronze. And that gross, sticky feeling was gone.  My kids relaxed and let me touch them again. I was all tanned up with no place to go. But I felt good, and that's all that really matters. The tan eventually faded, but I'll have this picture forever.


Thanks to Taffy Pill and Queenie Gown for inspiring this blog.

*Some names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

UnHappy Motherless Day

Mother’s Day is one of the happiest days of the year. The weather is usually gorgeous.   Everyone gets up early to spend the day with mom.  Beautiful flowers are purchased.  Perhaps a nice brunch to really show how much you care. An appropriate champagne toast.  It’s just a great day to spend with the person you love most in life.  The person responsible for giving  you life.  Unless, of course, she’s dead.

Celebrating Mother’s Day without a mom is not as fun as it sounds.  When I had a mom, I didn’t think about it. But now, I do. All the time. Passing the card aisle in a store is unbearable.  I have no card to buy.  The Facebook posts are relentless. Oh you have a mom, a step-mom, and a grandma? I'm so freaking happy for you.  It’s just an awkward day. I only had one mom and she’s not here. Once I realized visiting the cemetery wasn’t going to bring her back, I stopped going. The day is useless to me.  I had my own kids and naively thought, this will make it easier.  It didn’t. In some ways it made it harder.  I suddenly realized how much my mom loved me.   I always knew she loved me.  She told me.  She showed me.  All the time.  But it wasn’t until I had kids of my own that I knew what that meant.

People always say they would give anything to have one more day with their mom (or other dead person).  I wouldn’t. Why bother? One day?  Not nearly enough. It would take me the entire day to catch her up on everything.  I want all those years back and about another 40 on top of that.  I want my mom there to see me graduate college, get married, have a career, have kids of my own.  I want her here to know my kids and most importantly, babysit them.  Then I want to watch her grow old.  Then she can die.  When I say so.
 
 
I can remember my mom playing a song with the lyrics, “you’ll never miss a mother’s love till she’s buried beneath the clay”. About as literal as it gets.  I hated that song.  Still do.  While it was playing she would say, play this at my funeral.  I was 12.  She wasn’t dying.  It was weird.  She would also say, when I die, bury me in a size 6 dress and slit it up the back so I can be a size 6 forever. Now that one I understood. When she really did die, neither wish was honored. 

So, once again, Mother’s Day is fast approaching.  All the commercials.  All the excitement.  I’m dreading it.  But I will get through it like I do every year.   I will drink heavily and watch the movie “Mommie Dearest”. I will open the presents that my kids made me at school that they have already showed me days before in their excitement.  I will act surprised, which is really easy to do when drunk.  I will hug and kiss and squeeze all of them so that one day when I’m dead and they are celebrating their own UnHappy Motherless Day, they’ll remember how much I loved them.  And they’ll be grateful that my funeral songs are already on my ipod under “Songs You Better Play at My Funeral”. My mom was awesome, but the least she could have done was make me a mixed taped.




This blog is dedicated to *Juan and Dat, my triangle, my DPSers, the Pills, and the Gowns. Without these people, my motherless life wouldn't be worth living.
*Some names have been changed so the people I'm talking about don't know I'm talking about them.