True Blue. Not the Madonna Song.

It happens once a year. And usually only for a day. The past collides with the present as I reunite with the people who know the earliest chapters of my story best. They know it because it’s their story too. We experienced it side by side. They are my childhood people.

My very first friends.

We’ll go for months and months without speaking, but our friendships are like the lyrics to an old favorite song. We think we’ve long forgotten them, yet we find ourselves harmonizing in no time. They lie just beneath our embrace, which we hold a few seconds longer to honor the history that bonds us. The 364 days that have passed since our last visit are a mere blink. The decades fall away, and we are 10 years young again.

Hello, old friends.

She is 5 and I am 4. We are in ballet class, and the teacher scolds me for doing a curtsy instead of a plié. I blink back tears. She catches my eye and sticks out her tongue behind the teacher’s back. A show of solidarity. It’s just enough to make me smile instead of cry.

We catch up in pieces throughout the day. In a staccato-like conversation over the heads of our squealing children as we heave them above wave after wave until our shoulders are sore and our wrists ache. Side by side in chairs as the youngest ones demand we blow on freshly baked birthday cakes made of sand. In unseasonably cold waist-deep ocean water as we yell over the surf to our oldest kids, “Not so deep!”

I am 5 and she is 6, and every time I arrive at her door she greets me with her beloved clogs. She hands them over and lets me walk around in them–even though they are two sizes too big– because she knows how desperately I want a pair…and that my mom won’t allow me to have them.

We talk books, diagnoses, and relationships. The concern is genuine as we speak in hushed tones of parents who are suddenly old, others who have cancer, and those we worry continue to drink too much. We gaze out over the ocean to keep from crying as we relay the most recent updates from our children’s specialists. The place we hold in our hearts for one another opens just a little bigger when we admit that the word “chronic” in reference to our kids’ conditions has been the hardest of pills to swallow.

She is 9 and I am 8. We are back to back on her bike. I clutch the back of the banana seat and stretch my growing legs out on either side of me while she pumps the pedals to deliver me back home before dinner. “Hang on, I’ve got you,” she calls over her shoulder. And I don’t worry. Because I know she does.

The friendship among us is as sure as the tide that ebbs and flows around our sandy beach chairs. It is as old as we are.  It is a living breathing thing. It needs no “remember when’s”. I know their faces as well as my own. The creases that frame their eyes are the same creases I have. They wouldn’t be so deep had it not been for our shared fits of laughter, which are undeniably at the root of their very existence.

I am 10 and she is 11. We are sledding across a frozen pond. The ice cracks beneath my sled, and I am suddenly–frighteningly–chest deep. She laughs with the others at the sight of me as I scramble out of the ice cold water. But she gasps and wraps her arms protectively around me as soon as she sees how scared I am.

My heart understands that the children of these friends occupy an immediate and precious place. I see them only once a year but I’ve loved them from the moment their Mothers shared the news of their pregnancies. Long before that even. Perhaps from the time we sat side by side, holding our dolls, pretending they were our babies. I don’t know their favorite colors, I’m not sure who prefers chicken to pizza; but their Mothers are a part of every meaningful childhood memory I have. When I look into their faces, I see the young girls we once were, and I am transported back to a lifetime ago…when our days were spent playing dress up and paper dolls, putting on talent shows for our big brothers, picking blackberries off the bushes in the woods behind our neighborhood. When the world was big. A summer was a lifetime.  Our parents knew everything. And our stories were chapter upon chapter of empty pages waiting to be filled.

She is 17 and I am 16. She is tugging on my hair, weaving the locks into a french braid. “Do you love him?” I ask, peeking over my shoulder at her. As hard as she tries, she cannot deny the smile that plays at the corner of her lips. “I do,” she replies, as the smile lights up her face. I clap my hands together in delight. “Well, did you tell him?” I demand. “I did!” she exclaims, and we laugh and reach for each other’s hands, the french braid abandoned in our excitement.

Our kids are tentative around one another at first.

“Do you play baseball?”

“Join me in the water?”

“You like chipwiches? Me too.”

“Are those Zotz? Do they taste like pop rocks?”

They get slowly reacquainted. And by evening, their faces are a sea of smiles. Their laughter echoes across the surf. And they chase one another through the cool sand under a night sky that is lit by the most brilliant fireworks. Our visit draws near its end, and it’s no longer my child on my lap…it’s hers.

I am 24 and she is 25. She smiles brightly as my Dad walks me down the aisle in the church by our childhood homes. A few months later, my eyes are brimming with tears as her Dad ushers her down the aisle in the church by the ocean where we spent our summers.

The fireworks are over, and each of the 200 sparklers has burned out. Our goodbyes are hurried because it’s late, and the dreaded bedtime routine still awaits. This year I’m able to make my way up the dunes behind my family before the tears begin to roll down my cheeks.

“Wait!” I tiny voice calls out behind me, “Wait!”

I turn to see the littlest of the littles running towards me with her arms outstretched. She is blond and blue-eyed. Like a real life Cindy Lou Who.

We wrap our arms around each other in a heartfelt farewell. I kiss the top of her blond head and continue my climb up the dunes.

“Wait!” she yells once more. I turn to find her arms open again, so I lean down to lift her up. She lays her head on my shoulder and exclaims, “I love you!”

She must be Cindy Lou Who. Because my heart grows 3 sizes in her tiny embrace.

“I love you too, baby girl.”

I place her delicately in the sand, and she races back to her Mom, to her aunt, to her sister, to her cousins. She races back to a world that’s big, to a summer that lasts a lifetime, to parents who know everything, and to a story that is chapter upon chapter of empty pages waiting to be filled.

Obligatory Childhood Polaroid

Obligatory Childhood Polaroid

She races back to my very first friends.

“Goodbye, old friends,” I whisper. “See you next year.”

And the first tear slides down my cheek.

Before, Before, Before…

Before the foyer was a mess of cleats and library books,

Before Axe deodorant established residence in the bathroom,

Before I began tilting my chin up instead of down to look him in the eye,

Before the kitchen counter became a catchall for birthday invitations and permission slips,

Before entire sofas were buried under clean laundry needing folding,

Before he cared what brand of sneakers he wore,

Before cool was on his radar,

Before play-dates became hangouts,

Before he asked me to stop singing his lullaby,

Before every inch of the house became littered with Legos,

Before I realized he didn’t inherit my straight teeth,

Before the invention of Minecraft–which, for the record, I still don’t understand,

Before running out to Target for poster board the night before a project is due,

Before I swore no child of mine would ever be medicated,

Before Little League games that went into extra innings but only on school nights,

Before piano lessons and all the complaining that accompanied his practicing,

Before he grew too big to carry,

Before I became selective about sharing the babysitter’s name for fear someone else might snatch her away,

Before the first visit from the tooth fairy,

Before the months of fretting over which school was right,

Before the wall needed repainting because those were permanent markers,

Before the first little lies he told, which were eventually followed by bigger ones,

Before time-outs on the step,

Before story time at the library,

Before swim lessons,

Before the panic of having lost him for two very long minutes in Kohl’s,

Before the discovery that Baby Einstein offered thirteen consecutive minutes of peace during which I could inhale dinner,

Before I could make everything better by pulling him onto my lap for a hug,

Before the torture that is sleep deprivation,

Before the exceedingly slow drive home from the hospital because we had a “Baby on board”,

Before I knew to trust my instincts because they’re actually pretty good,

Before I understood that this is harder than anything,

Before. Before. Before.

I held a baby.

Moments after he drew his first breath.

I had dreamed of him for as long as I could remember.

The love was there…fierce and primal and expected.

Even bigger than the love was the hope. So enormous and undeniably present that I could just about reach out and touch it. No dream was too big for this perfect little bundle who had his entire life before him.

Who will he be?

***

He’ll be as tall as his father. He’ll need braces. He’ll be exceedingly guarded, but never after 10PM. He’ll have a quiet confidence. He’ll have a good voice, but he won’t like to sing. He’ll be outstanding with numbers, but struggle with words. He’ll hate mornings. He’ll love hijinx. He’ll be resistant to change. He’ll be a brother again, and again, and again.

He’ll have someone whose love remains fierce and primal. And whose hope for him will always be big enough to reach out and touch.

He’ll call her Mom.

Well, hello

Well, hello

To all who stumble through this journey the way I do..

Vessels of hope…

Believers in dreams…

Folders of laundry…

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

The Tale of a Girl and Her Shoes

Once upon a time, there was a girl. OK, a woman. She was almost 30, but she still thought of herself as a girl.

One day that girl received a card. A real card in a stamped envelope. A 30th birthday card from her college roommate. A card that encouraged her to make this a year of taking chances and pushing limits. And she put that card away in a drawer, but the girl took that message to heart.

Because she was struggling.

So immersed and in love with her two little boys that they had become her identity.

Lonely and missing her husband, who worked two jobs so she could be home with their kids.

Shaken by the news that her father had cancer.

So she bought her first pair of running shoes. Which, for her, was taking a very big chance. Because the girl was an athlete, but never a runner.

Those shoes were good to her. Together the girl and her shoes jogged through the neighborhood. They ran before dawn because the girl was aware of the extra weight she carried from having birthed two children. She preferred the cover of darkness to hide a body that she was ashamed of.

She didn’t find running fun. But the girl stuck with it.

She remembered the card and its message she’d taken to heart. She said to the shoes, “Today we are pushing limits and heading out of the neighborhood!” So they did. And it was hard. Leaving the neighborhood had seemed like an impossible goal, but she’d believed that she could do it, and she did.

She looked in the mirror after that run and saw the girl looking back at her…not just the Mom. And she sparkled just a little bit.

When she came home from her runs to find goldfish crackers ground into the carpet and permanent marker on the walls, she shrugged. The girl slipped off her running shoes. She embraced her babies and said, “It’s OK. Mommy’s here.” And it was OK. Because the running made little things like crumbs and stains seem like they weren’t such a big deal after all.

One day her brother joined her for a run. And that felt like a big deal. Because he had run marathons, and she had only just left the neighborhood. She wondered why he would want to run with her when he could run so much farther and faster on his own.

But it soon became clear. The laughter. The companionship. The consistency. The encouragement. The trust. The vulnerability. They shared it all. While the rest of the town lie sleeping in their beds, the girl and her brother cemented their friendship as running partners.

One day her brother encouraged the girl to register for a 10 mile race. That idea scared her, but she thought of the birthday card. This was her year for taking chances! And she liked that feeling of sparkling. She was feeling more and more like the girl and not just the Mom. And, it may sound crazy, but that made her a better Mom. A patient Mom. A happy Mom.

The girl and her brother trained all summer for that race. On race day, they decorated their shirts with the words, “Every step is for you, Dad.” And their father, whose body was fatigued from having the cancer burned out of it, looked humbly at them through blue eyes that shone bright with tears of pride.

The girl was very excited about the race. She’d bought a brand new pair of shorts for the occasion! Shorts that she’d never run in before.

One mile in, the girl realized her mistake. “These shorts are hurting my legs,” she told her brother. Two miles in, her legs began bleeding. Three miles in, the girl said, “Five is all I have today.” She walked off the course at the five mile point while her brother ran on to finish alone. When the girl saw the letters DNF next to her name after the race, she immediately vowed that there would be another race.

Then she tossed those stupid shorts into the trash where they belonged.

There would be another race. But there would be no brand new shorts.

Before another race, there was another baby. A third boy, and the happiest of her children.

His smile warmed the girl to her toes. But carrying that boy had been hard on the girl. She waited until he was six weeks old before she laced up her running shoes. So enormous were her boobs that she needed three bras…yes, three!…worn one on top of the other, to get through that run. And it hurt. And the girl cried as she ran. She cried for the pain. For deep in her uterus it hurt. She cried for how much fitness she’d lost through that pregnancy. She cried for the pounds, all sixty of them, that she’d gained. She cried for the effort it took to run with those pounds on a frame not designed to carry so much weight. She cried because, as much as she tried to deny it, the girl was suffering from postpartum depression. She felt dull and hopeless…like she would never sparkle again.

To keep the walls from closing in on her, the girl put her faith in those shoes and continued to run. She ran through the pain. She ran through the tears. She believed if she kept running, maybe she wouldn’t feel so burdened. The girl was so many things to so many people. All she wanted was to feel just a touch lighter. “Really, is that so much to ask?” the girl wondered.

When the third boy was five months old, the girl’s brother said, “I’m going to run that 10 mile race again.” Her brother-in-law said, “I’m going to join you.” And the girl remembered the card that still sat in a drawer. It had been several years since she’d first opened that card, but its message had remained her companion. She felt tired, heavy, and overwhelmed. Not at all ready to push her limits. The girl said, “I don’t think I’m ready, but I’d like to give it a try.”

She’d graduated from running with three bras to running with only two bras. The girl strapped on those bras and slipped into the most comfortable shorts she owned, old ones that she’d run in many times before, and she joined her brother and brother-in-law at the start. They ran slowly. And they stuck together. After five miles, her brother turned to the girl and said, “Five is as far as I go today.” And it was he who walked off the course that race. The girl looked at her brother-in-law, whom she loved. Even without the running, theirs was such an easy friendship. “I’m going for it. Are you coming?” he asked. And the girl felt OK. So she continued to run.

The brother-in-law stayed with the girl for three more miles. Three very slow and painful miles. He regaled her with stories to keep her spirits up. But the girl was falling apart and holding him back. So she thanked him for getting her this far and urged him to run his race. And off he went.

By then it was only the girl and her shoes. The girl said to the shoes, “No matter what, we are not walking!” And those shoes were good to the girl. Which was no easy feat. Because the girl and her shoes were running on sand! The girl wanted to quit, but the shoes propelled her forward. Everything hurt, inside and out. So the girl thought of things that made her heart sing…the ocean beside her, the angelic faces of her children while they slept, how protected she felt in the arms of her husband, the outside shower she would take after the race, and the cold beer she would enjoy before bed.

And the girl found the resolve to cross that finish line. Accompanied only by her running shoes.  Who hadn’t stopped to walk even once.

The girl bid the ocean good night. She planted soft kisses on her children’s heads as they slept. She savored the heat of the shower on her aching muscles. She found she was too exhausted for that beer after all. She crawled into the arms of her husband with a smile on her face. The girl had felt the shift. The weight was lifting. She knew it wouldn’t be long before she began to sparkle again.

Years went by, and would you believe that girl went and had another baby?

Yep…a boy! Her fourth.

And when the girl was 39, she found herself struggling again. “I think it’s time,” the girl thought, “to take another chance.” And the girl and her running shoes landed in a city far from home on a relay team with a group of runners. Runners who were different from the girl, yet mostly the same. All girls. Girls who’d known joy, pain, fear, frustration, and the aching exhaustion of sleepless nights. They were kindred spirits. A resilient group. For they were all Moms. Special Moms. The kind of Moms who celebrate and support one another. The girl and her teammates got very fancy for the occasion and donned pink tutus. The girl couldn’t forget about her beloved shoes, which’d always been so good to her, so she tied glow rings to their laces to match her tutu. And the girl delighted in every minute of their adventure.

DC or Bust

DC or Bust

It was on this team that the girl befriended a woman…a Pixie of sorts. The Pixie was the tiniest woman the girl had ever met. But her size didn’t fool the girl. For as small as her frame was, the girl recognized that the Pixie had a spirit as tall as the biggest evergreen and a heart as warm as the sunniest August day. Color, hope, quirkiness, kindness…the Pixie was a rare and beautiful collage of them all.  As the sun set on the first day they’d spent together, the girl sat on the grass and watched as the Pixie strung lights through her tutu. The girl smiled as she thought, “Now her skirt glows as bright as her spirit.”

The Pixie sat down and looked earnestly at the girl. “Sweet girl, I see your struggle,” the Pixie said,”and the struggle is in your head. I promise, if you lead with your heart, it will never steer you wrong.” And the girl felt released. Like all at once like she might laugh and cry. And the Pixie’s advice has since become a mantra for the girl.

When she came home from that race to find dishes in the sink and laundry that needed folding, she shrugged. The girl slipped off her running shoes. She embraced her children and said, “It’s OK. Mom’s here.” And it was OK. Because the running made little things like dishes and laundry seem like they weren’t such a big deal after all.

Nearly ten years have passed since the girl opened that card. A card that encouraged her to push limits. A card that prompted her to take chances. A card that led her to take a chance on her very first pair of running shoes.

In that time, the girl has run alongside women who have imprinted themselves on the fabric of her heart. From soul stirring laughter to confidences that will never be broken, the girl and these women share moments that will endear them forever.

The girl, this lucky girl, has known the unparalleled thrill of running alongside her son. And she was nearly blinded by how brightly he shines.

The girl has experienced more life in those shoes than she’d ever imagined possible. She’s nurtured her spirit. She’s abandoned judgment. She’s found love for herself when she thought she’d given it all away. She’s forgiven herself for the times she’s been too weak to muster strength. The girl celebrates her body, worn and weathered from growing and sustaining life, for the beautiful and unique gift that it is.

She is inspired by the people she’s met on her journey.

She feels grateful for all she’s accomplished with her feet in these treasured shoes.

For in these shoes, the girl slayed her dragons.

***

There is a girl. OK a woman. She is almost 40, but she still thinks of herself as a girl.

She’s not afraid to take chances.

She’s likely to push limits.

More often than not, she leads with her heart.

The girl is a runner.

Some days she sparkles.

And everyone deserves a chance to sparkle, don’t they?

The girl is not upset that she’ll soon be 40.

Maybe, just maybe, she’ll receive a card. A real card in a stamped envelope. A 40th birthday card from her college roommate.

The girl can’t wait to read what it says.

Disclaimer: The girl does not endorse running in the same pair of shoes for thousands of miles. For the sake of the story, and out of respect for her first pair of running shoes, she didn’t introduce a new pair in this essay. In real life, she replaces her running shoes every 400 miles. Or whenever she can afford it. Because feeding four boys gets expensive. 

This Is Childhood

“You’re going to want to write it down. All of it.”

My friend, a mother herself, smiled knowingly as she presented the journal she’d fashioned from an old marble copybook. It bumped my pregnant belly as she handed it to me. Everything bumped my belly in my ninth month of pregnancy.

She turned out to be right. I spent hours hunched over that journal during my oldest son’s first year of life. When I flip through its pages now, it’s a testimonial both of his growth and of my transition–emotional and anxious–to mother. Is he OK? Am I OK? Am I doing any of this right?    

When my second son was born, the journal was store bought and smaller in scale. The entries were just as fraught with emotion. They hinted at a growing maternal confidence. But they were documented much less frequently. He seems OK. Are we OK? Am I doing more right than wrong?

In the haze after my third son arrived, I scribbled down the details, “9lbs 2 oz, 23 ½ inches,” ripped the note off its pad and slapped it on top of his brothers’ journals on my nightstand. That’s the closest I came to a journal entry with him.

And, no. My fourth son didn’t even get the impersonal stats on a loose-leaf sheet.

Over time, I have accumulated a stack of sticky notes. Here is what they say:

“Paw-crits = paw-prints“

“Fun-quints = footprints”

“Ge-go = here you go”

“What o’clock is it = what time is it”

“Ya got crumbs = Do you need to shave”

“Leepeet = syrup”

“Lasterday = yesterday or any day before today”

All phrases coined by my kids at different ages. Journal-worthy. Indelible.

Individually, each captures a moment in time.

Together, it feels as though they are all that is left of my favorite years with my babies.

They belong in a journal.

Soon I will have one.

This Is Childhood

This Is Childhood

This is Childhood contains heartfelt essays about every year of the first decade of childhood. It provides writing prompts for those times when the words need some coaxing.

I finally took the time to write about my sweet third born. He was the inspiration for the book’s Age Six. I’m so proud to be a part of this collection and have my words sandwiched among those of so many beautiful writers.

This is Childhood is a perfect gift for Mother’s Day.

Somebody please tell my husband;-)

Because I still want to write it down. All of it.

God on High, Once is Enough

Imagine a Mom. A Mom with a deep crease in her forehead and saggy boobs.

You know.

A Regular Mom.

Imagine that Regular Mom has a husband and four sons. The poor girl is substantially outnumbered. No wonder that crease is so deep. So many boys. So little meaningful conversation. That Regular Mom with the deep crease and the saggy boobs longs to get the lowdown from her boys after school every day. How was that brownie I put in your lunch? Who did you sit with? Were your friends kind to you? Did you laugh today? What made you laugh?

But pfffft. Those boys of hers aren’t wired for chit chat. They come home from school, dump their bags precariously in the entryway where Regular Mom will trip on them, load their pockets with cheeseballs and head straight for the trampoline to beat the piss out of one another. So Regular Mom…that saint of a woman…heads into the kitchen to prepare seventeen different dishes that will be consumed by five males in the span of three minutes. She turns on Howard Stern–at least he’ll talk to her–and hopes that tonight’s dinner conversation does not include any sound, smell, or mention of flatulence. Just this once.

Regular Mom has a tough pill to swallow every March. Her kids have THE LONGEST SPRING BREAK EVER. Eleven days off from school.

In a row.

And that includes the weekends because oh yes they do so fucking count.

Many months ago, she researched what it would cost to fly that sizable family out to Arizona to visit her sister for a portion of that eleven day nut punch. A quick Google search showed that it costs too many American dollars to put six winter-weary butts on a plane headed West in the month of March.

Regular Mom’s parents don’t like shoveling snow, so they spend the cold winter months in Florida. Regular Mom did a quick Google search on the price of flights to Florida, and it turns out it costs too many American dollars to fly six people there in March too.

“Son of a motherless goat,” she said, “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle before I do another eleven day staycation with crowd.”

Her offspring wouldn’t know a dinner conversation that didn’t include the word “fart” if it came up and bit them on their gassy little asses, but Regular Mom still wanted to connect with each and every one of her sons.

So she Googled the often-talked-about-but-never-before-visited Great Wolf Lodge.

Indoor Water Park Extravaganza

Indoor Water Park Extravaganza

Here is what she learned.

It costs $500 to:

  • frolic about in an indoor water park in ankle deep water that is arguably 50% urine from the bladders of other people’s kids,

  • spend the night in a smaller bed than she’s used to in one room that will sleep her entire family,

  • wrestle on a bathing suit unexpectedly three months earlier than she usually dreads doing, and

  • leave exhausted with the high likelihood of plantar warts in her near future.

So she said to her husband, “WHAT KIND OF A RACKET IS THIS?”

But Regular Mom’s husband said, “Think of our third son. That boy loves being in the water more than anything. Picture the look of excitement on his face when we tell him we’re going. It’s well worth the price of admission merely to see the happiness in his eyes.”

And Regular Mom thought her husband made a good point. Boy #3 is a patient soul with an infectious smile and a pure heart. So she confirmed the overnight arrangements with the vision of her elated third born son’s face in her mind’s eye. And a twitch in her actual eye from the exorbitant price of admission.

Regular Mom bought several pairs of new goggles on the sly. She crept up the stairs into the frigid, dark attic–a space not fit for a full grown adult which forces her to navigate all the clothing bins on her knees–to locate and launder the bathing suits. She packed the overnight bags surreptitiously. So great was her anticipation of her third son’s excitement, that she smiled and chuckled aloud as she prepared for their surprise overnight trip.

And when the time came to share the news with their four sons of the trip to the often-talked-about-but-never-before-visited Great Wolf Lodge, Regular Mom and her husband assembled the children at the table.

“Please guess where we are taking you.”

“Lolly and Poppy’s New Jersey beach house.”

“No.”

“Lolly and Poppy’s Florida beach house.”

“No.”

“Arizona.”

“No.”

“Why not Arizona? I want to go to Arizona. You said we would go to Arizona one day.”

“Stop complaining. Keep guessing.”

“The Oreland Swim Club.”

“No, but close.”

“I don’t have any more guesses.

…This is a stupid game.

…Can’t you just tell us already?

…Can I watch a show?”

“OK, boys, Dad and I are taking you to…”

Regular Mom looked at her husband, and he reached out and squeezed her hand. They smiled because a moment like this–when you make an announcement that elicits pure joy in the people you love so fiercely and completely–this is what makes all of the sleepless nights and the backtalk and the bad pre-teen Disney shows and the vomiting on fresh sheets at 2AM worth it. This is the moment.

“We are taking you to…

…GREAT! WOLF! LODGE!!!!”

Regular Mom craned her neck around her youngest son and looked expectantly at her third son, the sweetheart of the bunch, the boy whose smile warms her all the way to her toes.

“What?” he stammered, “WHAT?!”

“Yes!” Regular Mom nodded and clapped. “Great Wolf Lodge! The indoor water park! What do you think?!”

And her third son yelled, “I’M NOT GOING IN THE WATER! AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!” And then he covered his crestfallen face with his hands, laid his head on the table, and proceeded to cry. Hysterically.

Not the happy tears.

Regular Mom looked at her husband, and he looked back at her. And there was no need to speak. Because they were both thinking the same thing.

This, unfortunately, is what parenting is about.

Parenting is thinking you’ve got it so perfectly right…only to discover you couldn’t have been more wrong.

Parenting is the illusion of a whole lotta YES…and the reality of OH, HELL NO.

Not just one NO.

A series of NO’s.

NO’s that get progressively louder and borderline violent.

Welcome to parenthood! Jump in, the water’s great! We’re swimming in somebody else’s pee, but honestly. It couldn’t be better. Embrace the unpredictability!

They dried the tears of their third born son, hurried the children into the car just as the snow began falling, and drove North towards their destination. What should have been a ninety minute drive became ninety minute drive + sixty additional tense minutes. Because four kids.

They checked into the hotel. Donned their bathing suits. Scarfed down Uncrustables. Distributed goggles. And down to the water park the six of them schlepped.

When they were finally together as a family in the pool–before the lifeguard whistled at the oldest son for pulling the second born under water, and before the other lifeguard whistled at the youngest for taking a running leap into the pool and cannon-balling his tiny muscular frame onto the heads and necks of unsuspecting strangers, and before Regular Mom threatened her husband that if he dared to take one more picture she would rip that expensive lens off his camera and send it down the party slide in an oversized raft–Regular Mom and her husband shared a smile. They were surrounded by their children…no one crying, no one in trouble, no one demanding a snack, no one having to poop…and life was good.

Regular Mom stood contentedly in four feet of disturbingly warm water, waiting for her youngest son to launch himself into her arms, when she felt a tap on her leg underwater. She turned to find her third son breaking the surface of the pool.

“Hi, Mom,” he smiled.

“Hi, sweetheart,” she smiled back. Her smile grew bigger as she noticed his goggles weren’t properly suctioned. His eyes were swimming in little pools of water behind those goggles.

“Sorry I was in a bad mood about coming to Great Wolf Lodge, Mom,” he said quietly.

“That’s OK, buddy.”

“I thought we were going to the Lego Store, Mom. I really just wanted to go to the Lego Store. But this is fun.”

“I’m glad you’re having a good time,” What a precious boy.

“Mom, can I ask you a question?”

“Absolutely, buddy.”

He looked over both his shoulders, swam up almost on top of her and asked, “Mom, would you sacrifice yourself for me?”

What’s that now?

Regular Mom chewed on the inside of her mouth to avoid smiling, “Without hesitation.”

“Does that mean yes or no?”

“That means yes. And twice on Sunday’s,” she nodded, as she kissed his wet forehead.

“Twice on Sunday’s? What is that, Mom?”

“It means yes. I would sacrifice myself for you,” it took all her effort to keep a straight face. Especially with the chlorine rolling directly into her eyes.

He nodded his head. Looked over his shoulders once again. Emptied his goggles, dove under water, and swam off without so much as a glance back at Regular Mom.

Sacrifice myself? She wondered what he could possibly be talking about when her reverie was broken by her youngest son’s wet, flying body. Which struck her square on the side of the head.

“You were supposed to catch me!” he spat the words at her. Along with some pool water for good measure.

Once she regained her faculties and was no longer seeing two, three, and four of her children…oh, wait, that’s how many kids she actually has…she swam over to her husband.

“I don’t know what #3 has planned, but he just swam up to me like the Loch Ness fucking Monster and asked me if I would sacrifice myself for him.”

Her husband raised his eyebrows and nodded his head, “Really?” he asked. “That’s interesting. Because he asked me earlier if I know anyone who had fallen into a ravine and survived.”

Hang on, what?

“Let’s keep our eye on that kid,” Regular Mom said.

“And let’s not make plans to visit the Grand Canyon anytime soon.”

“Good call,” Regular Mom agreed.

Regular Mom, her husband, and sons enjoyed hours at the indoor water park. They stayed until well after their two younger sons’ bedtimes. They stayed until Regular Mom could feel the sting of chlorine on her eyeballs when she wasn’t even in the pool. She worried maybe the fine people of Great Wolf Lodge were vaporizing the chlorine and pumping it into the air supply to compensate for all of the peeing in the pools, and that’s when she gave her family the high sign. They trudged up the four flights of stairs to their room, and decided on sleeping arrangements.

The younger two, who were exhausted, would share the pullout sofa bed since it sat on the opposite side of a partitioned wall and offered a modicum of privacy and quiet.

The oldest boy announced, “I’m not sleeping with my other brother,” and both Regular Mom and her husband groaned.

Because that meant one of them had to share a bed with that action.

Non-stop kicking. Sideways sleeping. Talking in his sleep. Walking in his sleep. Night terrors. Hogging of covers. That’s what it’s like to share a bed with their second born son. He is a beacon of light during the day. And the angel of death in slumber.

“Fine. I’ll sleep with him,” Regular Mom’s husband grumbled. The light went out in his eyes as the gravity of the night ahead of him sunk in.

It had been a long time since Regular Mom had slept in the same bed with her oldest son. When he flopped on the bed as far away from her as possible without rolling onto the floor, she was reminded of how much he’d grown and how twelve year old boys pretty much altogether suck.

She smiled at him and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoon with you.”

He rolled his eyes, and replied, “As usual I don’t know what you’re talking about, but don’t touch me, old lady,” and then he flipped his head so she wouldn’t breathe on his face.

Regular Mom doesn’t pray very often. But, lying in an overpriced room with her family, sharing an undersized bed with her oldest son got her thinking. These are the people I love most in the world. They are my reason. Every day.

And Regular Mom was overcome with emotion.

Mostly that emotion was dread.

She lay next to her firstborn son–whose voice is deeper, whose shoulders are broader, whose feet are as big as his grandfather’s, whose upper lip is covered in peach fuzz, whose hormones are raging–and Regular Mom prayed.

“God on high, Hear my prayer. In my need, you have always been there. He is young. He’s afraid. Let him rest. Heaven blessed.”

It was just like Jean Val jean singing over Marius in Les Miserables.

Except it was nothing like that.

Because, it was night two of her period.

The night her uterus bleeds with the vengeance of five uteruses.

Uteri?

So her prayer went more like this:

Dear Patron Saint of Heavy Periods,

Please hear and answer my prayer. My son is 12 years old. It’s an uncomfortable age. That was a particularly awkward year for me. I remember flashes of sequins and a favorite pair of fluorescent striped corduroys.  Please, PLEASE do not let me bleed all over these white sheets.  I have nowhere to hide. If I leak, if my oldest child wakes in a pool of his mother’s uterine lining, he will be scarred for life. More scarred than I was by that awful haircut I had at 12 years old. And I’m still carrying that around.

So, um, Amen?  

Regular Mom only slept about 45 minutes total that night, so scared was she that she would bleed all over the shared bed and damage her son irrevocably.

So she lay awake all night long.

And early the next morning, when she shimmied her way out of bed, she smiled. It had been a perfect, leak-free, sleepless night. Her 12 year old son’s delicate psyche would remain intact. At least until the next family vacation.

Regular Mom’s husband had already left the reservation to take pictures get her a Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Is that the sun coming up? Nice shot. Say, why's my coffee so cold?

Is that the sun coming up? Nice shot. Say, why’s my coffee so cold?

She made mental notes about the day ahead. There was packing to do and breakfast to make and hours more fun to be had. But for now, she would let her boys sleep.

Regular Mom crept over to peek around the partition at her two younger sons, who were just stirring.

“Mom, can you lay with us?” whispered the third son.

They made space for her between them, and she slipped under the sheets and wrapped her arms around her third and fourth babies.

“Mom, what o’clock is it?” asked the youngest.

“It’s still dark outside,” she whispered. “That means it’s the perfect o’clock for you to lay with Mommy.”

“Mom, are we gonna come here again? To Great Wolf Lodge?” asked her third son.

Regular Mom replied, “Well, we’re going to have fun at the waterpark again today. But I don’t know if we’ll come back after that. For our family, I think visiting Great Wolf Lodge once is probably enough.”

The two boys snuggled up against her, she kissed the tops of their heads and whispered, “This is the best part of my day.”

Her third son reached his arms around her neck and gave her an unexpected hug. He gazed up at her with that face that melts her heart and said,  “Mom, does that mean we can go to the Lego Store tomorrow? Because I really only wanted to go to the Lego Store this spring break.”

***

And that, my friends, is what spring break looks like in the life of a Regular Mom.

Just add nine more days.

Word.

 

A Book, A Contest, And a Hell of a Sandwich

You know that saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none”? That’s me right now.

Actually, that’s a bit of a stretch.

Overwhelmed Mother of four who is dropping balls right and left, who has abandoned Weight Watchers, who hasn’t cooked a vegetable this calendar month, but is surprisingly well versed in this season’s talent on both American Idol and The Voice. Who may also have a teeny tiny simultaneous crush on Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, and Harry Connick Jr.

Well, yes, that sounds about right.

I was talking to someone recently, describing how I feel a little overextended. And by talking, I mean crying. I don’t know if it was the twitching of my eye or the dusting of confectioner’s sugar across my chin, but she hit me with some hardcore Oprah.

“You know what Oprah says. ‘You can only do three things well at one time.’”

Fucking Oprah.

I hate it when she’s right.

And she’s always fucking right.

Except for the time she laid into James Frey about A Million Little Pieces. She went too far that time.

So I thought about what three things I’m doing well in my life right now.

Eating? Yes. I’m eating semi-well, but I’m chasing two of three meals a day with chocolate. And I now need a late afternoon coffee to get me through the dark hours otherwise known as homework, baths, dinner, and bedtime. You know, the quality family hours. Also, I’ve made this ironclad contract with myself that pizza should be consumed with beer. And beer goes best with two slices of pizza + the cheese from Waldorf’s pizza.

So eating? Maybe not so well.

Sleeping? Yes, I’m sleeping. But every single morning at 4 AM, the cat pushes the bedroom door open, jumps onto the bed, climbs across my husband and begins grooming my hair and face with her long claws and her sandpaper tongue. And it fucking hurts. And her cat breath stinks. I have to envelop myself in a cocoon of covers, but I’m mildly claustrophobic, so as soon as I start panicking that I can’t breathe, I peel the covers back and BOOM! That bitch is on me again.

So sleeping? Not doing it well.

Wifely duties? I’ve been wearing flannel pajama bottoms like it’s my job. I pair them with a hideous bright blue sweatshirt with a penguin emerging from a Superman emblem on the front. It came with the entry fee to a local five mile race. It’s as comfortable as it is unflattering.

So wifely duties? Negative.

Mom stuff? I’m on top of the sorting, the washing, and the drying of the laundry. The folding? Not so much.

Would you like to have a seat?

Would you like to have a seat?

I’ve announced, “It’s breakfast for dinner!” at least four out of seven nights a week since…oh, I don’t know…Thanksgiving. We are down to one presentable pair of pants for each of my kids. And by presentable I mean I fully expect you to ignore the gaping hole in the left knee and the fact that said pants are short enough that my kid’s ankles are showing.

All things Mom? Not setting the world on fire.

Exercise schedule? I was fully prepared to run on the treadmill the other day. I noticed that the snow-blower is parked directly in the treadmill’s path on my back patio. It looks like it weighs five gazillion pounds. It’s on wheels, and I probably could have tried to move it. But that seemed like a lot of fuss, so I ditched my run and headed straight to the fridge to bust out four rectangles of chocolate. Oh, come on, it was dark chocolate.

Working out? Meh.

Breathing? Involuntary breathing is a no-brainer. Yoga-matching-my-movements-to-my-breath-breathing? I suck. I keep holding my breath in yoga class when something hurts. And don’t roll your eyes, that shit is hard. And every time my instructor tells me to be present and bring my breath to where I feel uncomfortable, I find myself wondering if that means I should blow on my left hip and then I wish I were somewhere else. Eating chocolate. Yes, dark chocolate. Jeez.

So, breathing? Don’t hold your breath.

Writing? I have so many stories. So very many stories. If you’re Facebook friends with me, you’ve probably noticed that my status updates are breaking records for number of characters used to communicate one stinking thought. And, yes, I did see M. Night Shymalan, and yes, I did lean across an unsuspecting Waldorf and scream, “You are the BEST! The BEST!” And I didn’t feel at all embarrassed except when I added, “Woohoo, go Philly!” I’ll admit, that was possibly the geekiest thing I’ve ever yelled across my oldest child at a famous movie director. But I like to think he appreciated it. Is this a blog post begging to be written? Absolutely. Add it to the list. The list right below the Costco list that is growing faster than my kids, who don’t own a pair of pants that actually fit them. Oh, but do me a solid and add “Superfruits” to that Costco list because we’re all out. Thanks.

So, writing? On Facebook, yes. Stringing sentences together to create paragraphs containing a beginning, middle, and end? Nope.

If I think hard–really hard–about something I’m doing well right now, I can come up with one thing. And it’s three words, so it may have to count as three things.

1. Buffalo

2. Chicken

3. Sandwiches

Boom!

We’re eating them once, sometimes twice, a week. And the older boys only complain that they’re too spicy to consume every other time I make them. So, I’m killing it—half the time—with the buffalo chicken sandwiches.

Take that, Oprah.

You know who is doing three things well right now?

My husband. Yes, B&B is handling his juggling act with ease, and he has JUST as big a crush as I do on Adam, Blake, and Harry. Except he looks way hotter than I do right now. Because of the Weight Watchers fail/no vegetables consumed/eating my feelings in chocolate situation.

This summer, it will be twenty years since he, a very tall, deeply tan, alarmingly handsome boy whose name I didn’t yet know, leaned over to me and said, “I’d like to buy you a drink, but the bar just closed. Where will you be on Saturday night? I’ll make sure I’m there too.”

I haven’t been able to shake him since and, believe me, I’ve tried. If I had to list three things he is doing well as an individual, they are three things that also make us work as a unit.

1. He is the bomb diggity of all Dads. He plays with the kids. And has actual fun doing it. And he likes to help them with their homework if they have questions. The dreaded math questions are his favorites to answer. He reads to them, he bathes them, and he disciplines them. Not as well as I do, but still, he is an active participant in the raising of our children.

2. He has interests outside of mine. For instance, I find Ultimate Fighting barbaric. He cannot get enough of it. He is an adrenaline junky. I prefer predictable (read boring) routine. He needs to understand how things work. I just like to know that things are indeed working. He hates doing the dishes. Oh, wait, that’s not a good example.

3. He lets me do my thing. (My thang?) Whatever my thing is, he supports me. These days, that thing is writing. He is even supportive when I write about him.

I wrote a story about B&B and his hobbies, and I got lucky enough that it landed in a book. And I did not throw him under the bus. Not this time at least. It is surrounded by hilarious stories written by some of the funniest broads on the internet. It’s all about the men in our lives. It’s called I Just Want to Be Alone, and it’s the sequel to I Just Want to Pee Alone.

Real books. That is my thing. I’m lucky to have a husband who supports my writing, and I am so enormously grateful to Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat for carving out a spot for me in both of these anthologies.

I really want you to do a girl a favor and buy the new book.

I said this to my husband. I said it because it's true.

I said this to my husband. I said it because it’s true.

It’s funny. And laughter is good. It heals. It gives you laugh lines. Laugh lines are the sign of a happy person. Buy this book. Laugh. It makes me happy to make you happy. Help me help you.

I’ve teamed up with my co-authors from Pennsylvania to give away five copies of I Just Want to Be Alone for free. Meredith of The Mom of the Year, Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion, Christine of Keeper of The Fruit Loops, and I are bound by the polar vortex nightmare that has been this PA winter. We are bound by a love of story-telling that inspires us to look at the chaos of our lives–polar vortex included–through the lens of humor. Most importantly, our stories are bound together–polar vortex not included–in the pages of this kick ass book.

Four winners will receive a copy of I Just Want to Be Alone. One especially lucky winner will receive a copy of the book and a $25 Amazon gift card. I know. Totally awesome. If contests are your thing, you can enter this contest to win the book by clicking on the Rafflecopter below. The contest ends at midnight on March 26th, 2014, and winners will be contacted via email. To enter, you must be 18 or older and live in the continental U.S.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make dinner. Guess what we’re having?

Is Anybody Listening?

Fact: Nobody in this house listens to me.

Observation: When someone chooses not to listen to me, that someone gets hurt.

Fact: Not as the result of telepathy or voodoo, nor by my hand.

Observation: I don’t particularly like eating humble pie, but holding back the words “Well, I told you so, numb nuts,” can be just as tough.

Another Fact: I run.

Observation: It keeps me sane.

Fact: B&B runs.

Observation: This format is annoying, so I’m just going to tell the story. But first, one more fact.

Fact: Someone didn’t listen to me. And that someone is hobbling around with an injury. Related? You be the judge.

***

I run. I just do. For lots of reasons. Mostly to cope with the fact that no one listens to me and then people get hurt.

Three years ago, you non-runners may have noticed an ugly footwear trend among the running community. The Five Finger shoes. As if you didn’t already have enough reason to laugh and point at us. They really are aesthetically ridiculous. I was among the first laughing and pointing.

“Look at that fool tricked out with those ridiculous things on his feet. They aren’t sneakers, they are foot gloves! Freakishly ugly foot gloves. I know he has toes, but I don’t need to see each little piggy in all its individual glory.”

I’d done the same thing with the capri trend back in 1998.

“What exactly is she wearing? The choices are simple: shorts or pants. Please commit to one, you just cannot have it both ways.”

I was guilty in the year 2000 of laughing and pointing at Uggs as well.

“$100 for those ugly clodhoppers? Save your money. They’ll never make it beyond this season.”

I type this wearing my capri pants and Ugg boots, while choking down a slice of humble pie with a side of irony. I don’t know where my writing will take me, but I’m fairly sure it won’t land me a gig penning fashion trends.

Have you ever slipped your feet into a pair of Uggs? Sweet Jesus. It’s like walking on warm clouds.

Capris are a genius solution to the tricky bastard I call knee fat. It happens to all of us sooner or later, ladies. As luck would have it, the capri trend arrived before the invention of the shorts with the 3” inseam. Because, post childbirth, 3 inches is the exact measurement that my butt cheeks now rest, collecting perspiration, along the backs of my thighs.

Just like capris and Uggs, the benefits of those Five Finger shoes outweigh the curb appeal. So, yes, of course I bought them. And they were expensive, so luckily the humble pie that came along with them was free. I also bought a pair of racing flats, which are not nearly as ugly, but have arguably less support. Probably not, but this is my story, so I’m rubber/you’re glue. I purchased both pairs with the understanding that I would transition to my running in them slowly and gradually. An abrupt change would almost definitely result in immediate injury.

No problem. People remark to me all the time, “You’re so patient,” and, “I don’t know how you do it, I don’t have the patience,” and, “Sure, your house is a pigsty, but hey, are those Uggs you’re wearing?”

I thought I had enough patience to parent four sons AND gradually transition my running from stability shoes to barefoot.

Not So Fun Fact: I was wrong. It takes all my patience to parent the kids.

I prematurely wore my racing flats during a 5K race. And developed plantar fasciitis as a result. In exchange for my stupidity, I earned a 3 month mandatory break from running. It happened to be the exact same 3 months that the boys were on summer vacation, fueling B&B’s ongoing argument that “there is no god.” I also can’t walk around with bare feet. Ever. Even in my house. Which is actually OK because Legos underfoot hurt. Also, it fuels my argument, “the first to feel the crumbs under his feet should be the first to wield the Swiffer.” That’s not working out as well as I’d hoped.

What’s the lesson here?

Be careful what you mock or you may find yourself injured while your children are home for 90 consecutive days.

***

So, B&B runs. For lots of reasons. Most of them involve fancy concepts like resting heart rates and VVO2 max.

One day he whizzed past me in the kitchen. “I’m going to get racing flats.”

“Oooh, that’s a terrible idea. You need patience for that,” I laughed.

Never once in his life has anyone ever accused my husband of having patience. Is he resourceful? Yes. Is he relentless? Hell, yes! Patient? Never ever ever ever.

“What are you talking about?” he asked.

“Transitioning to racing flats requires patience. I rushed into it. That’s how I developed plantar fasciitis.”

“You had plantar fasciitis?”

Do you see what I mean? NOBODY LISTENS TO ME.

“Yes, dear. Don’t you remember I couldn’t run for 3 months? And I slept in that godforsaken sock in the heat of summer? It’s why I am wearing flip flops in the house right now. It’s why I always wear shoes in the house. I can’t go barefoot ever again.”

“I thought you just liked flip flops. Anyway, I’m getting the racing flats.”

“I’d like to go on record as opposing this idea. I have really high arches. You have flat feet. We are both at high risk for developing plantar fasciitis, and if I don’t have the patience to do it properly, there’s no chance you do.”

“Is that a challenge?”

“It’s an irrefutable fact, Jack.”

“Don’t call me Jack. Where did you get your information about flat feet being prone to plantar fasciitis? I’d like the source, please.”

“I don’t know. I read it somewhere. 3 years ago when I had plantar fasciitis.”

“If you can’t cite the source, maybe you made it up.”

“Why would I make it up?”

“To win this argument.”

“I am not trying to argue with you. I’m on your side.”

“It doesn’t sound like it.”

“I’m on the side of plantar fasciitis sucks, and I don’t want you to develop it. That’s your side.”

“Hmm.”

Within a few hours, he was the proud new owner of racing flats. Because nobody. listens. to. me.

And he ran in them. And he didn’t develop plantar fasciitis. I sat one morning and reflected on this. I guess I was wrong. I was actually relieved to be wrong.

I was poised to eat my self-imposed slice of humble pie when B&B limped into the kitchen. “My foot hurts.”

“Did you drop something on it?”

“No, it hurts on the bottom.”

“Did you step on a Lego?”

“No, it hurts where my arch meets my heel.”

“Ooooh. Shit.”

“What?”

“That sounds like plantar fasciitis.”

“What?”

Here we fucking go again.

“Don’t you remember? Plantar fasciitis?! I had it 3 years ago!”

“Hmm.”

And out he hobbled. And I placed the humble pie on the shelf. Just in case.

After extensive internet research, several borrowed library books, and urgent phone conversations with family members who are also health care professionals, B&B announced to me, “I have plantar fasciitis.”

I have no poker face. So I met his declaration with a mix of facial acrobatics, none of which are available to the Botox Community, who by the way are the same bitches who can pull off those shorts with a 3” inseam post-kids. Sure, I’ve got deep creases, but I corner the market on facial expressions while I simultaneously rock my capris. So there.

It’s really hard not to say, “I mother fucking done told you this would happen,” when I’m trying to show my spouse empathy. Empathy is the one where you can understand what the other person is going through because you’ve been through it yourself, right?  Also I am burdened with this thing called foresight. And in the instant that he announced his injury, I immediately had visions of days, weeks, months of surliness and an existence devoid of post-exercise endorphins punctuated by a mantra of, “there is no god.”

Thank you baby Jesus I was wrong. Not about the plantar fasciitis, about the weeks and months of surliness. B&B is a man with a plan, and his plan was a cortisone injection.

To prepare himself for the procedure, he watched YouTube videos of people receiving the cortisone injection. Have you ever heard an animal wailing and writhing in agony? No? Watch YouTube videos of people receiving cortisone injections directly into their heels. I beg you. Because that’s what I liken the human screaming to. B&B watched them throughout the week at maximum volume so I could appreciate what he’d have to endure.

It was almost as loud as the screaming in my head because this entire injury could have been avoided.

But nobody in this house listens to me.

So I run.

It doesn’t always do the trick.

Which is why I write.

And occasionally, somebody says, “Hey, you have some funny stories. Can you write one for me…and please spell out your numbers…so I can publish it in my book of funny stories?”

And that just happened! Which is not only tremendously pleasing to me, it also silences B&B’s “there is no god” argument for like 2, pardon me, two whole hours.

Cover 2500x1563

I Just Want to Be Alone. It’s true. It’s also the name of the new humor anthology containing one of my stories. It’s a funny one involving B&B. Not the one where he dresses like a witch and I pound cupcakes and fantasize about becoming obese just to get some one-on-one time with Bob Harper. A different story, but equally funny.  It’s available for pre-order now! So, now’s your chance…

Pre-order I Just Want to Be Alone. Be a pal.

Please listen to me. The book is a scream, and you need to own it.

I would hate for you not to listen.

You might just catch plantar fasciitis if you don’t.

Worth the risk? You be the judge.

Because Icicles Happen

Four kids is plenty. Four kids is plenty. Four kids is plenty.

I keep saying this to myself.

Because I suddenly miss having a baby in the house.

Poopy diapers. Nighttime feedings. Diaper bags. Outlet covers. Gates. Highchairs. Choking hazards. Sippy cups.

Do I miss these things?  No, I do not. Not one bit.

A tiny hand resting against my collarbone as its owner slumbers on my shoulder. Walking past the nursery that always smells like baby. Feet as wide and thick as they are long. Contented babbling from the crib in the morning. The spontaneous shriek that accompanies the first solo steps across the room.

Do I miss these things? Yes, I do. With all my heart.

Enough to augment this circus of a family? No way. Especially since one of us has been neutered.

The real issue is I don’t know how NOT to have a baby in the house.

Which can only mean one thing…

It’s time to paint the family room.

A new color.

Not a new baby, but that’s alright.

Four kids is plenty.

I scour the online yard sales on Facebook, “ISO a sofa in EUC.”

EUC. Excellent Used Condition. Just like my uterus after four kids.

OK, excellent is a stretch.

I find the perfect sofa. It’s white. It’s so white, in fact, that it glows.

B&B says One White Sofa + Four Boys = Bethany is Loco.

I must be a little loco. Because I miss having a baby in the house.

Unrelated or maybe very much related, we are now the proud owners of a white sofa in excellent used condition.

We begin painting, and I’m in love with the new color. It’s not a new baby, but it’ll do.

Four kids is plenty.

The winter storms hit one after another.  There’s shoveling to be done. Board games to be played. Soup to be made. Arguments to settle. Snowmen to build. Tree limbs to collect. B&B started to paint the other day, but the icicles were so beautiful that he abandoned painting and ran out with his camera to capture their images.

Our new white sofa remains stain free after 12 consecutive days in a house with four boys.

Which is more loco than my wanting the sofa in the first place.

The family room isn’t completely painted yet.

I’m not bothered.

Because icicles happen.

Icicles Happen

Icicles Happen

I still miss having a baby in the house.

But I feel quite confident that…

four kids is plenty.

Magic in the New Year

“Oh, this looks fabulous on you! It looks so good that it should be worn just like this! Don’t put a shirt over top of it!”

The sales girl claps her hands together. She is in her mid 70’s. Her name is Magic. She stands back and admires her customer’s reflection in the mirror.

The customer is my sister. She also looks at the mirror. She smiles…more at Magic’s suggestion than at her own reflection. She wears her favorite gray comfy sweatpants, brown Uggs, and a fire engine red bra…hand-picked by Magic herself.

In her reflection, my sister sees a ridiculous ensemble…sweatpants and red bra. She sees a stomach that looks great for having birthed 3 kids, but could use a little toning. Magic sees something entirely different. She sees beauty in the soft curves that age has not yet marred and claimed.

“That red bra was made for you,” Magic continues. “Don’t ever cover it. It looks beautiful. Everybody needs a gorgeous red bra. Now, you’ll need a pair of red panties to match!”

“Oh, Magic, I don’t need red panties, but thank you!” my sister argues.

Magic won’t have it. She is already out of the dressing room, calling, “Please, you’ll break my heart! They’re on clearance for $2.15 a pair. I’ll find you a pair!”

***

“What are you, some kind of athlete?” he asks his client. He is a trainer at the gym, and it is 10 minutes into a grueling 30 minute workout.

The question catches his client completely off guard. And a little off balance. I am his client. All of my strength and concentration focus on maintaining my form while hoisting a heavy kettlebell over my head.

“So, you’re an athlete?” he repeats.

I stammer an answer, “Um, I guess. I mean, I was. Or I try to be. I do my best. I just have a lot of kids now. So…”

He shrugs, “You look like an athlete. Some people would be insulted by that. I mean it as a compliment.”

I smile, “It’s actually pretty much the nicest thing you could ever say to me. Is class over? Because I would love to leave now on this high note.”

I come home and look at my reflection. And I see Mom. Only Mom. Not athlete, not writer, not wife, not daughter, not sister, not friend.

Just Mom.

December has taken every ounce of me. Every day has been about someone else. Swept up in the chaos of the holidays, I’ve forgotten about me. All the parts of myself that come together so uniquely to make me Bethany have been put on hold.

It’s as though I’ve forgotten to shine.

***

Tomorrow begins a new year. I hope it’s a special one…

A year of brand new red bras with matching panties, worn with absolutely nothing else.

A year of looking at our reflections and seeing what others celebrate about us.

A year in which we remember…every month…to nurture who we are so that we may shine.

A year that brings magic.

Or, as in the case of my sister, Magic.

Mom of Four Boys. More or Less.

“So, what is it like?”

People often ask me this question. Immediately after I disclose that I’m Mother to four children. And that they are all boys.

When they were very small, my answer was, “Busy. Very busy.” And that was true then.

Now that they range in age from five to twelve, my go-to answer is, “Busy. Loud. And smelly.” And this is true now.

If I really stop to put into words what it’s like to have four boys, I’d say it’s different from what I had imagined.

It’s less of some things and more of others…

Please head over to What to Expect to read more! See you there!

Who will fall in first?

Who will fall in first?