Kentucky Mom to Twins and More

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A little bit about a man who can't be described

Today was a day I have dreaded for months. It was a horrific, painful, emotionally sickening, heartbreaking day.

The best friend I met nearly 20 years ago - the man I stood on the altar with 15 years ago to vow death do us part - was taken away from me. I never knew this kind of heartache existed. I never dreamed a pain this unbearable could overtake me. I never imagined I could hold a sadness this profound inside of me for someone else. So many people knew him as a relative, a friend, a coworker, an acquaintance - to others he will be just someone they read about in the newspaper obits on page 7.

I want to tell everyone about who he really was - because he was infinitely more.

He was the shy boy I met in college who I just couldn't get enough of (although he I'm sure probably had enough of me by date #2). He was the guy with a sense of humor, always making everyone laugh. He was the dancer. If they played dance music at a party - he'd be out there - and you'd probably want to join him. Some say that's how he found a wife, dancing at a bar on spring break '98 in Key West.

He was a neat freak. His attention to detail was impeccable. He lived by spreadsheets, calendars, budgets, to do lists and organized the beautiful chaos that was our family. He never liked writing, so I only have few sappy cards ... which is why I will cherish every note, every card or anything else he scribbled in that crazy messy lefty handwriting.  

He was an athlete. He could have swam circles around Michael Phelps (ok I may be exaggerating but only a little) because he was a beautiful swimmer whose butterfly stroke stopped people in their barefoot tracks on the pool deck. His relay record set in 1990 at Beechwood Swim Club here still stands unbroken today. He loved being outdoors - on the farm, in the woods, driving a boat around the lake. He hiked the summit of a mountain in Denver a few years back and even though he was winded as hell, it was just one more amazing thing he could do.

He was a co-worker who loved the people he worked with. He was financially brilliant, and took pride in the way he built up and expanded his family's business, but yet he always rewarded his employees and treated his co-workers like family. He gave so much of his time and money to charity, but nobody would have ever known that because he never called attention to it. He was humble as hell.

He was a brother who fiercely loved his sisters. He stood up for them, sang their praises and laughed at inside jokes with them more than any human should probably laugh. He was a doting uncle to 20 nieces and nephews - several his godchildren. Some of my sisters' children were good "practice" for four babies of his own someday.

He was a son who lived by his father's advice and approval and cherished his mother - whose kidney saved his life in 1995. No one meant more to him than them.

He was a friend who never gave up. He was a champion when you were down. He tried to have something positive to say when others didn't. He had a solution for every problem. If he didn't know an answer, he'd go searching for one. Even if it meant being dragged to several different marriage counselors.

He was an amazing father. He was scared of children the first few years of our marriage - I had to finally push him off the edge into parenthood about 10 years ago. But he did a fucking swan dive into it. He loved our children. He adored them. He changed diapers. He helped me feed twins at 2 a.m. those nights when I didn't have it in me. He clapped at potty training successes, he cheered at their sporting events all the times he could be there. He sang Itsy Bitsy Spider and scratched their backs before they fell asleep. He laughed when he could and told them he loved them as much as he could when he was able to talk.

He was the person I never could have dreamed would become mine - someone too good for me, a person to this day I don't know how could have fallen for me. He is the beautifully funny, smart, talented guy I promised 'til death do us part.' I just wish I would have known how excruciating that part would be.

He was Matthew Robert Remke, and he was the amazing person I got to call my husband and father to my kids.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Juno: 1 Shitty Day: 0

It was another peachy day around here y'all.
Can you hear the sarcasm?

There was a lot of yelling today, a lot of f-bombs I’m not proud of… There were some threats of dessert being taken away and a few 'shut your mouth already!'s … My kids are not gonna look back fondly on this day as a good one in their childhood.

They are killing me. Breaking rules all over. Mia got a clip down at school for kicking another kid. The patience level needed to get Tèa through a math workbook page without crying (both of us) would send Job running for the looney bin. Payton screams like a horror movie actress if someone so much as breathes on her wrong. The boy got sent to his room for backtalking me this afternoon—even though my words to him were far from exemplary.

I ate four bite size Mounds bars, a Reese’s cup, two Snickers bars, two Twix bars and some Skittles from every child’s Halloween basket while they were at school. I’m pretty sure a good chunk of my body mass right now is made up of entirely Tootsie Rolls. But that's not even the cringe worthy part —I forbade them to have any of their candy when they got home from school because, "it’s bad for your teeth," I said.

I’m pretty sure I lost my ever lovin’ mind trying to entertain them today before the sun set at f*ing 4:30 p.m. I pulled a package of cake mix from a box in the pantry and pitched it to my kids, who were all holding baseball bats. Yes people, you heard me right. This is my level of parenting right now at this moment. We were trying to hit home runs with a 15 oz package of Betty Crocker cake mix. And apparently we’ve got a slugger in the family because Mia busted that bag clear to Louisville, exploding the cake mix everywhere - mostly in her eyeballs. This is only when I realize maybe this isn't such a great game. She started screaming bloody murder about how bad the cake mix felt packed in her eyeballs and stuck in her eyelids and lashes. We’re trying to wash her eyes out, and the other kids are whining about how it's not fair they didn’t get to bust the package... I yelled and pushed the dog away as she tried lapping up cake mix from every crevice of the driveway.

It was another day of me running around like a chicken with her head cut off. It was a dog-in-her-crate-all-day-long kind of day. It was a mac and cheese with hot dogs and a side of leftover spaghetti night. Yuck. There were a couple smacks on some butts today that I'm pretty sure they could've done without. I was running on empty --or at least on 17 Tootsie Rolls. I needed a do-over so badly today.

It wasn't until halfway through a mandatory parent meeting at school (that I arrived late to, then left early from in order to make gymnastics pickup at 7:30 p.m.) that I realized, this f*ing day isn’t over yet. Maybe I can still make it right. 

So we salvaged the last few minutes of the day playing a card game — an attempt to teach them solitaire. I don’t even know how to play solitaire, really. We totally cheated, digging through the stack to find all the aces to put at the top and making sure the 2s were at the bottom. Cheers all around 10 minutes later to all our complete rows of diamonds, clubs, spades and hearts!

Four smiles.

We've tried to stick with a "no dog upstairs" rule in the house ..but I'm breaking rules today, too.
We let the puppy up to say goodnight. Juno scampered from every corner to another —running through all the bedrooms hiding under beds, grabbing slippers and licking smiling faces in a group hug atop Payton’s bed.
We called it, “Puppy Cuddle Time.”

I'm thinking it’s a new tradition we may start some of these rough nights. Because I sure as shit don't know how to save the day.

But puppies do. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

When 15 years isn't long enough

It's my anniversary today.

I blame amaretto sours.
Most of us anticipate our wedding anniversary because it means we get a night out to a fancy dinner while the kids terrorize the babysitter with craft glue and glitter. It can mean anniversary jewelry and flowers with a sappy card about forever love. It means coming home tipsy and getting some nookie if he plays his cards right. If you're lucky it might mean a surprise weekend getaway with a lot of wine.

Buzzkill alert. None of that is happening this year.

Big C took away all my anniversary fun this year. But we know it can't take away my memories. And let me tell you, I have some good memories from that night 15 years ago.

Some of you might have a few good memories too - except y'all were too drunk. I heard the stories. I heard the watermelon story. I heard about the story of the vodka shots. I heard about who was scooting their butt across the dancefloor in an evening gown. I remember when the dj played Brass Monkey. I heard about the bathtub story. I heard about the afterparty in someone's hotel room. I heard (many times) the story about someone's airplane ride home the next morning. I heard about all the morning-after hangovers from "the best wedding ever." 

These are the stories that I celebrate on my anniversary. This is what matters - we all had a shit ton of fun that night. THAT's the memory I hang on to. This year I celebrate the memories of that October day.  

15 years ago we had all the time in the world - we had time to kill.
15 years ago the church was packed.
15 years ago I had a tiny waist and a butt that needed no Spanx.
15 years ago we laughed.
15 years ago we smiled.
15 years ago we had energy.
15 years ago we had hopes and dreams.
15 years ago we said yes to the possibility of children (never realizing how monumental a commitment that would be).
15 years ago I did the splits on the dancefloor in a wedding dress.
15 years ago red wine was spilled on my dress but I was too drunk to care.
15 years ago we stayed out late drinking and dancing to Eminem.
15 years ago we had good ... err... bedroom conversation.
15 years ago we traveled and spent days and days lounging on a beach with pina coladas.
15 years ago we promised we'd come back to this honeymoon spot for our 20-year-anniversary.
15 years ago we came home to a quiet, empty farmhouse where we actually took NAPS. On Saturday afternoons. And Sunday afternoons.
Good friends make a good wedding.
15 years ago we never knew what true heartache and sadness was.
15 years ago we were happy. For a while.

We never knew how fast 15 years would fly. We never imagined the stress, the emotion, the misunderstandings, the joy, the disappointments, the exhaustion, the hardships we would endure in just 15 years. We surely didn't know how 15 years would change us.

We never dreamed 15 years might be all we got.

I only know it probably wasn't enough.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Failing at motherhood sucks

I failed so badly today.

So, I yelled at my daughter tonight. What’s new, right?
But this time, I really yelled.
It wasn’t fair to her, I see that now, but I couldn’t help it.
I didn’t yell at her because she left her uniform in a heap on the floor again. Or because she left the kitchen door wide open again or because she was mean to her little sister again.
I blew up because while I was getting them ready for their umpteenth soccer practice that week, she said, “You don’t ever stay to watch our practice.”

I snapped. I screamed at my 7-year-old. She couldn’t possibly be serious saying that – when all I ever do these days is spend my waking hours getting them to school, to practice, cooking, cleaning, correcting homework, helping with fifth grade science projects that make me want to gouge my eyes out – that she couldn’t possibly NOT see how hard I’m trying every day.

With one man down in this household, I won’t lie, many days suck. Let’s take Mondays for example.
I taxi one to practice, come home to either fix dinner or let the dog out then go back to the field to drop off the twins for their practice and pick up the other. I race home to bathe that one, let the dog out and feed my son (who’s luckily gotten a ride home from a friend) and then I go back to the fields to pick the twins up and race home to give them a bath in time so we can still do our nightly reading and any other homework they’ve forgotten about or haven’t finished yet.

When she’s got gymnastics on Wednesdays, I rarely have time to sit and watch either – because I’m racing around taking care of the other three kids. But it kills me. I see those other moms sitting there, witnessing their kid’s first roundoff back handspring. The beam routine in which she DOESN’T fall off. They get to sit there for an hour and a half. Idle. Watching. So yes, to my daughter, it seems as though mom didn’t stay to watch practice. If she’s only looking at the logistics, I wasn’t there. I wanted to scream and cry at her to tell her it’s not that I don’t WANT to stay and watch her. But 7-year-olds don’t understand very well how moms can’t be two or three places at once and if we could, well, life would be so much easier.
She doesn’t realize that if only things were the way I wanted, I would be there watching while her daddy cooked or he took her brother to practice or let the dog out or started the bath. If only things were ideal, daddy and I would both be able to come to the games and cheer them on. We would both be able to take them to church together or go to Sunday brunch as a family. “If only” are such gut-wrenching words these days.

The girl whose mom never stays to watch.
She doesn’t know my heartbreak when she reminds me, “Mommy, you are always on your phone!” I know she doesn’t get that I’m most likely studying my iPhone calendar trying to figure out how I’m going to be at three separate soccer games at precisely the same time Saturday morning and when I do pick which game to see, how to tell her siblings I won’t be at theirs. She doesn’t know I’m likely texting someone to help me give them rides home afterward. I’m likely checking my TeamSnap app to update her brother’s tournament times, which happen to be for games in Indianapolis, and how I’ll handle the rest of the kids while I’m with my son 150 miles away all weekend long. She doesn’t get that I am likely looking at the online menu at Outback buying four overpriced mac and cheese dinners to pick up on the way home.

I can’t beat what’s happening to us. I can’t win at the logistics here. I am only trying to hold my head up above water long enough not to drown. I hate that my kids see me drowning. I feel sick every time I snap at them. It’s not their fault they don’t understand… it’s not their fault these are our cards right now. I’m just hoping they can look back and remember the days I swam, and know how hard I tried keeping up.

My blog was originally published here at Cincinnati Moms Blog.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I'm NOT just a homemaker

I saw some life insurance policy paperwork lying out on the counter the other day that caught my eye. Looking at it made me a little ticked. It wasn't the sad realization that my husband is readying things for our financial future when something happens to him that made me so upset. Nope, it was one little word on the bottom of a questionnaire that sent me into a shit fit.

The form offered a short line in which to write "spouse's occupation," and my husband wrote: HOMEMAKER.

Ok, aside from the fact that it's not 1955, and I'm sure that word doesn't even exist anymore... I'm aggravated, hurt and offended that this is the one word my husband chose to describe what I do every day of my life. No, I'm not saying my husband is a chauvinistic brute. He knows better - his mother and sisters are nurses, his youngest sister is a teacher. His grandmother inherited and ran a successful grocery store chain after her husband died. So I feel it necessary to explain to my husband why this description of me just isn't going to cut it.

You see, I worked really hard to get my degree from a prestigious women's college 20 years ago. A college that for more than 170 years has been trying to break down and shatter stereotypes that women are just here to cook and have babies - to "homemake." It is a highly-decorated and esteemed higher learning institution where women have come to learn the same things that men are learning, to play the same sports as the men are playing, to be the best at whatever they dream. I'll admit I was never great at math or science (I may have bribed a biology lab partner to do all the pig dissecting sophomore year), but I could read and write like hell and it's the only thing that put a diploma in my hand and I'm damn proud of it.

Featured in a text book. I've come a long way from graffitiing the principal's car in 1986.
For years, I worked as a writer and editor at newspapers in the Midwest. People picked up their newspapers and read stories I crafted (probably crafted in less than an hour because this old girl loves a deadline) and they may have even shared those stories with their family or friends - probably printed or saved them, too. I walked into a local restaurant the other day to find framed on their wall a feature story I wrote years ago about their owner. Every once in a while, I get an email from a man whose son was killed in car crash years ago in a Memorial Day motorcycle accident that I covered when I was a reporter. A total stranger who I've never met gets my prayers most every Memorial Day. A column I wrote years ago was published in a textbook to teach feature writing. Some college kids could be reading my shit for homework, so that's pretty cool for me. I spent a good chunk of time after my babies were born freelance writing for the local daily paper, doing phone interviews and writing between naps, diaper changes or breastfeeding. Even then, I still considered myself more of a writer than I ever did a homemaker/wife/mother of three kids under age 3.

I work part time at my daughter's preschool now, as a one-woman media/publicity department. I write press releases and stories for publication, take pictures, update their web site, create and send out direct media. But more importantly, I'm Miss Andrea to 50 preschoolers who trust me, who give me hugs, who tell me stories each day about butterflies they caught, where they saw a fox or how they lost a tooth. They trust and come to me when they are crying on the playground, want to tell a secret or have an accident on the floor.

For the past couple years, I've volunteered at the grade school cafeteria. This is not a pretty job people, as I'm sure some of you may already know. It's like helping hungry, angry, little people in a ketchup splattered, Jell-O stained, stale bread-smelling, windowless room for two hours a day. And none of them ever say "please." But I go anyway because I love my kids. I love the smile on their faces when they get to see mom standing there with gloves and an apron on cleaning spilled peaches from their lunch table.
Yes, I am home most days with four kids. I'm dealing with a lot of laundry, a lot of missed pee in toilets, a lot of fights over Barbie dolls and a few piles of dog poop the new puppy might leave for me. I'm trying not to piss myself jumping on the trampoline with the twins. I'm singing Ariana Grande songs out loud in the car with a 5-year-old who doesn't care that I have the suckiest voice ever. I'm failing at way too many Pinterest recipes that my kids won't eat and constantly wiping fingerprints from every glass surface in this house. I'm coordinating play dates for my kids at the park when all I really want to do is watch Grey's Anatomy on Netflix with a glass of wine. I'm taxiing the kids to and from practices and games and friends' houses like I'm some 1980s Tony Danza.

But here's the thing... yes, all that "homemaking" takes a lot of my time, but in no way does it define me. Don't get me wrong, I love being able to see my kids more than I would if I had a full-time job. I love that I'm able to drop everything to come and get them when I get that barf call from the school secretary. I love that they can come home from school and ask me for homework help instead of some babysitter (love is probably too strong a word here). But I'm letting you know, I'm not the homemaking robot you think I am. I'm more than just Mom-Cleaner. I'm more than just Wife-Cleaner. I'm more than just Dog-Cleaner. I'm more than just House-Cleaner.

I have beautiful, creative - sometimes twisted - thoughts that I love to write down. I have dreams and aspirations of doing something great for the literary world (says the lady who for one hour stood in the Target toy aisle contemplating the purchase of a fart gun). I want to teach my kids a love for reading and writing and the art of communicating honestly and completely uninhibited - without reservation. I am a storyteller. I am a friend who will listen (and probably give a painfully honest opinion, too). I am a lover to four messy, stinky people. I am a believer in a God who somehow has got to have a purpose for me. I am a juggler of life. I am all this and more.

I ask you, dear husband, can you fit all that on one line of your questionnaire?

This post originally ran here at PopsugarMoms on Sept. 21, 2017. Link below:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Love-Hate Relationship With Back-To-School

I’ve been counting down the days. It’s getting close. I feel like I’m in a marathon race in which I’ve fallen on my face a dozen times, but I keep getting up because there’s a big prize at the finish. That prize likely consists of hours of alone time and possibly a margarita at noon, but it’s there. I’m salivating. I’m in the home stretch.

Back-to-school is almost here, y’all. For some of you, it’s already arrived. For some of us, there are a couple weeks left of summer break.

Summer bucket list item #27: the carousel
We’ve got just enough time to finish off that summer bucket checklist that I so optimistically posted in the kitchen back in May. You know the one, it has “TONS OF SUMMER FUN” on it. The Mary Poppins activity planner in me created it, thinking it would be a good idea to list countless exciting adventures like amusement park days, Omnimax Theatre trips, lemonade stands, pottery painting, pizza-making nights, crafts, and even hiking for God’s sake! She was fired around week three of summer vacation — yes, it was the pottery that broke her (pun intended).

At the start of the summer, we were all about our bucket lists. We were crafting the shit out of paper plates and pipe cleaners thanks to our Pinterest friends. We bought the kids all the candy they wanted at the matinee showing of Trolls. We hauled their beach towels, sand toys, sunscreens, and Capri Suns in our canvas totes over our shoulders every day for a week in Florida. We bared our muffin tops at the splash park. We did cannonballs off the diving board because the kids begged us to.

But let’s admit, summertime wears us down. The hot, sweaty days at the park, the whiny days at the pool, the sibling bickering from morning to night, the “I’m bored” chants from four little people who couldn’t possibly know what true boredom is, and of course, the mealtime preparations every day for 80 days straight. Summer has become an unbearable eternity.

So we count the days until they put on those brand new backpacks filled with freshly sharpened No. 2s and all the other school supplies you painstakingly gathered, and march them through those big double doors at school. The school that will keep them most all of the day for the next nine months. It means I will be able to sit at the pool alone for a couple hours on those last few summer days. It means I could probably schedule a massage on a Wednesday morning and stop for an iced mocha afterward. I could drink it alone. My heart just skipped a beat. It could possibly mean I could take an afternoon nap before the bus gets here, and I could listen to a completely empty house save only for the hum of the air conditioner.

All this sounds too good to be true, right? That’s because it is. Here’s where the love-hate part comes in.
Baring it at the splash park
We all know what misery comes with back-to-school, and it starts with a capital H.

I’m already having anxiety about the holy hell that will be the homework my fifth-grade son is going to bring home. It’s a lot of fractions and geometry and figuring out how many more miles Sally needs to go on the train to catch up with Paul, who left three hours ago with a sandwich he divided into 6/8 or something. I just hope for Paul’s sake he has wine for Sally.

I’m not ready to handle. Not only will it be impossible fifth-grade homework on the kitchen table, it’ll be two times the second-grade homework, which has apparently gotten a lot harder than it was in 1983. They are doing some serious wizardry in 2017 classrooms because I have to consult Google for every question in that math workbook. I only hope kindergarten homework on top of it all won’t send me over the edge.

I’m not ready to handle the 6 a.m. alarm clock buzz to drag four kids out of bed in order to get them dressed, fed, brushed, packed up, and dropped off for that 7 a.m. school bell. And packing lunches — for four kids every day for nine months? I’m hyperventilating at the thought.

We all know back-to-school also means we undoubtedly turn into Taxi Mom. Get those minivans cleaned out ladies because we are going to be living out of them for the next nine months. School pickup and drop-off, academic team practice, piano practice, soccer practice (make that four different soccer team practices), gymnastics league — I’m 1 or 2 miles away from running the minivan into a ravine some nights.

But I think the worst part about back-to-school — at least for most of us middle-northern-part-of-the-country moms — has got to be when cold weather shows up at our door. The nippy September mornings, cold and rainy October days, the frosty November mornings when you can’t possibly find the energy to roll out of bed, and the frigid, snowy December days when the last thing you want to do is look for four winter coats, hats, boots and mismatched mittens. I’m exhausted thinking about it.

I guess these sweaty park days and popsicles on the swing set don’t sound too bad right now. Yes, summer is dwindling down. We’re in the homestretch. We’re exhausted, yes, but there’s a fresh new version of exhaustion coming soon.

Soak in those 90-degree days. Sidewalk chalk the hell out of that driveway. Let them stay up to catch fireflies. One more cannonball. We need to finish strong, moms. Keep at the list. Eye on the prize.

This blog post was originally published Aug. 15, 2017 at

Friday, August 11, 2017

Countdown til Back to School: 5 Survival Tips

If any of you moms are like me, the final days of summer leading up to that glorious return to school have got you feeling like you are running the longest, sweatiest marathon – a marathon in which there are no cups of water lovingly shoved in your face when you need refreshment. Some of us want to faint and give up – but we can’t because we know the other runners will literally trample our bodies. That’s what the last few days of summer can feel like for mothers of little ones.

We’ve done the amusement parks, we’ve done the zoo. We’ve baked in the sun at the splash pad and fried our shoulders at the beach. Our Pinterest kids craft bin stash is drained. We are all out of pizza coupons for Friday nights and we’ve exhausted every kids movie available on Netflix (we are literally down to the bottom of the barrel of the Pup Stars sequels right now). The kids are bored. You know this, because they’ve only said it about eleventeenthousand times.

I know you are exhausted. Me, too. So here’s where we need to help each other. We need to ask fellow moms, sisters, our faraway Facebook family members whose kids are grown (the ones who tell us they’d “give anything to have their little ones back home”). Ok then, I’m asking you, tell me what to do with them. Because at this point, anything is better than the Nick Jr. marathons I find myself turning on during these waning summer days.

In the meantime, here are a couple of my own suggestions for anyone who might be struggling with ideas for the kids, before we send them off to school for nine months. Here are my easy go-to’s for keeping the kids occupied at least a fraction of the day when you just can’t think of anything else.
Let’s finish this marathon to the back to school finish line together, y’all. Pinterest, eat your heart out.

1. RAINING MARSHMALLOWS. If your kids are bored, but you know they aren’t hungry (because they ate an entire loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter about three minutes ago), then proceed to the pantry and pray you have mini marshmallows. Take them outside and tell them to close their eyes. Bust open that bag and start throwing marshmallows up in the sky, because it’s raining marshmallows! I promise lots of giggles as they scramble to find as many marshmallows as they can and shove them in their mouths. You’ll laugh for at least 10 minutes, because of course, they can’t talk with all those marshmallows in their cheeks. This also works with big marshmallows, if you didn’t already exhaust them on s’mores night.
It's raining marshmallows: because let's face it - you're out of ideas

2. PILLOW CRASH PILES. I know you probably spent all day picking up the basement, but let’s face it, it’s going to get messy again in about five minutes, so don’t sweat the mess on this one. Collect every pillow and cushion you own and put it in a big pile. You know what to do. Let them take turns running and jumping into this pile. This never gets old – that is of course, until someone bangs her head into the TV. Game over.

3. WET BUTTS. It’s a hot day. You’re sweating the hell out of those yoga pants, I know. You don’t have the energy to pack up and drag them to the pool today – we’ve all been there. Let me tell you about a little game we played in 1986. It’s called fill ‘er up, and it’ll be your savior for at least an hour or so. Tell the kids to put their bathing suits on and get the hose out. Have them line up and stick a hose down the back of their suit and then shove them off to run a lap around the house with their ‘full tank’ until they come around to fill up again. It’s always fun to be in charge of the hose, sitting in your lawn chair, lowering the property values in your neighborhood with these shenanigans, or you could also get an older child to do the filling up. Either way, you’ll get a lot of laughs and so will they.

4. THEY ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM. They want ice cream. Again. At this point in the summer, we have been to Graeters way too many times and have paid way too much for black raspberry chip cones and turtle sundaes. Seriously, I own at least 89% stock in the company and I should at least have a flavor named after me by now (something tells me it would be called the Vanilla Nut Job). So if you’re all out of money too, but the kids want that ice cream fix, get yourself some cheap vanilla ice cream, put it on the table and raid your pantry for every possible item that could make a good topping. Get out the old sprinkles from last year’s birthday party, chocolate chips leftover from baking cookies, crush some graham crackers, find some M&Ms in the picked over Halloween candy bucket – anything works. Put the toppings in little cups and set it up in a do-it-yourself station on the table. They are going to love scooping it themselves and pouring on toppings (we let the kids use special bowls we painted at the pottery place in our optimistic week 1 of summer vacation). It’s a cheap treat and mom rules for letting them have all that crap on top. Suck it ice cream man!

5. ICE. Here’s where we’ve just plain given up. My kids love this one. I fill big bowls, tubs and pitchers with ice cubes and put them on the deck. I give them spoons, spatulas, tongs, ladles and even a potato masher. They will crush, smash, pour and eat ice for longer than they ever play with any expensive Christmas toy I buy them. The best part is the fact that when it all melts, you just give them more ice. I’m not sure whether I should be embarrassed because of my lack of creativity here or patent this as the cheapest, most brilliant summer activity. Something tells me I should just pin it.

My blog was originally published here at Cincinnati Moms Blog:

Saturday, July 29, 2017

I need to be in the picture

For years I hardly put myself in pictures with my kids. "I'm too fat," I said. "My butt takes up the entire frame." There's probably an entire decade of photos in which I'm only in a few.

I watched them play at the beach today - sandy butts and sun kissed hair - digging holes, finding shells, skimboarding - and I was reminded of how these days are going to be gone soon.
This time is going to disappear into a memory faster than our sandcastles melt into the sea at dusk. I want them to remember me. I want them to know mom loved getting buried in the sand. She loved getting knocked down in the waves. She loved hearing giggles about how they just peed in the ocean. She loved paying too much for ice cream waffle cones and letting them stay up a little late to watch terrible B-grade Netflix movies. 

Yes, my butt is still big and probably always will be, but I need to be in the frame. I need to be in these memories. I need them to know how much I love them here and now, in this picture, in this time. Hopefully no amount of time will ever wash that memory away.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

An Apology from Miss Judgypants

I owe a lot of people some serious apologies.
I’m getting to an age where I need to own up to some stuff and let it go. I am not saying anything here to absolve myself, I don’t want a pat on the back for admitting anything here. I just know we all go through life meeting all sorts of people in different situations, from very different backgrounds and we all have different baggage we carry around. There are surely going to be times when we don’t identify with everyone we encounter… and sometimes we judge. Ok, many times I judge. I am a terrible Judgypants.
I am the last person who should be sizing anyone up, so here I am telling you all I’m sorry.

Where do I begin?
To the mentally challenged boy I saw at the pool – who was bobbing up and down and couldn’t speak full sentences and didn’t understand lifeguards telling him not to jump on the rope... I’m sorry I judged you. My first thought seeing you was sadness for your mother, because she must be looking at all these healthy, “normal” children and be angry you aren’t like that, too. My brain only said, “Thank God my son is healthy and smart and strong.” Never did I think that maybe your mom loves you just as you are – that maybe you changed her life for the better. Maybe you’ve shown her what true love, patience and empathy are about. Maybe you give her smiles that radiate far more than any smile I’ve ever given my own “healthy” son.

To the overweight man working at the pet store – who was sweating so profusely from just standing at the register – I’m sorry I judged you. I only saw someone who likely doesn’t care about what he eats or if he exercises. I told myself you were probably miserable at night eating pizza. I judged you too quickly to even assume you had any real worth. I never realized that within 30 minutes I’d be smiling at you for being so sweet to my children and our new puppy. I’d be impressed with how well you knew the products at your store and how welcoming and kindly you treated us as customers. I never thought that maybe for countless people in your life, you might be the happiness they need at the end of the day. I guess I didn’t realize how you are probably exponentially happier than I ever could be on a Tuesday morning, and the only miserable person eating pizza that night would be a certain mother of four who ordered Dominos at 8 p.m. because she was too tired to cook.

The street sketch of a true artist.
To the homeless man I encountered on the street, while sightseeing in San Francisco last week – whose scruffy beard was unkempt and whose clothes were filthy – I’m so sorry I judged you, too. My first thought passing you on the street was the wonderment of how on Earth you let yourself get here, begging on this noisy street each day. I looked away when our eyes met, and I was saddened that you stand on this corner almost as invisible as the tattered trash can sitting behind you. It wasn’t until my walking companion turned around and went back to give you money, that I stopped to see you a bit more. I saw there were drawings at your feet. People like me only see a dirty man begging for money, yet don’t have time to see there is an artist inside you with just as much creativity as anyone inside the San Francisco Art Institute.

The day I saw you there, the day that the famed Batman actor Adam West died, you had sketched out a quirky, colored pencil drawing of Batman against the Golden Gate Bridge, and with the most painfully beautiful, sad blue eyes, you asked me to take it for free. You smiled at me and I felt like I might hit the pavement begging you to forgive me for not seeing you as a person. Why couldn’t I see this person who was once probably a very creative boy who got As in his art classes – that the dirty hands before me on this street probably once held his mother’s grip crossing a street as a child. Blast you sweet-hearted homeless man for making my heart ache more than it ever did for any high school crush I had.

To the guy who was recently seated at the adjacent bar table from me – who had a baby stroller parked next to his barstool as he threw back Guinness beers with his friends. Oh Lord, did I judge you... and I’m sorry. I couldn’t take my eyes off you – as I thought for sure you were going to kill that newborn baby you had tucked under the pink blankets, perhaps by breathing too many beer fumes on her or something, I have no clue. How dare you take a baby in a loud bar, I thought, and sit here and drink? Where was her mother, I wondered. I’m glad I stuck around to see you, to talk to you and find out that you – a native of Dublin, Ireland (where apparently babies in bars are quite the norm) are a doting father and you seem to be a wonderful person. I’m glad I saw your mom and your brother join you, in this reunion where your mom was here to visit her granddaughter for the first time from Ireland. I am sorry I misjudged a person who made me laugh out loud so many times I thought I’d need a spare pair of underwear by midnight. It was the first time I had met a stranger who I wished so badly was my friend.

To the mom I first saw years ago at a soccer game for our kids, who I thought seemed snobbish, simply for the clothes she wore and the snacks she brought her kids that day – I’m sorry. I’m sure there were dozens of women over the years I probably misjudged too, but you are the one who sticks out. You are the one who proved me wrong in showing how horribly wrong I was to judge a book by its cover. I never knew that day that eventually you’d become one of my best friends and that our children would be such good friends. You turned out to have such a pure, good heart and a genuine care for others that makes my ugly, green Grinch heart burst inside of its cage. You have shown me it’s possible to make a cherished friend I can rely on for a laugh, a cry – or a drink – and you don’t want anything but my friendship and laughter in return.

I’m doling out sorries today. If I owe one to you, please take it. I don’t want to pass on the Judgypants baton to my kids, either. There is too much beauty in the world, too many good friends who could be lost to the girl who lives a life with her own internal gavel. Being a 41-year-old mother of four, I thought I had everything and everyone figured out. I think I’m smart enough to say I judged myself wrong, too.

My blog was originally published here at Cincinnati Moms Blog:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Uh oh. We got a DOG.

We got a puppy.

Ok, I know what you are thinking. It probably has something to do with me not having time to care for anything right now because I’ve got four kids with endless commitments, practices and games, a husband battling cancer and days where I don’t brush my teeth or shower until dinnertime. Yes, I know. My husband doesn’t want a dog either and keeps telling me not to get it – but then again he probably never planned to meet and marry an obnoxious, compulsive, high maintenance Italian girl either, and look how that turned out for him. I swear he’s close to divorcing me and kicking me out of the house over the decision I made about this dog, so I’m kind of holding my breath.
But hear me out. I swear I have good reason.

Coming soon… Juno
We lost our German Shepherd, Keeley almost a year ago. The days and weeks after that vet visit were heartbreaking. The kids were roaming the yard to find tufts of her dog fur, that they tucked away in their dresser drawers. One of the twins was so distraught she would lay on the dog bed, crying, “WHY GOD?” (She is the most likely in the family to win an Oscar.) They reminisced about playing with her and taking her for walks — because even in her old age, she enjoyed walking up the street, sniffing (peed on) mailboxes and barking at neighbor dogs.
We actually missed finding her piles of crap in the yard.

After 13 years of having a dog in the house, it was strange and sad to realize we would never again see that tail wagging at the front door. Then we saw that movie, A Dog’s Purpose, and each of us basically used an entire box of Kleenex before we made up our minds on this matter.
This house was due for either a puppy or a baby, and since there was no chance in the bluest of hells for the latter – puppy it was.

Everyone knows the past year or so has been pretty rough around here. Anytime cancer becomes a part of a family’s existence, things can suck. So we have been feeling defeated for quite some time. There isn’t a lot of laughter, there aren’t many smiles. I won’t lie. There is a lot of sadness in our house. I admit my grumpiness, anxiety and exhaustion make me a person I don’t like to be. I can’t remember a time recently when we were really “happy,” or content. The stresses of a grave sickness take an even greater toll on a marriage. I’m not always as strong as I let on, and “I’m fine,” is probably just something the autopilot in me tells anyone who asks about us. My husband gets frustrated with me and in turn I know I get frustrated with the way things are and then take it out on the kids and drag everyone down.
Some days I wish I could blink and make everything perfect. Don’t we all.

So, I’ve decided happiness needs to make a comeback here. I’m aiming to get fun, laughter and smiles on a leash and pull them all back into this house where they’ve been missing for too long. 
We visited the kennel quite a few times in the past year; we tried our best to find a pup that would fit our family. The first one wasn’t going to be good with kids, they told us. Another dog was snatched up by another family before we could get him. Many of the dogs at the shelter were elderly, and we didn’t want to risk getting attached to a dog who would leave us with another big heartbreak in a year. One dog was cute, but it was one of those yippy dogs, so you understand why that definitely wasn’t going to work. I found a perfect dog from a rescue – unfortunately in California – and the logistics of that made her wrong for us, too.
But then we happened upon a German Shepherd pup.

The puppy who saved us.
She and another litter mate were the only ones left in a family nearby. She was sort of “discounted” as far as the cost for this type of breed. My son fell in love. He made cooing sounds at her that I’m pretty sure 10-year-old boys shouldn’t make. He also made promises that HE would be the one to feed her, let her out and clean up after her. We all know 10-year-olds are made of lies though.

I admit, the dog was sweet. She didn’t jump all over us, or bark or cry or run around when we saw her. She just sat there, perfectly behaved and quiet. She gave us what people call the “puppy eyes.” I think she knew maybe this family just needs a chill dog. A dog who’s going to be a great companion on a walk, or to snuggle four kids who are dying for the compassionate hugs that only a patient, furry puppy can handle. I hadn’t seen a smile on my son like that in forever. But he didn’t have to sell me though, I was smiling too.

She sold us.

We’re bringing home a German Shepherd pup next week, and we’re going to name her Juno. The kids think we are naming her that because we’re getting her in June, but there’s a little more to her moniker than that.
The meaning of Juno is rooted in the word, “youth.” At this juncture, I want so badly to protect my kids from a lot of the harsh “adult” things going on in their lives. I want their childhood to have memories of love and fun and happiness. I fear so much for the pain and sadness of this time to hurt them in the long run. I want them to remember their youth with joy and happy times and I know this dog will give them a little bit of that.
For those who know Greek mythology, Juno was the wife of Jupiter – the protectress of marriage and women. That’s how I knew her name was meant to be. I need her, too. I need some healing. I need to feel a little love around this house. Sure, I’ll have to shell out money for fancy dog food, get through some sleepless puppy nights, some poop on the floor and maybe some chewed up furniture. But I think the trouble she’ll cause will be worth the love she’ll share with this hurting family.

On the other hand, you might just see a divorced mother of four, alone and dragging a shepherd pup along a Kentucky highway soon. In that case, please feed us.

My blog was originally published here at Cincinnati Moms Blog.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hey Cancer, You Suck.

I'm having a flashback. It's a good one. It was an energetic night. There was drinking and dancing and way too much fun for 30-somethings to be having. My husband and I met friends out for dinner, but one thing led to another and we ended up dancing well past the bedtime assumed for parents of four kids. There were probably a lot of inappropriate jokes told. There was definitely reminiscing about nights before kids. And then there was someone who laughed so hard she peed her pants but still didn't want to leave.
I'm remembering that side-splitting fun - when the smile on your face hurts so bad but you can't stop laughing. The laugh lines I acquired that night were so worth it. We were normal.

We didn't know your name back then.

I walked in this same bar the other day to pick up a sushi carryout; but I left instead with a memory of fun times so thick and heavy I could literally taste the sugar off the rim of those blue martinis I drank that night.

I look around at these people here now. Normal people. I remember that. I remember Saturday nights when we were people who went into a restaurant and ate good food, people who drank beers and Long Island ice teas. We were the kind of people that are here now, who talked and laughed all night.
Sitting there waiting for crab rangoon that I'd later eat alone, it hit me that we're not those people anymore and we never will be again. Almost two years ago, a big, royal jerk named Cancer sent us normal people packing.

Now we are sad people - angry people, depressed most days. We are people that do hospital stays, doctors appointments and chemo treatments. Feeding tube formulas and countless crushed up pills replace what once was a prime rib dinner with mashed potatoes and a Manhattan - his favorites. It's not hard to see, we are people that don't talk very much to each other, or we do so with tears in our eyes. We certainly don't laugh anymore. Fun is a concept buried far in the past.

My kids didn't know who you were. I hate you for making me have to explain it to them. I know they feel the weight of sadness in this house because of you - the fear and the doubt. Our kids, all under the delicate age of 10, feel the palpable sadness in this house each day. I am tired of telling them night after night that "daddy doesn't want to be sick," or "daddy wishes he could play with you." With terrible heartbreak, I listened to one of the twins tell the other she wishes she had her "old daddy" back.

I hate that I don't have the courage to tell them everything just yet. You'll probably force me to do that soon, though, I know.

Cancer, you took every last tear I had. I'm at a point where the sadness has turned to anger. I'm furious thinking of all the things you took from us. Laughter, happiness, time with our children - I can't tell you how many promises to our kids - Disneyworld, a camping trip out West, boat trips and future father/daughter dances to name a few - now all hang somewhere in a sad cloud of uncertainty.

While I'm at it, let's not forget to mention our intimacy. Oh, do I hate you for taking that one. (Mom, look away). I'm a mediocre mother, I can't cook to save my soul and I'm an OK cleaner, but the bedroom thing was one aspect of marriage I was damn good at. Sure, we spent many years at odds over stupid stuff (what newlywed wife DOESN'T nearly burn down the house with an accidental basement fire?) but we loved each other like crazy.

I saw two old people walking together the other day and I got so mad. There's yet another thing you are taking. The doctors have told us we probably won't have that. I won't get to grow old with that guy I met at the altar 15 years ago. We used to joke about how terribly we'd get along when we are old and wrinkly. I've told him how I'm really looking forward to having him grimace at me putting a bikini on 70-year-old saggy boobs. He joked about my being late everywhere. I laugh, "I'll probably be late to my own funeral."
He reassured me, "Don't worry, I'll get you there on time."

He used to have a sense of humor - a sarcastic, dry one - but funny as hell. But you took that, too.
I'm mad that the nurses and doctors who care for my husband only see a frail, sick man - who some days is so weak he can't get out of bed. They don't know the person we knew before Cancer came calling. They will never see the Chris Farley impressions, or the dance moves when the DJ plays Rob Base... the guy whose biggest quirk in life was pinching cold fingers.

I'm ticked at you Cancer, that you're killing a man who was once known to breaststroke the length of an Olympic-size pool in record time. His name still hangs on a plaque at the local swim club for a record no one has broken since 1988. I'm livid that you are crushing the spirit of a guy who could drive a tractor and bale hay like a farmer but on weekends could manuever a speedboat practically blindfolded around Lake Cumberland. You have crippled that beautiful, blonde boy I used to know who could slalom ski like an X-games athlete and still tackle a diamond level course in the mountains of Breckenridge.

I'm angry that people who see him now won't know him for who he really is - the strong man who years ago kicked kidney failure to the curb and lived a healthy, active life for 20-some years with a transplanted kidney. He is the champion who held my hand through 12 hours of natural labor, encouraging me without fail until I gave birth to his firstborn son. They won't know the tears he cries now were once tears of joy when he held newborn twin daughters in his arms nearly eight years ago.

Cancer, you really suck.

Yes, I miss when we were normal people. I know he misses it too. But in this time of despair, we have found there are countless people who hope for us - because our hope is almost gone. We have school families who pray for us because there are days we have nothing to say to God. We have fellow moms and neighbors who help take our kids to practice or bring us soup. Those are the people who keep us alive - not the drugs or the painkillers.

They are the ones who help us in the fight to carry on for our children - children who still do normal things like ride bikes and play soccer, who laugh at burps and whine about homework and my crockpot dinners. And even though you have taken so much from us, I'm letting you know, Cancer, that you can't have these memories that are left. You can't have those awesome cocktail-soaked flashbacks of us out with friends. You'll never take my recollection of the night he first kissed me. You can't erase those moments of hilarity he had with his college roommates, when I first discovered I loved him. You can't steal the vision of his old smile or the sound of laughter so deep it's just snorts. You can't take away the picture of him wrestling with our kids on the living room floor or teaching them to swim. I'm keeping all those.

The only thing left I can give you is probably just my middle finger. I think that's what any normal person would give you.

This post was originally published 6/4/17 at

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Enjoy that bikini now, girl

I saw you on the beach last week. I know you saw me. A couple of times we uncomfortably locked eyes. Both of us found ourselves lucky enough to be enjoying spring break on a sandy, white Florida beach. Yet both of us were worlds apart… or so it may seem.

I am here to tell you – actually to warn you – we really aren’t that far off.

You see, I was you just 20 or so lightning-fast years ago. I too, had that skimpy white bikini and long, dark hair that stuck to my sun-kissed back after I emerged from the ocean. My thighs barely touched, and I had boobs – pre-breastfeeding, non-fake ones that only exist in some unicorn fantasy world. I laughed, goofed off with my girlfriends, played beach volleyball and flirted with boys. I remember sleeping in after nights at the bars dressed in my cute skirt, tank top and my Steve Maddens. Legend has it that I met my husband dancing atop a Key West bar during spring break ’98. I don’t think you were even born yet, were you?

My mind wanders there, when I see you up to the same shenanigans I was up to all those years ago. I remember having a cute boy slather me up with sunscreen – absolutely no inhibitions – turning our stereos up loud and falling asleep in the sun. Now, the only slathering going on is the Vaseline I’m trying to get between my thighs so the sand doesn’t rip them up when I chase after the kids down the beach. The only boy whose attention I’m trying to get is 10 years old and flying a kite – and I’m wondering when he’ll start noticing girls like you here on the beach.

I know you only see a cumbersome mom of four, pushing this beach cart with a mountain load of sand toys, umbrellas, towels, pool noodles and a tired attitude, but I wasn’t always ‘her.’ It’s cliche to say, I know, but it really was just yesterday that I was you. Some mothers wear the “mom badge” with pride – the belly, the stretch marks, the C-section scar – she will say she’s earned all that. I agree, we did, and I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything. BUT, I can’t say that I wouldn’t trade just one day to go back and be in your sandals again. 

I’d definitely trade in the cottage cheese on my thighs and the muffin top around my middle for a chance to slip into one of those insufficient-looking bikinis and frolic around the beach one more time. What I wouldn’t give for a chance to eat five cheeseburgers and seven pina coladas for lunch by the pool, not gain an ounce, go for a 5-mile run and still have enough energy to don stilettos later and go party until 2 a.m.

Yes, there will come a day, my friend, when you’ll eat half a cheeseburger and most likely look like Jabba the Hutt sitting atop a pile of laundry, while yelling at your kids. You’ll be on this beach adorned in a flower-print tankini and sarong, a giant blow-up alligator float under your arm, dragging a little person behind you (who is asking you to hold yet another shell). You’ll spend the morning wrangling up kids who scream in defiance at sunscreen applications. Your lunch will probably be a half-eaten ham sandwich that has sand in it.

You’ll try and sit on a lounge chair only to get up every two seconds to take someone into the ocean to pee. You will be smart enough not to bring a book to the beach, because, you know, the thought of you reading a book with kids here would be comical. You may even see a young spring breaker, who will remind you of yourself not too many years ago. Just tell yourself how lucky you are to have had all that fun. You might be in a different state of “fun” right now, but at least you get to drink pina coladas legally and fly kites.

And don’t worry, she’s going to get hers too, someday… sooner than she knows.

My blog post was originally published here at Cincinnati Moms Blog.