Kentucky Mom to Twins and More

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Suck it 2017

I'd love to be the first to say goodbye to 2017. It was a year of sadness, of heartache, of pain, of fear, of misery and profound grief. I'm still figuring out the way to picking up the pieces of my heart that were shattered every which way in 2017. I know there has to be goodness for us around the corner. I know there has to be happiness, a light at the end of a dark, scary tunnel. 

Thanks to all the friends and family (and perfect strangers, too) who helped my family get through the shittiest year of our lives. I hope I can offer you all payback of some sort— if only through my words. 

Love and peace to you and your families in 2018!

xoxo, Andrea and kids

Monday, December 25, 2017

New Christmas traditions, cards to Heaven

I'm going to be honest. I was thinking this was going to be the worst Christmas ever.

When your husband dies within a month of the holiday and you are grieving every day for the smile of a person who has been in your life for two decades, the last thing you want to do is go shopping, eat bon bons and sing Jingle Bells. I asked my youngest if she thought Santa would bring her some new socks, since hers could fit Thumbelina, and she said, "All I want for Christmas is my daddy." That sound you hear right there? That is the sound of a heart shattering into a million pieces again.

So this was the year for new Christmas traditions. We left school a little early. We jetted away to Florida to sit in the sun and build sand snowmen. We talked about daddy on the beach. I laughed with the kids about how daddy used to brag how his sandcastles were better than mine. We ate pancakes at fancy restaurants overlooking the beach and I may have had a mimosa or two by at least 10 a.m. We had ice cream sandwiches for breakfast on Christmas Eve because I didn't feel like fixing anything. Our Christmas Eve dinner was Burger King from an airport on our way back home to catch Santa at our house.

We kissed 80 degrees goodbye and got home to Kentucky late-- just in time to enjoy iced up windshield wipers and a blustery gust of cold air to knock a certain blonde child's BK crown flying out into the night. Crying ensued. I told her some poor kid who doesn't get Christmas gifts is likely going to come upon that crown and she has just made him a king tonight.

When there is no food in the house on Christmas Eve and no milk and no ingredients to make cookies, you have to be creative in what you leave out for Santa.
But we aren't creative, so we put out some stale biscotti sticks and a couple orange slices out for him, along with a glass of week-old egg nog. You also need to find eight carrots at the bottom of the crisper and throw those on the deck for the reindeer, of course.

The kids were so wound up from seven packs of Twizzlers on the airplane and the fact that the dog hadn't seen us in a week, so they didn't get to sleep til well after 11 p.m., which meant after unpacking, Santa couldn't come til after 1 a.m. Santa was so hungry by then that she ate stale biscotti for dinner. And orange slices with egg nog. And eight carrots off the deck.

New traditions can mean going easy on the stocking stuffers and presents because after all, if we've learned one thing this year, it's that STUFF doesn't mean anything on Christmas. We are alive. We are healthy. We are together. We love each other. At least that's what Santa thought when she hit the pillow at 2 a.m. Visions of happy children were still dancing in her head when she bolted upright frantic at 5 a.m. realizing that she left the ELF on the FREAKING shelf, and everyone knows that the elf goes back with Santa on Christmas Eve. So on the first Christmas ever that my children slept in (parents everywhere know this to mean 7 a.m.) I was running downstairs to hide the elf and then lie awake waiting for the next two hours for THEM to wake me up.

New Christmas traditions might also mean you scrap pretty, matching holiday dresses and bows for your children's attire at Christmas morning mass because you don't have the fight in you this time. You say yes to candy cane sweatpants and jeans at mass -- because you know what? God, Jesus, Santa, Buddha -- Tom Cruise -- none of them could possibly care what the kids and I are wearing this year, right? But I saw all you moms who matched your kids and brushed their hair and put them in tights and dress shoes. You did it girl, I commend you. But I just couldn't be you this time.

New traditions mean your kids bring Christmas cards to daddy at the cemetery, where we shiver and huddle around to tell him the fun stuff we got from Santa. We bring him letters we anchor down under a mini (fake of course) Christmas tree. We tell him how we hope he's warm in Heaven, having some big ham dinner hopefully watching us eat our frozen chicken nuggets for Christmas lunch because no restaurants are open and of course - we (ironically) have no groceries.

Santa gave in a little this year -- she swore no phones and big BB guns for little boys-- but then she realized that little boy is now the man of the house. His heart was broken this year so the trade off was for just a little smile. Some happiness or glimpse of hope that life can still be happy. So Santa told him not to shoot his eye out and that mom is in charge of the phone and always has the password. I heard him tell his sisters, "best Christmas ever." That was before he read the note from Santa telling him he had to text his mom emoji hearts every day.

If only dad were here, they say, it certainly would have been the best Christmas ever.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

To the woman who scoffed at me and my kids tonight

I could feel your eyes on the back of my head all night. I know you and your husband were staring at my kids and me from the moment we were seated next to you at dinner tonight. I’ve been getting stares a lot lately. I’m getting used to the stares, the comments and the judging. I’ve been hearing “you’ve sure got your hands full, don’t you?” several times a day. I get “are they all yours?” at least once a day — twice at the airport alone last week. I get glares with, “how are they so close in age?” at least a couple times a week. I am asked “isn’t anyone else joining you?” quite a bit these days, too.

I know your husband was probably annoyed when my 5-year-old bumped him as she tried to get out of the booth to go to the restroom. I was just happy she had to go before the meal arrived. I’m sure you probably judged how I let them play iPads at the table and how they were probably too loud and started bickering about who got to have the turtle stickers instead of the pirate ones that the waitress brought over. 

I know you may have thought I could have done better at disciplining them, that maybe I snapped at them too many times — I don’t exactly have what they call a “quiet” voice. You’re not the first to notice.

But I heard you when we were getting up to leave, as I was standing within a foot of your face. You muttered to your husband and nodded disapprovingly at me and said, “and she has FOUR kids, FOUR!” Your husband was real subtle, when he craned his neck to turn around to stare at us, too. I felt so hurt as I watched both of you, stone faced and expression-less, glaring at my kids walk past you.

Yes, you surely noticed that I had no wedding ring on. I know. So from your point of view, you only saw what looked like an unmarried, impatient woman with four loud, ill-behaved kids. You see, I know all this because I can be a pretty bad Miss Judgypants myself—I’m not proud of that but it gives me a damn good sense of when someone’s got their laser eyes on me. So trust me when I tell you that you were really wrong about me, lady. 

Your disapproving looks — your evident distaste for us as we walked away made me so mad. I could feel my throat close up and my face get hot. I was so hurt and all I wanted was to hurt you back. I have never felt as worthless or as incompetent as you made me feel tonight, lady. We are in the holiday homestretch and I only wanted to scream at you and put you in your place— and people who know me can appreciate that my reservation in doing so was a Herculean feat for me— just ask anyone about the confrontation I had with the neighbor who honked at me the other day.

But I didn’t. I didn’t tell you anything. 

I took hold of my youngest one’s hand and marched all four out trying not to cry as they happily bounced out the door, asking me innocent questions about the crescent moon and about alligators in that pond over there.

You see, if you would have used your nosy energy instead to look deeper at me rather than judge me, you’d have seen I am a woman literally hanging on by a thread every day that I wake up.

You might understand why I took my kids for a mini vacation to Florida this week, in order to get away from the countless memories and reminders at home of their daddy, who died last month. I took them out to this seafood restaurant here if only to get a much-needed glass of wine and eat a decent meal —something other than the mac and cheese and Cincinnati chili that we’ve been surviving on for weeks now.

Smiles before you saw us tonight
You didn’t see that by 6:30 p.m. tonight, I was all out of shits to give at that dinner table. I don’t think I had even showered or brushed my hair and to be honest, I don’t know if I was technically wearing a bra. It was one of those jog/sleep tank things, so there was some coverage, but since we ran out the door in a hurry to catch the sunset before dinner, I just didn’t have the energy for much else, lady. By the way, they were smiling and behaving with each other in that sunset beach picture, but you didn’t see that either.

You see, I’m just trying not to break down looking at that guy across the room helping cut up his kid’s meal. I’m trying to hide my grief beneath the bags under my eyes due to not sleeping for a solid month — I don’t want people to see the redness under my sunglasses from the crying that came after I saw that man playing football with his son on the beach earlier. 

I’m trying to keep it together in front of my kids instead of moaning about how I won’t ever be one of these couples walking hand in hand with their loved one at sunset. You didn’t know that just days ago, I reluctantly took off my beautiful diamond engagement ring he gave me 16 years ago and that beautiful wedding band he inscribed with “Home to You” and I locked them away in a safe so I wouldn’t tear up anymore looking at my left hand.

I’m just trying to get through every f-ing day, lady.

I don’t have the slightest idea how to do the widow thing, the single mother thing yet, ok. I don’t know how much to talk about him or if I should cry in front of my kids or not. I don’t know if I should shield them from seeing other children play with their fathers or what I will tell the twins about their school’s father-daughter dance coming up in January—on what would have been his birthday. And I certainly don’t know what to say when my kindergartener tells me she wishes someone would punch and kick her til she dies so she can go see her daddy. These worries consume me every day and no doubt my kids see the worry too.

So cut me some slack, lady. Cut my kids some slack, too. It’s not their fault their daddy got dealt a shitty hand and he can’t be here to help me. I’m sorry if you witnessed them at their worst behavior. I’m sorry if I did some crappy mothering in front of you tonight. I’m sorry if I looked like a bra-less sea creature that crawled out of the Sarasota Bay. But what I’m most sorry about now is not telling you all this to your face.

This blog post was published Dec. 27, 2017 here at
It was also published Jan. 2, 2018 here at the TODAY Show. 
It was also published Jan. 8, 2018 here at the Cincinnati Enquirer.
It was also published Jan. 9, 2018 here at Australia News 7.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A final love letter... sort of

It's been a few weeks since you left. The flowers from the funeral home that made this place look like a greenhouse have all wilted. The kids are in school all day so the house is quiet. It's just me and my supersonic memory of the past 20 years keeping me company right now.

I took flowers to your grave the other day —I was running out of places to put white lilies, pink orchids and plants with plastic butterflies attached to them. I don't know what words to tell you when I'm there, so I only stare at the dirt where you rest underneath. I mutter how unfair it is. We didn't get to finish our love story. We didn't even get through the thick of it. You left during the rough patch. Our really, rocky patch. So here I am trying to hang on to the good parts of a love story we had and wondering what to do with all these memories.

Everywhere I go is a memory of you. Of us. Painfully awesome reminders all around here of how much we once loved each other. 
As I leave the cemetery, I look across the street at the little garden shop you liked to visit —where we found a bunch of crap to put in our first house all those years ago. Do you remember when we came to look at the Christmas trees decorated and aisles of fun ornaments we browsed that holiday season after we got married? I remember there was a guy dressed as Santa and we both sat on his lap and took a picture. We were laughing so hard. We looked so stupid. When you're in love I guess you don't care how stupid you look.
I had to drive past the corner grocery store to get home—your family's oldest store in a string of locations you owned in the region. It's on this corner that your funeral motorcade paused and stopped for a brief time to acknowledge this is where four generations of independent grocers has come to an end. It's right here where you, the president of your family's grocery business, stood in the July heat for hours slinging hot dogs with your store employees during the Fourth of July parade each year. With nothing but smiles, you served and thanked customers with a genuine heart. Some guy who inhales on and tosses his cigarette here on the sidewalk waiting for the bus doesn't know this corner is sacred to me —and he apparently doesn't know that he shouldn't f*ck with cancer. As I drive away, I still hear you laugh when your friend Eric jokes you are overcharging people for those hot dogs.

I had to visit the lawyer's office the other day —just one of the many depressing things widows need to do in order to get their shit together and carry on. The office is next door to the newspaper I used to work at when we were first married. I blink back tears recalling the day I snuck in the work bathroom here on my break to pee on a pregnancy test in 2006. I was pregnant with our first child. I couldn't contain my excitement, anticipation and joy of what we had yet to come. I could barely wait to tell you that night when you got home from work. We had so much love that day.

It was at this same office years ago that I met a maintenance man who had a leprechaun tattoo on his leg. Of course I chatted him up and found out he was a huge Notre Dame fan who had never been to my hometown of South Bend where our beloved Irish play. I came home and told you that man said it was his dream to take his son to a football game there. Knowing that we had alumni tickets for that next weekend's game, you didn't hesitate in telling me, "Give him our tickets.” That’s how you were, hon. You didn’t mind helping other people, selflessly giving what you had—and in this case, easily making someone’s dream come true. I loved that that’s how you lived your life.

So many places are playing Christmas music right now and I wish they would stop. Nobody but me knows about the years we conquered our long-distance relationship with promises of Christmas visits —anticipation of hot chocolate in front of a fake fireplace listening to Bing Crosby. I counted down the days in that lonely, little Missouri apartment until you drove nine hours to deliver me a Christmas present in 1998. I forced you to listen to every song on my Harry Connick Jr. Christmas cd that year (and made you like it, too). Some of the holiday songs remind me of the Christmas mornings you sat on the couch taking pictures of our children tear into their presents, screaming about new Barbies and electric scooters. Those pictures have forever frozen in time the love I felt for you on those mornings.

I've had to tackle your side of the closet, hon. It sucked. Every one of your T-shirts, your sweatshirts, your ratty gym shoes - they all have a story. They each have a memory more vivid and painful than the last. Remember your ugly, green Notre Dame hat that was so tattered and worn? The one I begged you to throw out and even hid from you for a while so you wouldn't wear it in public? I look at it sitting on a shelf with your other hats and my heart aches thinking of ever parting with it now. I see your goofy face in that hat and I never want that memory to go away. I wish someone would explain to me how a shitty hat can make your heart break into a zillion pieces.

I opened your sink drawer to look for the Aquaphor and saw your toothbrush in there. It's just another thing I can't bring myself to get rid of. If I did, I think the finality of your life here would set in and I'd lose it. I picture all the times you bragged about how pretty your teeth were. I remember the times we raced each other brushing our teeth and you made fun of how the toothpaste always ran down my chin. It was fun to laugh with someone before bed who didn't care that his wife looked like a rabid dog. I look into your vanity mirror and only see your laughing face all those times you watched me wriggle and squeeze my way into a pair of Spanx or a skirt that wouldn't zip over my butt.

I found your wedding ring in there, too. The simple white gold band you hadn’t been able to wear for a good year and a half because the weight you lost made it fall off your finger. I looked at the inscription I had put inside it before our wedding 15 years ago, “Loving You Always.” Neither of us knew what that meant back then. It’s clear now. The love we had will always remain somewhere in me. I’m not going to care about the crappy times or the fights we had about stupid shit or over the people who got caught in the cross hairs of a temperamental marriage ... those things will never erase the times we had pure love. I wear your ring on my middle finger now. It's a reminder of the “loving you always” part of an unfinished love story.

Our bedroom is excruciating to be in because it’s where I found you that last morning. It’s where I looked into your beautiful eyes one last time before forever shutting them. Your one-in-eight-million, two different colored eyes. The right one is blue, the left is green, I remember you telling me the night we met. He’s rare, I realized then. I close my own eyes and picture you wearing that green sweater the night of my 30th birthday —when we laughed at the terribly inappropriate hibachi grill chef all night. I wanted to sit on your left side to see how that sweater brought out your green eye —my “favorite” eye.

There were probably a lot more shenanigans —tickling, laughing, and snuggling the kid-who-just-peed-her-bed in this room than "bedroom" things between us the past several years. It doesn't take me long to find those memories below the sadness that surrounds this space every day. Remember that night you came in and burst out laughing because I was stuck in the middle of the mattress that collapsed in when I jumped into bed? I don't want to forget that laughter because it makes me remember that love story again.

I remember our story with each picture I look at, each friend who comes to visit —even in writing thank you cards this past week. I've been sitting here addressing and licking hundreds of envelopes and my mind goes to a joke from a Seinfeld episode we loved about toxic envelopes that only you would appreciate. Nobody really understood the fact that ours was a love story born out of our mutual fondness for sharing and laughing at pointless Seinfeld quotes. From what seemed pointless though, we built a pretty good story. We only knew each other a short 20 years, but I think we packed enough good in there to help me get through each day— to get through every painfully awesome reminder of that love we had. Four of those reminders greet me every morning at the breakfast table and pray for you at night. These reminders —your daughter's toes that are exactly like yours, your son's grin that mirrors yours, your baby girl's nose that's just like her daddy's —will never allow me to forget our short love story.

Rest well dear husband, we'll always hold you in our hearts as we carry on down here—you know, going to the grocery, to school, to soccer... yada... yada... yada.

This story was published 12/15/17 here at 
This story was also published via Twitter 2/23/18 at Notre Dame Magazine @ndmagazine.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Christmas "I told you so"

This year's Christmas decorating has been a little slow going. Normally I've got the tree up by Thanksgiving and all the pumpkin crap thrown into the creek behind our house to make way for red and green lights and pine cone wreaths on all the doors. But my mood has been sluggish the past couple weeks since Matthew died and I am not very holly jolly. Let's be real. I've been downright grinchy and bah-humbug.

The kids have been asking where the damn elf is and when are we putting up the tree and can they have candy canes for freaking lunch. Deep breaths. As much as I'd like to hibernate in my bed with Friends reruns and fast forward time well into the middle of January (my 40-somethingth birthday is in early January that I won't be observing), I know I need to suck it up and carry on with the tradition of making this "the most wonderful time of the year" for four kids.

We passed a neighborhood store with Christmas trees stacked up outside, waiting in all their green, piney glory to be taken home for the holiday. My mind flashes back to mine and Matthew's first Christmas together, when I brought a real Christmas tree home to our farmhouse we had been living in for just two short months. My husband repeatedly told me it wasn't a good idea because he was allergic to pine trees and wanted to deny me my desire to wake up to that glorious pine scent every morning. I fought him. He lost.

I told him about the Christmases of my childhood, crammed in our family car, headed to the tree lot where my sisters and I would give dad the thumbs up from the car on which big, fat tree to pick. I told him I couldn't live without the colored, sparkly lights on that real tree that brought back memories of my Christmas wonder as a child. So we kept a real tree up and my poor, newlywed husband coughed, sniffed and itched his way through an entire month saying, "I told you so." I feverishly tried to keep up with the pine needles, telling him it couldn't be that bad and he must be exaggerating.

Needless to say, that was the last time we had a real tree and I've been putting up a fake, pre-lit one in my house ever since. Until now.

Mom! Let's get one, can we get one? Can we, can we, please? Hmm, I think. I suppose we could, kids... yes, you know what? Mom had a real tree as a child and there's absolutely nothing like a holiday house filled with the pungent smell of pine you can experience from any room. So as it ended up, my awesome neighbor volunteered to deliver to us one of those Christmas trees as a gift. Genuine smiles and excitement all abound here when he brought that tree through the front door. The smell alone brought me back to the time I was 8 years old, giggling with my little sister trying to stay awake for Santa on Christmas Eve. The year I got my first Cabbage Patch Doll, a Peaches&Cream Barbie and brand new corduroy culottes I wore the hell out of. It reminded me of Christmas dinners at my sweet grandmother's house with all my cousins and nougat candies and egg nog before bed. The smell of a real tree is pure Christmas magic.

It's also the smell of hives. Seriously. Hives and itchy skin and watery eyes and many, many whiny children.

It wasn't 10 minutes that this beautiful Douglas Fir was sitting in our living room that all three girls started in with the itching. One twin was itching her neck so bad she looked like she was a back-alley crack addict. The other twin started coughing. The youngest started whining about her legs itching. I tried playing it off, saying, it's probably just dry air in here, just go in another room. I vacuumed the needles up. But apparently putting the needle-fresh aroma in the air can make it worse. Now they are all rubbing their eyes, itching their legs, necks and arms and I'm pretending this is not happening as I get out the magical, twinkling lights. I'm stranding this tree up to the tune of White Christmas, all the while trying to ignore the sound of unhappy children crying about the beautiful beast before us.

This time I lost. After a couple hours, I took off the lights and dragged that divinely-scented holiday tree upstairs and out to the second floor balcony overlooking the street. I decorated it with the multicolored lights that remind me of that amazing Christmas of 1984. I sat there as long as I could to drink up the scent before my toes froze and I had to come inside and close the door.

My children have inherited a big fat allergy to real Christmas trees from their Daddy. Their once-again-always-right Daddy. Their no-doubt-laughing-in heaven Daddy. I will have to enjoy this tree through the window. The only lesson here is that there is no statute of limitations on "I told you so's." They most definitely can come from the grave.

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 a 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 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