Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Today's Topic:

Things that make my family smile, laugh, giggle, chortle, and grin.

Veggie Tales (Even though we've outgrown them years ago.)
Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog
Opera Lunch (Not Lunch at the Opera, but singing opera while eating lunch! Try it.)
Chocolate (except for Sophie, but we laugh at how she doesn't like it so that's a double)
Ribs (The kind you eat and the kind you tickle!)
Painting Pumpkins at Auntie M's!
Eating Mud (Only Sophie and she was 3, but still)
Corny Jokes
Musical Theatre
Bert and Ernie
Jeff Dunham
Bon Jovi (Okay, that's just me)
"Climbin' in Yo Window, Snatchin' Yo People Up..." (Please tell me you know what that means.)
Han Solo (Me, again)
Princess Leia in that bikini chained to Jabba (Yeah, that's Frank)
Pirates of the Caribbean
Really Cool Shoes
Really Cool Shoes on Sale (even bigger smile)
Winning board games (Carmen: "I'm not cheating, I'm winning!)
Spongebob Squarepants
Fake Accents,especially when they fail (That's Kate, my comic acting major)
Snowball Fights
Oscar, the Stupid Alien Beast disguised as our pet dog
Random, obscure movie quotes
Kate's really inappropriate language (She has a way with words!)
My Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs (The only thing I can cook)

What makes your family smile? Please add your comments to this blog so we can smile with you.

While you're smiling, please take a minute to click on the blue butterfly to the left and vote for me! And, please, invite your friends and family to vote, too. I'm in a contest to become the next Good Mood Blogger! I need about 100 votes each day to make it to the next round of competition. It's a great opportunity for me and getting it would really make my family smile, laugh, giggle, chortle, and grin. Thank you so much for your support!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unfamiliar Territory

I went to visit my college girl recently. It was a strange place to be.

The city wasn't strange. Chicago is awesome. Even staying in her dorm room wasn't strange. Messy, but not strange. In fact, messy was expected.

No, it was the place between parent and friend that was a little strange.

When the plane landed and I followed her directions to the Blue Line and then tried to figure out how to purchase the right ticket and ended up calling her to figure it out, I realized a reversal had occurred. I was depending on her knowledge, experience, and opinions to guide me to where I needed to be. I rode the 35 minutes marveling at the fact that my baby girl was making her way in this big city. I was nearly in tears by the time I arrived.

However, I was very pleased to be faced with a mini-crisis which required my assistance only moments after going through the Fort Knox security to get to her room! And the world seem to settle back in to place. I even had the chance to throw in, "You guys do own a vacuum, don't you?" and "When was the last time someone washed a dish?"

In fact, the second those words escaped my lips, I realized how horribly nagging they sounded. And realized, too, why mothers do that. Why they come to the college or apartment or wherever the place is that the kids are trying to attain adulthood, and say things like, "Is there a hanger for this coat or do you want it on the floor?"

It is a sad, pathetic attempt to remain the Roaring Mom.

It was a good weekend. We laughed about things you can't enjoy with your highschooler because you like to pretend they don't get the punchline to those kinds of jokes. We discussed real societal issues, instead of stupid teachers and gossipy girls. At times, we surprised each other when we remembered we were talking to our mom/daughter. And there were many instances when I am sure she felt responsible for my safety and well-being while we explored the big city. I recognized it because it's exactly what I had felt on our family vacation there years earlier.

The moment you realize your kid has got it all under control, your heart bursts. There is an immediate urge to snatch up the Life Remote, punch the rewind button and never, never let go. It's only when you get back home, in the silence of your baby's absence when you understand that thing that burst your heart wide and painfully open, was pride. Pride that you had some hand in getting her there. And even more pride in the fact that she found most of her way on her own.

One of Kate's first big words was "independent". She used to raise her little hand in the air, point her index finger to the sky and announce. "I'm independent!" She's fought for that word her whole life. And now, she does "independent" beautifully!

How do I become a Roaring Mom of an Adult Child? Yes, it's a very strange place to be.  Especially when I still have non-adult children to be a Roaring Mom to. But there was a time when I didn't have the slightest idea how to be a Roaring mom to anything. And figuring that out seemed somewhat strange, too. But just like then, I'll figure it out as I go along. It will only be strange until it's normal. Then, I hope, it will be beautiful, too.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


You know, they say some day we might be able to live on Mars. We already have a Space Station that sustains life for astronauts for months and months. I'm wondering, if I had been down in that hole in Chile, if I wouldn't have opted out of the 15 minute capsule ride and just taken up residence down there.

If being trapped in the dark with 33 men wouldn't have put me over the edge, I know the capsule ride would have. I'm just a little bit on the claustrophobic side.

I panic when I'm in an enclosed place that I can't see my way out of.

I'm a firm believer that it is our neurosis that keep us sane. Embrace your neurosis and it will keep you from slipping into psychosis. At least, that's what I believe. That belief has actually worked for me over the years. Especially since I became a mom. Roaring Mom philosophy states that we offer a better show of strength to our children when they can see our weaknesses and also see us work through them. Nevertheless, I did try to calm my few neurosis when my kids were younger, if for no other reason than to not scare them.

Case in point: Several years ago we visited the caves in Hannibal, Missouri (Mark Twain's boyhood home) while on our family vacation. This was pretty cool because I've always enjoyed Mark Twain and the kids were all big fans of the movie Tom and Huck. The caves were the exact same caves Mark Twain explored as a child and brought to life in his Tom sawyer and Huckleberry Finn adventures. Number Two Under the Cross, where Tom and Huck find the treasure, is a real life, actual place! And because of the nature of caves, it looks pretty much the same as it did back then. With the exception of a wall full of autographs from when they used to let visitors sign their names.

Anyway, we're touring these caves. In several places, the tour group had to walk single file. As I remember it, at the narrowest point, the path is only 19 inches wide. I had stayed back to take a picture and got separated from the rest of the family. They were just a few people ahead of me, but I couldn't see them because I ended up in the single file line behind a man whose head practically touched the cave ceiling, whose shoulders filled the cavity, and whose butt, I KNOW, was more than 19 inches wide. I couldn't see my kids and, more importantly, I couldn't see my way out.

I felt my throat start to close up and my chest tighten. My skin became clammy and my heart raced. Tears welled up and I knew I was going to cry or scream or have a seizure at any moment. I needed to calm down, so I did what any panic-stricken, neurosis-embracing mom would do...I inhaled deeply through the nose and out the mouth. In through the nose. Out through he mouth. In through the nose...

Oh No He Didn't!

Oh Yes He Did!

He cut one right in front of me. A big, nasty, stinky one.

I couldn't get past him. I couldn't turn around. I couldn't hold my breath because the deep breathing was the only thing keeping me from full-blown anxiety attack.

So I kept breathing. In through the nose. Out through the...nose. Ain't no way I was opening my mouth in that foul smelling air. In, out, in, out, until I finally just had to laugh.

I heard a sweet voice from up ahead, "Mom, what are you doing?"

"Oh, nothing, sweetie. Just embracing my neurosis."


Who knows? Maybe I would have been okay in that capsule. As long as I remembered to breath. And laugh. Amazingly, that's exactly how the trapped miners seem to keep their sanity, too. The videos of these brave men, smiling and joking and singing in the cave were almost as inspiring as the emerging Phoenix. And nearly as miraculous. The human spirit is a wonderful thing, is it not?

Congratulations to the Chilean miners and their loved ones! You've inspired us to embrace much more than our neurosis. You've inspired us to embrace life, whether it's on Mars, a Space Station, or a deep, dark hole in the ground. God Bless You All!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Favorite Breast Cancer Survivor

When the Quiet and Calculating one was a baby, I stopped singing for church services. My older kids went to Catholic school, which meant daily mass. On Fridays, all grades attended together and I helped out my songleading. But when my third daughter was born, that came to a stop. As did everything else in my life that required me to be more than 10 feet away from her.

You know when the baby is brand new, sweet and cuddly, soft and huggy, and all your friends and neighbors offer to babysit so you can take a nap or clean your house or take the other kids to a park or go out with your husband? And you know how you never take them up on it because you realize they don't really mean it anyway? Well, I took them up on it. I had no choice. With this baby, we went through "sitters" faster than we went through diapers.

She was a crier! She cried for the neighbors who so lovingly offered to keep her one night. At the end of the evening, the wife said, "She might be coming down with something. She was a little fussy." The husband added, in a very matter of fact tone, "She screamed for two hours." She cried for Grandma. Her dad and I had to get doggy bags before our food even made it to the table on the one and only time Grandma tried "sitting" with the baby. She even cried for the "Super Sitter" who had babysat all the cousins for years. And we're talking dozens of cousins! She'd never met a baby who didn't worship her. Until Quiet and Calculating came along.

So when the school asked when I was coming back to help sing, I explained to them it was impossible. The baby wouldn't allow it. That's when my new best friend, Sally Cannata, stepped forward and offered to hold her at church so I could sing. I'm not sure if it was the chance to have someone else hold her for even one hour that got me back to church or  the inability to say no, but I gave it a try. And you know what happened? My baby LOVED Sally. Loved her. Didn't make a peep. In fact, she may have actually giggled a time or two.

I am soooooo blessed that Sally loved my baby back because Sally became my go-to girl. She watched my baby so I could go to the dentist or get a haircut. She watched her while I volunteered in my children's classroom or attended their extra curricular events. Once, when I had Strep Throat, she even watched her just so I could rest. And when I had out-of-town engagements, Sally watched all 3 of my girls for 2 or 3 days at a time! And when we added a son to our family, she took him in, too. And Sally had 3 kids of her own.

My baby girl and Sally developed a special bond. My daughter called her "My Nata" and still refers to her that way today. My children still remember the good times in Sally's care. They always came home with fabulous crafts, and tummies full of home baked cookies, as well as stories full of laughter. Her love for my children is woven into the fabric of our lives.

Sally is a true friend. How many of those are we lucky enough to have in this life? I'm not talking about the ones who can be counted on to be there when the going's good. I'm talking about the ones who truly give from the heart. The ones with a heart so big that the giving is endless.

Before I knew Sally, she had survived breast cancer. She was only 38 when she was diagnosed. I didn't know her then, but I can imagine how she battled the disease. I've never seen her face a hardship with anything other than strength, grace, and humor. No wonder my crier was no threat to her. Sometimes, when I witness the calm determination and the witty humor and the big heart of my baby girl (who's now almost 13) I have to believe when Sally loved my daughter, she instilled in her these great gifts.

I don't know why my baby girl was so fussy with everyone else. But when Sally came along, I think my daughter recognized the heart of a great warrior and the smile of a compassionate friend. She recognized someone a lot like the young woman she would grow up to be.

Thank you, Sally, for sharing yourself with my family. You have truly blessed our lives.

If you have a favorite Breast Cancer Survivor, please share her name here so we can all add her to our prayers of gratitude.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Botched Birthday

It was the worst birthday party ever.

Of course, because that's the way my sitcom of a life goes, the disaster occurred at the birthday party of my one child who plans everything in excruciating detail--four months in advance. With multiple lists. And week by week schedules of tasks to be completed.

Sophie chose her favorite part of the park for the celebration. She even coerced her siblings into making signs to guide the mothers around to the party place. Since her birthday is in September, outdoor parties for her were not uncommon. The year of her 9th birthday, however, it was uncommonly hot. And, of course, she chose the one playground area with extremely limited tree coverage. Here's how it went down:

The first activity on the agenda was free play while the parents set up the picnic table and games. The guests were very excited when they arrived and played for about 15 minutes before discovering why this particular playground had been the last one in the park not claimed by anyone else that day. And no, it wasn't the excruciating heat with no shade relief. Instead, it was the way the cockle burrs had completely taken over the entire playground area. After 15 minutes of free play, the girls ran over all in a tizzy over the stickers sticking in their socks and on their shoe strings. They started picking them off, which escalated the tizzy to a torrent of shrieks as the sticker picking pricked their digits.

Attempting to stay on track with Sophie's time schedule, we ushered the guests to the picnic table where pie tins of whipped cream awaited them. Inside each tin was a piece of bubble gum. The ideas was to dive face first into the whipped cream and find the bubble gum. The first one to blow a bubble wins the game.

Ready, Set, Go! The girls dive in! And so do the swarm of bumble bees who apparently found the party game too sweet to resist. The girls run...across the prickly the bathrooms to wash off the stickiness. The parents dispose of the pie tins and grab the pinata in a last ditch effort to save the party. Everyone loves a good pinata.

Back come the guests, through the prickly stickers. The pounding of the pinata proceeds. Yes! No one pokes an eye out. Everyone gets a turn. The last girls busts it open and the candy flies.

Ok, push pause for just a second. A little note about Sophie...she doesn't like chocolate. Another genetic mutation, I'm sure. We love her anyway. Although she had given me a specific list of what she wanted in the pinata, I decided that just because Sophie doesn't like chocolate, doesn't mean the guests should be deprived. I had filled that sucker full with miniature chocolate bars. And a few fruit snacks for the birthday girl. Ok, resume...

As the flying candy hit the prickly sticker covered ground, it landed with a splat. After all, this day set the record high temperature for September. The guests opted out of the melted chocolate finger pricking pick up game.

So the parents plucked more stickers from socks and shoelaces. Sophie opened her presents. And the guests got the heck out of there.

Still, I don't remember one crying kid or or any drama queen huffing or puffing. Amid the bloody finger tips and bumble bee swarms and wasted chocolate, there was laughter and friendship. We still laugh about that birthday, especially when things aren't going quite as we've planned. Which, if you've read even a few Roaring Mom entries, you know is most of the time.

We don't remember what candy was inside any other pinata we've ever busted open. We don't remember the exact location of many a park party. We don't recall all the silly games we convinced our friends to dive into over the years. But we remember all of that and more from the Botched Birthday. We remember the smiles and the fun. We remember that it was a Happy Birthday. Probably one of the best birthday parties ever.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful girls! And many, many more!