Wednesday, November 25, 2015


My new favorite thing to do with Mary on a Friday night is watch a movie. Bobby generally lasts through ten minutes of it before he makes a final flurried mess of the basement and starts to ascend the stairs, waiting for me to scoop him up and put him to bed. I check to make sure the movie isn't at a scary part (read a Mommy or Daddy dying), take a refreshment break, and then come back down to snuggle with my two-year old and finish watching one of my and now her childhood favorites.

Last weekend, it was Bambi. We're kind of working in an ascending order from least scary to most, and with films like Cinderella, Robin Hood and the Jungle Book crossed off the list, I figured the next best option was the story of a little deer. Whose Mom gets shot by a hunter. Oops.

At the introduction of Bambi's friend Flower, an adorable little skunk with huge blue eyes, I took note of just how charming the stinky little critter was. And started thinking about a certain pattern in all Disney movies. That is, the general cutifying of critters. He made it into an art form. The Rescuers; Bernard and Bianca and all their miniature mousecapades. The cuddly forest animals that lead Snow White to the Dwarfs' cottage and help her with her chores. The mice in Cinderella, Roquefort from Artistocats, the Great Mouse Detective and its cast of crime-fighting pests, Minnie and Mickey for crying out loud. Why the romanticizing of rodents? Generally speaking, not the experience I have had with them. With that said, they make great characters. 


On Sunday night, as I was walking downstairs to get my glass of water and bowl of animal crackers (bedtime snack addiction that I'll presently blame on nursing), I saw a mouse. On the counter. Crawling. Creeping. Tail wagging. Or swaying or whatever a mouse's tail does. Up onto the stove and then into one of the vents of the oven. I screamed and shrieked and did the complete opposite of whatever a Disney princess would have done in that situation. 

I ran upstairs. Alarmed, Mary asked, 'what's wrong Mommy? What did you see, Mommy? Was it a ladybug, Mommy?' (Mary's worst fear - We haven't gotten to a Bugs Life yet.) 

Shaking, 'Sure ... yeah ... it was a ladybug, honey. Peter, it was a 'M-O-U-S-E' without the 'M-I-C-K-E-Y' in front of it. Daddy, can't read to you anymore. He needs to help Mommy. NOW!'

I took over the never-ending bedtime regimen while Peter went to work in his tool closet, concocting a plan to get rid of it. 

That night, I had nightmare after nightmare about that stupid mouse. Let's call him Bill. The mouse, rather Bill, coming to get me from under the covers. Bill crawling over Mary's head and hair while she was sleeping. Bill gnawing Bobby's leg in his crib. Bill nestling into some little den under the oven laughing off whatever poison Peter put out to exterminate him and inviting his friends to come over for a feast of Mary's bowl of cinnamon and sugar, which I'm now blaming for the incident.

Still fearful of the little critter that may or may not be burrowing deeper into the recesses of my house as we packed up and headed to Pittsburgh yesterday, I was more than happy to strap myself in to an eight hour car ride with my kids.

Goodbye Bill and goodbye Snow (although, I cherished the first snow in Chicagoland this year) ... 

Hello vacation, turkey, Thanksgiving ...
And my favorite city in America.


And honestly, after watching the Nightly News for the first time in a long time with my parents last night, I feel pretty thankful that my biggest fear right now is a little mouse named Bill. 


Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Darndest Things

After a week of hearing conversations that were tiresome at best, I needed something a little lighter on Friday night. The weekday dialogue had centered around slides, and decks, and briefs; incremental, and trade, and profitability; complication and simplification; labor and loss; yeses followed by a big no; storms and delays and holding patterns over Peoria; 11:00 PM arrivals and 8:00 AM meetings the next day. Mad, and madder. Done, and doner. I needed a civilian sounding board and a drink.

I left work on Friday in search of both. Peter was headed out of town, so no go there. I put in a couple last minute pleas to mom friends, but to no avail. Planning ahead has a purpose I suppose.  

So it was me and the kids. Correction: Me, a glass of wine, and the kids. 50% isn't bad. And undoubtedly, the conversation was certainly disconnected from my workday experiences. It strayed from Woody and Buzz, to Baby Lion (Mary's alter ego) and Baby Dragon (Mary's alter alter ego.) There was bartering over chocolate. I entertained airplane rides, raspberries and attacks of the Mommy Giant. There was 'No Bobby' don't climb up the steps, 'No Bobby' don't eat that and 'NO BOBBY' stop pulling that electrical cord! There was fifteen more minutes, then ten, five, and bedtime everyone. (Including Mommy.) 

We headed upstairs and as I was sitting in Bobby's room, nursing him to sleep, I heard Mary pick up the toy remote in her room, hold it to her ear and push buttons as if she was calling someone.  
'Hi Daddy. I miss you,' she began.
There was a pause. 
'No I gotta stay home. It's real late. The sun went night night. Camille's coming over (Correction: tomorrow). Joe's at his house. Nana, Opa are in Pittsburgh.' 
Another pause. 
'I know. You're hunting ducks. Ew.' 
'Mommy's here. She's feeding Bobby with her milks. She was in Arkansas. (Correction: New Mexico.) Ew. She got me new undies. They're FROZEN!' 
I was mad today. I am a tough kid. I had a fight. Cause I was mad. She took my party shoes. They're my favorite. Mommy's gonna read me stories. Clifford. And then Me and My Dad! That's my favorite.' 
'I love you. (smack).' 

Lulled to sleep with a full tummy, I put Bobby in his crib and made my way into Mary's bed. 

Were you calling Daddy, honey? 
Why were you mad today? 
Who said you were a tough kid?
Why did she say that?
Cause I got into a fight. Cause Lilian took my party shoes. 
Oh. You didn't hit her or anything, right?
No, I was just mad. She gave them back. 
Okay. I love you honey. (I gave her a big hug and started on the stack of books she had laid out.) 
I love you too, Mamma.  
From all the business I digested throughout this work week, I felt I went to bed the past two nights a little smarter not because of anything I had solved in my cubicle, but because of the things my kids shared with me. 

I heard Mary say that she was mad or frustrated a couple times this weekend. Mad that Bobby had her Memory cards in his mouth. Those are mine, Bobby! Frustrated that she couldn't get her shoes onto her feet. It won't work, Momma! I felt her pain; I sensed the emotion this week as well. With each outburst of angst though, I went over and talked her through it, made it better, loved it out. 


In thinking and praying on the events in Paris on Friday, it made me think about the root of anger. The strength of that emotion even in a child as old as Mary. How just being there for someone, listening to them, guiding them, preventing something from festering, can make all the difference. It made me think about love. The smothering hugs and kisses I give to my kids every day. The reflection of it in Mary's return embrace, Bobby's smile, and Peter's texts from the Duck Shack. 

On this beautiful fall Sunday afternoon, I'm still shaken, heartbroken, and scared of the pure madness that exists around the world today. Anger that could only exist in a vacuum of love. I feel helpless in a way; disposed to whatever greater forces can help keep me and my family safe. But despite that, I know that the most important thing I can do, is keep on sharing my love. 

My hearts and prayers go out to Paris; the victims of Friday's agonizing terror and bloodshed; and all the families and friends that find themselves in utter grief today. I hope that in the beautiful city of light and love, a city that I have fallen in love with repeatedly, people can continue to let their hearts shine.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015


In sixth grade, my last English assignment of the year was to write an autobiography. We had just read one (totally don't remember which because I didn't actually read it), but inspired nonetheless I was asked to put personal memories and milestones to paper. 

Back then, my writing was as dramatic as my presence on stage. While my classmates began their autobiographies with sentences like, 'I live on number 17 Cherry Tree Lane,' 'I'm the eldest of five.' or simply, 'life is good.;I went deep with my entrance. I can still remember every word of that first paragraph. 

'Words can mean a lot. Especially to me. Sometimes they're big words that have never been heard by anyone before. And sometimes they're small words. Like why. A word that carries so much meaning and so many questions. Why am I here?' 

Centered around the question of why, I remember I couldn't stop writing. I turned in the longest autobiography in the class. I titled it, 'Memories of One's Life.' (I was the One.) My teacher loved it. She asked me to read it at a gathering of old folks in Barnes and Nobles several weeks later. They seemed disinterested. I got an A in the class. Again, never the read the book(s.) 


Mary learned a new word recently. Why. And while I love the question and her tireless curiosity, I've grown tired of answering it. At work, there's a rule of four or five whys. I forget how many. But after a certain threshold, you're supposed to get to the greater truth. Ah ... That's what we're actually solving for. The questioner loves the glory of pinpointing the nugget you didn't know. The respondent hopes they stop at three.  

While sweeping up the glitter, or rather Pixie Dust, that has provided an unnatural effervescence around our house the past couple of days, I thought about all the questions starting with why Mary asked this weekend. 

Why are the leaves falling? 
Why can't I throw the leaves? 
Why can't I throw the leaves at Bobby? 
Why can't I bring the leaves home? 
Why do I have to wear my coat? 
Because it's really cold! 
Why are we going to get pumpkins? 
Why can't I get three, four, FIVE pumpkins? (holding up all of her little fingers.) 
Why can't I push the cart? 
Why can't I bring the pumpkins to Church? 
Why do I have to wear my coat? 
Because we don't live in California. 
Why are those kids coming to our house? 
Why are they dressed up like that? 
Why do you have to get a picture?
Why do I have to be nice to Bobby?  
Why do I have to wear my coat to go outside? 
Because everyone else is! 
Why is that house so spooky? 
Why is that skeleton mad? 
Why is that little boy dressed like a Mummy?  
Why can't I eat all my candy? 
Why can't I eat another chocolate? 
Why do I have to wear my coat? 
Because I said so. THE END.
As much as I love the question and the truth seeking little girl I'm raising, answering it perpetually is difficult. And I've got to say, I found myself stumped quite a few times this weekend. 
Why does it have to get dark now? 
Because it's that time of year.   
Why is that Daddy going away? 
Because he has to. 
Why is that Mommy sad? 
Because honey. 
Are those kids going to be okay? 
Yeah ... they are. 

When 'I said so' runs its course, the only answer left, other than I don't know, is because. And as a Mom who's supposed to have the answer, because has to suffice. Just because, and that's all I know. Life is complicated and confusing and short. Too short. So maybe three whys is enough. And the rest is better left to a because ... He says so.  


Saturday, October 24, 2015

All In The Family

Last weekend, around 4:30 Saturday morning, the kids were out of their beds, and in mine. Under normal circumstances, this wouldn't have been allowed ... but we were in South Bend for the weekend, Daddy was in Colorado for a wedding, loud revelers screaming 'Go Irish' had been clamoring outside of the thin walls of my parents condo all night, I figured I had no choice but to open the door to my bed and let the kids in.

When I woke up (and I use the term loosely as I never really fell asleep that night), Mary was curled up on one side of the bed, Bobby was nestled in the middle, and I found myself trying not to fall off. As dawn shed its soft light on my slumbering little angels, I gushed. Man, did they look cute.

A couple minutes later, Bobby started stretching his little body out, opened his eyes, rolled over and popped up into a plump sitting position. He looked a little confused. Where was he? Out of his house, out of his bed. He looked at me, smiled, now reassured in a sense, and said perfectly clearly, 'Mama.' 
I gave him a big cuddle and my heart melted.

This whole week, he's been saying my name more and more. It's mostly when I put him down, and he wants to get back up in my arms. It's the one word he needs to know; that has all his needs wrapped up in it. He says 'Mama,' and I can't help but scoop him up.  


Last weekend, while Bobby was learning his first lesson in genealogy, Mary was getting a broader education. On Friday night, as we read through our collection of Halloween books from Aunt Dee Dee, Aunt Joyce, and Aunt Amy, I told Mary that we were going to meet lots of people from our family over the weekend.

Mary knows the word family well. And will frequently say that Mommy, Daddy, and Bobby are her family; that she wants to go back home to her family; and that she's loves her family. Kills me. It's when we start to extend the definition of our nuclear family unit that things get a little confusing.

Our family is also ... Nana, Opa, Erin and Joe. And Aunt Dee. They're all here with us. Uncle Adam and Aunt Laura and your cousins couldn't make it; Mimi and Opa are back in Chicago, so are Ellie and Joe. 
Aunt Claire and Uncle Trent too. 
So far, so good. Saturday morning. We enter the Log Cabin on Notre Dame's campus.
Who's that?
That's Cousin Chris - Daddy's cousin. And that's his wife, Kassen who is also one of my best friends from college. A Shamrock Sister let's say.
Who's that?
Well that's Great Uncle John. He's our neighbor remember?
Who's that?
That's cousin Meghan, and Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Tim. Or are they your cousins too? 
Who's that?
That's Mia, another Shamrock Sister. And those are her babies. 
And that's Lam, one more sister, and those are her babies. 
And who's that?
That's Father Mark. He's Aunt Laura's Uncle. He's the one who loves Mickey Mouse!
Who are those peoples?
That's Opa's Brother, your Great Uncle Jim, and his wife and some of their kids. And their kids. They're all cousins.
And who's that baby?
Oh ... that's a very special, new part of our family. That's your very special third cousin, Everett. 
Oh. I like him. 
Back home, Mary might have remembered a couple of the names I told her. Uncle John, cause he lives a couple blocks away. Baby Everett because it was his party. Aunt Joyce, Aunt Amy, and Aunt Dee Dee because their names are on Mary's favorite books. But based on the knowing smile she shared with each new family member she met last weekend, I think she gets that there are a whole of people out there, connected to her by branches, vines and leaves on an ever-growing family tree. And that those people will be there to love, care, and cuddle with her. For me, it's an incredibly comforting fact.

For now though, Bobby. Mama (and we'll work on Dada) is the only name you need to know.

God Bless all of the people that I call family.
And God Bless little baby Everett. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fashion Forward

I just got an email from Saks Fifth Avenue. Subject line, 'Just for you.' Aw, how sweet. I opened it. Scrolled down. Revealed that the items pre-selected for me by retail's creepy algorithm were canvas mules. (no.) dopey rain boots (no.) and white converse high tops with a heart on them (what are those? no!) 

I imagined the virtual Saks personal shopper cringing when she hit send. Or perhaps she was hopeful. Could these low performing items stuck somewhere in between 1996 and 2000 lure her in? If only we could get her in the store; what we could offer. 


I used to wonder how so many of my teachers from grade school all the way through grad school could get stuck in a certain era. They all seemed to possess a revolving wardrobe of outfits that had been purchased in between 1984 and 1991. Following their particular beloved fashion forward year, they had never gone shopping again.

I have vivid memories of lectures given in shoulder pads and roostered bangs; Laura Ashley dresses, over-sized knit sweaters, stirrup pants. And my English teacher in high school, God love her, who outfitted herself in ensembles circa Moby Dick.

And the funny thing was - they were the good teachers. It was the trendy teachers, that were always kind of sub par.

I now know how they got lost in a given decade. They had kids. They had a career. They looked good in the 80s. (or 90s.) Why not just stay there. 

And this past week, I had a realization. I have become that person. Except I'm stuck in 2005 or 6. When my income went to clothes, shoes, handbags, and specialty cocktails. When life was wrinkle free, slim, trendy, and fleeting. The wake up call I got from Saks was the last straw.  

Recently, I've been noticing, ogling, longing, drooling over ankle boots; glorious black leather booties with fringe, brown ones with buckles, tan ones with trim. The soft leather bags, over-sized blazers, long comfy cardigans, puffy vests, oxfords and knee socks seem almost edible. The good hair, trained makeup, and manicured nails. If only.

If only what? I had more time. More income. I thought about my teachers ... and I thought about the fashionable women I work with. Intellects versus marketers. Do I slip further down the rabbit hole? Or make a dramatic surge toward relevance. I just signed on to I ended up buying a new pair of party shoes for Mary, and some walkers for Bobby. Maybe tomorrow.  

But in my defense. I find so much more joy in dedicating my off hours to other stuff. Stuff that won't ultimately end up in the Goodwill bin. Besides, I'm generally the one behind the camera.