about Blogs book exercise mamalougues contact Image Map

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What in the heck is a Mamalogue?

If you are my friend or follow me on social media you may have heard this word a lot lately. Mamalogue.  Pronounced Mama- log.  Not to be confused with Mammogram-ologue. It is a creative play on the word Monologue which is a speech given by an actor on stage or screen.
With that said, I cannot take full credit for coming up with the word Mamalogue.  A dear friend of mine suggested it and surprisingly he is a guy, and I went with it.
Last year I had dinner with some girlfriends and we were all sharing stories about motherhood. Hysterical, raw stories about this job we have taken on and were not prepared for despite thinking we were.  I also thought of the times when I had been in down, feeling overwhelmed and where I felt like I couldn't do it anymore.  I turned to my girlfriends then too.  Even friends who do not have kids, were a great support.
On my ride home I thought about how my friend had told a story so hilarious that I wanted to call all my friends and tell them, I wanted to put it on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, bathroom stalls.  But it wasn't my story to tell. It was hers.  But I wanted EVERYONE to hear it because it made me laugh and I knew I couldn't possibly share it with the same flare as she did.
And that is when the concept of the Mamalogues was born.  The very next day I called my friends, and asked (ok told) them that I needed them to participate in a project I was doing. They agreed not knowing what they were getting into.  I found a venue to perform, asked my friends to write out a story. I probably should have considered that most of them weren't writers or actors and some of them weren't even mothers but I was on a mission.  I didn't ask for a specific topic, my only stipulation was that it was true.  Then I told them that they would be performing (reading) it in front of an audience.
Did you notice I left that audience part out until they agreed?  My friends were trepidations to say the least.  They asked if they could self medicate or consume large amounts of alcohol prior. I of course said,"yes" and "yes". 
Within in one week of putting tickets up for sale we had sold out.  To be honest, I wasn't even going to charge at first, but I needed to cover the cost of the venue.  We not only sold out, we sold way out, like out of the venue, we had to add additional seats.

As we sat backstage the night of the performance I looked around at these women who were willing to put themselves out there and be vulnerable in front of strangers just because I asked them to.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude and realized that as women, we often put ourselves out there to help, not only our family but our friends as well. The original cast will always hold a special place in my heart.

You never know how your story may impact another person until you share it. Most women don't have a platform to share their stories, so I created one.

I gave mama's a microphone.

Needless to say it was an enormous success.  Before I could think, I was asked when the next one was.  So 10 months to the day we are having our second one.  Remember the girl who told the funny story? Her name is Kate and she is now the producer. We believe so much in the power of the spoken word that we collaborated to make this Mamalogues even more spectacular.  We changed the cast to offer other woman a chance to share their stories. We have a few from the previous cast only because they add an element of entertainment that we couldn't go without. (Thieneman sisters)

You may have an idea of what to expect but  I can assure you it is so much more. And its not just for women. I know several....ok three men who went to the last one and enjoyed it too. And the fact that they were our husband's is inconsequential.

The next Mamalogues is on July 11 at Legends at Notre Dame. Click here for tickets.

* Since this original publication the second Mamalogues sold out in 2 days and a third performance had to be added. Which sold out in an hour. 

2013 Cast
Alyson Herzig, Julie Flory,  Jessi Loyd,  Kate Knopick Coates,  Maria McKenna,  Becky Cressy, 
Josi Doyle,  Sarah Jollay, Amy Atkinson, Noelle Elliott

2014 Cast 
Sandra Cho, Aimee Carlson, Kate Knopick Coates, Jenn Lechtanski, Steph Patka, Priscilla Jamora, Kelly Blair, Laura Ambrose, Colleen Spano, Carolyn Hunt, Maria McKenna, Sarah Jollay, Megan Michele,  Martha Thieneman, Noelle Elliott

2015 Cast 
Noelle Elliott, Kate Knopick Coates, Alyson Herzig, Beth Ferlic, Becky Cressy,  Robyn Welling, Priscilla Jamora, Elizabeth Carris, Sandy Cho, Martha Theineman, Maria McKenna, Sarah Jollay
Aimee Carlson, Ceci Redmond, Jill Straub , Amy Rasler.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Skinny Jeans

After seeing my oldest son day after day in high water pants I finally decided to take him shopping with me.  He responded to this idea with the excitement of a turtle.  His back hunched over and he moaned and groaned as he slowly made his way to the car.  My boys have not caught the fashion bug.  Yet, they love wearing t-shirts with Minecraft characters on them.  Which proves my point, they have yet to discover their style.

I am probably to blame for this.  In my effort to compensate for not having a girl I have found tremendous pleasure in dressing them.  I lay out their clothes and they put on whatever is there.  On the days when I let them pick out their clothes (the days we have nowhere to go) they put on the first thing they pull out of their drawer, it could be a thermal shirt with shorts, not match and be 3 sizes too small.  I really have stunted their ability to pick out outfits. I'm not trying to create little metro-sexuals, but there is nothing quite like a guy with style.

When I met my husband he had style.  One of the things I admired and noticed about him was that he didn't dress like everyone else. In Los Angeles this can be hard to do.  He would go to a thrift shop before Mackelmore made it popular and pick out shirts that stood out. In fact Mackelmore was his roommate and I think the song was written about Don.  That isn't true…but it could be.  He would choose button down shirts from the 1950's and pull them off.  Unfortunately when we moved from California to the midwest he forgot to pack his style.  There are glimpses of it, but most of the time he dresses like a teacher whose mother has dressed him and actually, both of those are true.  He wears clothes that my mom and his mom give him for Christmas and birthdays and he is actually a teacher.  I love our mothers, but how many more Van Heusen shirt sets can a man wear? One too many in my opinion.  Once in awhile his coutour will reappear, but it as predictable as the weather.

So when Parker expressed a strong desire to purchase skinny jeans I was shocked. I was proud of him for having conviction in the direction of fashion, but why did it have to be skinny jeans?  There are very few people who look good in skinny jeans.  The obvious first one is skinny people, the second is rockstars. The problem is, everyone wears them.  Which is ironic since obesity rates are higher than they have ever been.  But since he really wanted them, I decided it was ok.  It was then that the clouds opened up and saving grace shined down on me.  They did not have his size. They had every other size 8,12,16, but not one 14 in any color.  My son is 11 but wears a size 14.  Oddly, skinny jeans must be popular in this age group.

I want the boys to express their style, I really do, but I know he would hate wearing those jeans, and more importantly I would hate looking at him in those jeans. My son's have my body.  They are not skinny nor fat.  They are muscly.  Which for a guy is great. For a girl… not so much.

I have accepted even sort of embraced my muscular physic but I accept there are certain things I just don't look good in. Cue- skinny jeans.  I look like a frog.

When Parker realized that he could not get skinny jeans he was disappointed.  I must admit, my heart broke a little watching him search every single pair of jeans in the skinny section knowing he couldn't wear any of them. Admittedly, I had been there too…just last week.

Because he is a boy and already dislikes the mall, he didn't even entertain the thought of going to a different store.

He ended up picking out a pink shirt. He has a fascination with pigs.  He collects pig stuff, wants to be called Porky (despite Don and I telling him that is not the best nickname for several reasons) and he even refuses to eat any pig products.

When I was younger, my parents let me express myself with hair and clothes.  I appreciate that, I don't appreciate photo evidence of it however. Especially the mullet with a spiked top.  So if we stubble upon a pair of skinny jeans in his size, I will let Porky get them. I will just stand near by with scissors when he needs to take them off.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What really happened to the chocolate bunny

My mother-in-law likes to send the boys Easter gifts. Which translates to cheap chocolate and sugar rocks called jellybeans. Oscar bit off the eyeball of his bunny and put the rest in the refrigerator "for later". Every time I would open the door it would be staring at me, well if it wasn’t missing an eye it would be.
Today was the Monday after Spring Break. I won't get into the details but apparently everyone in the house had forgotten that Spring Break does not last forever and I was the one who had to break the bad news. To which the entire house wailed and flailed and it was all my fault.

That is when the bunny lost the tip of his ear. Just a nibble I thought. After several screaming matches I was able to get everyone into the car but before I went, I made sure to eat the tip of the other ear just to even it out.

I went to work and began to dig myself out of what appeared to be a black hole of emails. I had taken a whole 3 days off to go to a conference but my inbox looked like I was gone since 2006. I was afraid it was going to spill of the screen, spill onto the floor and wrap itself around the building. There is always that one person who discovers you have an out of office reply and decides it would be a perfect time to send you 500 messages.

Noon finally arrived and I decided to go home for lunch. As previously mentioned, I was out of town for 5 days which means the only food in the refrigerator was a cucumber, hummus and string cheese. And the bunny…. I decided to eat a healthy string cheese, cucumber and hummus sandwich minus the bread and chased it with the rest of the bunny’s ears. Oscar would never notice his ears were gone. It just looked like he had a flat top.

I returned to work to receive a text message from my husband that there would be a man staying at our house tonight. A man who is here from Virginia to observe my husband at work. Don is taking a two-year certification course and part of the program is to be observed (graded) in the middle of the year. That time had come. And in an effort to brown nose this man my husband decided to let him stay at our house. My response was not exactly joyful.

After work I received another text from Don. This time it was asking me to make a "quick" stop by the grocery store to pick up limes, sour cream, Jose Quervo mix and beer. If you are familiar with any super market you will know that each of those items are on the four opposite corners of each other. And, shopping at 5:30 when the rest of the world discovers that they don't have anything to eat for dinner either makes my shopping experience rather unpleasant. Don must have found tortillas and planned to make some time of Mexican dish.

I returned home starving because I had just walked the equivalent to 10 miles in the grocery store, In fact, I was famished… off with bunny's head…. and neck…and bow tie.

Next, Don shares with me that the gentleman visiting is old. I love old people, but I also know that margaritas and a dinner filled with spicy food and refried beans is probably not the best choice.

The man arrives and he is a nice houseguest, although I know nothing about him, other than the fact that the fate of my husband's certification is in his hands.

We are trying really hard to be good relaxed parents so that it is clear that we live Montessori, not only in the classroom, but at home too. (Not true). The boys are not in on this plan and are making us work for it. Thankfully, over break the two older boys have been taking care of the neighbors dog across the street. This gives me an out. I went over to make sure the boys have locked the neighbors doors properly and I discovered that they were already home. Our neighbor greeted me and thanked Parker for taking care of his dog. I felt the pride swell in my heart. My boys were responsible, reliable and trustworthy. I was looking forward to bragging about this to our dinner guest. But before I could, our neighbor also mentioned that Parker T.P.ed his daughter’s bedroom.

I tried not to look horrified. At that moment Parker disappeared. I was trying desperatly not to chase him, grab him by his arm and take him back to apologize. When I walked in the door, Parker had strategically placed himself between our houseguest and Don, knowing that this spot was amnesty from discipline. I needed to pull Parker out of the room without making it too obvious that we have little or no control of our children.  I craved a little bunny shoulder. Off went half of the bunny's body.

When Parker finally got up I cornered him and asked him about the T.P.-ing. He defended himself by saying he used the cheap toilet paper in the back of the closet and as much as this comforted me, I insisted that he march back over to the house and apologize immediately. This began a dialogue through our teeth and ended up with Parker dawdling back over the house to apologize to our neighbors.

He wanted me to go with him, but I told him he had to go alone, mainly because I couldn't face them myself out of complete embarrassment.

I peeked out the window as he agonizingly waited for them to answer door. He kept looking back at me. I could tell he wanted to Ding Dong & Ditch but he stayed planted. I watched as he apologized for violating their daughter’s room with toilet paper. It was tortuous to witness.

This is when the rest of the bunny was sacrificed in the name of stress. I couldn't watch this awkward situation where my son is apologizing to his friend’s parents. A friend who he may or may not secretly like. Understandably, I needed some kind of chocolate comfort.

Before I knew what I was doing, the bunny was gone. I wasn’t too worried because there are several things Oscar puts in the fridge “for later” and never thinks of again.

If I admit that I think his prank to TP a tween girl's room is brilliant, does that make me a bad mother? I will keep this knowledge sealed until he is at least 20. For now I need to conceal my admiration for his prank. I did tell him that he is never EVER to be in a girl's room when she isn't there. As soon as it came out of my mouth I realized that this was the only situation where that statement is applicable. But I hoped he wasn't really listening to me.

Parker seemed somewhat relieved and told me I had chocolate on my face. I wiped off any evidence and returned to the table to discuss with Don and his Guru, how eating organic food can really help a child reach his full potential. I really believe this by the way, just not right at this second.

At that very moment Oscar opened the refrigerator door asking where his chocolate bunny was. The more I ignored him the louder he got.  I listened as he accuses every one of his brothers.  Parker looked at me with one eyebrow raised. After forcing Parker to fess up, I suppose it was my turn to do the same.

I knelt down to Oscar's level and calmly explained to him that I ate his chocolate bunny, I figured he would understand and I could distract him with the promise of a story later. And like a typical four year old he fell to the ground and had an enormous tantrum. I could feel Don's angst and complete disbelief that I would actually eat our child's entire chocolate bunny in a day, specifically on a day that means so much to him.

As I scooped Oscar up I could hear our dinner guest tell Don that we have a beautiful family. Maybe it was the margarita or the fact that he is hard of hearing, but for whatever reason he was amused.

I hope that when he is reviewing Don's progress he will take into account our tumultuous backstory.

That our house if filled with sugar, chaos, toilet paper, mischief and most importantly honesty. And to some people that is beautiful.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The broken spirit

There have been a few moments in my life where I wish more than anything I could go back and delete them from not only my memory, but everyone else as well.   I was in church this past Sunday when the sermon prompted me to remember something I had buried deep down, in a place I only go to when everything else in my life seems to be going wrong.

I depend on this memory to feed the already mounting evidence that I have failed. 

Most of the memories I  would like to delete from my deleted files are moments of severe character lapses.  When I have disappointed myself.  Most were based out of fear. Fear of doing the right thing, and lacking the courage to do so.  I have learned from these experiences, but I have often wished I could go to a hypnotist and have them erased.  Seriously... I have actually looked into that.... but I know I wouldn't be able to make it through without laughing.  And what the heck would he be able to pullout of the depths of my brain?  I have been in several plays, with my luck I would start reciting Lady Macbeth and next thing you know I would be arrested for MURDER...

A long way of saying,  I just have to learn to deal.   The situation that was brought to the forefront was so simple yet complex at the same time.   My oldest was almost 2 and at that time we had another son who was around 6 months old.

Before Parker was born I went to a paint your own pottery studio. I picked out a huge plate and spent an entire day decorating it.  It was bright yellow, in the center I pained a cupcake with a single candle on it and wrote Happy Birthday across the top.  I spent the better portion of my day making a detailed confetti pattern around the edges. I finished it off with pinstripes and my signature.
This memory is so pleasant because with each paint stroke I dreamed about the baby that was growing inside of me.  What he would look like. I wanted this birthday plate to be the one that he would  use every birthday.  My mind took off  happily envisioning it as he grew.

Once it was fired and ready, I picked it up.  I proudly displayed it on our dining room table.  Anticipation of not only his birth but his first birthday on to a lifetime of family birthdays.
On his first birthday I finally put it to use.  Rather than give it to a one year old, we put his cake on it.  Every time I looked at it I was reminded of the excitement I felt making it.

After I had my second son things took a turn for the dark.  If my life was a play, this act would be set with dark lights.  The only luminance would come from upstage behind silhouettes of something that resembled humans.   In the midst of this darkness nothing sounded beautiful, nothing tasted sweet and it was hard to see any light from the bottom of the hole I was in.

While going through the motions of two boys under the age of two I began to resent everything.  As I was folding laundry I heard it.  A loud crash that echoed over Thomas the Train blaring from the TV.
I walked into the dining room to see the plate shattered in pieces across the floor.  Parker standing on a chair looking stunned.

I was seeing red. I looked at the plate I had spent so much time and thought making in a pile of nothing on the floor.  I lost my temper, and I focused it all in the direction of a 23 month old.  Yelling at him, blaming him for everything that was wrong in my life. I got on the floor trying to put it back together all while crying and asking him how he could do this to me.  When I was over having my breakdown I glanced up to see my only witness. A spotlight was shining on his face, which was now filled with terror and confusion.  He took off running upstairs and hid.

I didn't chase him.  I was too consumed with trying to put the pieces of a plate together that deep down I knew would never stick.  As if I'm watching it from an older wiser perspective now, I want to yell, why do you care so much about a stupid plate?

I don't know how much time passed but I found myself on the couch sitting under a blanket staring out the window.  Parker climbed up on couch, found a spot on my lap and sat facing me.  He put his arms around my neck and said " love you, mommy." His words were as genuine as his hug.

He had forgiven me. The damage I felt that I did to him was far more severe than what he had done to the plate.   How was I worthy of such unconditional forgiveness?

The point in life where the plate dropped needed to happen. I needed a rock bottom moment. To shatter the unrealistic expectations I had placed on myself to be a perfect mother.  I needed a good cry and see that the most important little person in my life at the time still loved me even though I felt that I didn't deserve it.

Rather than try and put the plate together I just threw it away.  I never made another one.  The largest piece of the plate that remained is the portion of the candle.  I have kept it in our china hutch.  A reminder to only me that there is a chance of lightness even in darkest of darkness.

Parker does not remember this incident at all thank God, but I do.  I'm glad I didn't have it erased by a hypnotist.  Despite the pain and regret this memory has caused me even 9 years later,  it has given me a lifelong challenge.

In moments of despondency, I can strive to forgive myself like someone who can forgive  me unconditionally and still offer tremendous love without a second thought.