This Mom Thought About Having a Third Kid. See What Changed Her Mind!

“Provided the test comes back fine, I’ll plan to see you back here in, let’s see…maybe June.” My OBGYN gave me a little smirk on his way towards the door.

“June? You mean next Feb– oh. You’re funny.”

It wouldn’t be an annual womanly checkup if Dr. H didn’t joke with me about trying for a third kid. I’d like to think it’s because I’m his favorite patient, and it’s just his way of saying he would like to hang out with me more often. (Is that a weird thing to say about your OBGYN? Because I feel like it might be weird. Even though I don’t mean it to be. It’s just that Dr. H is kind of the bomb – and a great conversationalist, considering the circumstances surrounding our interaction. Like, I’d totally go have a few beers with him…if he wasn’t checking up on the health and wellness of my lady bits.) However, as the father of seven or so children himself, I think his enthusiasm for me getting pregnant again simply comes from him being pro-baby…and pro-more income to pay for seven college tuitions. I also *may* have told him I would name the next kid after him. Continue reading “This Mom Thought About Having a Third Kid. See What Changed Her Mind!”

But You Never Knew Him

You talk about him quite often.

But you never knew him.

You recognize him in photographs.

But you never knew him.

You include him in your prayers.

But you never knew him.

You sometimes reveal a little smile that has just a breath of the one he used to give me.

But you never knew him.

You would have gotten “the look” from him on many an occasion. And you would have towed the line when that happened. Trust me.

But you never knew him.

Yet you also would have made the apples of his cheeks protrude with the pride and joy he felt for all of us who felt safe standing in his shadow.

But you never knew him.

He would have loved you and your funny ways. Loved those hugs of yours that come with a running start. Loved your wacky dances. Loved your toothless grin. And he most certainly would have had a nickname for you. Something like “Muckel Jay” or “Mike the Tyke.”

in memoriumBut you never knew him.

Still, you act like you did.

When his name is the first one you think to write down on your paper for All Souls’ Day…

…you act like you knew him.

When I say, “You know who hated strawberries?” and you say, “Dooda”…

…you act like you knew him.

When, out of the blue, you draw an amazing picture of a tank and tell me you made it to put on his grave, the man who always had a war story to tell…

…you act like you knew him.

Maybe I talk about him more than I realize. Maybe the family lore of this man who was our hero is that strong and present. Or maybe he whispers to you when the rest of us are not listening. Maybe God tucked a little bit of him inside of you before you became ours…so that he could still be ours, too.

in memorium
Visiting Great-Grandpa, a.k.a. “Dooda.” My daughter was the only great-grandchild he ever got to meet, but somehow I think he and my son are good friends.

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I Used to Know This House

Last week, my grandparents’ old house went on the market. It has been inhabited by another family for almost twenty years now, yet every time I drive by it, I still think of it as Grandma and Grandpa’s house…despite the many renovations. My mom, my aunt and I decided to go to the open house, to see what had changed and what had stayed the same. And perhaps just to be there one last time, now that my Grandpa is gone and my Grandma is mostly lost within her own mind. The following is my reflection on that experience.

As I turned the familiar door knob, I could almost picture the sign on the door that said, “Back Door Guests Are Best.” It was the exact same door knob that squeaked a bit. The one I had turned so many times before. The one that opened up to the small galley kitchen, the sound of KMOX talk radio, the smell of Virginia Slims, and the sight of Grandma drinking her instant coffee or Grandpa reading the paper. But this time, the door opened up to a scene totally unfamiliar to me. Continue reading “I Used to Know This House”

To My Children’s Grandparents

You are not who you used to be. The moment my husband entered the waiting room and smiled the words, “It’s a girl,” you became something new and different, while being altogether exactly the people we had grown up with. Before that moment, you were our parents. Nothing more. Nothing less. You were the ones who provided for us, comforted us, bailed us out, held us to consequences, and loved us unconditionally, whether we cared or not (though we usually did). You were either the gateway or the obstruction to everything we wanted to do and be…depending on the day. It was easy for us to find you annoying, or call you unfair, or roll our eyes, or take you for granted. Because we were your kids, and you were our parents. Nothing more. Nothing less. Continue reading “To My Children’s Grandparents”

The Brother Jackpot

He entered the world as the resolution to a hotly contended bet in a third grade gambling ring.

I was sitting in Sr. Marilyn’s classroom when the school secretary came to the door.

“Kelly, there is a phone call for you in the office.”

A collective gasp, like the opening of a soda can under pressure, filled the room, followed by twitterings of “This is it,” and “It’s happening.” We all knew the call could be coming today, and every time I heard footsteps in the hall I wondered if it would be for me. Now it was. I felt the excited eyes on my back as I headed toward the office. When I returned I would have what they were all looking for: the answer to whether they had placed their bets wisely…and the more subtle yet implied declared victor in the battle of the sexes.
Continue reading “The Brother Jackpot”

Remember the Time….We Nom-Nom-Nom’ed?

In the words of a bunch of English workhouse kids: “Food, glorious food!”

That’s the subject for this week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop. Emily of The Waiting and I want to hear about your food-related memories. Does your family have a time-honored recipe with a beautiful story behind it? Did you almost burn down your kitchen trying to make your parents breakfast in bed on their anniversary? Did things come to blows when Jenny’s mom and Courtney’s mom Continue reading “Remember the Time….We Nom-Nom-Nom’ed?”

I Am Afraid I May Have Wished It All Away

I wish he would start sleeping through the night…I wish she would hold her bottle on her own…I wish he would learn to sit up…I wish she could tell me exactly what she wanted…I wish he would figure out potty-training…I wish she could pour herself some milk…I wish he would watch something besides “Thomas the Tank Engine”…I wish she went to school for longer than two-and-a-half hours… Continue reading “I Am Afraid I May Have Wished It All Away”

Fact: Everyone On the Road Goes Under the Speed Limit When You’re Driving Your Kid to the ER

It’s really true. Everyone does. It’s not even like it was this whole mind game where it just seemed like each and every driver was putzing along at a snail’s pace. I literally did not breach the speed limit once on my way to the emergency room. And I couldn’t even vent my frustration by calling them all jacklegs because I was too busy singing “Beautiful Boy” to try to calm down my screaming son. Knowing your child is in pain and not being able to do anything about it, or not being able to get Continue reading “Fact: Everyone On the Road Goes Under the Speed Limit When You’re Driving Your Kid to the ER”

Star of Video and Print, But Still Just an Acceptably Mediocre Mom

Whew!

It has been something else around here. Thanks to my minivan music video, this blog received more hits in a few days than probably the last two years combined. Next, the Life Sherpa of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch devoted his entire column to my post “Apparently All-Inclusive Attitudes Aren’t Part of the Resort Package,” where I took issue with an earlier piece he had written chiding parents of young children. And then he went and briefly mentioned me again in this Sunday’s column. It appears that a younger woman offering to buy an older man a beer is newsworthy. I will take it, especially considering the fact that when my version of “Texaco, Texaco over the hills to Mexico” differed from my daughter’s, she told me that now they sing it different from how we did in “the olden days.”

I feel a little like a celebrity. I mean, the video has caught on like virtual wildfire. My daughter said  that her friend told her that her older brother told her that practically the entire 6th grade class has seen it because a boy in their 2nd grade class showed it to HIS older brother who then showed it to all his friends when they came over. Um, did you follow that? Basically, I’m the Justin Bieber of the elementary school. Not quite Taylor Swift yet, but give it time. All I know is that I’m kind of a big deal in the parking lot at pick up time. And my daughter has been dubbed “famous” for her starring role in the video. Part of me hopes this doesn’t make her too popular though, as I have decided it is better for my kids to be nerds. Not tortured outcasts, mind you. I simply want them to have just enough social clout that people find them likable, but not enough that I will have to spend my Friday nights waiting up for them…because they will be at home watching 80’s movie classics and eating cheese balls with their nerd friends.

mary catherine gallagher
SUPERSTAR!

But these past weeks have also taught me that I am semi-uncomfortable with semi-fame. Compliments are like a funky little form of sadomasochism. They make me feel good, but at the same time, a part of me feels very uncomfortable. My immediate way of dealing with compliments is to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal: Oh, the video wasn’t really that hard to make. They have programs that any dummy can use. OR I’m just weird like that. I don’t know why I spend my time doing this stuff. OR Thanks, but it was just a fun little family project. The kids were just happy to be hams in front of the camera. In reality, I do spend a lot of time and effort on most things dealing with this blog. And I am over-Saturn’s-moon-slap-me-jazzed-do-a-high-kick-yell-SUPERSTAR-like-Mary-Catherine-Gallagher-happy when people respond to it in a positive way.

Then I got an email from a friend I went to high school with. This is what she said:

I just have to tell you that the reason I had been thinking about you is because in between all the mom stuff, house stuff, grocery shopping, etc (YOU KNOW!), I feel like I can get extremely short and cranky with my family and when I read your blogs and posts, I am truly inspired by your zest (decided to use a good word like that, with your love for words and all) for life and how much fun you seem to have.  I seriously think of you and think of how lucky your kids are and your husband is and how much fun you have, while still being a great mom and teaching your kids what is right and wrong.

First off, that email made my day, more than the excitement of all the hub-bub that had been surrounding my blog at the time. To know that something I enjoy doing somehow helps other people navigate through their lives in even the smallest way is the gold medal of compliments. But here comes that flip side of accepting something nice said about you. She painted such a glowing reflection of me, a reflection I feel on most days I can’t claim to be mine. I joked with her that while reading my blog might help her stop being cranky and short with her children, I am usually JUST THAT with my own children while WRITING THE VERY BLOG she feels inspired by. Wow. I felt a little like a fraud. I stumble through motherhood just like everyone else; I just usually choose to only write about the more lighthearted moments of it. I don’t like to complain too much in public, mostly because I have little patience for others who do. But in doing this, am I unintentionally portraying a false image of my life? Am I somehow making other mothers say things to themselves like, “Why can’t I be more like THAT kind of parent?” Trust me, I am no model mother…nor do I want to be.

But I had to realize that wasn’t the point of her compliment. And you know what? My kids ARE lucky to have me: an imperfect mother who loves them like no one else can and who lets them star in music videos. And every mom who reads this has children who are lucky to have her: another imperfect mother who loves them like no one else can and who sometimes needs to read about the funny, heart-warming moments of my life to remind her that she has moments just like that in hers.

Needless to say, it has been nice that things have settled down a little around here, at least on the blog front…because my darned life won’t take a break long enough to let me ogle my site stats to find out exactly how many people have been reading my posts or let me plot my next strategy for taking over the viral world. In the meantime, here is a link to a post by Rage Against the Minivan that will make all parents feel better about striving for acceptable mediocrity most of the time. Happy Easter!

The Slacker Mom’s Guide to Dying Easter Eggs with Small Children

dyed eggs
Um yeah, ours don’t look anything like this.

Sesame Breadsticks and a Happy Heaven Birthday

I just wanted to make a quick little post because today my grandpa (a.k.a. “Papa” to me and a.k.a. “DooDa” to Grace) would have been 87 years old. But he’s been gone for almost five years now. Or has he?

A picture of the rainbow that encircled the sun on the day of my grandpa's funeral.
Some say that after a loved one passes, he or she will send you little signs occasionally. I’m not sure I believed that until my grandpa was gone. And he wasted no time in making it abundantly clear that he was okay, and that he would be watching us. After his funeral, the family gathered for your typical Irish wake. In the midst of beers and Bloody Marys and laughter and one-upping “Big Ed” stories, someone glanced toward the sky and saw a most unusual sight: a rainbow encircling the sun. Not a rain cloud for days, not even the smallest of haze…but still, a ring of color where none of us had ever seen one before. Coincidence? Maybe. An unusual scientific phenomenon? I’m sure it is. But at that moment, it felt like Gramps was finding his own way to crash the party.

Papa and his little Keeny

I’ve experience other little reminders of him gently nudging me throughout the years. And gosh darn it if Big Ed didn’t send me one today, on his very birthday. I was at the grocery store in the salad dressing aisle. I was walking rather briskly, barely paying attention to the shelves, because I knew I did not need anything in this particular area. All of a sudden, my eyes deadlocked on a package of sesame breadsticks, and I stopped in my tracks…and smiled. You see, my grandpa ate these ALL the time…so much so that we nicknamed them “Papa Cookies.” I don’t ever remember taking notice of them at the store before (mostly because they are right next to things like capers and olives, which as a rule, I usually avoid). Without a second thought, I picked up the Papa Cookies, put them in my basket, and whispered to myself, “Happy Birthday, Papa.”

Grace and her DooDa on Halloween 2006

So today, yes, I am missing my grandpa, missing the fact that he’s not physically here. Missing the tree trunk arms that would wrap around me. Missing the way he would bite his lower lip and smile when he was proud of me. Missing the way he would always greet me with an enthusiastic “Hello Keeny!” as if I was still the little girl who couldn’t pronounce her own name. But if it has to be this way, and by nature’s law it does, I am happy to have our time together over things like rainbow enshrouded suns and unexpected lunches of sesame breadsticks.

I’ll leave you with a poem by Chief Tecumseh that my cousin Bill, my grandpa’s nephew and godson, suggested because it embodies the man my Papa truly was. If I did not know better, I would have thought my grandpa penned these words himself, because he certainly lived them:

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

Papa, you were one hell of a man. Now you’re one hell of an angel. Happy Heaven Birthday.

Love, Keeny