If We Are Lucky: Another Post About My Mom

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Emily and I circa 1995

“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.”

– Elizabeth Stone

 

Recently, I went to pluck my four year old sweet boy out of bed. Upon entering his room, I heard the sweetest words that have ever been spoken.

“Mom, I’m pretty lucky to have you as a Mommy, right?”

Now, please. Don’t take this as a pat on my own back. Indeed I would like to think my children feel fortunate to have me as a mother. But, for some reason, as soon as I heard those words, I thought this.

I’ve taught him what being fortunate is. I’ve taught him that not everyone has the same people and things. I’ve taught him that the people in your life that you love need to be told. More than we remember to tell them.

I have been hugging my little people closer and cuddling with them longer ever since my oldest niece, Emily, went to study abroad in Australia. As proud and as excited I felt myself being for her, I had an outpouring of sympathy for my sister in letting her go.

My sister and I both studied abroad in college and remember well how we needed to get away, soak up the experience, the culture and the people. She went to Vienna, I went to London. Our trips abroad were a decade apart but had the same function.  Independence. Adventure. Freedom.

Then why did I find myself feeling so scared, so nervous, so sad about my niece going off to Australia? Why did I find myself crying to this song during naptime the day she left? Why did I feel so gosh darn sentimental about finding the picture at the head of this post recently?

Because now I am a Mom. And now a trip abroad is much, much more than just a rite of passage in college. It means that my sister’s heart will be walking on the outside of her body for a stint of six months— on another continent.

When I exchanged texts with my sister about how emotional she was that day, I commented, in jest: “At some point or another, we all turn into Mom.” The subtext was: Mom cried at everything, Mom had trouble letting us go. Mom was always so sappy about leaving us.

But it’s her quick response back that I will always remember (and what even brings tears to my eyes right now).

“If we are lucky.”

And that’s it, right? This blog has been nothing if not one large apology to my mother. Through my own experiences with my children, I have seen that my mother is the sole reason I am able to be the sweet, loving, encouraging person I am. She is the person behind those words that Parker said a couple mornings ago. He is lucky to have me because I was so lucky to have her.

Eventually, I want to write a book about my Mom, so I won’t give you any spoilers but one thing that has always amazed me about her is that her own mother left her when she was just four years old. Meaning, essentially, that everything she did with us and for us was—- winging it. She did not have her own model, her own blueprint of the person she has turned into. She was the mother she wanted to be possibly because she knew what she might have wanted as a child.

And upon realizing this, I have become the most weepy of Mommies lately. Whether it’s the new book I’m reading (which is introduced in a video here) or the fact that I have not seen my mother in much too long (since Christmas). Or just the idea that eventually my little girl will take off on her own adventure to a far away land and I will be on the phone to my sister about it, reliving this feeling.

If we are lucky, we have families (not just mothers or sisters or children) that hold us tight and help us remember who we are and where we came from. If we are lucky, we can joke about the faults (or peccadilloes, we’ll call them) of our mothers as fluidly as we joke about the faults of our friends. If we are lucky, we have a friend or a sister or a mother to call when we fill out Kindergarten paperwork, or college applications or passport paperwork to say, “Can you believe it’s already time for this?” If we are lucky, we have photos and cards and stories and videos that remind us again and again that we are lucky, we are rich and we are blessed to have people to share the crazy experience that has never been better described as your heart walking outside of your body.

 

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See Shortcut Girl on Momma Be Thy Name!

Check out my post today on Momma Be Thy Name!

Last year, I was lucky enough to be a part of Momma’s 12 Days of Christmas. This is a group of lovely women blogging about the holidays and spreading Christmas cheer. PLEASE read mine posted today and keep reading all week! Even better than reading is COMMENTING. Just by leaving a comment on the 12 days posts (up to 13 comments will get you up to 13 entries…or maybe it’s up to 14 now. Anyway, one comment/post), you’ll have a chance to win an Elf Pack FULL of goodies including a Kindle Fire and a copy of Monster’s University!

Hallmark 2013 Snowflake Keepsake Ornament http://www.hallmark.com/products/general/keepsake-ornaments/2013-snowflake-1495QXG1375_DK/?searchTerm=keepsake+ornament+2013

Godiva Gold Ballotin http://www.godiva.com/8pc-holiday-ballotin-stocking-stuffer/78218.html?cgid=All-Holiday-Gifts#start=11&sz=24&srule=priceLowToHigh&cgid=All-Holiday-Gifts

Monsters University on Blu Ray or DVD (Winners’ choice)

Kindle Fire HD 7″

$25 Target Gift Card

Two Elf Packs are awarded–one for a reader, one for an author!!!

The posts have been hilarious and touching in the past, so look for more this week! Comment on them, enjoy the 12+ Days Of Christmas, and keep your fingers and toes crossed that you win!

Please leave a comment for a chance to win an Elf Pack full of fantastic prizes!! A winner will be drawn at random at the conclusion of Momma’s 12 Days. Valid email address required to be eligible.

She is also doing a great donation for a cause of the author’s choice (I chose Special Olympics) which will get you an extra entry into the raffle. You can go through Paypal to send $1 to mommabethyname@gmail.com and indicate Bridgette Gallagher and Special Olympics to give!!

I have enjoyed reading and posting with Stephanie at Momma Be Thy Name and am really excited to have this opportunity!

The Klepto-Hoarder and the Magical Spirit of the Season

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Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”
~ Dr. Seuss

 

The holiday strategizing has begun! You are shopping online, frantically planning Black Friday-Cyber Monday-Small Business Saturday- Broke Mommy Wednesday shopping tactics. You find yourself looking around at the toys from the last haze of holiday and, maybe even listing some poor toy souls on Craigslist to make a buck or two. You don’t have to be ashamed. This is what every thrifty and brilliant Mom does. The one in, one out policy. For every new toy we welcome, you can say sayonara to an old one. Many Moms need to adopt the “hiding” method. Hide a toy as experimentation. If child doesn’t ask for it, then sneak it into the trunk. Then find a poor new Mom to unload it on. Or donate it. Or make a time to meet another Mom to swap it. That’s my favorite.

Parker is very much a child who likes “stuff.” He has always had an affinity for every-stuffed-animal-under-the-sun. He loves figurines of every superhero-character-animal possible, and the littler the better. He likes to have a toy in transit at all times. One to bring downstairs, one to bring upstairs, one to bring in the car, one to bring into bed, one to bring to his friend’s house, one to bring back to his house. He is known to put things in his pocket for “safekeeping”– he’s found hiding places for hot dogs, given sticks a home under the covers of his bed and will carry around two quarters for days and days and days. This gift is compounded by the memory of an elephant. He is often able to pinpoint a McDonald’s toy he loved back in the Spring of 2011 will ask, with an indicting tone where it is. I answer a lot of his questions with, “it must be around here somewhere” and never, ever, ever utter the words “lost” or “thrown out.”

He’s a toy-a-holic. He is interested by them whether they be new, old, happy, sad, used, broken. He’s got the gift of play.

This is all pretty typical of kids (I think) except for this next part. He is not just a hoarder of toys that he owns, he also enjoys toys that are not his. I first was able to diagnose this problem when another boy left his stuffed dog (named Mustard) at our lake house. Ordinarily, a child would be just beside themselves to give the toy/comfort object back to their friend. Not Parker. My child was not blessed with the giving spirit. He saw this misstep of his young playmate as an opportunity. A Klepto-tunity. He now could steal a toy from someone without a punishment. “So, we don’t EVER have to give Mustard the dog back to Declan, right Mommy?” I heard this more than once as Mustrad took up residency in our home. Every time I got Mustard out to give back, he made a disappearing act under the bed or between the couch cushions. My little loving red headed boy had now taken to a life of crime. He’d become a klepto-hoarder.

On more than one occasion, Parker has made a trip home from a play date with a little toy in his pocket. “I have a superfast car in my pocket Mommy and it’s— not—mine!” He will find something usually very small that he can sneak into some crevice of his coat-pants-carseat-backpack and will readily admit his crime only minutes after (almost) getting away with it.

With this “stuff” obsession comes along a sort of anxiety that Mommy is going to sell, give away or throw away his toys. When he sees me going through a bin of old toys, he often says, “Mommy, why are you doing that!? Are you giving our toys to ANOTHER FAMILY?!!!” The lies I have made up to assuage his anxiety will be kept a secret until his college graduation. Or until I really, really need to embarrass him in front of some friends someday.

Last night we watched an old fashioned Santa cartoon with children in tattered clothes. Because their clothes were tattered, Parker kept calling them cavemen. I stopped for a minute and wondered if I should try to explain to him what a poor person was. There are so many moments as a Mom where you wonder if you should compromise their optimism and innocence for a cold, hard dose of reality. I was feeling brave.  I went for it.

I explained that everyone doesn’t have warm clothes and homes and beds and blankets. Some people don’t have the money to pay for them. Some people don’t have their pick of ten different stuffed animals to snuggle in bed with. And some children wish from Santa for things that he gets already everyday– a warm home, a warm bed and clothes that aren’t tattered.

This makes the holiday time hard for a four year old mind to grasp. Someone who loves to hoard toys, hide toys and steal toys for himself. Teaching him to give to other people and not just add items to his Christmas (and birthday– Dec 16th) list is tough for a little guy. I have to show a sense of reserve and parental wisdom when approaching matters of “getting” and “having.” But, deep in the heart of me, there is a little klepto-hoarder Mom. Looking to gather all the joy I can into this time of year. Looking to see bright little faces light up. Looking to see what other “stuff” my kids can spread all over the living room and then hoard the whole year through. Now that I am writing this, I am wondering– am I part of the solution or part of the problem? Sigh…

This season is full of magic. It’s the magic of beliefs, the magic of positive thinking, the magic of giving and the magic of family. We all play a little part in the magic. Whether it’s the magical cleaning out of the toy box or the magical appearance of just the right shade of red bicycle under the tree, we are all magical.

At some point in the end of the cartoon, the two children pulled  blankets with holes in them over themselves and they dozed off to sleep . They then dreamed of gumdrops and sugarplums. In their dreams, they danced around in a dreamy candyland — and their clothes were no longer tattered. Parker noticed it too. “Mama, they’re not caveman anymore!”

As I wrap my presents this year and complete my shopping, I will hold one value extra special close. While I am lucky that my son’s biggest problem is his love for toys and his addiction to them, I will not let him forget that this season is not about toys or cookies or treats or even Santa. This season is about taking care of each other. Whether it be in charitable ways or in your own personal way, I challenge you to teach children about the magic that comes when you help other people. And hopefully, ever so slowly,  you can help them to rehabilitate their little klepto-hoarder selves.

#spreadingmomlove

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Momming is a popular blogging topic these days. Whether it’s this fabulous site or another you enjoy (there’s SO MANY to
choose from!), there’s a lot of good stuff out there discussing the frustrations, the hilarity, the ridiculousness and the moral conundrums of parenting.

And there’s no blog-category I would rather be a part of than the Mommy bloggers. We are a spirited and reflective bunch. And we lift, inspire, support and give each other words to both the brightest and the darkest spots of parenting. The metaphorical full night of uninterrupted sleep as well as the not-so-metaphorical spit up on your shoulder.

We laugh, hiccup cry and smile, so appreciatively, when we read words that only makes us think, “I’m not the only one! Other people think this way!”

I had such a feeling when I read this post. I told my husband a while ago, “The best compliment you can ever give me is to tell me I’m a good Mom.”

And it is.

But, pardon my vanity, why don’t we hear it enough? The internal Mommy voice (headvoice, remember her?) talks to us about whether we are good or not all the time. We question, we wonder, we analyze, we tell friends stories and hope they will laugh instead of judge. But we never say it. To ourselves. To each other. And I think it’s because some of us don’t really believe it.

I am (in?)famous for asking my husband for affirmations. I frequently want to hear I am doing a good job at being a wife and mother. If you buy into the love languages, I am affirmations. Tell me, tell me, tell me what you think about me! I mean, you know that’s why I have a blog, right?

But hearing you are a good Mom is uncharted territory. Because the majority of the “good” you do isn’t on the city street. It isn’t in line at the grocery store or on the at playground. It’s cuddled into a bed with a pile of books at bedtime, at 4 am with a fevered child, it’s in the car when they ask you to sing to them, it’s in the lessons of manners and behavior and kindness and love that you teach them inside the walls of your home that you show yourself– I am a good Mom.

And even though people might see it in your hand-sewn Halloween costume or the way you blow kisses to your child through the window as you wave goodbye to him at day care, you need to know that your good mommy-ness is walking around in that child every day.

We think our good mommy-ness is automatically nixed if the child has a public tantrum or runs away from us into the street. We think because our little ones acted more like wild animals than children at the bookstore that people must be saying, “Wow, that lady has her hands full.” We never think of the positive ways our Good Mommy-ness is emulated. Because, that would mean complimenting ourselves. And we learned a long time ago not to brag, right? Bragging mommies are annoying, overbearing and full of themselves. So we sit in Mommy silence. Just parenting and praying that along the way we did a few things right.

But I am here to tell you, Moms. Your good Mommy-ness is everywhere! It’s in the way they share, the way they love books, the way they don’t tease others they know need a friend. The way they listen and the way they play. They are oozing good Mommy (and Daddy, yes, him too!) every day.

It’s when you are #ninjamommy, #jugglingcircusmommy, #zombiemommy or just #regularoldmommy. It’s when you are worn down, when you perk up, when you collapse on the couch and when you pour the first cup of #mommyenergy for the day.

It’s in everything you do. So tell yourself, tell your friends, tell your own mother especially. “You did/are doing a great job. You should be so proud.”

Dear Mom, I get why you sat on me

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Dear Mom,

I get why you had to sit on me when I was four. I get that you were frazzled, felt like you were at your wit’s end and sought a counselor’s advice for how to deal with me. I get that I was challenging, I get that I was bold. I get that I might have given you gray hairs, bags under your eyes and may have inspired some violent thoughts that involved me and well, I won’t finish that thought.

But I get it. Okay? I call Uncle! You were right, you were right, you were right. You were right to sit on me, yell at me, lose your temper with me, temporarily hate me, ground me, time out me, put me in my room for all eternity and yes—- even sit on me.

Because if I was 55% like the little boy that lives with me that’s almost four, then I deserved it.

This morning I arrived to work not with my normal pluck and zest for the school day to begin. No, not really at all like that. Like I had been dropkicked a little, maybe dragged behind a truck for a few blocks, and like I had been subject, unwillingly, to torture by a tenacious toddler. By a toddler who had been overtaken by a mix of hormones, adrenaline and lunacy. By a toddler that very well may have been like me the day (days, was it days?) that you sat on me.

You sat on me because I argued every point until you were practically speechless. You sat on me because you couldn’t come up with another reason why I can’t go to school with my pajamas. You sat on me because you could think of no other way to end the conversation. You say on me because you had. Nothing. Left. To give.

And I get it. I get it like I get why you worried about me when I went to kindergarten, my first sleepover and abroad to London for a semester. I get it like I get why you said, “you will never love anything like you love that baby.” I get it like I get why you cried when you dropped me off at college.

I get it because I am raising a little red headed boy-version of the Bridgette you raised.

And it takes everything I have somedays. Somedays I look at him and can’t believe I made him myself (well, not really) and somedays, I just sit. On him.

Thanks for sitting on me, loving on me and doting on me for thirty three years and counting.

Because without your strength in doing that, I would have no strength to do the yelling, the disciplining, the hugging and the loving that I am doing with him as of late. So, thank you.

Love,
Your “Little” Girl

Gallagher Kids 003: Growing up and Michael Franti

Parker rarely is seen without his specs. But you can see in this video he looks almost like a different kid!

This video was taken on one of the sick days I spent with Parker at home the past two weeks. Celia missed out on this video. Enjoy!

#JugglingCircusMom: My Awkward Moment at Target

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Like Murphy’s Law, my reign as #ninjamommy has come to a very abrupt end. While I do feel like I have been a #zombiemommy at times. I also would like to introduce you to #jugglingcircusmommy. She probably needs very little introduction. Juggling Circus Mommy mysteriously keeps all balls in the air. She seems like an optical illusion. She is amazing. She is strong. She is ever-so-efficient. But, unfortunately, jugglingcircusmommy has no idea whether she is coming or going. She is a little confused, frazzled and quite obviously overwhelmed. She takes on more things to juggle with aplomb but often seems like she it teetering, just on the edge, of losing all of it. She’s a circus act. In every sense of the expression.

And with that allusion, I bring you my story that will be called going forward: My Awkward Moment at Target.

I wasn’t even wearing red. I was wearing pink. I was feeling blissful and rebellious. I had fulfilled all my lunch and dinner making responsibilities for the day– even got in a workout– and was delighting in the wonder of a trip to Target alone. Meaning by myself. Meaning my kids were at home. Oh they weren’t alone, my husband was there. But I was alone. Did I mention I didn’t have my kids with me?

And like all funny and terrible stories start– that’s when a lady I can only refer to as Blind- like really blind-lady, “where are the sweatshirts?”

I blinked at her and paused ever so slightly. She could not be implying that me, standing there looking at workout pants– me, who just juggled myself through a horrendous day—me, who was wearing PINK could possibly look like a Target Team member.

She COULD NOT be implying that the woman who had wiped butts, made lunches, tutored kids, graded papers, led discussions, sent professional and eloquently worded emails, shuffled children and attempted to potty train a two year old all-in-one-day could possibly look like she had a second job in retail?

Really, lady? Really?

I saw the look in her eyes. You obviously have a sloppy cart and an almost red shirt and an all business look about you— so you must work at Target. She followed up with the classic, “Wait you don’t work here?” The sting of imminent tears tugged gently, followed by the instinctual desire to make a joke of what just happened. But I was not ready to laugh about it. Not at all. It took the whole rest of the shopping trip and my ride home to assuage my complete (and—I realize— irrational) anger. Knowing I shouldn’t marinade in these feelings, I texted a friend. While I know she had a good laugh, she also was able to agree with me in thinking that this woman must have been completely crazy and possibly a little bit color blind. Because, well, that’s what good friends do.

Please don’t misunderstand. Being mistaken as a Target salesperson is not the ultimate insult. I have worked my fair share of retail (Welcome to the Gap!) and food service (“Iced grande non-fat caramel macchiato for BILL!”) jobs. But, on this particular day, at this particular time, I just wanted to be a Working Mom by herself at Target.

There’s a backstory here. As there always is. Minutes before my unfortunate Target encounter, I had confided in another Mommy friend through text how conflicted I was feeling about my return to working out. I have relished in my time at the gym or a spin class after work while I knew my kids were playing hard on the playground. Taking the extra time for myself is both unnatural and at the same time glorious. Wouldn’t a good Mom rush to get her kids? (Answer: Never ask any question where you are trying to categorize what a good Mom and a bad Mom do) Have I undone all the quality time spent this summer by just a few weeks at work? (Another ridiculous question, shut up) Are people in my spin class wondering where my kids are while I just exercise as if I am a single woman with no obligations? (Now this is just pathetically vain– because how would they even know you have kids?)

Guilt as a Mom is at the same time the most frequent feeling and the most useless. But peel back the pluck of any poised and put together Mom and you see it. Big. Fat. Guilt. Glaring at you, with yogurt around its mouth, and unfolded laundry strewn about its feet. Big, looming Grade A, top of the line–guilt. The kind only a jugglingcircusmom can understand.

I dedicate this blog post to all of you who juggle. To the stay/work at home Moms, the working Moms, the stepmoms, the foster moms, the like a moms and the in place of Moms, I salute you. May you never have a woman at Target who makes you unintentionally feel crappy. May you be able to juggle without dropping a ball, and if you do drop a ball, I hope you have a slew of friends on speed-text to cheer you up. And when you get sick of the juggling, sick of the tug of war between laughing and crying, I hope you remind yourself that if you weren’t worried about being a good Mom, you wouldn’t be there here juggling to begin with.

Juggle on, Circus Mom. I see you. You’re awesome at juggling, awesome at multitasking, awesome at laughing at yourself and more than awesome at being a Mom. So don’t let anyone (even a lady at Target) tell you different.