We Will Laugh: Our April Fools Day Tradition

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When we got married, I wrote a poem for Michael that repeated the statement, “we will laugh.” Laughter is as much about us as individuals as it is about us as a couple. Our family is pretty addicted to jokes, silly dances, silly voices and loud laughter. We do laugh and will continue to. Being married to someone who constantly is looking for the funny things about life makes life easier, even on days when you think you can’t muster up a smile. My favorite line if the poem is, “laughter is what will heal us, help us and hold us.”

Thus, April Fools Day. The practical joke is long running in the Gallagher family and I picked it up and ran with it as much as I could. Having a love for theater, I don’t mind a little acting as long as the payoff is “getting” him.

We have played a total of seven or eight practical jokes over the past ten years. There’s been little innocent jokes and there’s been some whoppers. One time I waltzed into what was supposed to be a serious “parent teacher meeting” to see my deer in the headlights betrothed (we were engaged at the time) looking ever so surprised and confused. When he realized what I had done, I barely heard him speak for hours. He was stricken in the worst way by April Fools– the blindside.

No stories can be told without telling the best one ever— where Mike (impersonating someone else) convinced me that someone wanted to buy my email address for $1000. This itself would have been a beautiful joke. But this coupled with Brudgettes proclamation on Facebook of “I just sold my email address for $1000. TRUE STORY.” made the joke epic. The next morning I made the ever so arrogant statement that I would happily put $600 of my $1000 windfall towards bills but $400 of it was all mine.

This is the moment every practical joker waits for. It’s almost too perfect. Here I was getting all snooty about this money that I thought I won.

In the movies, the man delivers the revelation of the practical joke and then they both dissolve into giggles and hugs.

Not the Gallaghers.

I started crying, like real babyish, spoiled brat crying. He tried to calm me down by offering random gift cards to me. It was a beautiful moment of laughter, or, errr, well, it is an amazing whopper of a story now!

And that’s it. We play and joke and imitate and laugh. We focus our efforts into trickery, as viscous as it may be, that ignites something between us. It heals us, helps us and holds us together, forever.

Time to start working on next year’s plan. It’s never too early.

The Desperate Vocabulary of a Parent of a Picky Eater

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Recently whle retelling the stories of feeding Parker, it struck me how much nomenclature has entered my family since his fussy eating began. I promise you that we are not the crazy, kid-pleasing parents that this list might paint the picture of. We’re just desperate for our little guy to get something other than Goldfish and Gogurt:)

In adopting this vocabulary, we have wiped away the suggested connotations of other words and kept it close to something he might actually eat. And yes, these words have worked in getting him to try new foods or just have stuck because the family uses them again and again.

We know we are crazy. I’m just letting you into our odd little world. If you are a parent whose kid eats a new food easily and doesn’t blink an eye at its unfamiliar name, count yourself as lucky. Reeeeeeally lucky.

Chocolate logs= breakfast sausage
Green apple= pear
Circle toast= English muffin
Pancake bread= French toast
Sugar juice= the pretend sugar flavoring we say we squirt on each bowl of cereal
Gummy treats= vitamins
Fruit punch= any juice that is not orange juice
Breakfast cupcake= muffin
Santa breakfast= toast with Nutella (emphasizes that we don’t have it all year round)
Christmas milk= Egg nog
Pretzel pillows= peanut butter filled pretzels.
White broccoli= actual broccoli
Long noodle soup= Ramen noodles
Bread roll= a roll
Bread loaf= not sliced bread, something like Italian bread
Long broccoli= asparagus
Naked chicken= chicken that is not a chicken nugget
Toast that is a little yellow but with no butter= toast with butter that is completely melted so you can’t see it.
Cornsicle= Corn you skewer on a fork to make it easier to eat.
Pizza without sauce/ “the bread kind of pizza”= pizza flipped over so you can’t see the sauce.

An Open Letter to the Ban Bossy Campaign

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Dear Sheryl,

You’ve asked us to ban bossy. I object. I’ve disagreed with your point of view on “leaning in” since seeing your first interview on TV. I’ve read excerpts of your book and like the overall message.

What I don’t like is taking a word that already has a negative connotation and banning it in order to give it a positive one. Your point is that we want girls to think being bossy is good because being someone’s boss is good. I get the logic, I just don’t think you can play with the meaning of words that way (Sorry, but I’m an English teacher and words are my thing).

Bossy has never been a compliment in my vernacular. It’s a criticism and it’s pretty universal. I have called my son bossy, my daughter bossy, my husband bossy and have even called myself bossy (when I deserved it!) The last time my son was reprimanded for being bossy, I did not think to myself “oh what a great leader he’ll be!” I’ve thought this: He’s being rude and he needs to be told he’s being rude so he knows that telling people what to do is—-well, rude.

To make my point, I looked up the etymology of the word boss. It’s actually a derivative of “master.” Meaning that a person who is acting bossy is acting like they own or are in charge of another person. My child will never act like that in my presence–without correction. And if he gets a negative connotation to bossy, he should! It means “domineering, fond of ordering people about.” And if I saw either of my children doing this, I would call them bossy. I would teach them that being bossy is being rude. If you want to ask someone to do something, you are gracious and polite. Bossiness will get you no where.

Your story is that your siblings gave a toast at your wedding and identified themselves as “your first employees.” You make the comment that this is funny only because you are a woman. I don’t know why but I see this so, so differently. People who want to push forward and want to lead find their way through any number of experiences and opportunities. Some are encouraged by their parents and family, some aren’t. SOME of these factors have to do with gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, etc. and some don’t. You showed early signs of being a leader. I don’t think there’s anything bad about noting that.

Surely men and women aren’t equal in the opportunities, promotions, wages and accolades they are given. I’m not arguing that this is a fact. But I just don’t think that women have to be treated the same as men TO BE leaders. We are fundamentally different in what society expects of us and what we are capable of doing. We should instead be looking for girls to change the face of leadership. We don’t have to lean in to learn more, we should be stepping up to expect better.

I agree that words are powerful. I think the adjectives we use to describe our children are important. But I do think that bossy can easily be substituted for “bratty” (the preschool version of b@&$$) or “bold” or “fresh.” These are all words I use with my kids to say they are speaking in a way to someone else that gives the idea that they are better than him/her.

Instead, I’ll take your Ban Bossy
Campaign and start using words that are empowering to boys and girls alike. Clever, smart, resourceful, inspired, creative, brave, thoughtful. Because if we want our words to have import we have to use the definitions that have been “employed” (see what I did there?) for ages. And those words and their positive connotation will always describe a leader that I would like my children to aspire to be.

Not all leaders are bossy. Not all bossy kids are leaders (I dare say many aren’t). And correcting bossiness should not be see as stifling. Unless being a leader is synonymous with being rude, being a “boss” or manager or CEO or principal or president does not have to do with being bossy.

Sincerely,

Shortcut Girl

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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18 Things That Happened on My Mid-Winter Vacation:

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1. Celia ate chalk. We’re looking into the reasons for it but my guess is when I handed her chalk and a dollar store chalkboard she thought, “CANDY!”

2. Parker almost committed his first shoplifting offense after being told we wouldn’t buy him something. We’re pretty sure the lady at the shoe store hated us.

3. I almost concussed myself on a waterslide.

4. I went around a lazy river no less than 25 times.

5. Celia became obsessed with hot tubs.

6. We went to a cafeteria style dinner place where the median age was 73. My husband had fond memories of it when he was a kid.

7. I read three books and listened to one on tape. I feel like a ninja of reading.

8. I watched 46 Olympic events. None of them were the two hockey games I should have watched.

9. I bartered for good behavior with lollipops. Kept strategically in the glove compartment. Consequently, I pulled many sticky pieces of lollipop out of toddler hair. This caused a lot crying and toddler left hooks. I’m rethinking my bartering strategies now.

10. I spent 27 minutes cumulatively in public bathrooms. Much too long. One visit was spent trying not to get a chicken tender “germy” while one toddler peed. What? You don’t feed your child while walking to the bathroom at the zoo? Oh, I see. You’re lazy.

11. My two year old peed her pants 13 times. Us putting a diaper on her for an 8 hour ride might have confused her. But, eh, we’re a little lazy.

12. I refereed 16 fights over Legos.

13. I told my husband about my first trip to Myrtle Beach for cheerleading nationals and immediately regretted it. “Nationals? Like you were a national sensation? Were you on the top or the bottom of the pyramid?”

14. I drank an average of 13 diet cokes a day.

15. I took more pictures than any social media site wants to see of a five day vacation.

16. I recorded my husband’s snoring and them sent it to him via text which consequently woke him up. #oops.

17. I went to one of those sushi places where you pick things off a conveyor belt as it went by and got the worst case of menu indecisiveness ever. Do I want it? Do I? Do I? Okay, well, maybe, um, okay- grab it, oh– darn! Oh well, it will come back around.

18. I started to miss home. Not the snow, not the cold but the home sweet home-ness of where I live.

My First Family Vacation Ever (No really)

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Back in November, my husband said he wanted to go on a family vacation instead of a glitzy 40th birthday trip. I had to readjust my expectations here to understand. “Come again?”

“Like let’s go to Myrtle Beach or something.”

“Like drive? In a car?” (Thinking he must have forgotten we have two toddlers and live in NY).

“Yes.”

And that was the end of the excitement that (was) my husband’s 40th birthday trip. No blue water and umbrella drinks. No tan lines and snorkeling and afternoon naps. Because when it’s your husband’s birthday trip, you should really be thinking about what you want and how much fun it is for you. Oh, you shouldn’t? Oops. I get in trouble for this all the time.

But, I STILL thought it was insane to go to Myrtle Beach in February and just put it to the back of my mind. Like far back. Next to “clean out the junk drawer” and “wash windows.”

And then winter happened.

(Dramatic pause followed by even more dramatic bongo drums and images of cold people crying who are also getting buried by snow)

(What? Too dramatic?)

And my pipes froze and my eczema got itchy (sorry, TMI- it’s my one remnant of pregnancy), and I began to just wear boots as if they were the only shoes I had. And I was wearing fuzzy socks every day and I was starting to wonder if Eskimos eat as much as people in the Northeast do during every snowstorm.

And I was like “EFF THIS!!!! LET’S GO TO EFFING MYRTLE BEACH!”

And so we did. We planned the trip to take place February 14th on February 4th. A Gallagher record for last minute.

This is a story I wanted to tell because in the middle of the planning and reserving and packing and listing and strategizing– I realized a pretty major thing.

I had never been, even in childhood, on a true family vacation.

We’ve taken trips to see family. Overnights, short road trips, weekend getaways.

But the vacations we used to take as two people without kids never made the full transition to the family vacation.

We spend our summers at an Adirondack lake. This has always had the feeling of vacation. But really, it’s more of a place we stay rather than a place we vacation. (I realize this sounds ridiculous but bear with me) This time is different. I mapped out a road trip with strategic stops. I pored over Yelp and TripAdvisor for places to eat, sleep and play. I felt ever so American and 34 years old planning this trip. A real family vacation. Like you see in the movies.

Don’t get me wrong. My sister was great about getting us together for vacations when I was a teenager. I once went to Martha’s Vineyard as a nanny for my niece. But never have I had the true family vacay– parents, kids, the open road. And a cheesy touristy spot to fantasize about as a final destination.

My husband is one of seven children. I picture his family vacations being like a clean version of National Lampoon’s Family Vacation. Mom and Dad in the front, the car packed. Kids playing license plate games or singing songs in the back. Maybe this is why Myrtle Beach was his vacation of choice. Pure nostalgia.

Being the 13 years younger baby of the family– I missed a lot of the good vacations. Camping trips taken with my Dad’s extended family. Stories of me in a crib my Dad built into our camper. I would throw my bottle out of the crib to wake up everyone else,

And I did go on a lot of trips as a kid with my Dad. But none could be classified as a 100% vacation. They were business trips and I was his companion.

So in thinking about all of this, I realized this may be why I ask my husband every six months to plan a trip to Disney. I’ve never been and feel a sort of butterflied excitement about the idea of it. The characters, the princesses, the rides, the Mickey Mouse hats? I can’t wait! (We are waiting until our kids are out of the run-away-from-adults-phase for this big trip BTW).

And my giddiness was full throttle upon our arrival in MB. I went to check us in, very surprised by how nice the hotel was that I chose online just ten days before. I almost cried when I saw the beautiful ocean view from our balcony. I hugged my husband while unpacking and said, “Isn’t this AWESOME?” Like a kid. Like a kid on her first family vacation. There was no sign of snow. The forecast called for 60’s. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

I see the wonder of this first adventure as a family in Parker’s eyes. And we are making this vacation the norm for him. We will take vacations, maybe a couple a year and it will be sweet and cozy and will give us great times and great memories as–a family. There’s a purity of a family vacation that I never got to really experience before. It’s so precious, so special.

My parents gave me a lot. I was spared few luxuries. I always had nice clothes. But, with them splitting up at age 8 and having no siblings close in age, a vacation probably didn’t seem like something for one parent to do with one child.

But I don’t think ever felt slighted as a kid. I often was a ride along on other’s vacations. My next door neighbors brought me along anytime they went to a local campground. My best friend Kristy took me camping with their family, even though I was actually the sixth kid in an already big family.

But this vacation at 34 was different than any vacation-by-proxy I experienced before. It was myfamily. My husband was at the wheel. I saw my kids play with their cousins that we don’t always see. I saw my husband have a pizza cook off with his sister. All of this vacation-sap leaves me feeling both sickeningly domestic and effortlessly content.

And that’s it, isn’t it? Strip away the stress and busy-ness of life. The shoveling and the de-icing. The frozen pipes and the dry skin. Take away those things and the core of a vacation is a warm, gentle, sweet place. It’s you, laying in bed on a February morning with a good book. All you can hear is the rhythmic sound of the three people you love most breathing and sleeping. Sleeping and breathing.

My first family vacation isn’t even over yet. But I can tell you already, it’s the best one I’ve ever taken.

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Guest Post from Celia: “Get Away From Me”

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This is the first post of many. I finally wrestled the Ipad away from Mom while she was shopping for Valentines gifts for—herself I think? I mean, she’s not getting Dad flannel heart pajamas, right?

I have been a quiet and rather docile creature thus far. I only scream
Bloody murder when my mother brushes my hair or my teeth. And I’ve only given her a left hook once when she wouldn’t let me out of timeout.

But lately I’m feeling a little restless, looking to mix things up a little. Playing with Legos and puzzles gets boring unless you have some tricks.
So, here’s my list of tricks for any gal trying to inject a little crazy into her life.

1. Don’t go to sleep. Advertise this by singing at a loud volume from your room. Push it, though. Make sure you stay up until 9:30 a couple times or you won’t really worry them.

2. I play a great game I call “Mommy Freakout” sometimes. It can be started in a variety of ways. One time it was a red pen and the wall. One time I bolted across a parking lot to her screaming and pleading. Another time I pooped my pants and didn’t tell her. (I don’t wear diapers so this is like really, really awesome).

3. “You’re a bebe.” One time I had my older brother paralyzed at the table, crying like a–an—infant? Because I was calling him a baby. Everytime he tried to tell Mom and Dad, I would chime in with my favorite new sentence. Three little words brought the little Spider-man worshipping twerp to his knees.

4. I like food, but especially other people’s food. Your juice, your eggs, your milk, your cookies and your cereal all look so much better than mine so, do you think? You could–okay, yep, let me have that. Thanks.

5. Grumpy Ninja Sister- sometimes my brother ticks me off. He hogs the Ipad, he doesn’t let me have the Batman figure or he gets the last brownie. So, I just make him pay. A little hair pull here, a little hiding favorite Superman PJ’s there. Maybe it’s just wiggling into his seat and spilling his milk. No matter what, you have to be committed to it. You can’t pull a ninja move and always get away with it. You have to follow it up with the tough girl reply, “Get away from me.” Although, when “Get away from me” is said to your Daddy, watch out. That was kind of bad. And awkward. But mostly bad.

6. Learn how to act. It’s not easy to fake a hurt cry but sometimes, when he’s already on the bad list, it’s kind of fun to pretend cry and yell, “DON’T HIT ME!” That gets everyone upset, even Mr. Lego Fantatic which is kind of what you’re going for unless your parents saw what really happened and in that case, you’re kind of done-zo.

7. Learn a song. Sing it to yourself while playing. They will be reminded of your sweet innocence while also trying to figure out who unrolled all the toilet paper. Maybe this time they’ll keep quiet.

More later. Gotta go watch some sweet Olympic Games.