You Might Be a Part of the Royal Family of Chaos

Coming out of hiding for a moment because I am pretty sure that blogging kept me sane. It’s been through work that I’ve come to a realization, my life is crazy and at times, a train wreck. I mean, I’ve always known…it’s the crazy that created this blog. But it’s only been recently that I’ve realized it sometimes resembles a train wreck. I find that when I am at work, I can pretend that I’m a very capable juggler of all things “Queen of Chaos” related.

You might be a part of the Royal Family of Chaos if:

You decided that after almost a decade of playing basketball (I shudder to think of how much money we have spent), that you didn’t want to play anymore. (Nico) I admit, I miss watching him play. I don’t miss all the stuff that went along with it, though. That has been a nice break. I have more to say on this subject but will save it for another post.

You broke your arm at the beginning of basketball season and then on the first day back to school after the holidays, you are admitted into the hospital for appendicitis. To add insult to injury, instead of getting your cast off, you have surgery to remove your appendix. You would think that since he was in a hospital, someone there could take off his cast for him but you would be wrong. He had to wear it a week  longer. (Tommy)


Tom appendix


You continue to be your mom’s biggest help while complaining and rolling your eyes and then immediately saying you’re sorry. One minute you could be talking about how well you are doing in school and the very next minute you could be crying because your mom asked how you were doing in your math class, which led to you screaming and yelling at everyone in your path and then five minutes later, you are giggling at something on your phone.  (Belle)

Twin Teenagers!

Twin Teenagers!

You have turned 5 and got yourself a sassy haircut to go with your sassy attitude. You continue to have severe separation anxiety which means you don’t or can’t give your mom a break. You come home every single day saying you are married to someone new and have even gone as far as calling one boy, your ex-boyfriend. You are going to need your tonsils out in late May, early June but freak out at the mention of it so everyone around you refers to it as the “hospital sleepover”. (Gia)

Gia haircut

You are having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that your son is no longer playing basketball so you can still be found at the neighborhood pizza place and at the high school basketball games on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. (Leo) I get it. I’m also sad that Nico isn’t playing but this is a chance to get a little bit of family-life back, to do something outside of sports…or so I thought.

You have gone on strike because you are tired of being the only one caring how this house looks. You really understand the blessing of doing what you love. You love going to work and time goes quickly while you are there and you’ve been known to melt when you hear, “I love you, Mrs. Gubenko.” (obviously me)

Yes, I get paid to wear mouse ears. :)

Yes, I get paid to wear mouse ears. :)

You need four teeth pulled and for some reason, cannot wait. You are the child that has a serious meltdown when you find out that a friend of a friend of a friend that you just saw puked last week. Suddenly, you feel, like you are going to “catch it”.  Remember the Neosporin story? (Belle)

You don’t need braces but have asked that since you don’t need them, could you use the money to have your teeth whitened? (Tommy)

You can’t wait for college and use “You are going to miss me when I’m gone” every single time you aggravate someone to the point of tears however, you freak out or shut down at the very mention of college visits, the ACT or any future plans that don’t involve having your mother do everything for you. (Nico)

He's right. We are going to miss him.

He’s right. We are going to miss him.

You got your wife exactly what she wanted for Valentine’s Day even though it was corny and probably not something you would have thought of on your own (all I wanted was a song that reminded him of me…I miss the days of mixed tapes). (Leo) And if you remember, Valentine’s Day really wasn’t his thing. One word: Dinosaurs.

You realize that you miss blogging and the blog world enough to resurrect your blog for one post a week. (Me).


And how are all of you doing?? Doesn’t this just make you want to be a part of the chaos? :)


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An Update From Beyond the Blog (Warning: It’s Long)

Hello, my dear friends! I have missed coming to this spot every day. Really, really missed it. I kept meaning to come here and update for anyone wondering, “Whatever happened to the Queen of Chaos?” but life, as it often does, got in the way. I said that even though I was quitting the blog, I was going to keep up with my friends’ blogs and I didn’t. I had good reasons: it was summer and it went so fast that I feel like I blinked and it was over. I am going to try to not make this a novel or be too negative but as you all well know, that is probably not going to happen. Since I’ve stopped blogging, these things have happened:

1. Nico and Tommy both had surgery. Tommy had a hernia (no idea how or why) and Nico had his 8th or 9th (I’ve lost count) sinus surgery.

Nico's school picture proof. Junior Year

Nico’s school picture proof. Junior Year









Tommy's usual expression after a game. This was early in the season.

Tommy’s usual expression after a game.
This was early in the season.

2. The garage door was finally fixed.

3. Girl drama continued throughout 6th grade but this summer Belle was in the play Beauty and the Beast with my nieces and her confidence shot through the roof. She has done a lot of work on herself (admitting that no one is completely innocent when it comes to drama and working hard not to wear her heart on her sleeve).

Apparently Gia can't stand when someone else is having a moment.

Apparently Gia can’t stand when someone else is having a moment.

At one of the many competitions.

At one of the many competitions.

4. I have come to dread and resent the sports my kids play. I used to love to go to their games but now I just see them as reasons we are not the family I thought we would be. There is only dinner together once a week. Family parties are missed. Vacations can’t be taken. I have gotten angry over things that are said to my kids or how they are treated and it makes me want to avoid games. Nico had a pretty good varsity year in football. Good enough to get him a special mention all-conference. I’m happy for him that he worked so hard at something he loved. Basketball is next and to be honest, I don’t know how he does it. How any of them do it. Tommy just won the Super Bowl with his football team and is playing basketball for his school and the feeder team. Belle played volleyball for her school and just finished her cheer season. Girl sports are tough to watch. Girls are mean. They were fun in elementary school, maybe they’ll be fun in high school but middle school? So tough to sit through. She continues to go to tumbling and is so close to getting her back handspring. I hope she gets it so she can continue to cheer. That’s one of the things I never get tired of watching. She just shines when she cheers. Dancing is the other one. I miss her dancing. Gia is doing hip hop and it is pretty hilarious.

Nico is #6.

Nico is in white.




I love that smile.

I love that smile.







Winners of the Super Bowl 2014. After 9 years of coaching, Leo finally won one.

Winners of the Super Bowl 2014. After 9 years of coaching, Leo finally won one.


5. If you would have told me way back when Nico was asked to play on a travel team that our lives would be as insane as they are, I think I would have politely said, “No thank you.” This past Saturday, Tommy had basketball practice from 8-10, a football walk-through from 9-10:30 and then a baseball fundraiser from 10-12. What?! He’s 13. I have complained before about living out of my car driving carpool after carpool but I don’t think I have ever felt this tired of it. I have to give a shout out to Gary Cook for football, Cindy Halstead (and Mike) for basketball (and baseball) and Lisa Cunningham for cheerleading. Without their help in getting my kids to where they need to be, I think the padded cell with my name on it would be occupied at the moment.

6. The boys battle through stomachaches, headaches, exhaustion, leg bumps, swollen neck glands and nagging coughs. I know keeping active keeps them as healthy as they are but sometimes I think the schedule that they have is enough to make someone sick that isn’t battling anything. The fact that they deal with CF, run around with some of the craziest schedules ever, have some level of success and still manage to get good grades makes them my heroes. I think I might be on speed dial on the nurse’s phone at Tommy’s school and I’m not sure how Nico is pulling a B in his first period class when he misses it so often in order to do his treatment.

7. I spend a lot of time at home with Gia. She is starting to have friends outside of her cousins and that means putting myself out there with other moms. I find that I’m struggling with it. There is a huge wall I have up. You know when you meet someone and something clicks and you feel like you’ve known them forever? That’s happened with a few people but my guard is up. I don’t want to be that way. It feels unnatural. I feel like I’ve been burned one too many times with friendships that go up in smoke. I can’t do it anymore. At this point in my life, I am who I am. I’m not for everyone (quote from my friend Dave W.) and that is okay.

At one time, I liked to stay up late, drink some adult beverages and sit around talking about the latest games, the camps that are good to send our kids to, the teachers to pray your kid gets, and what the school is doing so our kids are prepared for the next level of school. I don’t think that is who I am anymore. There is nothing wrong with those things but it’s just that I think I am more of a go away with friends for the weekend, drink adult beverages and stay up all night talking. Not about our kids’ accomplishments, not about how our lives are so great that our husbands fart rainbows and kids crap roses. Tell me how you met your husband or boyfriend. Let’s laugh about our most embarrassing moments. Tell me how you couldn’t wait to be a mom but it turned out to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Let’s laugh about the weird things our kids do and confide that we laugh but are afraid those things are going to stick and are a part of them and they’ll suffer for them. Tell me the things you do or think that you never thought you would. Tell me what your dreams are and what is on your bucket list. I don’t want friends that wear masks. I want friends that aren’t afraid to stay up all night with their masks off. My kids are exhausting and the only way I can relax is when I am away. There are times when I am out for the night and my phone goes off 20 times but if I am away for the night, magically, they can figure things out themselves or they text Leo.

We’ve all experienced the conversation where one mom is going on and on about how her kid is so responsible and would never do anything that was illegal when just last week, you saw a snap chat of her kid doing a beer bong. Now, I hope beyond hope that there are no moms seeing snap chats of my kids doing anything they aren’t supposed to be but I am not naive enough to go on and on and say it would never happen when I know it could. My kids mess up. They sometimes act in a way that is not okay with me. They are hormonal and moody and snap at me. Am I really that dumb that I think they would never be that way outside of this house? I am working very hard with my kids on how you don’t always have to be right. Some arguments are small enough to let go. They are big, giant know-it-alls at home. I can only imagine that that sneaks out from time to time. Hopefully, as time goes on and they mature, it happens less.

Anyway, for these reasons and a few more, Gia and I spend many a weekend night curled up doing puzzles, coloring or watching Disney’s movie of the night. This time is so fleeting that I cherish these nights.

A rare moment where her hair is down.

A rare moment where her hair is down.








8. This very wonderfully awesome thing happened:

The hair is a little dark to correct me accidentally dying it red.

The hair is a little dark to correct me accidentally dying it red.

I GOT A JOB!!!!!! I am back to teaching. I teach two 3 year-old classes so I work Tuesday-Friday mornings at Wheaton Bible. Gia is in the Pre-K class next door so it works out really well. I love my job. I have a teaching partner that we alternate every other week between lead teacher and craft teacher. I forgot how much I missed sitting on a big chair with a bunch of kids sitting in circle time with me reading or teaching something. It is the satisfying feeling making a child smile or laugh from crying or being angry. And when they lean over and say, “I have a secret. Do you want to know it? I love you,” it’s the greatest feeling in the world. I am enjoying it all: the tea parties, the building with blocks, the pretend to be eating the plastic food they make me, the crafts, the stories and I think I love playing with the play dough as much as they do (I can make a fabulous Jack ‘o Lantern or Turkey just using a popsicle stick). I laugh at least once a day with the things they come up with.

At the beginning of the school year, Leo really stepped up and helped out. He worked from home a few times so that I could go to institute days and he took over some of the driving and picking up of the carpools. I depended on my sisters, Gina and LeeAnna to watch her a few times. And my mom continues to be a huge support. In fact, it was because of her the job came to be anyway. We were at Gia’s end of year picnic and I was talking to one of the teachers and I mentioned that after Gia went to school, I wanted to teach preschool. My mom interjected and said, “Couldn’t she do it next year while Gia’s in school?” The teacher said yes and I went and told the director that I was interested and the rest is history.

9. And this awfully crappy thing happened:

Passenger side of my car.

Passenger side of my car.

I was in a car accident at the end of September. The guy blew a stop sign while turning left and barreled into my car knocking me into oncoming traffic. I am hardly ever alone in my car but Gia wasn’t feeling that great so I talked her into staying home with Tommy. At one point, I was going to give in and bring them both to the Belle’s volleyball game. I thank God every single night that they weren’t in the car. Tommy would have been in that seat. The guy hit me so hard that the window shattered. I was covered on one side with the glass. Gia’s car seat was flattened from the impact and his turn signal was embedded in my car. I cut my hand on the glass as I was transferred to the ambulance. It was a freaking nightmare. For several nights, I couldn’t sleep because I kept replaying it over and over in my head. I am frustrated, mad and sad that it is a month later and I am still seeing a chiropractor for my neck, shoulder and back. It hurts to pick Gia up and she doesn’t understand when I say I can’t. I can’t remember the last time I held my older kids. I mean I can’t remember when I stopped. I am so aware of that with Gia and since she is only 32lbs, I should be able to hold her for a little bit longer. It makes me sad when I can’t. Let me tell you, I enjoy my job but after a day of bending, lifting and chasing, I need to take a muscle relaxer to be able to go to sleep. I can’t get comfortable and every position hurts. The chiropractor, Dr. David Flatt is so wonderful and is helping tremendously but trying to find the time to go is hard.

I’m going to miss some of Tommy’s basketball games. I tell myself every day that it could have been so much worse and I know that. It’s just hard to quiet my head or that flight response when I’m driving. And I really don’t need another reason to not leave my house. I’m just going to keep repeating, “No kids in the car. No kids in the car.” I have to give a shout out to my friend, Kim and her husband, Dan and bff, Rochelle for helping me out. Kim drove my car to my house and then went to the hospital to sit with me until Leo came. Rochelle watched Gia the day after when I was in bed feeling like a truck hit me (well, it was a Grand Jeep Cherokee).

So, that’s it, my friends. That is what I have been up to. Some good, some bad, some chaotic and some not…wait…that isn’t true. It’s always chaotic here.
See, we all knew that I couldn’t make this short. :) If you are still reading, I really miss you all.



Did I mention I love my job?

Did I mention I love my job?

What about all of you? What have you been up to while I was away?


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All Good Things Must Come to an End

You know how you have a favorite TV show and it goes on and on and on until it’s not your favorite anymore and you start to let episodes delete on your DVR before watching them? I don’t want to be that show. I want to be the show that you are wishing wouldn’t end, the one that leaves you wanting more or at the very least, ends on a satisfying note.

I have had some amazing opportunities through this blog. I got to go to New York, was in two published books and made some wonderful friends.

A funny thing happened when my computer went down last week. I lived without it. It was liberating not to be tied to it.  I missed my friends that I connect with through the internet and I missed writing in this space but I really feel like the time has come to close up shop.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

When I told Gia that I wasn’t going to be working on the computer, she said, “Really?! Thank you, Mommy.” She basically thanked me for being more attentive because I had too many, “Just one second” or “Let me just finish this” than I probably should have. After I had blogged for a year, I was going to quit. I thought for Nico’s sake, we should go back to being anonymous before he went to high school. He encouraged me to keep writing because I loved it. When I told him I was thinking of quitting again, he said he was “kinda glad” because when people “googled” him, my blog came up and they read it. One kid said what I wrote was deep and about how hard it is raising Nico (I’m guessing it was the one that was “Advice for Parents of New Teenagers”. While I am not ashamed of anything I have written here, it made me feel weird and lose the drive a little bit.

I am not happy with the environment that I am raising my kids in. There are things I feel are important that have fallen by the wayside. It’s not enough to just go through the motions and get through each day. That’s what I feel like I’m doing. I’m at a point where I am tired of writing about it and need to do something about it. Something has to change and it’s not going to change unless I change it. That’s what I have to do.  I have to get back to being happy with the way I’m raising my kids.

I cannot put aside things I feel or am dealing with and write about something else. I’ve never been good at that. I want to write about how much I hate social media. It’s made raising a teen a constant anxiety attack. Teens haven’t changed but our world has and they now live in a place where everything is broadcasted and accessible to everyone. I am guilty of it myself. I blogged about our life for three years. It’s time to go back to being private. Social media has devastated Belle and made it a full-time job maintaining her self-esteem. I’d love to write in detail how we have dealt with “girl drama” and losing people you thought were your best friends. Tommy has his own “stalker” on social media and it’s upsetting.

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn /

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn /

The love/hate relationship I have with technology is weighing heavy on the latter. How can I tell the kids to stop being so tied to their phones/iPods when I’m so tied to mine (or my laptop)? I envy the people who are able to balance it. Only blog when the kids go to sleep (which is um…never). Wake up early and write and read (I go to bed around 1am. There is no getting up early and fitting in writing and reading while running around like a chicken with my head cut off doesn’t really work). Blog and read when the kids are in school (Sometimes I want to spend that time with friends or family I don’t get to see often and I feel guilty because I know I should be catching up).

I wrote something two posts ago that sparked something in me. I miss working with kids. I’m going to give some serious thought to running a “drop in” service where parents can drop their young kids off so they can run errands. It wouldn’t just be babysitting. It would be more structured than that…a mini-preschool for kids that age. Summer tutoring for school age kids and reliable care for infants and toddlers. It wouldn’t be at the same time. I can only have 4 kids here at a time. I don’t know…it’s just jumbled thoughts at the moment but the thought of it actually happening excites me the way blogging once did.

Maybe when the kids are older or out of the house, I’ll go back to it. Maybe by then Facebook will go back to being nice about letting our stuff be shown to our followers. I mean, they clicked follow because they want our updates, right? And yet only about 43 followers out of 300 saw them.

I just want to thank you all for reading and for commenting and letting me know constantly that I am not alone in one of the hardest jobs out there. People say that friends you make online aren’t “real”. Bull. Some of my very best friends were met through my blog and I intend to keep them. I want to thank you guys for praying when I needed prayers, lending an ear when I needed to vent and making me laugh all the time. I’m not giving up on that Girls’ Spa Weekend. We need to make that happen this summer.

The irony is not lost on me that it’s because of the chaos that I was blogging and now it’s because of the chaos that I am stopping.

Love to you guys always and I’m only an email away. :)

Until we meet again…

Photo courtesy of Jody Byas.

Photo courtesy of Jody Byas.

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Lies and More Lies

I am a teacher. It is in my blood whether I am actively teaching or not. I am sitting down here while Leo is helping Belle with her homework and I am lying to myself. I am telling myself that I am catching up on computer stuff but really I am hiding down here. I am fully capable of helping Belle with her homework but she is incredibly hard to help and I get mad. She gets frustrated easily and won’t listen to reason. There is a good reason she’s overwhelmed. I understand but in the interest of not damaging our relationship, Leo needs to help her.

For those not on Facebook, it’s her right wrist and it’s broken:

At least it's waterproof and a pretty color.

At least it’s waterproof and a pretty color.


Gia still sleeps in our bed. She doesn’t every night but more often than the other three ever did. The big lie here is that she needs me to fall asleep. Should I just be honest here? Raising the teen and the tweens, I think it’s me that needs her. I know what’s coming. I know she isn’t going to be little for long. She is everything good in this world. She is sweet and loving and hearing her breathe next to me at night fills me with peace. I know it has to do with loss. I know it has to do with fear and I know dwelling on those two things isn’t good for anyone over here. She isn’t going to be this little forever.

Proof that she does sometimes sleep in her own bed.

Proof that she does sometimes sleep in her own bed.

I know it doesn’t mean to be lies but they are and they bug me. The lies that teens and tweens tell in order to do something they want. “I won’t give you a hard time going to church”, “I’ll clean the playroom,” “I’ll babysit Gia,” “I won’t be tired” and so on. And then suddenly, they have memory loss when they ask to do something again and I bring up how they didn’t live up to their end the last time.

Some little, less bugging lies:

1. I’m just going to put my head down for one second.

2. If I eat this cookie and no one sees, I didn’t really eat it, did I?

3. I’m not really hiding this candy for myself, I’m saving the kids from getting cavities.

4. “I don’t know why Fishing/Poker didn’t record on the DVR.”

5. It’s okay to drop Gia off at preschool in what I wore to bed because it looks like clothes and I’m wearing a big jacket so no one will notice.

6. I watch RuPaul’s Drag Race because it is so far from my reality. It is but I really watch it because of the drama, drama, drama and I’m fascinated with the fact that drag queens are better at putting on make-up than I am.

7. It’s not good to wash my hair often. I know this is true but it’s not why I don’t wash my hair often. It’s mostly because I am too lazy to wash, dry, straighten and curl my hair.

And the biggest lie of them all:

I am only going to go on the computer for 20 minutes.

What lies are swirling around your world?

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Tidbits on Thursday: ER, The Bachelor, Leo and Work

What do all of these have in common? They all happened this week.

Apparently, too much time has gone by without an emergency room visit. We (Belle, Gia, Belle’s friend and me) were at the gym where the girls were going to begin their tumbling for cheer class. Belle loves to cheer. It is her passion. I think she would have loved to have gone the competitive route but some of her fears have held her back. Every session, she almost has her back handspring. She can do it but the one thing stopping her and causing her not to is fear. We were at a crossroads with cheer. If she wanted to continue, she needed to get her back handspring. She was motivated and excited and swore she was going to get it. For some reason, she was nervous on the way there. Funny how that works.

Gia and I watched the class from the waiting room. Belle looked good. She was doing it with a spot. Gia had to pee. The bathroom was inside the gym which Gia wanted badly to be in. She did her business, some of the older girls oohed and ahhed at how tiny she is and with wide eyes declared that she wanted to be in that gym. After bribing her with my phone and candy, we were back to watching. Five minutes before the class ended, Gia announced to a full waiting room that she had to go “poo”. Back in the gym we went. I was sneaking a peek at Belle when Gia announced, “I’m going to be in here a long time. It’s a bad one!” Peeking at Belle with the door open was not going to work so I shut the door. After she was done, we walked out into the gym to see Belle on a mat hysterical and holding her arm. I believe the exact thought I had was crap. Several coaches ran up, the owners ran up. They explained that she went back with her hands out instead of in. And then, “I’ve seen this happen a lot. It’s broken.” They taped it up and off we went. To say that Belle was upset would be a huge understatement. I don’t blame her. She was hurt and scared.

I was passing a friend of mine’s house and called her and literally said, “Belle broke her arm. I need to go to the ER and don’t want to bring Gia.” She didn’t even hesitate and said, “Where do you want me to meet you?” I told her that I was passing her house and would drop Gia off. A million thanks, KJ.

We were helped right away and told that they didn’t see a clean break but based on where her pain was and the swelling, she most likely fractured her growth plate in her wrist. They splinted it with a half cast and we see the orthopedic doctor today at 2.

In related news, I suck as a nurse. Really, really suck. We moms wear a lot of hats and somehow I never got the nurse one.

For those that I am not friends with on Facebook:

Belle arm

The Bachelor: Renee was my favorite and she dodged a bullet. I didn’t watch the Jake and Vienna season but I did watch the Brad seasons and Juan Pablo, in my opinion, trumps them as bad bachelors. What a crock of crap that he didn’t want to kiss Renee because of her son and his daughter and then goes on to make out with other girls (including Cassandra and she has a kid, too). I don’t buy the language barrier thing either. This whole season was a waste of time…time I’ll never get back. I hate to say it but I don’t think I’ll watch if Andi is the bachelorette. It’s not that I don’t like her but it felt very much like a big audition when she was on the Women Tell All. Okay, fine, I will probably watch but I won’t like it. Speaking of the WTA, it felt like Sharleen’s comments were scripted to try to make him look better.

Leo: You know how I said I suck at being a nurse? Thank goodness Leo doesn’t. For the most part, when the kids need something (a late night snack, a ride to school, treatments, which used to be my area and I’m not sure when it switched but I’m not complaining), he steps up. Things I would say no to, he says yes and it makes me look at him as the kids must see him. For one, they aren’t afraid to ask him anything. He probably says no to the boys more often than the girls. It surprises me every single time. Gia will ask if she can sleep in our bed. I tell her she has to ask Daddy (thinking he can deal with the tears when he says no since I know he wants her to sleep in her own bed). She does and he doesn’t even hesitate. He says okay and she beams at him. He’ll be sitting down for the first time all day and Belle will ask him to take her to Walgreens for something and he does! Second, he is not afraid to show that he loves them. There is no doubt in any of their minds about that. He says it and he shows it and he is a big hugger. Even Nico will go up to him randomly and hug him. I was reminded this week with Belle’s injury of what a great dad he is and how I really did hit the jackpot.

Work: I’ve mentioned that I would like to get a job. I can’t really do much since Gia is still at home so I was thinking I might like to babysit. Ideally for someone who has a 3 or a 4-year-old but really any age. It would be nice for Gia to have someone to play with. If you know of anyone that is looking, let me know. :) This makes me want to get licensed and have an afternoon preschool in my house. I miss teaching preschool that much. Hmmm…maybe a summer camp? See, now I get all excited at the possibilities…

What about you? What’s going on in your world?


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Death to the Imaginary Friends

I have talked about Gia’s imaginary friends before. None of my other kids ever had imaginary friends. I’m thinking it was because Nico had my undivided attention for the first three and a half years of his life and the twins had each other and Nico. With the age gap being so big between Gia and the twins, I have been known to tell Gia to go play or find something to play with. She must have heard find someone to play with because before I knew it, she was talking to someone named, Booty. And if that wasn’t strange enough, she added, Ella Bella and Allie.

Booty and Allie or Booty and Ella Bella? Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young /

Booty and Allie or Booty and Ella Bella?
Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young /

I’m not sure what is sadder: that Gia has three imaginary friends with those names or that I hate them so much.

Gia is the only person I know whose imaginary friends are mean. She’s always coming up to me complaining that one of them has hit, bit, kicked or scratched her. How am I supposed to handle that? I’ve asked her why they keep hurting her and she says they are mean. I have told her that she shouldn’t be friends with them and she says that they want to be friends with her so I find myself saying things like, “Booty needs to go home” or “Tell Ella Bella that you don’t like when she hits you.”

When I’d ask Gia to do something and she didn’t want to, she’d reply with, “Booty won’t let me.” I would call her to come eat and she’d be playing a game or watching TV and she wouldn’t come. I’d call her again and again and the last time wouldn’t be in my nicest voice and she’d stomp her foot and say, “I wanted to come but Ella Bella wouldn’t let me. She held me back.”

A big one was when I’d be a little firmer in talking to her. Not yelling but talking in a way that she knew I wasn’t happy or I was tired of asking and she’d start to cry. I’d tell her that there is no reason to cry, that she wasn’t in trouble but that she needed to listen to me or follow directions. Between sobs she’d say, “I’m not crying because of you! I’m crying because Booty tripped me (or hit me, or yelled at me)!” I would end up comforting her and the crying would stop and all was well again.

There was the standard, “Allie made the mess, not me,” “Booty spilled, not me,” and “Ella Bella made me eat the cookies.” I have to tell you…there were many times when I questioned my sanity for yelling at the imaginary friends and exhausted myself trying to explain to Gia that I knew that she was the one that did it, not her friends only to get into a “yes they did, “no they didn’t” argument.

My favorite was when I needed to get work done and she was whining that she wanted me to play with her or she didn’t have anyone to play with. I’d tell her, “Go play with Booty, Ella Bella or Allie” and she’d reply with, “You know, Mom, they aren’t real.” Ahhh…so they are real when they spill or make messes but when I need her to play with them, they aren’t. Got it.

Once, I used them to my advantage. It was late and way past a normal time for a preschooler to be going to bed. I was really frustrated trying to get some work done and exhausted from the bed time battles (with all four kids) and I ended up yelling at Gia. Believe it or not, I don’t usually yell at Gia. The other three know me as a yelling mom (I can’t change that but I am really trying) but with Gia, I have really tried to hold my tongue and have more patience. She, of course, was devastated and ran to her room as if I had broken her little heart. I felt awful. An idea came to me and I went to her and whispered, “Allie made me do it.” Was it the right thing to do? Probably not but she stopped crying immediately and nodded her head in understanding. Moment diffused.

Nothing, though, prepared me for how much I wanted to get rid of them after this incident:

Belle and Gia were looking at Instagram (the Devil’s playground) and one of the people who Belle follows reposted an inappropriate picture with a woman with her boobs blurred out so you couldn’t see them but clearly knew they were boobs. Belle panicked and changed it right away (yelling…because that won’t call attention to it or anything). Gia said, “They were having sex.” Belle, shocked, asked her, “How do you know about that?” Gia–my sweet baby that I want to stay a baby–answered,

“Booty and Ella Bella have sex.”

Belle was shocked and said, “Gia! That’s gross!” To which Gia replied, “Well, I didn’t watch or anything.” As if that made it okay. :( Once again, that Mother of the Year award escapes me. Clearly, a few changes needed to be made.

No more Friends episodes.

Only rated G movies.

You know what bugs me, though? Commercials. We could be watching something like American Idol or The Voice and a preview for a show comes on and of course there is some glimpse of two people kissing wrapped in sheets. I don’t want to be one of those people who is up in arms about censoring everything. It’s my choice to have my kids watch those shows so I need to just deal with that situation as it comes up but the question arises: Are there any shows on network TV that we can watch as a family without having to yell, “Shut your eyes!” or getting into a big discussion about sex? I’m all for watching TV and using it as learning lessons but sometimes, I’d like to check out and watch a singing competition without having to be on alert.

After explaining to Gia that Booty and Ella Bella having sex was inappropriate (again, did I really have that conversation?), I thought that it might be time to get rid of the “friends”. I agonized how to do it and not damage her little psyche. I didn’t want her to end up on a therapist’s couch (fine, she probably will anyway but I didn’t want this to be the reason) saying, “My mom made me get rid of my only friends, Booty, Ella Bella and Allie.”

It turns out that I worried for nothing. Gia came downstairs and said, “I’m sick of Booty getting me in trouble and being mean. He’s gone and he’s never coming back.” This led to flushing Ella Bella down the toilet and scooping up Allie and throwing her outside. Gone. I have no idea if this was the right way to handle it but it feels a lot better hearing her take responsibility for messes and spills and dealing with her emotions because they are hers and not Booty’s.

And just when I was starting to like using them as reasons for my bad behavior…guess I’ll have to own up, too.

What about you or your kids? Any imaginary friends? Are they nice ones or mean ones?

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I Want, I Need, I Can Do Without

Every once in a while I like to put things into perspective by asking what it is I want, I need or what I can do without. I admit that sometimes I get caught up with the want part or I realize a need is really just a want.

I Want:

1. I want to live someplace warm. I think 43 years of seeing the seasons change is enough for me. If you read any of this blog, you know I am not a good winter person.

Image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger /

Image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger /







2. I want to live in a town that lets you park your car on the street overnight. I realize this is a first world problem but it would be nice if we could leave Nico’s car on the street so that when we didn’t have to juggle the three cars. And it would be nice not to get a ticket when you forget that your car is on the street the day of your daughter’s birthday party.

3. I want to be more active in my church but I’m afraid to commit to anything because of the chaos that is my life.

4. I want to have a wonderful spring break with clean slates and kids that are happy being able to do nothing but sleep, eat and relax. I want relationships to grow in a positive direction and not be strained. I want to feel nothing but love.

5. I want to blink my eyes and have all the laundry done and the house clean from the craziness that was this weekend. (Soooo much basketball!)

I Need:

1. I need this cold or sinus infection to go away. I have had my head in the sand about it for a week and why can’t it go away with me just taking over the counter meds instead of seeing a doctor? I can’t smell or taste anything so for all I know, this house might stink, we might stink and the food I make might taste horrible.

2. I need a job that I can do from home. It’s not just because the money would help (for the tons of activities and camps that the kids want to/need to be in. I use the world “need” loosely there because do they really need to be in them or is it if they want to keep playing the sports they are in, they should be in them? The answer to that most times is yes. Take, for example, Belle. She is going to do cheer again. She really wants to continue with it but in order to have success in it or get to where she wants to go, she has to tumble. So not only do I have to sign her up for cheer but I have to sign her up for tumbling. See what I mean about needing a job?

3. I need to get organized in a way that works for longer than a week. I need a system, a schedule, a routine…something. I need something because we are pretty much flying by the seat of our pants over here and I’m tired of it.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

4. I need to carve out time (maybe I really need more hours in the day) for Leo and me, each of the kids and me and maybe, just maybe a little for me. I caught up last week on a lot of work and had a plan in place and then chaos hits and I’m behind again. I need to schedule time so I won’t fall behind.

5. On that note, I need to find something that Gia likes to do by herself for longer than three minutes. At the moment, she loves my phone but not only am I tired of getting alerts that “My Tom” has to go to the bathroom or wants to play, but I am missing important texts from children that need rides home.  I love playing with her (okay, I do not love playing babies or Barbies…I somehow do it “wrong”). I do love doing puzzles, coloring and reading but not all day long. Trying to get things done while she is sleeping is almost impossible. I could ignore the laundry, the kitchen, helping the kids with homework or studying and write, read and write but the guilt would kill me.

I Could Do Without:

1. I could do without middle school talent shows and girl drama. I might get lucky on this one since after the initial drama, she’s decided not to do it. While we are on the subject, I could do without any drama. Period.

2. I could do without the recurring dreams I have every single night. I’m not going to sugar coat it-this school year has sucked all the way around. It started out promising and quickly spiraled downward. So it is no surprise that the dreams I have every night are:

I am in high school again and I’ve lost my schedule and can’t find the main office so I go around asking people if I’m in their class.

I am in high school and I can’t remember my locker combination and there is only five minutes before I have to get to class.

Nico has a game and I can’t find the gym or the field house. I can hear them cheering his name and I know I’m missing it but I can’t find it.

The old stand-by of not remembering that I have a test that I didn’t study for is even in the rotation.

The people are always different and once in a while my nana, papa or grams makes an appearance. I don’t mind those. I also don’t mind when Taylor Kitsch makes an appearance.

They are the kind of dreams that stay with me all day and the last part aside, I could do without them.

3. I could do without every single one of my kids fighting me on when to go to sleep. It bugs the living crap out of me bothers me that they all view going to bed at a decent hour as a punishment.

4. I could do without the constant self-maintenance that comes with getting older. I don’t want to take the time to dye my hair or wax places that no women should have hair but my age and my hormones make it so that I have to schedule what little free time I have to take care of those things. This isn’t self-maintenance but it is about getting older: Yesterday, I pulled a muscle getting into the bleachers for Belle’s volleyball game. Not just a tug but a full-on, “this is going to hurt really bad tomorrow” pull. And it does. So now getting into the bleachers has become dangerous.

Image courtesy of varandah /

Image courtesy of varandah /

5. And God love his soul, I could really do without the reminders that there is laundry that needs to be taken care of or tables that need clearing off or things that need to be thrown out. My favorite is the reminder that there is left-over food in the fridge that someone could eat when they get home from school when he knows darn well that our kids are the worst at eating leftovers.







What about you? What do you want or need? What could you do without?

In case you missed it, I’m over at Ten to Twenty with advice for parents who have kids that are soon going to be teenagers. I’d love it if you would visit me there and let me know you did. :) Click the button below:



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For the New Parents of a Teenager

I was blindsided. No one told me. I was going along doing my thing, thinking I have the hang of it and BAM! Everything I do is wrong. Suddenly, I am in the middle of a tornado, earthquake, blizzard and flood all at the same time. The energy sucked right out of me. Anxiety at levels I’ve never felt. Left in the path of destruction not knowing what the Hell I am doing.

Was I in an accident? No. I am the mother of a teenager.

I don’t want other parents to go into this unarmed with the knowledge that I didn’t have. Maybe if I warn them, it won’t feel like an ambush when they get here. I’ve come up with a few things I wish I had known. *Disclaimer: Not all teens are like this and I am not saying they are.

Image courtesy of Ambro /

Image courtesy of Ambro /

1. They suddenly live like vampires. They are tired all the time and want to sleep during the day when they should be awake and they want to be up at night when they should be asleep. No matter how tired they are, they are up late at night. It’s funny how they can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 1:00am watching Friends’ reruns but ask them to do homework at 2:00pm on a Sunday and they can’t keep their eyes open. This leads to:

2. They are slow. Painfully slow. Oh, if they have plans, they will speed by you in a blur to get out of the house but try to get them out of bed or upstairs to bed and you will see a pace that is similar to the snail or sloth. When asked to do anything around the house, it takes them twice as long to do it. I really think in my case, he is hoping that I’ll get frustrated enough that I’ll just do it myself. I can’t remember if Nico, Belle and Tommy were hard to wake up in elementary school. It’s all a blur but now…there are no words for what our mornings are like.

3. They are never home. Never. I have one that is active in athletics so a lot of times he has a good reason for not being home. He is at practice or a game. However, the times he doesn’t have those things, he makes sure he is somewhere besides home. Suddenly everywhere is better than home. They will choose to wander the streets or sit in a parking lot over just coming home (and maybe going to bed at a decent hour). Things that they used to enjoy doing with the family, they now complain about not wanting to do. Anything that takes them away from their friends is a miserable experience. They will choose sitting in that parking lot doing nothing over sitting by a pool in Florida at their grandparents’ house over Spring Break. It is mind-boggling.

4. They lose things. I have more faith in my 4-year-old coming home with the sweatshirt she left the house in than I do my 15-year-old. They especially can’t find things when their ride is sitting in the driveway. And it will always be your fault that they can’t find whatever they are looking for. You might hear things like, “Where did you put my thingy with the (insert school mascot) on it? I just had it here. You must have moved it.” First of all, I have no idea what the “thingy” is. Once, I thought it was a water bottle but it turned out to be a hat. Second, PUT IT AWAY and you’ll know where it is! They need everything they own in plain sight otherwise they will forget they have it which brings me to the next one.

5. They are forgetful. I’m not sure how, on a four-day weekend, one forgets that he has math homework but you’d be surprised how many times that happens. A coach might tell them what time they have to be back at school for practice and ten minutes later, no one can remember what time he said. That my friends is a true story. There are times when they will use this to their advantage, say when you tell them what time to come home or when you ask them to do chores.

6. They will mess up. This was the hardest one for me. You will think it is the end of the world and that you have failed as a parent but it’s not and you haven’t. This is the time for them to learn for themselves what is right and what is wrong. You can repeat something over and over again hoping that they will just take your word for it but more than likely, they need to experience it to really understand it. For example, you can tell your teen a hundred times that it is wrong to go in a stranger’s pool but it won’t be until the cops are called and he’s hauled in with us having to pick him up from the station that he really got that it was wrong (he got off with a warning).

7. They will suck the money right out of you. I am amazed at how much money my kids constantly nickel and dime me. It is $5 here and $10 there and oh, I only have a $20 and I want the change but I never see it again. There is no such thing as, “I can’t go. I don’t have the money.” Instead, it’s, “Can you spot me and I’ll pay you back?” I’m still trying to figure out what he does around here that warrants all the money he spends. For the older teen, there is the constant eating out, the movies, away school games, and so on. For the tweens, you can’t send them to a friend’s house with no money in case the parents take them somewhere like the movies, open gym, CVS and so on. I need to find a system that works. At least with the tweens, they earn it. Belle babysits Gia for me and Tommy does many chores around the house.

It’s not all bad. You’ll have real conversations where what you are saying still matters to them. They’ll ask your advice and then take it when you least expect it. There will be moments when you’ll recognize the little boy or little girl who once was and they’ll ask to cuddle or for a hug. There will be a constant pushing you away/pulling you close that if you aren’t careful, you’ll miss the pulling you close moments because you’re still mad at the pushing away ones.

There is no feeling like that of being out of control of a situation and that of raising teens. For a control freak like myself, it’s been a huge struggle. You want to keep them safe like you always have but they fight you on it all and you realize you can’t anymore. You spent so much time making sure you got a safe car with a top of the line car seat so that they’d be safe in the car and then suddenly, their friends are driving or they are driving and you can’t control whether they stay safe. You make them three balanced meals every day when they are little and then they are so “on the go” that you have no idea when the last time they ate was. You’ll think you know your kid so well and then they’ll do something (good or bad) and you’ll look at them and wonder who the heck they are? You’ll have moments of immense pride and moments of huge disappointments and realize that they are their moments. They are their own people making their own decisions and we can no longer control what they decide. It’s a constant learning experience and it is exhausting.

It does not escape me that I only have two more years with Nico until he goes off to college (please, dear God let him go off to college) and I really do think life works so that when the time comes, you are ready to let them go off into their world where they are going to need to make it without you holding their hand all the time. I, for one, cannot wait until Nico has to get himself up for his first college class because I won’t be their stressing out that he’s going to be late or he is going to make someone else late. It’s the age-old irony: I can’t wait until he is out of the house doing things on his own and I am going to miss him so much that it hurts to think about it. I am sure when the time comes, I will be begging for a little more time with him before it all changes and he’ll look at me and say, “See, I told you that you were going to miss me.”

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Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my dad’s birthday and I know I’ve talked about him on here before but I feel the need to today so if you have read this before, I apologize for repeating myself. :)

My earliest memory of my dad was when I was three years old and had the chicken pox. I was on the phone with him and he told me if I didn’t scratch, he’d buy me a white dress. I loved that dress. I remember thinking it was the prettiest dress I had ever seen. I wish I would have kept it.

Memories after that are sporadic:

I remember him taking me with him to scout basketball games and him taking me to McDonald’s afterwards.

I remember him showing up at my school for the school-wide “Dad’s visit” and me running up to him so excited that he was there.

I remember him taking me out of school to get my weekly allergy shot but after, he didn’t take me back to school. He took me on one of his school’s field trips to a Cub’s game.

I remember going to junior high dances and everyone going to McDonald’s after and looking across the restaurant and seeing my dad sitting there. (This is not my favorite memory, by the way, but now that I am a parent, I get it.)

I remember playing volleyball and cheering and seeing him in the stands.

I remember him feeling bad that I had plans that fell through (because when you date guys that are athletes… not all athletes…there is always a pick-up game somewhere or a game to watch) and him saying, “Don’t go out. Stay here with your dear old dad.” Somehow just him saying that made me feel better.

I remember the look of pride on his face when he got me a summer job teaching in his district and I rocked it.

I remember the night before my wedding him asking me to sit outside with him and talk and me being so tired but not wanting the moment to end so I stayed until he fell asleep (he loved to fall asleep outside in the backyard).

I remember being aggravated that he went golfing the morning of my wedding and showing up late for pictures but then seeing the emotion in his face when he saw me. I remember him staring at me in the limo on the way to the church and saying, “My baby is getting married.” I remember the priest asking him what he wanted to say to Leo and me on this day and him breaking down and only being able to say, “She found a good one.”

I remember the look on his face when he held Nico the first time and him looking over at me saying, “My first grandson.”

I remember when I got invited to go to New York on the NFL’s dime because of my blog and him saying, “You have to go. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You have to go and I’ll babysit.”

I am the luckiest girl in the world because I get to sit at all my boys’ games with my dad. We talk about the game, the kids and life in general. I cherish those moments and feel so blessed after I leave. I hope he knows what a gift he gives my boys, Leo and me by going.

Leo lost his dad to cancer when he was 23 and my dad has never tried to replace him but he loves Leo like a son and I know Leo has appreciated and loved my dad for being someone he can look up to.

He’s my safety zone, my voice of reason, my rock and my hero. I love him with all my heart.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Oh, if I could do it over again, I would have had a different dress and different hair.

Oh, if I could do it over again, I would have had a different dress and different hair.

P.S. Mom, yours is coming in July and I promise I’ll use the picture from your phone. ;)

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Still learning how to use but loving it so far.

Still learning how to use but loving it so far.

And to the five people who are my Valentines:

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Gia and Leo great wolf


I realize Gia is in all of the pictures but since she is always up my butt, she feels she needs to be in all of them.





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