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Ahhhh… Mothers Day…

     I remember the days of being all doe-eyed and oogie over a hideous breakfast in bed knowing full well the clip_image002kitchen probably looks like a Third World Country. Gifts like tiny hand prints pressed into cement, so much cuter than the tiny handprints in ketchup on the walls. Mothers Day Tea parties with cucumber sandwiches and fancy paper hats made by dirty, sticky hands that I ate and wore with a smile on my face.

    

I ALSO remember thinking that when they are older, Mothers Day will be a fancy breakfast buffet with mimosas in crystal glasses and Eggs Benedict on fine china, served AND cleaned up by someone else. Gifts like a day at the spa and maybe a real cup of tea like Earl Grey, with lemon…and actually hot.

The reality is… acutely different.

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My kids now range from almost 10 to 17. And right now, the only thing I want from them is this…

1. Flush the fucking toilet.

2. Pick up, un-ball and place into a laundry basket your crunchy, Frito smelling socks.

3. When you take your pants off.. don’t leave them inside out with your underware securely attached to them. They are 2 separate items. Take them off one at a time.

4. When you walk in the door and actually remember to take off your shoes, MOVE THEM FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE DOORWAY.

5. Stop putting half eaten bowls of cereal in the fridge. WTF? You will NEVER eat it later. Hell, the dogs won’t even eat it.

6. Penicillin has already been invented. Bring your plates and cups down from your room.

7. Keep track of your shit. IE: iphone/ipod chargers. Stop stealing mine.

8. When I hide something, I isn’t a game. You aren’t supposed to go looking for it. (like chargers…)

9. If you have a spider in your room, and are too fear struck to kill it yourself, get me or dad… we will help, judgment free. Stop lighting them on fire, insurance won’t cover that. Spraying them with Febreeze won’t work either and whacking them with a metal bat only leaves holes in the wall.

10. If you make a hole in the wall, fix it. But not with gum and candle wax.clip_image006

11. Girls, I will happily share my makeup with you. But keep in mind it’s far too expensive to waste doing blind make up challenges, doggie makeovers or dressing Charlie in drag. Awesome as it may seem..please, refrain…

12. Boys, I will happily share my tools with you. But please put them back when you are done. I break a lot of shit and need them often…

13. Clear the browser when you use my computer… there are some things a mom doesn’t need to know.

14. Stop slamming doors. Every time you slam a door, an angel gets its wings chopped off… think about that!

However, if you are so inclined to actually do something for me on Mothers Day, my sweets, do something good for a Mom in need. Because, despite my bitching and complaining, I know how lucky I am to have Daddy and you guys and I am incredibly blessed to have all I could ever want or need.

 

 

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This is Jorge… his nickname is Pooty…

and a container of Tang…

Get it?

God, I love my kids…..

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My kids are pretty dang awesome.  TylerLee volunteers with her cousin about once a month to serve dinners at a local church. She was asked to be a part of a program called Ambassadors of Friendship in grade school and often scolds the “mean girls” for making fun of the “differently abled” students in her school. Kylie joined a club at school where she stays after to help with autistic kids and is the Student Ambassador of her grade. Her teacher often asks Kylie to help others with their organizational and listening skills. Because of her disabilities, she is in an “inclusion” class that has a wide range of kids with needs. (We have all decided, teachers, guidance and I, that the goal will be to have Kylie removed from inclusion by high school) Ryan actually volunteers to sit with the Special Needs kids in his lunch period because no one else will, and that makes them feel bad. He frequently helps talk a classmate “down” from his high anxiety in school and when he found out this young boy was obsessed with Super Mario Brothers, he gave him his very own special edition Flying Mario plush doll for Christmas. Jordyn uses her own money to buy little funky erasers to give to a “special” classmate who needs a little more coaxing to pay attention during lessons than everyone else. KaseyMae is known everywhere as “the friend of the friendless” and Charlie, oh sweet Charlie, that kid asked if he could save his cupcake and bring it to a kid in school who missed a class party. Each one has been recognized by their schools as a “Proud Patriot” or “Student of the Month” and given awards based on their positive qualities like kindness, compassion or honesty multiple times. They give up their seats at events for others, they are drawn to those who are not usually accepted by society as viable or equal.

My kids obviously have a trend here…. They gravitate to those less fortunate than them, and I don’t mean financially…..

      My favorite memory of them was about 10 years ago. We were in the grocery store… I was VERY pregnant with Kasey.  TJ, Cody, TylerLee, Ryan and Jordyn were with me. Kylie was still institutionalized and vent dependent, in a wheelchair. While shopping, my kids attention was drawn to a young girl. They flocked around her, talking about her t shirt. Buzz Lightyear was the bomb at the time and they were all a-twitter with talk about Toy Story, how awesome the shirt was, where did she get it, how much was it, yada yada yada….. Finally I had to drag them away. Toddler Ryan shouting INFINITY BEYOND! over and over, louder and louder.  On we went with our shopping. A woman tapped me on the shoulder. She was in scrubs and was apparently this young girls day nurse. She said, with teary eyes,  “I want to tell you how amazing your kids are. Usually, ESPECIALLY, children, shun her, are afraid of her and never talk to her. Your children approached her, talked to her and never ONCE acted like there was anything different between them. I haven’t seen her smile like this in the 7 years I have been her nurse…” She hugged me and went on her way. Oh, did I not mention that this girl was strapped into her purple motorized wheelchair. She was vent dependent and a paraplegic. Severely brain damaged, obviously suffering some sort of cranio-facial disfigurement. I will never know it if was from birth or the result of a disease or accident. But it was no matter. My children never noticed. To them, feeding tubes, treachs and the loud, scary “woosh” of the ventilator were normal.

      They were raised in a home where that was our status quo. There was nothing “wrong” with it. To them, the question more often was “Doesn’t EVERYONE have a disabled sibling???” and never “Why do WE have a disabled sibling???” The word sibling was obviously not my 4 year olds chosen vernacular, but you get my drift.

When you are young or born into a family with a child with special needs the quote “the only thing normal in my house is a dial on the washing machine” pretty much says it all. A childs formative years are crucial. Teaching them tolerance, kindness and acceptance is tantamount to teaching them to walk, talk and double wrap your hand when wiping number two…

As I have been in this “world” for almost 13 years, I have seen it go both ways. I know families who have children that cannot accept the extra needs of their brother or sister. I know kids who write “I hate my life.” on their Facebook because of the excessive needs of a sibling leave them feeling neglected, forgotten, less important. Even though I KNOW the parents take every precaution otherwise. Some kids just don’t “get it”. They just can’t. Some kids learn to “get it”. Some kids just naturally do.

{DISCLAIMER: The VAST majority of families I know who also live, love and laugh with DBA www.dbafoundation.org  are nothing short of miracles. Siblings are BFFs, parents are only mildly insane (unlike Joe and I, who are perfectly and completely certifiable) and extended family is right there picking up the Reeces Pieces. But some are truly in crisis and ill equipped to deal with such a potentially tragic disease. Please, join me and praying for them.}

My steps sons were older when Kylie was born and were mature and understanding about the situation. Something I could never thank them enough for…Of our 7 other children, excluding Kylie, I only know of one who exhibited some of those “not getting it” emotions.  And they were mild and brief, definitely related to a certain age group. I am fairly certain it was mostly associated with other issues in their life and having a sick sister was just the most obvious and tangible thing to blame.

I had it lucky. I really mean it. Sure it was complicated. When she wasn’t hospitalized she was home with 24 hour nursing. Daily doctors appointments. Sometimes two or three. Strangers invaded our house on a regular basis. And often the fill ins were down right miserable. Some months, my kids spent more time coloring in doctors waiting rooms and ERs being patient, quiet and polite than they spent playing in their playroom  or backyard at home. And they handled it all with grace and humor and the pure, unconditional love of a child that was my saving grace during my darkest days of desperation and sorrow….

So suffice it to say, their experience with a sister with special needs deeply affected them. But in an amazing, blessed and beautiful way. They love deeper, laugh louder, hug more. They don’t judge (unless you wear shorts with Ugg boots or root for anyone other than the Giants) They truly know what’s important. I see this aspect of their life affecting their future in nothing but positive ways. So, when people say “Wow, that must have been tough!” I can truly say, “It could have REALLY been worse.”

So my advice to you, if you are ever faced with the birth of a child in your family that will require special attention, make it as normal and accepted as possible. As scared and overwhelmed as you may be, don’t let your other kids see, hear or feel your panic. They will look to you for guidance. They will emulate your behaviors. They will copy your actions, attitude and emotions. To a fault, actually. My kids think farting is ENTIRELY too funny thanks to me…And Joe will never forgive me for it.

so my loves, live special, love special and laugh, ESPECIALLY!

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Now that I got that out of the way, be prepared. Because my next post will be about our “Family Meeting” and just how fucking awful my kids can sometimes be.

Meet Joe.

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My Partner In Crime. My homeslice. My future source for bail money. My husband, best friend and the number one victim to this crime spree called MY LIFE. He’s been through a lot. (meaning 20 years with me) People like him. But after meeting me, people pray for him. He has been known to introduce me to people as his “Other 12 year old” (rightfully so considering my penchant for fart jokes) And I though it was about time you “met” him.

Joe is…

the Yin to my Yang.

the beginning of my alphabet, because he is type A and I’m type Z.

He is shy. Introverted. Quiet. Timid.

He is… my exact opposite.

He thinks things through. He carefully weighs options. He takes into consideration all possible consequences before taking action.

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Unlike me, who spends a whole hell of a lot of time going “Oh shit. Why on EARTH did I just do that?”He is kind. He is loving. He has a heart so big, the world could fit into it and there would still be room for the moon and all the piled up laundry in my basement.

One year, he invited one of his older, lonely customers to our home for Thanksgiving dinner because he knew he would be alone and eating a can of cold chicken noodle soup otherwise. I mean, the kids were terrified when he came in dragging his O2 tank behind him, and I cant count how many times a kid whispered to me “Is he alive?” during his many cat naps on our couch. But, that’s Joe. The way Joe saw it, this man had no family, and we had plenty to share with him.

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One Saturday morning, one of his older customers (he has a soft spot for them!) was talking about how she had her purse stolen and how all her money, ATM card, everything was gone and she had nothing for her needs until the bank reopened on Monday. Joe gave her the $50 cash he had saved in his wallet for “a rainy day”.  (now, mind you. There is NO budge in our budget, so $50 saved up is a BIG thing around these parts) With a tear in her eye, and a grateful heart, the old woman left, picked up by her driver, who told Joe that the woman was extraordinarily rich, and had unlimited access to resources, but was by all accounts, batshit crazy. He never saw the woman again, or the $50, but no matter. The deed was done out of the kindness of his heart. Not for the potential of a reward, but for the pure purpose of doing the right thing. The reward is knowing you did good for someone, who in that moment, needed it. (even if it turns out she really did not NEED it..lol)

51992_497722375976_546220976_7391134_4594781_o13357_242526400976_546220976_4695260_3228931_nJoe is the hardest working man I know. Twenty four hours after surgery to have his cancerous thyroid removed, he was back at work. I, however,  had a GI scope three days ago and I’m STILL bitching that my pyloris hurts. Go ahead, Google it, I’ll wait, and get your mind out of the gutter. It was ann546220976_2913160_2961423 UPPER GI, so nothing about this is related to my butt and its as of yet, unchartered territories.

When I was fairly pregnant with TJ, our now 15year old, I was woefully miserable. “Im fat! Im gross! I am the antithesis of beautiful and sexy! Whaaaaaa whaaaaa whaaaaaa!! Where are my chocolate covered gummie bears???”

One night, Joe came home with a big pink striped box. (you ladies all know what a big pink striped box means, don’t you?) Victorias Secret! ARGH. I wanted to take the sharpest corner of that box and bury it in47629_10150114819225977_546220976_7851891_4875744_n his eye. True story. Had I been able to move my fat ass fast enough, I just may have. But, the Weeble Wobble that I was, just sat and opened the box, thinking to myself “I will just take whatever sexy negligée is in here (remember, this 15 years ago, back when VS actually had sexy negligées and not just body wash and booty pop sweat suits) and fashion it into a garrote and finish this cold hearted bastard off in his sleep when he’s less likely to be able to roll me onto my back, rendering me immobile.” 45897_476825870976_546220976_6964336_7311269_n

In the box, was a pair of jammies. An ivory, two piece, silk, short set. It was classy, it was beautiful. It was sexy. It was ROOMY. I laughed, I cried. I put my jammies on and never before felt more gorgeous, loved….wanted.

THAT is my husband. He is thoughtful. He is generous. He is loving. He is kind…. and added bonus, he is FUNNY. But the dry humor kind of funny. Again. the opposite of me!

Some of you know about the CaringBridge page I started in 2003 to help centralize all the info about our daughters medical condition, Diamond Blackfan Anemia. If not, now you do! Well, during a lengthy stay with her at her transplant hospital in Long Island, Joe was playing Mr. Mom and decided that it was his turn to make an update. It was written in 2006 but I still read it when I need a good giggle. I wanted to share it with you, so you too, can get a glimpse into my bff’s sense of humor, and learn to appreciate him and his mindset, though never as much as I do.

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March 7, 2006

To all of Kylie’s family, friends and everyone who’s life she has touched, and to everyone who has touched Kylie’s life in some way…. And to all who have reached out to our family during our times of need and support…..
I can’t even begin to thank everyone for all your thoughts, prayers and support you have all graciously given to Kylie and the rest of our family. From being with Kylie when we couldn’t be, to supporting Heather when I didn’t know how to, and by letting our other children know they were being thought of too. We never could have gotten through this alone. THANK YOU!!!!!
But most of all, I want to thank Kylie’s mom, my wife Heather. All of you who already know her can appreciate how wonderful she is. She is truly the backbone of our family, and I am the luckiest man on earth to be married to such an inspirational, loving, caring and forgiving woman. Her magnetic personality and absolute comedic sense of humor, along with her ability to handle anything she is faced with, truly reminds me everyday, how blessed I am.
The past ten days have really been a challenge for me to say the least. Being “MR. MOM” from the crack of dawn right back to the crack of dawn, has really given me a whole new insight to my wife’s world.
Being a former Marine and police officer, I thought I saw it all and could handle anything. Boy was I wrong!!It’s easy when you know who the enemy is! Who would ever think seven sweet, little, innocent children could be domestic terrorists? They somehow managed to infiltrate Homeland Security and did their best break me. After these past ten days, I’m ready to re-enlist into the service, at least the weather in Iraq is warm now.
But all kidding aside, I have a greater respect and admiration for my wife and ALL mothers. It doesn’t matter how many children you have, 1 or 10, well, I lie, it matters a little bit. To do all she does 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week is truly nothing short of incredible. Getting up and going to work each day is like a trip to the mall compared to taking care of eight children all under the age of nine, and two crazy dogs. Heather is truly my hero!!!!
And if that’s not enough, she also manages all of Kylie’s care, which is a full time job in itself. And now she has started a project to “PAY IT FORWARD”. To pay forward our thanks and gratitude for EVERYTHING we have received from others. Heather’s project will allow our family and others to reach out to other families in need and times of crisis. So, support her project by supporting others. All Heather wants to do is what she does best, which is to teach our children to be caring and loving to others, and to make others smile. Which by the way, can easily turn to tears and if your not real careful, respiratory arrest. We all know how damn funny she is. She could easily be the funniest stand-up comic around, she never runs out of material with the crew we have. Warning…. to anyone with Weak Bladder Syndrome, don’t read her journals unless you have a good pair of Depends lying around.
Back to my story, by the way, writing is a great form of therapy.

So, O.K. here goes…..
My days started, while it was still dark, to our 2yr. old Charlie calling for “MOMMY” from his bedroom. Saying “I’m ready to get up now” over and over again. I knew it wasn’t the alarm clock, because the snooze button was not stopping the voice. Maybe if I ignored him, he’d stop. And besides, I wasn’t Mommy. It didn’t work, he didn’t stop. He only got louder. I quickly realized Heather was in Long Island and I was about to become “Mr. Mom”. So I got up, and took Charlie downstairs. He looked at me and said “I’m Hundry”. He must have been trying to say hungry. “I want oatmeal”. Easy enough, bowl, water, packet (instant) microwave. Four packets later, I finally figured out he would only eat peaches n cream. It’s only 6:45 and I’m ready to quit.
Time to go back upstairs and wake up the girls for preschool. Jordyn (4) and Kasey(3). This has to go well, because little girls are suppose to like school. I walk in their room wake them up, and they both in unison pull their blankets over their heads and say “We’re not going to school!!”. They both take after their mother’s heart, they are NOT morning girls. I should have made them a cup of tea before I woke them. Ha.. Ha.. I finally pry them out of bed and get them dressed. Hopefully they get breakfast at school, because I’m not going through the oatmeal ordeal again. 7:25, “lets go girls” “time to get coats hats and gloves on” Kasey then reminds me how I didn’t put her hair in pony’s. I didn’t want to tell her I didn’t know how to, so I said it was “no ponies allowed” day at school. So, outside to the bus stop we go in sub-zero temperature. As we stand freezing waiting for the bus, they both are arguing with me because of the clothes I made them wear. It’s got to get better, it’s only 7:35 am. Finally the bus arrives. Their both crying because of what I made them wear, and I’m crying because I know they will be home in 4 hrs. Two down, four to go.
7:45am, time to enter the 7, 8, and 9yr olds world. This has got to be easier, at least they could all dress themselves. Everything was going o.k. until Cody(8) informed me it’s not cool to wear long sleeves and jackets to school on days when it’s 10 degrees outside. I won that battle, one for me. T.J.(9) who has to be reminded of his name each day before school, walks out to the van with no shoes on. At least he was wearing his coat. Another one for me. Lets all pile in the van to take the older kids to school. Head count, who’s missing? “did anyone wake up Tyler(7)”? Another girl close to her mommy’s heart, she loves to sleep in. “Need a cup of tea, honey?”
Charlie and Ryan have to come for the ride, I don’t think DYFS would appreciate Skippy being in charge.
Don’t ask me how, but we made it on time. 9:00 am three more down. (Oh yea, Skippy jumped in the van and came for the ride too. When T.J. got out , so did Skippy.) In the school they go-TJ, Cody, Tyler Lee..AND SKIPPY!!! I want to pull away so bad, I’m soooo embarrassed. What a circus.
9:20 am, were home. Me, Charlie, Ryan(5) and unfortunately Skippy too. Now the work begins. Make beds, clean up after breakfast, start laundry (OHHH God), I never knew we had so many clothes. 11:30, Ryan says “we are hungry”. I make cheese sandwiches. Ryan starts in with “Mommy makes…”, “Stop!!! I’m not Mommy and today were having cheese sandwiches, I’M NOT GRILLING THEM. NO TOMATOES! but if your good maybe I’ll add mayo”. Another one for me, I’m starting to gain a foot-hold on this war. I get Ryan dressed for school, and Skippy starts to go nuts. Oh no, I forgot the girls, the bus is beeping. Counts back up to four. “God I know you only put on our plates what we can handle but this plate is getting REAL heavy!” Finally Ran’s bus arrives, 12:40PM. Count down to three, I can do this. Lunch for the girls, more laundry to be folded, dinner to be defrosted, oh yea, call and check on Kylie and Mommy.
3:00 pm, time to pick up everyone from school. Back in the van we go. (Skippy gets locked in the pantry for this round!) Everyone had a rotten day school, and all have lots of homework, lucky me. Pull up in front of the house just in time to meet Ryan’s bus. Why couldn’t the bus have gotten a flat? O.K. count back up to seven. Now the fun really begins…..
Homework, dinner showers, tubbies, p.j’s. story time and bed. Did I mention laundry? Do dinner dishes, and get to bed. I don’t even have to get my sleep pants on, because I never took them off from this morning.
Time to crawl upstairs and fall into bed. 8:30 pm I can’t believe how late it is. One last bed count, all seems quiet for now. Except for a loud barking coming from the back yard. OH CRAP!! I can’t believe I forgot about our new addition “Boomer” I let him in and he’s full of s**t, p**s and vinegar. So, I sedate him and now we’re all in bed. I’m too tired to open the bottle of sleeping pills. I close my eyes and I start to dream that I’m hearing “Daddy, we have to go potty”. It can’t be, I must be in the middle of REM sleep. I keep hearing it, it’s true. Jordyn, and Kasey at their bedroom door. Here we go again. Ryan now takes full advantage of this and he starts at his door saying “I’m thirsty”. That’s it, where is the razor? I’m cutting my wrists, but first I need to take a bottle of aspirin to make sure I don’t clot.
I finally get them all back to bed. I stumble back to my bedroom to find T.J., Cody, Tyler, Skippy and Boomer in my bed sleeping. I quit, I might as well start on tomorrows laundry. Who needs sleep anyway? I’m “MR.MOM”
Kylie and Mommy please come home, we miss you.
Heather thank you for being a wonderful mom, and a beautiful loving wife and best friend. I will love you endlessly.
ALWAYS AND FOREVER
JOSEPH

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Gosh, I love that guy. And its not all the nice, gushy, mostly undeserved things he wrote about me. Its that he sticks with it. He sticks with me. He has a pretty awesome saying, in addition to his invention of the amazing word BASTERCIZE.

Joes theory is this:

We may fight, but we fight for it.

How true is that?

TylerLee said to me yesterday, “I think I’m the only one of the kids in my health class who’s parents aren’t divorced.”18757_323075225976_546220976_5102436_2231717_n

That made me sad. Sure, we COULD have been divorced. We have had hard times. Who hasn’t? We both have had moments when we seriously though that jail time was well worth the feeling of hitting each other upside the back of the head with a very VERY heavy shovel. Lets face it, I am NOT the easiest person to live with.

Yes we fight. Bare minimum, but we do. (by fight, I mean “discuss loudly”, please no anonymous calls to report domestic abuse,18757_323075210976_546220976_5102435_229990_n sheesh.) But we fight because we care. The passion behind a heated discussion is based in love. The fact we care enough to just not walk away and say f-it like so many people do in this day and age is because of one thing and one thing only. We love each other, endlessly and unconditionally.

In our weird, wacked out, crazy world, the one constant we have is that. And I am ever grateful for it.

Thanks for reading, I just needed to brag a bit. Our anniversary is coming February 1st and Joe and all his awesomeness have been on my mind. Even if he doesn’t think so.  I have been out of sorts at home. Cranky, distracted, moody… lots going on with my health that has my mind in a bit of a SNAFU. As much as I struggle to maintain my positive, upbeat attitude, I have my moments of profound sadness. Fear. And I know he is feeling the same. Joe likes to be in control, and when something is out of his control, like my health, he gets even more out of sorts than me. So, I hope when he reads this, he sees through my eyes and words how I really feel about him. How much I appreciate him and his love and support, and how much I need him to help pick up my pieces as they seem to be falling one, by one.24559_375042260976_546220976_5302823_6126385_n

Believe it or not, live, love and laugh….because there is so much to live, love and laugh for!

BASTERCIZE -[ba-stir-size] verb (used with object), -ized, -iz·ing.
1. to f*@k shit up
ie; After the police left and the firemen rolled up their hoses, I could overhear Heather say “Leave it to my children to bastercize something as simple as a game of Go Fish.”

 

   Charity begins at home… but not the giving to ones self, the giving to others…We learned long ago just how true it is that “it takes a village” and we try our best to make sure that we give back to the village that has given to us so much over the last 12 years. By village I mean world, not just my neighborhood, or Toms River, or NJ… I try and think bigger.. (really? 10 kids, 9 dogs? She thinks bigger? Nahhhhhhh!)

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