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In the Bathroom with Uncle Henry - A Mother's Day Surprise

It's Mother's Day again.

That glorious time of year when mothers around the country get to do absolutely nothing of their choosing and are forced to suffer quietly with their hands folded in their laps, like repentant children who've stuck their hand in the cookie jar one too many times, but instead of a moist, delicious cookie, have managed to pull out three of four screaming children instead.

The shock of childbirth has long since worn off, and as we arrange ourselves into the required red vinyl booths across the country we take a moment to reach up to adjust our dunce caps, all while trying to muster up a little dignity as we get into a long line that will bring us to a plate of stale muffins and cold roast beef.

If anybody had bothered to ask me what I wanted for Mother's Day my answer would have been weight loss. Pure and simple. Rub your magic wand all over my fat ass and make it go away. Is that hard? I don't think so.

Instead I get to go to brunch.

My entire extended family is included in on this luscious day, and even though the beloved matriarch for which we had originally been assembled all those year back had passed away in 1987, we are still required to meet for brunch.

You are not allowed to question the brunch. It just is.

This year my husband has to work. So, I'm currently pinned into a booth alone at Sardines, our beloved brunch restaurant for over twenty-seven years, with my children on one side and my wonderful Mother on the other. After all it is Mother's Day. It makes perfect sense that I should be shoved into an overcrowded booth with my mother, both of us trying to be the better boss-arounder of my hideous children in a totally stress-free bunch-like-kind-of-way.

It almost makes me wish everyday was Mother's Day.

Not to mention the added bonus of not getting the magical weight loss remedy, but instead getting to eat all the limp bacon and pigs-in-a-blanket I can possibly stand, and let's face it, at this point I may as well just slap them directly onto my thighs and rub them all over my linen pantsuit. The result would be the same in the end, the grease staining my soul one gooey drop at a time.

I look around at my sorry state and think of a few punishments for my husband and that gives me a good chuckle. My children are currently so hyped-up on brunch treats like croissant squares dipped in chocolate and little mini jelly-filled tartlets, they're knocking into each other and sliding under the booth.

"Get up."

"No, I said no more whipped cream."

"Get that napkin out of the water."

"Poppy seeds do not make you stoned. Where did you learn about stoned?"

"Gimme that."

The rest of my extended family are seated across the room. We're at the overflow table. Alone. The amount of time spent in Sardines equals the amount of time that my head beats in agony by a hundredfold. We are there forever. It's finally over.

"Everybody ready?"

"Got Aunt Hilda's coat?"

"Bill paid?"

"Where's Celia's purse?"

I adjust my dunce cap one final time and wonder what Hawaii must feel like this time of year. I yank my children out from under the table and bits of brunch fall off them like little dried leaves crumbling off a dead tree. Their eyes are dilated to full sugar and they scratch at my arms begging for just one more muffin as I pull them towards the doors.

We aren't even nearly excused after this.

I bow my head in reverence to all the other mothers as I pass by. Some of the newer ones are looking so disheveled it's a wonder that they survive a day without drinking themselves to death. The Old Hats are too busy knocking their kids' heads together to notice my departure, but I guarantee you that none of them want to be at Sardines on this day.

Not a single-ass one of them.

I smile at all the teenagers looking bored, shoved in between their tired aunts and young cousins, and it makes me yearn for the days when nothing was expected of me. I would have started the day with my favorite pair of rainbow striped leg warmers, given my mother a Hallmark card and brought along a good Sweet Valley High book to loose myself in. The good 'ole days when all I had to do was show up and check-out. Not one person expected me to wipe a butt or cut up their eggs.

If I noticed a mother back in the day it was most likely my own, but only because she was breaking into my peaceful daydream of becoming a popular cheerleader and forcing me to go get some food. I take one more look around, and I tip my head back and laugh. If only I'd known. If I'd known that becoming a mother was like being dunked in a vat of raw sewage, but instead of becoming a super hero you just get pink-slipped into motherhood, I would've taken that job in Paris. I would've taken a ride on that Harley. I swear to God I would have done that line of cocaine.

My entire family is now exiting the front doors of the restaurant. We all loiter on the sidewalk for a few moments more. This is standard procedure. My children head straight for the lake and cross active train tracks without so much as a gratuitous sideway glance. Everyone stands there for a minute or two to reiterate what we all know to be already true.

To fulfill the ironclad Mother's Day Requirement: We must now all re-group over at my Aunt Gladys and Uncle Henry's home which is located on a lake nearby for several painful hours of togetherness.

In a house about as kid friendly as the Louvre.

A few of us try and come up with lame excuses, I try a raspy cough. It never works. We dutifully get in the car and drive over. Upon arrival there my children instantly head up the treacherous spiral staircase and head into the bowels of the house to play hide n' seek, like every red-blooded American child does when unleashed into a house of many rooms.

The adults take their places on the patio in front of the lake and more food is brought fourth. Exactly 11 seconds pass by and my mother abruptly stands, where she'd just been sitting, and remarks, meaning accuses, that she hasn't seen my children in far too long and goes into the house to investigate their whereabouts.

It is Mother's Day. I am tired. My kids could be setting the house on fire and it would be fine with me. Just give me a minute to let the brunch treats settle, couldja?

My mother decides that hide 'n seek is against policy and starts howling up the staircase for my kids to come down. They don't answer. I hear her shrieks from the patio. I finally spring into action like a cat, leaping from my comfortable patio chair, clawing my way past my mother and up the steps. I start shouting for my kids on the first level of the house, and then work my way up the higher spirally areas.

I finally find Beta crawling out of the master bedroom closet. He's congratulating himself on his great hiding spot. They never woulda found me.

I ask him where his sisters are.

He says they're in the master bathroom and boy, do they have a good hiding spot. I walk over to the bathroom door, passing by a gigantic, paisley quilt-covered bed, along with two massive mauve-colored side tables attached to it ala 70's melamine, with all the nick-knacks arranged Just So.

The bathroom door is closed and I yell, without any hesitation, "Alpha? Are you in there? Answer me right now!"

Meanwhile, my mother is cursing obscenities up the spiral staircase, since her ungrateful grandchildren have yet to show their faces.

I hear a sputter from behind the closed door and my elderly Uncle Henry pipes weakly, "Um, no. Um, I'm in here."

I immediately step back, ashamed to have caught him in the act of peaceful bathroom business. I retreat out into the hallway, which leads directly to an ornate balcony overlooking the living room and continue to shout out for my fiendishly uncooperative children. My mother is beyond swearing and all I can hear are rushes of air.

They do not answer.

It's not like my children not to obey after a few tries. They know me. They have felt the wrath. I walk back into the master bedroom and call out one last time, "Alpha! Gamma! If you're in here you have to answer me!" I'm thinking they may be behind the bed or still in the closet.

I then hear a faint voice say, "Mommy, we're in here."

Followed immediately by a howling, "WHAT?"

They're in the bathroom with Henry.

Unbeknownst to Henry. They must be hiding in the shower stall while Henry is doing his business on the pot, hoping, I'm sure, to go unnoticed—forced to betray their embarrassing hiding spot by their cruel mother.

Oh. My. God.

They're in the bathroom with Uncle Henry.

The poor little fools.

They were probably so petrified they couldn't even think straight. Jesus. Well, hopefully this means we won't be invited back.

They come staggering out and Alpha is so embarrassed she can't even look at anyone. She relays, in broken half-coherent fragments, that they were stuffed in the corner of the shower stall, which thankfully had thick, pebbled glass separating Henry's ass from their eyeballs.

I use this as the best analogy of all time, "See what happens when you wander around the house when you're not supposed to? You get into trouble, that's what. Now go outside and play with the illegal Jarts."

Gladys and Henry are old-fashioned in the ways of rearing children, to say the very least. They think that the proper place for a young child is tethered to a tree by a short leash. I'm sure that my children will now be looked upon as grubby peepers and will elicit beady stares as they frolic by.

My mother is now shrieking with laughter. She's thankful that her grandchildren haven't crawled into the freezer or been killed by any one of the many impaling odds and ends scattered about the house. I sit back down with my family, still gathered on the patio overlooking the lake like they were four minutes ago, and relay the story. Then my father comes up from where he's been playing Jarts with a shaken Henry, who has just announced to his team that he's had terrible diarrhea.

For The Love Of God.

I've had enough for one day. The storm clouds are rolling in and I have a date with a tornado. I gather up the children with excuses of meeting my husband back home. We haul ass out of there with no objection from anyone. Once I'm home I collapse on the couch in a fit of laughter. My sides hurt and I can't stop laughing. Finally a Mother's Day worth remembering. And it's only taken me thirty-five years. Husband comes home and the story pours out. He's sorry he's missed it.

What puzzles me the most is that Gamma stayed quiet through the entire ordeal. She's never not been able to utter a word. She's a talking machine. She came out of that bathroom with her big sister, head down, no tears, went to play.

I have chosen not to talk to her about it for fear of latent trauma. I have decided to stay blissfully unaware.

Happy Mother's Day.
Come for some fun!

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