Monday, October 15, 2012

Brought to you by the letters W, T & F

Since officially becoming a stay at home mom, I have had the pleasure of being exposed to the joy that is children's television. FYI, for those of you who grew up in the 80's like me, kid's TV doesn't just happen on Saturday mornings anymore.  It is a multiple channel, all day, every day, onslaught of cartoons, puppets and out-of-work amphetamine-pumped actors who just need to pay the rent. I usually limit Luke to one hour of brain rot per day, but every single day I find myself just a little more perplexed by the babble that is preschool programming.

For example:

Mr. Noodle

Somehow, in the 25 years or so since I watched Sesame Street, Elmo has staged a coup and taken over the  block and now the entire show is pretty much dedicated to him.  Elmo, being his friendly, furry self, can't ever say no to a new friend and I'm pretty sure that's how the greasy Mr. Noodle drifted into Elmo's life and took up residence in his closet.  This dude clearly drinks mouthwash for breakfast, hasn't had a shower in weeks and has no problem asking Elmo to bum a 20 every now and then, for like food and stuff. He is totally incompetent. Elmo can ask him to do the simplest task and Mr. Noodle screws it up.  Mr. Noodle, can you wash your hands? Guy ends up washing his hair. Mr. Noodle, can you ride a bike? Guy ends up making a pizza.  Mr. Noodle, can you name a magazine? Ha, ha, gotcha!  The good news is that the Sesame Street Homeowners Association must have also been just as perturbed by Mr. Noodle as I am and kicked him out (God knows Elmo didn't have the balls to do it.)  He no longer appears in the newer episodes, as he has been replaced by a segment called "Elmo the Musical." Either that or the guy went to rehab.

Yo Gabba Gabba

I took a wonderful class in college called "60's in America" and my well-respected professor once spent the better part of one class telling us about the one time he dropped acid being one of the most profound experiences in his entire life. I spent the rest of the semester lamenting the fact I didn't live through the 60's and wondering if I would ever have the guts to try acid myself, because in college you want everything to be profound. To be clear, the answer is no, I do not have the guts to try acid -  JUST SAY NO! The good news is that even though I'll never find myself sucking on a smiley face emblazoned tab of paper, I don't feel like I've missed out on the whole tripping experience thanks to the mind-bender that is Yo Gabba Gabba.  The premise of the show is that this one guy has a suitcase full of toys that he sets up on a hotel banquet table and then they somehow come to life and then chaos ensues.  It is a solid half hour of strobe lights, shapes, strange animals and loud noises.There are entire sequences that are nothing more than a hypnotic animated screensaver. And then the animal-monster guys do some sort of chant and a dance that draws you in so that the rest of the day you just keep thinking "Eggs in my tummy, yummy yummy." Actually, come to think of it, maybe they're just trying to draw kids into a cult.

The Cat in the Hat

This show really should be every mother's worst nightmare. The same thing happens every day:  two kids are playing outside when the Cat in the Hat shows up and offers to take them on an adventure.  They diligently run inside and ask their mother if they can go, and mom, being absorbed in some mundane motherly task, doesn't really listen to to kids and chuckles and says "sure."  Then the Cat loads the kids up into his rickety old car and they go to like, Brazil or something.  Ok, now re-read the above section and replace "Cat" with
"Creepo" and you'll see what I mean. This is a classic abduction story and somebody needs to put out an Amber Alert for these kids ASAP. Did we suddenly forget about stranger danger?  Mom never gets up to check on her kids, and really is only visible for 5 seconds each episode. Also, the kicker is that the Cat is voiced by Martin Short, who I cannot verify isn't a criminal himself. I just know that on the final episode of the show the kids aren't going to come back and mom is going to feel terrible for spending the whole darn day playing Angry Birds and not paying enough attention to her kids.

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

I find myself offended by this abomination on a deep, personal level.  Daniel Tiger is the little jerk that they put in charge of Mister Roger's Neighborhood, because apparently you can just leave a legacy alone. When I was little Mister Roger's Neighborhood was the absolute best part of my day. How cool was this guy? He changed his shoes just to go into his house! AND THERE WAS A TROLLEY IN HIS LIVING ROOM! I lived for this show, and the puppets and everything about it.  Now we have Daniel Tiger, who is animated btw, so good bye really awesome live action trolley, and he just goes around doing normal cartoony things, all the while singing the "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" with the super annoying sing-songy addition of "Ride along" tagged to the end of the verse. And that's all they do. There is no magic, I guess they try to teach kids to share or something but they don't go to the crayon factory or have to deal with Elaine Fairchild and the whole thing falls short of anything that is remotely fun. As my husband puts it, he'd "Rather spend 30 minutes at Fred Roger's grave, paying his respects, than have to watch that crap."

Of course, my opinions and those of my 1.5 year-old vary dramatically. He eats up every single moment of these shows, clapping and dancing and singing and it makes me question the sanity of children everywhere. With the next kid on the way, I figure I've got about 5 more years of this stuff before I can move on to what's next? The Disney Channel? Maybe we'll just become one of those progressive hippie families that doesn't watch T.V.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Teenage Dream?

This morning, for whatever reason (i.e. my iPhone needed a charge) I was looking through my old school year books and lamenting on what a strange, strange child I was.  I was so miserable too -- I just wanted to be like 'everyone else' and I failed desperately.  The weird thing is, now as an adult, sometimes I look at myself and I'm like, "Ugh, why am I so typical?!" Learning to be happy with yourself is a tough, tough thing! Anyway, here are some of the highlights from my younger years:


PBS used to have a fondness for showing the Woodstock documentary about once a year, and sometime in my late elementary years I watched it for the first time and I was totally, 100% hooked. I would go to bed crying about how cruel it was that I wasn't alive during Woodstock and I listed exclusively to music from the era. I made peace sign necklaces out of old margarine lids, had a backyard 'pottery class' that I forced neighborhood kids to attend called "Be Free" and I even had my mom make me a "Jenny Dress" after the one that Jenny wore in Forest Gump and I wore it pretty much ever other day. The highlight of this whole phase was an outright, groupie-like obsession with the band Three Dog Night.  I drew frogs named Jeremiah on every single surface available and never missed an opportunity to remind people that "one is the loneliest number." This all culminated when I got my entire sixth grade class banned from the school's annual multicultural celebration because I convinced them that it would be funner to sing "Joy To the World" rather than practice our Chinese dragon dance. Of course if I'd known that all those glorious hippies were seriously hopped up on some major psychedelics, I probably would have ran screaming from anything patchouli scented.


Oh god, the life long drama that is supposed to be my 'crowning glory.' Let's start in the late 80's shall we?  ALL of the cool girls had "spiral perms" which they would gel each day to optimum stiffness. Not to be outdone, I went to my mom requesting a trip to the salon the preferred 'do.  My mom, the thrifty, crafty maven that she is, got together with her sister and they devised a way to do a spiral perm at home.  This involved dowels and tubing from the local hardware store as well as a home perm kit. So when my entire family got together for Super Bowl Sunday at my grandpa's house, all the guys went downstairs to watch the game and all the girls stayed upstairs and dumped industrial grade chemicals on my baby fourth-grader locks.  The immediate result was burns to my eyebrows and neck. To this day I have a scar below my left eyebrow which I like to think makes me look mysterious. My hair was left a frizzy, dry, damaged mess which eventually started falling out in giant clumps. It was seriously seriously bad. The only solution was to take me to an actual salon and get a deep condition and try to shape whatever was left of my hair into something that didn't leave me looking like a chemo patient. And by 'shape' I mean cut my hair into a mullet, complete with little girl sideburns.  Yes, they actually had to SHAVE THE SIDES OF MY HEAD because there was no hair left.   Thankfully, it was the end of the most fashionably backwards decade in history so people would just say 'interesting' when they saw me.

By high school all the hair that had fallen out grew back into a thick, wavy uncontrollable brown mop.  I tackled this problem with a 1-2 punch of blonde hair dyes and banana bangs.  I didn't know what the heck I was doing with the dye so I'd just randomly pick out a color at the drugstore every 3 months or so and go to town on my hair.  The result was a multi-shaded stratum of hair that went from almost platinum to brownish red. I would blow dry my rainbow tresses to the extent of severe drought every day and then I would curl my bangs under with a giant curling iron. The problem is that sometimes I would get some of my normal hair in with the bangs and so rather than separating it out, I would just cut the stray strands to bang length and move on with my day -- resulting in the most jagged bang part in the history of bang parts.


In an effort to shatter every single image of a cheerleader in the history of cheerleaders ever, fate, for some reason bestowed upon me a mini-skirt and some pom-poms.  And by "fate" I mean "my auntie was a judge at cheerleading tryouts."  I'm sure the only reason I got on the team is because she felt bad about the fact that she'd destroyed my hair 5 years prior. On top of the fact that I was a messy-haired chunker of a wierdo kid, I also had the coordination of a newborn hippopotamus. I could barely jump, I never remembered my routines and I was always, always in the back row.  One time all the other cheerleaders even got together and tried to vote me off the squad because they felt I made everyone look bad. When it came to stunting I was a 'base' meaning I literally let other girls stand on top of me, or more often a 'spotter' meaning that I stood behind the stunts in case a girl fell she would have somebody to land on. Nobody ever wants to be the spotter. And through all this I was totally oblivious to how terrible I was.  I went around saying things like "CHEERLEADING IS LIFE" and "LIFE IS SHORT, CHEER HARD."  I think my mom and I spent a lot of time hoping that the whole cheering thing would some how make me less socially awkward, but in actuality it just put it on display.


I'll be honest, even as a kid I had a little extra padding in the booty era.  Nowadays  everyone wants a big butt, but back then I really didn't know what to do with all the junk in the trunk and it was always getting in the way of everything.  My first major booty incident happened in 7th grade.  I was in science class doing some project and for some reason I needed loads and loads of reflective tape. Have you ever used reflective tape? It's known for its ability to be REALLY REALLY reflective, it's also kind of brittle, so when you are using massive amounts, it has a tendency to flake off in chunks all over the place. This is not good news if you don't look where you are sitting and you manage sit on a whole bunch of it. Even worse when your mid school crush comes running at you from across the campus to let you know that you are blinding everyone with your backside bling.

The first time I had ever appeared in the local newspaper happened to be a picture of my cheerleading squad performing at the 4th of July parade. Inexplicably, my back is to the camera while everyone else is facing it, and in that same twist of fate, my skirt happens to be flipped all the way up, exposing my bloomered butt to the entire town.  Another time in high school I was walking up a hill wearing what I thought to be a totally cute little outfit, only to be informed by a girl behind me that my backpack had hiked my skirt all the way up and everyone could see that I had a wedgie.  Finally, the first college party I ever went to got broken up by the cops, since I was underage I ran outside with a whole bunch of other and jumped a chainlink fence, however due to my aforementioned lack of coordination, I didn't make it all the way over the fence and caught the butt of my jeans on the top -- ripping them all the way down the back.  When the cops left and we went back into the party somebody duct taped my pants back together. The best part is that the gate to that darn fence was unlocked.

Of course this is just a tiny sampling of the  major awkwardness that was my youth.  Of course, looking back, I'm pretty sure that everyone else was just as awkward, so in that sense I guess I really was just like everyone else.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Inner View

I've been unemployed for what, 3 months now?  I still have dreams that I'm working at my old job -- like somehow I just forgot that I quit and I show up at work and everyone shrugs their shoulders and I find a computer and I start working. Of course in all things dreamy, and nothing makes sense and my "job" consists of smoothing used coffee filters onto a bulletin board or something. I wake up confused trying to convince myself that no, I really don't have a job anymore. 

I've been continuously employed for more than half my life, I started my first 'real job' at age 14 -- RAKS Building Supply, I'm looking at you.  And it's weird for me not to work, I almost wish there was a time clock in my kitchen so I could log my mommy hours and make sure that the government was pulling out their fair share of taxes from my non-existent wages.  I'd stuff the paystub of zeros into a junk drawer and forget about it, but it would be soothing just to know I existed. 

That said, I just applied for a part-time-work-from-home-writerish kinda gig (I know how that sounds, but trust me the company is legit) -- and I have an interview on Monday! I'm excited but it's been YEARS since I've had a job interview so I'm trying to psych myself up for a good interview. 

That said, I'd interviewed so many applicants at my previous jobs (both office and retail) that I almost lost faith in humanity and I feel like I have a good grasp at least on how NOT to blow an interview.  Here are some of the more interesting tidbits from interviews past:

ME: Can you describe the outfit you are wearing to me as if you were selling it to a customer? 

CANDIDATE: Well, uh, I'm wearing a red shirt. Because, I uh, like colors?

ME: Can you tell me about the most difficult situation you've ever had with a co-worker and how you handled it?

CANDIDATE: This one girl at my old job kept mad-dogging me and I went up to her and told her to knock it off because I don't take shit from nobody. 

ME: What is your biggest strength? 

CANDIDATE: I get along really well with minorities.

ME: What kinds of decisions are the hardest for you to make?

CANDIDATE: Can I come back to that one?  LATER:  The hardest decision for me to make is what to wear every day. 

And I could go on, and on. These aren't even the worst -- the worst are the people who cannot answer a question if their life depended on it.   Just minute after minute of awkward silence trying to coach them into saying ANYTHING and when they do its a one or two word answer. At this point I would usually dismiss them or start awkwardly rambling into my own life story because I felt obligated to hold interviews for at least 20 minutes.    I don't understand why people are so bad at interviewing, some people say that it's a "skill" but I feel like it doesn't take a lot of skill to not sound like a total idiot. Do you want the job or not? If  you do then act like it. It's so frustrating that people seem to think they deserve a job simply because they managed to show up to an interview.   No wonder our country has such a sky high unemployment rate -- would you hire any of the  above? 

Anyway, if my competition looks anything like the above, I've got this one in the bag.  Wish me luck! 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mama glasses: a new perspective

So, since, I am now, like officially responsible for the well being of another human being, I have been forced to look back on some of my pre-child thoughts and actions and reconsider my past opinions, here are are some of the more prominent things that I would like to take back.

Oh man, I'm going to be in the dog house with some people on this one.  I get it, I've got three dogs and I'm about a pet away from having an Animal Hoarders episode of my own.  And I love my dogs, I really really do.  And there was a point that I thought that my dogs were my children and I loved them as much as any mother ever loved any child.


I get it, sometimes your dog will pee in the house and you have to clean it up, or sometimes you've gotta rush the dog to the vet and it's really stressful, or maybe your dog wakes you up in the middle of the night and you seem like you are making a huge sacrifice.

It's not, in any way, at all, ever, the same as having a child.  A human child is 100% lifetime commitment that requires more money and insanity than you will ever have the time to tally up.  You cannot leave a child in the backyard all night if you want to go to dinner, you cannot just fill a child's bowl up with dry food and leave it out for them to eat at their leisure. Even if you have had to pick up an unfair amount of puppy oopsies, it is nothing like waking up at 3 in the morning to your screaming child because they have managed to crap all the way up to their neck and the only possible solution is to bathe the child and decontaminate the entire nursery, and by the time you are finished it will be PLAY TIME in the kid's mind and before you know it you've pulled an all-nighter.

And I can promise you, this is just scratching the surface. Anytime I hear anyone call their dog a baby I cringe and have to keep myself from saying "I'm sorry, I didn't realize that you were permanently, physically scared and disfigured bringing that Pomeranian into the world."

I knew that the second I got pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed my child. Because, I'm like, a dog lover, I had seen more than my fair share of puppy shows, where some golden retriever gives birth to like, 14 puppies and they immediately  meander their sleepy little faces up to the mama dog and drink to their hearts' content. It's natural and beautiful, and totally instinctual- if a dog can do it, I can too, yes? I secretly judged all women who gave their children formula as selfish and ignorant.

The truth is, it's SUPER HARD and absolutely nothing feels natural about the whole process. You and your newborn child are both total idiots when it comes to this, and you will likely spend two weeks screaming at each other trying to get it right.  Not only that, it HURTS. Plus, you know that post birth margarita you've been thinking about for 9 months? Forget about it. Anyone who has the audacity to say 'pump and dump' has no clue how hard it is to actually produce that milk, and for the love of Jesus, you DO NOT THROW THAT STUFF AWAY.

On top of all of this, everyone has a GD opinion on breastfeeding. From the people who think it's downright disgusting to the proud liberated women who whip a boobie out in the middle of REI to feed their three year old, it's a total hot button issue. I didn't feel like talking about it with anyone because it made me so uncomfortable knowing that the person was going to lean one way or another and either way, I was probably doing it wrong.

That said, the baby got his first tooth at 7 months and I happily celebrated by running to the store and picking up a tub of Enfamil and a 6-pack of beer.

I was, absolutely, positively convinced that I was going to hypnotize myself into having a beautiful, natural childbirth. Women have been giving birth this way for thousands of years right? What's the big deal?

Thank god for modern medicine. I spent 6 hours of terrible unmedicated labor and I really couldn't figure out if I was alive or dead anymore. When I finally got the epidural right before my c-section it was the greatest relief of my entire life.

Really, what the hell was I thinking? There really is no reason to put yourself through that type of pain if you don't have to. And you don't 'owe it to your child' to give them a natural birth. The kid is not going to give a crap, trust me. You will spend the rest of your life laboring over that thing, so really, why start it off so painfully if you don't have to?

I think what really bothers me is the amount of guilt that is laid upon mothers who don't manage to go natural. I get that women are in a constant game of trying to prove that they are better than one another, but I don't think that a good mother is defined by whether or not she took pain meds to aid her in becoming one.  Yes people in the middle ages did it naturally, but the infant/mother mortality rate was significantly higher than it is now. We live in a modern world. Embrace it.

But they are really good at acting like it in public.  Before I had a kid of my own, I kinda hated children. Every time I saw them in public they seemed like dirty, demanding little demons set out to destroy the lives of their parents.

My kid is generally a pretty decent little guy. He's smiley and loving and causes me minimal grief.  You would never believe that if you saw him at the grocery store. He manages to lose half his clothing before I get inside and has this lovely little trick of 'pulling my shirt down' whenever I try to put him in the basket. Also, the florescent lighting in a grocery store has the amazing ability to illuminate every speck of dirt on his body. I'll look down at him and he looks like he's been playing in the mud all day. I swear I bathe my kid.  Talk about hell in a basket! I'm 89% convinced that they pump something into the air at the store to make kids act up.

So when you see a screaming, dirty, half dressed child in a grocery store, just remember that he might actually be an OK kid once you get him home.

Let's see what I have to say about teenagers in 14 years.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Holy Mother...

So, I might be crazy. I just willingly left a job that paid an English major a ridiculous amount of money so that I could become the unpaid CEO of PB&J. I was in a long-term, complicated relationship with corporate America, we had our ups and downs, but I think we parted amicably.

I have always firmly believed that you should put 30 years between you and your kid so that you have enough life experience or something.  Of course human biology is like, "f that shiz" and you end up pregnant in your twenties right as your career starts to take off. It's cool, whatever. I was not going to be 'one of those moms' who stayed home. I was going to work and raise my kid and that was the way it was. 

And then, once again, human biology was like, "f that shiz" and while my husband happened be out of town (for 10 freakin' days!)  and I came down with a serious case of bronchitis. I didn't want to take any time off from work because I wanted to save it unless my kid got sick (hello, priorities!), so instead it escalated to a situation where I infected my entire office with the plague and I had to leave a meeting because I was coughing so hard I almost passed out.  I went straight to the doctor, picked up some codeine-laced cough syrup and left my kid with my parents for the next two days while I stayed home in what was pretty much a narcotic induced coma. 

Aside from some trippy dreams in which I may or may not have seduced Matthew Mcconaughey, I had some serious revelations.  I was not happy where I was. My life was a disaster. I had zero time for my kid or my husband or my dogs and I was visiting Taco Bueno so often that the window guy knew it was me just by my order (vvegetarian black bean burrito, large Diet Coke). And my work was suffering.  I'm gonna tout my amazing work ethic here,  I pride myself on working my butt off. And I wasn't. I was giving half an effort to my job and even less of an effort to my family. To top it all off, I couldn't get along with ANYONE. And really what is the point of doing a whole bunch of things if you're not going to do a good job at any of them and everyone hates you (and the feeling is mutual).  I decided I'd rather fail at being a career woman than fail at being a mother and took the leap into stay-at-home motherhood. 

I've been at it a little over a month now, and I must say, I'm doing a bang-up job at this whole domestic house running thing, here are some of the amazing feats of motherhood I've accomplished thus far:

My first ever grease fire!  Because, you know, I am the next Julia Child, I decided to make my family a lovely pasta dinner.  This started by me warming up a pan with a little olive oil and then promptly forgetting what I was doing because my kid has a fascination with stove knobs and I had to remove him from the situation. When I came back to the task, I poured an entire can diced tomatoes and their juice into that pan and holy thermodynamics we had major combustion.  I started screaming "FIRE FIRE FIRE!!!" as I watched the flames leap as high as the ceiling, followed by "WHERE THE F IS MY BAKING SODA?!" My husband calmly walks in, looks at the blaze and says, "Eh, that'll burn out." He was right, it contained itself to the pan and that pasta sauce did turn out lovely, if I do say so myself. 

Finding fire extinguishers at Wal-Mart. Is there really any place on earth that is as terrible as Wal-Mart?  I think what makes it so bad is that, like death, Sam Walton's big box dream is inevitable. YOU WILL GO TO WAL-MART and YOU WILL SUFFER. This trip in particular started out with the bambino screaming his freakin' head off because he thinks that his 25+ pounds needs to be carried everywhere and to be put in a cart seat is a total insult. Of course everyone in that darn store looked at me like I'm torturing the child and I needed to think fast. I grabbed a JUMBO Push Pop off the shelf and give it to my darling dear and he instantly stopped screaming. I believe in positive reinforcement? Anyway, Push Pops are pretty much the world's greatest vessel for generating/collecting saliva, and combined with the size of the thing and the fact that my kid is composed of 98% drool, we were at turbo speed with this one.  The kid was quiet but covered in/leaving a trail of blue goo everywhere. Aside from being paranoid that I was going to get busted for shoplifting as we had not paid for that silencer, I could not find the darn fire extinguishers anywhere.  I went through every aisle of that store while my child munched on his unpaid merchandise, finding many many ways to start fires, but none to put them out. I would not give up. Plan B: ask an associate. OH SWEET JESUS TAKE ME NOW. I was directed to camping to automotive to hardware. Finally, taking a chance and heading to what was literally the farthest corner of the the store, beyond the tire department, I found those extinguishers. I picked up two because I didn't know if I'd ever be able to find them again and headed to the check out. The cashier grudgingly scanned the Push Pop with the hand scanner, I think we both knew it would be a disaster if we took it away from the kiddo, and the we got the hell out of there. Worst 2.5 hours of my life. Until the next week... 

Locking the kid in the car. I'm told this is a rite of passage and I think I've earned my mommy badge on this one. I was holding my keys in my teeth while buckling the kid into the car seat and I accidentally hit one of the buttons on the remote, and rewarded with a shrill beep. At this point I thought "Ooops! You almost pushed the panic button, better put those keys down." So I threw them on the front seat with my purse and phone, finished buckling in el boyo  and slammed his door shut. When I went to open my door, it wouldn't open, it was locked.  I had hit "lock" with my teeth.  I still had hope. Although I've used the lock function many times, I thought that maybe, this time, it didn't lock ALL the doors and tried in vain to open each door and tired the driver's side door a couple more times, just for good measure. No go.  I couldn't get into my house because my house keys were on the key ring that was sitting on the seat of my locked car. My husband had the spare key 30 miles away, and it's not like I could call him because my freakin' phone was in the GD car. At this point I went across the street and asked my neighbor if I could use her phone.  I haven't memorized a phone number since 1995, and the only one I knew by heart was my parents. And that is how, on the cusp of 30 years old, I had to have my daddy come rescue me (and his grandchild.) Luckily, my dad has worked with cars his entire life and had not one, but two ways of getting into the car which didn't involve my method of 'throwing a rock through the window.' Luke spent around 20 minutes locked in that car and I'm happy to say that only time he cried through the whole ordeal is when he saw his grandpa and mean ole mommy refused to let him get out and play. 

And you know what? I am CRAZY.  It would be much easier to stay in my air-conditioned cubicle, doing officey things, avoiding the risk of petty theft/child endangerment, but really, what's the fun in that?  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Doing it Family Style

I married a guy with five cousins.

If you're like me, you'd re-read that previous sentence a couple of times trying to find the typo. Five cousins. Total. There has to be something wrong with that sentence.

I've got 19 (first) cousins. On my mom's side. Add in the other 12 from my dad's side and we're up to 31.  And then 31 cousins plus their kids is 52 -- we're more than halfway to a hundred here. With my mom coming from a family of 10 kids and my dad coming from a family of 6 we've got a lot of aunts and uncles in there too. By the time I start adding in spouses, it's more math than my feeble English major brain can handle. The point is, my family is HUGE.

So yeah, five. Well, ok...

Needless to say, when I started introducing my husband to my family there was a bit of culture shock. He couldn't keep anyone straight, and he kept pairing the wrong kids with the wrong parents and I'd spend days after every family gathering trying to sort people out for him. "No, Erica is the one in grad school -- Maryanne is Diego's mom and Maria is my aunt, not my cousin."

One of the things that he absolutely could not grasp was the way my family told stories.  He was always perplexed by the fact that anytime anyone started telling him something, they were interrupted a few sentences into the conversation and the subject was abruptly changed, a new story was started. The cycle kept repeating itself and he would leave hearing the beginning of a lot of stories and the end of none of them.

This never occurred to me, and it never bothered me.  I never left a family gathering feeling like I didn't get a full story.

And finally, I figured it out.  Even though a story is started in one conversation it will be ended in another.  The trick is to to actively listen to all conversations going on at once and let the conclusions naturally come to you (in stereo).  By the time you leave you will have absorbed everything you need to know. If  you grew up  this way, you don't even realize you're doing it.

What an amazing way to communicate. Instead of conversations being complete and segmented, they overlap and re-overlap, and through it all the family is unified and our shared history is solidified. We share and laugh and relive our happiest moments with each other, time and time again.

It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

When I was a little girl we'd all go to my Grandpa's house every Sunday after mass (duh, we're Catholic, as indicated by our ability to be fruitful and multiply).  Those are some of my most treasured memories. The simple joy of being with the ones you love. I'd give up facebook forever if we could go back to that.

I'm not saying that having cousins in the single digits is a bad thing, but I do consider myself seriously blessed to be born into such an amazing (large) group of people. They've made me who I am and I can't imagine it any other way. Plus you can't go to Wal-Mart without seeing at least one of them.

And the husband, well, he gets it now. And sometimes I don't even have to explain everything after we leave.