Monday, March 26, 2012

Bleeding Love

One of the things I love most about our home is the constant dancing. Or singing. Or both, actually. With the volume on full blast we will shake our tooshy to anything--morning, noon and night. We have a pretty good variety of favorite tunes but when analyzed more closely I sense that we are unintentionally two years behind mainstream pop culture. For example? Just last month we realized how flippin' awesome Justin Bieber is. And don't get me started on Dynamite by Taio Cruz, which is our current booty-shakin' favorite.

We are sooooo 2010....

But something happened recently. My girls are OBSSESSED with Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis. Let me paint a clearer picture for you. EVERY SINGLE MOTHER-GRUBBING TIME I DROVE THE CAR LAST WEEK WE LISTENED TO BLEEDING LOVE. OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

More like Bleeding Ears. But get this, they provided the funniest rear-view entertainment for me. Every time they heard it, they became more and more devoted to it. And c'mon, there's nothing funnier than two little girls over dramatizing ballads. So, like a good mom, I set out to capture it on film to always remind me of this funny stage of theirs. And what started out as some family stock footage suddenly became a full-blown music video. That's what happens when you ask for my husband's help--homeboy goes all out.

Thanks Eugene, our family will be laughing at this for years!

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Mother's Birthday

December 23rd is one of the worst possible days to have a birthday. Finishing up last minute things before the start of the Christmas holiday, grocery shopping to ensure that Christmas dinner is fresh, one more godforsaken shopping mall trip because you forgot something for Aunt Mildred.
Year after year, it's always the same. 

Even when I promise myself that next year I will have everything ready so that I can properly celebrate my mother's birth, it always seems rushed and second-hand to the celebration 48 hours later.

She has spent her entire life getting the short end of the birthday stick.

That is, until March 10, 2012.

This year my mother turned 65. And to celebrate in style we surprised her 76 days later.


But surprising her was the biggest challenge of them all. In what was appropriately titled Operation Oklahoma (my mom can shatter glass with her awful yet honest rendition of Oklahoma--which she would sing all the time growing up) we set out to surprise the birthday girl in what we hoped would be a birthday party she'll never forget.

The planning began months ago. Rounding up all her siblings from Arizona, Nevada, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Reaching out to her friends from nursing school, some 42 years ago. Alerting her current workstaff. Announcing to the families. And above all-KEEPING IT A SECRET.

Our alibi was rock solid. My dad recieved a (fake) letter from the President of the Palos Lions Club announcing that he was the Melvin Jones Man of the Year recipient and that he and his family was cordially invited to a recognition dinner at Silver Lake Country Club. She bought it hook-line and sinker.

 Good one, Dad!

It was 6:00, the sun was setting and the room was all set up.

 The candles were lit.

And suddenly the most important people in her life joined the party

and were greeted with a Kathy mask/place card.

We browsed the pictures of her past

as we waited in anticipation.

 Then the text came in.

She arrived with my dad and Eugene caught them in the parking lot
to take pictures of the "Lions Club Man of the Year"

Tee Hee.

I love these pictures because she has no idea what's moments away...what's really behind that door.

And then my dad opened it and everyone screamed


She instantly gasped and stepped back out into the lobby, her back to the door.

Embarassed, I think.

But her and my dad exchanged the most precious of looks and after a deep breath she re-entered her party with the familiar grace that we know so well.

She was beside herself.

These types of moments are so rare and so pure. And I'm SO grateful this moment was hers

Everyone lined up to greet her.

I've never seen my mother smile so much.

It was priceless.

Look, my dad's wearing his Lion's Club badge.

Total committment. 

As the first course came out, so did the speeches.

I love hearing stories of my mother's past. 
But don't all children wonder what they're parents we're really like? 
What roads they walked? What decisions they made? 
How they really did in their 7th grade math class? 

What they were like as a person, not as a parent

That's what's so intriguing to me. 

Stories of her strong sense of character and passion.

Stories of sisterhood and friendship.

We kids decided to do the "Top 10 reasons why a mother's instinct is SOMETIMES right"

And roasted her silly. 

We raised our glasses in her honor.

And were reminded of 
how beautiful our family really is.

And at the end of the evening we surprised my mom with this film. 

Their story.

And while this evening was meant for my mother, I walked away with an even deeper love and appreciation for my family. It was a birthday party WE ALL will remember.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Here's the actual video of her surprise. But please note, the off-key singer is NOT me. I will however, maintain her anonymity, cuz it's bad, real bad :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My American Girl

As I layed Mia to sleep tonight she asked me if we could be a happy family forever. It was one of those moments that stopped me blind. One of those moments when a tight hug simply isn't enough of a reciprocation to something so profound and so true.

"I really hope so" I whispered and tried to fight off my throat lump. 

I'm sure it was her internal recap and run-down of the day that inspired that question. We had a full day. A fun day. And as I recalled too, every single one of us was--HAPPY

Today, dressed in our best, we celebrated Bella's 6th Birthday. 

She spotted this dress months ago and immediately had her little heart set on it. She begged for it. Like started pleading and persuading for it. Ya know, in the "I swear Mom, I'll be so good to my sister if I have this dress" kind of way. I told her that I'd talk it over with dad. I lied. I bought the dress the same day.  And sure enough, when she woke up this morning it was waiting for her. 

Ya know how we can strangely remember certain outfits from our childhood? Outfits that somehow defined us in that particular moment? For me, it was white knee socks and a pale yellow dress on Easter, or the short sleeve t-shirts donned with those rubbery-glittered- iron-on-rainbow-decals or the Outback Red shirt that you had to peel off of me because I'd be dammed if we were to part ways.

For Bella, this dress will be one of those memories. But in case she forgets, she also has a teeny, tiny second dress to remind her. 

Bella's BFF Kanani

Mia also discovered a treasure on that fateful shopping trip, so she too was surprised to unwrap her fancy frock this morning.

She picked her shoes. Not me.

Even Chance got spiffied up for the occasion.

He's going for the "my mom is trying too hard to make me look like I'm not trying too hard" look.

Check out some future heart throbs. 

All 13 of us arrived at the American Girl Store 30 minutes before our lunch, 
which allowed plenty of time for the girls to browse

and pose

and definitely enough time for the hair on my brother's neck to stand up. 
He really enjoyed "Celebrating Girls of Yesterday and Today." 

Uncomfortable much, Rich?

That's love Bella. 

My sister met her match, "Rebecca" the 1914 NY socialite.

And I was reunited with Molly. Sweet, preppy, spectacled little Molly. I first saw her back in 1988, when an American Girl catalogue was sent to our house. I was smitten the moment I saw her. But my 13 year old self was "too cool" to play with dolls. But I secretly wanted her. Still kinda do. Perhaps that is why we are here celebrating my daughter's birthday. Ruh-roh. Am I reliving some sort of childhood void with Bella? Perhaps.

But perhaps she's just as smitten as I was.

I think we all were, actually.

"It was like a fancy doll museum" said Mia,

Even my parents were lovin' every minute of it. My mom? Well to put it mildly, she SOAKED. IT. UP!

As we waited for the doors to open. 

I watched as Chance and Mia posed with the birthday girl. 

They were so happy for her!

And then we were escorted to our table. Our very pretty and very pink table.

Where there was a high chair for Kanani. But of course there was.

And out of the kindness of their hearts, they also have loaner dolls for kids who don't have one. 
Oh, the marketing machine.

So Mia got a doll too, Rebecca.

That she could temporarily love and play with and get attached to....

But my favorite part was watching Chance and my nephew "take care of" their little boy dolls.
Isn't this just the sweetest picture? I mean if you can look past the pumkin-pie-hair-cutted-freak of a hairdo on that doll, he's kinda cute.

Watching Chance interact with the doll was hilarious. In one moment, he would feel compelled to share his food with his doll, as evidenced by the above cheese slice. But in the next he'd almost accuse the doll of taking his food and swipe it back. 

After placing our order, Bella became the emcee of the luncheon and took it upon herself to quiz everyone at the table with the aide of the "conversation box."

Which btw, I am totally making a conversation box for our dining table. So cute.

Even Kanani was put on the stand.

Um Bella, she doesn't talk.
The first course (and there were 4) were these super yummy cinnamon rolls. And when I passed the plate to Bella I watched as she picked up a roll with her pinky up in the air, as dainty as a flower, and sweet molasses, it melted my heart. I could have left right there and had been more than satisfied. 

I mean, that's what it's all about. Sister had major commitment going on! And why not? Look at the table! Look at the dolls! It's exactly what she wanted for her birthday with her family by her side enjoying these moments and committing to the cause 100%. Well most of us were committed. I'd occasionally glance over to the other table to see both my brothers mouthing profanities to me under their breath. Something about the color pink and payback.

The food was surprisingly delicious. I mean, NOTHING like we had expected. 

In fact, Eugene and I even toasted our daughter's birth with some really tasty pomegranate champagne. 
Ahhh yeah!

My girl had the time of her life. 

And when the wait staff came barreling through with this precious little cake, the restaurant sang along.  

And as soon as we were done shoveling our face with cake AND ice cream, cuz they served BOTH.


We said good bye. Some good byes were harder than others. Like this little guy.

And smiled once more for the camera.

I live for days like this. Days that prove, without a doubt, 

that we will be happy forever.

Well, at least we were up until the car ride home when all hell broke loose. 
But, yes, happiness. Let's shoot for that!


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