Happy Birthday Big Sister!

A Birthday Message to Maria, My Older and Wiser Sister.

November 8, 2013. Another year, another baby!  Since you are recovering from such a terrible ordeal after nearly cutting off your own finger in an effort to juice a lime and just had surgery yesterday, I will only briefly mention the day you called to say “I caught your car on fire!” and then proceeded to abruptly hang up the phone in the exact moment that my mom friend lay flat on my kitchen floor after fainting at the sight of her bleeding baby. Since everything was ok, I forgive you, but, please, in your 33rd year, learn how to use jumper cables and/or borrow someone else’s car. Just kidding, what are little sisters for other than to torture and take advantage? Just kidding again, just please don’t ever light my car on fire ever again.

What can I say, that Swiss cheese hand/arm cushion looks good on you, and I doubt anyone can wear it and also hold a baby at the same time like the doctor told you not to. It does not, however, look as good as my leather pants, trench coat, black shoes, bronze shoes, various jeweled accessories, maternity pants, non maternity tops, dresses both dressy and casual, purses, clutches, skirts, blouses, and boots. May I kindly remind you that I neither made you attend college astronomy as a 13 year old, nor did you have to write a single Spanish paper in order to earn the rights to any such clothing items? De Nada.

I guess what I am trying to say is, I’m sorry I threw your makeup all over your room as revenge for locking me out of the bathroom all those mornings before 7th grade, and hiding the clothes I took from you under my bed and for cutting off your jeans when you studied abroad, and the leather pants looked really good.

We have a special thing going, you and I. Since we are married to brothers, and next-door neighbors, I can demote you to sister-in law and/or crazy neighbor with too many kids any time I want.

Despite your close proximity to my person, you still take up the most minutes on my cellphone plan. Mom calls the most, but you tend to have a better attention span.

I only had to receive your mail for four months, tops, after the mailman boycotted delivering mail to your house because “you have too many kids harassing (him)”. In your kid’s defense, the United States Post Office should avoid hiring deaf mailmen who don’t like kids. Not in your kids defense, its got to be the first time a mailman boycotted delivering mail to a residential family home. Anyway, you’re welcome and I’m super glad FedEx didn’t quit you too.

I’m also happy I could help you that day when you got your hand stuck behind that drawer and your circulation was being cut off, and there is literally no worse person you could have called to dislodge a drawer than your uncoordinated, clueless to the way mechanics work, little sister. But, we did it and your arm didn’t fall off like your finger almost did.

One year since your last birthday when we set our sights high, we still can’t play tennis.

Thank you for taking me to your pool all those days in the summer.

For forgiving my kids for messing up your pretty house all those days.

And for lending me a pair of shoes once, ok maybe twice.

And for letting me witness the birth of your sixth baby boy.

And for teaching me everything I know about motherhood (this may or may not be a compliment).

And for inspiring me to follow the will of God no matter what, and to do it with reckless abandon and steady perseverance.

You are the strongest woman I know and you are the best mom. If I were you I think I would probably shut down harder than the government. But, you don’t. You wake up and do it again and laugh as they hide stuffed animals around the house to hunt with their toy guns. Or when they hang from chandeliers in the non-cliché way, or flood the tub, or spread cake all over the stairs, or etc x 5billion.

Your baked goods are the best, and how you find the time only Pinterest knows. I’d make you a cake, but I already know you don’t want it.

You beat me in every race we ran together. I blame it on leg length, but let’s face it, it’s your heart and your will and I’ll die looking up to it. And maybe if you didn’t just almost cut off your finger I could have panted behind you on a birthday run. Maybe next year.

When I gave birth to Rita last year, I wanted so badly for her to be a girl. Beyond the desire to own matching girl outfits, there was nothing I want more for Josie than to have a sister, because sisters are the best, after they stop being so mean during the middle school years.

Please rest and get better soon! Don’t worry, your kids are only mildly driving me crazy, and baby Brendan was only once accidentally body slammed by an overzealous Rita trying to give him a hug. I’ll be sure to send the furniture-cleaning bill to you directly just in case the mailman quits again.

Here’s to so many more years, and at least a few more boys.

Happy Birthday Big Sister! May it be filled with cake not made by you, something shiny from your husband, and fewer trips to the Emergency Room.



Pearl Jamming.

Each trip to Marshall’s/church/pool/anywhere she would let me tag along was the same. She would tell me about what it was like to have a real boyfriend, or what I should look for her to where at Marshall’s as Pearl Jam’s Ten played in the background. We usually skipped #7 Deep because she was afraid of Eddie Vedder’s scream in its beginning. Then, just before we got to where we were going we put repeatedly laughed at Jay Z’s phrase “Bounce, B**tch.”

Although Eddie failed to incorporate the lyrical genius of “Bounce With Me,” fifteen years and 9 collective children since our suburban rock/rap joyrides, my sister and I, along with our husbands, attended to opening night to Pearl Jam’s latest tour. And as a 20 something mom blogger, I feel the need to broadcast when I do something even semi removed from diapers, and since it was an especially cool night, here it is on my silly blog. (Before leaving the house there were three explosions and two spaghetti sauce hands very close to my non- spaghetti sauce friendly material pants.)

The man is an unbelievable performer, and he continued to dazzle the fragrant flannel crowd long after the center’s workers union turned on the lights to kick him out. He invited the Pirates pitcher, Jason Grilli, on stage and drank Franco Harris wine. He told tales of his and Bruce Springsteen’s shared mutual love and respect for Pittsburgh. He continued to confuse my brother in law on lyrics and song titles, and although “I can’t find a pyramid,” (better man) does have a certain ring to it, all those people he called to say “it’s Jeremy!” during “Even Flow” were probably the most confused.

And while most of the crowd would most likely point to the music as being the star of the night, I’d like to point out my sister’s fashion, mostly because she’s wearing my clothes and I CONVINCED HER TO WEAR LEATHER PANTS!! In a sea of oversized flannels circa 1994 which are still being worn by today’s youth although I do believe their social message is one much different than the grunge stance of the 90’s (who knew flannels could stand for so much), her perfectly fitting vegan polyurethane was a refreshing mix of fake fabric, and the gold pointed toe heels stepped up her strut even more.


We topped off the night with Primantis and the men enjoyed more cheap beer.

I tried listening to some of my old favorites in the car this week. I checked the rearview mirror to find Rita’s foot violently kicking, James instinctively head banging with a super serious brow, and Josie with the perfect hair for baby rocking as she chanted, “its party time.” It was truly the State of Love of and Trust.

I’m committing to at least 5 posts this week. Join me!

Happy Weeks beginning.

A Great Race!

On September 30th of last year, I watched thousands of runners speed by my fifth floor labor window in black spandex with flashes of neon, as I cursed my way through each contraction kicking the floor and wishing I could join them on the pavement five levels down. I stared at the exact spot on which I vomited everywhere the previous year for hours and hours of “labor- is- the- worst.”  It’s at the height of the 4-5 mile hill, right over the road barrier, and it was a most embarrassing display of too eager too early, and the pre-run coffee/apple breakfast of idiots was most certainly a bad choice. The desire to avenge my public display of spewing stomach acid grew with each successive labor pain. And if there is anything a still pregnant girl hates most, its watching a bunch of skinny, light on their feet, athletic types gazelling effortlessly one after the other right in front of her.

The great news is that I birthed the cutest baby ever that day, and this morning, I had the opportunity to beat that hill that plagued my labor. What’s more is my sister signed up too, and my brother took my mom’s walker bib to join us. For the record, “Mary DiCarlo” finished first in the senior division at a whopping 62 year old woman pace of consistent 7 minute miles. (Don’t worry, the mistake is being rectified, and the poor woman robbed of her tireless effort will be given her rightful prize).


I had two goals this morning. First: to wear the same outfit as my sister to get her back for all the times she refused to dress in matching Laura Ashley drape patterned jumpers as a child. I succeeded. Second: to hold my chunks.

For lots of runners, the 9:30 race time is an invitation to sleep in and arrive well rested and stretched. For a mom, however, it’s a double duty call to wrangle a full mornings work- load AND road race. The two oldest did, however, put their “fast” shoes on all by themselves so they could “beat Mommy.”

I almost threw up 4 times before I left the house because, apparently, I’m a head-case. Additionally, I drink way too much coffee.

I maybe a little bit hopped a fence and got a really good starting position for my siblings and myself, as Maria continually downplayed her talent and speed. Two miles in, the girl was smoking me, and the dream of a picture- perfect- hand –holding- sister’s- in matching- running- outfits- photo- finish to flaunt around social media was left in the dust along with me. And as much as I would like to blame it on leg length like I did here, pssshhh. Or maybe she just didn’t want to hold my hand? (I WOULD NEVER!)

3 miles in, I made lots of fellow runners uncomfortable with my mile marker cheering. 4 miles in, I faced the hill that claimed my breakfast two years ago. I stared up at that window and wondered whose labor I was currently frustrating. I said some extra Hail Mary’s for her and held each and every sip of my coffee, sport bean “meal.” Could someone please help me learn how to eat before these things? 5 miles in I began to get very bored and no one wanted to talk, especially not about the women and labor at the hospital. 6 miles in: hurting, hurting, hurting! 6.2: all done! And my big brother and sister greeted me with a sweaty hug.

It was indeed, a Great Race. Even if James told me I’m just not as good as Maria and maybe I should borrow his red Pumas to help me run faster.

P.S: Tonight I put Rita down for her 364th night of sleep. The big 1 is tomorrow!!!!

10 things to waste your time ;)

(This blogging hiatus brought to you mainly by the three years late discovery of Downton Abbey. And having caught up, I’m now (WTswearword!) mourning my two favorite characters and ready to blog about the trivial during my childfree moments once again.)

Here are some not blog worthy things…

1. I brought baby wipes to Mumford and Sons. Its just that sometimes I can’t escape my essence as a mother for even a moment, and when I saw the pack of baby wipes on my car floor, I put them in my purse out of habit. But, since they are the greatest invention of all time, they very much came to the rescue on several occasions none of which had to do with wiping an infant. Spilled beer? I’ve got it. Portapottys been used too many times? Allow me. French fry grease making you slimy? Here you go. Every time I pulled out a wipe, I reminded my husband of their use and my genius. If only baby wipes could help with “post- best- concert- of- my- adult- life- accidental- kids- don’t- know- what- a hangover- is- and- are- so- unsympathetic- about- it….

2. I went to Mumford and Sons!!!!!! Only once was my pearl wearing group called “White Trailer Trash,” by a stranger who, apparently, likes quiet concerts.


3. We put a birthday hat on Mary, again. It’s a Mary’s birthday tradition. My sister and I head to our church playground, stuff our faces with pizza and carrot cake, and watch as the nine children wreak havoc well, as they generally do. We sing happy birthday as the little ones attempt to catch the fish in the pond next to her statue. We swing at a Mexican piñata, in honor of Our lady of Guadalupe, as the crawling kids experience candy raining, making all future thunderstorms disappointing. I’m pretty much positive that the Mom of all Moms finds it both entertaining and endearing.


4. Maria and I ran a 5k together, and once again, she proved faster and more determined. Before I go all “Ashley Simpson living in Jessica’s shadow” on you, she only beat me by 15 seconds, which I choose to blame entirely on the two more inches her legs have on mine. I came up with a formula. Two inches = 5 seconds per mile. 5 seconds per mile X 3.1 miles = we finished at the exact same time. The feelings of inadequacy began as I crossed the finish in the fastest recorded three point one miles of my life, feeling good and proud and sweating and hyperventilating. She, however, was already there, not panting or sweating, and saying things like, “I wanted to finish faster. I’m so disappointed I never reached ‘throw up’ speed.” I consider “throw up speed” to mean “slow down!!!!” Running in the shadow.


5. On one particular 5:45 am wake up call, I calmly explained “it’s too early for a Saturday, please go back to bed.” He did! And then he began calmly playing with toys as Jim and I slept. Is it beginning to sound too perfect yet? Because he changed his sister’s #2 diaper all by himself, too.

6. I learned that riding carousal at a place called Rib Fest brings about similar symptoms to those of “throw up speed.” Rib Fest is one of my favorite weekends of the whole year. But, I do not recommend trying every rib in the fest times 2 or maybe 3, and then spinning repeatedly while staring at weird looking circus animals moving up and down while also trying to balance two dizzy children sliding off of said animals because they ate too many ribs, too.


7. I had this conversation recently: James: “Mom I’m going to buy you something really nice.” Me: “Oh yea?” James: “Yea, a lightsaber,” he said with the proudest and widest grin and glimmer in his eye. “But, if you hit me with it, I’m taking it back.”

8. We went to Mass on a Wednesday night. Jim forgot to mention that Josie was wearing underpants, and Josie, seemingly, forgot as well. The font wasn’t the only liquid puddle.

9. Fish food is now #2 on my “all time worst mess list.” Poop is holding strong at #1.

10. Saw this Ray Romano quote. “Having children is like living in a frat house – nobody sleeps, everything’s broken, and there’s a lot of throwing up.” May your Pee Sigma Poop chapter be running smoothly.

A bride, a bus, and a bar

A Mom Walked into a Bar…

Does She?

A: hop on it

B: encourage the waitresses to wear more clothing

C: Break ID laws with confidence and even more honesty

D: Dance like (and hoping, too) no one is watching


I put on all the sequins I own and showered the bride to be with appropriate honeymoon attire as the sister hostess’s recommended drinking wine from a straw and the eggplant. Taking both pieces of advice straight to my belly, I hopped on a party bus with a stomach too full for my outfit and the perfect mix of single ladies and moms of several children. The mom who earlier described herself as an introvert shook what her momma gave her straight up the aisle, and accidentally in my face, allowing the bus to live up to its party descriptor, and making the blaring Blurred Lines song finally a little bit bearable. If Alan thicke jr could have seen the non- offensive fun in her dance he would have ditched his horrible naked lady idea, for sure.

With one piece of bubble gum for every wrong answer, the evening’s bachelorette nearly broke her jaw chewing. In her defense and can someone get her fiancé some comic books, Tarzan is most definitely not a superhero, but, I am quite thankful that “(her) hair?!” is not, in fact, his favorite quality of hers, and for that, she earned her Bubblicious.

Approximately 3 million skinny arm pictures later, the bus arrived at the sports bar full of jerseys and football; its spectators unaware of the phenomenal party, and party attire about to enter.

“I forgot money!” my sister called out.

“It’s ok, I have money, just take out your ID,” I coached my elder.

“ID? I didn’t bring my ID, is that bad?” She moronically replied.

Her defense for the forgotten ID?
“I remembered to bring chocolate.”

So, maybe I sat there calling her an idiot as the bus’ youthful experience taught the 32 year old, mother of six what “pass back” means.

Since blurting out honesty louder and more animated than anyone else is more her thing, she simply approached the 4 bouncers and explained that she would be entering the bar without an ID because she is in fact of age and before they said a word her high heel zebra print shoes walked right on by as she remembered to keep herself hydrated, just like a real zebra, with a, definitely not supposed to enter a bar, water bottle in hand.

I enjoyed my Guinness and the dance floor, rhythm of any sort eluding me. Between our circle of 4 moms, we counted 17 children, confident of no strange men approaching due to high fertility rates and probably also my dancing.

The Bride to be fulfilled her (morally appropriate) bachelorette checklist and with the aid of sisters and my sister, avoided the weirdest and most gag inducing almost dancing of the might as well be called chipmunk dancers for the level of nasty rat involved in the business.

It was a night full of so much fun and getting married is so awesome. And, who needs drama when the bride’s smile and fun can inspire the sweetest season of the bachelorette, ever?

Cheers to weddings!


I like to call my pose the “fat arm.” Still working on perfecting its counterpart.



looking forward to watching this unfold as a mom of a curly and a straight.

prompt: describe an object coveted as a child. I chose my sister’s hair, because its awesome, and always has been. 

I also find myself, often wondering, how we, two sisters, ended up with such a life of living next door, and marrying brothers, and sharing all of our belongings and ideas and jokes. 



Dirty blond, voluminous, and wildly perfect is the hair I was born without. Mine, dark and heavy, is too straight and much too stubborn to possess a joyful bend despite the desires of my imagination.  My sister’s curls, though, soft and gentle, rebound effortlessly to every request and idea, of a mother whose hair is the same. I looked up, with eyes younger and legs shorter, to see their bouncing curls, hopping with a melodious rhythm; in sync and on key. 


I remember feeling often like my limp strands, straight and heavy, sounded like they looked: blunt, unforgiving, and flat. Its at-home hair cuts often left it unaware of its unevenness and lack of trend. Gravity, is the first of the laws, which bounds each straight strand of this dermis unwilling to take a shape but its own. Her curls, though, are quite agreeable to pressure so long as its not atmospheric, and scissors that make mistakes. Yet, even when its humid, all those bends seem cool, making their frizzy halo as round as her face, pure and beautiful.

Before each special occasion, like my first day at school or First Holy Communion, I slept in rollers for at least two days. I would have curled it always, if I had been allowed. But the process of getting hair like theirs with hair like mine is timely, tedious, and requires help from someone bigger, just like the girl to which it belongs. And even after all those hours of attempt to curl and primp, my sluggish main, released from the curling sponge, remained wet and still quite limp, full of awkward kinks that made no curl at all. I envied all those spirals, and wished they’d take me away, wrapping me and my insecurities up into a bun or maybe something cuter with a bow of silk or barrett that sparkles. 

Maria often wondered why I tried so hard, to rid myself of all this hair, different than hers, and than moms, just the way she liked it. She’d brush and braid and pick out bands to adorn my silly head, that failed to see its beauty, and only hers, instead. The cloud of little sister envy made it hard to see beyond her and her curls. So, she’d remind me of its color, and the way she saw it: pure and rich and dark, unchanged even by the sun. Its willingness to stay the same, and sway, instead of bounce, “Its the kind of hair of princesses and queens who wear jewels and crowns, and of beautiful brides with veils and lace and love.” She showed me her knots that a comb could not help, and its ends split from weakness inherent in its type. She talked of birds and nests, afros with no taming, and other things confused by mirrors. Our difference, still, unwelcome, but the brewing bond of hair spawned a question quite courageous. “Do you think I could borrow that sweater? Its dark like me, and fits me pretty well. It seems to match this headband that you picked, and these new high heels that make me tall like you.” 

She surely sensed my begging, but, distracted by my knowing how the sweater fit, she also sensed my sneaking presence in her closet. “Get out” she said quite plainly, which was awfully rather rude, after all that talk of royalty, and weddings with lace and love. 



When Dad’s away, Mom makes bad parenting (and driving) choices.

1. On Saturday Evening, I fulfilled my 2011 Lenten promise. I’ve been a member of my parish since then, and it didn’t take long to notice the music volunteers are few and far from natural hair color. I’m not knocking the level of talent, I’m simply noting the need for a few more of us without white hair to step up sing before the silver grey peaks through. My singing ability is sort like my writing; it might not be the worst on the internet, but I’m still very unsure of the way I just used that semicolon. I thought for sure, I retired as a cantor at 19, until that pesky little conscience of mine creeped and nagged and nagged some more every week since I made the commitment to sign up to help just a few short years ago. I’d like to blame the delay on pregnancy, like I do for most things, but, one thing about pregnancy symptoms is that they tend not to affect my vocal chords. Two Lents later, I got around to sending a “do you need any more singers?” email, to which I received a “yes!!!!” response in approximately 32.1 seconds. That email was sent 5 months ago. After dodging two requests, and 17 emails, I finally committed to stepping up to that scary mic this past Saturday, July 6. The reason? Jim would be away fishing, thus, shielding me from his ever encouraging, “you sounded great!” when I would rather wallow in drama and  reject each and every form of comment or criticism regardless of his authenticity because I’m a brat. 

Believe me, you few internet readers, scheduling anything when husband is away and you are a mother of three is a very bad idea, unless there is a babysitter lined up weeks in advance, which I had not. 

As a result, there I sat at Mass, sweaty, clammy, and mousy voiced, and nervous, with a perfect view of my three angels banging on the glass of the cry room as they stood screaming and crying begging for me to stop singing immediately, and return to their beck and very loud calls. My mom was generous, and crazy enough to watch all of them in the cry room, a name they took quite seriously, but it would have taken an army of saints to quiet their cries. 

And what did I think the entire Mass? “I really wish Jim was here to help me and listen to me cry because I’m so nervous and the kids are so loud, why oh why did I do such a thing when he is out of town, I’m so silly, Jesus help me, shoot that was the wrong note! Damn! No swearing, you are at church.”

As a side note, the readings were very much about nursing mothers, to which I laughed and identified, until the word “abundant” was used as a descriptor for breast. 

And I even though there is no linkup to Grace for Mass Grades….

Me: F


Josie: F+

Rita: F. It pains me because she is nice, but, that baby threw her neck back looking for nursing at least 400 times and cried a lot, maybe she was paying too much attention to the readings. 

My Mom: A for effort, F for giving each child a new toy and their own bag of M&M’s, including the 9 month old.

2. And what is a post traumatic new and rusty cantor to do after wrangling three shell-shocked children? Taylor Swift, not-obviously. 

In between moments of child wrangling and incessant church music humming, I spent the rest of my Saturday hoping and praying that sweet Taylor had finally moved on from that Drew character because that song was the worst, and if music writing is any indication of the man behind the song, so was he. 

Luckily for me, she no longer sings songs circa 2008. It wasn’t terrible, accept it also was. Eight year old girls screamed at pitches that made me desire parenting through a three person tantrum at 6am. Her singing was good, costumes- cool and only one was sort of slutty, dancing- interesting, eight year olds screaming- horrible. 

BUT! It was a wonderful evening with all of my sisters, in laws and blood! 

And as the second concert of the week, the first being the TREMENDOUS and hilarious!! Steve Martin with his banjo band, Taylor was most certainly the lesser. I’m sorry, sweet eternal teenager- please don’t write a song about me. 

3. After begging my sister to please drive to TS, she refused, and little sisters obey. As my head’s pulse reached borderline pound, I put on my sunglasses and popped a Tylenol. On day three of parenting solo, some sort of migraine was bound to creep into my big head. It generously came on the way to hang out with 67,000 screaming little girls. In anticipation of a difficult parking situation, I circled around as my sister gave me the direction go-ahead. 

I asked again, “are you sure this is the right way?”

“I don’t know, it looks right,” said ambivalent big sister. 

And onto the BUS LANE I drove. 

As we laughed hysterically, we also feared for our lives, unsure of which direction the buses were traveling at that particular moment of the evening. Additionally, bus lanes lack exits, turn arounds, or any other sort of ‘do-over.” Twenty minutes of driving later, we turned around near the adult book store and sped away shaken and still laughing. 

In my top 5 list of things I’m worst at, navigation and sense of direction is most certainly my #1.  

4. As my last bad decision of the weekend sans husband and parenting partner fo life, I took my kids to a movie, without researching, knowing subject matter, or feeding them dinner. 

I hear good things, but, I didn’t check, and neither did my fellow mom friend. But, on day 4 of fishing Jim, the rain came, and we needed out. The two younger sat enjoying the colors and growls and other funny monster things, as James, my number one sponge, sucked in all of the “bad, evil teacher” signs and signals the movie had to offer.  

Parenting, may or may not be my #2 on the list of worst skills.Image

Jim’s trip was wonderful and peaceful, just like a fishing trip should be, and only received one crazy/frantic “why haven’t you called me,” call from me. 

run on.

My sister slowed her pace at the sound of my cheering. She didn’t want to miss seeing us, even if it added a few seconds to her time. She excitedly waved through her sweat and continued to strike: left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. it was a feat of mental strength and rhythmic repetition. It was mile 9. The sight of her husband and two children, Daniel age 8, and Jay 6, were the source of encouragement necessary to continue running on her fractured foot, mother of 5 joints and lack of time. The boys grinned with pride. They were also impressed. They had never really considered their hockey and soccer speed coming from Mom, until she ran by with such graceful determination, in one of the first main groups of female runners. I cheered for my sister because she deserved it. It was her first race, and she was fast, even after having a whole bunch of babies. She was happy, too. Humbly proud of her accomplishment, gaining confidence with every stride and step, in herself, and in God’s love for her.

As I try to settle my thoughts about Boston, the images of my sister running by, the smiles on the faces of her boys, the thousands of other families who shared such similar moments, keep flashing in and out of my mind. We attend and participate in these things because they are supposed to be fun, an opportunity to deepen our experience as becoming better, faster, stronger, human beings. Its freedom at its finest in a very exposed and obvious way. The more I try to settle, the more I become unsettled. Freedom makes us who we are. And that’s exactly what these crazies are trying to take away. They capitalize on its delicate purity in an attempt to destroy it with fear and violence. And they always seem to pick the things that are the most beautiful. Any time something like this happens, I once again start to battle between wanting to be safe steward of my family and myself, and being a crazy paranoid person who can’t sleep because I’m convinced tonight is the night someone is going to break in and do terrible, awful, things. I want to attend a marathon as a spectator, or a runner, and not think about getting blown up. The thoughts, the fears, the anxieties, all make me want to run away and hide underneath all of the covers and never come out.

But, then, I would miss it. I would miss my kids running in the yard completely naked because they see no reason to wear pants, or shirts, or socks, or shoes when its hot and we own a hose. And I would miss my CCD kids praying for whatever loser did all this stupid stuff in Boston, because “he doesn’t want to be friends with Jesus,” and for the boy who died, who is exactly like them, except now, “he gets to be with Jesus all the way and meet his guardian angel.” The terrorist didn’t expect runners to run to the hospital to give their exhausted blood. Nor did he expect restaurant owners to open their doors to hungry people and give away free food. He didn’t want unknowing toddlers to run around their yard giggling the next day, or CCD students to pray for him and rejoice in his victim’s union with God. God is still Good, the race is not over, and He is the finish.

Six boys, and counting…

I packed every single extra newborn diaper that Rita never used and walked across my lawn. Dan sat busily working behind his computer. I told him I was available to take as many children as he wanted me to have the next day. He didn’t seem concerned. His nonchalant demeanor really weirded me out. He was right, though. He had seen it 5 times before, and knew that his wife would do great, and that his boys at home would be safe. And even though most kids in the house were either throwing up, having asthma attacks, or running high fevers, he was confident that the babysitter would be perfectly fine. I couldn’t decide if it was delusion, ignorance, or Catholic faith at its finest. 

I found Maria upstairs. She was folding baby blankets and began organizing the diapers. Her exhaustion was obvious, yet she just continued comforting the sick kids and gave me instructions for what to do if Bailey stopped breathing the next day. I could feel my own breaths hurriedly growing with anxiety. It was 9pm before she was scheduled to have her 6th baby. Someone threw up, Connor was crying in his crib, she hadn’t slept in weeks. Yet, she calmly showed me the breathing machine and said “my goal is to have the baby by dinner time so that I can be home Sunday morning.” If I were her, I would probably slip hundreds to the nurses and beg them to keep me for as many days as they could get away with hiding me behind a hospital curtain. 

I arrived to the hospital the next day around 1pm. I tried my best to buy her post-delivery foods to her liking. With my bag of sugary snacks in hand, I walked into a room with a smiling mother of five boys on her sixth hour of Pitocin. The sight of the parquet floor made me nauseous. That damn wallpaper with the stupid looking fruit of whatever it is made it worse.  There is more maroon in one delivery room than in all of Bayside High. Flashbacks of 8cm came rushing back. I blinked really fast and tried to find a chair. “I’m so glad you came early, it’s been so long since we’ve hung out,” she said. I offered my condolences for her thinking that entering stage two of labor equated to quality time together. 

Everyone except Maria was expecting a quick labor. Isn’t the sixth baby supposed to sort of fall out? Hours upon hours upon horrendous hours went by. There were conversations about flesh eating bacteria, women becoming priests, Jim’s new concussion, con-artists, the unknown gender (pssh) of the baby, and a bunch of other things that distracted the rest of the room from her painful contractions. She closed her eyes and said Hail Mary’s. No complaining, no requests, just concern that I was missing my nursing schedule. At 7pm (12 hours of Pitossin later) it was getting increasingly intense. Dan paced the halls, she refused pain medication, I was sweating, finding it increasingly difficult to breathe, and wishing that I could borrow one of the newborns to nurse (sort of joking, sort of not). I made nervous jokes about it being International Women’s Day. The nurses had just changed shifts and gave hugs and said, “I wish I could stay with you guys! Its so fun to see such a happy family! We get so excited to see your name in the book every other month!” They all knew the drill. Aunt Sue was in charge, mom would suffer through pain without help, my mom brought obscene amounts of chocolate, and rosaries would be recited in the background. 

At 8pm it was clear that Jim would be doing the bedtime routine/chaos alone. 9pm: I was, I mean Maria, was in hell. So much pain. She calmly, and fiercely breathed on, as my sweating became obvious. 10pm: This can’t be serious. It doesn’t make any sense. She deserves better. Someone do something! 11pm: What’s your deal, God? Did you forget you’ve already given her 5 boys? Is a labor shorter than 24 hours really too much to ask? 12am: Um….this baby was supposed to come on March 8th, not March 9th. She was 9cm for like a million hours. “Your hair is going to fall out either way! Just get the epidural!!!!!” I pleaded. I thought her veins were going to burst, but her determination continued to astound me, and everyone. The once cheerful, hopeful mood of the room had turned. We began to fear for her, and the baby’s safety. Dr. Nicholas warned, “get the epidural…or else.” She reluctantly complied. Even after five babies, being 5’3” and 100 lbs with hips more narrow than a 12 year old’s, does not bode well for childbirth. I nearly pummeled the anesthesiologist for being rude. Others told me that she wasn’t actually being rude, I am just crazy, apparently very protective over my big sister, and its never a good idea to fight a woman with a needle that can paralyze. 

1:00 am (or somewhere around that time, it was really late and I was tired.) Time to push. I’ve had three babies of my own. Yet, nothing could prepare me for what I was about to see. She used every fiber left. Dan held her hand and tried to let go of the anxiety of seeing his wife in obscene pain. My mom and Aunt Sue held her legs and continued to coach her through. I tried to catch my breath. I submitted to my tears. She gave, and gave, and gave. She focused on Mary and called on God.  

It’s a boy. 

Her sixth boy. 

Her sixth boy, in eight years.

Baby Brendan. 

There is something very surreal about witnessing a birth. In a single instant, someone who is already known to be, becomes fully visible. What is already real becomes completely real in a moment of  unbelievability. He opened his eyes, revealing perfect innocence and potential. He looked at her, she welcomed him, her body still trembling as he laid calming on her chest. In a matter of seconds, a mother’s most painful moment becomes her most triumphant. 

Dan gleamed with pride, for his wife, for his son, for all of his sons. It was a dream come true, and a full hockey lineup. 

I imagined all the fun he will have and all of the messes he will make. The goals he will score, and bones he will bruise and break.

I became sure of a few things. First, Brendan is going to fit right into the already hilarious mix. Second, after witnessing strength I didn’t know existed paired with faith in the face of what seems to be impossible, my big sister will forever be my hero. And as a very tiny mom to six not so tiny boys, she will continue to have more reasons to laugh than pretty much everyone else in the whole wide world. After we gave each other a deliriously tired “good-bye,” I drove home and endlessly thanked God for my baby girls.