October 31, 2009

Secrets to Marital Success

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I wish my husband and I had a relationship like you and Adam.” Or, “You guys are so happy you make me sick.” Even at weddings I’ve had the couple say, “I hope we are as happy as you guys!”

Seriously?! Every time we hear this Adam and I chuckle to ourselves. It’s not that we aren’t happy, because most of the time we truly are, but we do have the same problems other couples have. We fight and get on each other’s nerves just like every other couple in the world. I think we’ve been lucky because we figured out a few things that make living harmoniously a whole lot easier.

First, my mom told me a long time ago to never mention the word divorce. Once you say, “Maybe we should get a divorce.” the other person will forever think that is what you want even if it isn’t. Adam and I took this advice and have never mentioned the “D” word, even at our angriest moment when we’re saying some really nasty things.

The next thing, we try really hard to put the other person first. When you do, your spouse feels so loved they want to do something special for you in return, and guess what?! Everyone is happy. I say we “try” because we don’t always do this. There are times when we are both feeling selfish which results in fighting and being critical of each other’s character, making the other person become more self focused. It can be vicious cycle, but one of us can usually break it quickly by doing some unexpected act of kindness that snaps us both out of our funk.

Now you are probably thinking, yeah I already knew all this. Well, there is something else. This one thing has solved most of our problems, and our secret is……Paper, Rock, Scissors.

That’s right. We have used this child’s game for as long as I can remember. We use it for all those little things that no one wants to do. I’ve heard a lot of couples’s problems and most of them result from one person carrying the load of performing all the unwanted tasks. When this happens it makes that person resent the other, resulting in all the selfishness I talked about earlier. This is where Paper, Rock, Scissors comes in handy.

A poopy diaper needs changed? Paper, Rock, Scissors. Someone needs to run to the store for one measly item in the rain? Paper, Rock, Scissors. A kid needs reprimanded and put in time out? Paper, Rock, Scissors. See how it works? It’s great because if you lose you have no one to blame but yourself. You should have thrown better!

Lesson 28: Paper, Rock, Scissors to solve marital issues = some sort of weirdo marriage
I know it sounds crazy, but if you are feeling like you are doing everything in your marriage, give it a try. You may find that even if you lose, those mundane tasks don’t seem quite as heavy.

October 24, 2009

Adam and His Tools

I sit here today writing, as I recover from an injury I accidentally inflicted on myself the other day. It was a beautiful and sunny, and I had walked outside to push a couple of my boys on the swing set. All I remember is stepping on the back porch then seconds later realizing I was lying on the concrete driveway.

“Mom, are you ok?” my boys asked as they ran to my side.

I couldn’t move my hand or leg at the moment and I felt a twinge of fear realizing I was injured and alone with 4 kids. How did I get here? I wondered. I looked back up to the porch and there it was.....Adam’s tools!

He had worked on the car a couple of days prior, and then put all the tools he used on the back porch instead of in the garage where they belonged. I had obviously tripped over the large fluorescent orange extension cord, because it definitely wasn’t big enough or bright enough to catch my eye.

Lesson 26: falling off your porch due to abundance of crap on it = white trash
I laughed to myself realizing that from now on, I finally had ammunition to get him to put his stinkin’ tools away. His tools have always been a thorn in my side. They are everywhere!

If any of you have a husband, I’m sure you’ll agree, most men LOVE tools! There are a few that don’t, like two of my brothers, the closest they get to using a tool is texting on their cell phones. Not Adam. Adam is a chef and still can’t get enough carpentry, electronic, and mechanics tools. When we go to Lowes he sounds like my kids at Toys R Us. “I need it.” He tells me in a whiny voice. After looking at the price tag I lovingly respond, “You don’t need it, you want it.”

Of course, with as much as he loves these random little trinkets, or large machines that I have no clue as to what their use could possibly be, you’d think he’d take better care of the ones he has. He told me once he “needed” a huge tool chest with a refrigerator in it. Huh?! He already has three or four tool boxes that are practically empty because he never puts his tools away.

I love him to death, and I am so glad I married someone who knows how to fix just about anything, but tools laying everywhere make me crazy. It wouldn’t be so bad if he would remember where he left them. One time he yelled at me because he couldn’t find the staple gun. He insisted that I had moved it. (Yeah, I just can’t wait for him to go to work so I can staple something!) A couple of months later I found it, along with a camping lantern, in his underwear drawer. I kid you not, in his underwear! When I told him I found it he jokingly asked why I had put it there.

Lesson 27: staple gun and lantern in your underwear drawer = white trash
To give you an idea of how ridiculous it is, I have taken an inventory of the tools in each room. It goes as follows:

Basement: 1 drill, 3 extension cords, 2 vice grips, 1 level, 1 hammer, 1 line reel, 1 box of screws, and 1 drywall scraper

Kitchen: 1 box cutter, 1 pair of wire cutters, 1 container of metal staples, 1 box of nails, 1 wall scraper, 1 dremel, 1 box of drill bits, 3 wrenches, 1 Phillips head screw driver, 3 cans of paint, 1 mini paint roller, and 3 mechanics tools I have no idea of what they are!

Hallway: In a decorative basket of mine, I found 1 flat head screwdriver, about 5 screws, a hammer, and some sandpaper

Bathroom: there was surprisingly nothing in my bathroom today, but I did remove a drywall trowel from our clean sheets in the linen closet a couple of weeks ago.

Our Bedroom: 1 gallon of paint, 4 paint rollers, 2 paintbrushes, 1 paint pan, 4 sandpaper blocks, 1 jigsaw, and a 12 gallon shop-vac (yep, the big one! Noooooo, it doesn't take up any room at all.)

The Boys’ Room: NOTHING! Are you kidding me?! They are men too. If there were ever any tools left in that room I’m sure by morning I’d find some sort of badly nailed together totem pole of toys and at least one child staple gunned to the wall.

Our Daughter’s Room: Jovie is only one and still in a crib, so Adam takes full advantage of the fact that she really can’t use her room yet. The poor child’s girly armoire is topped by 1 can of paint, 1 crowbar, 1 weird screwdriver (I couldn’t identify the tip), 1 bag of nails, 1 caulk gun, and 1 level propped up next to the armoire that is just as tall

So, I’m sure by now you can see why, although I do have a badly sprained ankle, I delight in the fact that Adam will be taking better care of his tools, and keep the eye sores out of my sight.

October 17, 2009

My Ultimate Cross

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. You may wonder why my oldest son Marky doesn’t have a name that begins with the letter “J”. The truth is I had him when I was 19 and he belongs to a guy I met in college. I only dated his father for a little over a month before becoming pregnant.

Lesson 24: getting pregnant to someone you barely know = white trash

What could be more shameful than that? Can she top it? Yes, she can! Another fact I hate to admit is that I also don’t have custody of him.

Lesson 25: a mother not having custody of her child = white trash

Now I know what you all must be thinking. You’re thinking I have to be some sort of crack head or prostitute because those are the only reasons a mother loses her child, but let me tell you, I know of some people who were drug addicts and prostitutes and they seemed to have had better luck than me.

I don’t remember much from my first mediating session. I do remember my mom telling me that morning, on the phone, to be sure to take a car seat because Marky would most likely be coming home with me. Surely no one would take a baby from their mother. WRONG!

I had no idea what I was in for. I was 20 years old, for crying out loud, why would I have any idea what it was like to fight for custody? I had recently gotten out of a relationship that was toxic to everyone involved. I was entirely too young and my mental and emotional state were too battered to be prepared for what I had to endure.

I don’t remember anything other than his dad telling me I was a bad mother and then hearing I no longer had custody of Marky. I’ve blocked the rest from my memory. It was the most painful thing I have ever been through. I blocked it the same way I blocked my motorcycle accident in 5th grade, which resulted in a concussion.

The next couple of years I fell into a deep depression, leading to mental regression and a drinking problem. My mom so lovingly calls this time and the year or so prior, “the dark ages”. I couldn’t see past the pain and embarrassment. I had given up on everything.

How did I recover? It took my grandfather to flat out tell me “Oh Jessie, get over it.” It was like being doused in cold water. I realized I was only a victim because I allowed myself to be. I had two options, to learn and become stronger or let it destroy me completely, and it had destroyed me long enough.

This was around the same time Adam and I got back together, and the pieces of broken life started to fall into place. I was able to obtain more visitation rights, which was wonderful. After I stopped blocking the pain and had come out of my nightmarish dream state, my lawyer explained that I could have had custody, but I signed my rights away. He said that he told me these things at the mediating session, but I seriously don’t recall anything like that. I really wish I had someone there for support who could have explained things in a manner my 20 year old emotionally drained brain would have understood, but there is nothing I can do about it now.

With God’s help, I have been able to heal and accept my path. I have learned so much from this experience, and have ultimately become a stronger person. It may not have turned out the way I would have liked, but it ended up the way it was supposed to. I may not know all of God’s reasons, but he does grant me little insights that humble me and make me say, “Oh, I see.”

One time I had a friend, who is very actively pro-choice, say to me in a snide manner, “Oh you’re pro-life aren’t you?”
I smiled and said, “Yes.”
For some reason she felt she had to plead her case. I don’t even know why this topic came up. “Well, you don’t know what it’s like for these women to be pregnant in a bad situation.”
(A lot of my friends forget about Marky because he’s not always around.)
I looked her in the eye and said, “Yes, I do.” Then I sat back in my chair and said, “Let’s talk about something else.”

This definitely hasn’t been easy, and I may only sleep well when Marky is peacefully perched in his top bunk in the room he shares with his only brothers, but I’m going to remain thankful that despite all the hardships I chose life.

October 11, 2009


My favorite food of all time has to be cereal. When asked what food I would take to a deserted island, my answer has always been “cereal and milk”.

I love all kinds and brands, discriminating against none. I love the sweet sugary tidbits as much as the healthy ones that people tell me taste like cardboard. I actually have very fond memories of original Shredded Wheat. I know they like large rectangular bales of hay, but I loved going down to the kitchen, when I was very young, on a sunny summer morning at my Ma and Granddad’s house to partake in a big bowl of mature wheatiness. I would crumble the rectangles until it resembled a big hay stack, then I would cover it in milk and sugar, making it absolutely perfect and delicious. I felt so grown up.

I have obviously passed this love onto my children. It has to be my gene; Adam only likes Lucky Charms with whole milk (which we never have) or Cocoa Pebbles. Too bad for him those are the two cereals that aren’t permitted in my home unless on special occasion.

The reason for the ban started when my kids began to get up in the morning on their own. They quietly come downstairs, turn on cartoons, and snack on dry cereal out of the boxes. This doesn’t bother me. That is what it’s for, and with other various junk foods lying around, I’m glad they opt for the cereal. Plus, fifteen extra minutes of sleep before the baby gets up is always welcome.

Cocoa Pebbles were the first to be banned when, no matter what they did, the small granules of cocoa couldn’t help but be spilt in what seemed like every inch of my floor. It always resulted in days full of sweeping and picking these pieces (and sometimes piles) off the floor. I felt bad for Adam, but the Pebbles had to go.

Lucky Charms were soon to follow, after I would come down in the morning to find them eating Lucky Charms minus the charms. They even, on occasion, when they couldn’t reach that last marshmallow, dump the whole box out leaving nothing but the non-marshmallow cereal bits. We do still get it on occasion, but it has a special place on a shelf no one can reach but me. Jagger is the only one who has been permanently banned. I don’t think he’s ever even tried the actual cereal part. I told them a long time ago, if they don’t eat the cereal too they don’t get any. The rest of the kids obey the rule.

Things have gotten better over the years, but I have recently seen a decline. This is due to the fact that Jude is now old enough to join the older boys in their morning ritual. Jude, not having the fine tuned motor skills for eating cereal out of the box, or opening it for that matter, has caused a major increase in cereal accidents. All this week I have had to come down and vacuum the floor. He’s been worse than the other kids in the fact that he tries to clean it. Unfortunately, his method of cleaning is crushing it into microscopic crumbs and spreading it over the carpet, making sure it is an equally thick layer throughout.

Lesson 23: perpetual rug of cereal crumbs = white trash

Yesterday, it was a blanket of Crispix, today it was a very vast layer of Cocoa Krispies. Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “What is the difference between Cocoa Pebbles and Cocoa Krispies?” Well, let me tell you. Nothing! When I spoke of special occasion before, what I meant to say was really good deal! For all of you who don’t know, I am a coupon junkie. Coupons are like a drug to me, and the grocery store sales flyers are like my dealer, pushing me to buy things I really don’t want. Like Cocoa Krispies. Did I forget the consequences of having Cocoa Pebbles in my house? No. I just couldn’t deny the sale at Giant Eagle and the $2 coupon in my coupon holder, making the box of Cocoa Krispies 50 cents! I fought with myself in the store, but my pregnant belly reminded me of the delicious chocolate milk that was left in the bowl when the cereal was all gone and the box of forbidden food was in my cart.

I do enjoy seeing people’s faces when they see a cereal massacre. My cousin Evan had come down for the weekend for a visit a couple of weeks ago. When he emerged from the basement his eyes widened at the torn up Life cereal box and crumb mess that spanned the living room.

“What the heck happened here?” he asked.

I responded, “Oh, sorry about this, Jude is a cereal killer with no respect for Life.”

October 8, 2009


Happy 10th Birthday to my beautiful first born Marky, or JaMarcus as he likes to be called when he's feeling sad about not having a name that starts with J.

October 4, 2009

Man Funk

Testosterone has always been a main staple in my home. Surrounded by one husband, four sons, and a constant male basement dweller, estrogen is hard to find. I was alone with my ovaries in a sea of man until I lucked out last year and had a daughter.

Finding out we were having a daughter was quite a surprise. We really thought Adam could only make men. In fact, when we got the ultrasound and were told the results, Adam swore at the lady.

Lesson 21: Telling an ultrasound technician to “Shut the *@#% up!” upon getting the results of having your first daughter = white trash

When we found out we were having another baby, we were hopeful that our luck hadn’t run out. It would have been wonderful for Jovie to have a sister. All the signs pointed to girl. Adam said to me, “I think you’re having a girl.”

“Why?” I asked.

In a very careful tone, he replied, “Well, you’re really broken out and you just aren’t glowing like you did with the boys.”

I stared at him, batting my eyes with attitude. “This is my 6th baby.” I dryly responded. “Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, the glow is gone.”

After going to my ultrasound a couple of weeks ago we found out that, yes indeed, the glow is gone. There, floating around in my uterus, flexing his muscles, was our 5th son.

Now, I don’t have a problem with having a lot of boys. Never a dull moment at our house, there’s always some sort of wrestling match, battle between Jedis and Siths, Nerf wars, fort building, or ninja competition going on.

Of course, there are some down sides to a house full of boys. To start, I would like to say that the men of my house are far more creative than most. Unfortunately, that is going to have to be a whole other topic of discussion.

The second is their crazy physical feats. This has resulted in limited furniture. We used to have a coffee table in the middle of our living room. After Jagger gave himself a couple of black eyes, and I caught him and Marky tap dancing on the glass panes on top, I got rid of it.

All four boys currently share a bedroom, which closely resembles a prison cell. They have nothing more than two sets of metal framed bunk beds. We never put in a set of closet doors in fear that they would break them in some sort of man brawl. They’ve also lost their light privileges after I caught Jagger hanging from the ceiling light fixture in their room.

We just bought our first couch this year, after almost a decade of used furniture. When the salesman asked if we wanted to spend extra money on scotch guard and reinforced structure features, we laughed in his face and told him despite all efforts, our kids will ultimately find a way to run it into the ground within a year. We figured we’d save our money instead of investing in a lost cause.

The other down side I’d like to talk about, ignoring the obvious food bill that hasn’t seen a pubescent teenage boy grocery list yet, is the man funk that is inescapable. All boys put off this pungent man odor. You can always tell a house that has a majority of men. It never has an aroma of flowers or sweet smelling citrus, no it usually smells like a combination of dirty socks and musk, unless you have teenage boys, then it smells more like sweaty jock straps and acne creams.

My house is no better despite all my efforts. I bathe my kids every night trying in feeble attempt to minimize the funk, but they wake up in the morning in their natural boy scent. I’ve tried Febreeze, Lysol, scented candles, and have Bath and Body Works plug-ins all over the house, but have only ever achieve a fruity gym sock smell.

Lesson 22: house with man funk stench = white trash

It gets disheartening at times as I lose the war, but luckily when things are at their smelliest, I have my daughter, whose curly hair has a natural floral scent. I hold her in my lap and sniff her hair that takes me from this stinky man dungeon to a field of flowers. Of course, you can never fully escape the funk, so it’s more like a field located beside a sewage plant!

October 1, 2009

Baby Factory

I've always had a feeling that I would end up with seven children. Even at a young age, when I didn’t like kids, people would ask how many I wanted to have when I grew up and I would automatically reply, “Seven.”, though the thought of it made me retch a little in my mouth. Being barefoot and pregnant and having a pile of kids with runny noses, Kool-aid moustaches, and dirty hands hanging off my hips wasn’t my ideal way of life. Unfortunately, I've always known it's God’s calling for me, and it is ultimately going to happen, no matter how much I fight it.

A stay at home mom with a half a dozen kids is a completely acceptable life style…..yeah, in 1950! In today’s commercial society it is totally taboo. If you have more than 2.5 kids you are considered irresponsible or insane.

No one has been happy to hear I’m pregnant since my third baby. My real father has been the most outspoken about his distaste for the whole situation, telling family members he’s going to neuter my husband, because, you know, he holds me down and impregnates me. Come on! He told me to stop after my 4th son, but I didn’t listen. The 5th baby turned out to be a girl, so it was acceptable. My dad then said, “Now that you have a girl, can you please stop?” Yeah, like that was why I kept having kids. I was at peace with having only boys.

The way things have worked out I have been consistently pregnant or nursing since 2002. My babies turn 9 months I start to sweat, because I know what’s coming. So, in May when I realized my monthly woman friend, that I rarely see, didn’t turn up, I wasn’t surprised.

Lesson 20: Being pregnant or nursing for 8 years straight = white trash

The only thing that confused me was that I didn’t feel pregnant. I have been pregnant 5 times and all those pregnancies had been fairly similar. I wasn’t sick, hungry, or tired. I told Adam, “I’m not pregnant.”

Adam looked at me with a skeptical grin. “Well, take a test anyway.”

I rolled my eyes. I think I know my own body, but there would be no living with him until he had proof.

On Adam’s next day off we decided to take all the kids to the Pittsburgh Zoo. We stopped at the store to pick up food and drinks to take with us (we’re cheap). I went in alone, because we don’t dare take all five kids into Walmart, not only is it chaotic, but Adam hates all the time I waste sanitizing carts and children. As I ran through the aisles (the kids’ patience in a car has a life of about five minutes) I decided to take a detour to the pharmacy and pick up a pregnancy test to get Adam off my back.

We went to the zoo and I never gave the test another thought. After a day of fun we pushed the envelope and kept the kids out a little past their bed time. (Having so many kids makes a routine necessary.) Unfortunately, my kids don’t handle staying up late very well. Their moods had waned from an excited high to an all time whiny low.

When we got home, I immediately ran upstairs with our hysterical 9 month old daughter, Jovie. She cried in her bouncy seat the whole time I took the pregnancy test. When I finished, I quickly put the cap on and threw it on the bathroom counter. I had more important things to do than stare at a stick of urine.

I summoned Adam and our 3 youngest boys upstairs to take a shower (they still needed help). My oldest son (who can shower on his own) yelled and whined up the stairs at me about some game system that wasn’t working. Adam’s eyes were huge as he pushed three crying boys into the bathroom, his look let me know how absurd the current situation had become.
I started the shower and helped Adam get the kids ready to get in. The ridiculous ado was so intense, Adam and I had no choice other than to yell to communicate. As Jagger screamed, he hung off the top of my pants, nearly pulling them down. Jovie’s screams had become ear piercing, Jet whined in the corner, Jude screamed wildly as he threw a tantrum, jumping up and down violently, and Marky was now at the door complaining once again about the stupid game, I peered over at the ominous stick. I looked up to see Adam looking at it as well, seeming satisfied with being right.

“Maybe it’s a mistake!” I yelled with a laugh.

Adam chuckled. “Really?!” he asked in a severely sarcastic tone. “I can name a few more!” he screamed motioning around at our children, now in a state of total meltdown. We stared at each other for a second before breaking out in hysterical laughter.

Learning you are having another baby, while your other kids are at their worst, is not the best way to find out…….trust me!

“Ugh.” I sighed. “I knew I was going to have 7 kids.”

Adam, being the optimist that his is, said, “Well, at least we’re almost done!”

“Oh no! Clayte’s going to kill me!” I exclaimed, remembering my brother’s wedding that was only a few months away. I had promised I wouldn’t be pregnant for it. How sad is that? People beg me not to be pregnant for their functions.

Knowing not many people would be happy to hear we were expecting our 6th baby, we considered keeping it a secret. You know, to change it up a little. We wondered how many people would come to visit and not even notice a new one in the mix. We were definitely entertained by the idea.

I personally didn’t want the negativity. Like anyone telling me they weren’t pleased was going to stop the outcome. Oh, you don’t think it’s a good idea?.....poof!…..I’m not pregnant. Sorry, never gonna happen. I told a few people I could trust and knew wouldn't judge me, like my mom, my best friend Jackie, and my cousin Brett. They of course were very supportive and happy, which was what I needed.

I am now 20 weeks pregnant, and everyone knows. I had a lot more happy responses than I expected, so I was pleased, but I also got a lot of flack from those who I knew were going to dish it out. Some people just don’t seem to understand why Adam and I don’t have a problem with our lives being completely wrapped in our family. We’ve chosen to surround ourselves with little miniature symbols of our love that fill our house and make our lives sing, and now that we have them, as crazy as they all may be, we can’t imagine life without them, and to limit the amount of love we bring into this world seems wrong.

I’m Jessica, and I’m a baby factory…….and proud of it!