The Adventures of Poopie (it’s not what you think.)

If you’re anything at all like me, you’ve often wondered:  when does a child’s imaginary friend cross the line from cute to maybe a little crazy?  Today – I officially know where that line is – and it’s way, way back in my rearview mirror.

Very soon after my daddy passed away, when Luca was only about 2, he started seeing a “girl” with a “mustache” who often scared him to tears.  He eventually told me the “girl” with the “mustache” was playing peekaboo with him and he did NOT want to play and that the “girl” kept laughing.  So, naturally, I convinced myself this was my daddy’s way of visiting with Luca.  It seemed very much like the sort of thing he’d do:  torture my baby with unsolicited games of peekaboo and then laugh at Luca when he cried.  My dad and I share a sometimes slightly sinister sense of humor.

Soon, either the visits stopped, or Luca grew accustomed to them and was no longer afraid.  I’m not sure which because it can be challenging to gather that kind of info from a toddler.  But – the “imaginary friend” bit was just beginning.  Luca soon started talking endlessly about his friend Amaheeka, who lives in the clouds.  He would tell us about Amaheeka’s house and his friends (one of whom was Superman).  And, when I asked Luca to try a new food – his response was quite often, “I HATE that food.  I tried it in the clouds with Amaheeka!!”

When we fly – which is not often – Luca will look out the window to try to find Amaheeka.  I think on our last trip he was confident he saw him (Amaheeka is a boy.).

But – most recently, Luca has declared his newest and bestest imaginary friend:  Poopie.  Luca spends hours upon countless hours telling me stories about Poopie and throwing parties for Poopie’s birthday/other special occasions.  He even gave me an in-depth description of Poopie.  Poopie is in fact a poopie, but he is NOT a stinky one, I’ve been reassured.  He is a small brown circle, with green eyes and a straight smile.  He has black arms and legs with cartoonish circles at the elbows and knees.  He just turned 5.

Poopie has a girlfriend.  Her name is China-bay-ah (I hope Luca will forgive me if I’m spelling these wrong – I’m going with phonetics).  China-bay-ah is 14, and is also made of poopie, but she is very tall because she has multiple small poopies piled on top of each other.  You can’t make up sh*! like this (see what I did there?).  Apparently, this May/December romance is not unusual or frowned upon in Luca’s imaginary world.  And – here’s where it starts getting good:

Last night, Luca declared to the whole family over dinner that “Poopie’s mommy is having a baby tomorrow!!!”  You can surely imagine our unabashed excitement.  Mostly.  Big Daddy did not take the Poopie news very well: “Luca, I liked it much better when you had your friends in the clouds.” That was the wrong thing to say.  Luca gave his angriest pouty furrowed brow face and shouted, “I still have my friends in the clouds!!  My friends in the clouds live FOREVER!!!”

Duh.

Anyway – back to Poopie’s mom’s new baby.  This morning, Luca dressed himself excitedly and then came to me carrying a clip-on tie.  “Mommy, can you help me put the tie on?  I need to wear it because today’s the day that Poopie’s new baby sister is coming. I need to be introduced.”  So, I did what any good momma would do.  I clipped that tie right on to the Texans t-shirt he was wearing, I gave him a kiss and a squeeze and said I couldn’t wait to hear when the baby comes!

Well, Poopie’s mom works fast.  By the time Luca came down for breakfast, Poopie’s family had welcomed a new baby girl – named “Bows to her necklace.”  Hearing Poopie’s new baby sister’s name made me ask about the other names in Poopie’s family – and Luca even shared more detail about China-Bay-Ah’s family too.  Please see the picture below to fully grasp the extent of my 5-year-old’s imaginary world (but then keep reading!):

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I took Luca to school, in his fancy pants, Texans t-shirt and clip-on tie wondering how the other moms and kids and teachers might respond.  As we came to his classroom, one of Luca’s teachers whispered to me, “Look at Luca!  I see he has his “Ts,” because the class is working on the letter “T” this week.”  Oh, how wonderful if that had in fact been the driver for my sweet boy’s ensemble.

No, Ms. Bradley.  No.  Luca didn’t wear his tie for T week.  He wears his tie for Poopie.

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Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with My Grocery Store Monopoly Game

I hate – – HATE – – going to the grocery store.  In fact, one of the New York luxuries I miss is a fantastic service called Peapod: you make and save a grocery list online that can be amended week to week to suit your shopping needs AND everything you order seemingly magically appears at your door later that day.  Ahhhh.  My kind of grocery shopping.  I don’t know why I hate traditional grocery runs as much as I do.  I know I don’t like germs, so touching the wagons (that’s what New Yorkers call “grocery carts” btw) is never a good time.  I know I’m not a fan of running into people I know at the store either.  Please don’t take this personally – it’s just that I’m a little socially awkward, and when you run into someone at the store – and you get through all the small talk – you inevitably have to then pass that same person 25 more times as you both work your way up and down the aisles.  Oh – those precious “are you following me?” – chuckle chuckle – moments.  And I truly despise the crowds that form around free samples.  C’mon folks – eat BEFORE you shop.  If you learn nothing else from my ramblings – learn THAT!

So – whatever the plethora of reasons, I hate going grocery shopping.  Until…

Enter the Randall’s Monopoly Play & Win game.  In case you’re not familiar, this game consists of a paper game board and stamp booklets.  Certain items in the store earn you a stamp booklet, which contains 4 game pieces and another chunk of the booklet is either a coupon, an instant winner ticket, or a code you need to enter online.  Sound complicated?  It gets BETTER.  There are a few items as you peruse the Randall’s aisles that offer a BONUS stamp booklet.  That means, you buy item x – instead of getting one lonely booklet, you get two – doubling your chances of winning.  Sign me up.

I was so excited when my first trip to Randall’s during the Monopoly promo period earned me a whopping 32 booklets.  You know you’re exceptional when the cashier says, “Wow – that’s the most I’ve given out so far.”  Who cares that half my wagon was filled with items no one really eats?  They were BONUS TICKET items.  You can’t beat those odds.

But then I had the arduous task of ripping the booklets open; adhering the stamps to the appropriate places on the game board; entering in an endless stream of codes online.  And I sighed deeply as I thought to myself, “This is surely not worth the effort and the money I’m wasting on potentially unnecessary groceries.”

Just as I was preparing to toss my game board in the trash, I noticed I was only two stamps away from the GIANT $1,000,000 cash prize and only two stamps away from the slightly less awesome $500,000 vacation home.  This was after one shopping trip.  It became very clear to me that I was destined to win this game – and win BIG.

So – I am now making trips to Randall’s three/four times a week, filling my wagon with Monopoly bonus items.  When I am at the checkout counter and the cashier hands me my embarrassing wad of stamp booklets, I make it a point to appear exasperated and say things like, “oh my – this is crazy! I don’t even play this game.” or “My kids will be so excited – they love playing this game.”  Because a person with a real gambling problem never admits it, right?

Sadly, I’ve learned over the past weeks that I may not actually win anything – – not even the $5 Grocery Gift Card that I am only one stamp away from snagging.  Most – and sometimes ALL – of my stamps are now duplicates of the ones I’ve already painstakingly affixed on my board – and I toss them away telling myself to end the insanity.  But then I enter in my online codes and become an INSTANT WINNER of 12 more Monopoly stamp booklets – so, back to Randall’s I go.

On the up side – we have not run out of milk in weeks.

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Spontaneous Unnecessary Tears (aka SUTs)

Marino2015-004_edited-1I don’t know when it happened exactly, but sometime after Isabella was born I was “gifted” with Spontaneous and quite Unnecessary Tears.  If you’re also a mom, you must know what I’m talking about (or at least TELL me you do so I feel ever so slightly less crazy).  This is the phenomenon in which you could be in the midst of a very ordinary, nothing special moment and without any warning, you feel that all too familiar stinging in your eyes – often coupled with an ookey feeling in your belly.  And there you are, in the carpool line at pre-K pick up – crying.

That was me this afternoon.  I was minding my own business – listening to my Billy Joel radio because I’ve got to get in all the listening time I can before it leaves me on March 15. [SIDE NOTE: On what planet is it ok for Tom Petty to have a radio station dedicated to his music every day forever, while Billy Joel gets limited edition runs?  I mean – really.]  So, all was grand in my minivan and then my little guy’s class came walking out of the building.  I spotted Luca – with his unmade-bed-looking curly top and bright yellow minion backpack that’s bigger than he is – and there it was:  the stream of Spontaneous Unnecessary Tears.  I still don’t know exactly what sparked them – perhaps he looked like a big boy; perhaps just the opposite – he looked like my little baby; perhaps my subconscience was thinking about that looming evil baby killer we all know as full-day, everyday KINDERGARTEN.  Maybe it was just too much cuteness to handle.  I’m not sure.  But – the SUTs came.

I like to think of myself as a *mostly* strong and together kind of mom, especially considering the amount of juggling going on up in Marino Manor.  But these little SUT moments really highlight my emotional attachment to my babies that will never go away, and that truly grows stronger with each ordinary passing bit of time:  every morning that I am without fail forced to smell someone’s breath and send him/her back upstairs to brush their teeth; every teenagery eye roll and heavy sigh; every kiss goodnight; every “I forgot my (insert appropriate item here);” every cuddle; every family movie night; every afternoon swim; every skinned knee; every heartache.  Each little event or non-event – all making the connections stronger; tighter; and yet more delicate.

I joke with my kids on a fairly ongoing Beverly Goldberg basis that one day they’re all going to leave me, get married and move to Antarctica.  Yes – Antarctica; because the first time it came out of my mouth it was the farthest away and most remote place I could think of.  Obviously – they won’t really end up in Antarctica; and OBVIOUSLY, it is my dream that when they’ve all got families of their own we will all choose a place to live and buy out a whole block or two – Sister Wives style.  But realistically I know that our time as one cohesive unit is more fleeting than I can handle.

So – what about the SUTs?  Well, I think they serve a really important purpose – so embrace them!  I believe those SUTs are there to remind us mommas, at the most random of times, to really take some time to breath and appreciate these regular nothing days.  It’s like what Billy Joel was singing in my minivan:

This is the time to remember
Cause it will not last forever
These are the days
To hold on to
Cause we won’t
Although we’ll want to

Cue SUTs.  Good night everyone – – I’m off to kiss and cuddle my babies!

Welcome to the madness…

Welcome to the madness and the merriment.  The Marino household is one of love and of chaos.  On any given day – you will hear the cacophony of 4 kids laughing and out-singing (shouting? screaming?) one another while you will simultaneously hear such random pouty declarations of “MY LIFE IS TERRIBLE!!!” and “I WISH I COULD MOVE OUT!”

Madness.  And merriment.  So – the last thing I have time for is a blog. Between the dog, the 5-year-old who thinks he’s a teenager, the two almost teenaged girls who act like they’re 5 (not always, but often), and the 10-year-old who runs deeper than any ocean and requires deep philosophical and/or psychological discussions CONSTANTLY – – I am hanging by a very thin thread. But, my kids believe I am on social media far too much, and I reluctantly admit they are correct.  I’ve embraced – and become addicted to -social media because of the short and sweet style; the instant gratification; the perceived ability to make others happy with all that makes the Marino house both mad and merry.  But – the flip side of that is the endless hours of checking for updates, likes and comments, which not only became a time vacuum – but a self-respect vacuum as well.

I’m done.  I mean – I’ll still check in weekly; more often if there is due cause.  But henceforth – I will do my sharing via lengthier, *hopefully* more enjoyable posts on this – my blog.  My hope is that all the folks who have “liked” me on Facebook – will have even more to like when they really dig deep and get to know the madnessandmerrimemt that is my every day.  Maybe you will enjoy watching us in a morbid curiosity kind of way – like a car wreck from which you can’t look away.  Or, maybe you have simply grown tired of the forever stream of blog-esses waxing poetic about their very perfect lives; in their very perfect homes; with their precious babies and their brand-name clothing and you need a less-than-perfect life to peek into to make you feel more normal.

Or – better still – maybe you are a true friend or family member who will enjoy seeing pictures and hearing detailed play-by-plays of the highs and the lows of life with my mad and merry brood.  Perhaps you think I’ve got it all under control – I promise you that faithful reading of my blog posts will prove otherwise.

In fact, I actually consider these little entries to be my very cost-effective (FREE!) therapy.  I have many, many balls up in the air and I am constantly dropping some – – some of them more fragile and shattered beyond repair than others.  So, please don’t be shy if/when I appeal to you all to provide tips, tricks, guidance, advice and/or most importantly – – recipes for children who will only eat crackers, peanut butter and cheerios.  Seriously – recipes with chicken, meat, fish – – don’t even bother.

Lastly – I have decided to take some time and actually WRITE one of the many books that have been swimming around in my head for decades.  I hope that by giving this blog some attention, I will sharpen some of my skills; relearn how to show and not tell; rediscover all the vocabulary I have lost by spending all of my time with itty bitty people who showed no interest in latin roots.  Humor me – and do feel free to offer the encouraging word here and there!  Maybe I’ll thank you in the book’s dedication.

On that note – time for me to boogie as my socially anxious pup is about to attack his reflection and I think there is talk of a pencil stabbing coming from the upstairs homework desk.  Stay tuned – because there will be madnessandmerriment to share tomorrow…