The Slayer of Stains

My Mother’s birthday is January 2nd. Go ahead, quiz me, I know that one. I don’t even have to think about. Still, it happens every single year. I survive Christmas. I plop my exhausted butt into a chair and wearily pat myself on the back for another holiday season success. Right around the time I’m primping for New Year’s Eve the realization strikes. Downtown stores are closed and don’t reopen until the 2nd, Mom’s birthday. So begins the scramble.. what do I get her? which place is open? how do I avoid traffic in getting there? Every. Single. Year. I’m pretty sure it’s not just me. If I had to wager, I’d say this has happened to her since birth. She deserves better.

Birthday cards are nice. They say pretty things and have shiny covers. Cards convey a blanket message that we all hope our loved ones already knew before we bestowed upon them folded paper adorned with glitter and words. My Mom knows that I love her. She knows that I respect her, that I’m thankful to have her in my corner, that I’m fortunate that she’s my friend. I’ve given her enough store-bought cards in the past to drive that point to the moon. This year I thought I’d try something a little different. Here are a few reasons (that I’ll never find in any greeting card) why my Mom is the best Mom.

My first life lesson: “Respect your elders.”
This is seriously the first thing I remember my mother saying repeatedly. I learned to mind my tongue at a very early age. I was rewarded by my elders with a tremendous amount of wisdom. It is amazing what is imparted if you just shut up and listen. I also raised my children this way. Now I get to reap the benefits of being their elder.

Inadvertent life lesson: “Girl power”
My Mom could do anything when I was a kid and she rarely needed help. From softball coach to fashion show emcee, she would take on any role. My friend and I still marvel at the one time Mom helped me move. Julie & I struggled with the couch. We were absolutely shamed when my tiny mother pushed us out of the way and humped that thing all the way inside by herself. Hell, even now she finds her doctor’s advice to be cute but not an overly effective barrier in accomplishing what needs to get done.

Unfortunate life lesson: “Never say ‘NO'”
My Mom is “girl power” all the way. She does not like to ask for help. She’ll take it when offered, of course. She is not, though, going to ask you to help. Ever. On the flip side, she will never say “No” to anyone who asks her for help. Even when she’s crushed under a weight of responsibility, if a friend needs a favor, she’s first in line. If she’s double-booked when a family member needs her ear, she simply multi-tasks. If she’s supposed to be taking it easy and a neighbor asks her to shovel, she shovels.

Most appreciated life lesson: “Cooking”
My Mom can cook and bake. She’s a Goddess in the kitchen. That is not an overstatement. My little home-chef Mom could give most celebrity chefs a run for their money. I was resistant to it for years, but her genius is finally starting to rub off on me. My kids and my husband are the ones who appreciate this life lesson most. They have to eat my cooking.

Yet-to-learn life lesson: “Stain removal”
I stained my favorite white lace dress with brown mustard. While trying to clean it, I tore the stitching. When I lamented to my Mom, she said, “Bring it over. I’ll see what I can do. It’s not like I can ruin it now.” Not only is that thing whiter than the day that I bought it, she also fixed the stitching so you can’t even find the damage I caused. Bacon grease from my husband’s Lions jersey, gone. Food, dirt, blood from my son’s favorite swim sweatshirt, erased. Mildew stains on a wet swimsuit left too long in a plastic bag, annihilated. She’s the Slayer of Stains.. or a sorceress.

Happy birthday, Mom! Thank you for being my how-to manual for life! I clearly still have a lot to learn. I LOVE YOU!




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Birthday Bacon

A little over 12 years ago I was pregnant with my third child, my husband’s first. Things were not going entirely smoothly, so the doctors performed regular ultrasounds. During the second ultrasound we were asked, “Do you want to know the baby’s gender?” Brian and I both responded with a resounding, “YES!”.

“Let’s see here, I need to get the right angle. Ok, there it is. You are having a…<drum roll> GIRL!”

I responded, “HA! My sister was wrong. It’s a girl.” See, my sister has this uncanny knack for predicting a child’s gender in utero. She was so sure I was pregnant with a boy, she had already bought a little matching hat & onesie set covered in blue stars.

The ultrasound technician’s prediction solved a problem for us. We had settled on a girl’s name but had zero ideas for a boy. It was decided, Annika Marie would arrive soon. My husband even sent me this email shortly after we got the news:


(yes, I printed this email, cut it out, hung it near my computer, and kept it all of these years)

Subsequent ultrasounds did not change that determination, so we proceeded in setting up the pink and purple nursery. It had been 8 years since my family had a newborn around, so they were beyond excited to buy oodles and oodles of baby girl clothes. I was proud of my level of organization.  All of those gifts were washed, folded, sorted by size, and placed in the nursery. We were ready. The only thing left to do was bring home our baby girl.

On the morning of August 18, 2002, it was clear that our day had finally arrived. I packed, showered, did my hair, applied a little makeup, and set my fantasy football draft order (in case I wasn’t discharged from the hospital in time for my fantasy football draft. Priorities.) While most of this was going on, my husband ran around in a state of half panic, half uncontrollable excitement. I thought he’d go off the rails when I sat at his computer to adjust my player priority for the draft. I thought his head would explode when my water broke on his office chair as I was wrapping up that task. Oops, sorry honey.

The baby wasn’t in a huge hurry once we arrived at the hospital. I watched two full Chris Farley movies before things really got going. There was only just a split second of alarm when the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck, but the doctor managed to get the situation under control very quickly. Just a couple of short minutes later Dr. Carlson announced the delivery, “Congratulations, you have a healthy baby boy!”

<insert screeching record sound>


I looked that man square in his eyes and said this, verbatim (sorry about the language, I was REALLY surprised), “You better be f^*#ing kidding me.”

Then I looked at my husband’s face. His mouth was half agape/half smiling. His eyes were wide with shock. “No joke. He has a penis.”

Brian was so thrilled. Both his parents and mine have told me that when he walked into the waiting area to announce the big news, his feet weren’t even touching the ground. They had all brought pink gifts. They all left immediately to exchange those gifts for blue ones. Despite the fact that we never had agreed on a boy’s name and hadn’t even discussed one in at least 4 months, we didn’t hesitate to name him. He just looked like a Brandon. Guess what he wore for his newborn picture… yeah, the onesie and hat with the blue stars that my sister bought before we thought he was a she.

Brandon Michael Page

So my super organized preparedness was out the window. The girl clothes, which had been liberated of their tags and already washed, were all packed away. (They did not go to waste, however. A couple of short months later a friend endured a horrific tragedy. Without going into too much detail about that, she needed those baby girl clothes. Those clothes needed a baby girl. It was meant to be.) My then eight year old daughter, Kylie, moved into the pink and purple room. Brandon moved into Kylie’s more neutrally colored room. We adjusted swiftly. Our family was complete and our hearts were full. Boy, girl, it didn’t matter. We had a healthy baby.

Today that baby turns 12 years old. He has a big heart and an old soul. He’s kind, considerate, and full of hugs. He is cautious and smart, clever and funny. He loves bacon, cooking, riding quads, fishing, music, movies, and bacon. Yes, I know I said “bacon” twice. He likes it twice as much as he likes anything else. Seriously, here is a close up of that shirt he’s wearing in the featured image:


Happy birthday to my sweet, adorable, fun, smart, bacon-loving SON, Brandon!

The World is a Better Place

Happy birthday to my favorite person on Earth, my husband, Brian! The world is a better place because he was born. Any man who loves like he loves deserves only the finest things in this life. I strive to always give him only the best of myself. He regularly does the same for me…

For example, one day many years ago I was struggling through a particularly tough day. He sent me an email that contained these words and changed the tone of my entire week.

The way this woman looks at me
A look of intense love
She looks at me like I am a King
Her Kingdom mine for the taking
She is my Queen
I would die for her
That intense love burns deep within
Hotter than molten lava
A feeling that has never been felt before
She looks at me for strength
I will stand like a pillar of granite for her
Fathering her children as my own
Loving them more than myself
Guiding them down the right path in life
Protecting them from harm
I am there for her
I am there for them
I will always be there
Intense Love


I love you, Awesome.


21 Years Ago Today

You woke me up early
“Today is the day,
Ready or not,
I am on my way!”

Then at the hospital
You gave us a scare
When the doctor uttered
“The heartbeat’s not there.”

An entire eternity
Lapsed in just 5 minutes.
The problem was equipment
And the fault found within it.

Just a few hours later
You made your debut.
Suddenly my life
Became all about you.

10 fingers, 10 toes
A perfectly round dome.
I immediately noted
Your eyes were my own.

I remember each moment
21 years ago today
Clear as though
They unfolded just yesterday.

Happy birthday
To my first born child!
Enjoy this new freedom
(Please don’t go too wild).